Review: Silent Symmetry (The Embodied Trilogy #1) by J.B. Dutton

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Title: Silent Symmetry
Author: J.B. Dutton
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Self-Published
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1484067468
Source: Author
Genre: YA Sci-Fi / Fantasy
Series: The Embodied Trilogy
Best Read in Order: yes
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound. Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to seek out the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Book Review:

Kari and her mother move to New York City for a new prestigious position, after leaving her small Wisconsin town and memories of her father’s accident there behind. For a teenaged protagonist, Kari was easy to relate to and care for: her sad past and her eagerness to find the new life, opportunities and possible love interests for her mother were endearing. As with many things, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and that also relates to the wonderful opportunities: scholarship to a prestigious high school, the beautiful people and the ease with which they seem to incorporate a major metropolis into their lives without great distress.

As Kari starts to feel seeds of unease, the questions start to arrive in a fast and furious manner: although the answers are far less apparent. Just what is the ToT and just how much influence it has on this world, and on the live of the people who work for them is a slow-developing reveal, mixed in this smoothly paced story that demands you read on.

I will be the first to admit that Kari is often far more mature in her approach, speech, thinking and behavior than one would expect, or want to see in a high school teen. However, when you take into account her life experience and her only child status, it did fit her well, even as it may be problematic for some readers. Aside from that and my wishing that there was more of an explanation and solidity built to give more substance to the characters of the Embodied, I did enjoy this read. I think that many YA fans would appreciate this story, and be ready to read the second book in the trilogy when it comes available.

I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:

After graduating from film school in London, I emigrated to Montreal in 1987, where I still live with my two young children and their even younger goldfish. I spent over a decade as a music TV director before moving into the advertising industry as an award-winning copywriter and translator. In parallel to my corporate work, I’ve written novels, short stories, blogs, screenplays and a stage play. I also write Young Adult and Children’s fiction under the name J.B. Dutton.

Website § @johnbdutton

AudioBook Review: A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials by Ann Rinaldi

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Title: A Break with Charity: A story about the Salem Witch Trials
Author:  Ann Rinaldi
Narrator:  Laura Hicks
Format:  Hardcover. Paperback, eBook, AudioBook
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (11 and up)
Audio Producer: AudioGo
Pages:  298
Length:  7 Hours: 13 minutes
ISBN:  978-0439872188
Source:  AudioBook Jukebox
Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade and older
Stars: Overall: 4  Narration:  4 Story: 5 
Purchase Now:  Amazon §  Audible § Barnes & Noble

About the Book:

Susanna desperately wants to join the circle of girls who meet every week at the parsonage. What she doesn’t realize is that the girls are about to set off a torrent of false accusations leading to the imprisonment and execution of countless innocent people. Susanna faces a painful choice. Should she keep quiet and let the witch-hunt panic continue, or should she “break charity” with the group–and risk having her own family members named as witches?

AudioBook Review:

I’ve long held the belief that an Ann Rinaldi book opens the door to a younger reader, teaching them that they can connect and enjoy history. My daughter loved her books, and it fed her ability and willingness to explore more history, and not fear the research. What holds true with every book that I can name from this author, the characters are easy to understand and get to know, particularly for younger readers who are not as concerned with a rigid conformance to historical accuracy. While she takes liberties in speech and behavior, each story has a solid grounding in the event, and then uses modern conventions to explain the errors of behavior then and now.

In this story, set in 1692, and dealing with the circumstances of the Salem Witch Trials, we meet Susanna, a 15 year old girl who is desperate to be included in the popular girls meetings. Nothing new or different, people all want to belong, unfortunately the girls in this group are highly imaginative and vengeful, and are the genesis of several false accusations of witchcraft in the town. What emerges is a story about standing up for what is right and truth, and whether or not Susanna can actually face the adults and her new friends and speak the truth as she knows it.

While there is a great deal of dither in Susanna, the whole ‘what would / could’ you do in that situation is really the great play in the story. While providing a sense to young readers that history and the adults of the time may just have gotten everything wrong, for a variety of reasons.

Narrated by Laura Hicks, her clearly enunciated delivery and careful pacing feel comfortable and confident, delivering the story without excess embellishment or overly dramatic changes in pitch, tone or delivery to specifically delineate different characters.

All of the characters introduced are actual people, lived during the time and can be found in documents of the time, including information about the trials and the accusers. In an addendum to the story Rinaldi explains her use of Susanna in the story, the inclusion and use of simple elements, and her own liberties with the facts. This actually provides some interesting facts that many may not be aware of, and as an introduction to the time, and a less difficult read than The Crucible, which is all based on the trials themselves, this was an enjoyable story and perfect for readers 12 and up.

I received an MP3 download from AudioGo via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:

Ann Rinaldi (b. August 27, 1934, in New York City) is a young adult fiction author. She is best known for her historical fiction, including In My Father’s House, The Last Silk Dress, An Acquaintance with Darkness, A Break with Charity, and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons. She has written a total of forty novels, eight of which were listed as notable by the ALA. In 2000, Wolf by the Ears was listed as one the best novels of the preceding twenty-five years, and later of the last one hundred years. She is the most prolific writer for the Great Episode series, a series of historical fiction novels set during the American Colonial era. She also writes for the Dear America series.

Rinaldi currently lives in Somerville, New Jersey, with her husband, Ron, whom she married in 1960. Her career, prior to being an author, was a newspaper columnist. She continued the column, called The Trentonian, through much of her writing career. Her first published novel, Term Paper, was written in 1979. Prior to this, she wrote four unpublished books, which she has called “terrible.” She became a grandmother in 1991.

Rinaldi says she got her love of history from her eldest son, who brought her to reenactments. She says that she writes young adult books “because I like to write them.”

Website

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AudioBook Review: Cat Playing Cupid (Joe Grey #14) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

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Title:
Cat Playing Cupid
Author: Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Narrator: Susan Boyce
Format: Paperback, eBook, AudioCD, AudioBook
Publisher: Avon
Audio Producer: AudioGo
Pages: 372
Length:  10 Hours: 21 minutes
ISBN:  978-0061123978
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Genre: Mystery
Series: A Joe Grey Mystery
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Purchase Now: Paperback §  eBook §   Audible

About the Book:

Love – and murder – are in the air.

It took Joe Grey’s human, Clyde Damen, nearly forever to pop the question to his girlfriend, Ryan Flannery, and what more romantic time to tie the knot than on Valentine’s Day? But dark secrets from the past soon threaten to destroy everyone’s happiness.

First, a body discovered many miles away reopens a 10-year-old cold case involving a man who disappeared days before his own wedding. Then another body is found closer to home, on the grounds of a ruined estate, deserted save for a band of unusual feral cats.

Though the police investigate, only feline sleuth Joe Grey suspects that the crimes are related. And when he barely escapes alive from a deadly chase, Joe and his friends, Dulcie and Kit, know they’ll need to use their powers of feline perception to bring justice to the small town of Molena Point – and save Valentine’s Day!

AudioBook Review: 

Love is in the air in this installment of the Joe Grey mysteries: Clyde and Ryan are finally getting married on Valentine’s Day, after a protracted courtship. Not to be outdone, the happy moments don’t last too long as a body is discovered – that of a man who disappeared just before his own wedding. Not long after, another body turns up dead: and the cats decide that the two bodies are connected.

Again Shirley Rousseau Murphy manages to utilize the cats and their peculiar talents to great advantage in the story, but this one also spends more time with the human counterparts and their perspectives and relationships with the cats. We also have a bit more flavor from the area around Molina Point, on the northern California coast.

Again Susan Boyce is narrating this story, to great effect: her smooth delivery style, subtle pacing differences and small tone adjustments enhance each character with a unique yet completely fitting delivery of their thoughts and words, without once delving into over-acting or highly exaggerated voice.

These are completely and utterly enchanting cozy mystery stories, heavy on the charm and clever in the plotting. While this installment does include several characters from past stories, and this would not be the first book to start this series, it was an enjoyable and fun read.

I received an MP3 Download from AudioGo via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About the Author:
Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the author of Cat in the Dark, Cat on the Edge, Cat Under Fire, and Cat Raise the Dead, and has received five Council of Authors and Journalists Awards for previous books. She graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, has worked as a commercial artist and has exhibited paintings and sculptures extensively on the West Coast. She and her husband live in Carmel, California. Their cats have included a tom that twice warned them of burglars in the middle of the night by growling, and a cat that liked to ride horseback.                                                 Website

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AudioBook Review: Cat Spitting Mad (Joe Grey #6) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

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Title: Cat Spitting Mad
Author: Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Narrator: Susan Boyce
Format: Paperback, eBook, AudioCD, AudioBook
Publisher: Avon
Audio Producer: AudioGo
Pages: 304
Length: 7 Hours: 42 minutes
ISBN: 978-0061059896
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Genre: Mystery
Series: A Joe Grey Mystery
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 4 Story: 4
Purchase Now: Paperback §  eBook §  AudioCD §  AudioBook

About the Book:
Hell hath no fury like a feline enraged. Though Joe Grey and Dulcie are merely housecats, they each have a strong sense of justice — to complement their uncanny ability to read, speak, and use the telephone. And they’re furious that Max Harper, police chief of Molena Point and preferred target for Joe’s harmless pranks, has been accused of a gruesome double murder.

The fleet-footed sleuthing duo is intent upon restoring an old friend’s good name. But finding the missing little girl who was sole witness to the crime won’t be easy — especially with a hungry cougar on the prowl, a cat-killer on the loose … and the kittenish antics of Joe and Dulcie’s playful new “ward” causing big trouble that could take more than nine lives to survive.

AudioBook Review:

Earlier in the series than my introduction to this author and characters, we are returned to Molena Point and find ourselves immersed in a murder mystery. Joe Grey and his partner in detection, Dulcie have found themselves the ‘parents’ of Kit, a tortoiseshell kitten with a never-ending source of energy and curiosity.

With the Chief of Police accused of a double murder he did not commit, these two detecting felines and their new ward set off to find the true culprit, while avoiding the dangerous Lee the cat killer Wark who knows that they can speak, detect and use the telephone. As the three seek the real killer, they also need to watch out for three escaped convicts, and manage to survive several tangles and a jaunt through the haunted house that is occupied by an even larger cat: a cougar.

Narration for this book is provided by Susan Boyce, and her clear enunciation and use of pacing and modulation before overly adjusting tone and adopting a voice change to delineate the different characters is a delightful addition.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy has taken the mystery and turned it sideways with the addition of speaking, intelligent cats that never quite lose that sense that they are cats. Their interactions, likes and dislikes, and even their humor is very cat-oriented, and while a completely anthropomorphic delineation and description, it works quite well. The mystery in this book was well crafted and filled with enough twists to keep a reader engaged, and the human characters, well not as well-defined as the cats, still have a sense of realness and solid voice. This is a fun series for people wanting a lighter and more humorous mystery, especially if they are cat lovers.

I received an MP3 download from AudioGo via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

About the Author:
Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the author of Cat in the Dark, Cat on the Edge, Cat Under Fire, and Cat Raise the Dead, and has received five Council of Authors and Journalists Awards for previous books. She graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, has worked as a commercial artist and has exhibited paintings and sculptures extensively on the West Coast. She and her husband live in Carmel, California. Their cats have included a tom that twice warned them of burglars in the middle of the night by growling, and a cat that liked to ride horseback.                                                 Website

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Dancing With Paris by Juliette Sobanet ~ Review and Giveaway

dancing-with-paris-bannerToday I have a lovely romance with time-travel and suspense elements from author  Juliette Sobanet.  Additionally, the publisher has graciously offered 3 lucky winners the opportunity for their own eBook copy of the book in kindle format, open to international entrants!  The drawing information is below… be sure to enter!

Juliette Sobanet Title:  Dancing with Paris
Author: Juliette Sobanet
Format:  Paperback, eBook, MP3 CD and AudioBook
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Pages:  324
ISBN:  978-1477805916
Source:  Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Romance, Time-Travel, Suspense, Historical
Stars: 4
Purchase Now:  Amazon § Audible

About the Book: 

In Paris, a past life promises a second chance at love.

Straitlaced marriage therapist Claudia Davis had a plan—and it definitely did not involve getting pregnant from a one-night stand or falling for a gorgeous French actor. She thinks her life can’t possibly get more complicated. But when Claudia takes a tumble in her grandmother’s San Diego dance studio, she awakens in 1950s Paris in the body of Ruby Kerrigan, the glamorous star of a risqué cabaret—and the number-one suspect in the gruesome murder of a fellow dancer. As past lives go, it’s a doozy…especially when an encounter with a handsome and mysterious French doctor ignites a fire in Claudia’s sinfully beautiful new body.

But time, for all its twists and turns, is not on her side: Claudia has just five days to unmask the true killer, clear Ruby’s name, and return to the twenty-first century. To do so, she must make an impossible choice, one that will change the course of both of her lives forever.

-Amount of sex/violence: This book is a romance novel with time travel and murder mystery elements. There are two sex scenes and a few light murder scenes in the novel. There is a great deal of description of 1950s Paris as well.

Book Review:

In an interesting twist on my usual time-travel / romance trope, we are introduced to Claudia in 2012 San Diego. She is mildly dissatisfied with her life at the moment, pregnant by one man while desperately in love with another: who truly does seem to be the one for her. Very quickly, we are removed to 1950’s Paris, where Claudia awakens to find herself in the body of Ruby, a Parisian cabaret headliner who also happens to be Claudia’s grandmother’s best friend. Confused yet? I was at first – for we don’t have a great deal of time to know Claudia and gain a solid sense of her situation and character before we are whisked off to Paris and need to make sense of the situation that Claudia is currently embroiled in.

Not content to make this a simple parallel lives story: Ruby/Claudia is the primary suspect in a murder that she did not commit, and she must find the real killer and save Ruby from her current fate before she can return to her own life in San Diego. As if that wasn’t enough stress: with new situations, a new view of her grandmother and the Paris to rediscover in its past form, she has only five days in which to solve the mystery and set lives on a new path.

A complex and highly ambitious plotting arc and storyline for any author, but Juliette Sobanet is certainly up to the task. While there were moments of confusion, it gave me the feel of being Claudia/Ruby and the pacing, characterization and narration all aided in my getting up to speed, much as Claudia/Ruby needed to do. Then, since I mistakenly thought I had the mystery and murder pieces sorted out, the quick twists and turns proved to me that I was wrong, yet the answer was there, just awaiting discovery.

The city of Paris is just gorgeous and so very present in the story: from the descriptions and feel to the sense of ‘difference’, it fed every memory I have of the city at that time from photos that my grandmother had tucked into a scrapbook from when my aunt first moved there in mid-1950. Sobanet’s prose is lush and well-suited to the city and the story. The interwoven romance from present to past, while bringing a sense of Claudia’s current love to the character of Antoine, with their similar behaviors and concerns and their obvious affection for her was a smooth transition that gave more insight into Claudia and her modern life, while maintaining a true feel to the past.

While it will seem from this review that the story was hard to follow, or overly complex – I truly apologize. It was an exceedingly smooth read that never let up on the entertainment, and kept me involved and engaged with each page. Although I do wish that there was more sense of Claudia in the present and a sense of a solid conclusion for her story, it left me satisfied and smiling. I now want to read the author’s other titles, and have put them on my list.

I received an eBook copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

Giveaway:  

As I mentioned before, the publisher has graciously offered 3 eBook copies of the title for lucky winners.  Drawing will end at 23:59 on 14 August -winners will be notified via email.  Enter via this Rafflecopter.

About the Author: 

Juliette Sobanet earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in France, living and studying in both Lyon and Paris. She worked as a French professor before turning a new page in her career, penning romantic women’s fiction with a French twist. She is the author of Sleeping with Paris, Kissed in ParisMidnight Train to Paris, Dancing with Paris, and the upcoming Honeymoon in Paris. Today she lives with her husband and two cats in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing and dreaming about her next trip to France.

Website § Facebook  § @JulietteSobanet