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 
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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
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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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AudioBook Review: Bahamas West End is Murder by Dirk Wyle

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Title: Bahamas West End is Murder
Author: Dirk Wyle
Narrator: Michael Yurchak
Format: Paperback, eBook, AudioCD, AudioBook
Publisher: Rainbow Books
Audio Producer: Spoken Word, Inc.
Pages: 302
Length: 11 Hours: 20 minutes
ISBN: 978-1568251004
Source: Audiobook Jukebox
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: A Ben Candid Mystery # 5
Best Read in Order: Not Required
Stars: Overall: 3  Narration: 3 Story: 3
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About the Book:
As vacationing Ben Candidi and Rebecca Levis sail through International Waters toward Grand Bahama Island, they receive a strange welcome?a sinking cabin cruiser with a dead man at the helm. Ben knows how to patch bullet holes below the waterline and Rebecca knows how to estimate time of death. And they agree that the West End marina is the right place to bring the body.

To avoid trouble, they play it dumb and treat the cocaine-smuggling marina tenants as the divers and sport fishermen they are pretending to be. Unfortunately, the mailbox corporation in Miami that owns the yacht ignores Ben’s $100,000 salvage claim?and the Bahamian police won?t let him move the yacht to Florida. The harder Ben and Rebecca press their claim, the more sinister West End becomes. Should they cut their losses and run? Or is it too late already?

AudioBook Review:

I was excited to listen to a mystery, and this looked like a good one. A unique location and premise, and frankly having scientists as primary detectives and protagonists just thrilled my inner science geek. While I found the story was intriguing, and the mystery was well-plotted, the pacing was irregular: after some thought I am wondering if the pacing is meant to emulate being on board a drifting yacht, and taking the time to explore the minutiae for lack of other options. If that was the intention, the accomplishment was more miss than hit, and several moments were overloaded with detail that felt unconnected to the plot. A very clever historical fiction writer that I know spoke to the difficulties of balance between research for your story and proving that research to your readers: readers are choosing a novel for the entertainment, and all information that is factual and gleaned in the process is a bonus. Sadly, there were more factual details and less description of the unusual and unique aspects of the Bahamas, and much of the setting felt less integral to the plot and final mystery than it should have because of this detail overload.

I also had some difficulty connecting with Ben, and couldn’t always see his allure for Rebecca. A small point in a mystery between the ‘couple’ but Ben’s apparent inability to find any humility or warmth in his affect and approach made him difficult. I was hoping and waiting for someone to kick out his arrogance a bit, and never quite found that moment of satisfaction. Strangely enough, his scientific remove was actually far more attractive in his problem solving bag of tricks, and his logical approach to the solution came clear at the end: well played Mr. Wyle.

Narration in this story was provided by Michael Yurchak, and also was not as I would have expected.
I was not enamored of the tone and pitch of his voice, and the delivery was clipped and almost too precise: no emotional intonations were evident, and the delivery teetered on the edge of boring. Additionally, there were some odd choices in the introduction content: I have never encountered an introduction that is clearly a straight read of the back cover of the book and consists only of review snippets, and still can’t see the point.

Overall, there were some really good things about this story that kept me listening until the end: the mystery is really clever and has enough twists, turns and potential suspects to keep even the most clever mystery fan intrigued. Sadly, I would really recommend that mystery fans opt for the book, as it is simpler to jump past the multiple passages that provide details that are merely info dumps with no bearing on the plot.

I received an MP3 download of the audiobook 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.

Audiobook Review: A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

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Title:  A Hundred Summers
Author:  Beatriz Williams
Narrator:  Kathleen McInerney
Format: Hardcover, eBook, AudioBook
Publisher:  Putnam Adult
Audio Producer: Penguin Audio
Pages:  368
Length:  11 Hours, 35 minutes
ISBN:   978-0399162169
Source: Penguin Audio via AudioBook Jukebox
Genre:  Historical Romance
Stars: Overall:  3  Narration:  4  Story:  3
Purchase Now:  Amazon  §  Audible §  Barnes&Noble

About the Book:

Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever.

AudioBook Review:

This book was a slow starter for me, and sadly I did not connect with it as I had hoped I would. Essentially the story of a love and a friendship lost, the story winds together a summer in 1931 and the summer of 1938 before the hurricane that devastated the New England coastline.

In 1931, lifelong friends Budgie and Lily spent their summers in adjoining homes on the Rhode Island coast. We get to see their bond, and the boy that caused the fracture through well-crafted flashbacks to that summer. The writing is very smooth with plenty of beautifully descriptive prose, but the characters are missing that little element of “oomph” that makes them compelling. In fact, the most compelling character was also the most stereotypical Aunt Julie: drinks too much, speaks too freely and has a penchant for living large.

In 1938, Lily is stuck in the past and unable to move forward because her best friend has married her first love, Nick. This is where the historical fiction elements come into play: the anti-semitism that was rife in the country in the 30’s is evident in speech and discrimination against Nick, and the wagging tongues that speak softly of “those people” in the Greenwald house. Again, though secrets are revealed, the predictability of these secrets were far less interesting to me than wondering if perhaps KiKi the 6 year old child, purported to be Lily’s sister was in fact her child.

Beatriz Williams has created a story that is not particularly demanding for a reader: the perfect beach read or listen, it flows by smoothly and elegantly, providing a nice diversion that is easy to pick up or put down at will.

The narration provided by Karen McInerney is smooth and pleasant. Her voice manages to capture the patois and inflections of the varying cast of characters without overly dramatic inflection or tonal changes, and most voices are quite distinct and clear. Easy to listen to, when combined with the story she is presenting this is a relaxing listen for a few subsequent afternoons.

I received an MP3 download from Penguin Audio 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.