The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom (audio)

Christopher Ransom’s The Birthing House was our latest book club selection, which was supposed to branch myself and Anna of Diary of an Eccentric out into the world of horror, etc.  I started off with an audio book I purchased from the bookstore, but finished up with a borrowed copy of the hardcover from the library.  OK, let’s get to the review.

Conrad Harrison and his wife Jo are having severe marital problems in The Birthing House, and as a way to rebuild his marriage away from the pressures of Los Angeles, Calif., Conrad buys a home in Black Earth, Wisconsin, following the death of his father.  Jo isn’t exactly thrilled with the birthing house or the fact that it was in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but she has little choice after Conrad gives her an ultimatum.

Readers will find moments of suspense and confusion in this novel, which could be traced back to the ability of the writer to properly sequence certain events.  Ransom has a knack for writing internal dialogue that adequately reveals characters’ true emotions and faults.  But in terms of creating a sense of fear in the reader, Ransom’s writing is hit or miss.

“He was starting to doubt that he had actually seen it move when the doll took another step — click — and then another after that one, moving with renewed purpose, as if it had just found what it was looking for.

But that’s crazy, because it has no eyes.

Conrad was splayed crooked on the bed, immobilized as the absurd stick figure doll, no wider than a scarecrow Barbie, came at him in rapid steps — click, click, click, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK! — and raised its pipe cleaner arms to attack.”  (Page 76)

It is clear that as the book moves on that Conrad is losing his mind, but how far has he lost it and how much of the haunting is real, and what is the history of this birthing house?  Ransom waits too long to reveal anything of substance about the birthing house, and readers will grow frustrated as Conrad wanders about, bumbling over the teen next door and her voluptuous, pregnant curves, while his wife is out of town for sales training.  In fact, the absence of Jo and her odd behavior on the phone leaves her character underdeveloped and almost pointless to the story until the final chapters.

“He wanted to touch the ghost, if that’s what it was, maybe even help it.  Her.  He was terrified, repulsed, and drawn to it as he was drawn to the girl and the destruction she would bring down.”  (Page 189)

There are many instances where The Birthing House reads like a bad horror movie in which the characters willingly put themselves in harm’s way and refuse to contact the police or outsiders fail to intervene.  Ransom is a good writer, but this novel falls flat.  The narrator of the audio book was good at differentiating characters’ voices, but the material in the novel made some of the scenes very comical when read out loud.  As a book club selection there is a great deal to talk about, but is it really worth the time spent?

To enter to win a copy of The Birthing House and/or Ravens (click for my review) on audiobook (GLOBAL):

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what horror book you’ve enjoyed.
2.  Facebook, Tweet, blog, or otherwise spread the word and leave a link on this post.

Deadline is March 30, 2010, 11:59 PM EST

This is my 4th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge, and I’m counting this as a horror thriller.

This is my 18th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Ravens by George Dawes Green (audio)

Ravens by George Dawes Green on audio, which I received from a giveaway on Peeking Between the Pages, is action-packed, engaging, and unique.  Readers are first introduced to Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two young gentlemen fed up with the “system” and anxious to leave Ohio for the great unknown and make their mark.  Unfortunately, Shaw has a dark side and Romeo can lose control of his emotions.

The young men are traveling south and end up in Brunswick, Georgia, where they learn the identity of the state lottery winners — the Boatwrights.  Shaw concocts a plan to garner the men at least half if not more of the $318 million prize.

The narrators shift between the Boatwrights, the local police officer, Romeo, and Shaw, with Maggi-Meg Reed’s Southern accent pretty close to the real thing and Robert Petkoff slightly dramatic in his portrayal.  However, each character’s voice was easily discernible, making it easy to follow the shifting narration.  Listeners will be drawn into the plight of the Boatwrights and may even sympathize with Romeo, but Shaw is another story.  The tension is palatable, and readers will be kept guessing as to how the extortion situation will be resolved.

Ravens on audio made the commute fly by, and those that love mysteries and thrillers will find this a satisfactory listen.  My husband and I often became absorbed in the story and had to wait for a chapter to end outside my office building in the mornings before I got out of the car.  He loved the ending the best, though it is graphic, because it resolves the situation in a satisfactory way.

This is my 2nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 1st book in the psychological thriller category for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: I received my free copy of the Ravens audiobook from a fellow blogger.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea (Audio)

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea on audio was a delight, especially with the voice and passion of Susan Ericksen.  Nayeli is a young girl working in a taco shop in Tres Camarones, who continues to idolize her father that left her and her mother many years ago.

Her home is under attack from bandits and drug dealers, but many residents have been abandoned by other men seeking the opportunities found in America.  While watching The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Nayeli and her friends — Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi — decide they are going to make a trek to America to bring back the seven they need to save their town.

The audio brings to life the accents, the culture, the beauty of each scene and the playful sparring between these characters and their new surroundings.  Ericksen’s passion for these characters and this story is clear, illuminating the innocence of Nayeli and her friends and the hardships they face.

From the colorful personalities of Nayeli’s gay boss, Tacho, to her vampire/Goth girlfriend Vampi and perky and whiny Yolo to the matriarch of the village Nayeli’s Aunt Irma, Urrea paints a mosaic of Mexico and the struggles of illegal immigrants and those seeking a better life.  Readers will by far enjoy the quirky Atomico a warrior from the dump outside Tijuana the most as he seeks to defend the four from the ills of the world.

My husband and I were riveted when the audio rolled us to work every morning.  Atomico was my husband’s favorite character because he was like a comic book character; “I AM ATOMICO.”  While the border crossings were the most exciting aspects of the novel for my husband, the end of the novel fell flat; he considered it an open ending as if there were more to come — that the journey had not ended.  Urrea’s writing is passionate and tangible, capturing the reader instantly and weaving a tale that envelops them completely.

Into the Beautiful North is one of the best novels I’ve read in 2009, but I plan to read this in hard copy as well.  As an aside, Anna of Diary of an Eccentric and I were able to meet Luis Alberto Urrea and Susan Eriksen at Book Expo America in May, thanks to the kind dragging of Kathy of Bermudaonion, Julie of Booking Mama, Amy from My Friend Amy, Miriam of Hachette Book Group.  Thanks gals!

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner and Bill Burke (audio)

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner and Bill Burke on audio is an adventurous ride through Ted Turner’s life from his childhood to his “retirement.” This audio, which is 13 disks long, is read by the man himself. His southern accent and his passionate reading of this autobiography will make readers feel at home by his hearth as he recounts the biggest and smallest events in his life.

Not only is the audio read by Ted, but there are a number of side stories told by family members, an ex-wife, business colleagues, and others. From an early age Ted was shipped away from the family and his “abusive” father to military boarding schools where he learned self-reliance, discipline, and dedication.

In college, which he did not finish, he was known as two-beer Turner. He spent a great deal of time away from his own family and sailed in a variety of competitions. Turner is an exceptional, passionate, and accomplished man who is far from finished.

Some of the best stories in the book center on his creation of CNN–a 24-hour news channel on cable–which the broadcast stations, like CBS, NBC, and ABC, considered “chicken noodle news.” Creating the Turner company, transforming it from a billboard selling firm to a cable giant, he spent more than two decades on the couch in his office.

Some of his proudest moments, however, have been in philanthropy and diplomacy during the Cold War and since. From the Goodwill Games, which never earned much revenue, to his work with the United Nations, Turner continued to inspire others to be better than themselves to make the world a better place. He continues this work today.

The best surprise of this audiobook is the final question-and-answer session with Turner, where he says CNN should remain dedicated to impartial news broadcasting and end its emphasis on opinion–like that of the Lou Dobbs show. Turner also notes that alternative energy is needed today, not tomorrow; population growth must be stabilized; land must be conserved; and nuclear weapons must be eliminated around the globe. Turner says he is eager to write a sequel and have Tom Hanks play him in a movie about his life.

If readers love autobiographies, Call Me Ted is one that will knock their cowboy boots off. Turner is witty, strong-willed, opinionated, and a no-nonsense kind of guy with a lot to offer entrepreneurs and others in the business world, as well as those simply in need of a boost.

Giveaway Reminder:

1. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (5 copies); Deadline August 12
2. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre (2 copies); Deadline August 14

MAX by James Patterson (audio)

James Patterson‘s MAX on audio is chock full of sound effects, drama, and thrills. MAX is the fifth book in the young adult Maximum Ride series, which centers on winged kids that range from ages 6 to 16. Max leads the flock of winged children, and in this novel, they attempt to find Max’s kidnapped mother with the help of the U.S. military.

Not only does this novel immerse readers in the angst, confusion, and desire of these kids to fit in, it also is a coming of age story for Max as she begins to understand her feelings for Fang.

Listeners will be completely absorbed in the twists and turns of this thriller as the flock flies from South America to other locations and boards submarines to locate Max’s mother beneath the ocean’s surface. Check out this audio excerpt from James Patterson’s Website to hear the sound effects and the charged voice of Jill Apple.

If you are interested in this audiobook, just leave a comment to be entered. I’ll draw a winner on July 25, 2009.

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci

I won The Whole Truth by David Baldacci from She is Too Fond of Books back in March. Hubby and I have been listening to this on and off during the commute and on our most recent drive to Massachusetts for a little bit of a vacation.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a corporation had too much power and was run by a twisted mind? How about a powerful military contracting firm? In The Whole Truth, Nicolas Creel wants to spur weapons build-up among the world powers, but to recreate the Cold War, Creel must set the pieces in motion to ensure two major superpowers or super power wanna-be nations are at odds–Russia and China. Meanwhile, Shaw an underground operative for a secretive agency wants out to marry the woman of his dreams, Anna Fischer, and lead a normal life. Katie James, on the outside looking in, is an on-the-way-down reporter who stumbles upon the story of her life and the century.

The Whole Truth is James Patterson on steroids; it’s bigger and better than most crime fiction. My hubby says this novel could easily be transformed into a summer blockbuster. Shaw is a deeply tormented character, and Katie is an ambitious journalist and idealist. Creel is as every bit as bad as Blofeld and Goldfinger in the James Bond franchise. The suspense in this novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, and the emotional undertones will have readers running the gamut from exhilaration and anxiety to deep sorrow. The fate of the world is in Shaw’s hands.

Check out these giveaways:

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (audio)

Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money is the first in the Stephanie Plum series, and after reading/listening to the in-between-the-numbers Plum novels I can see why people would find the in-between books disconcerting. Those novels deviate from the mystery formula and from the narrative Evanovich already has established.

In One for the Money, Stephanie Plum is down on her luck; she’s lost her job, can’t find work, and has begun selling off her furniture to pay her bills. Eventually she falls into the bail bond business with her cousin Vinny and is tasked with apprehending Joe Morelli, who is a cop on the lamb for allegedly committing murder and is attempting to clear his name. In her travels, she apprehends some small time criminals to get by with the help of professional bounty hunter Ranger.

Readers will laugh out loud at Stephanie’s escapades and her attempts to become a tough bounty hunter when she doesn’t even know how to hold a gun, let alone shoot it. Stumbling upon Morelli at every turn, she fails to apprehend him as he outsmarts her, throws her car keys in a dumpster, and kisses her until she’s senseless. The tension between these characters is apparent from their first meeting, and there are definitely unresolved feelings between them. The tension between Ranger and Plum seems to be further in the background and more carnal.

The dynamics between Morelli and Plum leap off the page, and Plum comes into her own as a bounty hunter after she gets some tips on shooting and other tactics from Ranger and several other cops in Trenton, New Jersey. This is an enjoyable read on and off the page. Readers who love a good mystery or are interested in a fast-paced plot, should pick up this witty series.

About the Author:

Janet Evanovich is a writer born in South River, New Jersey.

She is principaly known to have created the character Stephanie Plum, a salesperson of lingerie that has to improvise as a bounty hunter to fill her fridge.

After four years at the art section of the Douglas College in New Jersey, Janet Evanovich decided to go into writing. Sending many manuscripts to several editors, she got as many refusals.

She builds Stephanie Plum with a well rhythmed style, strong characters as the funny Mamie Mazur. Those adventures enjoy a large success.

*** Giveaway Reminders***

Don’t forget to enter the Keeper of Light and Dust giveaway, here and here. Deadline is April 28 at 11:59 PM EST.

There’s a giveaway for 5 copies of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch, here; deadline is April 29, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

A giveaway of The Mechanics of Falling by Catherine Brady, here; Deadline is May 1 11:59 PM EST

5 Joanna Scott, author of Follow Me, books giveaway, here; Deadline May 4, 11:59 PM EST.

Naughty Neighbor by Janet Evanovich

Another audiobook by Janet Evanovich, but this one is not in the Stephanie Plum series or the Between-the-Numbers series. Naughty Neighbor is one of Evanovich’s earlier books, which have been dubbed “red-hot comedies.”

Louisa Brannigan is a nose-to-the-grindstone press secretary for an up-and-coming senator, Nolan Bishop. Louisa and her neighbor, Pete Streeter, are at odds, particularly since he callously snags her morning paper and receives phone calls at all hours. Streeter is a Hollywood screenwriter who has raised some eyebrows in the political arena and men are out to destroy his car and teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget. However, this web grows and soon Louisa becomes embroiled in Streeter’s intrigue to find a missing pig.

Readers understand that the tension between these two attractive people will eventually lead to the bedroom, but what they won’t predict is the internal struggles both of these characters have with committing to a relationship. Some of my favorite points in the book are when Louisa is arguing with herself about her feelings for Streeter. At one point, she swears she has succumbed to “romantic dementia.” Louisa is uptight and careful, while Streeter is relaxed and a risk taker. When these two get together, tension bursts into flames.

Another light read for pure entertainment value. I’d recommend this to those reading romance novels, but are interested in a more modern day tale with a touch of humor.

Stay Tuned for the ***Jill Mansell tour on April 6 and 7th***

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich’s Plum Spooky is the latest of the between-the-numbers novels. Diesel makes his way back to Trenton and into Stephanie Plum’s apartment hot on the heels of Wulf Grimoire, his cousin and all around scary creep who vanishes in a flash of light and can electrocute you with a simple touch of the skin. Stephanie is hoping to save the bail bonds business by capturing the elusive Martin Munch, a genius fallen into the wrong hands.

From monkeys with metal helmets to a hippy animal activist named Gail Scanlon, Evanovich weaves a ridiculous tale that will capture readers and listeners’ attentions right from the start. Diesel and Stephanie are forced into the Pine Barrens where there is no cell reception and where unmentionable creatures dwell, like the Jersey Devil, the Easter Bunny, Sasquatch, and Elmer the Fire Farter. While the plot is a bit out there, it will have you laughing and the book moves along quickly.

I was surprised to learn that the Pine Barrens is an actual location in New Jersey and that people do believe that it is the home of the Jersey Devil.

Interested in listening to this laugh-out-loud novel on your daily commute or whenever you’re in the car, enter this giveaway: 1 audiobook copy, used once

1. One entry leave a comment for the most outrageous character name you can think of.

2. A second entry if you spread the word about the contest and leave me a link here.

Deadline is March 26, 5pm EST.

Also Reviewed by:
Reading Adventures

Girls Just Reading

***Giveaway Reminder***

1 gently used ARC of Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas; Deadline is March 20 at Midnight EST.

3 Copies of Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly for U.S./Canada residents
1 copy of Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly for an international resident
Deadline is March 24, 5pm EST

Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin’ by Janet Evanovich is another between-the-numbers novel where Stephanie Plum and Diesel set out on another adventure to corral another unmentionable, Bernie Beaner, is on the loose causing havoc. Diesel shows up at Stephanie’s and informs her she now must become a relationship expert until Annie Hart is safe, but Stephanie only has a few days to complete the work.

With another ridiculous cast of characters, Janet Evanovich will have readers giggling and rolling on the floor with laughter. Stephanie must find a Valentine’s date for a motor vehicle worker with a number of undisciplined kids and a house full of animals, a vet with a knack for attracting gold diggers, a virgin, and help her sister and boyfriend get married.

In the process, hives pop up all over the characters’ skin, Delvina reappears looking for a “hot” necklace that was stolen from him, and Diesel and Stephanie make plans to get married. While Morelli is not in here much, Ranger does make an appearance, though Stephanie spends her Valentine’s Day with the family and Diesel. Lula is always hilarious with her wise cracks and alternative perspective. Although this is not literature at its finest, it will surely entertain readers and provide a light read full of comedy.

***Don’t forget my Arlene Ang, Secret Love Poems, giveaway***

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

Audio books make the commute fly by on most occasions and Janet Evanovich‘s Plum Lucky, a Between-the-Numbers novel, is no exception. My husband and I seem to be hooked on these Between-the Numbers novels because they are humorous, ridiculous in some instances, and fast-paced.

Stephanie Plum and Diesel are back on the hunt, but not for Sandy Claws this time–Snuggy O’Connor who thinks he’s a leprechaun. This little person not only thinks he’s a leprechaun, but that he can disappear from sight on a whim to steal from mobsters and others. Oh, he also thinks he can talk to animals, like horses.

This reader would have snorted coffee through her nose if she were drinking any when Snuggy talks to a doberman at a mobster’s home and the dog convinces him to merely take his clothes off to disappear in front of everyone’s eyes. Can you say the emperor’s new clothes?

Grandma Mazur returns and finds a bag of money on the sidewalk, which happens to be stolen from a mobster by Snuggy. Grandma doesn’t know, heads off to Atlantic City, and is in gambler’s paradise before disaster strikes and she’s kidnapped by a mobster, Delvina. Snuggy wants to pay off Delvina to get his horse, Doug, back from the mobster and Stephanie and Diesel must team up with Snuggy to recoup the gambled money and pay off Delvina to get Grandma back.

From the snarky comments between Stephanie, Snuggy, Diesel, Grandma Mazur, Lula, and Connie to the details of Atlantic City and Daffy’s casino, Evanovich paints a vivid scene with an eclectic cast of characters. Ranger even makes an appearance in this one, along with Morelli.

This made the commute fly by, and I am looking forward to the next Between-the Numbers novel on audio.

Also Reviewed By:
The Movieholic & Bibliophile

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich’s Visions of Sugar Plums is a fun holiday listen. The hubby and I listened to this book on our morning commutes and it was a short one at only 3 discs. Visions of Sugar Plums is a “Between the numbers novel.”

I haven’t read any of the number novels yet, but I do have them–thanks to my mom. We started with this audio book and found it amusing. It’s not as funny as A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, but it is mildly funny.

The main character, Stephanie Plum, is a bounty hunter working through the holidays to catch a defendant, Sandy Claws, who jumped bond. She hasn’t had time to get a tree or presents for her New Jersey-based family. One morning she wakes up to a strange, yet hunky man, in her kitchen. He introduces himself as Diesel, but she wonders if he’s a killer, burglar, or alien. Turns out he’s in town bothering her for a whole other reason–the spirit of Christmas. Will she get the presents she needs for her family, will Diesel help her find the spirit of Christmas, and will she apprehend Mr. Claws?

My favorite parts of this novel involve the “elves” and Plum’s Grandma Mazur. They make this novel fun and festive. One of my favorite scenes is when Mazur is searching for her dentures, which are missing, before her “stud muffin” arrives for their date. They eventually find the dentures in a stuffed dinosaur and they are painted with pretty rainbows thanks to a little girl named Mary Alice, Plum niece. I couldn’t stop laughing as I imagined my grandmother’s dentures in her mouth with rainbows and other brightly colored images on them. Talk about a winning smile.

My husband loves the part where Plum and Diesel enter the toy factory looking for Sandy Claws and find a bunch of “midgets” dressed as elves. Let’s just say you shouldn’t call elves midgets. . .they get feisty and start a riot. Imagine elves screaming, “Get her!” And jumping up onto a female bounty hunter to regain their respect.

For a light holiday read, this book will fit the bill. I wouldn’t have paid full price for the audio book, but it’s worth a check out at the library.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***