Quantcast

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis, narrated by Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder, is a thrill-a-minute, as Det. Jenna Murphy gets re-acquainted with Bridgehampton at a time when Noah Walker is on trial for murder.  7 Ocean Drive, the Murder House, has a violent and unforgiving past, and Walker finds that he gets caught up in that darkness no matter how much he wants to stay under the radar.  Murphy has resigned from her Manhattan police gig and returned to a place she hasn’t been in more than two decades.  As she strives to put the man in jail who she believes killed her uncle, the police chief of Bridgehampton, she’ll have to compromise the one thing she’s held onto since then — her integrity.

Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder do an excellent job of narrating this suspenseful murder mystery, with Jay’s voice even creepier as the killer’s, whose identity remains unknown until the end.  In this twisted tale, Jenna and Noah embark on parallel journeys that lead them into one of the darkest places in the tourist trap — the Murder House.  It’s history dates back to the 1800s, and the family that owned it was always under suspicion but never tried or convicted of any crimes.  Long-since dead, the family’s secrets come to light, and one of them hits very close to home for Murphy, who has lost her uncle and her job as she continues to ask questions about the recent murders of a powerful Hollywood player and his mistress and Walker’s role in them.

Despite moments that seem forced and lines that are repeated a little too often, as well as bad decisions that are made by a supposedly talented cop, The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis, narrated by Therese Plummer and Jay Snyder, is a heart-pumping thriller that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author, David Ellis:

David Ellis is a lawyer and the Edgar Allan Poe Award winner for Best First Novel for Line of Vision. Ellis attended Northwestern Law School and began his legal career in private practice in Chicago in 1993. He served as the House Prosecutor who tried and convicted Illinois Governor Blagojevich in the Impeachment Trial before the Illinois Senate. He was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 2014 and took office December 1, 2014. Ellis currently lives outside Chicago with his wife and three children.

About the Author, James Patterson:

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.

Cross Justice by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Cross Justice by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays, is another fast-paced thriller in the Alex Cross series of books, and this one has a lot of twists and turns that will provide even greater insight into the character of Cross and where he comes from.  Alex Cross returns to his North Carolina hometown for the first time since the death of his parents and his grandmother, Nana Mama, moved him and his brothers north.  He’s on vacation, but we all know that never lasts.  He, his wife, and the kids are quickly enveloped into the loving arms of Cross family, but they also find themselves unraveling the mystery behind their cousin’s arrest for the murder of a young boy.

Patterson is a great artist when it comes to creating suspense and chapter cliffhangers that will force readers to keep going, even as he shifts points of view between Alex Cross and a killer.  The narrators for this one did a great job, especially Jefferson Mays who narrates several characters — male and female. Patterson tied up the crimes in this novel very neatly, with socialites being murdered for jewels in one case and finding the killer of a young boy in another. While these cases connections often seem unlikely, somehow Patterson seems to make them plausible.

The backstory of the Cross family is a stunner, and even Alex Cross is thrown for a loop.  Nana Mama doesn’t figure into this one as much, but the kids are front and center, as is his new wife, Bree.  The family history and the unraveling of Cross’s past are riveting.  Cross Justice by James Patterson, narrated by Ruben Santiago Hudson and Jefferson Mays, is a nice mix of murder, mystery, and family secrets.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists.

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman, narrated by Jan Maxwell, is the 12th book in the Tess Monaghan series, but it’s not necessary to read these books in order.

As a new mother, Monaghan, a private detective, struggles with her ability to parent well, and she’s often her harshest critic.  Her concerns about her own parenting skills are the backdrop to the case she’s working involving the “baby killer” Melisandre Harris Dawes, who left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. She was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, but when she’s back from a stint abroad to avoid the press and tries to reconnect with her two daughters and film a reunion documentary, the process is much harder than she expects, especially as her ex-husband strives to keep her out of their lives.

Baltimore comes alive in this novel, as Lippman is careful to supply readers with both the good and bad elements of the city. As Monaghan struggles with her new role as a mother and to pay the bills, she and her partner Sandy Sanchez have little choice by to take up her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray’s offer to assess Melisandre’s security needs. In the midst of this, people end up dying, and the finger starts pointing at her client.  Jan Maxwell is an excellent narrator, particularly when she has to narrate the dialogue for a very manipulative and closed off woman.

Hush Hush by Laura Lippman, narrated by Jan Maxwell, was a twisted tale that will have mothers everywhere praising their own parenting abilities in comparison to Melisandre.  Monaghan, like most new mothers, must juggle new responsibilities with their jobs, but at least her partner provides some help, as do her parents and daycare.  She’s a brilliant woman who struggles to do it all, but in many ways, the book is a cautionary tale.  Mothers should not have to do it all, and they should be able to ask for help and rely on others.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light.

Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since. She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Sun editorial writer who retired in 1995 but continues to freelance for several newspapers, and Madeline Mabry Lippman, a former Baltimore City school librarian. Her sister, Susan, is a local bookseller.

Serena by Ron Rash (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Pembertons hack their timber empire out of the North Carolina mountain wilderness in Serena by Ron Rash, narrated by Phil Gigante. Serena and George meet in Boston, and their instant connection and passion drive them to flout the calls for a National Park System in 1929 to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  They effectively take action to buy up more and more land to prevent its creation.  Serena is seen by her husband and the workers as a shrewd businesswoman capable of making deals and expanding the business.  Serena and George are connected in business, love, and obsession, but when George begins to look on something else as more important, a woman scorned can be hard to appease.

Gigante’s narration is superb, even as he narrates the female characters.  His voice never takes on a ridiculous tenor as he takes on the persona of Serena and George’s former paramour.  In a world where deals are made over bourbon and cigars, a woman is not expected to be wiser than them.  When Serena takes things too far, George has to make a decision, which could put him at odds with his strong-willed, wild wife.  Serena has few redeeming aspects, and in fact readers may even fear her as many of the other characters do.  She’s an imposing presence, even when she is not front and center in the action.

Serena by Ron Rash, narrated by Phil Gigante, is a tale of ambition in a time when the Great Depression has taken a deep hold on the country, and it extrapolates how easily business tycoons can manipulate deals and people to get what they want.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ron Rash is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist and New York Times bestselling novel, Serena, in addition to three other prizewinning novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; three collections of poems; and four collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O.Henry Prize, he teaches at Western Carolina University.

United States of Books: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, narrated by George Guidall, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1985 before being made into a movie with William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Geena Davis.  Maryland resident, Macon Leary, is a very particular man, he likes things to be orderly and things to be pronounced just so. Even though he is a travel writer, he hates traveling and much of his column and his books are how-to guides on how to bring home with you when you vacation. His marriage to Sarah falls apart following the tragic death of their son, and she moves out. Following a freak accident at home with his dog, Edward, Macon moves in with his brothers and sister — all odd ducks in similar, yet different ways. How anyone could handle of the weirdness is something the wives have talked about before and some have even given up their marriages to escape.

Macon is tough to take throughout the novel until his world is thrown into a spin when he meets dog trainer and jack-of-all-trades Muriel.  In addition to Macon, Tyler has a cast of vivid characters, including Macon’s boss Julian.  However, the pacing here is slow and Macon is slow to evolve, which is frustrating.  His routines in life are so far ingrained into his character that it is very difficult for him to adjust to even the smallest changes.  When he’s thrown into a different way of living, he’s still clinging to the old life he had and even as he opens up and moves forward with his life, he is completely unaware.  Tragically, he takes no action of his own accord and things just happen to him and he adjusts as best he can.

In terms of place, as this is the book picked to represent Maryland, there is very little of my current home state in its pages.  While Macon is referred to as a resident of Baltimore on a few occasions, there is very little of the city I’ve come to know in these pages.  The descriptions given could be of many towns across the United States, and where he and his family live doesn’t even seem like Baltimore, a city with its downtrodden, littered streets and high crime, or its cultural connection to Edgar Alan Poe and Frederick Douglass, one of the most gifted activists during the Civil War era.

Douglass learned how to read in Baltimore, and while Macon and his family are quirky and troubled, they do not speak to the civil rights struggles in a state between the sides, nor do they speak to the other leaders of social movements, including Gertrude Stein.  There is a great sense in Maryland’s literary heritage that lives change here, their perspectives evolve and they move on to greater things.  There is no sense of that here, just as there is no sense of suburban life in Maryland, which is as varied as the cultures and incomes found within its borders.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, narrated by George Guidall, is a slow moving novel, much like it’s main character, Macon, as it is slow to evolve and move beyond the humdrum routines of a rigid travel writer who hates to travel.  The narrator does well in his portrayal of Macon, and his voice and timber set the tone that Tyler has given in her prose.  While there are some amusing moments with the quirkier characters, Macon is hard to like and his slow evolution is tough to take.

Rating: Couplet

About the Author:

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner’s Goodbye is Anne Tyler’s nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Just Kids by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Just Kids by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, embraces her naivete and anxiety about her artistic life, particularly her chaotic creative process and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  As a struggling poet, she finds that she was ill-prepared for feeling true hunger or living on the streets, but through a series of kind acts from strangers and eventually friends, she finds her way.  Moving fluidly between photography, art, music, and poetry, Smith demonstrates what it means to be young and on a journey of self-discovery in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is a very honest memoir about life as an artist, and what it means to have a clear vision of what you want from an artistic life.  Mapplethorpe had a clear vision of what he wanted from his art and pursued it relentlessly and with all of his body, even though he also feared the judgment of others.  Smith, on the other hand, knew she wanted to be a poet, but was unable to see for some time that poetry is malleable and can evolve beyond what is expected.

Rather than assess her relationship with Mapplethorpe, Smith focuses on how their tumultuous relationship allowed them to grow as artists — their reciprocal relationship becomes the crux of what it means to be a muse and to have a muse.  Because Smith is a writer, her observational skills are keenly seen in her memoir.  An early pact that these artists make to one another about being the sober one when the other is not, helps to keep both artists on their ultimate creative paths, even if they diverge from one another.

Just Kids by Patti Smith is seductive.  Smith narrates it as she wrote it, with honesty and unconditional love.  While she makes no assessments about her experiences, readers will see how appreciative she is for her luck and her journey, a journey that is ripe with sadness and pain but also joy and happiness.  The life of an artist is difficult and chaotic, but no less fulfilling for those committed to it body and soul.

***The poems at the end are worth waiting for***

Rating: Cinquain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.

 

Other Reviews:

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Emily Woo Zeller, and Nicol Zanzarella, is a dark novel of abuse and its consequences.  The Campbell sisters — Jess, Courtney, and Dani — have lived a downtrodden life in Western Canada, and they try to stay out of the way of their abusive father.  Forced to flee, these teenage girls find a lot more than a life on the run, and the experience they have in small town changes their lives forever.  Stevens has created story that seems sensational and the events a bit convenient, but at its heart there is a strong bond between the sisters that is integral to the story.

There are a lot of frustrating moments in this book, with the girls doing things the reader knows are a bad idea.  Readers will want to slap them silly.  Graphic violence against women can be found in these pages, and a lot of it is tough to take.  Much of the story is told from the point of view of the youngest sister, Jess, who like a true innocent and naive girl, follows her older sisters blindly at times.  She is naive until the worst happens to her, and she has to think like her older sisters to help break them free.  Once free, these girls begin their lives under new names, and readers will think that their story of survival is over … but it isn’t.  Fast-forward 18 years, and the story continues with Skylar, the daughter of one of the girls.

There is a lot of detail in these girls’ movements, particularly as they are going through the abandoned buildings and other locations.  In many ways, the pace of the thriller is bogged down by a lot of these details.  It feels as though the tension is being dragged out on purpose, particularly in the latter half of the novel when Skylar is telling the story.  The older girls are clearly still dealing with PTSD from the trauma, but they also are incredibly naive.  Some of the plot twists are predictable, and the things that the attackers continue to get away with is a little too convenient.

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens, narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Emily Woo Zeller, and Nicol Zanzarella, is a tough read for the graphic violence and the stupidity of the characters, particularly Skylar given what she knows happened to her mother.  This is a little too predictable and sensationalized, but the relationship between the sisters is strong and will hold readers’ interest.  It’s just too bad that Dani’s voice is not heard until the final chapters.

Rating: Couplet

About the Author:

Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home. For most of her adult life she worked in sales, first as a rep for a giftware company and then as a Realtor. At open houses, waiting between potential buyers, she spent hours scaring herself with thoughts of horrible things that could happen to her. Her most terrifying scenario, which began with being abducted, was the inspiration for STILL MISSING. After six months Chevy sold her house and left real estate so she could finish the book.

Chevy enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle. When she’s not working on her next book, she’s camping and canoeing with her husband and daughter in the local mountains.

Other Reviews:

M Train by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

M Train by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, is a poetic and meandering memoir that illustrates how the writing life can not only be rich with inspiration but also frustratingly slow and difficult.  Smith spends much of her time drinking black coffee in different cafes, and as she interacts with those she meets and in her projects, she is still holding on to the pain of loss, as her husband passed away too young.  While the loss of her husband is there with her as she rides the subway (there is an M train in New York City that travels between Queens and Manhattan), travels to Tangiers and other foreign locations, it does not take center stage.

Memories drag her daily ruminations into different directions, and these memories are all that are left of those she loves and who have inspired her as a woman, an artist, a poet, and as a person.  She is obsessed with crime dramas and coffee, and her writing is on napkins, in blank pages of books she’s reading (for the upteenth time), and on scraps and in notebooks.

You can see some elements of the memoir online.

Like the dilapidated bungalow she buys on Rockaway beach just before Superstorm Sandy, Smith endures the everyday erosion of life, the waves that threaten to break us and smash us into pieces.  The only testament to our strength is to continue onward and to move forward through our lives chasing our passions and enjoying every moment we are graced with.  Her empty house on Rockaway is where her memories rattle around, emerging only when necessary, allowing her to look back on how much her life has evolved and how much she wants to hold onto as much of it as she can.

The self-narrated M Train by Patti Smith is numbing in the amount of loss in one person’s life, but her life is not that different from that of others who struggle against the tidal wave of loss.  Memory can help us hold onto those we love, but even those are eroded by time.  Many of us have a hard time moving on, and in her memoir, she explores this in depth.

Rating: Quatrain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.

 

 

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is not only about the feminist movement, but also literally about her life as an activist and a woman on the road, who practiced the art of active listening.  Learning in India of a decentralized way of making decisions and interacting, Steinem learned that discussing different points of view on an even plane, without hierarchy, can be much more productive and diplomatic.  Debra Winger is a great narrator because her cadence is very similar to Steinem’s narration of the introductory material.

I love how her parents left their mark on her early on – a mother who wanted a different life than the one she lived and a father who had a hard time staying still, traveling and selling as much as possible.  Her early life and how she travels from one place to the next are captivating, but there are times that the narrative wanders pretty far afield, leaving readers at sea as to what time period they are in until she mentions another year or date.  Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine, has a deep fear of public speaking on her own, though she would speak before groups with others.

Among the most memorable events are the large convention she organizes for the women’s movement, her talk at Harvard University that was mostly male, and her interactions with taxi drivers and others on the streets because she does not drive.  As someone who gets that question a lot about why I don’t drive, this part of the story resonated with me.  I want to be and remain connected to my world, and separating myself in a car alone is not accomplishing that at all.  Steinem says that her adventure begins the moment she walks out the door.

Her discussion of the election process is very similar to what I as a mere voter expected, even though she had more of an insider’s perspective.  In particular, her struggle during the Democratic primary to choose between President Obama and Hillary Clinton was fascinating.  While many people voted because they wanted a woman president and others voted for a black president, Steinem’s thought process was more detailed based upon their track records and their abilities, and more.  For those interested in politics and the political process, these aspects of the book are wonderful, and for those who listen, they will see that they need to adopt Steinem’s ability to listen and examine the minute details of each candidate before voting.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is engrossing in that it provides a detailed account of the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and the political process.  How did women get the vote, how did they use and keep it, and are voices of women heard now?  Steinem is optimistic in our ability to change and evolve into a more inclusive society through careful listening toward shared solutions.

***I read this as part of Emma Watson’s Book Club on GoodReads***

About the Author:

Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine. In 1969, she published an article, ” After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”, which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 13 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, was our January book club selection, which I read in December.  Carrie McClelland has been writing for some time and she has lived a life with her characters as most authors do, but in this case, her ancestors begin to speak through her.  A novel about the failed attempt to return the exiled James Stewart to the crown in the spring of 1708 in Scotland, McClelland is pulled in another direction when she realizes that her novel needs a new point of view.  In so choosing Sophia Patterson, her late-night writing takes a very different turn, as she uncovers her own family’s past.  In alternating points of view between Carrie as she meets the owner of a cottage she rents for writing and his sons and Sophia’s point of view, the story of her family comes alive.

The dramatic landscape and winter sea call to Carrie, like it called to her ancestors.  In many ways, Kearsley’s narrative asks whether memories can be inherited through DNA?  It also seeks to touch upon how much of our personalities and inclinations come from the people in our families who have gone before us.  The courage and power of love is palpable in Kearsley’s prose, and her characters face a number of obstacles beyond their control, at least in Carrie’s novel.  The life of an author can be lonely, and Carrie falls a bit quickly in love.  However, the author focuses not only on the romance of these characters in the present and past, the Jacobite Movement is well fleshed out, with intrigue and danger.  Landor is a passionate narrator, and she makes all of the twists and turns believable.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, is wonderfully crafted, combining history with romance in a fantastic way.  Landor does an excellent job with the Scottish accents and dialects.

About the Author:

Susanna Kearsley studied politics and international development at university, and has worked as a museum curator.  Her first novel Mariana won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Literary Prize and launched her writing career. Susanna continued her mix of the historical and paranormal in novels The Splendour Falls, Named of the Dragon, Shadowy Horses and Season of Storms. Susanna Kearsley also writes classic-style thrillers under the name of Emma Cole.

What the book club thought:

Everyone seemed to enjoy this book for the most part.  A couple members wanted a bit more of a supernatural element to tie together the past and present storylines.  It seemed like things happened to connect Carrie McClelland with her ancestors’ past, but it is unclear why.  The Past narrative worked better for me, but others didn’t seem bothered by the past or modern story’s disconnect.  It was definitely an engaging story with an expected happy ending, at least expected by most of us.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 6 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, was a book that was anticipated by many and vilified by others, and I honestly had no desire to read it because of the hype.  (I only picked up this audio because it was available at the library and I needed a new one.)  Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, has returned to Maycomb, Ala., and her aging father, Atticus.  As the civil rights movement gains speed and the NAACP continues to push for rights, the South balks at integration and federal government interference.

Witherspoon is the perfect choice in a narrator for the story, and it is not just about her ability to play Southern characters.  She provides the right amount of empathy, emotion, and detachment needed by each of the characters to make them wholly different from one another, and yet still share similar experiences but view them differently.  There are differences between this novel (which is said to be Lee’s first) and the previously published book (TKAM), and those differences can be stark, especially when there are outcomes in the previously published book that go very differently here. Those are things an editor should have attended to before publishing, but are not the main crux of this story.

This is not about the rape case that Atticus defended, this is about us as children and how we generally worship our parents in one way or another, only to be disappointed that they are humans and not gods.  It’s a book about a young girl who worshiped her father, took in everything he said with little examination, and continued to apply it to her daily living.  Scout has held her father to an impossible standard, and when she returns to find him at a council meeting — one in which she would expect him to protest not take part in — her images are shattered, and she is forced to not only reconcile what she thought she knew about her father but what she knew about herself.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, is a novel about finding the courage and strength to change and to help those around you do the same. The south was in the midst of heavy transitions when Scout returns, and while she was “blind” to the hearts of those around her, even when her eyes are opened to their motivations, it is clear she still has a lot to learn.  The end seems to leave things wide open and unresolved in a way, like Scout’s journey is not finished.

About the Author:

Harper Lee, known as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-50), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, “Ramma-Jamma”. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC. Lee continued as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year’s wages with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, the novel was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

About the Narrator:

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, known professionally as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and producer. She began her career as a child actress, starring in The Man in the Moon in 1991. Witherspoon quickly established herself as a talented actress in films such as Pleasantville (1998), Election (1999) and Cruel Intentions (1999). While filming Cruel Intentions. Behind the camera, Witherspoon launched her own production company Pacific Standard in 2012, which was behind the 2014 films Gone Girl and Wild. The latter, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, stars Witherspoon as a woman who takes to the road after the death of her mother. Witherspoon has earned raves for the role, receiving Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards nominations.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is the second book in the Department Q series — though you don’t have to read the previous one to follow along with this one — and Detective Carl Mørck is leading the new department with his assistant Assad in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This department’s focus is cold cases, reopening them to find new clues with fresh eyes, and what Mørck finds is a little more is disturbing.  Reviewing a case of murders from 1987 that involved a gang of young men and women, the detective, Assad, and his new assistant Rose Knudsen are forced to reassess their world view and the motivations of killers.

Adler-Olsen creates a set of murders that are not only over-the-top, but the perpetrators are as well.  Their hyped-up sense of pleasure from beatings, killings, and torture is reminiscent of the television show American Horror Story.  Some of these killers come from the upper echelons of society, and like those before them, they believe they are untouchable because of their place in society and what they have accomplished.  It’s clear that these accomplishments are not enough to sustain their attention or satisfaction; these are men and women who are dissatisfied with their success and are seduced by the dark side (pun intended).  Despite these absurdly crazy characters, and the absent one from the murderous gang who seems to stay enough on the radar to attract the attention of Detective Mørck but not her cohorts, the story has great tension and a layered revealing of events that keep readers hooked.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is a well paced thriller with bits of comedic banker between Mørck, Assad, and Rose that will leave readers wondering about what they missed in book one if they start here.  This seems like a series readers will get sucked into without really knowing how.  The unusual characters, the foreign setting for U.S. readers, and the noir quality of the situations will entice readers to enter Adler-Olsen’s world cautiously.

About the Author:

Author Jussi Adler-Olsen began in the 1990s to write novels after having followed a comprehensive career as publisher, editor, film composer for the Valhalla-cartoon and as bookseller.

He made his debut with the thriller “Alfabethuset” (1997), which reached bestseller status both in Denmark and internationally just like his subsequent novels “And She Thanked the Gods” (prev. “The Company Basher”) (2003) and “The Washington Decree” (2006). The first book on Department Q is “Kvinden I buret” (2007) and the second “Fasandræberne” (2008). The main detective is Deputy Superintendent Carl Morck from the Department Q and he is also the star of the third volume, “Flaskepost fra P” which was released in the fall of 2009 and secured Adler-Olsen ”Readers’ Book Award” from Berlingske Tidende-readers, the Harald Mogensen Prize as well as the Scandinavian Crime Society’s most prestigious price ”Glass Key”. The fourth volume in the Department Q series, “Journal 64” was published in 2010 and he was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime-prize of “The Golden Laurels” for this in 2011”. In December 2012 the fifth novel was published, “Marco Effekten”.

Photo Credit: Eric Druxman

About the Translator:

K. E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, Washington Post, World Literature Today, Southern Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His translations include books by Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Erik Valeur, Jussi Adler Olsen, Simon Fruelund and, forthcoming in winter 2016, Jesper Bugge Kold. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the Danish Arts Foundation and is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow.