Audiobook Review: The Hiding Place


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom, John Sherill, Elizabeth Sherill Dunne
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: October 1974
Length: 242 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Christian

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.

Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp. The Hiding Place is their story.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Bernadette Dunn
Release Date: July 2009
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins

The narration was beautiful. It was easy to follow and Dunn has a pleasing voice with a slightly husky tone.

Corrie ten Boom lives in Holland with her elderly father and spinster sister. Corrie herself is approaching 50, and all three of the ten Booms are watchmakers, working in the family store. They are kind and compassionate people with their lives steeped in their strong faith, which are the foundations of their life.

When the war breaks out, they soon find their Jewish friends in desperate need. The ten Booms do all in their power to assist them. They have a secret room in their house constructed to conceal a hiding space. They get connected with others out in the countryside to funnel Jews through and away from their oppression and imminent arrest. Soon the ten Boom’s storefront becomes Grand Central Station of the Underground in Holland. Not only do the ten Booms board and care for their friends, and soon complete strangers, they also find them safe passage, send messages on their behalf, obtain new identity papers for them, and set them up with ration books for when they are on their own in the future. Through their hard work and efforts smuggling Jews out of the country and Nazi occupation, the ten Booms save over 800 Jewish men, women, and children.

They stick their necks out, make their home a safe haven, and risk everything. Eventually, they are betrayed, and the ten Booms wind up in prison for a few months. She is separated from her father and her sister Betsy. Later she is transferred to the Vught Concentration Camp, and finally, lands in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She also falls quite ill during her imprisonment.

This is a recounting of Corrie’s of her days during the war. It is written decades afterward with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Corrie’s entrenchment in faith in the Lord is what she testifies her strength, deliverance, and life upon. It is a moving and heartfelt story. Despite the highly religious tones, it wasn’t preachy. However, I did listen to Corrie’s accounts with a grain of salt. While this is her first-hand accounting, it is 20 some-odd years later and written with the aid of two individuals not present at the time. Further, the logic of the book is that all of Corrie’s courage and bravery and strength are only gifts from God, which are later taken back and she is left without any strength of character. In times of great fear is when we falter and find it an insurmountable mountain to scrounge up strength, courage, or bravery. I don’t believe Corrie ever had hers “gifted” by God, but simply gave in to the natural depths of humanity.

A read everyone should share in, Corrie’s story of faith, forgiveness, humility, and loyalty are hallmarks the world is needing today.


Born: April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam
Died: April 15, 1983

Corrie ten Boom and her family were Christians who were active in social work in their home town of Haarlem, the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation, they chose to act out their faith through peaceful resistance to the Nazis by active participation in the Dutch underground. They were hiding, feeding and transporting Jews and underground members hunted by the Gestapo out of the country. It is estimated they were able to save the lives of 800 Jews, in addition to protecting underground workers.

On Feb. 28, 1944, they were betrayed and Corrie and several relatives were arrested. The four Jews and two underground workers in the house at the time of the arrest were not located by the Nazis and were extricated by the underground 47 hours after they fled to the tiny hiding place (located in Corrie’s room).

The ten Boom family members were separated and transferred to concentration camps. Corrie was allowed to stay with her precious sister, Betsy. Corrie’s father (Casper), her sister (Betsy) and one grandchild (Kik) perished. Corrie was released in December of 1944.

These acts of heroism and sacrifice became the foundation for Corrie ten Boom’s global writing and speaking career which began after she was released.

Ten Boom has received numerous awards for her writing and speaking. Notably, she was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people by being invited to plant a tree in the famous Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, near Jerusalem. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

Audiobook Review: Crows & Cards


4818478Title: Crows & Cards
Author: Joseph Helgerson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 348 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Three warnings for readers who hate surprises: 1. Beware of slivers, 2. and gamblers, 3. and aces.

Zebulon Crabtree found all that out the hard way back in 1849 when his mother and father shipped him off to St. Louis to apprentice with a tanner. Too bad he had serious allergies to fur and advice from his parents.

Hearing the beat of a different drummer, Zeb takes up with a riverboat gambler who has some special plans for him, crosses paths with a slave who turns out to be a better friend than cook, and learns that some Indian medicine men can see even though blind.

And then there’s the Brotherhood—the one that Zeb can’t seem to get out of. . . . Lucky for us, the price of living in turbulent times is often a good story, and Zeb spins an unforgettable one.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: MacLeod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins

The Highs and Lows

  • Zeb. He is a 12-year-old boy and the oldest of seven. His father scrapes together $70 to send him to his Uncle Seth to become a tanner’s apprentice. He is a very sheltered boy. He doesn’t know things about the world. The notion of not talking to strangers, let alone trusting one, isn’t a lesson Zeb has learned – but he will. The story is told from the perspective of Zeb.
  • Setting. It is 1849 in St. Louis. This was the year cholera hit a peak in St. Louis, and it was also the year of the infamous St. Louis Fire.
  • Other Characters. Zeb also learns from the slave, Ho-John, who burns all the food (on purpose) and a blind Native American chief whispered to be a “seer.” Zeb tries as much as he can not to endanger
  • Zeb’s Journey. During his travels to St. Louis via steamboat, Zeb meets a professional gambler and thief named Chilly. Through their escapades, Zeb believes they are going to be a modern-day Robin Hood crew and swindle money from the rich to give to the poor. Eventually Zeb wises up and decides to help the slave and the already swindled chief. But by now he has already become Chilly’s apprentice and magic key to his swindling gigs, pledged himself to the Brotherhood of the Gamblers, and resides in an inn with a gambling parlor,to which Chilly is secretly half-owner in. Eventually, Zeb turns the tables on Chilly with the help of the chief and his daughter, referred to as the princess.
  • Plot and Pacing. This wasn’t a particularly interesting book. In fact, it was particularly boring. I determined to finish listening to the audio so I could mark it for several of my challenges, especially my audiobook challenge. I wasn’t an invested reader in this slow-moving, woefully underdeveloped writing.
  • Imitation or Homage? I couldn’t really tell which angle the author was taking, whether it was an homage to Mark Twain or trying to imitate him. Either way, it feel far from the mark. This emulation of Twain is a cheap imitation and very obvious. While Twain was masterful at Mississippi dialect, this duplicate wannabe is merely bad grammar from the 1830s, and all the characters have the same dialect. The craft and skill that Twain used is not evident in this novel, but there is a great deal of figurative language. The book is also illustrated.
  • Historical Notations. There is an appendix of historical information and a dictionary at the back of the book. The information contained in the appendix is interesting and the dictionary is quite humorous. The appendix contained information about slavery and Native American issues, as well as the attitudes from the time.



223894First of all, I blame my family for my becoming a writer. Scratch one of my relatives and often as not you’ll get a story, usually of the tall-tale variety. Though I’ve lived out West, I’ve spent most of my life in Minnesota, along the Mississippi River where such tales are a tradition.

As you can see, I’m a redhead, freckled, fry easily. Stories could be told. Stories have been told. I’m married with a son and daughter. Over the years we’ve shared our home with creatures who purr, chirp, bark, scuttle, and molt. It’s generally a happy house, though not always quiet.

I grew up playing sports like a fiend and during college bicycled from Minnesota to Arizona for the adventure. During that trip I kept a journal, which marks the official start of my writing career. My advice to would-be writers? Never turn down a chance to take a bike ride.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: X


22292486Title: X
Author: Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: January 2015
Length: 348 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Dion Graham , Ilyasah Shabazz
Publisher: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
Release Date: January 2015
Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins

Dion Graham was a terrific narrator. The text itself contained a lot of natural colloqualism, even in internal dialogue, and Dion’s narration contained a perfect blend and a voice of the African-American struggle with incredible dialect. I would love to hear more of his narrations!

The Highs and Lows

I was surprised when the bilingual coordinator for my school district sent out a district-wide newsletter recommending X alongside other elementary picture and middle grades books for students to read as a diverse read for Black History Month. This was intended for elementary campuses, primarily, which is the struggle in teaching middle school. We have to make things so elementary, but then are griped at that what we are doing is not rigorous enough or preparing them for high school. I was currently listening to the audio at the time. Since I’ve finished the audio, I’ve found many recommending this for student reading in classes, and being a middle school teacher there would be incredible backlash if this were read in any grade below 9th or 10th grade. It is marketed as a YA read, and it is more mature than most YA today. Because it is historical, it is based on real events, but the content is not appropriate for immature readers. Reading Huckleberry Finn was a shock ten years ago when I was a junior in high school, so that should accompanied with a caveat for high school reading.

  • Before Becoming Malcolm X. I don’t recall ever learning anything about Malcolm X in Texas public schools. Or in college, and I was a geography minor that entailed several anthropology and history classes. Somehow I naturally figured out who Malcolm X was through my own means, and all I knew was that he was a leader for social injustice and basic civil rights. Beyond that, I didn’t know much. While preparing for my review, I discovered that there aren’t a lot of writings about his life before becoming Malcolm X. It was interesting to learn about Malcolm Little from his youth.
  • Fictionalized Perspective. While X is a novel about the formative years about the boy who grew up to become Malcolm X, it is important to distinguish and remember that this is still historical fiction. It is a fictionalized account of his youth. It is not from the perspective of Malcolm Little, but rather from one of his daughters based on stories she heard about her father growing up following his assassination when she was three years old.
  • Anticlimatic. Given this is a fictionalized perspective, it is biased but also contains more depth than other sources could provide. While listening it seemed that some of Malcolm’s decisions were idealized. There did not seem to be real closure to the book. It ended with Malcolm’s imprisonment when he was 20, followed by end notes distinguishing the facts from the fiction. This section contained pretty detailed information that was helpful. It would have been more helpful at the front, especially for audio. Reading this section set the tone for hope for what we know was to come for Malcolm, but I didn’t feel the actual book’s ending arrived there. I was left wanting something more out of the ending for such a compelling narrative.
  • Setting. There are several settings to the book. The storyline travels from Malcolm’s birth in Omaha to his childhood in Flint and Lansing, and then to his youth in Roxbury (Boston) and Harlem, concluding with Malcolm’s imprisonment. The vibrancy in the description and the lives of Roxbury and Harlem particularly captured my attention. In the context of the environment in which he grew up in, Malcolm’s choices stem from the oppression and racism inflicted on his family. The murder of his father and institutionalization of his mother and being forced into foster care during this time had very invasive effects. The timeline moves fluidly back and forth in time.
  • Spiraling. Malcolm is a good student. He’s very smart and makes straight As. He also had a wild streak in him that started with small things, like stealing food for his family. Malcolm saw the face of racism in high school, and then understands his white peers are not being friendly. His (half) sister Ella invites him to live with her in Boston, and Malcolmn jumps at the opportunity to leave Lansing. It is a fresh start in a new place. From there his life begins spiraling out of control for most of the book. There are harsh realities when Malcolm discovers jazz, alcohol, drugs, and women – a white woman named Sophia, specifically – which is why I do not suggest this be read by students younger than 9th grade. It seemed the plot lent itself to compounding on every bad decision Malcolm makes, almost like it is a contest to see how bad he can be the next time.
  • Disillusion. Malcolm’s beliefs of a fresh start in Roxbury don’t last long. He finds that the glittering city life doesn’t provide a means of escape from the racism that filled the hearts and souls of so many. After experiencing Harlem, Malcolm decides that is where he needs to be. Trouble comes knocking again, and Malcolm returns to Roxbury, where Sophia has cooked up a plan that will allow Malcolm, herself, and two others to come into a surplus of funds. Ultimately Malcolm is caught by the police and sent to prison and truly starts over. It is made clear that Malcolm’s self-destructive behavior is the effect of his disillusionment with his father’s teachings about pride and equality and his feeling that there was nothing he could do to change things.
  • Lack of Redemption. While reading, I couldn’t ever find anywhere where Malcolm felt remorse for any of his actions. It was hard to read about Malcolm’s throwing bad choice after bad. His sister Ella gave him opportunities and encouragement. Instead of realizing her disapproval was due to his dangerous choices, he ran from the one good thing in his life. I describe my grandfather as a hard man, unyielding and abrasive, and this was a hard read. I didn’t see any hope for redemption. I think that is why I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion of the book.
  • Malcolm’s Character. I didn’t like Malcolm’s character for the majority of the book. He chooses to do certain things he knows is against the law and can land him in serious trouble, like illegally owning a gun and dealing “white powder.” There were several scenes regarding these two elements that show a paranoid Malcolm, but he continues to grow arrogant. If the world won’t give it to him, he will take it by whatever means he chooses, namely dealing drugs and being a thief. There is no will or want in him to be a better person, and that was something that resonated with me. It goes against everything I have ever been taught. Even as I write this I have to remember the environment he grew up in. If all you know is debilitating racism, why would you want to be a better person?

The Take-Away

While I didn’t agree with Malcolm’s spiraling behavior and his choices, I also saw the naivety that still resided in him as a young man running wild. To love a white woman in this time was danger in and of itself. I don’t know everything about the Civil Rights Movement, but I know more than some, and I realize what I don’t know. The black spots on my map, so to speak, and learning new little pieces from this narrative are compelling enough to prompt readers to continue expanding their knowledge about leaders and lives during this tumultuous time.


Audiobook Review: Cruel Beauty


15839984Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 352 pages
Series?: Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Genre: Fantasy Retelling, Romance

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Skinny

Nyx’s father made a deal with the most notorious Gentle Lord, a demon lord, known to twist and turn bargains in his 900 years. Now, Nyx has a duty to her family and her entire world to kill the demon lord. Her resentment runs deep.

Elizabeth Knowleden narrates the audiobook. She has a crisp, steady voice. Whether the accent or dialect, I picked up on it in her speech. It was pleasant and had a lyrical rhythm to it.

The Players

Nyx – a young Arcadian woman forced to marry the Gentle Lord

Ignifex – The Gentle Lord or Demon Lord

Shade – a shadowy figure that lives in the castle and comes out at night

The Quote

“If you start wondering how this house works, you’ll likely go mad. That could be amusing, I suppose. Especially if it’s the kind of madness that causes you to run naked through the hallways. Do feel free to indulge in that anytime.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Greek mythology. This world of Arcadia is rich in Greek mythology. While I don’t know very much, it was informative. All the mythology stories are telling. I think they were meant as parallels to hint at the main storyline. But it was also A LOT of information. There was definitely information dump, and it wasn’t always transitioned well. At times I was grappling with how it all fit together.
  • Nyx’s background. For all of her life, Nyx’s purpose is to live to kill the Gentle Lord and save Arcadia. Her father struck an ill-fated bargain with him, and Nyx has to live with the consequences. She isn’t groomed and doted on like her sister Astraia, she is trained for the day she will leave her father’s household. Given her upbringing (and no choice in the matter), she is actually a pretty strong individual. Despite her purpose, she stops and thinks before she leaps. Once in the castle, she realizes the pressures that engulf Ignifex and she almost wants to help him instead of destroy him. That shows great character strength, especially in defiance of all she has learned and been raised to be.
  • Pacing. Be warned it is excruciatingly slow in the beginning. Things don’t pick up until Ignifex and Shade are introduced.
  • Bemoaning. Nyx bemoaned her fate the entire book. It was constantly back to how her family treated her and how her life was ruined due to her predicament, and damn her father for putting her here. I understood clearly the first time. It didn’t need to be repeated multiple times. This detracted from the plot and only seemed to add filler. I seriously considered DNFing the audio for this reason.
  • Ignifex. AKA The Demon Lord. He is a classic bad boy, and hated by many. He causes harm and pain with his bargains, always asking for a high price. But little do the Arcadians know he is himself a prisoner as much as they are to his bargains. Ignifex represents the physical side of an individual. Ignifex doesn’t know anything because he is missing the mental side that makes up a person.
  • Shade. Shade is indeed like a shadow. He looks strikingly similar to Ignifex, but is a shadowy figure. He represents the mental side of an individual. Shade houses all the memories of Ignifex, but is lacking the physical side to do anything. After a while, Shade creeped me out.
  • Weird love triangle. Between Nyx, Ingnifex, and Shade there was this weird love triangle thing. It was strange and unnerved me a little bit. I never knew how much Nyx was going to act upon her feelings. I wasn’t ever sure where Shade was leading Nyx, or how things were going to come about with Ignifex. For that part, the suspense and curiosity got to me…sometimes in a creepy, hair-standing way.
  • The Retelling. I can kind of identify the parallels between Beauty and the Beast and this story. It is not an immediate recognitions as a B&tB retelling, but it becomes crystal clear at the end.
  • The Ending. It was confusing, to say the least. It was unsatisfying to me.


The Take-Away

This book was confusing and quite a bit odd. The beginning was slow, there were sudden brain-dumps of Greek mythology, and the ending was extremely confusing for many readers. I nearly DNFed this book so many times, and the twist ending wasn’t really worth the time I wasted listening.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 




6474354When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry.

He still isn’t sorry. (I checked.) But in 2014 I got to publish my first novel with HarperCollins, so I guess everything worked out okay.

Some other facts about me:

I got a B.A. in English at the University of Dallas, and an M.St. in Medieval English at Oxford. Naturally, I moved to Seattle and got a job with computers.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables

814060Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Release Date: May 2013
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Anne of Green Gables #1
Genre: Classics, Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever…but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected–a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she’d try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special–a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.



The Skinny

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert had decided to adopt an orphan. They wanted a nice sturdy boy to help Matthew with the farm chores. The orphanage sent a girl instead – a mischievous, talkative redhead who the Cuthberts thought would be no use at all. But as soon as Anne arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever. And the longer Anne stayed, the harder it was for anyone to imagine Green Gables without her.

The Players

Anne – the spunky red-headed orphan who comes to Avonlea

Marilla – the strict disciplinarian, sister to Matthew

Matthew – the sweet and gentle spirit, brother to Martha

Diana – Anne’s one true friend

Gilbert – the boy Anne loathes and then loves

The Quote

 “You’d find it easier to be bad than good if you had red hair.”

The Narration

Colleen Winton does a fantastic job of portraying Anne and everyone of Emerald Isle. The variation and inflection in her voice and the bursting enthusiasm as Anne, with Marilla’s stark and drudgerly contrast was excellent.

The Highs and Lows

  • The Enchantment. Green Gables, Avonlea, and Anne are simply charming and enchanting. The setting couldn’t be more picturesque and lovely.
  • Years Gone By. Anne comes to Green Gables as a child, and the book spans the years sending her into young womanhood and becoming a mature young adult. It is hard to believe any of the characters except Anne and her schoolmates age over the years, but the last few chapters of the book reveal just what toll time has taken. And Anne handles it all with grace and strength.
  • Anne. She is spunky, wildly imaginative, long-winded, and stubborn. As Anne grows, she learns. She is not perfect by any stretch, and she understands the importance of learning from her mistakes, which are quite funny. She chooses to see the world in the best of lights, brimming with possibilities. Anne’s character is endearing and warms your heart.
  • Gilbert. From the moment he pulls Anne’s braids and calls her carrots, Gilbert has marked himself with a scarlet letter…at least in Anne’s mind. The two are such competitive rivals that they act as if they hate one another, refusing to speak to one another. They are young and ignorant, and as the years go by, the hate has been swallowed up in Anne to be replaced with fond feelings for Gilbert.
  • Marilla. She is old-fashioned for even 1908, and a strict disciplinarian. While the town’s girls are dressed in the modern fashion, Anne’s dress puts her at least twenty years in the past. Marilla is very hard on Anne, but she is also fair. As Anne seeks out the world without apprehension, the same cannot be said for Marilla, who took some time warming up to Anne.
  • Matthew. He is kind and warm and the opposite of Marilla. It is like they are two halves of one whole, and together they make everything work right. He understands things about Anne that Marilla refuses to recognize or bend to, like Anne’s desire for puffed sleeves.
  • The Chapters. While the book spans several years from Anne’s childhood into the late teens, each chapter is like a stand-alone story. For every chapter tells its own little story of Anne and her family and friends, usually with some scrape she has gotten herself into. By the end of the chapter, the incidents typically reach a conclusion.

The Take-Away

My two favorite scenes in the entire book were the big debacle over Marilla’s missing amethyst brooch (which sounds quite lovely), and Anne getting her dear Diana drunk on what she believed was raspberry cordial. In all, Anne is a little piece of all of us at some point in our childhood, and another piece of us for the rest of our lives: wanting to be wanted and loved. And she shows the best way to do that.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

The series is quite lengthy, so if you’re inclined to keep this around for re-reads or sharing with daughters/grandaughters/nieces, I’d say buy the books. I know I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series in the future.


About the Author

5350Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author, best known for a series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908.

She was born at Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Nov. 30, 1874. She came to live at Leaskdale, north of Uxbridge Ontario, in 1911 after her wedding with Rev. Ewen Macdonald on July 11, 1911 in Prince Edward Island. Her three children were born at Leaskdale, and she wrote close to a dozen books while she was living in the Leaskdale Manse before the Macdonald family moved to Norval, Ontario in 1926.

Maud died in Toronto April 24, 1942 and was buried at Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

Audiobook Review: The Reluctant Assassin

15997095Title: The Reluctant Assasin
Author: Eoin Colfer
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: May 2013
Length: 341 pages
Series?: W.A.R.P. #1
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

The reluctant assassin is Riley, a Victorian boy who is suddenly plucked from his own time and whisked into the twenty-first century, accused of murder and on the run.

Riley has been pulled into the FBI’s covert W.A.R.P. operation (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). He and young FBI Agent Chevie Savano are forced to flee terrifying assassin-for-hire Albert Garrick, who pursues Riley through time and will not stop until he has hunted him down. Barely staying one step ahead, Riley and Chevie must stay alive and stop Garrick returning to his own time with knowledge and power that could change the world forever.


The Skinny

Riley is a teen orphan living in Victorian London. He is an apprentice for an illusionist who has fallen on hard times and now uses his powers for evil and can be hired as an assassin. During one of these schemes, Garrick encourages Riley to commit murder – his first killing.

Thankfully, the victim turns out to be from the future and part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP). Riley and Garrick travel via wormhole to modern-day London, where Riley are helped by Chevron Savano, who is there as punishment after a disastrous operation.

Together Riley and Chevie evade Garrick, who is not quite right after his trip through the wormhole: he truly is evil, and he know holds all of the scientist’s knowledge. He is determined to track the pair down and use Chevie’s timekey to go back to Victorian London.


The Players

Riley – a teen orphan boy

Albert Garrick – the evil illusionist assassin who wants to travel back in time and ruin the entire world

Chevron Savano – a 17 year old FBI agent in London as punishment

Professor Smart – also known as Agent Orange, he is Chevie’s superior

The Quote

“And God bless Harry Potter is all I can say. If not for him, all of London would have been consumed by the Dark Arts.”

“Keep eating,” said Chevie, thinking she would have to watch the videos with him next time.

The Narration

Max Caufield does the narration for the audiobook, and he is a talented man! He was able to portray Garrick’s depravity and ghastly character in such an incredible way, and then completely switch in his portrayals of Riley and Chevie. I did have to get used to his British accent. It was a bit gravelly and I had to pay closer attention, but once I got in the listening groove I was mesmerized by his storytelling.

Highs and Lows

  • POVs. The story is told through the alternating POVs of Riley, Chevie, and Garrick. While sometimes things are repeated through each of their viewpoints, I found that it was interesting what each character chose to pay attention to and also to dismiss.
  • Settings. Just like the POVs flip flop, so does the setting. Riley and Garrick originally start out in 1898 London and through a series of events are transported 110 years into the future. The old fashioned juxtaposed with the futuristic makes for one culture shock. The culture shocks for Riley were hysterical. Chevie told him at one point she would get him McDonald’s later, and he was wanting to know why she was bringing him a Scotsman. Oh, sweet Riley.
  • Description. Colfer does an incredibly fantastic job of describing Victorian London. The imagery was of the same level I found with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series in the way that I could clearly and easily picture the setting and goings on.
  • WARP. The government has been utilizing time travel to hide key witnesses from prominent trails via the wormhole. These witnesses travel back to a time where/when they are safe from the reach of the bad guys, and then brought back forward in time to testify.
  • Riley. As I said, sweet Riley. He is quite naive and innocent, but he is also pretty witty. His character reminded me of the orphan Annie
  • Chevie. Is awesome. She is sassy and scrappy. While she could kick butt and handle things, she is also only 17 and had her moments she had to face when she was overwhelmed.
  • Garrick. Garrick is the most fowl of creatures. He was slimy and horrendous in the worst possible way. Abhorrent. Abominable.Appalling. Chilling to think that this man comes to hold an intense amount of knowledge with the most terrifying objectives. While I shudder at Garrick, I also can appreciate his ultimate villainy.
  • The Epilogue. The book didn’t seem to really need the epilogue, and in fact it felt wasted. The epilogue didn’t feel like it fit, as if it was tacked on at the last moment in order to leave the door open to turn this into a series when that wasn’t really the intention.
  • Caution! I do caution younger readers who cut their teeth on the Artemis Fowl series. This new Colfer series is not for the faint of heart. It is gory and gruesome and graphic right from the beginning.

The Take-Away

I was sad to see the breakup of Riley and Chevie. They were such a pair! While the histories of the characters piqued me, I was pleasantly surprised that Colfer provided their backstories throughout the story as the plot progressed. Readers learn how Riley came to be an orphan, why Garrick became what he is, and what really happened to Chevie on her botched mission in L.A.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

This has the makings of another fabulous series, so it’s probably one you want to buy.


About the Author

10896Eoin Colfer (pronounced Owen) was born in Wexford on the South-East coast of Ireland in 1965, where he and his four brothers were brought up by his father and mother, who were both educators.

He received his degree from Dublin University and began teaching primary school in Wexford. He has lived and worked all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy. After the publication of the Artemis Fowl novels, Eoin retired from teaching and now writes full time. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Code Name Verity

11925514Title: Code Name Verity
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Egmont Press
Release Date: February 2012
Length: 441 pages
Series?: Code Name Verity #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.


The Audiobook

This was an audiobook I downloaded last summer from SYNC. It is narrated by Kevin T. Collins and Eve Bianco. It was paired with Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Both narrators were enjoyable to listen to. Usually I have issues more with the narrators and I tend to not get into the stories, but this was the exact opposite. The smooth, clear voice let the story flow and I absorbed each moment of it.

The Skinny

Despite the historical setting of World War II, the book presented the roles of the female pilots during the time. Due to this, there are numerous references to Peter Pan and Neverland in the book. The two main characters are extremely brave young girls working for the Air Transport Auxiliary in German-occupied France. The Auxiliary was formed by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – which is referenced as Churchill’s Secret Army – to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe.

A British spy plane crashes in the fictional town of Ormaie. On board are two best friends, a pilot (code name: Kittyhawk) and a spy (code name: Verity). The latter is soon captured by Nazi authorities, detained in a former hotel, and forced to write a confession detailing the British war effort, which she decides to write in the form of a novel. Through her confession, she tells the story of her friendship with Maddie, the pilot, and how she came to enter France in the first place. She was always doing the unthinkable. She was fixing engines, and flying planes. She used to be graceful and a woman that all the women radio operators envied. The guard who translates is really offput by this woman who was nicknamed Queenie by women operators, and who never gives up her name to reveal that she is Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart from Castle Craig.

In the second part of the plot, the story is told from Maddie’s point of view, and reveals the events that transpired after the plane crash that left both girls in France. Maddie takes on the name and the papers of Katharina. She takes up an elaborate plan to free her friend and lays low on a farm with Resistance army members – including the family of one of the Nazis who tortures Julie.

Even though they are separated, the two meet again under tragic circumstances. Prisoners are being transported to concentration camps for experiments.

The Players

  • Queenie/Julie (code name Verity) – a Scottish spy who has been caught by the Gestapo who works for the SOE; a whiz at languages; can pass as a German native
  • Maddie (code name Kittyhawk) – an English farmer’s daughter who is also Jewish; she becomes an ATA pilot
  • Captain Von Linden – Verity’s captor at the hotel-turned-prison; he refuses to watch her be tortured
  • Anna Engel – an operative under Von Linden; constantly undermining Verity’s story
  • Etienne Thibaut – a young man under Von Linden; interacts and tortures Verity
  • Mitraillette and La Cadette Thibaut – sisters of Etienne; they help Maddie in her efforts to find Verity
  • Jamie Stuart – Verity’s brother, also an ATA pilot

The Quote

A whore, we’ve established that, filthy, it goes without saying, but whatever else the hell I am, I AM NOT ENGLISH.


But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.


A part of me will be unflyable, stuck in the climb.


Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me, QUICK!

The Highs and Lows

  • + Point of View. The first-person POV made the story so much more emotional for me. I felt closer to Maddie and Queenie. Their emotions and fears became my own. I didn’t want to stop listening to their story.
  • + Format. The stories are told through series of letters and journal entries. Typically I tend to zone out with these type of reads because I feel like I’m missing some important element – whatever the author is really trying to portray is not getting across to me. But this was not the case in Code Name Verity. The story felt more historical, documented.
  • + An Incredible Friendship. Sometimes it is difficult to fully reveal all the facets and intricacies of a friendship, especially between girls. Maybe it’s because we’re more complicated. Wein finds a way to overcome these issues and reveals the beauty of Queenie and Maddie’s friendship. It’s like I knew exactly who Verity was, even with all of her pseudonyms and covers, and who Maddie is through her eyes.
  • Historical Accuracy. Elizabeth Wein has a fabulous afterward about how the book came into creation, in which she explicitly explains how historically accurate the book is. She spent an incredible amount of time researching and the dedication to detail shows in the story.
  • Maddie. Maddie LOVES Julie. She is her friend beyond all reason. Surely the ends she goes to proves that. More, she is put in very compromising positions. One being hiding out on the Thibaut family farm. She faces the unimaginable and must make a decision that leaves her utterly heartbroken. She proves just how much she loves her best friend and it made me wail and keen, hiding in the bedroom bathroom, tears streaming down my face. I cannot say that I am as good a friend as Maddie.
  • Julie. She is such a mix of a person, described in so many ways. She is a Scottish Lady, who dressed smartly and waltzed at large parties at Castle Craig. She is Queenie, a girl interested in mechanics and engines and flying. She is Eva, an SOE spy. She is a living contradiction of herself, and yet she is every woman. Every woman she describes herself as. Everything except a coward.
  • The End. The Peter Pan references are sprinkled throughout the book, but it meant the world to me that Julie’s mother tells Maddie she is always welcome in their home, to come back to Scotland, and the window would always be open.

The Take-Away

I don’t think I can articulate one singular thing I liked about this book the best. I thought it was so incredibly well-written and researched, and with the relationship Wein intertwined with Julie and Maddie is so strong and so everything that I couldn’t help but fall in love with each of them and their friendship. I couldn’t keep myself from hoping beyond hope.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy it. Read it. Be moved. Talk about it. Read it again, to your children and grandchildren. It is a story worth telling. It is a story worth sharing. It is a story worth remembering.

About the Author

Elizabeth moved to England when she was three and later to Jamaica at age six. It was in Jamaica that she first started reading and writing. At the age of seven, she and a friend completed a “book” called The Hidden Treasure as part of a “mystery series” based on the Hardy Boys.

Following the death of her mother, books became Elizabeth’s lifeline, particularly fantasy. Inspired by JRR Tolkien, Alan Garner and Ursula K LeGuin, Elizabeth completed an epic fantasy novel, By Sunlight and Starlight, at 14. She discovered King Arthur (through Mary Stewart, TH White, and Susan Cooper), and at 15 started work on the characters and storyline which eventually became her first published novel, The Winter Prince.

Elizabeth attended Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she met her future husband. In 1995 Elizabeth moved to England with him, and then to Scotland in 2000, where she has lived for over 15 years and where all but one of her novels were written.

Elizabeth also writes short stories. She and Tim have two children.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Beautiful Creatures

Title: Beautiful Creatures
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: December 2009
Length: 563 pages
Series?: Caster Chronicles #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Is falling in love the beginning . . . or the end?

In Ethan Wate’s hometown there lies the darkest of secrets . . .

There is a girl. Slowly, she pulled the hood from her head . . . Green eyes, black hair. Lena Duchannes.

There is a curse. On the Sixteenth Moon, the Sixteenth Year, the Book will take what it’s been promised. And no one can stop it.

In the end, there is a grave.

Lena and Ethan become bound together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never even saw it coming.


***** Review *****

The Audiobook

This was an audiobook I downloaded last summer from SYNC. It is narrated by Kevin T. Collins and Eve Bianco. It was paired with Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Collins is the primary narrator and was very enjoyable to listen to. Usually I have issues more with the narrators and I tend to not get into the stories, but Collins was the exact opposite. His smooth, clear voice let the story flow and I absorbed each moment of it.

The Skinny

Ethan Wate wants nothing else but to be different, and to get out of Gatlin, where he has lived his entire life.

Lena Duchaane rolls into town visibly different and already targeted as the outcast.

Everyone knows word travels quickly when there’s something or someone new coming to town, and that is exactly what happens when Lena Duchaane drives into town in her uncle’s black hearse. The town shut-in hasn’t been seen in ten years, making the townsfolk feel either sorry or suspicious when Lena appears.

Ethan and Lena discover some rather odd occurrences and connections, and as time goes on and their friendship strengthens, they uncover an archaic and unsettled family feud. The family history woven throughout the book accentuates the plot and backstory of the Casters.

Ethan’s connection to Lena protects her from dangers of the Dark while she must choose a side to live by before she turns sixteen.

The Players

There are a wide array of characters in Beautiful Creatures and they each make their own contributions to the plot. Below are those I consider the more important characters who have larger roles to play.

Ethan Wate – a 16 year-old basketball player who loves chocolate milk; can communicate telepathically; somehow has the ability to protect Lena from powerful magic and dark casters

Amma – a Seer who is like a grandmother to Ethan; she raised his father and now raises Ethan; well-known for her cooking; superstitious and believes in charms; strongly dislikes Ethan’s relationship with Lena

The Sisters – Ethan’s three great-aunts whom he visits weekly; they are deeply religious and know everything about Gatlin; they have an impact on Ethan

Link – Ethan’s best friend who wants to be a rockstar; he creates his own music and remains loyal to Ethan when he befriends Lena and is shunned by the school

Marian Ashcroft– Ethan’s mother’s best friend who is also the librarian of the Mortal and Caster libraries; she rues the fact that she cannot help Ethan because she is bound by Caster rules

Lena Duchaanes – new girl in town who appears in Ethan’s dreams before arriving; relative of the town shut-in; very different and an easy target for ridicule; can telepathically communicate with Mortal Ethan (a rarity)

Macon Ravenwood – Lena’s reclusive uncle; likened often to Boo Radley; he lives off of others’ dreams

Hunting Ravenwood – Macon’s dark brother who feeds off of blood to retain a youthful appearance

Aunt Del Duchannes – Lena’s time-traveling Caster aunt

Ridley Duchannes – Lena’s Dark Caster Siren cousin; daughter of Aunt Del; possess abilities to manipulate others with a lick of her lollipop; works for Sarafine and dates Link

Reece Duchannes – Lena’s Sybil cousin; daughter of Aunt Del; can read emotions and thoughts of others as well as distinguishing truth from lie

Ryan Duchannes – Aunt Del’s younger, unclaimed daughter; can heal people and has “light”

Larkin Kent – Lena’s cousin who is an illusionist and transformist; son of Aunt Del; his choice of Dark or Light is kept under wraps for most of the novel

Sarafine Duchannes – Lena’s Dark Caster mother; the strongest Dark Caster (a Cataclyst); tries to convince Lena to join her

**Genevieve Duchannes – the Caster who cursed Lena’s family by trying to bring her dead fiancé, Ethan Carter Wate, back to life using the Book of Moons

**Ethan Carter Wate – Genevieve’s fiancé who died when he was shot during the great burning of Gatlin

The Quotes

Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.

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The Highs and Lows

  • + Ethan. He is a wanderer in his small hometown, and very characteristic of the-boy-next-door type. He wants to live for something different, to be different, to find something meaningful. Everything is the same in Gatlin, and he wants more. When he gets it in the form of Lena Duchaane, he has to face the fact that he might be like everyone else in town and must overcome his own internal struggles to get closer to Lena and understand her.
  • + Male POV. Ethan’s POV lends a certain quirkiness to the story, as he is a bit quirky himself.
  • + Characterization. The co-authors chose their characters purposefully for their roles in Gatlin. Most have depth and breadth to their natures, their good points and their flaws, creating three-dimensional characters.
  • + Southern setting. The strong Southern culture and smalltown feel of Gatlin are integral to Ethan and Lena’s story. The Southern drawl is apparent, the Civil War has been renamed the War of Northern Aggression (which is also reenacted), and Southern stereotypes abound. It is an old-fashioned place where nothing ever changes or happens there. As is with all small towns, it appears there are no secrets, but the reality is that it is the perfect culture for them to flourish. The setting does present a certain attitude towards Southerners, but the setting is used to show how easy it is to be an outcast and condemned for who or what you are.
  • + Mortals and Casters. Ethan is a Mortal and Lena is a Caster. They have tangled together for over a hundred years and have a very distinct history thanks to Genevieve Duchannes’ love for Ethan Carter Wate. There are often flashbacks that Ethan and Lena experience from their lives. Typically, Casters cannot have such connections with Mortals like Lena does with Ethan.
  • + Dark and Light. There is black magic and white magic, Dark and Light, which signifies the trope of good vs. evil, and it is very alive in this book. It plays a monumental role in the plot and the wider cast of Lena’s family.
  • – Ethan. In some ways, Ethan perceives and presents himself as faultless, and degrades his town and its people. It opens up the questions about intelligence and morality.
  • – Length. The length of the book was a bit of a drawback. At nearly 600 pages, I was expecting something with a tad more pizzaz. This is a book you definitely have to find the time to read and devote your attention to so you don’t miss something important.

The Take-Away

I liked Ethan’s POV. Although there are drawbacks of having a male protagonist, I don’t think the book would have held the same power if told from Lena’s POV. Ethan’s voice lent authenticity and life to Lena and the world of the Casters.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I recommend borrowing or even listening to the audiobook if you’re unsure and want to try this one out to see if you like it.

Otherwise, I recommend buying the book!


***** About the Authors *****

Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times, bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures Novels & the Dangerous Creatures Novels, and the author of the instant New York Times bestseller & Bram Stoker Award nominated novels UNBREAKABLE & UNMARKED in the Legion Series.

Kami grew up outside of Washington DC, wore lots of black, and spent hours writing poetry in spiral notebooks. As a girl with Southern roots, she has always been fascinated by the paranormal. She’s very superstitious and would never sleep in a room with the number “13″ on the door. When she is not writing, Kami can usually be found watching disaster movies, listening to Soundgarden, or drinking Diet Coke.

Kami lives with her husband, son, daughter, and their dogs Spike and Oz (named after characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Margaret Stohl got her start as the head of theDark is Rising fan club in third grade in a highly gifted magnet school in Los Angeles. Going on to study at a creative writing program at UEA Norwich, England, and to write and direct an autobiographical one-act play at Amherst College—where she founded the school’s first women’s literary magazine, Madness This—Margaret knew she was a writer.

After optioning two feature screenplays to Nickelodeon Pictures and Clasky-Csupo, Margaret began a sixteen-year career in videogames, co-founding 7 Studios game developer with her husband Lewis Peterson, and contributing to both Marvel’s Spiderman (ActivisionBlizzard) and Fantastic Four (7 Studios / ActivisonBlizzard) among many other titles—Dune 2000; Command & Conquer Red Alert Retaliation; Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse of Jack Sparrow; to name a few.

When Margaret co-wrote the first of the internationally bestselling Beautiful Creatures novels (published in nearly fifty countries, named Amazon’s top teen book of 2009, short-listed for the ALA’s 2009 Morris award, and released as a feature film from Warner Brothers) on a dare from her three daughters, she fell even more in love with teen culture. Her first sci-fi series, Icons, is now in development as a feature film with Alcon Entertainment, and her forthcoming Black Widow novel from Disney Publishing is a welcome chance to rock a strong female character and to return to her beloved Marvel roots.

Margaret lives in Santa Monica with her husband, who builds drones and robots, and her three daughters, who are competitive epee fencers—and who, like Natasha Romanov, have always known how to rescue themselves.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

Title: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 2006
Length: 284 pages
Series?: Gallagher Girls #1
Genre: MG, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Cammie is a Gallagher Girl, a sophomore at the all-girls Gallagher Academy. There’s just one thing about Gallagher: it’s a school for spies. Cammie and her friends are well-versed in covert ops, reconnaissance, languages, devices, and even murder. But no training at Gallagher can prepare Cammie for conversing in ordinary girl language with a boy. Yeah, she hacks into his phone and computer and tracks him around town, but she is lost when it comes to navigating the normalcy of a relationship. And there’s no way she can tell him the truth about who she is!

The Players

Cammie – MC, alias: the  Chameleon; nervous about revealing who she is to Josh

Liz – roommate and friend with Cammie

Macey – roommate and friend with Cammie

Josh – Cammie’s love interest; hangs out with the jerk Dillon

“Bex”  – roommate and friend with Cammie

First Impressions

This was an audiobook I downloaded last summer, and Ally Carter came to visit my school this past year to promote her book All Fall Down, so I was interested in reading this older work of hers. I knew it was targeting the younger end of the MG/YA population, and it looked like it would be funny and light.

Second Thoughts

The book was quite humorous and a light read for the most part. It did remind me of The Princess Diaries. It is a cute read that made me giggle and snort as I listened. I will say that the language and thought processes of the characters is very teenish – exactly as it should be to fit the characters and the demographics population – and what gives the book much of it’s humor.

Cammie is second-generation GG (Gallagher Girl), and her mother is now the headmistress. Liz and Bex are geniuses, a couple of the best spies, and Cammie’s best friends and roommates. Most of the GGs have interesting backgrounds, although they were only barely touched upon in this first installment. I believe Carter is laying the foundation for the remainder of the series.

Despite Gallagher Academy being touted as such a prestigious boarding school to the outside world, Cammie has spent nearly all her life within the walls of the academy. Just like in Harry Potter, the GGs aren’t allowed to venture outside of the academy unless they have permission. The outside world doesn’t know much about Gallagher Academy. Most assume it is an expensive private boarding school for little rich girls…and they treat them as such. I thought that was very unfair, and this attitude is seen in the book.

Cammie doesn’t really know anyone who isn’t a spy or attending/teaching at Gallagher, so she is curious about how it feels to be a normal, ordinary girl. Her dad isn’t around, and she doesn’t have a close relationship with her mother, who is busy running the academy.

The new school year is starting, and the girls are excited about their new Covert Ops teacher, Joe Solomon. Mr. Solomon intrigues Cammie because he seems to know all about Cammie’s MIA father. Then they find out they are also rooming with the new girl, who is forced to attend Gallagher. That throws a slight kink in their sophomore plans, but then Cammie is assigned to follow a staff member from the academy. On her mission, Cammie runs into Josh. She likes him, and her friends all know it.

Cammie is very good at blending in, which is how she got the nickname “The Chameleon.” But with Josh it’s different. He sees past the facade and truly sees Cammie. In what possible world could she tell him the truth – that she could knock him to the pavement in a multitude of ways and kill him with a string of spaghetti? She can’t reveal who and what she is, or what the Gallagher Academy actually teaches, but she wants to spill her guts to Josh.

Enlisting her friends this new boy assignment, Bex and Liz begin an exclusive investigation. They need to know he’s not crazy. Or worse, that he has a record! As they delve deeper and uncover the ordinariness of Josh, Cammie falls even harder for him.

Cammie is teetering on the verge and finds herself entangled in a web of lies. Cammie struggles with balancing being a spy and just a girl falling in love. Not to mention her mother!

Unfortunately for Cammie, someone catches on to her lies. How can she explain this to Josh?

***** About the Author *****

I was born and raised in Oklahoma.  My mother was a teacher and my father a farmer and rancher.  I have one older sister.

In high school, I was very active in a number of student organizations and graduated as co-valedictorian of my senior class.  I then attended Oklahoma State University and Cornell University and worked for several years in the agricultural industry before writing full-time.

In January 2013 I published the cross-over novella Double-Crossed that features characters from both the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society. It is available for free at and wherever ebooks are sold.

I am one of the luckiest people in the world, and today, I’m able to do the job I wanted to do when I was a kid, and I am back living in Oklahoma.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Murder at the Vicarage

Title: The Murder at the Vicarage
Author: Agatha Christie
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: January 1930 / March 2009
Length: 307 pages
Series?: Miss Marple #1
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

The murder of Colonel Protheroe — shot through the head — is a shock to everyone in St Mary Mead, though hardly an unpleasant one. Now even the vicar, who had declared that killing the detested Protheroe would be ‘doing the world at large a favour,’ is a suspect — the Colonel has been dispatched in the clergyman’s study, no less. But the picturesque English village of St Mary Mead is overpopulated with suspects. There is of course the faithless Mrs Protheroe; and there is of course her young lover — an artist, to boot.

Perhaps more surprising than the revelation of the murderer is the detective who will crack the case: ‘a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner.’ Miss Jane Marple has arrived on the scene, and crime literature’s private men’s club of great detectives will never be the same.


***** Review *****

The Skinny

There is no one more despised than Colonel Protheroe. The vicar himself said Protheroe’s death would be an advantage for the villagers. When he is indeed found murdered in the vicar’s study, with two different people confessing to the crime, the elderly Miss Marple exhibits her detective skills. There are seven suspects, including the vicar. After events pass and investigating the actual crime and the suspects, Miss Marple deduces the true facts of the murder.

The Players

There are many characters in this first installment of the Miss Marple series, so I have broken down the most important ones into a few categories as best I could.

The Old Biddies 

What’s humorous about this group of women is they are commonly referred to by everyone else as “old cats” and gather at the vicarage itself to take part in their gossip, which the vicar cannot convince them is sinful.

  • Miss Jane Marple – an elderly spinster; a gossiper; discovers everyone’s secrets
  • Miss Wetherby – a gossiper; lives next to Miss Hartnell
  • Miss Price Ridley – lives next to the Vicarage
  • Miss Hartnell
The Vicarage
  • Leonard Clement – the vicar
  • Griselda Clement – the vicar’s wife
  • Dennis Clement – the vicar’s nephew
  • Mary Adams – the Vicar’s housemaid
  • Mr. Hawes – the relatively new curate
  • Mrs. Lestrange – a mysterious woman who rents a house at the back of the vicarage; well-educated
  • Lawrence Redding – a painter; uses a shed at the vicarage for his studio; banned from the Protheroe house for paiting Lettice in her bathing suit; also painting Griselda
The Protheroe Household
  • Colonel Lucius Protheroe – the churchwarden and the local magistrate, who lives in Old Hall
  • Anne Protheroe – Colonel Protheroe’s second wife; very beautiful; tries to be a good mother to Lettice
  • Lettice Protheroe – Colonel Protheroe’s daughter from his first marriage; hates both the Colonel and Anne; very forgetful
  • Dr. Stone – a well-known archaeologist who digs at Colonel Protheroe’s land; stays at the Blue Boar
  • Gladys Cram – the young, unmarried secretary to Dr. Stone; also stays at the Blue Boar; under suspicion about her employer and relationship
The Officials
  • Dr. Haydock – the village’s doctor; visits Mrs. Lestrange; has modern notions that criminality is due to “glandular dysfunction”
  • Constable Hurst – a local police officer
  • Inspector Slack – the investigator of the murder; a rude man; generalizes women
  • Colonel Melchett –  the Chief Constable; also generalizes women

There are of course a slew of other characters who have minor roles in the plot but some who contribute interesting information about the suspects. Most are servants in various households or other villagers. For the most part, the characters are underdeveloped due to the sheer number of them.

First Impressions

I have read Agatha Christie before (Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express). I enjoy her writing and her mysteries, so I was looking forward to reading a new-to-me book by her since it has been so long. I didn’t realize until after starting the book that this was part of a series, the first in the Miss Marple series.

Second Thoughts

This is more than a mystery. It is quite comedic thanks in part to the vicar’s POV and the characters themselves. As a whole, the men are very dandy and the woman can easily be described as biddies. The term “gossipmongers” comes to mind quickly. The fact that no one in St. Mary Mead has a clock that is the correct time only adds to the mire of the murder mystery. It must be a St. Mary Mead tradition. There are characters that fill out the entire realm of social hierarchy, so it is not just the middle-class echelon represented.

The story as a whole was sarcastic in that old-fashioned, high brow, tongue-in-cheek style told through the viewpoint of the elderly vicar of St. Mary Mead. He is a very honest character about what he sees, painting a true picture of the villagers, the investigation and himself. Due to his position, he is one whom just about everyone trusts. He shares his opinions about the women who fill his life and they are quite funny.

Miss Marple, the sleuthing detective, is only a minor character in the book. She is slightly different than the other nosy, gossiping old women in the village in that she is actually right in her thoughts about the nature of her neighbors. This is important because the book relies heavily on the villagers and their relationships just as much as the murder because they are intricately linked.

The language is, of course, Christie. It is very proper, written even in high style that is focused on politeness, societal conventions, and the language itself. Christie’s style leaves readers in the dark, only allowing glimmers of different aspects of the village, villagers and murder.

The crime is set in the small English village with an overflow of gossip, affairs, and various emotions. Even the police force depend on meddling old women, much like Angela Lansbury’s character is depended upon in Murder, She Wrote.

The murder victim is Colonel Protheroe, a very unpleasant fellow who is highly disliked around the village. Needless to say, plenty of potential suspects abound. The murder is pretty typical, but it is the setting in the small village filled with gossipers that hypes up the murder and investigation.

In terms of the audiobook narration, I agree with a few others who have pointed out the cringe-worthy performance of the female characters. And every time Lettice’s name was said it was pronounced “lettuce.” I giggled each time.

This is one of Christie’s lesser acclaimed works, but is the first in which Miss Marple and the Clements appear in who show up later in other books.


***** About the Author *****

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison.

On Christmas Eve 1914 Agatha married Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind Hicks. They divorced in 1928, two years after Christie discovered her husband was having an affair. Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During this marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976.

Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born.

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