Friday, February 26, 2016

Audible trick so you don't spend a fortune!

For those of you who've never heard of it, Audible is a partner company with Amazon and it only sells E-audiobooks. That's its business. But one thing that makes it different is that the company evolves and offers specialized readings to its users, like a new offering of Alice in Wonderland performed by Scarlett Johansson or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn read by Elijah Wood. Pretty cool, huh?

Well, if you're anything like me, when you find something you love, it can be addicting. Audible is the same as any other website, whether you have a "membership" with the monthly fee attached or not. It compels you to buy and before you know it you've spent hundreds of dollars that probably could have been put to better use on that new vacuum cleaner or a replacement dishwasher to bring your kitchen out of the 70s. Am I right?

But I discovered a brilliant trick with Audible!

A lot of the audiobooks have a partner Kindle book on Amazon. Sometimes, or actually a lot of the time, that Kindle book is listed for a really reduced price. Instead of the list price of $14.95, it's only $2.99 for a short time. Well, let's say the counterpart audiobook is $19.99 on Audible. BUT, if you purchase that Kindle book for $2.99 first, it will guarantee you a reduced price of the audiobook on Audible, going from $19.99 to perhaps as low as $3.99.

Or, in my recent case, I bought A Christmas Carol Kindle book for free and was able to buy the Tim Curry audiobook for $.99! Yay! Now that's what I call a bargain!

Just keep in mind that not all of the audiobooks work this way. If there is a discount available if you also own the Kindle book then Audible will tell you on the listing of the audiobook you're interested in. No muss, no fuss, just lots of convenience and dollars saved.

I hope you enjoyed this Audible trick and have fun listening, my friends! ❤

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings

At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the furious family, her grandfather tracks it to the Missouri Ozarks and makes an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house if they promise not to sell anything until he arrives.

Upon their arrival, however, they discover their new business doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its manager, ruggedly handsome Wyatt Ballentine, is frustrated to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and salvage a bad situation getting worse.

 ❤ My Thoughts ❤

I'm saddened to give At Love's Bidding such a low rating considering I enjoyed Caught in the Middle so very much. But this story just did not work for me. The synopsis, as I hope you read above, sounds intriguing, but once I really dove into the book itself I quickly realized that the story should have taken a different turn and even a different perspective on its lead characters.

I never understood why Miranda is so timid and shy, to never speak up for herself, and then why she chooses to start speaking up for herself, only at the wrong times and in the wrong, fairly insolent, ways. I wanted to like Wyatt, but there isn't enough meat to his character to really know him. Plus, his back story is too far-fetched to be believable at all.

The lack of believablility really is this story's downfall. The wrong painting gets sold, Miranda and Grandpa travel to Missouri to track it down, Grandpa buys a desolate livestock auction barn, Wyatt is an employee of that barn and falls in love with Miranda and she with him, painting shows up on Wyatt's doorstep, leading him to clues about his supposedly wealthy blood relations since he was adopted. It just doesn't make sense and the story gets more outrageous as you go along.

It's not a difficult read. I finished it in a few days. But I wasn't invested and 70% of the time all I could think was how absurd it all was and was hoping the end would come soon so I could move on to something else. And once I realized that Miranda never wore gowns other than varying shades of brown and that she never handled the livestock herself, then even the cover of the book made absolutely no sense.

Faith-based elements felt forced and, honestly, wrong. Wyatt ponders forgiving Miranda for her behavior against him but then notes that he can't do that until she behaves as though she's sorry. No, we forgive whether the other person is ever sorry or not. Every Christian knows that part of Jesus' teaching.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Audiobook Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens . . . read by Tim Curry

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
performed by Tim Curry

My Rating

Every year at Christmastime, the Amazon audiobook company Audible releases an audiobook as a gift to its members. In 2009 that gift was a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol by Tim Curry.

I was essentially just browsing through Audible last night, bored you might say, and hoping to find something for a reasonable price that I hadn't heard before. I couldn't even retrace the steps that eventually led me to A Christmas Carol, but as soon as I saw Tim Curry's name attached to the title, I knew, absolutely knew, that I had to have it. This is one of the best audiobook buys of my life!

I'm making the grand and likely true assumption that 99% of the people who will ever read this review have watched, read, or listened to a version of A Christmas Carol sometime in their life. So I'm not going to bother with a synopsis.

This reading is all about how a single man is able to elevate a story from being merely narrated to nearly dramatized. Tim Curry is his own cast. He is now and always has been a masterful stage and screen presence, mostly due to his voice which renders the audience awestruck and dumbfounded by its nuances. A voice which lives up to each and every single expectation you might have of him in his performance of A Christmas Carol.

Exquisite shivers creep up and down the spine during Marley's interlude with Scrooge. You warm your toes at Bob Cratchit's fire and tenderly run a hand through Tiny Tim's hair. You quake with Scrooge as he awakens to the realization that no one will mourn him at his passing. And your heels may tap just lightly on the floor when Scrooge awakens to realize it is Christmas morning and he has been given a second chance.

This reading is glorious! It is alive and ripe with a multitude of voices and inflections and tones, all from the talented throat of one man . . . Tim Curry. He in no way over-dramatizes or embellishes the story, but merely lets his voice carry these characters through to their conclusion. He breathes life into Dickens' characters in a way that I never dreamed possible.

This is one audiobook that I recommend with all my heart! ❤

Sunday, February 21, 2016

FYI - Western Classics Giveaway on The Edge of the Precipice

My friend Hamlette of The Edge of the Precipice recently hosted her marvelous Shane read-along.

Now, as a finale to the read-along, she's offering a film giveaway that includes 4 different movies: Shane, Silverado, 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and the Whispering Smith.

The GIVEAWAY runs until February 26th. If you're interested in any of the movies listed, I encourage you to try your luck!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga #1)
Patrick W. Carr
Bethany House Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤ 

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it's as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he's been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that's not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he's pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world--a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

My Thoughts

First off, you should know that despite my love of Tolkien, I don't read all that much fantasy. So my mind tends to wander when I pick up a fantasy book, which is what, unfortunately, happened with The Shock of Night. It had nothing at all to do with the author's work, just my lack of attention span for this novel.

Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? How about the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters? Somehow, and I'm not sure exactly how, Patrick Carr managed to create a nearly perfect combination of the two concepts. So if you're wondering how The Shock of Night feels, well, there you go. It's a really good mixture, very enjoyable. I will say the story itself lagged just a tad in the middle, but I forced myself past the slow part and the action got going again.

The story does tend to wander a bit, which didn't help with my attention problem. I'm not sure the story was ever quite as clear as the author intended. Sometimes the characters had those profound "Ahha" moments that should have been obvious to the reader, but it took me a few times reading the paragraph to finally grasp what had just happened and why it was important. The author skirts around out and out mentioning what just happened, leaving it to the reader to make an educated guess, which is fine, but a little bit of extra clarity would have been very helpful.

Then there's the names. Pellin. Dura. Bolt. Volsk. Toria Deel. Ealdor. None of these are easy names to remember. The only reason I remember Dura and Bolt is because they're the lead characters, Dura especially and so you kind of HAVE to remember them. But some of the others, well, they're easy to forget if you don't encounter them for a few pages. Easier names would have proven themselves most helpful. Just because Tolkien loved to make up his own names doesn't necessarily mean every other fantasy writer should do the same thing.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Read Jack Schaefer's Shane with Hamlette!

I'm sure that most fans of classic film have at least watched Shane and while it's been at least 20 years since I've seen it, I am participating in this delightful read-along of the original novel hosted on Hamlette's blog. If you're anything like me you had no idea there even was a novel, but there was, written by a man named Jack Schaefer, and it's quite excellent. Not very long, only 16 chapters and my personal copy is 119 pages. We're going chapter by chapter, uncovering little nuggets and thoughts along the way, and it's delightful. We're up to chapter 10, but it's not too late for you to join in, which I heartily encourage people to do. I'm delighted to admit that I'm enjoying the novel so much since the film never really spoke to me. Of course, I was barely a teenager at my last viewing so I might want to give it another try. ❤

Book Review: Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson

Unleashing Mr. Darcy by Teri Wilson
Harlequin Publishers

My Rating

❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤ 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman teetering on the verge of thirty must be in want of a husband.

Not true for Manhattanite Elizabeth Scott. Instead of planning a walk down the aisle, she's crossing the pond with the only companion she needs; her darling dog, Bliss. Caring for a pack of show dogs in England seems the perfect distraction from the scandal that ruined her teaching career, and her reputation, in New York. What she doesn't count on is an unstoppable attraction to billionaire dog breeder Donovan Darcy. The London tycoon's a little bit arrogant, a whole lot sexy, and the chemistry between them is disarming. When passion is finally unleashed, might Elizabeth hope to take home more than a blue ribbon?

(I deliberately chose to NOT write a synopsis because I didn't want to actually take the time for a book that had so much potential and which I ended up disliking so intensely.)

❤ Now, on to the good stuff . . . my opinion. ❤

It is the opinion of this reviewer that Mr. Darcy, the real Mr. Darcy, would denounce Donovan Darcy as a womanizing cad devoid of honor.

The facts are these. Jane Austen's Elizabeth and Darcy were restrained individuals of decorum, Darcy mostly, but Elizabeth certainly. Their relationship focused on that restraint. In Teri Wilson's Unleashing Mr. Darcy the entire story is about breaking restraint, unleashing passion, etc. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was not a complete and total reversal of character. Turning Mr. Darcy into a teeming sea of sexual passion set my teeth on edge as did upending Elizabeth's character so she seems more foolish than sprightly.

Literally, the tipping point was almost exactly at the halfway mark. Up until then there was some actual plot, some substance, albeit fluffy, to the book. After halfway, everything was about Donovan and Elizabeth stealing moments together so he could back her into a wall, kiss her breathless, and get his hands either under her skirt or on her blouse. Not to mention the absolutely ABSURD moments in the dog judging ring when he can't keep his eyes off her while she's bumbling around, making an absolute idiot out of herself because she's so distracted by the perfect Windsor knot in his tie.

Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...