Update to Audiobook Review of The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick correction on my audiobook review of The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. I misidentified the narrators and want to set it straight. Grace Experience is the voice of Alexandra and Mozhan Marno narrates the third person voices in the alternate chapters. I’m pointing this out because I thought both narrators were excellent in the roles they represented and I wanted to give them proper credit. Here is the corrected paragraph.

I enjoyed the audiobook version of The Guest Room, narrated by Grace Experience and Mozhan Marno, who switch between Alexandra’s story and the third person voices in the alternate chapters. I was especially drawn into the story by Experience, the voice of Alexandra. Through the author’s story and Experience’s voice, the audiobook provides a sobering look into brutal sex trafficking crimes. Marno has great range and deftly manages the other characters’ personalities, with subtle changes in her voice. Through both voices, I felt I knew the characters well.

If you missed the original review – you can check it out here.

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Audiobook Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest Room
by
Chris Bohjalian

Rating:

Kristin Chapman has agreed to let her husband, Richard host a bachelor party for his younger brother, Philip. She’s sure there will be hired entertainment, but she trusts Richard, even though Philip and his friends are a bit on the wild side. After all, Richard and Kristin are settled, in the prime of their lives and enjoying the comforts of wealth and success. Philip is a managing partner of a New York investment banking firm, Kristin is a respected high school teacher and they live with their young daughter in an upscale neighborhood in Westchester.

But wild is not the word. Before long, the burly and intimidating bodyguards who accompanied the “dancers” are dead and the girls, Sonja and Alexandra, have fled the house, leaving Richard, Philip and the rest of the guys in a wrecked house with the two dead men.

When morning comes, Richard begins to grasp how much trouble he’s in. Shame and horror fill him when Kristin learns of her husband’s transgressions and their young daughter is exposed to a sordid and dangerous world.

The repercussions of these events are endless. The story explodes on the internet, news reporters hound him and friends keep their distance. Richard is put on leave at work, Kristin shuns him and their daughter worries her parents will divorce. And it’s soon revealed that the Russian girls, possibly underage, had been kidnapped and were brought to New York as sex workers. Richard also faces lawsuits and a blackmail scheme, but the worst is the damage to his family. Or maybe the worst is that Richard is haunted by his encounter with Alexandra.

As detectives chase down the Russians behind the girls’ kidnappers, as well as the girls, Richard, now understands Alexandra and Sonja’s situation, tries to do what’s right and fix his marriage, leading to the inevitable confrontation between the story’s players. Throughout the story, both Richard and Kristin, whose voice is strong in the story, struggle with their decisions as they face their losses.

I enjoyed the audiobook version of The Guest Room, narrated by Grace Experience and Mozhan Marno, who switch between Alexandra’s story and the third person voices in the alternate chapters. I was especially drawn into the story by Experience, the voice of Alexandra. Through the author’s story and Experience’s voice, the audiobook provides a sobering look into brutal sex trafficking crimes. Marno has great range and deftly manages the other characters’ personalities, with subtle changes in her voice. Through both voices, I felt I knew the characters well.

I also enjoyed the author’s smart descriptions of the Chapman’s home and their lives. The fact that many of their things are ruined is a great reflection on how their lives may also be wrecked. Bohjalian is also great at presenting different points of view and showing his characters’ weaknesses. I felt the dread of each of the characters, even the ones I didn’t like.

I listened to The Guest Room during my many walks this week and recommend it to listeners who like stories with characters who make bad decisions.

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Keep pace on your next walk with these five bestselling author podcasts

Hi Everyone! I’m sharing another post from our library blog. This one provides links to five bestselling author podcasts. Something to download for your daily walk!

Stay Connected with Chescolibraries

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Who’s That Indie Author? Michael J Moore

Author name: Michael J Moore

Genre: Horror/YA/Literary/Thriller

Books: After the Change (YA) (published by MKM Bridge Press 2019); Highway Twenty (Horror) (published by Hellbound Books 2019); Secret Harbor (Literary/Thriller) (to be published by Black Writing in June 2020)

What’s your story and how did you become a writer? I grew up an hour north of Seattle, in a small town called Mount Vernon, Washington. As far back as I can remember, though, I’ve always had an infatuation with bigger cities and horror. When I was in the fourth grade. I remember writing a short thriller, and the school librarian was so impressed that she encouraged me to enter into some young authors contests. I never did, but I wrote periodically after that. All my English teachers pushed me to pursue writing and in the back of my mind, I always planned to. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was twenty-nine, that I realized that writing wasn’t just something I was good at, but what I needed to be doing. So I wrote my first book After the Change and I’ve never looked back. I’ve since landed three book deals through different publishers, two of which will be released this year, one of my books was adapted into a play, and was performed in Seattle last year and I’ve had more than a dozen short stories accepted for publication.

How do you balance your work with other demands? With great difficulty. Being a writer and a Father and a husband has all sorts of demands. I just try to make sure I write two thousand words a day and when that’s done, I concentrate on my other responsibilities.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life: The happiest moments in my life were the birth of my two daughters, Gaby and Jazi, closely followed by my current horror novel Highway Twenty being placed on the Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Novel for the Bram Stoker Award.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner? I am definitely a “pantser.” Writing is such a personal and intimate thing, that it’s hard to say where my process differs from others’. I do most of my first draft work in longhand, which I imagine is becoming less frequent these days. I don’t work from an outline. I know some authors do, but it has a negative effect on my creativity. I find the story’s able to play out more organically and less predictable if I don’t plot it too heavily.

Could you write in a café with people around? I could definitely do my marketing and answering of interview questions in a café but I could not write my two thousand words in a café as I need silence. I used to write with the radio playing but I guess old age has affected me and I can’t anymore. Where do I actually write? It’s the most bland, little room you could imagine, with white walls and a tiny wooden desk–two feet, by two feet. It keeps me from becoming distracted during the long hours I spend in it, and allows me to retreat into my real writing space, which is the part of my mind where the stories get stuck after having found their way in.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it? No I haven’t but I’d like one day to write a book in Spanish given my Latino roots. I would be delighted however if my books were translated into other languages by a translator. What an honour!

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now? I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. My favourite book is one of his called Joyland. As for what I’m reading now – once again it’s another Stephen King book called The Outsiders.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader? I only read books in paperback. My children love ebooks and my wife likes all formats except hardcover. I’d have to say that hardcover is the least favourite in our family.

Do you think print books will always be around? Absolutely, I’d like to think so. When the internet was invented, the postal services feared that they would go out of business yet they are making just as much profit as ever. The same with movie theatres when Netflix became popular. I feel the same way about print books. There will always be a market for them.

Would you ever read a book on your phone? I wouldn’t read a book on my phone but my wife and children would. I know my wife does a lot of waiting around for the children and so she often reads short stories on her phone if she’s forgotten her devices.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else? My go to device is my tablet. I use any form of tablet I can get my hands on. I write on the tablet too if I’m not at home. I’m not a fan of a certain brand.

How long could you go without checking your phone? I’d say as long as it takes to write two thousand words. So much of my marketing is done on Twitter and Facebook that the phone becomes a part of me as it’s portable and more relaxing to work with.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening? No, I don’t listen to audiobooks. My wife used to when she was pregnant and I know she does now. Both of my published books After the Change and Highway Twenty are available on Audible and my wife has listened to both of them.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform? Social media is a necessity, whether we like it or not. I use mostly Twitter and Facebook but am present on the others too.

Website and social media links:
Email: michaeljmoorewriting@gmail.com
Website: Michael J Moore Writing
Facebook: Michael J Moore
Twitter: @MichaelJMoore20
Instagram: michaeljmoorewriting

Awards/special recognition: Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest; Preliminary Ballot for Superior Achievement in a Novel for the Bram Stoker Award 2019


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Books to make you laugh

We need an escape from the bad news out there, so today I’m sharing some books I thought were very funny!


Have a Nice Day by Billy Crystal and Quinton Peeples

Have a Nice Day is a play, but this version is a live script-reading in New York from 2018. In addition to the headliners, the cast is full of stars, including Rachel Dratch and Darrell Hammond. Funny and moving, with a feel-good finish, it’s a quick listen and is currently available on Amazon Audible.


Joy in the Morning  from Just Enough Jeeves and My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Pure entertainment and a great escape into the frivolous upper crust world of a lovable good chap who gets himself into the wildest predicaments. As in all of Wodehouse’s books, everyone counts on the ever-wise Jeeves for a solution and he does not disappoint.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is turning 50 and he’s at the edge of a crisis: his writing career has stalled and his former younger lover, Freddy Pelu, is getting married. To guarantee he’ll be out of the country on the day of the wedding, Less accepts a string of unusual writerly engagements that take him around the world. His goal? Forget Freddy and rework the novel his publisher has taken a pass on.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Great story about being different and making it anyway. Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.


I also found a list from npr.org of 100 funny books. Some of these are on their list too and you can check out the rest in this linked article:  August 20, 2019 article: “We Did It For The LOLs: 100 Favorite Funny Books” by Petra Mayer

What funny books do you recommend?

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Audiobook Review – Maid by Stephanie Land

Maid
by
Stephanie Land

Rating:

This is going to be one of those reviews that goes against a popular and well-received book. But it also raises an important question that readers should consider when they’re reading a memoir.

First, though, a quick summary of Maid by Stephanie Land. It’s Land’s story of how, as a single mother, she found herself homeless and had to turn to public assistance in the form of grants, food stamps and similar programs to help her find a place to live and provide daycare while she worked. In an eye-opening explanation, she lists the programs and specific requirements she needed to meet in order to qualify. As a former coffee shop worker and part-time landscaper, she had only a high school degree and struggled to find regular work. She took on jobs cleaning houses, working for herself and also through a maid service. But for a long time, there were never enough hours for her to earn a proper living

It’s also her success story of how she was able to pick herself up and get a college degree in creative writing and eventually write this book.

I’m all for this kind of success story and that’s why I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by the author.

The problem I have with the story is that the author is whiny, chippy and judgmental about the people she interacts with, including her family, who do not support her. I’m not going to get into the details about these relationships, her actions and the decisions she makes, except highlight a couple that really bugged me.

I thought her attitude towards the people in the homes she cleaned was hypercritical and downright shocking. Looking at receipts, going through papers, trying on clothes, snooping through their prescriptions, and the worst, opening up the urns of one family’s ashes and imagining how they died – that stuff is appalling. So much complaining about their bathrooms and the dirt in their homes. It was tiresome.

My other chief problem comes from a highway car accident in which the author left her daughter alone in their pulled-over car to a retrieve a toy that had gone out the window. There were many more things that rubbed me the wrong way, including major facts that were left out, that seemed to spin her story the way she wanted it.

But I want to raise a question about how readers are supposed to react to another person’s actions, when they’re put out there in a memoir, particularly the overcoming adversity type. As I said before, I like inspirational and uplifting stories and I don’t begrudge anyone’s success and happiness. As many other reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads have noted, I’m glad she dug herself out and found success. And if the book gives others in her situation the hope to do that, I’m for that.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoyed reading or listening to Maid. As I said above, I’m glad she found happiness. But if readers feel something else, along with that message, something that doesn’t ring right, can’t we say so? What do you think?

To be fair, I’m sharing some positive and a couple skeptical WordPress reviews of Maid. And you can also click on these Amazon and Goodreads links for a full selection. It’s clearly the reader’s right to like the book, even though it wasn’t for me. Even Barack Obama liked the book, so what do I know?

Visit these blogs for a variety of reviews:

Becky’s Books
Hit or Miss Books
Ink Drinker Society
Arguably Alexis
The suspense is killin’ me—

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Review – All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front
by
Erich Maria Remarque

Rating:

On the cover of my copy of All Quiet on the Western Front, it also says “The Greatest War Novel of All Time.” I don’t know if I’ve read enough war novels to be an expert, but I can tell you it is one of the most powerful and moving books I’ve read.

German trench warfare. Image: Wikipedia

This is the story of World War I trench warfare and of Paul Baumer, a nineteen-year-old German soldier who has enlisted in the army. He and his schoolmates joined up at the recommendation of their schoolmaster and in short time must face the reality of a ruthless war. The novel mostly takes place on the front, where Paul and his comrades are fired upon and shelled and do the same to their French enemies in what becomes one of the most famous stalemates in history. Paul narrates his experiences and the deep bonds he develops with the men in his platoon, including the already close friendships with his boyhood friends and Albert Kropp, their superior.

One of the most intense times occurs after a brutal period when Paul returns home on leave. He describes his feelings of severe disconnection in seeing his family, whose lives, although by no means easy, are in stark contrast to what he has experienced. His father wants to know all the war stories, but Paul refuses, knowing that if he spoke about them, they’d be out there and would torment him forever. His mother, sick with cancer, wants reassurance that it’s not too bad on the front. Paul knows they will never understand what he and the other soldiers have gone through and so he lies to her, heart breaking at the pain of it.

On the night before leaving home again, Paul lies in his room,

I bite into my pillow. I grasp the iron rods of my bed with my fists. I ought never to have come here. Out there I was indifferent and often hopeless—I will never be able to be so again. I was a soldier, and now I am nothing but an agony for myself, for my mother, for everything that is so comfortless and without end.

I highly recommend All Quiet on the Western Front. Erich Maria Remarque was in combat during World War I and was wounded five times, the last time severely. You can read more about him on this Wikipedia link.

As you can see by the list below, there are many war novels out there and I have only read a fraction of them. Which ones have you read?

Great war novels, BCM links

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Read but not reviewed, Goodreads links

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Other war novels with Goodreads links

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Covenant with Death by John Harris
The Debacle by Émile Zola
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Empire of The Sun by J.G. Ballard
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
The Good Lieutenant by Whitney Terrell
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
The Hunters by James Salter
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Regeneration by Pat Barker
Restless by William Boyd
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

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Visit museums from home!

Who’s That Indie Author? Gary D. Hillard

Author name: Gary D. Hillard

Genre: Fiction

Books: 12.5 so far: Betts’ Best, Betts’ Becoming, Betts’ Belonging, The Buckman Kids, Road Trip, The Fosters of Camp Algonquin, Page of Swords, Alicia and the Queen of the Forest, Kenny and Stan, Cora Jenny, and the Keeper, Anna, Flossy Underoak. Jessica Jett Takes Off is a work in progress, which I hope to have done in early April.

What’s your story and how did you become a writer? I retired at 57 after twenty-two years as a child and family therapist, and eleven years as a school teacher. I had raised four kids, including two girls I adopted out of foster care, and was a foster parent as well. I came away from my work pretty well burned out, and filled with stories, that I thought needed to be told.

How do you balance your work with other demands? Work wins. I’m single, retired, and my youngest child is 22 years old. I don’t even have a dog at this point.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life: A seven-week cross-country tent-camping trip with my two youngest girls. All done in an early 70s Toyota. It’s pretty much their favorite time, too.

What’s your approach to writing? I wait at the end of a dock, and out of the fog, a story-ship appears. When it docks, I climb aboard and explore, taking notes as I go. It’s magic. There is usually about a day or two in between finishing one book and starting on the next.

Could you write in a café with people around? I could, and have. But most of my writing is early in the morning, in my Vermont cabin. Tunes on, coffee or tea, and the story.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? Nope. Can’t imagine it.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now? Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger, is my long-term favorite. Read it. It’s pretty great. I’m currently reading Invisible Americans, by Jeff Madrick, The Poet’s Corner, edited by John Lithgow, and Sunday’s Children, by Ingmar Bergman. I can do multiple books if only one of them is fiction.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader? I spend about four to six hours each day writing on my MacBook. That’s way more screen time than I would like, so I only read paper.

Do you think print books will always be around? I hope so. Something magic about paper and ink.

Would you ever read a book on your phone? I have a flip phone, without internet connection. No books on there. I have to squint to see the texts.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else? Probably a guitar or a mandolin. If it has to plug in, it would be my turntable, a vintage receiver and JBL speakers. Plus maybe ten feet of vinyl records.  Currently listening to Dire Straits.

How long could you go without checking your phone? Days at a time. My kids hate that.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening? Once or twice, when traveling. I’m kind of a fan of silence these days. Wanting to just sit and think about stuff. I love to drive and see where I am, and think about it.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform? I’m on Facebook, and pretty much hate it. I used it to stay in touch with my students, who now have kids of their own. I push my books on FB as well, awkwardly, with some success.

Website and social media links: Bear Hill Books, on FB

Awards/special recognition: My kids think I was a pretty good dad. That’s the best one.


Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Short reviews from 2013: Rebecca, Little Bird of Heaven and The Sun Also Rises

As I approach my 7-year blogging anniversary, I’ve been looking at some of the old reviews I posted. A lot of them are pretty short, with limited plot descriptions, and mostly my opnions. I’d love to go back and beef them up a bit, but I think I’d have to re-read the books before I did that. So today I’m just going to share three short reviews of books I liked, but didn’t say too much about!


Rebecca
by
Daphne du Maurier

Rating:

Rebecca is a great example of excellent and timeless writing. Daphne du Maurier’s story is suspenseful with plenty of well-thought out characters who give us a look into the life of the old English elite. How does a young bride find her place at the Manderley mansion as the second Mrs. de Winter? We watch as she stumbles through her early weeks at Manderley and tries to acquire Rebecca’s grace, please her husband, and earn the respect of the household staff and Maxim’s friends and family. All the while staying far away from the menacing Mrs. Danvers. The plot develops into an exciting twist of events that keep you reading enthusiastically straight to the finish.

Mr. and Mrs. de Winter are very busy and keep to an active schedule, but it is all leisure. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the lavish tea-times. How funny to think of people living this way!


Little Bird of Heaven
by
Joyce Carol Oates

Rating:

Joyce Carol Oates is an excellent writer and does a great job pulling you into this story of a murdered woman and two families that fall apart. I think she shows just how complicated and destructive family relationships can be. What I think is most interesting is how Oates’ main characters still cling to the idea of family, despite their estrangement.

I have seen criticism of her writing style, saying it’s too repetitive and rambling. In this story, I think maybe she’s trying to show the way her characters are processing their thoughts and trying to cope by repeating themselves, a very human behavior.

I was a little frustrated with the ending, not quite believing that Krissy would be satisfied with what is revealed. I also did not fully buy into the attraction between Krissy and Aaron.

This is not a nice story. It’s often twisted, ugly, violent and depressing. But I liked it anyway because it made me think about and cheer for the characters, hoping they would find a way to happiness. It’s a hard read, though, and now I want to read something to make me laugh.

Oates can be difficult to read because of her intensity, but I appreciate the depth of her characters and I always come back for more.


The Sun Also Rises
by
Ernest Hemingway

Rating:

In The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway describes aimless, jaded and wounded characters and their efforts to numb these feelings of emptiness by leading idle lives of excess. Hemingway’s great talent is that he shows these complicated emotions with his classic clean and simple writing style.

There are endless back and forth exchanges between the narrator Jake Barnes, Robert Cohn, Lady Brett Ashley, Mike Campbell and the people they meet in Paris and in Pamplona. Hemingway tells his story through these seemingly insignificant conversations and Jake’s narration where we discover important things about each character. We learn how Jake is still struggling to accept his war injury and understand his relationship with Brett. We see how Robert Cohn becomes more and more shunned as he pursues Brett. And with every one of Brett’s reckless relationships with the men who surround her, particularly Mike and the bullfighter Pedro Romero, we discover her own feelings of a lost life.

I particularly liked how Hemingway took his description of Cohn on the very first page of the book and directly tied it to Cohn’s exploding temper in Pamplona. I saw hope in Jake’s bitter-sweet relationship with Brett despite the overwhelmingly hopeless theme of the story.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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