Review: Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen

Emma Thompson & a full supporting cast perform a Jane Austen classic

Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen
Emma: An Audible Original Drama by Jane Austen (Anna Lea, Adaptation Author)

Series: None

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Classic

Setting: Surrey, England

Source: Audible, Sep 2018 member benefit

Note: I received this book for free as an Audible Original Member Benefit. That didn’t influence my review.

Narrator: Emma Thompson with a full supporting cast (see below)

Publishing Date: 1815 (2018 for the Audible version)

Duration: 8 hours, 21 minutes

Synopsis: This Audible Original production of Jane Austen’s Emma is narrated by Emma Thompson (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and BAFTA winner, Love Actually, Harry Potter, Sense and Sensibility), with a full supporting cast including Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, Liar), Morgana Robinson (The Windsors, Walliams & Friend, Morgana Robinson’s the Agency), Aisling Loftus (Mr Selfridge, War & Peace), Joseph Millson (Casino Royale, The Sarah Jane Adventures), Alexa Davies (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and rising star Isabella Inchbald as our eponymous heroine.

Before she began writing, Jane Austen wrote, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like’ and thus introduces the handsome, clever, rich – and flawed – Emma Woodhouse. Emma is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage; nothing, however, delights her more than matchmaking her fellow residents of Highbury. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

This lively comedy of manners, with its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, is often seen as Jane Austen’s masterpiece.

Public Domain (P)2018 Audible, Ltd. 

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this presentation of Emma. Each character is voiced by a different actor and they do a great job. I love Emma Thompson as an actor and she is the narrator of this story. She did a wonderful job. I was totally immersed in the story. I haven’t listened to many dramatizations before and want to listen to more now that I’ve listened to this story.

It’s been a long time since I read this book by Jane Austen, but I’ve always remembered it as a favorite of mine. Jane Austen is always a good observer of society while also creating a very enjoyable story. I like that Austen writes about a character who’s not likable whom we end up liking, because she has learned a lot during the course of the book.


Even though Emma isn’t very likable during much of the book she’s certainly a force to contend with! I like that she grows and matures a lot and is self-aware enough to acknowledge and learn from her mistakes. She has to learn there are consequences to her actions. She learns some harsh lessons, but is a better person for it. She’s not the same person she was when the book began.

Bottom line

I very much recommend this dramatization.

My Rating: A

Dramatization Rating: A

Have you read any books by Jane Austen? What about full cast dramatizations? Do you like them?

Review: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

A Trick of the Light by Louise PennyA Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: Quebec, Canada

Source: Ebook, purchased

Publishing Date: 2011

352 pages

Synopsis: “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”

But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow’s garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara’s solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they’ve found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.

My thoughts

This series is as much a study of humanity as it is a mystery series. A Trick of the Light takes place mostly in Three Pines–the little Quebec village near the Vermont border where most of these books take place. In this book Clara Morrow finally has her solo art show at the museum in Montreal. Afterward, the Morrows have a party at their home in Three Pines and the next morning a body is found in the garden. Gamache and his team search for the killer among the villagers and guests of the party. There are plenty of suspects available for Gamache and his team. The problem is sorting through them and trying to see the truth.

This series keeps getting better and better. I’ve read two books in the series so far in 2018–Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light. These two books are among my favorite books of the year so far. I recommend reading the books in order. Some things won’t make sense otherwise and the books build on each other depending on what has happened in earlier books. I’ve been slowly reading the series for the past two or three years and am so glad–and that I still have more books to read before I catch up.


He trotted out a word, he’d heard someone use that evening, a word he’d never heard before and had no idea what it meant. He’d turned to the painting of the Three Graces, the elderly and joyous old women, and said–

“The only word that comes to mind is, of course, ‘chiaroscuro.'”

Not surprisingly, the artists looked at him as though he was mad.

Because of Clara’s art show and the party in Three Pines after the show for friends as well as the art crowd there is lots of art talk in this book. The word “chiaroscuro” is used several times in the book–sometimes humorously. I had to look up the word. It means “the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.”

Clara’s paintings seem very straightforward and simple at first, but a discerning eye can see so much more in her paintings. Her treatment of light and shade captivate some people, but leave others wondering what all the fuss is about. Is it all just “a trick of the light?” Ms. Penny does such a great job in this book slowly showing the secrets and motivations people hide and how hard it is to sift through secrets and motivations to figure out what is “a trick of the light” and what is really true.


There are many undercurrents from events that happened in earlier books. The relationship between Gamache and his second in command Jean-Guy Beauvoir was damaged during a previous book and that damage shows up in this book. Beauvoir must work through issues toward a better, more realistic relationship. We also discover more about Beauvoir in this book. I have a feeling that’s going to cause problems in some future books!

Characters in this series are neither all good nor all bad. Reading about the villagers in Three Pines is always so interesting. They’re all unique and they all have flaws. Some of those flaws are huge. For example, Peter Morrow is jealous of Clara’s success. Clara has struggled for years to find success as an artist whereas Peter found his artistic success early. Now it appears Clara will be a bigger success than Peter.  He does try to fight his jealousy, but is sometimes unsuccessful. Sometimes he subtly tries to undermine her confidence as an artist and Clara doesn’t have much self-confidence in her abilities to begin with. She has always seemed oblivious to Peter’s jealousy though Gamache has certainly seen and understood Peter’s feelings. Peter and Clara have to figure out what their relationship is really all about in this book. And does their relationship have something to do with the murder?

I compulsively read this book and got to the end and thought–“Wow!”

My Rating: A


  • Anthony Award for Best Novel (2012)
  • Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2012)
  • Dilys Award Nominee (2012)
  • Agatha Award Nominee for Best Novel (2011)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!

Review: Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Starman Jones by Robert A HeinleinStarman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: None

Genre: Science Fiction (one of Heinlein’s Juveniles)

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Published by Blackstone Audiobooks, 2008, (original publication date: 1953)

252 pages; 8 hours, 29 minutes

Synopsis: The stars were closed to Max Jones. To get into space you either needed connections, a membership in the Guild, or a whole lot more money than Max, the son of a widowed, poor mother, was every going to have. What Max does have going for him are his uncle’s prized astrogation manuals—book on star navigation that Max literally commits to memory word for word, equation for equation. When Max’s mother decides to remarry a bullying oaf, Max takes to the road, only to discover that his uncle Chet’s manuals, and Max’s near complete memorization of them, is a ticket to the stars. But serving on a spaceship is no easy task. Duty is everything, and a mistake can mean you and all aboard are lost forever. Max loves every minute of his new life, and he steadily grows in the trust of his superior officers, and seems to be on course for a command track position. But then disaster strikes, and it’s going to take every trick Max ever learned from his tough life and his uncle’s manuals to save himself and the ship from a doom beyond extinction itself.

My thoughts

Starman Jones is part of the Heinlein Juveniles series. Heinlein wrote twelve novels between 1947 and 1958 which were published as the juvenile series.  These books are all standalone books. The first book was Rocket Ship Galileo and the last was Have Space Suit — Will Travel. I guess these would be considered young adult books today though in many ways they’re simpler more straightforward stories than many young adult books written today. I read these (and many of Heinlein’s adult novels) as a teenager. I loved the adventure in these books as well as so many of the characters. It’s been years since I read most of these books, but I think the main characters were all boys. That didn’t bother me when I was reading them. I don’t think I thought about it! I still related to the main characters and wanted to have those adventures. Heinlein wrote about characters who were intelligent, hardworking and honest and showed that was the way to get ahead in the world. I took that to heart and still believe that today. However, I am also really happy there are more books written with female main characters and more female authors.

This was a good science fiction adventure story. Max Jones is a teenager who always wanted to be an astrogator and since his uncle was an astrogator and talked of naming Max as his heir Max hopes he did that before he died. Many occupations–including astrogation–are hereditary and managed by guilds and since Max doesn’t come from an important family and doesn’t have any money he won’t have a chance to become an astrogator if he wasn’t named an heir by his uncle.

Max runs away from home after his stepmother remarries soon after Max’s father dies. Max does manage to get himself onto a passenger spaceship (but with forged documents). Even though his job is taking care of the animals on the ship–cleaning their cages–he’s ecstatic that he’s in space. During the course of the book Max manages to come to the attention of the spaceship’s captain and other officers and is given a chance to learn about the running of the ship. However, he not only has the deception that got him onto the ship, but a number of other disasters await him and the ship.

Jones is a smart, but naive young man at the beginning of this story. He learns a lot and grows up a lot by the end of the book. The book didn’t end quite as I thought it would. It’s always nice when a book surprises me. I thought this ending was good and wished that Heinlein had written more books about Max!

I read and reviewed Have Spaceship – Will Travel a couple of years ago, but of the two I like Starman Jones better. I own a number of the other Juvenile Series books so I may try to read them this year.

My Rating: A-

Narrator Rating: A

Have you read any of Robert Heinlein’s books?

Reading Challenges

2018 Swords & Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read a book whose cover has stars in it or whose title has any variation of the word star in it.

Review: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny


Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #6

Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Setting: Quebec City & Three Pines, Canada

Source: Audiobook, Library

Audiobook Narrator: Ralph Cosham

Audiobook Length: 12 hours, 43 minutes

Publishing Date: 2010

Synopsis: It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society – where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn’t do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead. 

This is the most personal book about Chief Inspector Gamache I’ve read so far. It shows Gamache’s integrity, honesty, guilt, his feelings of betrayal. I think it’s also the most powerful book in this series so far. Irony, too.


This is the book after the arrest of Olivier. Olivier has recently been convicted of murder. Olivier’s partner, Gabri, has sent a letter to Gamache every day telling Gamache of Olivier’s innocence. Gamache is convinced of Olivier’s guilt, but sends Beauvoir to Three Pines to investigate further just in case. Gamache doesn’t go himself because he is in Quebec City visiting his retired mentor, Emile Comeau and going to the English library to research Captain Cook and what he might have had to do with Quebec City. A murder occurs in the English library and with Gamache’s excellent English he is brought into the investigation by both the English and the French.

Gamache’s reason for visiting his mentor and his extended stay in Quebec City came as the result of a large police raid Gamache led to free a kidnapped police officer. This story is told in flashbacks by Gamache as he remembers what happened. He feels a great deal of guilt about his role in this raid. Apparently, a number of police officers died.

My thoughts

This was such a well-written book that it was a joy to read. My favorite of the series so far. I’ve never been to Quebec City, but it’s a place I would love to visit–even though I don’t speak French.

I always like the way the differences between the English and French show up in Ms. Penny’s books. I have been to Montreal and I have to admit I was surprised at the amount of French spoken in the city and the problems we had not speaking French. I have a feeling that some of the people felt that if we were visiting where they live we should speak their chosen language. (I agree–though I’m terrible at foreign languages. I took four years of German and we lived in Germany for three years and I still speak really bad German.)

I love the way history was woven into the narrative. Gamache is researching Captain Cook at the English library. There is also quite a bit about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and Samuel de Champlain. I didn’t know any of this information before I read about it in the book and then looked up a little more information about Quebec City and its history. I have heard of Lake Champlain, of course, but didn’t think about the reason it was named. I blame this on growing up in Oregon and learning the history of the Pacific Northwest when I was in school (it did include French explorers and fur traders at least!)

Louise Penny also did an excellent job weaving the three mysteries and narratives into the story. I liked that we still got to visit Three Pines even though Gamache was in Quebec City. Inspector Beauvoir was more of an individual character instead of an appendage of Gamache in this book. It was nice to see him grow and change a bit. And also to understand his motivations a little more.

I understand why Gamache felt so guilty and understand why he’s so devastated when a video of the raid is released to the public. He receives some very good advice toward the end of the book and I’m looking forward to the next book to see how he’s doing. I ached for Gamache in this book and for his wife Reine-Marie. She and Gamache love each other so much. She fears for him and feels helpless in many ways. But she’s also honest and courageous.

The narration of the book is excellent. The narrator sounded as though he pronounced the French names and words very well (though I admit I don’t really know)! I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and felt it added to my enjoyment of this mystery.

My rating: A

Narration rating: A

Awards Won

  • Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel (2011)
  • Anthony Award for Best Novel (2011)
  • Dilys Award (2011)
  • Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel (2011)
  • Agatha Award (2010)
  • Nero Award (2011)

Reading Challenge

Review: Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop

etched-in-bone-by-anne-bishopEtched in Bone by Anne Bishop

The Others, #5

Publication date: March 7, 2017

e-ARC (from NetGalley and the publisher)

–All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Urban Fantasy

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.


I’ve read books by Anne Bishop for at least ten years. She’s one of my favorite fantasy authors. And I’ve read all the books in the series–and enjoyed them all.

World building

World building is so important for any fantasy and Anne Bishop does an excellent job in this series. It’s a very imaginative and unique alternate version of Earth (called Namid). There are vampires and werewolves (as well as other supernatural beings), but they are so different from any I’ve read about before.

The Others–the terra indigene–are a separate predatory species. They are very different from humans–part of the essence of Namid–and humans have to work with The Others to get natural resources (such as water). The Others appreciate the cleverness of humans, but throughout history humans seem to forget over and over that the Others are at the top of the food chain. During this series the dominant question: Does the cleverness of humans provide enough reason to keep humans alive when some humans keep forgetting who The Others are and humans try to become the dominant species on earth? Another important question in the series: Are some of The Others becoming too much like humans?

Favorite characters

There are so many great characters in these books: Simon, Meg, Sam, Vlad, Captain Burke, Lieutenant Montgomery, Tess, the Elders, the Ponies and many more.

I really like how Meg Corbyn has grown and changed throughout this series. At the beginning of the series she was very much alone–without friends and with difficulty managing to survive outside the compound where she was owned by humans who used her for prophecies. She has managed to overcome so much in these books, but hasn’t lost her ability to form friendships and trust others or to keep learning. She’s truly courageous. And she has changed the world!

Simon Wolfgard is also a great character. He has also changed a lot in the course of the books and that’s been fun to see. Sometimes he wishes he hadn’t changed so much. Life was much simpler before he had friends who are human. Things aren’t as simple now that he can’t think of all humans as meat.

My thoughts

I like the fact that Meg and Simon are so special to each other. But I also like that these books aren’t romances. Individuals have relationships–sometimes friendships, sometimes more than that. The focus isn’t the romance or friendship, but the fact that these can exist between some of The Others and some of the humans. Namid has changed and will continue to change. I like that!

I thought this book did a great job finishing up the series. I can imagine the characters going about their lives. I like that not every single thread is knotted neatly. People’s lives are messy and don’t always go smoothly.

I read on Anne Bishop’s Facebook page that she’s working on a new series set in the same world. That sounds great!

Rating: A

Have you read this book or any of the books in this series? How did you like it?










No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

no-good-dragon-goes-unpunishedNo Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron
Series: Heartstrikers #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Setting: Heartstriker Mountain, Desert Southwest, Detroit DFZ
Published by Aaron/Bach, LLC
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: August 5, 2016)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Author in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
478 pages
Grade: A
Synopsis: When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place.

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.

Initial impressions

  • I loved this book. One of my favorites so far this year. It’s a great addition to the series!

The story

  • The book picks up right where the last book ended. Julius beat his mother and could have killed her, but he has a vision for his clan–to live peacefully together.
  • He has created a three member council which will rule the Heartstrikers. He and his mother are two members, but they still need to vote for the third member.
  • The Heartstriker dragons have never encountered an idea like Julius’ and they don’t like it. All the Heartstriker dragons have returned to Heartstriker Mountain and most of them are ready to kill each other and/or Julius.
  • Algonquin has declared war on the dragons so the Heartstriker dragons need to present a unified front. But with so many dragons trying to kill each other and Julius is that possible?


  • The book takes place during just a few days, but they are action-packed days.
  • So many great characters in these books–especially Bob, Amelia, Chelsie, Svena, Ghost and, of course, Marcie and Julius.
  • New characters are introduced in this book and they’re very interesting, too. I really like Raven. He’s very devious and has his own agenda.
  • The book has many twists and turns. It’s hard to see how Julius can really use democratic methods with the dragons.
  • Most of the dragons have lived for hundreds of years and they have many secrets to keep. Amelia, Bob and Chelsie all have secrets that are part of this story.
  • I like the way Rachel Aaron puts a story together. Her books are very readable and well plotted.
  • By the end of the book I’m not sure how or if everything will hold together for the Heartstrikers.
  • There will be at least one more book in this series. It’s good to know the author has things figured out for the series! Though I don’t want to see the series end.


  • None–other than having to wait for book 4!

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I can’t wait for the next book. This is such a great series and I’m really invested in these characters.
  • The audiobook is coming out September 13 and is available now for preorder. These would be fun books to listen to in audio, I think.
  • The ebook is available on Kindle Unlimited which is great if you are a subscriber to that.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Rachel Aaron is the author of 11 novels, including the Fantasy fan favorites THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS and NICE DRAGONS FINISH LAST. She also writes romantic Science Fiction under the name Rachel Bach, starting with FORTUNE’S PAWN, a high octane romantic adventure about a powered armor mercenary who gets in way over her head, published by Orbit Books.
  • In addition to her fiction, Rachel is also known for her bestselling writing efficiency book 2K TO 10K: WRITING BETTER, WRITING FASTER, AND WRITING MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE. To learn more about Rachel and all her titles, visit!
  • Author Links
    Twitter: @Rachel_Aaron

Reading Challenges

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

the-firebird-by-susanna-kearsleyThe Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Narrated by Katherine Kellgren
Series: Slains #2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Scotland, Belgium, Russia
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark , 2013
Audiobook, purchased
539 pages
14 hours, 37 minutes
Grade: A-
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

There are times when our victories have a cost that we did not foresee, when winning brings us loss.


“If we cannot be what we were born to be–the whole of it–we die a little on the inside every day we live the lie. I’d die for you in every other way,” he told me quietly, “but not like that….”

Initial impressions

  • I love this book. And I love that we hear about and meet a few of the same characters from The Winter Sea.


  • The narration by Katherine Kellgren is excellent.
  • I love the songs sprinkled throughout the audio version of the book. The narrator sings them and it’s lovely.
  • This book is similar to The Winter Sea in the sense that the story has both contemporary and historical story lines.
  • This book is called Slains #2, but I think it can be read as a standalone book.
  • I can understand why Nicola doesn’t want to publicize her gift–that she can sense things from objects when she holds them.
  • Rob is such a likable character–someone I would want as a friend. He really cares about Nicola, but he wants her to accept who she is. Even so, he’s willing to go to Russia with her and try to help her.
  • I love the part of the story in Russia–both in the past and in the present.
  • Parts of the book are heartbreaking–especially the story in the past. The story about Anna is from the time she’s a little girl until she’s a young woman. She is wonderful to read about. The narrator really brings her to life and though she goes through many trials she still emerges a happy and optimistic young woman.
  • I love the way Ms. Kearsley writes. Her writing is really lovely–very poetic. Makes me happy to read or listen to. She makes me care so much for the characters. Sometimes I’m crying and sometimes I’m just so happy to read about these characters.
  • I think I like The Winter Sea a little better than The Firebird.


  • None I can think of!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I was so happy to listen to this book. The narrator is excellent and Susanna Kearsley’s writing is excellent. I’m looking forward to reading some more of her books.


  • RITA Award by Romance Writers of America for Best Paranormal Romance (2014)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fantasy (2013)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

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

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Ultimate Reading Challenge–hosted by the Popsugar blog (a book set in a different country–Great Britain (Scotland) & Russia)

The Martian by Andy Weir

the-martian-by-Andy-WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir
Narrated by R.C. Bray
Series: None
Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Mars, Space between Earth and Mars & Earth
Published by Crown, 2014
Audible book, purchased
314 pages
10 hours, 53 minutessci-fi-month-2015
Grade: A
Narrator grade: A
Synopsis: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Initial impressions

  • Very exciting! Well written and engaging. It’s one of my favorite books of the year.


  • Such a good story. There’s excitement, suspense and heroism.
  • So many people have weighed in about this book and have written reviews I don’t think I have anything new to say. However, I want to talk about how much I liked the book.
  • Mark Watney keeps a journal which is what an astronaut and scientist would do. He wants to leave a record behind to let others know what he did in case he doesn’t survive. He’s often profane and irreverent and his personality comes through. At one point when he thinks he might survive after-all he thinks he should be more careful about what he writes!
  • The narrator is excellent. Mr. Bray is very matter-of-fact which I think is the Mark would act.
  • I haven’t seen the movie, but the entire book I could picture Matt Damon in this role as I listened to the narration!
  • I’m impressed by Mark’s ingenuity. I know astronauts are chosen and trained as problem-solvers and that’s illustrated in this book. It would be easy to give up and he never did.
  • He figures out how long his food will last, how many calories he needs plus oxygen and water needs and looks at those stats without flinching. He looks at risks and decides what he can manage to do. Even though he is clear-sighted he still makes mistakes.
  • The book reads like a nonfiction book. I’ve heard that the solutions to problems that Mark Watney comes up with are things that would work. That’s amazing!
  • I like the science in this book though I’m not a scientist and don’t understand all the science, but I think Mr. Weir does a good job mixing the science with the personalities of characters and humanity of the book.
  • I like all the problem-solving in the book–plus the obsession by news organizations and the public when they find out Mark is alive. That seems very realistic. I found myself thinking about the millions of dollars spent plus risking the lives of other people to save one person, but that also seems like something we would do, if possible.
  • I thought it was also realistic that not everyone at NASA is on-board with decisions made. And many of the things Mark does are very risky and sometimes don’t go as planned.
  • I think listening to this story made it more realistic and enjoyable. For me this is the perfect audiobook.


  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I’m looking forward to more books in the future by Andy Weir.
  • I think I especially loved this book, because one of my daughters wanted to be an astronaut and wanted to go to Mars. She was even on a team of kids in third grade who won a competition to make a space suit to go to Mars. They made the spacesuit and created a video to show and explain it They won all the local and regional contests as well as the national contest. The prize was a trip to Space Camp in Alabama. (She isn’t an astronaut today, but she is a plant pathologist–so if she went to Mars she’d be able to diagnose plant diseases there!)


  • Seiun Award for Best Novel (2015)
  • John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)
  • ALA Alex Award (2015)
  • Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2015)
  • Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (2016)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Audiobook Challenge–hosted by Hot Listens and The Book Nympho blogs
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog
  • TBR Pile Challenge–hosted by the Bookish blog
  • Sci-Fi Month–hosted by Rinn @ Rinn Reads and Lisa @ Over the Effing Rainbow

Review: The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

the-ghost-brigadesThe Ghost Brigades
by John Scalzi
Series: Old Man’s War #2
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Published by Tor Books, 2007
E-book, purchased
356 pages
Grade: A
Synopsis: The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.

For the universe is a dangerous place for humanity – and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF most find out why Boutin did what he did.

Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers – a superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, whose brain is uniquely able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given over to the Ghost Brigades.

Jared begins as one of these perfect soldiers, but as memories begin to surface, he begins to intuit the reason’s for Boutin’s betrayal.

As Jared desperately hunts for his “father”, he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: the alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat.

Not for the first time, Cainen reflected that evolution didn’t do this particular species any great favors, physically speaking.

It just made them aggressive, dangerous and damned hard to scrape off a planet surface. A problem, that.

. . .

“Fucking humans,” he said.


…to the extent that Special Forces had any reputation at all beyond its military prowess, it was that its members were profoundly lacking in tact and patience. Being three-year-old killing machines didn’t leave much time for social graces.


  • I like how this book starts out from an alien’s point of view.
  • Oh, I like this series! The world Scalzi has created is interesting, detailed and dangerous to humans.
  • Humans have made it off Earth and have colonized a number of planets, but they’ve had to fight for every scrap. The universe is full of other races and they don’t really like humans.
  • John Perry who was the protagonist in the first book isn’t in this book and I missed him, but Jane Sagan whom we met briefly in the first book is in this book as well as a great cast of other characters.
  • I really like the way Scalzi shows the human response to the threat humans face: Taking older humans off Earth to re-make them into young, green bodies to fight wars is inspired. And to create special forces from the DNA of the dead and then have them born adults who very quickly become fighting and killing machines even though they would be considered babies by the “Realborn” as the Ghost Brigades call the humans actually born as babies.
  • The way the Ghost Brigades–special forces–are created is very interesting. It’s interesting to read about their creation, training, thoughts and purpose.
  • The Ghost Brigades and other humans must figure out why one of their scientists faked his own death and now is helping the enemy. What made him turn into a traitor?
  • I like that they give the special forces the last names of famous scientists.
  • This book (especially the early part) explores what it means to be human. Reminds me of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • This is science fiction which explores ideas, but is also very human and entertaining.


  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I began reading John Scalzi’s books in 2014 and since then he has become one of my favorite authors.
  • I’ve already read the third book in the series and hope to read the fourth book soon!


  • Prometheus Award for Best Novel ( Nominee 2007)

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (From Wikipedia): John Michael Scalzi II (born May 10, 1969) is an American science fiction author, online writer, and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, and for his blog Whatever, at which he has written frequently on a number of topics since 1998. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2008 based predominantly on that blog, which he has also used for several prominent charity drives. His novel Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. He has written non-fiction books and columns on diverse topics such as finance, video games, films, astronomy, and writing, and served as a creative consultant for the TV series Stargate Universe.

Reading Challenges

Review: No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie

no-mark-upon-her-kindleNo Mark Upon Her
by Deborah Crombie
Series: Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series #14
Genre: Mystery (police procedural)
Published by Macmillan, 2011
E-book, purchased
480 pages
Grade: A
Synopsis: Olympic rowing hopeful and senior Metropolitan Police officer DCI Rebecca Meredith goes out alone to train on the river in Henley on a dark afternoon in late October – and doesn’t return. When a desperate search by the police and a K9 team reveals the possibility of foul play, Scotland Yard wants one of their own on the case. Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, returning from celebrating his marriage to long-time partner Detective Inspector Gemma James, is called to Henley to investigate. He soon finds that the world of elite rowing can be brutal, and that Rebecca Meredith’s ex-husband was not the only person with good reason for wanting her dead. Then, when a search-and-rescue team member is threatened, Kincaid realizes the case may be even more complex and more dangerous than he believed.

He felt stained by others’ grief, as if it had steeped into his skin, like old tea. He had never, in his more than twenty years of police work, become inured to watching people absorb the shock of death.


Surely he had misinterpreted what he’d heard. Because he could have sworn that his guv’nor had just suggested that he fix the outcome of an investigation.


  • This is the first book after Gemma and Duncan’s wedding and they are celebrating their marriage as the book opens–for the third time! The first time was in the garden of their London home; the second in a register office and now the third time was with Winnie and Jack and all their families so they could have a formal celebration in Winnie’s church.
  • Gemma and Duncan have become foster parents to Charlotte after their investigation into the disappearance of Charlotte’s parents. As the book opens Gemma is finishing up family leave she and Duncan have both agreed to take until Charlotte is secure enough to attend child care.
  • Gemma admits to herself as much as she loves their children she’s looking forward to getting back to work. Now a new case has come up and Duncan has to work it even though he’s supposed to start his family leave in a few days. Gemma is not happy!
  • I really like the way the author writes about Gemma and Duncan’s children and family. They are very realistic. They have problems and worries, but they love each other and I love seeing that.
  • Charlotte’s “Alice” birthday party was so much fun to read about.
  • Much of the book takes place on the Thames with lots of rowing. I enjoyed learning more about the sport.
  • The mystery was good and as always I like reading about the procedures of finding the criminals.
  • I love the way Ms. Crombie writes about her settings. I always feel like I’ve visited the area.
  • I really like reading about search and rescue dogs. I think they are wonderful!
  • I like the integrity Duncan and Gemma show.


  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • The books really should be read in order since things which happen in earlier books have far-reaching ramifications.
  • I continue to love this series. It’s my favorite police procedural mystery series at the moment. I like the mysteries and I like the relationship between Gemma and Duncan and their children and how it grows and develops.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • A trip to Yorkshire inspired Deborah Crombie’s first Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery. She’s a Texas native who still lives in Texas though she spends time in England every year.

Reading Challenges