May 2020
Adult Reviews
Fiction
Kelley Armstrong. Alone in The Wild. Rockton novel #5.
Read by Therese Plummer.
9 CDs. 10.5 hrs.
MacmillanAudio. 2020.


Canadian author Kelley Armstrong is rather prolific with five different series, some standalones and some YA novels. Her genres are fantasy, thriller and crime. Alone in the Wild is the fifth in her Rockton novels. I had never read nor listened to her before this so I felt unprepared for such an unusual story. It feels mostly normal with odd fantasy throughout causing one to wonder if the story is indeed truth or fantasy.

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective in Rockton, a small self-contained village. You must apply to live there. While Casey and Eric (her boyfriend and Sheriff) are on vacation, Casey finds a woman dead in the snow but what has drawn her attention to the body is the soft whimpering she had been hearing; a baby, bundled in with the body. Casey knows nothing about babies; indeed her community does not allow anyone to live there under the age of 18. Children are verboten. It doesn't take much, however, for the baby to warm the hearts of many of the villagers, Casey and Eric included. Still Casey is determined to not only find to whom the baby belongs but to find who killed the woman.

What is intriguing in this story is being able to look at truth from many different angles and viewpoints; you are made to question the truth, not just the facts.

The marvel of Therese Plummer's narration is that each character has a distinct voice, female or male. I've often listened perplexed as to how the narrator manages to pull this off. Plummer's voice is clear and precise, no need to rewind a bit for something you might have missed. She has recorded over 350 audiobooks, won the 2019 Audie Award. She is heard as Dr. Fennel in Pokémon and also for Yu-Gi-Oh characters. She is also an actress.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
Steve Berry. The Warsaw Protocol.
Read by Scott Brick.
10 CDs. 12 hrs.
Macmillan Audio. 2020


Cotton Malone, a retired U.S. agent, owns his own bookstore and spends his days hunting down rare titles for wealthy clients. When he happens upon a robbery of one of the seven precious relics of Christ, he is drawn into a tale of espionage that encompasses the most powerful nations in the world. Centered in Poland, the tale will entertain both fans of spy novels and lovers of history.

Narrator Scott Brick has a deep and commanding voice that naturally fits the persona of protagonist Malone. Brick's vocals are serious and authoritative, leading listeners to believe Malone is wise and in control regardless of the harrowing situations he finds himself facing. The leading character's confidence is convincing. The narrator's pacing and emotional changes align well with the diverse characters throughout the story, though it is often difficult to know who is speaking regardless of gender or country of origin. Listeners will need to pay close attention to attribution in this fast moving, character-filled tale.

An unusual addition to the audiobook is the author's interruption of the smooth-flowing narration with his own travel recommendations. Steve Berry says his interjections are as if he is reading over the listener's shoulder and sharing a tidbit of information. As a listener, the additional dialogue sounded more like a heckler. The story and its narrator had painted a scene, which was often suspenseful, only to have it interrupted by a jarring voice telling the audience what to order in a restaurant or what historical sites to visit. These additions, fortunately, weren't frequent or lengthy, but they would have been better placed at the end of the novel in their own section.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*Carolyn Brown. The Family Journal.
Read by Brittany Pressley.
7 CDs. 8 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019.


Carolyn Brown's 100th novel is a sweet, heartwarming family story. Set in contemporary times, Lily Anderson is a single mother trying to raise her two rebellious children in Austin, Texas. In the age of electronics and temptation, teenage daughter Holly's experimentation with smoking weed and her pre-teen brother's bad decisions, make Lily evaluate her role as a parent. Tough love seems like the best choice and after confiscating the kid's cell phones and iPads, Lily moves them to her family home in her small hometown of Comfort, Texas. What follows for the kids is the gradual realization that family and the best kind of friends are life affirming. This, together with the discovery of a decades old journal describing the lives and struggles of generations of women in the family, provide a lesson that connection to the past is as important as planning for the future. In this uplifting novel, Carolyn Brown shows us that trust and love grow when you are not even looking for it.

Narrator, Brittany Pressley, is an award winning singer/song writer and voice actor. Her Texas accent and interpretation of the characters in The Family Journal is spot on from the whiney teens to the concerned Mom, making for a realistic and enjoyable listen.

Reviewed by Robin Demas
J. Selene Charles. A Witch and a Fish. The Grimm Files, Book 3.
Read by Chelsea Stevens and Shaun Grindell.
Tantor. 2019.


Detective Elle has just had a bomb dropped on her head and her whole life as she knows it is upside down. As she is questioning who she really is anymore, she is also back in Undeen face to face with the family that cast her out. She has to face the tribunal for her sister's death and her father's mortal wounding by the sea witch. But was it really her that impacted her family. With Crowley as her only ally, she has to race the clock to discover who killed her beloved sister and injured her father with Maddox above doing all that he can to bring her back. Nothing is as cut and dry as it appears to be.

Chelsea Stevens and Shaun Grindell are back in this latest tale. As usual, Chelsea knocks it out of the park with her voices and emotion. Shaun is more used in this book with more alternating chapters from Maddox's point of view. He also fixed the cadence for Maddox, it felt much less William Shatner-esque. You definitely felt Maddox's panic and need to rescue Elle. I fell the two narrators worked together much better this time. This was a great addition to the Grimm Files. For fans of The Dresden Files and Fables. This reader can not wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Meghan Yost
*Michael Connelly. The Night Fire. A Renee Balland and Harry Bosch Novel.
Read by Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin.
9 CDs. 10 hrs.
Hachette. 2019.


Let's begin with the narrators, Titus Welliver and Christine Lakin. They are both actors as well as book narrators, so the narration of this book to my ears was smooth, fluid and right on the mark. They both did an excellent job with their character roles as well as playing off each other to make the book run smoothly and keep you listening to find out what happens next. Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Michael Connelly's Los Angeles police Detective Harry Bosch (Hieronymus) Book series. Bosch (based on Connelly's books) is also a TV series on Amazon Prime and Titus Welliver (who reads here) plays Harry Bosch in the tv series. So for me this whole audio book was a great big WIN WIN! Like having Bosch himself telling you the story! Harry has retired from the police force; he's had replacement knee surgery; and he finds out his mentor, John Jack from the department has died, so he attends the funeral. John Jack's wife gives Harry a "murder book," that Jack had, which is to say the police book started for each murder case, that holds all information pertaining to each individual murder. Those books are not supposed to leave the precinct where the crime occurred so why did John Jack take the book and hide it all these years? Harry goes to see his half brother, defense lawyer Mickey Haller, who is in court defending his client. Bosch thinks something is off with his brother's case. Harry has just learned he has leukemia and wants to find out from his brother if he has a case to take to court since he got cancer while in the line of duty. This is where the fun starts. Harry says he will look at his brother's case notes and see what he can find and Mickey will take Harry's case as well. Harry also worked with Homicide Detective Renee Ballard ( in a prior book) who is now in between partners and is working the "late show" shift. Harry and Renee had said they would like to work with each other again, so Bosch takes the murder book to her to see what she thinks. Ballard starts looking at the murder book and setting up different lines of investigation for the two of them to check out.

Harry's daughter Maddie, attending college now, makes an appearance as well.

Not everything runs smoothly as you can guess, but I loved following them down the rabbit hole of the investigation to see what happens next. This book is definitely worth the listen and it can stand alone without having read previous volumes in the Bosch series.

Reviewed by Terry Cervantes
*Lisa Gardner. When You See me.
Read by Kirsten Potter.
9 CDs. 11 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2020.


Lisa Gardner's When You See me is not an audiobook to listen to on a dark and stormy night!

Boston Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren and FBI Agent Kimberly Quincy, members of a federal task force, travel to the hills of North Georgia to investigate and identify skeletal remains found by hikers -- and possibly to unearth the truth behind the kidnapping of Flora Dane by deceased serial kidnapper, Jacob Ness, which had occurred in the area several years earlier. Flora herself joins the two law officers to contribute her first-hand knowledge to the case and, if possible, to reap revenge for the wrongs that changed her life. All too soon, however, the team discovers that kidnapping was the least of Jacob's crimes. A web of evil pervades the entire town. Who can be trusted? How and why are the townspeople inter-related in covering up the past in this crime infested town? Who is currently responsible for the rampant death count that now occurs? At the center of the story is "Girl," a teenage immigrant whose mother was also a victim of the "bad man," now named "Bonita" by D.D. Rendered dumb by a severe head wound delivered by "the bad man," Bonita now lives as a servant in the hotel of the mayor and his wife. Witness to the disappearances of many other young women, including some maids at the Inn, she records their names, keeps their stories, and vows to avenge their deaths by the "bad man." But, who is the "bad man"? Nothing in the town is what it seems to be.

The action is rapid fire and intensely suspenseful. Everyone is in danger when additional graves, dating back fifteen years and more, keep being discovered. The investigation widens as Flora and her techie boyfriend, Keith Edgar, interview Walt Davies, the man who raised Jacob. The old Inn not only shelters the ghosts and heinous crimes executed there, but also secret tunnels that lead to abandoned mines in the hills. Narrator Kirsten Potter's even-toned voice conveys an intensity that sustains the overshadowing atmosphere of suspense and evil, keeping the plot of this outstanding audiobook moving steadily toward its grim and powerful conclusion. Book 11 in the Lisa Gardner's series of Detective D.D. Warren books will surely capture the interest of both adults and teens alike as a captivating, thrilling mystery and police drama.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
Terry Goodkind. Witch's Oath: The Children of D'Hara, Episode 4.
Read by John Skelley.
5 CDs.
Recorded Books. 2019.


Witch's Oath is the fourth installment of Goodkind's Children of D'Hara five-part series (with The Scribbly Man, Hateful Things, and Wasteland). At the start of this all-too-brief episode, Richard, Kahlan, and Shale are helplessly hanging by their arms at the mercy of the powerful Witch-man Moravaska Michec with a large group of otherworldly Glee waiting to finish the killing of Kahlan's twin babies. When Richard sees Michec about to skin Kahlan alive, he reacts and somehow is able to free himself enough to drive off Michec. The Glee attack as soon as Michec flees the scene but once again Richard calls upon his War Wizard powers to repel the attack. In order to heal Vica the Mord-Sith who has been disemboweled by Michec, Richard goes to the Underworld where he learns a number of prophecies that come in handy once he returns to Kahlan, Shale, and the six Mord-Sith. They pursue Michec through the Wasteland subterranean labyrinth below the People's Palace since they cannot feel safe until he is killed. The information that Richard has gained in the Underworld and his knowledge of the Wasteland labyrinth allow him to corner and kill Michec. As they are finally able to set out from D'Hara to the Wizard's Keep were Kahlan can safely deliver her babies, they end up in an enchanted forest and find their way blocked by a new magical Barrier like the ones Richard had destroyed before he met Darken Rahl. Since they cannot cross such a barrier safely, they must make a detour over a dangerous mountain range. They also realize that they are facing an old nemesis, Shota the powerful and unpredictable Witch-woman. Skelley's semi-voiced reading is well-paced. He is able to effectively capture the events and the emotions of Goodkind's diverse characters. He has a wide range of voices and accents that he uses in his fine reading.

Reviewed by Hugh M. Flick, Jr.

*James R. Hannibal. Gryphon Heist.
Read by Mia Barron.
Digital Download. 12 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2019.

Talia Inger is a very tightly wound newbie operative at the CIA. Assigned to the Eastern Bloc, she figures that her first job will be a quickie. With her eidetic memory and self discipline, she's fast and unerring in her decisions about whom to trust. This thrilling and fast paced spy novel offers cool futuristic spy gadgets, exciting and dangerous locales, and family drama. Even if Talia herself is hard to love, her adventures are compelling. Mia Barron narrates with an impressive range of accents and tones. An actress with stage and screen credits, she makes the rarified life of a CIA spy come to life with down to earth interpretations of characters and nationalities.

Reviewed by Stephanie Tournas
*M. L. Huie. Spitfire: a Livy Nash Mystery, Book 1.
Read by Justine Eyre.
7 CDs. 8.5 hrs.
Blackstone Audio. 2020.


Two years after the end of World War II, Special Operations Executive member Olivia "Livy" Nash is still having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. She has a dead end job proofreading a demeaning woman's column at a third rate newspaper and a fondness for vodka. Livy wakes up hungover one Saturday morning, only to realize she is late for an award ceremony at Buckingham Palace for the celebration of VE Day . She shows up only to be turned away at the gate, being told her invitation was rescinded. Her commanding officer and lover, Peter Scoby was to get a posthumous award and his wife was there to accept. The Brass didn't want any scenes in front of the Royal Family.

Humiliated and angry Livy goes to a Pub to console herself. As she proceeds to drown her sorrows, she is approached by a middle age gentleman who seems awfully familiar with her background. He introduces himself as Ian Fleming, Foreign Manager for the Kensley News Service and offers her an interview for the next day. Livy shows up at the interview two and a half hours late and reeking of gin. Despite her condition, Fleming offers her a job as a undercover agent to track down a list of spies known as the Manifesto Group. Before she knows it, she is spying for the British government again this time under the guise of being a foreign correspondent.

Spitfire is a intriguing novel of shadow espionage, murder and betrayal. M.L. Huie dives into the post WWII world of survivors guilt, politics and undercover agents. Ian Fleming's appearance as the head of the "Intelligence Group" adds reality and wile into the plot.

The semi-voiced narration by model and actress Justine Eyre successfully brings the characters to life in this gritty story. Her voice makes the book intriguing and adds nuance to this spy novel, making it more engaging to the listener.

Reviewed by Mercedes Smith
John Le Carre. Agent Running in the Field. A Novel.
Read by the author.
8 CDs. 9.5 hrs.
Penguin Random House. 2019.


British intelligence agent Nat has been on the job for decades. In the early days of his career, he even brought his wife, Prue, along with him, and in Eastern Europe, they undertook covert actions together. But much has changed since he started out, and Prue now finds Nat's work distasteful. Nat is also disillusioned, but yearns for respect, particularly from his twenty-something daughter. But rather than being impressed when he reveals that he's a spy, she questions why he would work for a government whose motives are confused at best, and more likely nefarious. A good question, and one Nat wrestles with throughout this thrilling, timely novel by the spy-genre master John le Carré.

Nat has been unexpectedly reassigned to an unglamorous London spy office called "The Haven," a last stop for sub-par spies and rookies. But Nat's long-dormant interest in his work is ignited again when one rookie, Florence, uncovers what could be a Russian spy operating in the UK. Nat likes Florence, even inviting her to play Badminton with him and Ed, an amusingly grumpy anti-Brexit, anti-Trump man whose rants amuse Nat, even when they veer close to treasonous.

After so long in the field, you would expect Nat to pick out a fellow traveler from miles off, but this story's climax comes when Nat realizes that the spy games are happening under his nose, and that he needs to slough off his apathy for one last mission.

Agent Running in the Field is a marvelous update to le Carré's classic spy novels of the Cold War, and le Carré's takedown of 2018 politics is both sharp and witty. The story's twists – particularly its surprising and satisfying ending – are everything that le Carré fans have come to expect of him.

Nat is intended to be young (only 47), and though he can hold his own on the Badminton court, the sense of having seen so much, particularly in the evolution of the Soviet Union through to Putin's Russia, seems to come from a character who is closer to the author's own age of 88. This effect is magnified because le Carré reads the novel himself.

It is a pleasure to hear the master read, and he does an excellent job creating accents and bringing the right tone to the lively mix of characters, from inept British functionaries to old German spies, but his speaking and writing voice are those of a man much older than Nat.

One distracting note on the performance was the choice to add an effect when characters spoke on the phone, a tinny, fuzzy quality meant to distinguish phone conversation from live. But this also felt dated, like the characters were not speaking on 2018 cell phones but rotary ones. It was an unnecessary addition, too: le Carré does not need the help.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
Fern Michaels. Cut and Run.
Read by Laural Merlington.
7 CDs. 7 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2019.


Fern Michaels' latest Sisterhood novel, Cut and Run, finds Countess Annie deSilva being held hostage at an isolated monastery in the mountains north of Barcelona, Spain. After waiting three months for Annie's return, the Sisterhood and their cohorts combine forces to rescue the Countess from a deranged "relative" before any lives are lost.

Not all audiobook narrators can handle a cast as diverse and massive as those offered in Cut and Run. Michaels' team was smart to hire Laural Merlington to bring the story to life because of her vocal range and unique intonations. A multitude of accents can be heard throughout the audiobook, including British, Vietnamese, Spanish, Southern, and Scottish. Many ages were also personified, from confused teens to aged vicars. Merlington manages to modulate between characters quickly and smoothly, despite their varying personalities and emotional energy. Of note, Countess Annie deSilva's voice was a bit irritating due to its high pitched and nasal-filled tones, but this doesn't deter from the overall performance.

Merlington has narrated more than 200 audiobooks, including titles for authors Kristin Hannah, Margaret Atwood, Johanna Lindsey, and Debbie Macomber.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*Liz Moore. Long Bright River. A novel.
Read by Allyson Ryan.
11 CDs. 13.5 hrs.
Penguin/Random House. 2019.


Award-winning author Liz Moore's Long Bright River is a timely, heartbreaking piece of fiction. Sisters Kacey and Mickey both come from a tough background. Raised by their grandmother after their addicted mother's death and father's abandonment, the girls grow up to be complete opposites. Mickey joins the force and walks the beat in a gritty downtown Philadelphia neighborhood. Kacey has succumbed to addiction like her parents. Mickey patrols her neighborhood and keeps tabs on her sister whom she sees working the streets for her next fix. When Kacey goes missing and bodies of young women start turning up, Mickey becomes concerned.

The novel shifts between past and present, breakneck tension and slow measured chapters. Once you think you've got it figured out, the novel turns everything you knew on its head. Moore creates such strong characters, you can't help but feel connected. Allyson Ryan's narration captures Mickey's voice perfectly- strong and guarded, but full of sorrow and longing. Ryan deftly captures the voices of each character and her handling of the Philadelphia accents is a treat.

This novel couldn't feel more timely. With the undercurrent of drug abuse and addiction running through Mickey's story and the description of a tough as nails downtown neighborhood where people are just trying to survive, the novel captures a reality we see too often in America. This piece of fiction sometimes feels like more reality. Moore has a winner on her hands.

Reviewed by Lynn Blair
*Erica Ruth Neubauer. Murder At The Mena House.
Read by Sarah Zimmerman.
7 CDs. 9 hrs.
HighBridge Audio. 2020


1926, Mena House, Giza, Egypt: The posh place for society to stay and mingle in the shadows of the wondrous pyramids and the Great Sphinx. An American, Jane Wonderly, has accompanied her paternal aunt, Millicent Stanley to Egypt for a restful vacation and to tour the sights. All goes awry when Jane ends up a suspect in a murder at the luxurious hotel.

Jane meets spoiled British socialite, Anna Staiton and her father Colonel Justice Staiton, who are also guest at Mena House. When Anna is found dead, and Jane's necklace is discovered in Anna's room, the Police Inspector concludes that Jane must be a suspect. With the assistance of the enigmatic British banker Mr. Redvers, Jane investigates the murder trying to clear her name.

Murder at the Mena House is a mesmerizing story narrated by Audie-Nominated Sarah Zimmerman. Graduate of the Boston Conservatory, her theater background skillfully comes through as you listen to her fully voiced narration. She brings Erica Ruth Neubauer's story of murder and intrigue in post Great War Egypt to life.

Reviewed by Mercedes Smith
Joyce Carol Oates. (Ed.) Cutting Edge. New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers. Read by Xe Sands.
6 CDs. 6 hrs.
HighBridge Audio. 2019.


Any collection of short stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates and specifically stories based on women as the victors in almost every story is well worth a listen. Oates explains how "noir" literature is almost always written by men and usually involving women as victims rather than victors. I use the word victor darkly to describe women who perform absolutely evil acts, usually in revenge for either personal or universal wrongs against women. Usually men are the "victims" or targets in these stories, but women who have wronged the heroine may suffer severe consequences as well. Murder, drowning and a bit of torture are the means of the punishing action and remorse doesn't rear its head. The stories are all new and written by famous writers like Margaret Atwood (poems), Edwidge Danticat, Aimee Bender and Oates herself.

Narrator Xe Sands reads with a variety of accents and dialects; each story is fully voiced and her voice varies considerably based on the story. This is a good thing most of the time. However, some listeners who listen while driving or who have difficulties following often fast-spoken and emotional conversations, may have trouble understanding everything. These listeners should listen to this collection, when alone, in a quiet space. However many of the stories may be too scary to do that.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
*Dexter Palmer. Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen.
Read by Susan Lyson.
11 CDs. 13 hrs.
Recorded Books. 2019.

Dexter Palmer's remarkable story, based on an actual event, details the story of a young wife Mary Toft, in Goldalming, England in the early 18th century, who loses a child in childbirth and then begins to give birth to rabbits. The small town's village doctor John Howard, called a surgeon in those days, has a normal case load which includes delivering babies when the midwife is not available or able. Howard witnesses the first "birth" when Mary's husband comes to ask for his help at the delivery. Howard's young new apprentice accompanies him and sees her deliver a rabbit. Early on, Howard's wife gives a very good rationale for how Mary delivered rabbits, but no one listens to her voice of reason and the author doesn't tell the listener to the very end, keeping us looking for an answer as well.

Howard can't figure out how to account for this "miracle" of the rabbit birth or figure out why the wife and husband would tell the story. Howard writes to other doctors in England for advice. Three of them reply and come to see for themselves what has happened. Mary obliges by giving birth in front of the doctors and soon the king summons them to London so experts can witness the birth. While in London surgeon Howard and his apprentice also go to a magic show which reveals astonishing sights like a 2-headed girl and later they go a more sophisticated show where they see a steer blown up on stage and other grotesque sights meant to entertain and push their genteel audience to witness the unbelievable and enjoy their experience. Scams and magic shows were popular and people who had no scientific education believed in them and were entertained by them. In London, however, Mary is unable to give birth and soon the truth is out.

The novel, based on a true story, is read in an excellent narration by Susan Lyons. Her voice expresses surprise, wonder, pain, and questioning with a delightful British accent which individualizes each character. This is one of the most unusual novels you will ever listen to.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
*Josephine Rowe. Here Until August. Stories.
Read by Cat Gould.
5 CDs. 5.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.

Memories, losses, regrets, longings and desperation predominate these ten short stories, as young, award-winning, Australian author Josephine Rowe probes deeply into her characters. Her settings vary between Australia and North America, but her themes are universal. Her topics include the aftermath of a frightful motor accident, pregnancy and the pain of miscarriage, trying to maintain sexuality in a fading marriage, and collusion in a man's frantic escape into Canada. All are open-ended. Her style is lushly pictorial, with heavy use of unusual comparisons and contrasts.

Australian narrator Cat Gould is the perfect reader, with her accent giving an additional sense of reality and understanding, as she speaks clearly and expressively.

Reviewed by Pat Dole
*Amanda Skenandore. Undertaker's Assistant.
Read by Allyson Johnson.
10 CDs. 11.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.


Amanda Skenandore's first novel, Between Earth and Sky, won the American Library Association's Reading List Award for Best Historical Fiction. She is also a registered nurse. Her latest historical novel, Undertaker's Assistant, clearly based on Skenandore's extensive research, explores many aspects of the early years of Reconstruction following the end of the Civil War - how former slaves are able (or not) to track their relatives; the rise of white supremacist groups and their methods of pressure and violence enacted on both freed blacks and whites sympathetic to their cause; the perils of women, both white and black, living alone; and details of the medical trade of undertaking and its required skills.

This excellent audiobook follows Euphemia ("Effie") Jones, an escaped slave, who arrives in New Orleans to start a new life. Effie had been acquired by a Southern army officer, an undertaker during the War, who trained her to be his assistant, an embalmer specifically, during the War. He considered her to be a sort of "replacement" for his dead daughter, educating her and taking her with his family when they migrated to Indiana. However, after he persuaded her to submit to brain measurements and experiments for a doctor friend studying race, Effie fled South, hoping to reconnect with her kinfolk. In New Orleans, she finds work as an undertaker's assistant with Colonel George Whitmark, whose business has run aground due to his drinking. With Effie's help, his business improves, although he is still considered by some to be a "scalliwag," a Southerner supporting the efforts of Reconstruction. Because of her past, Effie is a rather straight-laced, non-communicative, private person, but she gradually begins to make some friends after joining a local political group led by the handsome state politician, Samson Greene, to promote equal rights for the formerly enslaved people. When her boardinghouse friends convince her to attend a séance, Effie meets Adeline, the "medium," a beautiful but impoverished Creole woman, who agrees to teach Effie about the social graces, hair styles, and clothing she needs to be attractive to men. Effie's attraction to Samson Greene leads her into new experiences of love, trust, and betrayal.

Allyson Johnson, a superb narrator, relates Effie's story with appropriate dialects and emotion, calmly recounting her adventures, and evoking sympathetic feelings in listeners. This audiobook will be appreciated by adult and some teen listeners who enjoy stories about the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, the culture of enslaved peoples after the war, romance novels, stories related to the history of medicine and women's rights, and novels with strong women characters.

Reviewed by Susan Allison
*Alexander McCall Smith. To The Land of Long Lost Friends. #1 Ladies Detective Agency Novel.
Read by Lisette Lecat.
8 CDs. 9 hrs.
Recorded Books.


The latest in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, in Botswana is more of a novel than a crime story but it is filled with philosophical discussions – some quite humorous – about life, gender differences, friendship, relatives and more. Along the way there are problems that are solved and cases that are concluded. Narrator Lisette Lecat is a familiar voice as she has narrated the other books in the series and it is no surprise that the voices and accents, as well as gender differentiations are excellent. Her gentle and lilting reading reflect the writing, and while the action is more slow moving than previous books in the series, her fans will have no problem engaging with the story.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
Loreth Anne White. The Dark Bones.
Read by Emily Sutton-Smith.
11 CDs. 13.5 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019.


Detective Rebecca North receives a strange phone call from her father. Shortly after, he is found dead. The police declare it suicide, but Rebecca isn't so sure. Rebecca is forced to return to her hometown and see those she thought she left behind. As it becomes more clear to Rebecca that her father's death may not have been suicide, the details of the dark happenings in her hometown's past rise to the surface. Rebecca is forced to confront people from her past- some she'd rather not see again- and an old flame who may be hiding some secrets of his own.

Although "The Dark Bones" is a sequel, you don't have to have read the first in order to enjoy this novel. Although a character from Book 1 "A Dark Lure" does make an appearance in this novel, enough information is provided that the reader doesn't feel like they're missing out on a large portion of the storyline. "The Dark Bones" is a novel packed with suspense, mystery, and even a little romance. The mystery is one that will keep the reader guessing to the end until the truth is revealed.

Narrator Emily Sutton-Smith does a good job at narration and capturing the voices of the myriad of characters throughout the novel. At times, the narration feels a little slow for the pace of the novel, but Sutton-Smith deftly weaves through the mystery-filled storyline to keep the reader guessing.

The Dark Bones goes to show that sometimes the darkest secrets are found in the smallest of towns.

Reviewed by Lynn Blair
*Loreth Anne White. In The Dark. A Novel.
Read by Susan Hanfield.
12 CDs. 15 hrs.
Brilliance Audio. 2019.


In this Agatha Christie-esque story of retribution and deceit, read by Susan Hanfield, nine people are invited on a business junket to tender contracts for a high end resort and spa in the Canadian wilderness.

Forest Shadow Lodge and Spa is deep in the southwest Yukon. The invitation boasts of a luxury spa and resort lake front development looking to procure contracts for services in the hospitality industry. Transportation, housekeeping, catering, security, public relations and even a plastic surgeon. The recipients of the invitation only get minimal information and instructions due to the fact that the corporation wants to keep all the details hush, hush. The opportunity seems too good to be true. They soon learn, all is not what it is supposed to be.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer Mason Deniaud, newly transferred from the big city, is Kluhane Bay's new chief. This quaint town is in the Yukon Territory of Canada, and he is out of his element. While investigating a downed seaplane with a deceased female body, he and Kluhane Bay Search and Rescue Team Leader Callie Sutton are soon immersed in a mystery of intrigue and murder.

The two stories entwine to make a hypnotic tale of survival, human emotions, and vengeance. This psychological thriller keeps you on the edge of your seat and is well narrated.

Susan Hanfield's semi-voiced narration makes In The Dark a pleasurable listen. The quality of the recording is excellent and there are no distracting background noises. Her narration holds you and makes the story more engrossing and easy to listen.

Reviewed by Mercedes Smith
*Randy Wayne White. Salt River. A Doc Ford Novel.
Read by George Guidall.
8 CDs. 9 hrs.
Penguin/Random House Audio. 2020.


Doc Ford is one of my favorite characters. He's always into something! Doc, and his trusty sidekick, Tomlinson make their little piece of the world (Florida) a very interesting place.

Salt River has at its center, Tomlinson admitting to having children (via sperm bank donations years ago), which sent me for a Loop (but all I could think of was oh boy, here we go)! And Salt River also involves one of Doc's old cases coming to the forefront to cause some mighty interesting situations.

Both story lines kept me fully involved in what was happening and for sure will keep listeners sitting in the car, or doing more Chores etc – just to keep on listening.

And let me not forget to say that George Guidall is one of my favorite narrators. Hs Doc Ford sounds very trustworthy, and his Tomlinson is a hoot! Great fun as usual provided by Sanibel Island (Florida) resident and best-selling author Randy Wayne in his latest in his Doc Ford series!

Reviewed by Terry Cervantes
Kevin Wignall. When We Were Lost.
Read by Will Collyer.
8 CDs. 9 hrs.
Hachette/Blackstone. 2019.


High school students flying to Costa Rica for an environmental research trip find themselves lost far from their target country when their plane crashes killing half onboard. Survival, rescue, and avoiding jungle predators becomes paramount for the survivors, despite their quickly dwindling numbers and increasing disagreements. Where are they, and will anyone make it out alive?

Narrator Will Collyer's youthful voice works well as loner Tom Calloway. The narrator gives this protagonist a reserved confidence and independence, which supports the author's intentions. Collyer's pacing works well with the intensity of the situation and each character's personality. The self-elected leader, Joel, and his menagerie of followers have strong personalities and pit themselves against the wiser opposition. The narrator handles the emotional battles well. Listeners would be wise to pay close attention to attribution though. It is nearly impossible to know who is speaking by the vocals alone. Fortunately, the author includes plenty of "he said" "she said" throughout the story.

Collyer has narrated several titles, including the Guts & Glory Series by Ben Thompson, Billion Dollar Whale by Bradley Hope, and The Warning by James Patterson. When not narrating, he can be seen on stage, film, and television. He is also a seasoned composer and songwriter.

Reviewed by Lisa Arnold
*Michael Wiley. Trouble in Mind. A Sam Kelson Mystery.
Read by Paul Woodson.
6 CDs. 7.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.


Trouble in Mind is Michael Wiley's first outing with Sam Kelson but it is definitely not his first venture in writing mysteries. He writes the award-winning Franky Dast mysteries along with the Daniel Turner thrillers and the Joe Kozmarski detective stories. Trouble in Mind takes place in his native Chicago.

Sam Kelson was a happily married cop with a young daughter when he was shot in the head. He survived but his personality changed. Now he talks a lot – and he always tells the truth. His wife divorced him and he became a private investigator as he was no longer wanted on the police force. He has managed to keep up a wonderful, fun, loving relationship with his now eleven-year-old daughter, Sue Ellen. A mysterious woman hires him to stop her brother, a pharmacist, from stealing drugs – at least that is what she tells Sam. Instead he is framed for the murder of the pharmacist and ends up in jail. Let out, he goes home to find a woman dead in his bed. He is back in jail.

When he was shot in the head, he killed a 17-year-old boy who was shooting at him. Is it the boy's family that is now coming after him?

Sam's need to tell the truth brings out a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor in the story. Paul Woodson could not be better in his narration of the different characters, perhaps especially Sue Ellen who is exuberant and off-the wall but also the conversations Sam has with himself and the two kittens he rescues who "are so damn cute."

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
Nonfiction
Catherine P. Bradshaw & Tracey Evian Waasdorp. Preventing Bullying in Schools: A Social and Emotional Learning Approach to Prevention and Early Intervention.
Narrated by Coleen Marlo.
Digital Download
Norton. Published by Highbridge. 2019.


As a former high school teacher and now teacher educator, I was drawn to this title in Norton's series on Social and Emotional Learning Solutions. Bullying continues to remain an issue in schools, and I've never had any real training in this area. However, part of me was skeptical to listen to book designed to improve my teaching: Would I need frequently to need to stop and take notes? Would it be difficult not to see what was on the page? And, frankly, would it feel like I was sitting in a dull three-hour professional development workshop?

The answers to all of these questions is—NO! Preventing Bullying was an entertaining, if sobering listen, filled with interesting anecdotes and memorable acronyms. The book is divided into five chapters, which do not have to be listened to in order, in fact, if you're a teacher and impatient, skip straight to Chapter 4 for some extremely practical ideas and steps you can take to prevent bullying in your classroom. At times, I did wish the authors followed up on their scenarios, in other words, after you enact an intervention, what should happen next, what is the follow up? But, authors Bradshaw and Waasdrop made several good points for teachers, administrators, and staff. For example, they use the acronym RIP to help educators recognize the characteristics of bullying: repeated, intentional, and power. They also explore the various forms and platforms bullying takes both inside and outside of the classroom.

This book is one in a series that is capitalizing on the recent attention that is being paid to the social and emotional learning movement, an approach to working with youth that takes into account the "whole child." At times the authors seem to be "selling" an approach, but there are many useful strategies and suggestions that I find productive when working with youth, including simple steps such as building relationships with your students and not ignoring any of the signs of bullying. They acknowledge that teachers are not psychologists or necessarily trained to deal with all aspects of bullying and its consequences, and they speak to readers from a position of understanding school structure.

Coleen Marlo's award-winning voice is authoritative and compelling and the run time for the book is just short of three hours, making it an easy guide to consume over the course of a weekend.

Preventing Bullying in Schools was co-authored by Drs. Catherine Bradshaw and Tracey Waasdorp, both are involved in studies designed to prevent school violence and bullying. This book is highly recommended for anyone who works with youth in social settings such as schools, camps, and community programs.

Reviewed by Jacqueline Bach
*Susannah Cahalan. The Great Pretender. The undercover mission that changed our understanding of madness forever.
Read by Christie Moreau and the author.
9 CDS. 11 hrs.
Hachette. 2019. 978-1-5491-7528-2.


Despite many advances, mental illness is not nearly as well understood as other health conditions. The author of The Great Pretender, Susannah Cahalan, learned this firsthand, when she began showing symptoms of psychosis. No one could adequately diagnose or treat her, and for a time, it seemed she would be destined for institutionalization for the rest of her life. But because of her family's advocacy and her own efforts, she was tested for an autoimmune disease. The disease caused inflammation of her brain and mimicked the symptoms of mental illness. After her treatment, she was freed of them. Her experience, which she outlines in the beginning of The Great Pretender (and which was the subject of her other book, Brain on Fire), sparked her interest in psychiatry, including hospitals and medications, and studies about what works – and what doesn't – in the treatment of mental illnesses. Through her research, Cahalan came across a landmark 1973 study by Dr. David Rosenhan, "On being sane in insane places." The study documented the experiences of eight undercover subjects in psychiatric hospitals. After reciting a list of invented symptoms, all of them, including Rosenhan himself, were admitted, diagnosed with mental illness (mostly schizophrenia) and kept inside for varying lengths of time. As the title suggests, the study described shocking conditions of a kind that could make a sane person become insane, a scary idea for the general public and a destabilizing one for the psychiatric field. The study was used to justify closing psychiatric institutions, re-writing diagnostic criteria, changing treatment protocols, and reducing government funding for mental illness research and treatment.

Although Rosenhan's study is the focus, and most compelling aspect, of The Great Pretender, given the enduring mystery around the study's credibility, Cahalan's investigation is broad, delving into the history of our understanding of mental illness throughout the centuries, as well as earlier investigations into their treatment, including Nellie Bly's famous undercover investigation at an insane asylum in 1887.

Cahalan's personal history and her thorough research chops make The Great Pretender a fascinating listen for anyone interested in mental illness and Dr. Rosenhan's scandalous study.

Narrator Christie Moreau has a strong, functional voice, and brings a level-headed quality to the reading which matches its tone. However, Moreau does not shy away from showing emotion when appropriate, including when the author describes her own frustrations with verifying Rosenhan's study.

Reviewed by Joanna Theiss
Rick Crandall & Joseph Cosgriff. The Dog Who Took Me Up A Mountain. How Emme The Australian Terrier Changed My Life When I needed it Most.
Read by Barry Abrams.
5 CDs. 6 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.


I have to say when I first started listening to this book, I didn't like narrator Barry Abrams; he sounded like he was just reading the book for the first time, not too much emotional input, just going forward. I guess I was "judging a book by its cover" so to speak, so I thought, let's start over and listen for a chapter or two; and I'm so glad I did. He reads as someone sharing to their friends around the dining room table; so with a new mindset I continued. That being said, I loved The Dog Who Took Me Up A Mountain. Listeners will love this story and all the fun and nail biting adventures that come along.

Rick Crandall, is an award winning,successful businessman in the tech industry. When the tech market bubble burst he had to find another way to take care of his family. All this occurred while living in New York and suffering from Seasonal affective disorder. At the age of 64 he wanted to move to get more sunshine in his life and find a new passion to help him bring fun and happiness back into his life. So to that end, he moved with his wife to Aspen, Colorado, where they decide to get an Australian terrier puppy and it's a fun ride from there: first meeting Emme, her time in the dog show circuit, through getting hooked on mountain climbing. The partners ran into problems with the high mountain elevations they wanted to hike, so they made the required changes in Rick's health care regime. After some scary moments while learning the ropes, they tackled the 14,000 ft mountain trails and built up a special trusting bond. Hiking with Rick and Emme was fun and I felt like I was walking those hills with them, along with the friends they met along the way, friends and family that joined in, including Rick's son, lending love and support to team Emme! I came to enjoy, Rick and Emme's love, trust and friendship! I think it would have been a nice addition to see maps of the hiking trails they took included in the package. A good listen for all!

Reviewed by Terry Cervantes
Glennon Doyle. Untamed.
Read by the author.
7 CDs. 8.5 hrs.
PenguinRandomHouse Audio. 2020.

Glennon Doyle has been around for some time, followed by millions of women around the world for raising money for women in need through her non-profit Together Rising and inspiring others. Her online community is Momastery. Her two previous books, Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior were best-sellers.

A few years ago she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her; she ended up divorcing him and marrying soccer player, Abby Wambach. In Untamed she illustrates many times in her life that caused her to be the person she is today, ever changing, ever evolving. She revisits specific events in her teen years when she was bulimic, depressed and endeavoring to be what she felt a girl and woman was "supposed" to be. She does not tell you how to be or how to change, she speaks only for herself.

I found the abrupt changes in each chapter from childhood, adulthood, her children, especially Tish, to be jarring. I was just settling into what she was saying about her son and cell phones when she jumps to seeing Abby for the first time. It felt very disconnected to me.

Glennon urges women to trust themselves, to trust their intuition, to accept themselves in order to feel empowered.

When an author reads their own work it feels like a privilege – who better to put inflections in the right place, surprise, anger, happiness? Glennon does an admirable narration, doing just this.

Reviewed by Katrina Yurenka
*Ramachandra Guha. Gandhi. The Years That Changed the World. 1914-1948.
Read by Derek Perkins.
29 CDs. 36 hrs.
HighBridge. 2018

This book is the sequel to Gandhi Before India.

Before he returned to his native land in 1915, Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gadhi studied law in London and then spent about 20 years in South Africa fighting for the civil rights of Indians, and developing the principle of "satyagraha," non-violent disobedience.

Gandhi was born and raised in a upper class Hindu family in coastal Gujarat in western India. But when he returned in January of 1915, he knew little of the land of his birth. He spent time touring the vastness of India, which was then under the control of the British Empire. He had four campaigns in mind: 1) to end British rule; 2) establish harmonious relations between Hindus and Muslims; 3) to end the practice of untouchability; 4) to develop India's economic and moral self-reliance.

He began by becoming the leader of the Congress Party, He engaged in politics, social reform, and self-improvement. He had married in South Africa and he and his wife Kasturba had four sons, but sadly his relationship with the boys was a contentious one. His wife, a well-born woman, joined her husband's ashram where she was to cook, weave cloth, and clean. Gandhi's attitude toward women was in the beginning a typical one for a patriarchical society, but changed somewhat over the years. He mourned Kasturba when she died in 1944 at the age of 74. He took a vow of celibacy and was obsessed with sex, considering it evil and a killer of souls.

The book is thoroughly researched and even includes previously unavailable writings by Gandhi. The history of India is complicated by world wars and infighting among Hindu leaders, not to mention continuing violence with Muslims. However, Gandhi was successful in getting more tolerance for the 15% of the population what was not allowed to draw water from public wells or attend church. He also had some success with making peace with his Muslim countrymen, which were eventually given Pakistan to live in. Ironically this attempt at harmony lead to Gandhi's assassination in 1948 at the hands of a Hindu fanatic who hated Muslims.

Gandhi's influence was world-wide. He was praised by African-Americans who embraced his non-violent protests. Today India has poverty but also free elections. Unfortunately, there is still prejudice and violence on both sides today. Just watch the news re the viral pandemic.

This massive work is narrated by Derek Perkins, originally from the UK, who became a professional narrator in 2012. He has since won many awards. He is an expert linguist, using a wide range of accents, including Indian. Both the book and its narration are highly recommended.

Reviewed by Janet Julian
*Catherine Hanley. Matilda. Empress. Queen. Warrior.
Read by Jennifer M. Dixon.
11 CDs. 13 hrs.
Tantor. 2019.


Matilda (1102-1167), a.k.a. Maud, was a role model for women of the 12th Century, and indeed for women today. The epitaph on her tomb reads, "Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring. Here lies the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry." Her son Henry II, first of the Angevin kings, inscribed this. Obviously women were deemed of lesser value then, so Matilda's story is important because it resonates with bravery, intelligence, and competence. As a direct descendant of William the Conqueror through her father Henry I (1068-1135) she should have been queen of England in her own right but her cousin Stephen of Blois (a male) took the throne and ruled from 1135 to 1154.

Her followers and Stephen of Blois's fought bitter wars for years. At one point she even captured and imprisoned him, but let him go.

In 1110 her father Henry I married her off, at age 8, to Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor. The marriage was not consummated until she was 12. She never saw her mother again. She was an empress in a foreign land, learning a foreign language and married to a 23-year-old man who was in charge of half of Europe. He wanted Matilda to become as German as possible so he dismissed all her English attendants. She was then crowned Queen Consort. At 16 she was left in charge of northern Italy and ruled in her husband's name.

Back home in England her mother dies. Her husband dies when she is 23 but declines offers of marriage from German nobles. She goes back to Normandy and gives up the empire. After a tragic ship wreck killed many of Henry's heirs, he names Matilda heir to the thrones of England and Normandy. However, she is a woman, so her father marries her off to Geoffrey of Anjou. She is now 25 and childless. Her new husband in only 13. She doesn't want the marriage but what choice does she have? She gives in and marries in 1128. Her new husband will make her a countess. She finally has a child at 31, a son named Henry.

Henry I dies and all hell breaks loose. Who will be king? Stephen of Blois, his nephew, takes over and is crowned king of England on December 22, 1135. War ensues, many die, castles change hands, church leaders argue. Matilda's position is weak. She isn't a knight and has no military experience. She is accepted by the bishops and is called "Empress, Queen of the Romans." But the bishops back out, she is nearly attacked by Londoners. So she is called queen briefly in 1141.

Meanwhile her son Henry, Duke of Normandy, marries Eleanor of Aquitaine and acquires vast lands in France. More battles and finally Stephen falls ill and dies in 1154. Henry becomes King of England and Matilda is now the mother of a king. He is a bit willful but she advises him.

Matilda had once ruled Italy for her husband, was loved in Germany as "the good Matilda," and now donates much of her wealth to the church. She finally dies on September 10, 1167 at age 65. Her son Henry weeps when hearing of her demise. She was by all accounts a remarkable woman, who has doomed to failure because of the patriarchal society she was born into.

Jennifer Dixon provides a brilliant narration. Both the book and the narrator are highly recommended.

Reviewed by Janet Julian
*Erik Larson. The Splendid and the Vile.
Read by John Lee.
Digital Download. 17 hours, 50 minutes.
Penguin Random House. 2020


The Splendid and the Vile focuses primarily on Churchill's day-to-day life during the period of the Blitz in England during World War II (September 1940 - May 1941). Despite the thousands of civilians killed and properties destroyed during these bombing air raids by the Germans, the British people managed to persevere and continue their daily lives.

We learn about the dramas behind the scenes, including that of his son Randolph, whose weak character leads to marital ruin. Churchill was forced to make many difficult decisions, which he was able to do with the help of his trusted advisors, plus his wife's strength keeping his hard-headedness in check. We also receive some insight into his relationship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the assistance that FDR fought to provide Great Britain. Larson delivers a meticulously researched history that is thoroughly engrossing and bound to keep listeners engaged.

Narrator John Lee is also a stage actor, playwright, and producer. The recipient of several Audie Awards, he is the perfect choice for this performance. He also has the unique ability to sound like Churchill when quoting his speeches! Lee's diction and pacing are exemplary. Recommend this to history lovers.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant
*James Loewen. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
Read by L. J. Ganser
Digital Download. 17.6 hours.
Recorded Books. 2019


During an extensive study of American history textbooks, author James Loewen discovered that they overwhelmingly espouse a Eurocentric point of view. Lies My Teacher Told Me shares the results of his survey, attempting to debunk some of the most glaring errors and outright lies. Much of this misinformation ignores or changes the stories to benefit white students. Loewen explains the various reasons for this, while urging students to think on a deeper level about what point of view they are hearing and to speak up when they discover the biases that are present.

This is the second edition of Loewen's popular title, with a new forward by the author, and a change in narrators. Loewen lets readers know that there will not be a third edition, and hopes that his book will continue to spur questions and critical evaluations of all textbooks students are taught from.

Narrator L. J. Ganser is an actor and voiceover artist who has recorded hundreds of audiobooks in numerous genres. His matter-of-fact reading of the text is engaging and his tone is on target. The performance is both illuminating and witty, which will keep the listener entertained and informed. Recommend this to history buffs who think they've had a well-rounded education about America's past.

Reviewed by Olivia Durant
*James Poniewozik. Audience of One. Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.
Read by Matthew Josdal.
9 CDs. 11.5 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.


Chief television critic of the New York Times James Poniewozik's Audience of One. Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America is a study of the impact of television on American society since the late 1940's. He also demonstrates how the history of Trump's personal and political life stages are securely chained to the development of television. Donald Trump was born in 1946 and his wealthy family had one of the first color TV's in the United States.

The author talks about television's impact on elections, beginning with the Nixon and Kennedy debates and how television reflects our understanding of national and natural events. Poniewozik thinks that Trump is a non-fiction embodiment of our Television and Reality-based beliefs where everything is a competition and where knowledge is not required and is often distorted. He points out that there is the other side of TV which reflects stories about families which set examples of real people who don't share Trump's beliefs or life style. He also analyzes news channels which only reflect one side or another of every issue and fake news. Is TV our God and Emperor which cannot be avoided? Yes, according to Poniewozik. The author says TV glorifies the best and the worst of our society.

Narrator Matthew Josdal is excellent. He speaks like a good TV narrator with dramatic emphasis as appropriate. There is no question that he is not a Trump fan and Trump would not be a fan of this book. He would change the channel a few pages in.

Reviewed by Nola Theiss
Kassia St. Clair. The Golden Thread. How Fabric Changed History.
Read by Helen Johns.
9 CDs. 11 hrs.
HighBridge Audio. 2018.


Journalist Kassia St. Clair provides a fascinating history of fiber and fabric from the 30,000 year-old thread found on the floor of a cave to the composition of clothing for astronauts and athletes; how linen, silk, lace, cotton, denim, down, gortex, synthetics, rayon, nylon and others were created and used down through the centuries and what the roles of women were and how they changed and evolved. A discussion of how fabric is treated in the Bible as well as its importance in the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves enlivens and enlightens this well-researched book. Included are word origins and the emergence of fashion as an industry, and a discussion of the trade routes (especially the silk road).

Helen Johns reads in a nice light clear voice that is easy to listen to. Her enthusiasm is contagious. However, despite her British birth and later years living in Canada there are several repeated mispronunciations that might cause confusion; for instance, she always pronounces Nike (the brand) as Nike (rhyming with bike) and it takes a while to figure out what she is referring to. Less frequent, though noticeable, is her mispronunciation of 'more' (meaning custom) to rhyme with bore, rather than the correct pronunciation as "moray". The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History is a must listen for the growing community of spinners, weavers, knitters and those who crochet, sewers, those in the fashion industry and any others with an interest in the subject.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
Eric K. Washington. Boss of the Grips. The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal.
Read by David Sadzin.
9 CDs. 10 hrs.
HighBridge. 2019.


Historian Eric K. Washington's Boss of The Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and The Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal fills an important gap in the history of the African-American experience from the late 19th to the mid 20th centuries. More general nonfiction than biography, the history of Red Capping in Grand Central Terminal under the auspices of James H. Williams (aka "the Chief") is a fascinating account of how this relatively unknown man did so much to advance the cause of young African Americans. Williams was intent on hiring young people who were college students in an effort to help with college expenses. Quite a few went to Ivy League schools and under Williams' guidance his hires (college students or not) numbered 500. He became an influential figure in the community and was famous for "rallying his Red Cap porters to support 'racial uplift' causes". These included forming athletic teams; an orchestra, band and chorus; a contract bridge group; as well as sponsoring war bond drives during World War 1 among other good works.

The historic milieu within which Williams' activities took place correspond to the rise of Black culture in Harlem and is meticulously described by the author. Washington brings the same care to describing the lives of African Americans in NYC during the period. Being a Red Cap provided a leg up to better jobs such as doctors, lawyers, policemen and firemen.

David Sadzin is a good narrator and is well suited to read this book. He maintains the listeners' interest throughout. His pace is a bit too fast and not as smooth as it could have been, but as the book is so interesting and important the narrator can be forgiven these slight flaws considering the amount of information and the hundreds of unfamiliar names that the listener must absorb. This enlightening and informative book should find a large audience.

Reviewed by Susan Rosenzweig
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