Janna Wong Healy

Los Angeles, CA
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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-18

Dreary and Predictable

In a word: meh. I wanted to like this mystery but the best part of it was Richard Armitage's narration. I found the story to be sometimes diverting but mostly, it was dreary and predictable. I was not surprised by any of the twists or turns and the writing was pedestrian and lacking in insight.

Most importantly, I never got a chance to know the two detectives -- they went through their paces and did a good job of uncovering the crimes but without any hint at their personalities or knowledge of their private lives, there was no sense of satisfaction when they solved the crimes successfully.

Richard Armitage is, as usual, phenomenal. He is such a wonderful narrator. I would listen to him read the phone book. Really.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18


After listening to Magpie Murders and loving it, I wasn't sure any book by Anthony Horowitz could be better. I was so wrong. This one is wonderful -- a creative and fun mystery that is at once meta and mind-bending and curious and suspenseful...all the elements of a mystery story that are important to the reader.

You're pulled in right away when a woman walks into a funeral home to plan her own funeral and it moves apace from the first word to the last page. I loved how the author puts himself in the story as a character who has been approached about writing the biography of a cranky but brilliant police detective. It might sound like an egotistical mechanism but Horowitz peppers his novel with a humor that is self-effacing and wry. As the two wander around London, we get to know them both in addition to watching them solve the murder. In addition, and importantly, the ending is not at all predictable, which is the best part of any mystery, isn't it?

The narration by Rory Kinnear is phenomenal. He's got a great voice that is easy to listen to and easy to understand. And he does a great job with the various characters.

I highly recommend this novel. It's a fantastic listen.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-09-18

I Wanted to Like It...

This is, plain a simple, a ghost story. It is nicely told (even if it feels a tad overstuffed with minutiae at times) and ends as you'd expect it to (which feels a bit unsatisfying).

I wanted to like it more than I did. But, the story of the Ayres family (mother, daughter Caroline and brother Roderick) and how their haunted lives intersect with the local physician, Dr. Faraday, is predictable as there really is nowhere to go with this genre of story.

Simon Vance is, as usual, an excellent narrator. But, ultimately, the story left me cold.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-09-18

What Took Me So Long to Discover Brideshead?

I was not alive in 1945, when Evelyn Waugh’s highly revered and most famous novel was published. As an English major in college, I had heard about this thoughtful, beautifully written story of friendship, love and religion…yet didn’t read it. I realize now that I was foolish for not investigating this book sooner. But, I have redeemed myself. I just finished reading the novel (or, to be precise, I listened to the lovely voice of Jeremy Irons as he read it to me) and I am better for the experience. I urge you to explore and enjoy Mr. Waugh’s enduring story.

By now, most people know the basic story of Brideshead -- how Captain Charles Ryder, in the waning days of WWII, is sent with his troops to bivouac at Brideshead Castle, a place he knows well. Being there brings back memories of his youth when, in 1923 and a freshman at Oxford, he meets Lord Sebastian Flyte and the two become fast friends. Charles' coming-of-age story begins with this friendship (which ultimately disintegrates over Sebastian's alcoholism) and moves on to the love affair he has with Sebastian's sister Julia and the ultimate demise of it due to her inability to divorce herself from Catholicism.

There are few books published today that delve so deeply into character and plot development and Mr. Waugh’s prose is beautiful. (Charles: “I could tell him, too, that to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.”) Alternately, the audiobook narrated by Jeremy Irons is a fantastic option for readers. I found myself wanting to get into my car and drive anywhere just so I could continue listening to the story. Towards the end of the novel, I did what I normally don’t do: I listened to the book while I was wandering around my house doing simple chores because I found I could not put it down. Jeremy Irons' narration is nothing short of sublime.

No matter your option, Brideshead Revisited is a wonderful investment in your time and you will learn not only about aristocratic life of 1920s England, but you’ll love exploring the friendship between Charles and Sebastian, the romance between Charles and Julia and how religion can impact families, friendships and loves. It took me way too long to discover this story but now that I have, it will stay with me for the rest of my days.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-27-18

Lightweight but Fun and Engaging, Too!

4.5. I didn't think a mash-up of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen would work...but it does in Amy Snow, the story of an infant abandoned on the property of the wealthy Vennaway estate who is discovered by and then becomes the beloved companion of the Vennaway's daughter Aurelia.

The two, eight years apart in age, grow up together, despite the vehement protestations of Aurelia's parents. When Aurelia is stricken with a serious illness that kills her, Aurelia's parents can't wait to throw Amy out of their home. But, Aurelia knew this would happen so, before she dies, she sets up a complex plan to engage Amy in a treasure hunt that will lead her to what Aurelia feels is her rightful inheritance. Along the way, Amy matures, falls in, out and back in love and ultimately uncovers the secrets that Aurelia had kept close to her heart.

This is lightweight reading, to be sure, but it is engaging and fun, too. I was fully entranced by Amy's adventures choreographed by Aurelia.

The narration by Melody Grove was great -- easy to listen to, easy to understand.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-01-18

Josephine Tey: Where Have You Been All My Life?

After listening to Brat Farrar (which I absolutely loved), I decided to move on to another Josephine Tey book and picked The Franchise Affair. To be honest, I was curious about how this was going to become a full-fledged novel: the story of a young girl who accuses a matriarch and her grown daughter of kidnapping and abusive behavior can't possibly be enough for an entire novel, could it?

Oh, yes, it could! And a thrilling one, too, as Robert Blair, their reluctant attorney who becomes chief investigator and protector, goes about in search of clues to negate the girl's story.

The narration by Carole Boyd is superb -- she is easy to understand and gets the voices just right.

This is an engrossing mystery, with plenty of twists and turns. I enjoyed it!

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-01-18

Not for Me

Full disclosure: horror is not really my genre so I probably was not going to fall in love with this collection of short stories based on children's fairy tales but retold with a feminist bent. Mostly, I found them uneven -- there were some I loved ("The Bloody Chamber, "Puss-in-Boots," "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon") but others ("The Snow Child," "The Werewolf") left me cold.

I was enticed to listen by the promise of another great performance by Richard Armitage, who is a favorite narrator. And, he did not disappoint: his narration of "Puss-in-Boots" is truly wonderful. In addition, Emilia Fox's narration of the opening story, "The Bloody Chamber," is also excellent. But I couldn't wait until I finished these stories.

The book just wasn't for me.

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-24-18


I didn't know what to make of this book when I began reading it. I wasn't wild about Eve and I was less enthralled by Charlotte, neither of whom are completely endearing characters. However, I stuck with it and was so happy I did.

What an engaging and dramatic story, told in a twofold plot -- Eve's story and Charlie's story -- beginning during World War I and ending after World War II. We learn how Eve was recruited into the real-life female spy network known as The Alice Network and how, as a young girl with a stutter, she manages to get a job in a cafe populated by German officers who have taken over the small French village. As she serves these horrible men, she learns their secrets and shares them with The Alice Network until the horrible moment when two of the women are caught by the Nazis and Eve herself is found out suffers greatly for her participation in this spy network.

Meanwhile, in 1947, Charlie is on the search for her cousin Rose who was lost somewhere in France during WWII. She is brought to Eve's doorstep by information provided to her by the British War Office and the two, plus Eve's driver, a Scot named Finn (who has secrets of his own), set off on an adventure to: 1) find Rose; 2) allow Eve to gain revenge on her torturous enemy.

The author manages to include a love affair, which seems a bit out of place, although I was happy for the distraction.

The narration by Saskia Maarleveld is absolutely superb. She is clear and understandable and she distinguishes the three main characters and the host of other smaller characters extremely well. Her performance truly enhanced the listening experience.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-06-18


I love this book! It offers everything that makes for good reading: engaging characters, a fast-moving plot, several branches of stories involving those engaging characters and it touches on a variety of emotions -- dramatic, humorous and romantic. And it's all set in a small English village against the backdrop of World War II.

Even if you despise one character (Brig. Gen. Winthrop, for example), it's not long before you move onto a story that you love (Mrs. Tilling and her gentle way of dealing with traumatic situations). Ultimately, you fall in love with all the characters, young and old, and you can't help but be touched by the way the Chilbury Ladies' Choir affects them all.

The narrators were all wonderful, every single one of them! Each actor was perfect for his/her part and this added immensely to the book's overall appeal

This is a charming piece and I'm awfully glad I found it.

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-13-18

Engaging and Likable Mystery

I enjoyed this book immensely. This is a story of the Ashby family which has been beset by tragedy. The parents are killed while traveling, leaving their twin sons Patrick and Simon, twin daughters Jane and Ruth and a third daughter Eleanor in the charge of their Aunt Beatrice. When the boys turn 21, the older of the two, Patrick, is to inherit the family estate. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes before that happens: as a teenager, Patrick leaves a suicide note and jumps off a cliff to his death.

Meanwhile, a young orphan named Bartholomew leaves his orphanage when he grows to manhood and wanders the world, landing back in London. "Brat" Farrar is spotted in town by a cunning actor, Alex, who was a childhood friend of the Ashby boys. When he sees Brat, he mistakes him for Simon...and then the story really takes off. Alex cajoles Brat into impersonating Patrick, who will claim he never died. In exchange for Alex coaching Brat into a perfect impersonation of Patrick and therefore inheriting the estate, Brat is to send money every month to Alex.

When Brat arrives at the Ashby home, everyone in the family believes that their brother has returned...everyone, that is, except for Simon. And then the plot thickens...!

This book is filed with mystery and suspense. And while I was able to predict the ending, it didn't lessen the enjoyment I had in listening to it. It's well-written and moves at a fast clip. It's a very engaging little mystery featuring intriguing characters.

The narrator is fantastic (although she sometimes quiets down at the end of sentences, which made listening to it in the car a little more challenging). But, I enjoyed her narration of this novel very much.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful