Audiobook Review: How the Light Gets In


Ms. Penny has truly blessed us with her masterpiece in How The Light Gets In. And that should sum it all up right there – honestly, this was an incredible read. However, you cannot “start” reading these Inspector Gamache series with this one. This one is so deep into the past story of Gamache and his right-hand man, Beauvoir that starting the series here would not allow you the full appreciation of their story and of this instalment in the series. But, I get away from my gushing about this instalment in the Inspector Gamache series. Not only does this one receive my enthusiastic accolades for the story, but again, for the incredible and amazing narration of it by Ralph Cosham. He has taken the beautiful and poetic prose of Ms. Penny and brought it to such life you feel as though you are watching it unfold on the big screen.

On the cover of the audiobook case are these words of absolute truth and wisdom “Not enough praise can be accorded Ralph Cosham, who has served as the reader for all the audiobooks in this series. His voice is simply magnificent.” – Star-Ledger (but said about The Beautiful Mystery).

Ralph Cosham is pure genius in his narration. He IS Chief Inspector Gamache and he continues to share his gift by bringing to life all the personalities involved, not just Gamache. He will leave you laughing and crying and revelling in his expertise. Indeed, there is one highly charged and emotional moment between Gamache and Beauvoir where I had tears streaming down my face (and I hide no shame in sharing that!). Part of this story takes us back to the community of Three Pines and we are blessedly graced with the presence of Ruth, the acerbic and drunken old poet. Oh how Cosham can read Ruth! He’s even given Ruth’s pet duck an incredible and hilarious voice! He’s embodied the caustic voice of Ruth into the duck’s quack. It’s brilliant.

However, in order to narrate this story, it had to be created by Louise Penny. And wow, is this one fantastic. I absolutely loved, loved, loved how she weaved events that are significant in Canadian folklore into an expert whodunit. I was completely giddy when she started to spin a tale that gave us a fictitious Dionne quintuplet story, as well as the intricate care she took to shine light on an issue between police brutality and cruelty in the Native communities. She also tackles the corruption of the construction industry in Montreal. All of this is woven so seamlessly into this incredible story that also still leaves you guessing to the end.

Not only is the above storyline fantastic, she also continues to shape, mold, and give loving attention to her characters. Three Pines remains a place I want to run to, hide away and just sit and spend my time in. I want to sit in the bookstore or café and have a conversation with Gamache and the friends in Three Pines. In How the Light Gets In, we continue to discover the tortured and fractured relationship between Gamache and Beauvoir. We are also left breathlessly wondering if this will mark the end of Gamache’s career. Is the corruption he is becoming so painfully close to unveiling going to mark the end of Gamache himself? It is an edge-of-your-seat mystery all the way along.

It was an audiobook/novel I never wanted to hear end. 5 glowing stars. I’m certain this will be a story I read again in the future. I just want to wrap my arms around it once more and never let it go.

And, many thanks to Audiobook Jukebox and MacMillan Audio for the pleasure of the audiobook. This was read for the Solid Gold Reviewers program.

Here’s a fantastically worded synopsis, taken from Goodreads:

The stunning, ingenious and sinister new novel in the internationally bestselling Inspector Gamache series.


As a fierce, unrelenting winter grips Quebec, shadows are closing in on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department and hostile forces are lining up against him.


When Gamache receives a message about a mysterious case in Three Pines, he is compelled to investigate — a woman who was once one of the most famous people in the world has vanished.


As he begins to shed light on the investigation, he is drawn into a web of murder, lies and unimaginable corruption at the heart of the city. Facing his most challenging, and personal, case to date, can Gamache save the reputation of the Sûreté, those he holds dear and himself?

Evocative, gripping and atmospheric, this magnificent work of crime fiction from international bestselling author Louise Penny will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Audiobook Review: Life After Life

lifeI have a prediction.  That prediction is that Life After Life will be my favorite novel of 2013.

Yes, this novel is that good.  And don’t get me started on why this title was not nominated for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. That’s a complete mystery, especially considering the fact that I read several of this year’s nominees.  This novel was more deserving of the nomination than a few of the riddles that I encountered on the Booker list.  But I digress; it’s time for me to pen an ode to this magnificent work by Kate Atkinson.

Life After Life follows the lives (yes, lives) of Ursula Todd.  First born in 1910, she succumbs to a very early death, and darkness falls.  Immediately following, she’s born again.  She lives a little longer.  Darkness falls.  She’s born again…. lives a little longer… I think you get the idea.  Believe me, however, when I say that I’m oversimplifying the meaning behind the plot. This novel gave my soul an affectionate squeeze.  I adored every poignant word, and cannot overstate the impact that this book offers, if you open yourself to its message.

With each gift of life, Ursula becomes just a little wiser.  Just a little more worldly.  Just a little more aware.  She can’t shake the feeling that she’s been here before.  She can’t understand why there are moments when something evil seems to be patiently lurking around a corner, causing her to inexplicably take a different route.  The choices she makes affect her life in ways that she can’t even begin to fathom. As her wisdom grows, so too does her longevity.  So too, does her overall purpose.  Her lives eventually culminate into a breathless crescendo; one that left me both exhilarated and exhausted.  I also wanted to start all over again.  I now miss the characters terribly.

If I were to share more about the twists and turns of this novel, then I would be denying you the pleasure of discovery.  I cannot share how Ursula’s choices change her.  I cannot hint at how, after repeated attempts, Ursula is able to see true colors, defend herself, love the right people, and save lives.  To be given the opportunity to live over and over until you get it right…. is that a blessing, or a curse?  If you were given the chance to do everything again, what would you change?  How would your personality grow?  Would you stray from the beaten path, not knowing what was ahead?

This book brushes up against glimpses of the afterlife.  It touches on a form of reincarnation that will lead you to believe in extraordinary cases of cause and effect.  What kept popping into my mind was the Butterfly Effect chaos theory, which purports that a small change in one place can cause significant differences in a later state.  For me, that was Life After Life.  One tiny change was all it took to shape an entire life.  One seemingly minute alteration had the astounding power to affect happiness, social status, and purpose.  What could such hindsight do for history?  My guess is that it would do marvels, if in fact people were willing to learn from the mistakes of the past.  This brilliant book will haunt me for a long time, but in a very good way.

This audiobook was narrated by Fenella Woolgar, and after about 3 minutes of listening, I fully understood why they chose her for the novel.  I quickly became just as immersed in her voice as I was in the story. She embodied each character perfectly.  With tones of silk, Woolgar breathed life into every crevice of the story.  I do hope that I have the opportunity to hear her narrate again soon. She was truly remarkable.

Needless to say, I’m giving 5 heartfelt stars to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.  Please get your copy today.  I promise that you will not be disappointed, because you never know if that stubborn “been here before” feeling is déjà vu… or wisdom.

Book Review: Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment

17739465Rating: 5
Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment
By Paul Conroy  
Weinstein Books 2013 /320 pages

It’s only been a few short hours since I’ve closed the pages of Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment by Paul Conroy. I’m truly at a loss for words. I am not at a loss however for emotion or deep pensive thoughts. Which is what I have been doing since reading the final lines of this remarkable book.  It’s certainly a book that I’m so glad to have accepted from Paul’s publicist. I also cannot stop looking at the cover photo and feeling a tremendous sense of loss and sadness. Journalism certainly lost a remarkable woman and an incredible champion to bringing to the world’s attention to the plight of every person suffering within their war-ravaged countries.

Marie Colvin’s drive and determination to enter into some of the most horrific and deadliest countries being gutted and destroyed by war had nothing to do with seeking adventure or being an adrenalin junkie. The true reason Marie Colvin risked her life, and ultimately gave her life, was to bring our attention and awareness to the everyday person’s struggle to survive while their country was being torn apart, usually by some maniacal leader. They would consistently slip “under the wire” and secretly in to these countries, and It was in this final assignment in Syria that Paul writes about, doing exactly just that, where Marie lost her life.

In Paul’s words:

“This is what it was all about for her – reporting on the ordinary people caught up in war. Much is written about journalists being war junkies or adrenalin addicts. I would challenge anyone in the world to accuse Marie of being one of these. Yes, she would jump borders and risk life and limb, but only ever for the story; for the very people we were now about to visit. She had little time for people who accused foreign correspondents and photographers of being dysfunctional thrill-seekers.”

Paul Conroy has written a remarkable tribute to her, their friendship and her incredible courageousness. He has done so with amazing attention to detail and a fierce command of language. It is also written with humour but incredibly as well, with a sense of non-stop, on-the -edge-of-your seat anticipation and anxiousness. You feel as though you are actually there, by their sides, as they dodge bullets, brace against the impact of non-stop mortar shelling and the crippling fear and desperation to arrive safely across a border, to a safe-house or into an area where they can release these horrifying images and stories of the young children, babies and women and men suffering while trying to survive in countries that are living through war and crippling devastation every single day.

There was a speech Marie Colvin gave at St Brides on Fleet Street, that Paul writes about (included below), again giving importance to the work that war correspondents are doing. You can also read her full speech on the site dedicated to Marie here and at

“In a famous speech she had given at St. Brides on Fleet Street, a church traditionally associated with journalists, a few years earlier, she argued passionately for the need to send reporters to dangerous places. She believed war reporting was a way of speaking truth to power, of holding governments to account by telling the public what their governments were doing in their name. For her, war reporting was about bearing witness to the plight of ordinary civilians so that she could record it for the world and reveal the brutal consequences of decisions taken by men in high places. It sounds grand, but she believed that without war correspondents governments could conduct themselves as if in a vacuum: their lies and propaganda could be conveyed without challenge, allowing them to carry out atrocities far from the prying eyes of the world. In her words, it was about sending back the first rough draft of history and cutting through the sandstorm of propaganda that flares when armies, tribes or terrorists clash.”

Under the Wire is an emotionally crippling yet wild adventure-ride of a story. But it is also an essential one that requires wide readership. You can assure yourself however that you are reading a great, great story at the hands of a very accomplished writer. Conroy’s command of the language is stunning. And while he is writing of his great respect and love for a great friend and accomplished journalist, you are also reading about an incredibly courageous Paul Conroy. I could not begin to imagine doing this on a frequent basis, but he’ll just pass it off saying he can’t imagine the trouble he would get in to if he held down a “real job”. Please read Under the Wire, and at the same time give pause and consideration not only to the incredible and remarkable job these war correspondents take on in order to ensure the world does not ignore what is happening to others less privileged than we are, but also to what these people themselves are suffering and enduring. As Conroy wrote at the very end of this book, at the time of his writing, no nation had yet stepped in to help the people of Syria.

5 stars for this incredible story.

From the publisher: Zero Dark Thirty meets 127 Hours – Under the Wire is a riveting war journal from photographer Paul Conroy, who accompanied Marie Colvin (called by her peers “the greatest war correspondent of her generation”) during her ill-fated final assignment in Syria.

Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Last Assignment (Weinstein Books; Hardcover; 320 pages; October 8, 2013) is by photographer Paul Conroy. A former soldier with the Royal Artillery, Conroy has worked extensively in combat zones, producing footage from conflicts in the Balkans, the Middle East and Libya.

Marie Colvin, the internationally recognized American foreign-war correspondent who was killed in a rocket attack in 2012 while reporting on the suffering of civilians inside Syria, was renowned for her flair and her fearlessness: she reported from dangerous places no other hard-core correspondent would dare to go. Conroy, who had forged a close bond with Colvin as they put their lives on the line time and lime again to report from the world’s conflict zones, was with her when she died. Under the Wire is Paul’s gripping, visceral, and moving account of their friendship and the final year he spent alongside her.

Audiobook Review & 2013 Man Booker Shortlisted: A Tale for the Time Being

15811545Rating: 5
A Tale for the Time Being
A Novel by Ruth Ozeki
Audiobook Narrated by Ruth Ozeki 2013 /14 hours and 45 minutes

My first ever 5-star Man Booker nominated book!  A Tale for the Time Being (audiobook) was absolutely fantastic. Stunning. Remarkable. Most assuredly one of the best audiobooks and stories I’ve read this year. I was completely and utterly invested in this story, in the characters and in the tremendous creativity and ingenuity of this multi-layered tale.

The audio narration of this ingenious story is something that I cannot simply explain to you how amazing it was. To hear Ozeki breath the life and soul in to each and every one of her characters as she intended the reader to understand them, was an incredible listening pleasure. Each voice was distinct and I found myself arriving at work late every day so I wouldn’t have to stop the audio, I found myself driving an extra 20 minutes on the commute home, I even took to leaving for lunch to just drive around and hold on here…. at one point I even strapped on the running shoes to go for a run (!!) all just so I did not have to end my time spent with Nao and Ruth, and Old Jico, Oliver and Haruki #1, the inhabitants of the island where Ruth & Oliver lived, etc. That my friends is sound and genuine proof that A Tale for the Time Being is a stellar 5-star read.

While I was initially shocked to see this not make the Giller Prize Longlist this year, I believe I now understand the judges point of view, or supposed point of view – it has already been Longlisted and Shortlisted (and fingers crossed the winner) of the Man Booker Prize and perhaps hoping to not see a repeat of a “Hilary Mantel” occurrence where everyone is shut out as she takes home every single literary prize, such as what occurred last year. Although, the judging panel for the Gillers’ this year described their Longlist choices:

“These are essential stories. Each of these novels and story collections offer a glimpse of who we are, who we might be. Whether set in postwar  Vienna, or 1970s Montreal, contemporary Afghanistan or Newfoundland, each of  these books took us out of ourselves to places that were at times  uncomfortable, at times exhilarating.”

I believe A Tale for the Time Being wonderfully and undeniably achieves this as well, but do seem to understand the decision to allow other and deserving authors their chance to shine.

A Tale for the Time Being encompasses an extraordinary myriad of topics, and initially you are left to wonder if it would be an enjoyable read, or if it would be overly ambitious and leave the reader confused and lost . But no, Ozeki has brilliantly inter-weaved quantum physics, time, longing, bullying, suicide, prostitution, depression, environmental art and environmental destruction, connection, globalization (among others) with astonishingly original stories. In one book all of this incorporated in to two diaries, letters, emails, unfinished memoirs and recounts the lives of a multitude of characters struggling with, at times, very connected and similar feelings. It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking. And I honestly shed a tear when my time with Ruth & Oliver and Nao & Jico & Haruki #1 came to an end.

Many times throughout the story, the “Jungle Crow”, which is native to Japan, is featured throughout each of Ruth’s chapters. I could not shake the feeling that this particular jungle crow inhabiting Ruth’s island, as she was reading and piecing together the story of this 16-year-old Japanese girl, was actually Nao visiting/protecting/watching Ruth. After finishing, I took the time to look up the jungle crow and came across this fascinating blog about the crow and its meaning in Japanese culture. According to this blog, the crow has a cultural significance of being a protector.

The crow also makes up a part of one of the mythological creatures found in Japanese Shintoism and Buddhism, the Crow Tengu…Tengu protect the Dharma, or Buddhist law against transgressors of the Dharma…Tengu have a variety of supernatural powers that they use to play these tricks on people including:  shape-shifting to human or animal forms, speaking without moving their mouths, moving instantly from place to place and being able to invade people’s dreams.


With my every wish, I want A Tale for the Time Being to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize. After completing and posting my initial (gushing love) thoughts about it (and tweeting my love to Ms. Ozeki) I’ve discovered, based on feedback received, that I am so not alone in this wish.