The Bad Seed by William March – Read by Elizabeth Wiley (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

Rhoda Penmark is not your ordinary little girl, and her mother, Christine, senses that something is off about her child. There’s a cold, calculating way about Rhoda that makes her mother uneasy and hesitant to confront her innermost fears regarding her daughter. Others are troubled by Rhoda’s odd behavior and shy away from her. Even the devious, troublemaking maintenance worker, LeRoy Jessup, senses that there’s something amiss about Rhoda. When he catches her alone he taunts her and lets her know he’s got her all figured out. Does he? But then there’s Christine’s wise and intelligent neighbor, Monica Breedlove, who’s intimately acquainted with Rhoda and adores the child. Who’s assessment about little Rhoda stands true? After all, she can be quite sweet with those whom she likes. But it’s quite different when the reverse is true, or if you have something she wants.

I loved listening to this book!! It took me back to the 1956 film of the same name starring Patty McCormack as young Sociopath, Rhoda Penmark. The book was written in 1954, and it was excellent!! Slightly different from the movie version and a bit more detailed. The author is a highly proficient writer and I was frequently caught up by his expressions and viewpoints on various topics and subject matter. Although Rhoda’s behavior factors prominently in the story, this book is not about a child’s murderous rampage. It was written in 1954 after all. It equally focuses on Rhoda’s mother and how she handles the truth about who her daughter really is.

This book was excellent and I highly recommend it. The audio narrator, Elizabeth Wiley, did an INCREDIBLE job portraying each character—both male and female. Her portrayal of Rhoda was so similar to how the young girl sounded in the movie I was enthralled. Fantastic job!

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of The Bad Seed. All opinions about it are honest and entirely my own.

Have a great day everyone!! 🦋

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The Twin Test by Rula Sinara – (To Kenya, with Love series – book 5)

💚💚💚💚💚 – 5 hearts

Dax Calder is in over his head. He’s taken a job in Kenya, far from the U.S., where he lives with his eleven-year-old identical twin girls, Ivy and Fern. While in Kenya, Dax is desperate to find someone to look after his girls while he works on a new project for the oil company that’s employed him. Upon observing a young, attractive woman, Pippa Harper, patiently giving a tour to six children, he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. He’ll pay her an inflated wage if she’ll watch his girls until he can find a nanny to replace the one who just quit. Did I mention she is nanny number seven (or eight)? Pippa is no fool. The money will help her to expand and accelerate the education program she provides to village children who wouldn’t otherwise be given an opportunity to learn how to read. But these twin girls are no ray of sunshine in the behavior category. They’re starving for attention, as Pippa will soon learn.

Having grown up in Kenya with her mom on the Busara Elephant Research and Rescue Camp, Pippa’s all about preservation and environmental conservation and all that. Meanwhile, Dax is selling his soul by abandoning his true love of researching seismic activity in exchange for the large paycheck he’ll receive developing subterranean maps so that the oil company can drill or frack in Kenya’s wilderness, which could stir up earthquakes. Dax is cautiously withholding that information from Pippa, but his heart is another matter. What will she think of him if she finds out who he’s working for and what he’s doing? Can feelings supersede principles?

I loved this book!! Rula Sinara is an amazing storyteller who knows how to develop a convincing love story. The evolution of Dax and Pippa’s relationship was so beautifully orchestrated. Ms. Sinara is also very good at educating us about foreign affairs and unfamiliar cultures. I am always enlightened and fulfilled by her stories.

There is only one book left in this series beyond The Twin Test, and I will be so sad to see it end. The first book in the series, The Promise of Rain, was the first Harlequin Heartwarming book I ever read and I haven’t looked back since.

I highly recommend this book, and the entire series. I look forward to the sixth and final book, The Marine’s Return.

Have a great week everyone!! And thanks for reading. ☺️

The Child Next Door by Shalini Boland – (Audiobook)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Kirsty Rawlings is beside herself with fear. She overheard something on her child’s baby monitor that horrified her. She summons the police and informs her husband of her suspicions. But her fears seem unfounded.

Kirsty is feeling a bit insecure. After their baby, Daisy, came along, her relationship with her husband, Dominic, has become mostly platonic and less romantic. Money is tight, and her nerves are on edge after a mess of strange, unexplained occurrences have happened. Paranoia grips her. She’s always harried and suspicious of everyone around her. Neighbors regard her cautiously. Do they think she’s crazy? Is somebody trying to take her baby? Is her husband involved with someone else? Has her best friend betrayed her? Is she delusional?

This book!! I have to admit that when I first started it I thought it was going to be just another predictable psychological thriller. I was wrong. I did not anticipate the twists and turns that left my mouth agape and my mind whirling. And that epilogue!!

This was my first Shalini Boland book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I purchased this audiobook from Audible. The narrator, Katie Villa, was excellent and contributed to my enjoyment of the book. Recommended.

Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely – (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

When four of her employers go out of town without informing her, or paying her, sassy domestic worker, Blanche White, is forced to write a few bad checks that land her in hot water. She might be headed off to prison. Fortunately, a commotion surrounding an unfortunate event involving the county commissioner enables Blanche to make her escape from the courthouse without notice. What will she do? Where will she go? She finds herself in the home of a wealthy family, disguised as a former worker. Blanche figures she can make some money in the meantime before she’s found out and then move on with her life. But she’s chosen the wrong house to get lost in. Things are not what they appear to be in the household. So when two murders happen within her short stay at this hideout home, Blanche will need her quick wits to get away safe, and to uncover who did away with her newfound friend.

This book immediately drew me in. It was creative right from the start, which hooked me. And then Blanche’s personality, which mimicked some women I’ve encountered in real life and in the movies, entertained me. How can I explain her character? 🤔 It was a little like a mix of Octavia Spencer’s character, Minnie, from The Help, and Madea from one of Tyler Perry’s movies. One of my favorite characters was Mumsfield, a mentally challenged man with a big heart, a love of cars, and an instant attachment to and wholesome affection for Blanche. Mumsfield, although autistic, was very keen in many ways, and there was just so much to love about him.

I would not characterize this book as a cozy mystery because it contains some mature themes and serious subject matter; material that’s best suited for adult readers. It was not the comedic mystery that I thought it would be based on the cover. The setting was the Deep South, and if you are particularly sensitive about outspokenness regarding racial inequalities and prejudice, I’d think twice before picking up this one. Blanche can be a bit salty with her tongue, and other characters are not shy about expressing their feelings about minorities and using condescension in their tones. Nonetheless, the mystery aspect was top-notch, and I was both impressed and surprised by the outcome.

The audible narrator’s performance given by Lisa Reneé Pitts was OUTSTANDING!! She imitates male and female voices, dialects and accents with ease. As the villain, her maniacal laugh was priceless. I look forward to listening to other books she’s narrated.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary audio download of Blanche on the Lam. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Worth the Risk (Pine Valley novel – book 1) – by Heather B. Moore (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

He broke her heart back then, will he be worth the risk ten years later?

Alicia didn’t want to see Jeff ever again after he took her to the senior prom, ditched her there, and took up with some other girl he thought he liked. Alicia was crushed. They were best friends. They confided in each other about everything. How could he do that to her?

It’s ten years later and Alicia and Jeff run into each other. He’s never forgiven himself for doing her wrong so many years ago. Alicia’s reluctant to give him a chance to make it up to her. She’s already got her hands full trying to care for her mom who’s a hoarder with serious mental health issues. Alicia’s made tremendous sacrifices and difficult decisions to deal with that situation. Does she want to possibly bring more heartache into her already complicated life?

I love a good knight-in-shining-armor-like story. 😃 Jeff was a jerk to Alicia back when they were in High School when he left her at their prom, and he knows it. She’s always been the girl he’s cared deeply for. His superficial, brief relationships since then are a testament to that. But now he’s been given a chance to make things right between them. How he goes about doing that is sweet and endearing and made for a tender love story that warmed my heart.

The audio narrator, Ann Marie Gideon, did an excellent job portraying Alicia and the other characters. She helped me to feel connected to the story.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Worth the Risk. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

The Dough Must Go On: (Oxford Tearoom Mystery – Book 9) by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Gemma Rose gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a wealthy talent show creator, Monty Gibbs, chooses her Little Stables Tearoom to provide the daily catering for his show, From Pleb to Celeb.

A menagerie of contestants ranging from the talented to the eccentric, eager to get their chance at fame, are practicing their talents in preparation for their big chance at winning the show.

Gemma isn’t too keen on the show’s creator. She’s figured out that behind his magnanimous facade is an ambitious businessman more interested in sensationalism than the welfare of his contestants. He’s even resorted to embellishing their backgrounds and exploiting them for the benefit of ratings. And although some may have checkered pasts, Gemma is adamant that it’s no reason to take advantage of them. So when one of the contestants is found dead behind the stage, Gemma wonders just how far Monty Gibbs might go to advance his show. Or might there be some other killer lurking amongst them?

H.Y. Hanna has done it again. I was thoroughly entertained by The Dough Must Go On. The “old biddies” characters are always comical….

“The police are as effective as a chocolate teapot.”— Old Biddies

One of the highlights of this series is revisiting some of my favorite characters. Gemma’s geeky friend, Seth, always teaches some interesting scientific fact or lesson that enlightens me. And Gemma’s uppity but harmless, sweet mother is a great character whose appearance in the books always makes me happy. These Oxford Tearoom Mysteries never fail to provide a hilarious scene or three, and I can count on a great mystery and a top-notch narrating performance from the inimitable Pearl Hewitt. The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series.

Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for a complimentary download of The Dough Must Go On. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

I have to admit, I thought it might seem odd listening to the memoir of someone so young, but after hearing what Trevor Noah had to say I concluded that he’s lived a more colourful and hazardous life than many people twice his age.

Trevor Noah is fortunate to be alive to tell his story. He talks of growing up in South Africa as a “coloured” child (a child of mixed race) during Apartheid and its aftermath, with a mother who was determined to defy the government that sought to oppress her. He was somewhat of a menace and juvenile delinquent during the impressionable years, and narrowly escaped his abusive step-father who almost killed his family.

Trevor spoke a lot about his mother, Patricia. She is an incredible woman, strong and determined, who surmounted many formidable obstacles including poverty, racism and abuse, and yet still managed to teach Trevor many valuable lessons that no doubt shaped him into the highly intelligent and talented individual he is today. She didn’t stifle his exposure to grander things in life, but rather she expanded his world by teaching him and showing him that he could achieve a better life than she’d had.

I was impressed to learn that Trevor Noah speaks several African languages, including Afrikaans. Knowing English, as well as these other languages, was of great benefit to him in many ways in South Africa. If you want to know how, you’ll have to listen for yourself. 😉

Trevor’s transparency in sharing details about so many aspects of his life endeared me to his story. I see where he gets some of the material for his comedy shows.

I didn’t know much, if anything, about Trevor Noah before “reading” this book, but after having listened to him tell his story I have developed a deep respect for him. He’s overcome many challenges and has prevailed, and considering all he’s been through, that is truly amazing. EXCELLENT!!

WARNING: This book contains some profanity.