Guilty Pleasures for the Ears: Downloadable Murder Mysteries

LFPL has recently added 1000 new titles to its Downloadable Audio subscription, One Click Digital.

Here are two recent titles that I have enjoyed:

  • Dan Stephens, a.k.a. Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey, narrates Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.  Whether you’ve read this story before or not, you’ll enjoy the voices and accents Stephens creates to accessorize the colorful characters in Christie’s plot of a murder on a train isolated in a snowdrift somewhere in the Balkans.


  • Meet Mary Russell, young wife of a retired Sherlock Holmes, whose first person narration is vocalized by Jenny Sterlin in several of Laurie R. King’s novels about this unlikely looking couple whose minds are a match.  In Dreaming Spies, the latest in the series, Russell and Holmes travel to Japan in 1924 and help the Crown Prince of Japan, with the help of a family of samurai, foil blackmailers who hold an ancient Japanese treasure.  Russell’s sharp perspective and the details of Japanese culture create a rich tale that holds the listener’s attention.


Reviewed by Laura, Main Library

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

“My daddy says that when you do somethin’ to distract you from your worstest fears, it’s like whistlin’ past the graveyard. You know, making a racket to keep the scaredness and the ghosts away. He says that’s how we get by sometimes.” – Starla



Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall is one of those books that changes your heart and gives you a view of America’s south in 1963 through the eyes of a child. The story begins with a child and follows her throughout a life altering journey. Starla is a feisty nine-year old, who states her mind and continually challenges authority. She is being raised by her grandmother and father because her mother has gone to Nashville to become a famous singer. Her grandmother rules with a strict hand and Starla fights back against her rule every chance she is given. Starla quickly decides to flee town to escape her grandmother and to reunite with her mother because she believes that her mother is the only one who loves her. We eventually find out her mother’s true character later on in the story.

Starla is found on the roadside by a black woman that is currently caring for a white baby that she has taken from a church’s front step. Eula and Starla continue on a journey towards Nashville that is briefly halted by Eula’s abusive husband, however they eventually make it to Nashville to find Starla’s mother. This adventure brings Starla face to face with race relations, abuse, and murder.

This book is unique because writers normally do not decide to depict the tension in the American South at that time through the eyes of a child. The only faults that can be found in this book are some of the side stories that the writer introduces. For example, the story of the white baby that Eula has stolen seems to just fizzle out at the end. Overall this book is well written and a page turner to the end. Some readers may even identify with Starla because they also grew up at this time in the South.  For those of us that weren’t alive during those times, this book gives an authentic view of the race relations of the South at that time.

Formats available: Book, Large Print

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch


The Six by Mark Alpert


In the not too distant future six teens, each with a fatal illness, have transfered their “memories and personalities” to Pioneer robots, eight-hundred pounds of metal and neuromorphic electronic circuitry.  Leaving their human shells behind is only the beginning for these adventurers.  At first, there is pain and anger at losing their human form.  Then, the fear of losing their memories, their humanity, or of simply disappearing.

They must learn to harness the technology, as well as come to grips with the power and strength given their robotic forms.  This second chance at life comes with a very high price as The Six must confront Sigma, a highly developed artificial Intelligence, and stop it.  Sigma has escaped human control and is out to rid the world of what it perceives as its greatest nemesis, humans.

Adam, Jenny, Zia, Shannon, Marshall and DeShawn are the Six.  Adam is a geek, who has spent years writing computer games. Zia has street smarts and is tough as nails. Jenny is a debutante who had everything. Shannon, a classmate of Adam’s, is a wiz at math. Marshall never let his deformity label him. And DeShawn has a wicked sense of humor.  Each distinct personality demonstrates you can still be unique even when housed in identical forms. One of the most difficult tasks for these teens will be learning to work as a team, caring about each other, fighting together, and just plain getting along.

Full of adventure, heartache, and intriguing scientific facts, this tale is a roller coaster ride of emotions as well as a rousing battle for control of the Earth.  The Six face painful losses, death, and decisions many adults couldn’t handle.  And while they don’t come away unscathed, they command respect for who they are and how they handle what life throws at them. The final pages will have you searching the skies, or at least the Internet, for the next installment to hit the streets.

Mark Alpert takes us into our scientific future and asks if can we hang on to our humanity, compassion, knowledge and understanding of others if we no longer hold a physical human form.  Can we handle being given great strength and almost unlimited power to control the world around us?  I had a hard time putting The Six down even though at times I was slowed down a bit by where Mark Alpert was going with his scientific knowledge.

I could hear the teen’s voices clearly in the characters, right down to the misbehavior antics and lack of emotional control at times.  The commander was a stereotypical military leader of the “my way or the highway” mold but fit in with the storyline. There was plenty of high adventure, strife, just a hint of romance, and enough battle action to make me feel like I was watching a World War II movie.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

“This is what happens when you live in dreams, he thought: you dream this and you dream that and you sleep right through your life.”

A review of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter


What propels a person forward in life?  Ambition, goals, dreams?  As people move from childhood to adulthood and through their lives, it seems that many have a clear picture of what they believe their life will or should be in the future, but what if this vision and the reality of their situation never meet.  It is at such a fork in the road of life where one could possibly encounter beautiful ruins, that which is left of a person when ambition, goals, or dreams have faded in to the reality of everyday living.  But even ruins have a certain charm.

In his 2012 book, Beautiful Ruins, Mr. Walter investigates this idea through the lives of rather diverse characters.  The year is 1962, and a dying American actress finds herself in a dying fishing village situated in a mere crack of the Italian coast on the Ligurian Sea.  Fresh from Rome and the production of the epic film Cleopatra, she basks in the obscurity of the village’s one small pension aptly named the Hotel Adequate View.

With a timeline that shifts between 1960s Italy and modern-day Hollywood, a cast of characters is introduced who are all desperately trying to bring to fruition that which they have dreamed as their future.  And from where do these dreams spring forth?  What forces in one’s life are powerful enough to create such dreams?  Of one character, Claire, Mr. Walter writes:

“We want what we want. At home, she works herself into a frenzy worrying about what she isn’t – and perhaps loses track of just where she is.”

 As the novel progresses, the reader becomes intertwined with the various quests being made, ever wondering the final outcome.  In your experience, just how often does illusion become reality?

“But aren’t all great quests folly? There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant – sail for Asia and stumble on America – and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.”

 Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), eBook, Audiobook (CD), Downloadable Audiobook, Playaway

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

The Diviners by Libba Bray

thedivinersJust finished The Diviners today and it is definitely a compelling story set in an interesting time period – the Roaring Twenties.  And it is about fascinating (though occasionally disgusting) paranormal events. But I hate to say it, the book just isn’t as good as it should be.

The Diviners’ diminished impact stems primarily from stretches where the research was so good that Libba Bray couldn’t resist putting in all of her discoveries. The result is a novel which clocks in at almost 600 pages, a good number of which are non-essential to moving along an otherwise thrilling tale.

There are also odd descriptive elements – such as an anthropomorphic wind – that are convenient for linking scenes but do not really add much to the tale. Granted, it may be that the wind takes on a much more important role in the second book, Lair of Dreams, as varied dark forces rise across the land, but I doubt it.

Yet that’s not to say that this is a bad book, not at all.

In fact, the overall structure of the book is solid and the tale is a complete one but which also leaves room for further adventures of its ensemble cast. Further, Bray always delivers on witty dialogue and surprisingly complex emotional motivations for characters that would be flat and cookie-cutter in the hands of a lesser writer.

Take the emotional center, the vivacious Evie O’Neill, formerly of Zenith, Ohio, who has come to Manhattan to live with her Uncle Will. She is the quintessential teenager coming of age in the Jazz Age, all brashness and go, go, go attitude. Evie could have easily been a shell of a person, much as Daisy Buchanan was in The Great Gatsby, but ends up being much braver and tender-hearted than the flapper persona she works so hard at creating. Through her lens, this tale of ghosts and murders feels like an adventure closer to the action pulps of the day rather than a horror tale of the Lovecraftian persuasion it could have been.

lairofdreamsAlso, there is a good deal of mystery surrounding Evie’s Uncle Will and his connection to Sister Margaret Walker, industrialist Jake Marlowe, and con-man Sam Lloyd through a mysterious Project Daedalus. Just enough about the Project is leaked along the way by another character, Jericho Jones, so that one ends up naturally anticipating the unfolding backstory of these characters. Rarely does a series of this nature (horror bordering on paranormal fantasy) get a reader excited about the next installment unless the original plot is unfinished or there is a heavy romance angle left unresolved.


Bray also has a fun promotional website for this series at NOVL:

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Every Day is a New Day

Have you at any time woke up in the morning or during the day wished you could start the day over again and not recall anything?  It may be due to something as simple as the water heater is broken, spilling coffee in your lap on the daily commute, or planning dinner.  What if it were truly possible we could wake up the next morning with our minds cleared of all previous events of the past  day, days, or even years?

This is the obstacle faced by Christine, the protagonist, in S.J. Watson‘s first novel Before I Go to Sleep.  The book opens with Christine waking up in a bedroom.  She is unable to recollect what has happened and unable to determine who is the person sleeping beside her.  Christine is told by the stranger, who turns out to be her husband Ben, that she has was in an accident  and suffers from amnesia.  Each day, she is left not knowing what occurred the previous day.

Afterwards, she sees a cell phone in her small bag and notices a Dr. Nash is calling her.  Christine begins to regain some of her composure through their conversation where it is suggested she keep a diary of what happens each day.  As a result, she will have an artifact to look back on past days in the hopes of recovering from her amnesia.  Christine hopes to figure out what triggers these episodes of not remembering. Essentially, will she be able to live her life with purpose or not?

This novel is the product of Watson’s participation in the first Writing a Novel course at Faber Academy.  It contains drama, action, suspense, and an emotional thrill ride that can be enjoyed by readers from varied backgrounds and interests in genres.  For those who might be interested, Watson’s second novel, Second Life, was recently release and is available at the library.

Formats Available:  Regular Print, Large Type, eBook, Audiobook, Downloadable Audiobook

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch


Stealing Candy by Allison Hobbs

stealing candy

Allison Hobbs has written a book that is gritty, raw and brutally honest about the dark underworld of sex trafficking.  Fifteen year old Gianna “Lollipop” Strand goes to the boardwalk to meet a friend and befriends Bullet.  Unbeknownst to her, he is an ex-con who abducts her so that he can be her pimp.

Not intended to be a book with a happy ending, Stealing Candy warns about the dangers of living on the streets.  It reminds you to keep a close eye on your children so that they know about the hidden dangers of talking to strangers.  It also reminds you to focus on what is important in life.

I wish this book was more kid friendly.  I would definitely have recommended it to some of my younger readers but Hobbs has created a very graphic tale that can, at times, be utterly disgusting.  I’m not saying that she isn’t a fabulous writer but even I had to skip lines because they were too strong for me to take.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Something for Everyone in Five Comics Books

Whether you have always loved comics or you never picked one up in your life, if you want to read about cape-and-tights heroes or curl up with something trendy and artsy, then this list has something for you.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is proof that a good story doesn’t even need words. A stunning narrative of an immigrant’s experience in a new and alien land, it’s like having someone play solos about hope and isolation on your heartstrings.

Barbarian Lord – Matt Smith

This is the comic book that Vikings would have written if Vikings wrote comic books. Sure, there are other comic books that try to capture the age, or even just borrow the aesthetic, but Barbarian Lord reads like a deadly-serious re-telling of one of the Icelandic Sagas.

Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde; Roy Thomas; Sebastian Fiumara.

It’s a hard task to adapt a longer book to graphic format, but Marvel does a fantastic job with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Taking a dark, psychological, Gothic novel and adapting it successfully to graphic format – that’s nothing short of a miracle.

Astro City: Confession– Kurt Busiek; Alex Ross; Brent Anderson.

If you never read comics because you felt superheroes were flat characters and the world they are set in simplistic, Confession will change your mind. Smart, sensitive, and nuanced.  The storytelling will keep you glued to the page.

Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others – Mike Mignola

Although the third in the Hellboy series, this volume of short stories speaks to the soul of the series: respect for the source material. If you like gritty, pitch-perfect renditions of folklore and mythology, and a bit of dry humor on the side, this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Originally posted on LFPL’s Teen Blog at

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

First off I must tell you that I’ve been an avid fan ofdownload Jane Austen since I was a young teenager. I have read most of the reimagined books including ones that had zombies and vampires. I was very interested about the Austen Project when I heard that they were going to be taking many of Austen’s classics and reimagining them for modern times. Emma was the third of this new series to be released and Alexander McCall Smith was chosen to pen this one.

McCall Smith has taken the basic pieces of the classic story and reinvented them into a modern retelling of the classic. It is written for the modern reader, leaving out much of Austen’s original speech that can be daunting for today’s readers. Emma’s father now becomes an intense hypochondriac worrying about vaccines and antibacterial soap. Emma also gets a modern upgrade with a new mini Cooper that she drives around town. There are also many quips about McCall Smith’s town of Edinburgh, Scotland that you may not catch unless you have actually traveled there.

While Emma was not my favorite of Austen’s books, I do believe this book does honor the original character’s personalities. While Emma was not a favorite of mine in the original book, I really formed a dislike for her in McCall Smith’s book. I think that it’s because he took a lot more time to develop the main characters (Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Harriett) then Austen did in the original. In doing this, he however leaves little time for Mr. Knightly and others in the story. This was the only disheartening part of the novel for myself because the reader misses out of Emma’s blooming relationship and it seems like an afterthought at the end of the book. The author does leave some of the original formality in the book, including mention of the room Mr. Woodhouse entertains his guests in and also some very formal speech.

The story is delightful overall and a fun beach read. I would recommend it to readers, but would recommend that they possibly read the original after or before reading McCall Smith’s re-imagination.  Many die hard Austen fans may view this is a heresy, but I think McCall Smith does a wonderful job both paying respect to the original, but also putting a new spin on the classic story. The book would also be a good primer for readers that are slightly frightened to begin reading Austen’s originals. Overall this has been one of the best re-imaginations of Austen’s classics yet.

Formats available: Book, E-book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch