Dead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell Narrator Xe Sands

Dead Bolt
Book 2 in the Haunted Home Renovation series
by Juliet Blackwell
Narrator Xe Sands
7 hours 19 minutes
Tantor media

Juliet Blackwell Dead Bolt Xe Sands narrator
Author Juliet Blackwell

Narrator Xe Sands

When a fantastic book is read by an equally fantastic narrator you have a combination that will send your pleasure meter into orbit. When Xe Sands and Juliet Blackwell merge their talents pure magic happens. Plan to have time set aside to listen to Dead Bolt uninterrupted, so you can thoroughly enjoy yourself. Sands does an amazing Russian accent and gives just the right amount of whine and daintiness to our petite and shy Katenka Daley. I'm always astonished at the wide range of languages and types of characters that Sands not only is spot on with, but makes them seem so real. You are lead down the path where Sands wants to take you and you will happily follow enthralled with her presentation. 

Juliet Blackwell is an extremely skilled writer, each book is original, humorous, scary, and captivating.
The characters are never stale, or unrealistic. Each one engages you to the point you like or dislike them, and care about them. They are like people you either would love to know or do know. The story flows in an unbroken stream and is never dull or boring. Set in San Francisco and the Bay Area, it's loaded with tidbits of historical information and points out many of the changes that have occurred in the city.

Mel Turner, construction company owner, has eagerly begun the restoration of a beautiful Queen Anne house in San Francisco's Cow Hollow area. Katenka Daley and her husband Jim Daley insist on living in the house while construction is going on against Mel's wishes. Katenka confides to Mel that she is sure the house is haunted and she's afraid harm will be done to her baby, she's decided that it might be best to stop the restoration. Frustrated Mel, knows Jim Daley is adamant about not living anywhere else not even for his beloved Katenka. Mel definitely does not want to quit the restoration. During this confidence one of the ghost makes its presence known causing Katenka to faint and Mel wanting to run out the door. After the manifestation is over, Mel is still unwilling to stop the restoration and tells Katenka she'll see what she can do to rid the house of the ghosts. After all this is not her first encounter with ghosts, although they seem more malevolent than the ones she had to deal with in a previous restoration.

Ghosts and even a ghost cat are a handful to deal with, when neighbor, Emile Blunt, ambushes Mel, while she's heading home. Emile has been a thorn in Mel's side, with his constant complaining about the noise, the dust and just about everything so she's taken by surprise when he wants her to intervene with the Daley's on his behalf to buy the mansion.

It escalates into a screaming match with him refusing to move out of the way of her car when she's trying to get out of her parking place, and her yelling at him to get out of the way or she'll run him over. The next day Emile is found shot to death embroiling Mel and even her father as possible suspects. Mel, because the loud screaming match was reported to the police and her father as he found the dead man. Even Jim Daley is a suspect as he also had a confrontation with Emile the night before.

Mel, is not only feisty and resourceful she is sensible and sets her mind to extricating herself and her father and contacts her friend Brittany who not only revels in hauntings but is a good sources of information. One by one, Mel, tracks down the previous owners a crazy old cat lady, Hetty Banks, her children, and some of the previous residents when it was a sort of boarding house and took in orphaned children.

It's quite the jumble of people and motives. Although Emile was a crotchety old guy Mel was having trouble actually finding anyone with a truly plausible motive. It heats up when she learns that Hetty has been left his worldly goods, including his shop. Mel didn't know that Hetty and Emile were close enough for him to will his belongings to her. Causing Mel to take a second look at Hetty as a possible suspect, after all she surmises even an old lady can pull a trigger.

 I enjoyed the interchange between Mel and the skeptical policewoman, when she tries to explain her connection to the house and to Emile Blunt. Trying to explain about ghost is more than the woman can take.
Police are not very likely to look fondly on hauntings or anything woo woo. Mel's romances are looking somewhat better and Graham is back in the running. Her young lover returns but reigniting that love fest doesn't look like it's in the offing. Overall this is a fun series, not quite a cozy like M. C. Beaton writes, but not the blood lust in the style of  Peter Robinson . 

Dead Bolt Juliet Blackwell narrator Xe Sands
Dead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell


If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands

If Walls Could TalkA Home Renovation Mystery
(A Haunted Home Repair Mystery)
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Narrator: Xe Sands 

Producer: Tantor Audio 
7 hours 27 minutes

Narrator Review: Xe Sands

Xe Sands Narrator of If Walls Could Talk A Haunted Home Repair Mystery
Xe Sands, Narrator
I can not think of all the fabulous narrators there are, but who would be better than Xe Sands. Absolutely no one is the answer. I love her narration of Juliet Blackwell's books, both series, and her rendition of Mel the personable, perky, and sassy Victorian Home renovator is superb.

Her Spanish is, well, so Spanish, outstanding and at least to my ears authentic. Xe Sands, just wow's your socks off. Ms. Sands draws the emotions out of every character, and every scene making them pop and sparkle.

Did I mention that Ms. Sands has a lovely voice that can make just want to listen regardless of what book she is narrating. Talent is too small a word to describe Ms.Sands, alas, talent, at the highest level is just what she always delivers.

Audio Book Review: If Walls Could Talk By Juliet Blackwell

If Walls Could Talk, is a fairly new series written by Juliet Blackwell. I enjoyed everyone of Blackwell's Witchcraft Mysteries, they were fun reads and so hard to put down. Haunted Home Repair Mysteries, win hands down for sheer reading pleasure.

Blackwell has found a good balance between not having excessive sex scenes yet still eludes to it without being offensive, while still capturing Mel's romantic  interests. There's a wide cast of engaging characters from the young to the old, and they are all well fleshed out, without going overboard on dry details. It is very refreshing to have a female lead that is running a successful house restoration company. 

Melanie Turner, recently divorced, returns home after her mother passes away and her father devastated and having a hard time coping with losing the love of his life, hands the reins of his construction company to Mel.

Melanie takes to the business like a fish to water and loves what she's doing and she is good at it. After two years of successfully running Turner Construction her Dad is happy to work a little in the background and just offer suggestions and tips, Regardless if Mel, wants to hear them or not.

As a favor to a friend, Mel had given an unofficial inspection of his Pacific Heights mansion restoration. Mel knows the aging rock star through her ex-stepson Caleb, who goes to the same school as Matts' son. The owners had a wild "do it yourself demo party" for the 'A'  list celebrities who thought it was cool that Matt and partner Ken were flipping a Victorian Mansion and doing the work themselves.

When Melanie gets to the home one of the owners is near death and the other is so hung over he has little recollection of the previous night's festivities. Ken is bleeding out from being shot with a nail gun. Mel tries to comfort him while waiting for the ambulance and to her horror she see's a bloody stump where his hand had been.

Before Ken dies at the hospital a nurse thinks his last words were implicating his partner Matt, as the one that shot him. This leads to Matt's arrest later and a lot of trouble. Mel and everyone else can't believe it and there is no way that Matt, would have done such a thing.

Mel first see's Ken, out of the corner of her eye, then he disappears when she looks directly at him. At first she wonders if she dozed off, or imagined it or maybe is stressed from a day from hell.

When she learns that at the time she saw him he had already died. In the days that follow she continues to catch sight of him. This is unsettling and he seems to want her to do something, she just doesn't know what. Mel, wonders if she's gone a little crazy or if what she is seeing is real. 

Mel, noticed a scruffy brown dog wearing a red neck scarf, hanging around outside Matt's house, he has no identification or tags. No one seems to know who he belongs to or if he belongs to anyone at all. One day when Mel's going to head home the dog jumps into her car and won't get out.

Kenneth appears in the car right on top of the dog. Poor dog is startled and not to happy about being sat on and jumps into the backseat. It dawns on Mel, that she may not be crazy, because the dog saw Ken. She feels somewhat better about this turn of events just knowing she isn't the only one seeing Ken, but with a ghost appearing at all, she is not so happy. 

Mel, with amazing self control tries to find out why Ken keeps showing up and what does he want. Poor Ken, is clueless himself as he doesn't remember anything at least not anything that will help Mel unravel the mystery of who killed him or why.

Bad enough to deal with Ken, but there are other ghostly beings residing in the mansion, again, Mel, see's them out of the corner of her eye. She is able to start sorting them out because she can also smell things like cigar smoke, or hear the rattle of a newspaper. In time it is apparent to Mel, that she is going to have to rid herself and the mansion of all the ghosts. 

The unfolding of how Mel, solves the crime and understands what role the Mansions ghost have in it, is no third rate ghost story by any means. It's full of fun and laughs, wonderful characters, and a huge variety of things going on that pull the story together into one of this years best fiction book.

This series has soared to the top of my all time favorite books ever. San Francisco, is the perfect backdrop with its myriad of Victorian homes, conglomeration of people and activities. As always I suggest listening to the audio version, as nothing illustrates the story and gives body to it more than a good narrator. Xe Sands, excels at bringing everything to life. 

If Walls Could Talk by Juliet Blackwell
If Walls Could Talk


"W" is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, Narrated by Judy Kaye

"W" is For WastedA Kinsey Millhone Mystery
Sue Grafton
Narrator: Judy KayePublisher: Books on Tape

17 hours 13 minutes

Narrator Review of Judy Kaye

"W" is For Wasted A Kinsey Millhone Mystery Sue GraftonNarrator: Judy Kaye
Narrator, Judy Kaye 

As a narrator Judy Kaye reads very well, giving a great deal of emotion and expression to the content and the individual personalities of the characters. As I said in my "V" is For Vengeance review,  Judy Kaye although an excellent narrator has to manly a voice that isn't suited to the personality or age of thirty nine year old Kinsey Millhone.

There are parts where Kinsey is spoken in a more feminine and softer way, but for the most part Kaye's reading gives Kinsey a hard edge and often a rather apathetic tone. Often it was difficult to discern which male character was speaking because although Kaye may start with a somewhat distinct voice, midway she drifts back into her own voice or perhaps it is the voice of Kinsey.

Even the refined and genteel Henry Pitts, sounds rough and tumble, completely lacking his courtly nature. As I said. Kaye's narrating skills are admirable and praiseworthy but not for the Alphabet series.

Audiobook Review: "W" is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

The Alphabet Series

"W" is For Wasted By Sue Grafton  Narrator: Judy Kaye
Author, Sue Grafton

Kinsey receives a call from the coroner asking if she'd come to the morgue and identify a body, Kinsey is baffled and has no idea who the man is or why the only thing they found on him is her name and phone number.

Business is slow for Kinsey so she tells the coroner she will poke around and see if she can discover who he is. All they know about him is, he's a homeless man, and his personal effects are the clothes he's wearing and the sleeping bag he was found in.

Little does she realize this pursuit will lead her to discover more than she could ever imagine. Even being confronted in the most unexpected way with the Millhone's, her father's side of the family of whom she knows little or nothing about. Nice, they are not, and they are as poor as the Kinsey's are rich. In "W" Kinsey is taken on dangerous adventures with the Millhone's and is involved in the lives of the homeless and their lifestyle.

In the prologue, we hear about the shooting of Pete Wolinsky a detective from Kinsey's past that she never cared much for and neither did very many other people, but later he plays an important role in the story. Even bringing Deitz, back into Kinsey's life for a short time.

It could appear like two separate books but soon it all ties together. Revealing that the murders of R.T. Dace and Pete Wolinsky are related. Kinsey is drawn into a convoluted string of events that are fast paced and exciting. She still makes some poor decisions but finally showed some sense a few times, to my relief.

Of all the Alphabet series I liked this one the best. Even though it's partly from Kinsey's perspective and then later it's from Wolinsky's perspective, it still jelled into an excellent book. A little editing would have improved the story as there was an excessive amount of unnecessary medical information, and the eulogy at the end was way too long. It seemed too flowery considering how long it took Kinsey to put the memorial together.

I often have wished that Grafton had started the series with Henry being fifteen or twenty years younger. Starting him at eighty one makes him eighty nine in "W" is for Wasted. Kinsey started as thirty two which means she is now thirty nine. Maybe Grafton forgot over the many passing years that Kinsey at thirty nine is not likely to need help getting up from sitting on the ground. There were some other instances that made Kinsey sound double her age. Strange considering Kinsey still runs every morning and is in excellent health and condition.

I hope Grafton has a new series in the works as "W" is nearing the end of the series. I look forward to it moving into 1990 when Kinsey can make good use of the internet and computers. Even a continuation of the series with a new title could work well bringing Kinsey eventually into the twenty first century. Sadly Henry will have to die because of his advanced age. That will be sad and he will be missed but it does bring opportunities to bring new characters into Kinsey's life that will fill the same paternal role as Henry.

"W" is For Wasted By Sue Grafton book cover image. narratorreviews.org
"W" is for Wasted