Tag Archives: Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein and the John Ceepak Novels

Okay, I’m having a real fangirl moment here. Seriously.

I just stumbled on Part 1 and Part 2 of an interview with author Chris Grabenstein at M.J. Rose’s Buzz, Balls & Hype, as part of Gregory Huffstutter’s The Ad Man Answers feature.

Thanks to Beth Fish Reads, my biggest reading “find” of the year so far has been the John Ceepak mystery series, authored by Chris Grabenstein – I was so hooked after listening to the first book in the series, Tilt-A-Whirl, I promptly bought the rest of the books in the series and indulged in a reading blitz (or reading listen, I guess, since I listened to all the books in audio, narrated by Jeff Woodman, one of my favorite audiobook narrators). I reviewed Tilt-a-Whirl here.

In the interview, Grabenstein talks about his 20 years of working in advertising before he started writing novels (James Patterson was his boss at one time), writing the Ceepak novels, and a little bit about marketing books. And I learned that the sixth Ceepak book, Rolling Thunder, is due out in May, 2010!

It’s a great interview for writers and readers alike. Here’s what Grabenstein says about book trailers (which he thinks are definitely worth the effort): ‘We do not watch TV or book trailers and think: “Isn’t that nice, they did the best they could with no money.”  We see a movie, we either like it or think it sucks.’

Chris Grabenstein Interview, Part 1

Chris Grabenstein Interview, Part 2

I hadn’t realized until reading the interview that Grabenstein also writes YA/MG novels. I’m adding The Crossroads, the first book in a middle-grade ghost story series, to my TBR.

BBAW: Because She Introduced Me To Ceepak

Thank you, Beth Fish Reads!

Back in early June, Beth Fish Reads wrote a post about the John Ceepak mysteries by Chris Grabenstein. I trust her implicitly, and at the time I was just in the beginning stages of my love affair with audiobooks, so I was very intrigued, because she’d listened to the series in audio:

I listened to the entire series, which is read by Jeff Woodman. I can’t imagine a better narrator for Ceepak and Danny. In fact, Woodman’s work is so amazing that the books are not to be missed in audio.

When Beth Fish Reads says something is not to be missed in audio, she means it – she listens to a lot of audiobooks, and her recommendations are always dead-on.

Tilt-a-WhirlAnd that’s how I ended up listening to Tilt-a-Whirl, the first book in the series. And within the space of about six weeks, I listened my way through the entire series, including the latest book, Mind Scrambler, which was released near the end of June.

There are just so many things to like about the series: Danny Boyle, the boyish narrator who really feels like the kid brother I never had; John Ceepak, that Dudley Do-Right, as Beth Fish Reads describes him in her review, who turned out to be both very likeable and a true hero; the darkness and complexities of the mysteries, which work deliciously well in conjunction with the light-hearted style of narration; and Jeff Woodman, the audiobook narrator, who is most definitely a real gem in the audiobook world. He does such great voices, even for the female characters, and his Danny Boyle and John Ceepak are perfect.

The John Ceepak series is the only one I’ve listened to entirely in audio; I enjoyed each book as well as Woodman’s narration immensely, and I can’t see myself opting for the print version of future books in the series without first having listened to the audio version.

It’s all thanks to Beth Fish Reads.

And not only did she introduce me to one of the best books (and best series) I’ve read this year, she also cemented my new-born love of audiobooks. These days, I listen to an audiobook every night before bed; I also listen while I’m doing mundane chores around the house, and find that I actually look forward to cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.

Actually, now that I think about it, my entire life has changed. Housework no longer stresses me out – I look forward to it. That’s not bad!

So thank you, Beth Fish Reads! If she’s not already in your list of daily reads, she definitely should be. You can read her review of the entire John Ceepak series here and my review of Tilt-a-Whirl here.

Update: I was just on Twitter talking with Beth Fish Reads and Nicole of Linus’s Blanket, and I remembered this article by Stephen King on audiobooks, where he points out that “the spoken word is the acid test. They don’t call it storytelling for nothing.” If you’re not convinced yet about the audiobook format, click on over and see what King has to say. He makes some very good points.

Another Update: Congratulations to Beth Fish Reads for winning BBAW’s Best New Blog award!

And don’t forget to check out the other book bloggers who are being appreciated today!

Review: Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein


Danny Boyle is a 24-year-old part-time cop in the summer resort town of Sea Haven. His partner is John Ceepak, a former military police officer just back from Iraq who is also new to the Sea Haven police department. This summer, though, things are heating up in the usually quiet tourist town: Reggie Hart, a multi-millionaire real estate developer, has been shot to death in front of his teenage daughter Ashley at the base of the tilt-a-whirl in Sea Haven’s run-down old amusement park.

Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein, is the first in a series of mysteries set in Sea Haven and featuring Danny Boyle and John Ceepak. I first heard of the series at Beth Fish Reads back in June, and since then have gone on to read (or rather, listen to, in audio) all five books in the series, including the latest one, Mind Scrambler.

There were many reasons why I enjoyed Tilt-a-Whirl so much that I embarked on a reading blitz and polished off all the books in a two-month period. First, the town of Sea Haven is wonderfully depicted; it’s the summer resort town many of us have visited some time in our lives, so busy in the summer but as a tourist, you have your suspicions that it’s a relaxing place to be once all the vacationers are gone.

The story is narrated by Danny Boyle, and it’s lighthearted in nature; Boyle is a beach kid becoming an adult, and his narrative has a fresh, fun feel to it, along with a sincerity and honesty that’s very appealing.

And then there’s the mystery. Despite Boyle’s lighthearted narrative style, there’s far more to the mystery than meets the eye; ultimately, it’s a story that involves the dark side of human nature. It’s a combination that’s both unusual and very engrossing.

But most of all, I enjoyed Tilt-a-Whirl so much because I fell in love with the characters. Danny Boyle is just such a kid – he’s doing the part-time cop thing because he wants to earn extra money to have fun with his beach buddies. There’s something extremely endearing about his innocence; he’s like the kid brother I never had, and it was very enjoyable watching him grow into his position as a Sea Haven police officer, part-time or not.

And then there’s John Ceepak, fresh out of the military, with his stern code of honor – “I will not cheat, lie or steal, nor tolerate those who do”. When Boyle first introduced me to Ceepak, I wasn’t sure I’d like the guy. He seemed inflexible and rather humorless. But as the story developed, Boyle began to learn more about his new partner, and so did I – and I liked what I saw. John Ceepak is a Hero, with a capital “H” – in this day and age, he’s like a modern version of a knight of Camelot, living his life according to a code of chivalry.

In Tilt-a-Whirl, we come to learn there’s a lot more to John Ceepak than meets the eye. And we admire him because, despite all that he’s been through (and, as we discover, he’s been through a lot), he’s managed to still be who he is, someone honorable, likeable and, well, pure at heart.

Here’s a glimpse of how Danny Boyle feels about Ceepak at the beginning of the book:

Before the Army, Ceepak told me he studied criminology. Before that, he was an Eagle Scout. Before that? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet he was one helluva hall monitor in kindergarten. This is his first civilian cop job. He told the local newspaper, “he loves being on the job in Sea Haven” because he can “help visiting children safely enjoy wholesome family fun”.

Okay.  Fine.

Despite all of this, Boyle, and the reader, through Boyle’s eyes, gradually learns to really like and admire John Ceepak.

I listened to Tilt-a-Whirl in audio, and Jeff Woodman’s narration is excellent. He captures Danny Boyle’s youthful perspective perfectly, and his Ceepak never leaves you in doubt that it’s Ceepak talking. In his hands, the secondary characters also come to life; he does women’s voices so well you’re never thinking in the back of your mind, oh yes, that’s a man doing a woman’s voice.

If you’re interested in reading the John Ceepak mysteries, I highly recommend you start with Tilt-a-Whirl, and then read the books in sequence. It’s not that each book doesn’t work on its own, but earlier characters do show up in later books in a way that could ruin a bit of the mystery of the earlier books if you haven’t read them yet.

Where to buy Tilt-a-Whirl:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Audible Inc., 2007, audiobook, 8 hours and 18 minutes in length

Back from Holidays!

I’m back! And of course, feeling rather like I could use a little break. Isn’t it funny how that works?

I had a grand time in Nova Scotia, and it was fun blogging about it occasionally. Thank you to everyone for your comments – I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from each of you. It was almost like you came with me on holidays.

The air conditioning people have just left; our new air conditioning unit is now installed! Our old air conditioner died on us when we turned it on for the first time this year about a week before we left on holidays. We had to endure a bit of a heat wave during that week; it wasn’t very pleasant, so it’s so nice to know that we’re prepared again for whatever temperatures summer might bring us.

Traveling with Audiobooks

Audiobooks made our 19-hour drive back from Nova Scotia (spread over two days) a rather fun event. While we were away, my husband had picked up a small battery-operated iPod dock. So, while the kids were engrossed in their movies on their portable DVD players, we listened to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Notes from a Big Country) together.

We could only listen for a couple of hours at a time, though; my face would start to hurt some time around the two-hour mark, probably because of the giant grin I wore more or less the entire time. This is a very funny book, and a perfect choice for audio.

We also listened to several BBC Radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries: Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced and then Poirot again in Five Little Pigs. These dramatizations are perfect for a road trip, as they are well acted mysteries each about two hours long.

I would have liked to listen to Janet Evanovich’s Finger Lickin’ Fifteen during the drive, but that had to be done through headphones (the language not being appropriate for certain little ears) and it was much more fun sharing the audio experience with my husband during the drive.

I did, however, start Finger Lickin’ Fifteen last night, and so far it’s off to a good start; I must admit, though, these days I enjoy the series only in audio. Lorelei King is a suberb narrator, and her reading of the Stephanie Plum series has made the more recent books fun for me again.

My husband enjoyed the audiobooks so much, he started listening to Tilt-A-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein at the hotel we stayed at part-way through our trip home. The audio version is read by Jeff Woodman, who is a very good narrator (he does such great voices, and even his female voices sound, well, like women).

This Week at Ms Bookish

I came home to a rather large stack of new books still patiently awaiting their Incoming! posts, plus some new additions, so I’ll be buckling down this week in an attempt to make a dent in the pile. I also have a few reviews to write (for example, I’ve finished all of Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak mysteries but haven’t written any reviews yet).

I’ll also be getting back on track with my daily writing goal of 2000 words. I didn’t write at all while I was away, despite early intentions to do so, but I’m itching to get started again.

And I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the book blog world again. I’ve missed reading everyone’s posts and the fun of commenting and Twitter!

[TSS] More Beach Reads, Movies and Writing (Not Really)

CIMG2225Not very original, I know, but I can’t believe how this week has just flown by. I seem to be caught up in a routine of eating, drinking, reading and relaxing, not necessarily in that order.

My husband is on his way back from the fish market right now, with fresh lobster and deep fried clams, and I finally managed to snatch my netbook out of the hands of my daughter, so the time feels perfect for blogging.

This Week’s Reads

The Blue CastleAfter finishing The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, on my first full day here in Nova Scotia, I decided the atmosphere was perfect for some L.M. Montgomery – we aren’t that far away from P.E,I., and the sand beach near us has red sand in it, which reminded me of the Island. I have almost all of Montgomery’s works on my netbook in ebook format, so I decided to re-read The Blue Castle, one of my favorite Montgomery works. Unlike Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, The Blue Castle is the story of an adult heroine, Valancy Stirling. It’s a wonderful Cinderella tale, and I’ve read and re-read it many times. I’d forgotten that it’s set in the Muskokas in Ontario, rather than P.E.I., so I will probably read Emily of New Moon sometime this week just to get my Island fix.

Hell HoleAfter The Blue Castle, I started Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files series. I’m about halfway through – I love the concept of a wizard detective in current-day Boston, and it’s a fun book, but it wasn’t quite fitting my mood, so I also started listening to Hell Hole, by Chris Grabenstein, the fourth book in the John Ceepak and Danny Boyle series. I am quite addicted to this series now, and finished Hell Hole yesterday while we were at Crescent Beach in Lockeport, N.S.. Jeff Woodman, who narrates the series, is a superb narrator, and if you’re wanting to get started with audiobooks and like mysteries, I’d definitely recommend the audio version of this series. Just make sure you start with the first book in the series, Tilt-a-Whirl, not because each book doesn’t stand on its own, but mainly because characters from previous books do show up again (or not, as the case may be), which can give clues to the mysteries in the previous books.

Rounding up my reading for the week, I also started Wayne Dyer’s Excuses Begone!. It’s a great read so far; I like in particular its emphasis not on our feelings or desires, but on our identity.

Movies, Movies, Movies

It’s turning out to be movie night for the family every night here at the beach cottage – there’s just something really nice about gathering together after a great seafood dinner to watch movies (especially since it’s pretty bug-heavy outside at night).

So far, we’ve watched Music & Lyrics, The Dark Knight, Dirty Dancing, Miss Congeniality, Disturbia, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Gone in 60 Seconds. My older son did excuse himself to play the Sims 3 on the nights we watched Dirty Dancing and He’s Just Not That Into You, but otherwise our movie nights have been perfect family time (the little one was in bed, of course).

Writing (Or Not)

I think I must have been dreaming when I last blogged that I was thinking about writing 6,000 words a day! The only writing I’ve done so far has been in my journal; not only has it been tough to lay my hands on my netbook, but the ergonometric keyboard I brought along in order to, well, write, isn’t working very well – the “o” and the “b” keys don’t work at all.

And really, the days have been so lazy and idyllic, I just haven’t felt like doing much except (have I mentioned?) eating, drinking and reading.


I finally started remembering to bring my camera with me when we went on our our outings, which have been mainly to beaches so far, although next week we plan on heading out for day trips to Yarmouth and Mahone Bay. A visit to Peggy’s Cove is also planned, although the days are slipping by so fast, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do everything on our list.

The beaches here in Nova Scotia are just gorgeous – many of them are white sand beaches, and if it weren’t for the weather, you’d think you were in the Caribbean. I don’t actually like to swim, and I love cool, windy weather, so it’s been perfect for me. While they’ve been calling for clouds and rain every day we’ve been here, the weather has been beautiful and sunny  so far (just not particularly hot).

CIMG2165 Sandy Point Lighthouse Beach

CIMG2160 Red Sands at Sandy Point

CIMG2204 Dylan & Daddy at Crescent Beach, Lockeport

CIMG2206 Oops! Forgot My Sand Bucket!

CIMG2234 Beautiful White Sands

CIMG2302 Bit of Sand Beach at Our Beach Cottage

CIMG2322 View from the Side of the House

What’s Up Sunday – June 14

I normally post this as “What’s Up Saturday”, but yesterday kind of flew by really quickly, especially since I was behind on the big giveaways post.

Deadline Alley

I’m heading into Deadline Alley over the next ten days – I have five deadlines to lay to rest and I’d like to get everything finished by next Wednesday. That will leave me a day to help my husband pack for our road trip, get our housesitter settled in, make sure there’s enough pet food on hand to feed the assortment of pets and well, just de-stress a little so I’ll enjoy the 19 hour drive to the beautiful shores of Nova Scotia!

Currently Listening

This past week I’ve been really enjoying listening to Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein. It’s the first book in a mystery series about part-time beach resort town cop Danny Boyle and his partner, John Ceepak; Beth F. recommended the audio version of the series to me, and I am very grateful (if you love audiobooks, check out Beth F’s blog; she always has great suggestions). The narrator of the series, Jeff Woodman, has now been added to my own personal list of great audiobook narrators (joining Lorelei King, who narrates Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Hugh Fraser, for his narration of the Agatha Christie novels, and Jim Dale, narrator of the Harry Potter series).

I’ve been actively on the look-out for good audios primarily because of the 19 hour drive (I can’t read in a car, unfortunately); the other day on Twitter Miriam Parker from Hachette Books suggested that I give Bill Bryson a try, and ever since then I’ve been walking around the house sounding rather demented because every now and then I’ll give out a big burst of laughter. Listening to Bill Bryson in audio will do that to you.

Right now, I’m listening to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself; my version is actually called Notes From a Big Country, which you can buy at Amazon UK. Notes From a Big Country has eight more essays than I’m a Stranger Here Myself (I have both titles in trade paperback, so I counted); otherwise, they contain much the same essays (I didn’t do a title-by-title check, though).

If you have an Audible membership, you’ll be getting Notes From a Big Country if you go for the unabridged version; unfortunately, Bill Bryson only reads the abridged version, but William Roberts, the narrator of the unabridged version, does a pretty good job. This listen is, obviously, a “reread” for me (since I ended up buying both versions of the book, it would be pretty sad if it wasn’t!); Bill Bryson’s books are brilliant and very funny reads whether you get them in print or in audio.

This Week: No Picture, but a Video

Rather sharing a picture from my life this week, I wanted to share the following video, called Validation. I discovered it at my dear friend Bethie’s blog, Simply Blessed. It’s a long video – 16 minutes – but I guarantee, if you have the time, and you’d like something to give you a bit of a lift and put a smile on your face, it’s well worth the watch. It was written and directed by Kurt Kuenne, stars TJ Thyne (of Bones fame), and has won a whole string of very well-deserved short film awards. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!