Barb, the Zany Old Lady, Review: Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf by B.G. Thomas, audiobook narrated by Donald Tursman


Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Grumble Monkey and the Department Store ElfNick St. George is an affluent New York art gallery owner with a mission—he has to get to San Francisco by the end of Christmas Day. As such, he’s pushing through ice storms and horrible road conditions to get there when he takes a quick rest stop break and encounters a very strange sight. A young man, tall, slender, pretty, with big thick eyeglasses and a red-and-white striped hat that is so long it wraps around his neck like a scarf strikes up a conversation with him, or at least talks non-stop at him. This man, Kit Jeffries, is on his way home for Christmas too, but his Jeep has broken down, and he asks to ride along with Nick since it’s two hours away in the same direction in which Nick is heading.

Nick tries to refuse, but this happy-go-lucky kid just won’t shut up long enough for Nick to do that, so he reluctantly agrees. Nick is a nasty SOB and nearly everything out of his mouth is negative and derogatory. On the other hand, Kit is a Pollyanna with never a bad word, literally. Golly gee, Kit won’t even say shit, saying poop instead.

This story is built around the trip to Kit’s house, Kit’s talent as an artist which Nick reluctantly admires, and the fact that Kit’s parents haven’t been able to fly home for Christmas as expected. Over the course of this short story, we get a glimpse of Nick’s soft side, along with a heap of reasons for his lousy behavior, and we get to see what happens when bombarded with kindness from Kit.

I’d like to say that I liked the story, but really it was tough to get through. Nick wasn’t just negative, he was downright nasty and there were so many homophobic slurs that I found it offensive. Yes, I understand the author was just giving us a character but it offended me nevertheless. And Kit was a bit too sickeningly sweet. Granted he was raised to be kind to others, but his character came across as childish and immature, certainly way too young and naïve for the likes of nasty Nick.

I’m not sure if the narration helped or hindered the story. The narrator didn’t have enough vocal range to distinguish between the characters and there wasn’t a clear break between words verbalized by Nick and internal dialogue or story narration, so it was hard to tell when the character was speaking versus the narrator speaking. Plus, there was an annoying clicking sound that occurred off and on throughout the narration, not always present but it was irritating, a sound almost as if the narrator was chewing gum or making another tongue-clicking noise. It’s hard to describe but occurred enough for me to need to cite it in this audiobook review.

So I can’t give more than a 2.5 star rating to the story itself, but I would recommend reading it rather than listening to the audiobook.

The cover artist, Paul Richmond, provided a bright and colorful, interesting cover which depicted the characters perfectly. In hindsight, I believe I may have picked the story due to the cute cover.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Audio   iTunes    Audible   Amazon    Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf

Book Details:

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2013 Advent Calendar package “Heartwarming”.
Cover Artist Paul Richmond
audiobook clipart bwNarrator Donald Tursman
Length 2 hours and 19 minutes


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