October Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Illustrated/cartoon style cover of a pair of historical/Regency young men leaning in for an embrace. One man is leaning back against a desk and has a watch behind his back.A Thief in the Night by KJ Charles – B+ At just under 3 hours of listening time, this little delight was easy to squeeze into my listening schedule. Those of us who’ve read or listened to The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting may remember that siblings Marianne and Robin were missing a brother – Toby. He’d left home suddenly some years before after a falling out with their father and, while they understood why he’d left, they missed him and wondered what happened to him.  We listeners need wonder no more as here he is.

Toby isn’t so much a thief as someone who steals things when “needs must”.  He’s happy to work for a living but it’s not always easy to find work and there have been times where he’s stolen or sold himself to survive. While his preference would be not to do either of those things I got the sense that he doesn’t let what he has to do sometimes get him down too much. As the novella begins, Toby meets a handsome aristocratic man in a tavern. They have an enjoyable encounter in the dark and Toby has real regret when he later steals Miles’ watch and pocketbook – but, needs must.

Miles has just returned from the war and is on his way home. He had been estranged from his own father and had hoped they could reconcile but he’s found out he’s a week too late – his father suddenly passed away. When Miles, now the Earl of Arvon, does make it home, he finds a house in terrible disarray. The land has been sold off, there’s only one horse and the house is full of junk – his father was a hoarder of sorts.

August Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

illustrated cover in teal and pink. In the foreground is a couple embracing. She has long brown hair and tanned skin and he has dark hair and tattoos. My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey – B+ Taylor Bassey is on vacation in Cape Cod with her beloved younger brother Jude. She’s been saving up for years for a special vacation and has decided now’s the time because her brother is struggling and she wants to cheer him up. Only, their fancy vacation rental contains suspicious peep holes looking into the main bedroom (ew). Oh, and also a corpse.  As it happens, the dead guy was the landlord. His sister’s boyfriend has an ex-cop current-bounty hunter friend and asks him to investigate the murder in addition to the police. Myles Sumner, big, tattooed and badass therefore comes to town. He’s not staying though. He’s been running for the past three years from what he considers to be a mess-up in his job. It led him to quit the force, ghost his family and live a nomadic life. 

Myles: meet Taylor.

Taylor, an elementary school teacher, has always considered she’s not very brave but after not totally freaking out when finding a dead body, she’s decided maybe that’s not true. And she takes an interest in the investigation too. Taylor, you see, is a big fan of true crime podcasts.

February Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

red ribbon with the end in a loveheart shape and a black and white photo of the head and upper torso of a handsome white man with fair hair and a neatly trimmed beardWrapped Up In You by Ella Frank & Brooke Blaine, narrated by Wesley Paul – B I picked up this little novella (it only goes for 1 hour 17 minutes) in the Audible Plus catalogue when I searched to see what else Wesley Paul had narrated. He’s narrating a Kristen Ashley book I had my eye on and I wanted to try a sample before one-clicking. It’s a Valentine’s Day short featuring a gay couple who have been together for about 3 years. One half of the couple is Vaughan, an ER doctor and has also spent time overseas with Doctors Without Borders so he’s often away or working during holidays. But this time, to Carter’s delight, Vaughan has something special planned.

The story takes the listener over the course of the day and includes a few flashbacks to how they met, their first date, etc and leads up to a big romance (which I’m sure folks can probably guess but I won’t give it away here even so). It’s soft and fluffy, has no conflict at all and in that way is a perfect little bite if one is in the mood for those things (I was).

October Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

picture of a murder scene (a body covered in a sheet maybe?) and a photo of Ted Bundy affixed with orange tape to itThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, narrated by Lorelei King – B I picked this audiobook up via my library. Lorelei King is a favourite narrator (she does the Mercy Thompson series) but I admit it threw me a little when Ted Bundy sounded like Adam Hauptmann!

I admit I knew little about Ted Bundy before this. (Hello. Australian.) I knew of him of course and that he was a serial killer but beyond that, not much else. Wow. What an animal he was. Cruel, vicious and manipulative. Ugh.

There’s an extra layer to this book though. Ann Rule was his friend. They met when they worked together at a crisis helpline. As I was listening there was a kind of meta layer to it and I spent a bit of time thinking about her relationship with Bundy and trying to put myself in her place. I think I would not have stuck by him or sent him money for cigarettes and postage stamps in jail. I think I would have washed my hands of him. That she did not was… a choice.

There are a number of afterwords which update events beyond the original ending of the book and take the story to Bundy’s execution in 1989. That last one seemed to shift in tone to more condemnation of Bundy than the original book did. I wondered about why that was.

September Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

illustrated cover in yellow with a blue cityscape and blue titlesRiley Thorn & the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score, narrated by Natalie Duke – B+ I picked up this audiobook for $4.95 when it was an Audible Daily Deal recently but as it happened it was easily worth the cost of a credit. What a delightful find! Not only did I stumble into a new-to-me author (with a significant backlist for extra bonus points) but a fabulous new-to-me narrator as well.

Riley Thorn comes from a family of psychic women but has rejected her heritage and lives in denial. Except, when she is confronted by a vision of her creepy neighbour being murdered, things start to get real. Nick Santiago is a private investigator who was trying to serve a summons on the guy who (spoiler alert) ends up actually dead and because reasons, he ends up investigating the murder, along with Riley.

Riley lives in a large shared house filled with old people (for reasons I didn’t understand – perhaps I missed the explanation? – she has to pretend they’re all related) and they’re quirky, hilarious and also a wonderful found family. Riley is a bit of a caretaker and feels responsible for her neighbours and so wishes to protect them from any potential harm once it becomes clear that after the murder the bad guy may well be back for more nefarious deeds.

REVIEW: Social Queue by Kay Kerr

Illustrated cover in purple/lilac with pink "talk bubbles" for the titles. On the top talk bubble is a rear view of a brown-haired white girl in red and a cat by her feet, on top of the bottom talk bubble are 5 white people, 4 guys and 1 girl all looking up at the girl on top and holding something like a flower or a coffee or an ice creamWhy I read it:  I was provided with a review copy by the publisher. The book is currently only available in/from Australia and New Zealand.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads) I thought I was nobody’s teen crush, but turns out I was just missing the signs.’

Zoe Kelly is starting a new phase of her life. High school was a mess of bullying and autistic masking that left her burnt out and shut down. Now, with an internship at an online media company—the first step on the road to her dream writing career—she is ready to reinvent herself. But she didn’t count on returning to her awkward and all-too-recent high-school experiences for her first writing assignment.

When her piece, about her non-existent dating life, goes viral, eighteen-year-old Zoe is overwhelmed and more than a little surprised by the response. But, with a deadline and a list of romantic contenders from the past to reconnect with for her piece on dating, she is hoping one of her old sparks will turn into a new flame.

Social Queue is a funny and heart-warming autistic story about deciphering the confusing signals of attraction and navigating a path to love.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I don’t read a lot of YA – let’s face it, I’m in it for the romance. Zoe is 18 and so technically an adult but the book is very much a YA, not least because while there is a romance with a hopeful HFN ending, the main story is of Zoe’s own self-discovery and coming of age.

In her first year of university studying journalism, she wins one of three coveted four-week internships at “Bubble” an online media outlet which seemed something like a small Buzzfeed, based in her hometown of Brisbane. She’s also recently dipped her toe into the murky waters of online dating (something I have no experience with because I’m old and married) and it hasn’t gone so well. So she pitches an article for Bubble about her experiences as an autistic young woman navigating the apps. After the first article goes live, there are a five comments which seem to indicate that she’d missed prior signs from people she’d gone to school or worked a part time job with and that spurs a series where Zoe gets in contact with each of the five to find out what she missed and see if there’s a spark of something now.

Romance readers will not be surprised by who the eventual HFN is with but I will not name names here.

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