October Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Face of a pretty dark-haired woman against a green-washed moon over a bayou pictureSelkies Are a Girl’s Best Friend by Molly Harper. Narrated by Amanda Ronconi & Jonathan Davis – B Sonja Fong has moved to Mystic Bayou to help her best friend Jillian Ramsey with running the office for the League for Interspecies Cooperation. The daughter of a Chinese diplomat-type father and a Russian particle physicist mother (I’m not entirely convinced the model on the cover is an accurate representation of her ethnicity), Sonja is scarily competent, fearfully organised and super smart. She’s also gorgeous, kind and generous.

Will Carmody is a Mystic Bayou native and selkie shifter. He’s been away from the bayou for decades but has recently returned. He’s a doctor and the town desperately needs one. Jillian is delighted to offer him a job with the League as the town’s doctor and Sonja helps Will organise his new premises and get all set up.  They don’t get off to the most auspicious start but this is quickly sorted out and they start working together and exploring their chemistry and growing attraction.

The main conflict between them is Will’s fear (born from witnessing the trainwreck that was his parent’s marriage) of being trapped by his selkie pelt.

In amongst that is the ongoing mystery of the ever-expanding Rift which is causing humans to spontaneously develop supernatural abilities and the League’s ongoing research into it and their attempts to stablise and minimise the Rift. Sonja finds herself at risk after she begins investigating some shifty financial dealings. While the mystery contained in this book wasn’t particularly hard to decipher, there were some interesting developments with the wider story arc and I’m curious as to how it’s all going to work out.

Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Illustrated cartoon type cover featuring a couple on a beach with a boom microphone above them. She is a fat brunette in a one piece swimsuit and he is a lean man in glasses wearing yellow swim trunks and a green tee Why I read it:  I pre-ordered this one as soon as it was up and recently carved out time to actually read it.

Content Advisory: Anxiety

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  They’re pretending. Until they aren’t.

Thomas McKinney has never wanted a woman the way he wants Callie Adesso. Since she started working alongside him at the Colonial Marysburg Research Library, he’s spent his desk shifts fumbling pencils, tripping over his own feet, and struggling to remember both the Dewey Decimal System and the existence of her inconvenient boyfriend. Now, however, Callie is suddenly single–and in need of a last-minute faux-boyfriend for an episode of HATV’s Island Match. Thomas is more than happy to play the part…and in the process, convince Callie that a week together isn’t nearly long enough.

Callie has never found a man as irritating as she finds Thomas. He may be brilliant, kind, and frustratingly handsome, but the absent-minded librarian also makes every workday an anxiety-inducing exercise in stress. Even seven days in paradise by his side won’t change her opinion of him. Really. No matter how attentive he is. And gentle. And sexy.

One plane ride later, the two of them are spending long, hot days under the sun and on display, pretending to be in love for a television show. This may be a vacation, but it’s also an act–as well as Thomas’s last chance to persuade the woman of his dreams to include him in hers. And soon, the island heat isn’t the only thing steaming up HATV’s cameras…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Thomas McKinney was such a delightful hero. It was something of a surprise actually because initially I only had Callie’s description of him and he was certainly making life very difficult for her at work. It all came from a place of good intentions and being lovestruck and it could also have easily turned into way-not-okay stalker territory. Callie has only been at the library for six months. She struck up a friendship quickly with Thomas but became frustrated with him because he’s very bad at multi-tasking and tended to get caught up in whatever question he was asking for a patron and taking ages to do it. This left Callie doing most of the actual work and not getting many of the interesting questions to answer. Callie has been trying to work with other librarians for the past few months but for some reason she is always on shift with Thomas. This has meant she has had little chance to build relationships with anyone else and has been very isolating for her. So, initially, Thomas comes across as a bit of a jerk.

August Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

planetscape in reds yellows and oranges - looks kind of like MarsTo See The Sun by Kelly Jensen, narrated by TJ Clark – B Gael Sonnen is a young man living in the undercity of his home planet, Zhemosen, never allowed to see the sun which is only for the wealthy and privileged who live above ground. He’s also beholden to a bad guy because reasons. When said bad guy requires Gael to murder someone, he is unable to go through with it. With the help of a friend, Gael flees to Alkirak as a kind of “mail order groom”  on a “companion contract”.  Alkirak is very far away from Zhemosen way out of reach of the commonwealth law; a kind of wild west frontier planet, still being terraformed. Abraham (Bram) Bauer is an older guy who is lonely and looking for more than just hook ups. He can get hook ups easily enough but he wants more.

His friend suggests a companion contract and when he sees Gael’s “holo video” he is smitten.  Bram is a farmer and a miner and life is fairly hard where he is but as difficult as things are, for Gael it is a paradise compared to where he grew up (even though he doesn’t immediately see that is the case).

I don’t want to give too much way but I will say there is a strong found family vibe and I was here for it.

I liked the gradual slow burn of the romance and how Gael and Bram made a family together. The last section felt a bit out of left field and I wasn’t convinced the narrative had truly set up the scenario but it wasn’t the main part of the story and I guess things had to come to a head somehow.

Under Currents by Nora Roberts, narrated by January LaVoy

A small rowboat is tied up at a wooden dock surrounded by reeds, on a lake at sunset, the colours are purples and redsWhy I read it:  I pre-ordered this one.

CW: Family violence, domestic abuse

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Within the walls of a tasteful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, young Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. Strangers—and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake—see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Zane and his sister know the truth: There is something terribly wrong.

As his father’s violent, controlling rages—and his mother’s complicity—become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. He looks out for little Britt, warning her Be smart. Be careful. In fear for his very life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away.

When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the façade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph—and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Every year I eagerly await the new stand-alone Nora Roberts romantic suspense. Sometimes they miss more than they hit, but when they work for me they really work for me. Under Currents worked.

While I found it a little predictable at the end, I enjoyed the listen so much. The subject matter, dealing as it does with family violence (including spousal abuse, sexual, emotional and physical and child abuse, emotional and physical) is pretty brutal so it won’t be a book for everyone. But at various points throughout the story I was so tense and fearful about what was going to happen, as well as just plain happy as the romance blossomed. There are a few little romances in the book actually – more than one HEA is always a good thing.

July Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

arctic/Alaska scenic picture with mountains, snow and trees and ocean, and superimposed in the sky of the picture are the lower faces of a white silver fox (or silver bear!) and a younger indigenous man.Arctic Wild by Annabeth Albert, narrated by Iggy Toma – B+ I enjoyed Arctic Sun recently, the first book in the Frozen Hearts series set in Alaska and after Caz enjoyed the follow up book, I decided to listen as well. I hadn’t listened to Iggy Toma narrate before but he has been highly recommended so I decided to give it a try.

Listeners were introduced to Tobias Kooly briefly in Arctic Sun but this book stands alone fairly well. Reuben Graham is a white guy in his late forties, going on an Alaskan holiday/adventure for his birthday. He was supposed to go with a couple of friends but they had to cancel at the last minute so he goes alone.

31 year-old Toby is the pilot/guide for his tour. Toby’s identifies his ethnicity as:

“My family background is a mix but mostly Athabascan from Ninilchik and Kenai. Also some Russian, Dutch, German thrown in.”

and it forms a large part of his identity. While I know the author is white, it seemed to me that the representation was done well but as I’m also white I’m hardly the expert here.

June Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Fair-haired slender woman communing with a treeEven Tree Nymphs Get the Blues by Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi & Jonathan Davis – B This is a novella-length audiobook which was free to Audible members and is set in the world of Mystic Bayou – a follow on from How to Date Your Dragon and Love and Other Wild Things, both of which I enjoyed very much. Rob Aspern is a human mathematician/data scientist with the League for Interspecies Cooperation. He was something of an antagonist (albeit a benign one) in Zed and Dani’s book – Zed and Bael still call him “Dr. Kendoll Assface” or “Dr. Assburn” – but now he gets his own HFN. Ingrid Asher is the tree nymph of the title. She moves to Mystic Bayou from New York, to open an Ice Creamery. She has been deeply hurt by a man in her past and Rob has a lot of work to do to get through Ingrid’s barriers.

Unsurprisingly, Ingrid is taken under the wing of Jillian, Dani and Sonia. Ingrid has little experience with Girls’ Night Out or friendships in general, having kept to herself for much of the last 70 years (she’s about 500 and is amortal) and the scene where she discusses dating with the girls is very funny. Penis size is mentioned.  Also hilarious is the section where Zed and Bael are giving Rob dating advice. Bael shit-talks Zed constantly and it’s so funny. I bet Ms. Harper was cracking herself up writing them.

%d bloggers like this: