September Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Picture of a house with a bright light in the attic/loft window, taken from across a lake. The lakefront house is surrounded by forest/wildernessNightwork by Nora Roberts, narrated by Will Damron – A- I wrote a thread on Twitter about my reaction to this book. I’ve reproduced the tweets below rather than just providing screenshots so it’s accessible to anyone.

I just finished Nightwork by Nora Roberts. 5 stars. Excellent on audio (although I though Will Damron’s accents slipped here – I wasn’t always convinced by his French accent – the narration really was fantastic ). 1/?

The main character is an art/jewel thief. Here I think La Nora taps into the zeitgeist. Booth starts stealing at age 9 because his mother has cancer, can’t work & they can’t pay their regular bills or their medical bills. Very relatable in the US context. 2/?

He starts off picking pockets but then graduates to B&E by age 12. He’s never violent, doesn’t carry a weapon & doesn’t take everything. Just what he came for. Of course at this point he’s stealing from the very rich. 3/?

Some of his thievery is from people who’ve stolen the art or jewels themselves. He becomes, in some ways, a modern day Robin Hood (except not so much of the giving to the poor – he does public service instead by being a (very good) public high school teacher). 4/?

The villain is a Very Bad Guy. He is violent, filthy rich, arrogant, entitled. (Sound familiar?) And he threatens Booth into stealing things for him. In the words of Elvis, Booth is caught in a trap. 5/?

What’s additionally interesting is that law enforcement are barely a presence in the story and Booth runs rings around those that do appear. Zeitgeist. 6/?

#RomBkLove Day 18: Speak to Me of Love

Blue graphic with books and a book light and the title: Day18: Romance audiobooks and #RomBkLove in English

When I thought about how best I could contributed to #RomBkLove almost my first idea was romance audiobooks with a focus on narrators. For those of us who love romance audio, we know it’s all about the narrator. A fantastic narrator can lift an okay book and make a great book come to life in new ways. I’ve said before that audio is a transformative medium. The listener experiences the story through the lens of the characterisation, tone, pacing and pitch of the narrator. When they get it right, it’s magic.

There are many brilliant narrators. My list of favourites is long but I’ve chosen just 6 to highlight today, paired with some of my favourite audiobooks from their catalogues.

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.

Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts, narrated by January LaVoy

Blue-washed night view of a rocky coastline with a lighthouse off to the right of viewWhy I read it:  I always buy Nora’s stand alone romantic suspense books. This one is from my own TBL.

TW: Mass shooting

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tending to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone – until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait – and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): Like The Witness in structure, Shelter in Place tracks the main characters from youth, dipping in and out of their timelines until we reach present day. Unlike The Witness, Shelter in Place follows not only the heroine, but also the hero. It is a long time before Simone Knox and Reed Quartermaine actually meet. Though they are both at the DownEast Mall on the night of the shooting, they don’t know each other and their lives take different trajectories for many years. I’m all about the HEA of course so one could be forgiven for thinking this bothered me. But the story hooked me from the opening seconds and for the most part I was too busy being engrossed in what was happening to be tapping my foot impatiently for the main characters to finally meet. Because Nora Roberts is the just that good, it was about the time that I started to feel a little antsy that my HEA-loving heart was blessed with Reed and Simone in the same room. From there, the romance progressed pretty smoothly – the conflict here is not about the relationship. It is all serial-killer based.

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