with a review of True Love by Jude Deveraux, narrated by Tavia Gilbert. Would you believe this is my first ever Deveraux?
with a review of True Love by Jude Deveraux, narrated by Tavia Gilbert. Would you believe this is my first ever Deveraux?
I have three reviews up at the Speaking of Audiobooks column – plus there are reviews from other regulars. Come and say hi! 🙂
Pillow Talk by Maya Banks – B- After some less than successful erotic romance, I picked up Pillow Talk. Originally published as part of the Four Play anthology, it has now been released separately by Penguin as an eSpecial. While Ms. Banks’ books don’t always work super well for me, I find her a reliable read, particularly in the erotic department and this was no exception. Zoe and Chase are a couple and share a house with Brody and Tate. The 3 men work together as firefighters and Zoe is an ER nurse. During some sexy post (and mid) coital discussions, Chase and Zoe discover each other’s fantasies. Zoe gives Chase the birthday present of a lifetime and afterwards, Chase reciprocates with some group sex involving his most trusted friends. As an erotic story it works very well. It’s pretty darn sexy and there is definite connection between all the characters (although, sadly no m/m action). As a romance, it was a little less successful for me. The story ends with the foursome deciding to pursue a permanent menage but the main interest in that for me is the mechanics of it beyond the sex – how do they manage the jealousy (if there is any)? how do they each get time with Zoe? How does Zoe not feel overwhelmed and exhausted? How do each of the guys feel, in the longer term, about having to share Zoe three ways? How does Brody and Tate feel in that Chase has had the longer relationship? Is there a “primacy” to Chase and Zoe’s relationship? If not, how does Chase feel about that? There wasn’t time in a novella for those issues to be developed, but I’d love to read a book like that which dealt with those issues. As an erotic palate cleanser, it delivered the reliable sexy read I was after.
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – see my full review here.
Safe With Me (The Beginning) by Shaina Richmond – DNF – I read about 20 pages in to this 50 page Kindle freebie. The sex happened quickly, wasn’t romantic and I wasn’t enamoured of either main character. Not my thing. So I DNF’d it. Great cover though.
Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry – see my full review here.
Where You Hurt The Most by Anne Brooke (Riptide Rentboys Collection 2012) – B- This is a short sweet and sexy story about a high class escort who is asked to take on a scarred and broken young man as a client and the connection they form. Dan was badly burned in a car accident and hides his face under a red hoodie (hence the cover – which is very well done). I loved the prose. There was something almost hypnotic (in a good way) about the spare and lyrical way the words were on the page. The story is short, so to believe the hook, you have to believe the instant and deep connection between the two men. I think, with more time, I would have totally believed in them but unfortunately, I thought their interactions were insufficient for me to really buy into it. I will be looking out for more from this author because her writing voice appeals greatly.
The 51st Thursday by Mercy Celeste – DNF I got about 41 pages into this 55 page 99c Kindle book. The concept was good – guy goes into a bar each Thursday for 50 weeks, on the 51st Thursday there is a hurricane – the bar-owner Deacon and Thursday are trapped in the bar and hijinks ensue. Unfortunately, I just didn’t buy the mutual unrequited passion of the pair. Shelby (aka Thursday) came into the bar each week yes, but they didn’t speak to each other, apart from the basics or ordering a beer. They didnt’ exchange names or anecdotes or stories or anything. Deacon identifies as bisexual with a leaning towards men and at the start of the book, Shelby identifies as straight – by the point I got to, he seemed to accept he was gay and no-strings Deacon seems to have fallen in love – so that’s a lot to unpack in a 55 page book. The early sex scenes had an element of dubious consent to them which bothered me a little – it was consenual but there was… a sort of threat which lingered in the air. In the end, it was late and I was tired and I just didn’t care enough to read to the end. There was confusion for me too with which “him” was being referred to in sentences from time to time – it seemed to change and made parts of the story hard to follow. And, as much as I liked the concept, I felt a bit hammered by the overuse of Thursday by page 10. However, plenty of people like this better than I did, so YMMV.
Here Be Monsters by Meljean Brook (from Burning Up anthology) – B-/B I enjoyed this short story about Pirate Captain “Mad” Machen and Ivy Blacksmith. On the one hand, I appreciated that there wasn’t an info dump about the world but on the other, I can’t say I truly understood about the nanoagents etc. There were a couple of steamy scenes and overall, it was cleverly written and a very good introduction to the MB Steampunk world. I think I’ll read The Iron Duke next.
Shifting Seas by Virginia Kantra (from Burning Up anthology) – B/B- I’ve been hearing a little about this author lately and so was inspired to try this book. I enjoyed the story and certainly liked Ms. Kantra’s writing style. Set in 1813, Jack Harris returns scarred from the Peninsula wars to take up his unexpectedly inherited estate in the north of England. He meets Morwenna, a member of the “finfolk”, an immortal shapechanger who can shift to any sea creature as well as take human form. What starts off as merely Morwenna taking her pleasure from Jack begins to be a relationship between them and then the wider town and fishing community. It seems that for Morwenna to choose a life with Jack permanently, she must give up her ability to shape shift and her immortality – I thought those aspects were not very well explored. It seemed that Jack didn’t know about it. And there were some little things, like when Morwenna has dinner at the estate, her hair is curled and styled but she didn’t know how to do it herself I don’t think – she’s never worn shoes before she meets Jack so I think her adaption to the human lifestyle was also a bit glossed over. This could well be because of the limits of the format – there’s only so much you can fit in to 100 pages or less. It did achieve the goal of making me want to try more of this author’s work so overall, the anthology was a win for me.
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook – See my full review here.
Once Burned (Night Prince #1) by Jeaniene Frost, narrated by Tavia Gilbert – B Another book I reviewed for AAR. You know the drill.
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Sally Armstrong – A- see my full review here.
Sophia’s Secret by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Carolyn Bonnyman – (This book was released in the US and renamed The Winter Sea and the US audiobook release won Rosalyn Landor an audie award this year. I’m not a huge fan of Landor audie or not so I went with the Bonnyman option – she narrated Mariana and I enjoyed her narration very much.) Full review to come. ETA: Here it is.
Driving Mr. Dead by Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi – A- This short novel (just over 5 hours on audio) was hiliarious. I started to laugh from the first and spent a lot of the listen with a smile on my face. Miranda is a hiliarious screw-up klutz type person – disaster follows here wherever she goes. Taking a job as a V-Line driver – transporting vampires safely during daylight hours, she travels to Washington state where she picks up Colin Sutherland – a finicky, uptight vampire who hasn’t left his property since 1948. Hijinks ensue. So funny. And yes, there is romance with a HFN (which suited the length of the story). I’m pretty confident that these two will be in it for the long haul though (pardon the pun). Miranda’s musing about whether “adam’s apple porn” exists was just one of the things which had me laughing. A feel good fun romance and Ronconi nails the narration.
Lord of the Fading Lands (Tairen Soul #1) by CL Wilson – A-. See my full review here.
When Matt came back, his face was shining, and not just with sweat. “It’s brilliant!” he enthused a bit breathlessly, his chest still heaving. “I mean, it’s a bit weird ’til you get used to it, and it’s harder work uphill, and when you go downhill your legs are going round like buggery, but it’s like…” He trailed off, hands waving as they struggled to express what his words couldn’t manage. “It’s like the bike’s just an extension of your legs. Like, you’re not so much riding it as being it.” He gave me a rueful smile. “That probably sounds like a load of bollocks to you.”
“N-no,” I managed. My throat was tight, and my vision might even have swum, just a little bit. Matt’s smile was broader than I’d ever seen it, he was talking with his whole body, and his enthusiasm wasn’t so much infectious as in serious danger of causing a pandemic. He just seemed so…so alive at this moment. As we stood there staring into each other’s eyes, I had the strongest, almost painful urge to kiss him.
He’d had me at buggery.
**pick of the month**
Toby gave me a cheque for my paintings that sold at the do. It was more than I make in six months pulling in punts. I didn’t know what to spend it on, ’cause my mum said she didn’t want me to buy her nothing. So I was going to buy Larry something, but he said I should spend it on something I always wanted. So I bought a cat. I asked Larry first, because it’s his house and all. The cat didn’t cost much, because it was from the Cats Protection League and they don’t have posh cats there, only ordinary ones. I didn’t want a posh cat. I got Larry for when I want posh. I bought a litter tray for the cat, and some food bowls and a scratching post, and then put the rest of the money in the bank. I thought maybe I could buy Larry something later when he wasn’t looking.
And that’s why Muscling Through is my **pick of the month**.
The Rebuilding Year by Kaje Harper B/B+ Firefighter Ryan was injured in the line and as a result, had to change careers. He starts medical school at a small college, where he meets up with (slightly) older (there’s only 7 years difference in their ages) former landscape architect and current head groundsman, John. Both identify as straight and for a long time, the men enjoy a strictly platonic friendship. John is paying child support to his ex-wife for his teenage children who live interstate and Ryan needs a place to live, so he rents a room from John and they become closer. Gradually, they start to explore their attraction to one another, come out, to themselves and then to their families, on their way to their HEA. I really enjoyed this one. The characterisations were complete and interesting enough that even though I was quite a way into the book before there was any romance, I didn’t find it dragging at all. John’s relationship with his children is explored and both men have to come to grips with coming out and being “gay dads” to John’s children. The scene where John comes out to John’s daughter left me with a little conflict – it was kind of dumped on her and I didn’t see a lot of explaining to her, whereas there had been with John’s son. However, that’s a small thing really. The book takes place over that one year and there are things in the future which remain unknown – where will Ryan do his internship and will that mean John has to move house/jobs? etc, but I believed in their HEA and who knows, maybe we’ll see them again sometime. I really like this author’s books and she’s definitely on my autobuy list now.
Permanently Legless by JL Merrow – B This is a very short story about a veteran who returns from Afghanistan having lost both legs to an IED. He meets up again with a gorgeous young man with whom he’d hooked up shortly before deployment (and who he felt was way out of his league even when he had legs) . The story was complete in that the does-he-like-me conflict was resolved but I enjoyed Chris and his self-deprecating humour and his attitude to life and would have liked to have spent more time with him and his gorgeous young thing. It felt, to me (who has never been a soldier, never been to Afghanistan and who is in possession of both legs) to be a realistic portrayal of disability.
Cinder by Marie Sexton – B This is Marie Sexton’s take on the Cinderella story, only with 2 boys. I certainly enjoyed it but I wondered, in the end, how the royal line would continue with the Crown Prince and Heir Apparent being gay. I suspect I wasn’t supposed to think about this – it is a faery tale after all but I did. As a faery tale however, it worked and I liked it quite a bit.
The Saturnalia Effect by Heidi Beilieau and Violetta Vane B- This short is set in a prison where Troy, a new young inmate with a 40 year sentence is impressed to kill fellow lifer, Daniel. Troy falls hard for Daniel but doesn’t see a way out of his dilemma – if he doesn’t kill Daniel (or himself), then “Pliers” will kill him – but not before a bit of non consensual torture and rape. Some of the imagery of the story was a bit lost on me I’m afraid and there were parts there were merely suggested but I wasn’t with it enough to work out what had happened exactly. Maybe that was supposed to be that way. The ending has a supernatural magic to it so that the men can get their HEA which was a bit odd in terms of the rest of the story, but at least is gave me the HEA and that was way better than the alternative. Overall, however, enjoyable enough.
Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry – B+ see my full review here.
The Spiral Path by Mary Jo Putney, narrated by Barbara Rosenblatt – C. This is an oldish MJP and one of her few contemporary novels. I remember really enjoying it in print when I read it a few years back but I think it has dated and/or I have changed since then because, while I liked it well enough, I can’t say it was as good as I had remembered. Kenzie Scott and Rain Marlow are estranged spouses and both celebrated actors. Rain asks Kenzie to act in her directorial debut (she adapted the screenplay also) but the movie dredges up Kenzie’s traumatic (secret) childhood. The Spiral Path the title refers to is a labyrinth and I’m still fascinated by them. Barbara Rosenblatt does a great job of the narration but the production values were fairly poor – it’s an old cassette recording which has been spliced together for my iPod but I can hear her swallowing all the time (which is really off-putting!) and there’s a large portion of the book where I got distracted by her heavy breathing. More modern audiobooks don’t seem to have this problem (thank the Lord!).
Seeing Eye, from Strange Brew (anthology) by Patricia Briggs, narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck – B- As I’m a romance reader, my grade reflects that there’s not much romance in this story. We first met Tom and Moira in Hunting Ground, and it was nice to know how they’d met. As Urban Fantasy (sans romance) a good short story, as a romance, not so much. Also, Jennifer Van Dyck gave a really strange Rumpelstiltskin type voice to Tom which was odd and not terribly attractive. Holter Graham or Lorelie King (who narrated the Alpha/Omega and Mercy Thompson series’ respectively would have done a much better job) IMO.
To Say Nothing Of the Dog; Or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis, narrated by Steven Crossley – B+ A very funny historical/time travel story with a hint of romance. Excellent narration by Steven Crossley – I’m sure I found it that much more enjoyable because I was listening to him rather than reading it myself. His female voices were very very good and he differentiated the male characters very well too. The humour is quite dry and again, Crossley excels. The plot is very convoluted but basically revolves around 2 historians from Oxford in 2057 going back to 1888 to fix a “parachronistic incongruity” which could have disastrous effects (including changing the outcome of WWII). But, it’s much more than that. And, it’s filled with interesting (and presumably) true historical anecdotes about the small things which made a big difference. (To Say Nothing of the Dog refers to the book Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. Ironically, Steven Crossley narrates that one too). I can see on Goodreads that Mr. Crossley has narrated Judith Ivory’s The Proposition and Julie Garwood’s The Wedding and Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. All of which I now want to listen to.
Summer Days by Susan Mallery, narrated by Tanya Eby – DNF The narration is Tanya Eby’s usual very good standard. The story is so full of WTFery, I could not suspend my disbelief enough and thought all the characters were pretty stupid. I found it very difficult going indeed. In the end, I bailed a couple of hours in. Head on over to my Goodreads rant about the first 2 chapters if you want more.
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Lloyd James – A This book is straight fantasy with only a very very little thread of romance – less than Lord of the Rings, for example, but the story was so wonderful and the narration was just excellent. Lord Cazeril returns to Chalion after nearly 3 years away, having been betrayed and sold to a slave galley after a siege. Through a series of events, he is given the role of tutor/secretary to the Royesse (Princess) Iselle and her companion the Lady Beatrez (?spelling). He becomes aware of a longstanding curse hanging over the royal house of Chalion and it turns out he’s got something to do with breaking it. That brief summary doesn’t give the story justice. It’s just excellent. If you like fantasy, you’ll love this one. Lloyd James is a wonderful narrator. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’s done much else that I’m likely to listen to.
Never Love A Highlander by Maya Banks, narrated by Kirsten Potter – C+ I reviewed this one for AAR, so watch out for it over there in an upcoming column. Overall, an enjoyable listen.