I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. Actually, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to listen to it. I bought this audiobook through an Audible sale and didn’t really know what to expect (although one reviewer’s reference to Harry Dresden definitely piqued my interest). So for a few months it just sat in my library until the guilt at buying a book and not listening to it finally got to me and I decided to give it a chance. Five minutes later, I was hooked!
When Myfanwy (pronounced like Tiffany with an “M”) Thomas wakes up without any memory of who she is or how she wound up in a London park surrounded by dead men wearing suits and latex gloves, she finds two letters in her jacket pocket that were written to her by the jacket’s previous owner -- who happens to be the former owner of Myfanwy’s own body! I say “former” because we learn, through a series of subsequent letters, that Myfanwy’s memories and personality have been erased, and the person who opens Myfanwy’s eyes in that park is not the same Myfanwy who closed them moments before. Oh yeah, it also turns out that the person responsible for Myfanwy’s memory loss is one of her co-workers. But not just any co-worker: the “bad guy” is another high-ranking, supernaturally gifted person (like Myfanwy herself) working for the Chequy, a super-secret organization dedicated to protecting Queen and Country against paranormal threats (like dragons and houses made of slime).
Does this sound like the script to an extremely cheesy B-movie? Yes! But that’s because I am not as talented as Daniel O’Malley, who has managed to turn what should be a played-out-supernatural-who-dunnit into a fresh, imaginative, and FUN debut novel. For me, this book embodies the very best of escapism fiction: it’s clever, the characters are well-developed, the plot moves briskly without feeling rushed, and you can get lost in the story for hours without losing yourself to the story (which is a good thing when you have a job!)
Finally, I know others reviewers have complained about the narrator. Personally, I thought she was excellent! I would, however, recommend listening to the preview. The narrator’s voice and cadence remain consistent throughout the book, so if you enjoy the preview, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this narrator. If not? Then I would highly recommend buying this book in print, because it really is that good!
When I first stumbled across this audiobook, it had yet to be reviewed by the Audible listener community. So I went to Amazon where Jennifer Lehr is personally EXCORIATED by reviewer after reviewer. Multiple reviews include the words “self-absorbed,” “spoiled,” and “narcissistic.” The writing is described as “stilted,” “puerile” and “immature.” One reviewer even mentioned the Lehrs’ child, noting that she “will have to read the painfully embarrassing and pointless details of her mom’s promiscuity, chilly inability to enjoy sex, shrewish control freak behavior, materialism and the utterly demeaning and heartless way her mother has publicly castrated her father.” OUCH.
But, there were also a number of five star reviews that praised Ms. Lehr’s writing as “engaging,” “compelling,” “fun,” and “courageous.” Overall, the book was positively reviewed by critics and the subject matter was intriguing. So I took a chance. (Hey, I could always return the book if I hated it.)
Nine hours later, having laughed (and sometimes cringed) my way through this book, I understand why some reviewers did not like it. You either “get” Ms. Lehr and her sense of humor, or you don’t. Personally, I got it. What some may perceive as “self-absorbed,” I thought was self-deprecating. What some may perceive as “narcissistic,” I thought was wryly reflective. What some may perceive as “promiscuity,” I thought was an honest exploration of a woman’s developing sexuality. Mostly, however, I think I got this book because I didn't take it too seriously.
I also realize that my enjoyment of this book may be, in large part, due to Emily Zeller’s flawless narration. She not only captured the tone of Ms. Lehr’s writing perfectly, she managed to make Ms. Lehr’s character likeable and real. It’s equally notable that the stylistic issues some reviewers had with the printed copy of this book (poorly chosen font, over-hyphenation, and gratuitous photographs) did not apply to this audiobook. Whatever the reason, if you don’t take yourself (or others) too seriously, if you have ever experienced the anti-climax of a first kiss, if you have ever wondered why you always date guys who are all wrong for you, if you have ever realized that “frog” in your life is really a prince, or if you have ever loved someone enough to struggle though the hard times, I think you will enjoy this book.
Another reviewer mentioned that this book was formulaic, and to an extent I find myself agreeing with that sentiment: the tortured hero and the spunky heroine have some “issues” to work through before their HEA. That said, isn’t that what makes this series so thoroughly enjoyable? As a fan of the IIAD series, I was happy to see the elements I have always loved—the humor, the romance, the passion, the ever-expanding world of the Lore (and, of course, Nix!)—are all present and accounted for. As for the story itself, the Macrieve we meet in the first third of the book is hotter than hot, and the tender yet sizzling heat between him and Chloe is absolute PERFECTION! To bring necessary tension to the story, however, Cole adds a twist that puts Macrieve and Chloe at odds. Because I already felt that Macrieve and Chloe were so perfect for one another, I found myself getting impatient with this part of the story line. That did not, of course, prevent me from devouring this book in one very over-stimulated weekend! Bottom line: if you are an IIAD fan, this book, like all the others, does not disappoint!
This beautifully written novel starts off slowly – but please don’t let that dissuade you from purchasing it. With its slow start, the listener, like the protagonist, Cora, gets to experience the tantalizing feeling that something more is out there, just out of reach. And when Cora finally reaches that place, geographically and emotionally, the listener also gets to experience her happiness, her self-awakening, her life’s poignant journey. As a fair warning to others who listen to audiobooks while commuting to and from work: this book will make you cry. So grab a tissue, be patient, and I hope you LOVE this story as much as I did.
If you've already read the Publisher's Summary, you should have a pretty good idea what this book is about. The plot is highly character driven, and while the main characters felt a little caricature-ized at times, overall I found them to be realistically flawed and wonderfully likeable. The story itself is touching, funny, absurd, and clever. Without giving anything away, trust me when I say that the billboard incident alone makes this an enjoyable listen.
Like some of the other reviewers, I initially struggled to like this narrator, who seemed to add an exclamation mark to the end of each sentence. Ultimately, though, I think her earnest, over-the-top exuberance captured the spirit of this book perfectly. Highly recommend. [Insert enthusiastic exclamation mark here.]
There are times in my life when I cannot give a story my full attention and/or I do not have the energy to emotionally invest myself in its characters; but I still want to be entertained and I don't want to settle for mediocre writing. If you know what I am talking about and are looking for a book to fit that bill, this is a good choice.
In one form or another, we've met all of these characters before. We know the querulous old woman really has a heart of gold. We know the handsome male protagonist will always be there when the heroine needs him. And we know the heroine will, eventually, find happiness in a town full of off-beat but charming locals. We know all of this and that's what makes this book so great. You know what to expect when you pick it up and you're not disappointed when you put it down. With its clear prose and enjoyable narration, if you're looking to escape into the familiar, I think you will welcome this addition to your listening library.
When I buy romances novels like this one, I don’t expect Pulitzer Prize winning prose or complex storylines, and will usually give an author a lot of latitude if the plot follows a tried-but-true story arc and the main characters fit the hunky-alpha-male/innocent-but-courageous-female stereotypes we see in so many of these books.
Even knowing that about this genre, I was disappointed by this book. Maya Banks didn’t simply use those conventional romantic elements -- she forces them on us. The main character, Marin, is kidnapped from her convent (yep, a convent) by the story’s villain, Duncan Cameron, who is not just a pompous blowhard or self-centered schemer; to ensure the reader understands just how bad this novel’s bad guy really is, he is also physically abusive, a traitor to the throne, and cowardly in battle. Then, after escaping Duncan’s brutish clutches, Marin meets the hero, Ewan, whose first wife died (but don’t worry, he hardly remembers her), whose favorite phrase is “You will obey me,” and whose sexual mastery is, naturally, unrivaled.
And even there, the story fizzles. The sex scenes, while numerous, never manage to build up any real heat. I was not expecting the lengthy detail or vivid descriptions you would find in an erotic novel, but given all of the reviews describing this book as “hot” and “steamy,” I was expecting some serious sizzle between the main characters, similar to the heat in Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflower series (which is also available on Audible) or Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers trilogy (which is not yet available on Audible but is EXACTLY what this trilogy should have been).
Finally, I have to agree with another reviewer who mentioned that it was difficult to tell which character was speaking because all of their voices sounded the same. While I found this was especially true with Marin and Ewan’s voices, overall I thought the narration was fine. I wouldn’t buy another Maya Banks book, but I might listen to another audiobook narrated by Ms. Potter.
Do you ever have those days when you just need a hug? When you want to slip into something comfortable, curl into a blanket, and let your mind wander to happy, uncomplicated places? If so, you will love this little gem of a book with its sweet story, intelligent writing, and charmingly earnest heroine. Although the plot is uncomplicated and the ending is fairy-tale perfect, this book should not be dismissed as “mindless fluff.” Although there were a few instances of over-the-top saccharinity, as a whole Ms. Ibbotson’s prose is measured and thoughtful, resulting in a story that is utterly delightful in its deliberate simplicity.
The first Eva Ibbotson novel that I bought (“The Secret Countess”) was narrated by Davina Porter, who I absolutely love. So when I saw that Patricia Connolly, who I was previously unfamiliar with, was the narrator for this book, I was a little disappointed. I shouldn't have been. Although Ms. Connolly isn’t quite as good as Davina Porter, she brings a gentle lyricism to this story that is very similar to Ms. Porter’s. Plus, listening to her narrate is like listening to my mom tell me a story (if my mom had a British accent!) Sweet and comforting, I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone whose ever had "one of those days." I'd also recommend "The Secret Countess," which I liked even better, although it's fair to say that both books are like chocolate for the soul.
This was my first foray into post-apocalyptic literature, and I must say: I really liked it! It’s not a perfect novel, and I can understand how some reviewers loved this book while others completely panned it. For me, though, having no experience with this genre, and therefore having no expectations one way or another, I thought the good outweighed the bad, and I can honestly say I enjoyed this audiobook immensely.
I’ll start with the bad: the foreword by Newt Gingrich sets a decidedly preachy tone that is echoed (OK, sometimes shouted) throughout the book: Thou hast sinned by worshiping the false god of technology and thy punishment is nigh! Likewise, William R. Forstchen is not an especially subtle author. A few strokes with Norman Rockwell’s paintbrush and you have the novel’s setting. Populate the town with good ol’ boys with guns and spunky gals with traditional values and you have your main cast of characters. Add a dash of political propaganda and you have the moral of the story. And yet…
…the GOOD: ultimately, this is a story about LIFE -- hope, courage, and perseverance; family, friends, and community; love, loyalty, and loss. At times the story is touching, at times it is funny, at times it is scary. And for those reasons alone, I was a very happy listener. But I enjoyed it for another reason. It’s also a story that made me ask myself: ‘What would I do in this situation?’ And it made me think. No, I didn’t suddenly turn into a Doomsday Prepper, but I did take stock of my emergency supplies: Water? Nope. Flashlight and batteries? Nope. Toilet paper, canned food, matches? Um, no... EMP attack notwithstanding, would it be smart to have these things on hand? I suppose that’s up to you; but for my part, I am now the proud owner of a solar powered flashlight. (Hey, it’s a start! :))
While I disagree with Mr. Gingrich that William R. Forstchen is the next George Orwell or HG Wells, I do have him to thank for expanding my literary interests. Because of this book, I added Pat Frank’s “Alas Babylon” and Stephen King’s “The Stand” to my Library, and think my listening experience has been enriched because of it.
Because I have yet to read a review that says it, I’m just going to put this out there: I read romance to feel good. I read erotica to get turned on. And when this audiobook ended, I didn’t feel good and I definitely wasn’t turned on.
Although the story started out well-enough, the sex scenes became rather formulaic. M + F meet and decide to have sex. M touches F from the waist up. M and F touch one another from the waist down. M knows EXACTLY how to touch a woman (because, obviously, we’re all turned on by the same thing) and can bring them to multiple orgasms with his perfect, G-spot finding penis. (Can I use that word in a review? I guess we’ll find out…)
Those scenes alternate chapters with the main character, Sadie’s, first-person narrative describing her life with Adam, her quadriplegic husband. Trust me: this doesn’t make for uplifting listening. And yet, that part of the story was so beautifully real, eventually I found myself fast forwarding through the repetitive sex scenes (except for the second to last one with M + F/F/F which was hot!) just so I could find out what happens with Sadie and Adam. And then, rather abruptly, the story rushes to a conclusion. Although the conclusion was inevitable, given the sensitivity with which Sadie and Adam’s relationship was previously treated, I was surprised at how forced the ending felt.
Nonetheless, and mostly because there is a notable lack of well-written, well-narrated erotica on Audible, I can honestly say this book is better than average and I do not regret adding it to my Library. However, for those of you who are looking for the same things within this literary genre that I am, this audiobook doesn’t quite hit the mark.
EROTIC STORY: 3.0 stars
MAIN STORY: 3.5 stars
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