The pacing: it is very slow. And the characters lack significant growth over a 10-12 year plotline.
Anita's storyline was the most interesting. Ben and Lenny were stagnant - once their characters were established, nothing much changed with them. The same issues were rehashed again and again.
I have listened to one other Heather Jane Hogan performance. I liked her performance in Twisted by Uvi Poznansky better.
There was one scene that left me wanting ice cream.
This book was well written with plenty of thought put into the plights of the characters, carefully mapping out how each responds to the emotional situations they find themselves in, considering each person’s needs and desires. With that said, this wasn’t the book for me. I found the pacing of the story extremely slow (and for someone who adores Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, the pacing must be pretty slow). Also, I saw very little character growth for any of the characters from the time Anita comes into their lives fastforwarded 10 years to the wedding of Lenny and Anita. Ben went off to college, to Europe and comes back at age 27. Didn’t he have adventures? Romances? Heartbreak? But he appears to be the same as he was at age 17 when Anita first came into his life. Also, Anita seems to have very little growth. While I found her story line the most interesting, I was left feeling that all she did for 10 years was watch questionable TV and keep Lenny happy in bed. I think if the storyline was compressed over a 3-4 year span, this lack of character growth wouldn’t have bugged me as it did.
With that criticism, if you have an interest in child-parent relations when there is a divorce and a new, younger significant other takes the place of one parent, then this book might be of great interest to you. There was also that side tragedy of Natasha’s illness (which Lenny managed to hide from Ben for 10-12 years). I definitely understood Ben’s mix of emotions when he finally found out – deep sadness, betrayal (why didn’t his dad trust him with this news much earlier?). If you read the blurb on Goodreads for this book, you will see that a tape recorder with the recorded innermost thoughts of the main characters plays a key role in the story. However, this tape recorder doesn’t really come into play until the reader is perhaps 75% of the way through the book. So, it’s significance seemed rather minor to me, as compared the Natasha’s piano.
While this book was not the book for me, I am not turned off of Uvi Poznansky’s works and will look forward to checking out further works from her. Her care in plotting and setting up characters was evident in this book, even if the subject didn’t move me.
The Narration: Heather Jane Hogan and David Kudler did a decent job of narrating the story. Heather’s voice for Anita was especially good since she had the most emotional outbursts. David gave Ben an agonized voice for when he finally reunites with his ill mother and he filled Ben’s voice with longing when Ben was thinking of Anita.
Set in Victorian England, Miss Jillian Roring, daughter to the ice captain and merchant Mr. Roring, is headed off to her first season in London. Unfortunately, there is failed kidnapping en route and she must seek assistance from the nearest estate, that of Logan. What ensues is a mess of flirting, confused signals, mild insults, and misunderstandings.
I will admit that it was the title that drew me into this book. The job of an ice captain has to be exciting, and I had pictures in my head of the daughter wrapped in furs, big rock pick in hand, hammering away at a small iceberg as the men of the ship collected the chunks and stowed them away in the hold. Alas, the captain is barely mentioned in this book, and his profession is only discussed by snide gossips who find his career far beneath them. Of course, they are sipping ice chilled drinks as they do this.
I think that if you like Jane Austen’s works, you wold enjoy this book. It is a sweet tale of two people struggling through their own fears and desires, London society’s strict rules of propriety, and vicious gossip. If that all sounds like your cup of tea, then check this book out. It is well written with a decent pacing. There is also a little sub-plot dealing with the failed kidnapping that added some dimensionality to the our main character, Jillian.
Unfortunately for me, I have never been much of a Jane Austen fan and so this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. I find all the gossip and people pushing against London society’s unspoken rules to be tedious and a bit boring. Also, none of our characters work for a living (except the ice captain, who we see so very little of) so their lives seem small to me.
The ending was sweet. I think romantics will enjoy it. Of course we know from early on that they must get together by the end, because that is how these books go. The amusement was in watching how they figured everything out.
The Narration: Rachel Hirsch was a good fit for this book. Most of the tale is from Jillian’s point of view and Hirsch had a nice, proper English accent for her. She also had dialects for the servants. Her range of male and female voices served this book well.
What do psychotic clowns, cryptid chimeras, drunk sheriffs, Russian novel reading monkeys, ghostly lovers, and zombies have in common? Not much beyond this book. Set in modern day, Unity, Texas is a place to the unwanted, drunk, and those not wanting to be found to disappear. Laredo Beaumont, the sheriff, takes his job seriously, especially the napping and drinking part. At least, until the day a murder of clowns shows up.
This is one of the oddest books I have ever read. I knew it was a mishmash of genres and plot devices going into it, but the various elements pulled in was beyond expectations. And the author made it all work beautifully. I was constantly entertained, usually surprised, and left wanting more. I hear rumors there is a second book in the making and I have my fingers crossed that is true.
The book starts off with psychotic clowns. Admittedly, it does jump around quickly from clown to clown, and often with swift punches of flashbacks showing a little bit of why that clown is now with a sadistic gaggle of clowns on a near deserted highway. Don’t be put off by this because the point of view settles down after that and gives a good story, with a few flashbacks here and there. The viewpoints do change throughout the tale, but we get to spend enough time with each character that the reader has time to connect with them.
I found Unity to be a fascinating town, especially all the problems they have with the cryptids such as the chupacabra and jackalope chimeras. The biologist in me wanted to do a summer study course in Unity. The half with the common sense knew we would have to get lost in a desert teeming with the shuffling undead. The zombies don’t feature heavily in this book, but do have a little key part to play.
Laredo and Sally Mae were my two favorite characters, one being a drunk authority figure and the other a ghostly bordello lass. They both kick ass in their own ways. And there is one sex scene. It is smoking hot, literally. There are flames involved. And a luchadero mask. Haha! Hooray for Mexican wrestling! That little detail gave me a good laugh, and yet, it really worked with the character.
Yes, there is a deputy sheriff. His name is Cicero, a chimpanzee. He wields knives and reads dreary Russian literature. Periodically, he smashes up the one and only bar, which is owned by the mayor of the town. She doesn’t appreciate such antics; hence, he has a job and has to keep it to work off his binges. Toss in the clowns (like Kiss me Kate) and some other town characters (the mayor’s bathrobe attired husband) and you have a very eclectic cast.
The plot was pretty straight forward. The clowns have been gallivanting about the country side looking for a specific person, someone they feel they need to payback (like by breaking said person’s kneecaps). In Unity, the sheriff struggles with the big question: why am I here? While he wrestles with that, all these other characters are just going about their lives, until some clowns with questionable makeup skills arrive in town. Really, the plot gave this backbone for all these character to play together on. I am fine with that because it was damn entertaining!
Narration: Bernard Setaro Clark was a good fit for this book. He had a variety of voices (and you definitely needed that for this book). His female voices were totally believable. Luckily, we weren’t treated to any monkey screeches. He had no hesitancy with the evil clowns or the love scene.
Zabdas tells us his story, that which is closely entwined with his relative, Zenobia. Palmyra, the jewel of Syria, is ruled by Odenanthus, a client king of the Roman empire. While he guards the frontier from the Persians, Rome refuses to send additional aid. Zenobia and her father, Julius Zenobius, feel it is time for Syria to stand on it’s own.
This is an exceptionally engaging historical fiction. Zabdas’s story was exciting, full of his own plight (going from slave to warrior), strained family relations, and the politics between Rome and Palmyra. His tale is told in a back and forth manner, his present day where he is a grandfather and a respected, aged warrior, and his past told through a memoir he is writing and his granddaughter is reading. I found it fascinating to see the young, unsure Zabdas versus the confident, aged warrior.
Before reading this book, I knew little of the Palmyrene Empire (I could spell it and I knew Palmyra was Syrian) and even less about Zenobia. I had no problems getting caught up in the story and learning as I went. The reader does not have to be versed in the times or area to follow this tale. It was delightfully educational.
Zabdas’s uncle, Julius is an interesting figure, being polite and gentile but also knowing when to be a bit cutthroat. He also has his fair share of secrets. So does his daughter, Zenobia. She is regal in her bearing, but also strong-willed. Various male leaders have a hard time tossing her out of meetings without looking the fool. She keeps her personal political agenda close to her chest until near the end of the book. Since we don’t get to spend time in her head, we must guess her motives, as Zabdas does.
I enjoyed every minute of this book and had a hard time putting it down, like for a few hours of necessary sleep. I am very much hoping Book 2 comes to audio.
The Narration: Paul Hodgson was the perfect fit for Zabdas. He did a great job switching back and forth from the unsure youthful Zabdas to the seasoned war veteran Zabdas. There are only a handful of female characters in this book, it being of a small cast. Hodgson had a nice female voice, but I found that all the ladies sounded alike. If two were talking together, I had to pay close attention most of the time to follow who was talking. Hodgson had a variety of accents that added to the over all flavor of the book.
Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works OK as a stand alone.
Told in a series of short scenes, ancient queens and vampires compete and couple in the past, just as their dopplegangers do the same in our time. From Cleopatra to Dracula, belly dancing to the grind, ancient witch Queen Salome to modern day witch Grany Rosa Smith, this tale is anything but traditional.
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of this book. It does skip around quickly, so you have to pay close attention. There is also a large cast of characters, so you never have time to get attached to any one character. Instead, you simply have to sit back and enjoy the experience, like watching an hour of 80s music videos. Not every video has to make 100% sense, and they don’t have to necessarily relate to one another, and you certainly don’t get to know the individual band members from the one video they feature in within that hour.
The over all experience was definitely different. I wouldn’t have thought to pair vampires and belly dancing, both of which can be sexy things. I liked that we had more female roles than male roles (something that is still hard to find in today’s literature). However, I didn’t like that at least half of these ladies were in direct competition with each of for a man. Sigh. So cliche.
Still, it was an interesting experience and for an hour’s entertainment, you could do far worse.
The Narration: Fatimah Halim and J. Lyle were excellent narrators. For having to switch characters, locations, and times so often they did a very nice job. I really liked Halim’s rich, full voice that made me think of comfort food and curvy sexy women all at once. J. Lyle had to pull off some accents while sounding like he had pointy teeth, which he did very well.
Set in ancient Mesopotamia, King Sargon’s army has been conquering and laying claim to cities in his area for decades. For Princess Nindalla of Susa, this is the second time in her young like that Sargon’s Akkadians have conquered her home. Ur-sag-enki was once a farm boy. But the Akkadians changed all that when they destroyed his home and brought ruin to his family. Now, he is a soldier in the Akkadian army. He believes his destiny is tied to Nindalla’s but plots and violence keep driving them apart.
First, this is an awesome book. Second, I know the cover doesn’t convey all the awesomeness contained in this novel, so just push it to the side. There is indeed a romantic love story twined throughout this tale, but there is ever so much more going on. The world is richly conveyed to the reader in a thousand little ways – a few Sumerian words are sprinkled here and there, the way folks dress, swearing by and praying to the deities of the time, liberal consumption of beer, and love pouring forth from the liver (instead of the heart).
The characters have quite a bit of depth, having a history, but also growing throughout this story. The women are portrayed realistically for the time and culture, but they are not boring or simply decorative pieces moved here and there. Princess Nindalla especially is critical for the plot, not because she is the love interest of Ur-sag-enki, but because she has political power and a brain. I really enjoyed this character. She’s a mother of 3, so no shy blushing maiden here. Also, this ties her to the city, and she has to consider her children in each and every decision she makes for their lives may be greatly affected.
Ur-sag-enki wasn’t your average beau. He is a Sumerian of a conquered land living and working as a soldier in the enemy’s army. He has his reasons (ones that aren’t revealed til the end of the book) but his status brings him many enemies both within the Akkadian army and within the newly conquered Susa. Once, as a farm boy, he saw Nindalla from afar and knew then and there that she was his destiny. While that is a nice romantic touch, it fed into his motivations later one. Personally, I think his character would have made many of the same decisions concerning Nindalla even if he hadn’t fallen in love with her on first sight. But if you are a romantic, that will make you sigh and go all gooey hearted.
The plot was excellent. So much palace intrigue! So much army back stabbing! Both Ur-sag-enki and Nindalla have to navigate these treacherous waters, all the while not knowing if they can trust each other.
And there was beer. Now Mesopotamian beer isn’t like Coors or even a good porter. It was a nutritional part of the daily diet. Everyone (men, women, kids, elderly, pregnant ladies) consumed this beverage. It was great to see that the author didn’t shy away from showing this aspect of Mesopotamian life despite social norms of today concerning alcohol.
OK, so the cover. I’m not so hot on it. I assume the young man on the cover is meant to be Ur-sag-enki. However, he doesn’t have any scars, he doesn’t look like he’s been through hell and back, he’s not tanned or dark skinned as I pictured the character. While the cover is easy on the eyes it just doesn’t convey the awesomness contained in this story. And that is my only quibble about the book.
The Narration: Hollie Jackson was really goo with the voices. Her Princess Nindalla was excellent. She also was great at pronouncing the Sumerian words and the ancient Mesopotamian deities. My only criticism is that several times throughout the book there were do overs of a line or two. If it happens just once or twice in a book, I don’t mention it. However, with this book it happened a 4-6 times. Other than that, her performance was great.
Note: Even though this is Book 28 in the series, it stands alone quite well.
Yum! Veggie snacks! As the title says, this book is all about vegetarian snacks. Some are naughty, some are lean, some are green, and some are decadent. There’s quite a variety and this book is a treat to anyone who enjoys eating plants, not just vegetarians.
As much cooking as I do every week, I am always up for some new ideas. In this book, there is a lovely zucchini recipe that involves bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Tasty! In a different chapter, there is a lovely recipe for banana nut bread that uses coconut milk – something I would not have thought of. I do so enjoy my banana nut bread and I think I will have to give this recipe a try. Who doesn’t love stuffed mushrooms?
Many of these recipes are quick easy things that you can whip out in very little time. Also, many of them cook up very quickly, meaning you can have them assembled, cooked, and plated for hungry folks in a short amount of time. Some, like the banana nut bread, do take longer to bake. But I am going to bet they are worth it.
My one little quibble is that the book started with a list of reasons to go vegetarian: health benefits of plants, lose weight, less meat in your diet means less animal cruelty, weight loss, enjoy more super foods and more energy, lose some pounds, etc. You see that weight loss featured heavily and repeatedly in the list of reasons. The repetition was silly at first and then irritating. After all, I eat plants because they taste good. Still, that is a tiny complaint for such an enjoyable book on snacks.
Narration: Tiffany Williams did a great job. I love listening to her narrate a cookbook. She has a clear voice and good even pacing (which is great if you are trying to follow the recipe while you cook). She also has a hint of enthusiasm here appropriate.
Brandy (B. J.) Abbott is an architect. Well, she was until she quit, being unable to take her boss’s schemes and chauvinism any longer. She helps her older half-brother out for a bit at his fancy restaurant (one she designed) while hunting around for a new job. She still has to complete her internship in order to get her architect license. Her brother gives her a lead: Mr. Griffen St. Clair is looking for an architect to design the condos he plans to put in on Daytona Beach. There will be fireworks between Brandy and St. Clair.
It was a quick read and it was cute. While I read a wide range of genres, I have to admit I have yet to fall in love with the contemporary romance genre. With that said, this book held my interest long enough to finish it mostly because of the humor. It’s a sweet romance full of misunderstandings and two people toying with fantasies.
From various things speckled throughout the story, I think this novel is set in the 1980s or so. Smoking is prevalent, including in restaurants. Brandy goes on and on about the male dominated architect world. There’s no cell phones.
For the first half of the book, the reader doesn’t have confirmation that Griffen, a random guy who overheard Brandy arguing with her boss, is the same Mr. St. Clair who praises her (B. J. Abbott) over the phone on her portfolio. But since it is in the book’s blurb, and it is also pretty obvious in the plot, I feel OK mentioning it here.
Now Mr. St. Clair has a really low voice over the phone that B. J. Abbott (the only name St. Clair knows her by) finds very sexy. But when they bump into each other in a restaurant (Brandy is playing hostess and Griffen is getting a drink), they don’t recognize each other at all. Now since their professional relationship has been solely by phone at this point, I was OK with it. But as they keep interacting in person and they don’t put it together, I found that a little bit of a stretch. Since it lead to comedic relief later, I can live with it.
The book has a lot of teasing and flirting. Eventually we get to some steamier scenes, which I liked. The characters eventually have sex at the end of the book, which is a rather brief scene and not particularly descriptive. So if you are looking for a sweet pretty clean romance featuring a career-oriented woman and a man bent on reforming her wanton ways, this is a pretty good read. My personal tastes are for spicy rather than sweet, but don’t let that deter you if this book sounds like fun. It was well written, the pacing was good, with a nice mix of reality, flirtation, comedy, and (eventually) steam.
The Narration: Sheila Book was a good pick for Brandy’s voice. She had a lovely sultry voice for the character, that could also be crisp and professional as the story demanded. Girffen St. Clair is suppose to have a deep, masculine voice and I felt that was a stretch for the narrator.
Cassie (Cassandra) and Mary Beth are good friends, the kind with benefits. But when Mary Beth asks Cassie to come along to meet her new boyfriend Terry and watch him do a little magic, Cassie scoffs. She doesn’t believe in magic. At least, not until it smacks her upside the face. Pretty soon she is caught up in another world, taken captive, and told what her future holds: nothing but trouble. Jaxon is a Stregori, trained to protect his assigned magic user. He will have his hands full keeping Cassie alive.
I’m on the fence about this book because I didn’t connect with the characters in this book. Cassie spends much of her time pouting and being a burden, lacking all self-sufficiency until near the end of the book. She squeaks in terror or surprise a lot. We start off with a cast of characters, but then it gets pared down to just Cassie and her captor/protector/trainer Jaxon. He’s the main love interest in the story and suppose to be one of the heroes. However, he’s not above a bit of sexual assault, so I had a hard time cheering for him.
This book does contain erotic scenes so lets talk about that as those are at the root of why I am on the fence about this book. I like my erotica spicy and descriptive, so no blushing here. We start off with some lovely scenes between Mary Beth and Cassie and those were a nice, sweet touch. But then we get whisked off to this other, somewhat barbaric land and the sex scenes get rougher and some of them are not consensual. Full consent is sexy, especially for dominating/submissive sex.
There are some scenes between Cassie and Jaxon in which Cassie has not given her consent at all. Later in the story, Cassie comes to enjoy and even seek out their time together and while Jaxon remains a very dominant male in most of those scenes, they are sexy and enjoyable because Cassie is fully engaged and consenting. Still, because of the earlier scenes I never liked Jaxon. He used the threat of rape more than once to encourage Cassie to do as she was told. This is not an honorable man and I wouldn’t have been sad to see him come to an end defending Cassie (or mauled to death while hunting).
We get a little world building and it was enough to intrigue me. Jaxon’s country has been plagued by a curse for some time, one that has greatly limited the number of females born. A prophecy speaks of a White Witch that will save them all. Folks run around with swords and have to watch out for male magic users and marauders. There are also vast wild lands in between cities, so beasts are an issue too. All magic users are suppose to go to some school or training facility and each sorceress, once she learns enough magic, will be claimed by a soul beast. So, plenty here to entice the reader and plenty of room for the story to grow in future installments.
The Narration: Carlie Quinn was a good fit for this tale as much of it was told from Cassie’s point of view. She also had a strong voice for Jaxon and she did a very good job with the love scenes. She went out of her way to come up with a modified voice for a beast that appears later in the story. She did have a few repeated sentences throughout the book that sometimes caught at my ear.
The zombie virus was initially misdiagnosed. Of course it would be. Eventually, it spread and society as we know it collapsed. A new method of transport was needed, one that did not depend on petroleum products and was immune to the virus. Some scientists got together and gengineered large reptilian birds to transport humans and to be used as heavy equipment in farming and clearing land. Us humans couldn’t help but refer to them as dinosaurs.
I read the description to this novelette and smiled. How could I not give it a listen? The story starts off with a short lead in that sets the stage clearly for the reader. I liked how the zombies (also called ‘blues’ in this story) have a nervous system disorder caused by a virus. Then I thoroughly enjoyed how the dinosaurs came into being. If you have ever owned chickens, then you know they are not far removed from T-rexes. So it was not hard for me to imagine some gengineered featherless birds crossed with reptiles being raised to take out tree stumps.
Then we get into the story. Farming is pretty dangerous today, without zombies and with modern equipment. Imagine trying to clear a bit of farming land while watching out for and possibly fighting zombies. Yeah, pretty damn exciting. The story is told through a single point of view (a man, known as Pale Rider, who travels around the area clearing farm land) in a near nitty gritty way. I liked his skeptical attitude.
There are only 2 women mentioned in this book and neither have speaking roles. They are both wives and we only see one on stage, just once, to plant a sultry kiss. Obviously, I would have liked to see a real female character or two, with actions and dialogue pertinent to the plot. However, that’s my only complaint about this tale.
The mix of action and dinos and zombies had me alternating between a black humor chuckle and nibbling on my nails wondering if our hero had met his end. James Livingood is an author to keep an eye on and I really hope he continues to explore this world he has created.
The Narration: Michael Gwynne was a good fit for Pale Rider, giving him a hard-boiled feel. He had a range of voices for the few other characters we encounter.
Set in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, park rangers start to notice that not all is as peaceful as it normally is. Chief Ranger Henry Shore and his local newspaper reporter wife Ann are in for an adventure….or a nightmare. First there are a few tremors, which aren’t so unusual. Then the temperature of the lake begins to rise. Finally, park visitors are going missing and there are rumors of some beast wandering the lake shore.
The suspense started off subtle, twining it’s way through the character & location set up. We learn quite a bit about Henry and his wife, a bit about their grown daughter (Leila) and their infant granddaughter (Zoe). Crater Lake is a peaceful place, much more so than New York city where Henry was once a cop. Then the rumors of a possible lake creature start along with the tremors. A magnificent fossil bed is revealed by a minor earthquake and the paleontologist Justin arrives on scene. From there are on out, more and more pieces fall into place as folks go missing, boats are wrecked, and odd prints appear along the lake shore. The last two hours of the book were pretty intense with a good mix of action and quiet, intense dinosaur hunting.
Henry, our main character, is pretty interesting. We see much of the book from his viewpoint, observing what he sees and hears, watching his thoughts turn things over. I liked that he wasn’t some young, romantic action hero. Nope, he’s well into the second half of his life, has a solid marriage, a once troubled daughter, and a job that gives him peace of mind. Ann is our second main character, having a passion for journalism and for good cooking. While she does play second fiddle to Henry throughout the book, she is still and integral part of the story. The local paper she works for is going under and she wishes to save it. Perhaps her attempts to do so will put her in the middle of the action.
And that leads me into my one criticism. The ladies have very little to do in this book. They are wives, love interests, or children. They must be tucked safely way or rescued. Ann is the most proactive of them all and even so she has to be kept save at a friend’s house out of the way and rescued later on. There are no female paleontologists or park rangers or cops. There is one other female journalist & one female homeless wife & mother. Both have very short roles. If the book didn’t contain modern tech like cell phones, I might have placed this story in the 1950s or 1960s for the subtle remarks made about women in careers and the strength of women. So that’s my only negative about this book: I wish the women had more roles and roles that pertained to the plot and not just window dressing.
Now, obviously, there is plenty of dinosaur talk throughout the book. Hooray! I liked the tidbits on what scientists know about dinos and what scientists have guessed about dinos. There were also some theories kicked around about how such a beast came to be in the lake. I have to say that while they were all fantastical, none of them were realistic. But I was totally cool with that because this is fiction and none of the characters were biologists or ecologists, who would have had a much better guess. I also really like that the folks involved had various reactions to this beast. Some wanted to capture it and study it. Others wanted to let it have the lake for its lifetime. Still others looked at the body count and got realistic. Overall, this was a fun tale that started with a dream many of us have had (to see a real dino) and ended in strive and consternation as the reality of mixing dinos & humans hit the characters. Looking forward to the sequel!
The Narration: Johnnie Hays was a good fit for Henry. He has a slightly graveling voice that makes me think of a mature, somewhat hardened, male authority figure. He also had a range of male voices for the other male characters. His female voices always sounded like they were in a stage whisper. So throughout the book I kept picturing Ann whispering everything even when she was upset or excited.
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