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  • Castles

  • Crown's Spies, Book 4
  • By: Julie Garwood
  • Narrated by: Heather Wilds
  • Length: 12 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 741
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 671
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 672

Orphaned and besieged, Princess Alesandra knew that only hasty marriage to an Englishman could protect her from the turmoil in her own land. To the amusement of her makeshift guardian, Colin, younger brother of the Marquess of Cainewood, the bold raven-haired beauty instantly captivated London society. But when Alesandra was nearly abducted by her unscrupulous countrymen, the fighting instincts that won Colin a knighthood for valor were kindled. Deceiving himself that he wanted only to protect her, Colin swept her into a union meant to be a marriage in name alone...yet Alesandra's tender first kiss and hesitant caress ignited a wildfire in his soul.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • COLON IS A BODY PART NOT THE LEADS NAME!

  • By Tx2Stepn on 11-07-13

Found treasures and a lost narrator

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-10-18

Pros: Garwood is a marvelous, imaginative story-teller. The reference to "Castles" in the title becomes clear as the plot progresses, but the treasure hunt aspect is also fun. The murder mystery added an exciting aspect to the story of Alesandra and Colin (along with revisits with Nathan and Caine, Jade and Sarah)that was reasonably effective.

The story started out a bit slow, but I was glad I stuck with it as it picked up nicely and was a satisfying end to the series. It also checked all the steamy romance, HEA boxes nicely.

Con: I have loved this series since book 1, so I was sad when I realized Susan Duerdon wasn't reading the final episode. Ms Wilds isn't an awful narrator, but her reading really was missing a lot of the finesse of Ms. Duerdon and she definitely changed the "character" of the characters.

Her pronunciations, as others have pointed out, were inconsistent with previous books in the series, especially Sarah and Colin (and even within this book itself; she pronounced "Colin" at least three different ways.)

Something about her reading sucked the humor out of the parts that would have otherwise sparkled with wit. I recognized the places where, if Duerdon had been reading, I might have laughed out loud. Wilds planed all the "edges" off Garwood's marvelous, interesting characters, leaving them all sounding much alike. She especially seemed unable to read the men so that their characters weren't really flat. I guess it's not really fair to say, but I'll say anyway, that Duerdon knows how to make the male characters -sound- as completely and marvelously male as Garwood wrote them to be and Wilds just doesn't.

It's an OK listen and I'm glad I finished it, but the narrator definitely did not do it justice. For that reason, while I will likely listen to the other 3 again some time, I won't listen to this again.

  • The Gift

  • By: Julie Garwood
  • Narrated by: Susan Duerden
  • Length: 12 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 838
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 770
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 765

The New York Times best-selling author of Ransom weaves the delightful, sensual story of two lovers destined for high adventure and blissful rapture! A child bride, Sara Winchester had grown into a winsome beauty, joyfully anticipating the day when her husband Nathan, Marquess of St. James, would return to claim her heart at last. Nathan had never bared his soul to any woman, but he was soon utterly beguiled and exasperated by Sara’s sweet, defiant ways. With their future at stake, they would discover the true destiny of their passion... for all time!

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Very Funny moments but not much substance!!!

  • By Cam on 11-26-13

Third in a wonderful series

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-08-18

Julie Garwood has a number of gifts, my favorites of which are her imagination and her wonderful wit. In "The Gift" she has created an interesting story and filled it with characters who have depth and wit. The book is exciting, with a riveting plot and lots of what-will-happen-next adventures, but it is also sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and, yes, nicely steamy.

Nathan and Sara are brave and smart and funny and vulnerable and sweet and richly romantic. I also fell for Matthew and Jimbo and Aunt Norah. Actually, I kind of fell for all the characters, even the nasty ones. We revisit Caine and Colin and Jade, for those who have read the first two books in the series. And, of course, Susan Duerden's narration is masterful. She really knows how to bring these charming characters to life.

I highly recommend this little jewel from Julie Garwood.

  • The Bees

  • A Novel
  • By: Laline Paull
  • Narrated by: Orlagh Cassidy
  • Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,207
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,091
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,089

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive's survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • My Favorite Book of 2014

  • By Emily - Audible on 12-07-14

Hours I Can Never Get Back

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-13-18

I stuck with this novel in spite of misgivings that arose fairly early on. Now I wish I hadn't. I kept thinking it would get better. It didn't. But the premise was so fascinating and the reviews so gushingly favorable that I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I found the pace very slow and the narration grating. I also struggled with the "Mary Sue" qualities of Flora and idea of talking bees really distracted me badly.

I don't recommend this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Scribe of Siena

  • A Novel
  • By: Melodie Winawer
  • Narrated by: Cassandra Cambell
  • Length: 16 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 296
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 284
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 283

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother's affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined - a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I hope this is the first in a series!

  • By Taryn on 05-30-17

Potential Unfulfilled

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-30-18

I sometimes liked --- but did not love --- this book.

Pros:
--Ms. Winawer wove an intriguing tale of mystery, time travel, romance and history. Her research was clearly in depth and serious.
--She captured my interest and imagination as regards life in 14th Century in Italy and the Black Plague.
--Her descriptive skills are impressive. She brought some scenes "to life".

Cons:
Narration--
I have not read the dead-tree version of this book, but I assume it was not written with characters speaking in Italian accents. Why the narrator and director chose to read most of the Italian characters with accents puzzles me. I found it distracting. Otherwise, she did an OK job.

Time travel classic error --
When Beatrice passes from one era to another, her "stuff" goes with her but in one notable case (tiny spoiler alert) a very old product from the 14th century that she brings with her from the 21st century becomes "new" again when she brings it with her back in time. Of course, any time travel story veteran knows that now there are two versions of the same book in the same time and that's a major no-no. In addition, if that happens to 14th century stuff brought back in time, then why do the 21st century products she brings back in time not disappear because they didn't exist then?

Paranormal too? Wha...? Ms. Winawer did not need to include the whole paranormal empath nonsense. I never did figure out the point of that.

Too much detail --
The story bogged down in several places because of the incredible amount of detail the author included. It was as if she was channeling Diana Gabaldan, another time-travel/historical fiction writer (the Outlander series.) I found it very frustrating to be just getting involved in the tale and suddenly be bogged down with details that seemed inserted just because they could, but didn't advance or improve the story.

Overall, I didn't love this one.

  • Getting Schooled

  • By: Emma Chase
  • Narrated by: Zachary Webber, Andi Arndt
  • Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,297
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1,234
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,236

Garrett Daniels has this whole life thing figured out. The cocky, charismatic former high school star quarterback is an idolized football coach and "cool" teacher in the hometown where he's not just a golden boy - he's platinum. He has good friends, a great house on the lake, and the best damn sidekick a man could ask for: Snoopy, the albino beagle. Then...Callie Carpenter comes home.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 perfect stars

  • By TE on 03-04-18

Emma Chase Overcomes a Really Bad Cover

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-26-18

Pros:
--- The book brings us Chase's usual sense of humor along with her keen knack for hitting all the romance buttons.
--- The hero and heroine are believable and "human".
--- The narration is excellent. Andi Arndt is the mistress of the romance heroine and this performance is no exception. I had not heard Webber before and he did an excellent job. I'd happily listen to him narrate the phone book.
--- The story is a classic romance, with all the bumps along the road to a HE giving us a sweet, funny, somewhat hot story to "sweep us off our feet".

Cons
--- Chase really tasked me with believing the unbelievable. A hospital bed for two was quite a stretch (trust me on this - there is no such thing). A ten-month leave of absence in which one's newly-awarded promotion is held? Not on my planet. At least, not in the US in California in a theater. In fact, a broken leg that requires ten months of 24-hour care was quite a stretch.

But if you don't mind the "Wha...?" moments, this is a very nice addition to the Emma Chase collection. It won't leave you pondering life's great questions, but it will leave you smiling.

I recommend it.

  • The Tuscan Child

  • By: Rhys Bowen
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble, Katy Sobey
  • Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,472
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,355
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,352

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal. Nearly 30 years later, Hugo's estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father's funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Knocked this one out of the park

  • By Anne on 02-22-18

Knocked this one out of the park

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-22-18

Rhys Bowen long ago proved her ability to develop interesting, complex characters and intriguing mysteries.

This novel, however, is her absolute best. Set in 1944 and 1973, the premise uses the classic devise of exploring the same story from two points of view and, in this case, two time periods. Hugo Langley is living the situation in 1944 which creates the mystery for Hugo's estranged and troubled daughter Joanna to figure out in 1973 as she comes to terms with both his death and her life.

I don't want to offer any detail that would allow any kind of spoiler, but I can safely tell you that Ms. Bowen has created a mystery, a romance, and a kind of coming-of-age story that will keep you curious until the very end. Nothing much is at is appears to be.

In addition, Ms. Bowen has used language beautifully to bring several complex characters to life in settings that allow the reader to see, feel and smell.

Finally, the narrators are both excellent. Katy Sobey does a wonderful job with Joanna's voice and the characters that live the story with her in 1973 as Joanna tries to solve the mystery she finds in her father's will. But Jonathan Keeble is simply outstanding reading Hugo as a British pilot trapped in a tiny town in Italy under German occupation as the Allies get closer.

I highly and enthusiastically recommend The Tuscan Child. Don't hesitate. Get it.

78 of 79 people found this review helpful

  • The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

  • By: Mariana Zapata
  • Narrated by: Callie Dalton
  • Length: 16 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,835
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,647
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,655

Vanessa Mazur knows she's doing the right thing. She shouldn't feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans, and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary. But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she's beyond shocked.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • THIS IS HOW WRITING IS DONE!!! 5 STARS!!!

  • By Denise on 05-14-16

So Mediocre

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-21-18

Nothing about this book is all that good.

The narration is only OK. Ms. Dalton's performance was uneven. Sometimes the voices were well-distinguished -- I could tell who was speaking. But then she'd seem to lose the knack and they'd all sound pretty much the same. And she did NOT use the Canadian "eh" correctly. In fact, her performance made Aidan's character sound distinctly un-Canadian.

The plot had definite potential, with elements that told a coherent story and made me want to know what happens. However, it's a romance so the outcome was not in question in that we were clearly headed for a HEA. Thus, it's how you get to the HEA that makes a romance novel stand out and Ms. Zepata really buried hers in endless detail and (often-repetitive) dialogue. The pace of this novel is agonizingly slow. So little happens for long stretches that I wondered if she was being paid by the word.

I felt like the author had missed the opportunity to round out the Aidan and Vanessa characters by giving more time to each of their back stories (Vanessa's mother and sisters, Aiden's abusive father, even Zach) rather than what Aidan ate or Vanessa's running. A lot of the characters lacked depth.

The other problem is that her basic mastery of English grammar is sufficiently lacking so the novel felt in a lot of places like the sloppy first draft rather than a carefully crafted and proofread professional publication. Did her publisher never think to offer her an editor? The author made so many really basic errors that, for me, they became a distraction. The worst was her egregious abuse and misuse of the present participle -- "spotting Aidan across the room, he..." Aaargh! She almost never used the devise correctly! To her credit, she did use "could not have cared less" correctly (so many authors don't these days, opting instead for the clearly nonsensical "could have cared less.")

So, when the grammar errors stand out as remarkable, what does that tell you about the overall quality of the read?

This novel gets a big "meh" from me. I don't recommend it.

  • The Lion's Lady

  • By: Julie Garwood
  • Narrated by: Susan Duerden
  • Length: 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,431
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,288
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,296

Christina Bennett had taken London society by storm. The ravishing beauty guarded the secret of her mysterious past until the night Lyon, Marquis of Lyonwood, stole a searching, sensuous kiss. An arrogant nobleman with a pirate's passions, he tasted the wildfire smoldering beneath Christina's cool charm and swore to possess her.... But the feisty and defiant Christina would not be so easily conquered. Mistress of her heart and of her fortune, she resisted Lyon's sensuous caresses.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I loved everything about this book!

  • By 🇺🇸🌸DARA on 06-03-13

OK, that was fun!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-14-18

That was a ripping great story! Murder mystery, mystical happenings, authentic (and steamy) love story, powerful hero meets his match in his brave and undaunted heroine and all with a nice portion of witty dialogue and good humor. I fell in love with Lyon and Christina and know, of course, that they will live HEA!

I highly recommend this one.

  • Sweet Tea and Sympathy

  • By: Molly Harper
  • Narrated by: Amanda Ronconi
  • Length: 9 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,558
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,449
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,435

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot's rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society and made elegance and glamour her business. She's riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she's blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start - and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • DELIGHTFUL AS ALWAYS MH ENTERTAINS!

  • By anne on 12-09-17

Molly writes the South as only Molly can

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-17-18

I enjoyed this lovely little romance a great deal. It is a girl-meets-boy romance, but it's also a girl-meets-family "romance" and a girl-meets-her-roots "romance."

Molly Harper clearly loves the culture of the American South and it shows in most of her novels. This one welcomes home a Southern girl from Yankee country and steeps her in the sweet tea that is the deep South until she recognizes what is valuable about family and community.

And Harper does it with honesty, humor and her incomparable dry wit.

And, as always, Amanda Ronconi renders each voice with her incomparable voice and range.

I love Molly Harper's work and this is just one more example of why I love her work.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Miss Davenport's Christmas

  • The Love and Temptation Series, Book 6
  • By: M. C. Beaton
  • Narrated by: Lindy Nettleton
  • Length: 5 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 66
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 55
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 57

When a Puritan miss discovers the joys of Christmas, love's as near as the mistletoe. The Davenport sisters were alone, without even a dour-faced maid to supervise their strict puritanical devotions, until the elder, flame-haired Gillian boldly decided it was high time they let their hair down. Now, with the help of a kindly relation, the two daring misses exchange their somber attire for modish gowns and hairstyles that would surely give their parents apoplexy. But the best is yet to come: plum pudding, eggnog, carols, and a most breathtaking tree.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enchantment

  • By Patricia on 04-09-14

An OK Christmas story destroyed by narrator

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-18-17

Beaton is a writer of considerable talent, although I find his work is not consistently good. This one is a fun little Christmas story offering a mildly interesting portrait of life among the privileged in Regency England. The principal characters are not particularly well-developed, but they are believable enough and I did enjoy the bits of the history of Christmas traditions Beaton provided as part of the story.

The problem with this is the absolute WORST narrator I have ever encountered on Audiobooks. I actually thought for a while about what reader I had heard who was worse and I couldn't come up with one -- and I have almost 400 audiobooks! First of all, Ms. Nettleton can't act and, of course, that's somewhat essential for even a decent narrator. Ms. Nettleton speaks almost all lines as if the characters were auditioning for a high school play (with English accents.) IOW, she can only over-act... and she does it horribly.

Secondly, her range of voices includes some of the most frequently obnoxious noise I've run into in any book. One character actually sounds like she is speaking the lines while holding her nose (what is it with British English narrators that so many of them think that the more nasal the voice, the more ~English~ they sound?)

You will also find that, in general, you won't have much luck telling the characters apart. Jillie and Mandy sound alike. The two Lords sound alike. And they sound, most of the time, like every other character of their gender when she loses control over her range of voices.

If they get this re-read by someone who is good at it (Susan Duerdon?) it would be worth a credit for a cute if somewhat unbelievable holiday story. Otherwise I suggest you skip it. If you want a fun little Christmas story by Beaton that is well-told AND well-read, I suggest ~A Highland Christmas~ from the Haimish MacBeth series.