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Erryn Barratt

Canada
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  • Stoicism: Apply Stoicism to Your Everyday Life and Overcome Destructive Emotions

  • Quick History of Stoicism, Learn Unbiased Thinking, and Improve Your Life!
  • By: Geoffrey Loren
  • Narrated by: Leigh Adams
  • Length: 1 hr and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15

In this incredible audiobook, you will learn the secret to applying Stoicism into your everyday life. After a quick and easy walk-through into Stoic history, theology, and psychology, you will dive deep into learning key methods of Stoicism that you can implement today to give you real results.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great Read

  • By Ashley Hedden on 01-14-19

A great overview and practical advice

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

Reviewed: 01-12-19

A great overview and practical advice

I had no understanding of the intricate history of stoicism and came in only knowing I had, on occasion, been labelled as stoic. This short audio was a great way to learn more about this fascinating theory.

The book often references Seneca and his “Letters From a Stoic” which piqued my attention.

This book begins with a list of things that can be accomplished by embracing stoicism including (but not limited to):
- Train and control our emotions
- Get rid of anger and negativity
- Being able to view things neutrally and choose logical reaction, not emotional

All those things appeal to me as I can be very emotional. Sometimes to my own detriment. Interestingly, there was the suggestion that free will is just an illusion and we are all part of a big plan. In other words, we are fated to live the lives we do. I’m not sold on that.

I did embrace the notion that if we cannot accept ‘what is’, we will be angry and depressed. We can’t all be billionaires, but we can embrace the positive aspects in our lives. There are also suggestions on how to become an unbiased thinker and how important self-control is.

I would recommend this audio for anyone with an interest in stoicism as well as anyone who often reacts irrationally to situations and might want to find another way. We may not be operating in total fairness right now, but it is something to aspire to.

Lee Adams is a great narrator and his calm voice was welcoming. He spoke clearly but had enough inflection so the narration was never dull.

A great listen.

  • Protecting My Commitment

  • Sulfur Springs, Book 1
  • By: Taylor Rylan
  • Narrated by: Michael Pauley
  • Length: 5 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 35

Dalton Andrews has seen it all. After spending a little over 10 years with the Denver PD, he’d had enough and joined Wildlife Services, not expecting it to be such an isolating career. When his job takes him on assignment to Crooked Bend, he jumps at the chance to work with actual people again when the town’s sheriff needs to hire a few more deputies. While at his new boss’ wedding reception, he unexpectedly meets blue-eyed architect Colin McKenzie that makes his brain go fuzzy. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent narration, very good story

  • By Kendra T on 01-12-19

Good start for a new series

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

Reviewed: 01-11-19

Collin McKenzie admits he can be immature. Dalton Andrews admits he can jump to conclusions without all the facts. So, flawed human beings. I like those characters. Ones who have a lot of growth potential in the book. The book begins with a very memorable rant by Collin. Dalton has overheard and to say this makes things awkward is an understatement. This misunderstanding ends the chances of any possible relationship between the two men. Or it might have, but as they both live in a small town and keep meeting each other, the attraction continues to sizzle and, inevitably, they act on it.

Then Collin acts immaturely, Dalton gets upset, and the cycle begins again. Only this time, it’s Collin who’s doing the running. When his ex-boyfriend enters the picture, it’s only natural Dalton, the law enforcement officer, get involved. An interesting solution to the stalker problem doesn’t yield the desired results and more characters becoming enmeshed in the whole mess.

I want to pause here and point out, this is the first book in a series. It was pretty clear from the outset, though, that this series is an offshoot of another one. There are many, many characters (mostly male) who are married, settled and happy. For readers of Ms. Rylan’s books, I’m sure it’s always nice to revisit old friends and watch their maturation and happiness. Occasionally (emphasis on occasionally), I got confused at all the other characters. Also, there were only a couple of female characters. One is the girl who worked in the coffee shop who has a crush on a gay character and another is a vapid nasty selfish woman. There weren’t even any female deputies.

I’m highlighting the lack of good females because this is something I often see in m/m romances and it bothers me. Especially because these are often books written by women and the women in them are reduced to stereotypes or cardboard cut outs. Some of my favourite series have strong female secondary characters and I hope there will be more women in subsequent stories.

The ending was perfect and I did enjoy the book. At times, though, I felt like I wanted more. I wanted to love the book but just couldn’t fall in love with the characters. I blame that on myself and not Ms. Rylan’s book, which I do recommend. I believe (or hope) the next romance will be Collin’s brother Daniel, and I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, Michael Pauley. I LOVE Michael Pauley and always find his narration to be great. Given that this is Ms. Rylan’s first audiobook, all those other male characters from previous books did not have voices and Michael provided distinct ones for all of them.

Overall, a good listen.

  • Truth by His Hand

  • By: Casey Cameron
  • Narrated by: Michael Fell
  • Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 42
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 38
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 38

I never thought I'd have a sexual awakening at 34, but, well...here I am: River Burke, novice deviant and master class neurotic mess. With my laundry list of control issues, submission doesn't exactly come naturally, but I figure if I can find the right person - someone big, buff, and crazy intimidating - maybe I can learn to let go. And then in walks Ellison Fitch. He's not at all what I thought I was looking for, but with his piercing eyes, his too-personal questions, and his brilliant mind, he's under my skin from the moment we meet. He makes me squirm in all the best ways with nothing but a look and a word, and I can see he loves that as much as I do. I thought I wanted someone to push me around, but it turns out I want someone to take me apart.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Michael Fell!!

  • By VHB on 01-19-18

Realistic BDSM Portrayal and Emotional Ride

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

Reviewed: 01-09-19

This review is a long time coming and I’m still not convinced I’m up to the task.  My instinct is to write more of an academic paper, but that’s not why I’m here.  My job is to tell you all the things I loved (and didn’t) about the book so you can make an informed decision about whether this is a book you might want to listen to.  So, here goes.

I have listened to this book twice and could easily, in a heartbeat, listen to it again and then another time.  This from a woman who rarely listens to something twice.  I love books, but once is usually enough.  With Casey Cameron’s ‘Truth by his Hand’, twice doesn’t even feel sufficient.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of what is beneath the outer layer of this book.  As soon as it came out on Audible, the synopsis intrigued me.  I love BDSM and m/m is at the top of my reading preferences these days, so why did I hesitate?

Because of River, I think.

It is very powerful to have an awakening.  At any age.  But a sexual awakening at 34?  That is something extra special because you believe you’ve seen and done it all.  Then you meet someone or watch a video or read a book and suddenly…poof, your whole life has been turned on its head.  You realize there is something you have been missing.  Your people.  You didn’t realize there were people out there like you.  Sure, many people have heard about BDSM, but how many have truly investigated it?  Felt drawn to it?  Acted on that curiosity?

I have.  And I was in my late thirties, so I could relate to River on so many levels.  Especially his perception of what a Dom should be.  Strong, tall, and frankly, dominant.  Someone who can physically restrain him and bend River towards his will.  The first time River meets Ellison, he dismisses the man out of hand.  Too short, too…well, not what River had in his mind.  Quickly, though, he sees the error of his ways.  Being manhandled by a big burly guy is one thing – being fucked over by a master dominant with piercing eyes and uncanny perceptiveness is something quite different.  And the mind fucking?  Oh, that is a whole other level of fuckery.

After a particularly deep and harrowing scene, Ellison asks River how he is feeling.  River responds:

“Good.  Drained.  Wired.  Did you get what you wanted out of it?” I’d wanted a release.  A violent burst of passion to free me from the cacophony of my own thoughts.  I wanted the meditative stillness that comes after when your whole body is wrecked from the effect of pouring out all that overwhelming emotion.  And here I was, blank and clean.  And I’d wanted intimacy, even if it had been for all the wrong reasons.  I’d cried in front of him.  He’d seen me all red-faced, snotty, and inappropriately loud and he hadn’t run.  He’d simply held me and told me how good I was and how proud he was of me.  Even if it wasn’t true, it still meant something that he cared enough to say it.  So…yeah, maybe I’d gotten what I wanted.

“I guess I did,” I said, nestling deeper into the crook of his arm.  “Did you?”

He chuckled softly and kissed the top of my head.  Tender.  “Yes.  You were magnificent.”

River wanted to break down – to experience catharsis – but hadn’t believed himself capable.  And you might be questioning why someone would want that, but it is something so powerful that I find it very challenging to explain in words.  For vanilla people – people who don’t need or want pain to get them to that point – the equivalent might be a good ugly cry.  The sobbing, body-wracking tears that leave you almost unable to breathe because the psychological pain is so acute.  Some people achieve this when a loved one dies, when a dream dies, or even during a really good book.  Sometimes you just need to let everything out and those events allow you to vent and/or grieve while having a good reason.  If you can’t stand in the woods and howl in pain, a good ugly cry is a great alternative and probably less chaotic—less likely to make you feel unstable.

Some of us need physical pain to take us to that place.  Sometimes it’s planned and sometimes a scene goes sideways, and you fall to pieces quite unexpectedly.  In some ways, those are the best times because you can just let go – put yourself in someone else’s hands, and if they are a good partner, they will be there to catch you.  It is tempting to feel like a failure when you cry or even fall to pieces in a scene, especially if that wasn’t the plan, but it’s the opposite of failure – it’s success in the best way.  And it goes a long way to fixing what might be wrong.

Interestingly, Ellison’s “greatest fear has always been that I might hurt someone in a way that can’t be fixed.  So I’m careful.”  Ellison recognizes, even before River is able to, that physical damage is far easier to heal than emotional pain, and when River pushes Ellison into hurting him or pushing him psychologically, Ellison is reticent.  But it leads to a beautiful scene where Ellison tells River, “You were perfect.  You were brave for me and so, so beautiful.”

And then a sudden realization: “I could do anything to you couldn’t I?”

Is there a right answer to that question?  As a submissive and bottom, River wants to please his ‘Sir’.  Submissives often wonder what their Tops get out of the experience.  As a recipient of such affection – often shown in violent (but consensual) ways – the bottom gets the euphoria, the endorphins, the rush of pleasure and pain.  So what does the Top get?  Aside from the feeling of power, I’ve been told they like the responsibility of holding someone in their hands, so to speak, and being responsible for them.  I think that is why aftercare is so important for both parties in a scene – because many Tops need reassurance that they are not bad people and their bottoms still ‘love’ them.

Except Sadists.  Many sadists could care less, although there is a wide range with them as well.  Ellison is not a Sadist.  He inflicts pain not just to get off, but to bring something to his partner.  Pain, of course, but something less tangible as well.  Call it connection, call it affection, call it caring – there is a two-way exchange that is one of the most intimate activities one can engage in.  Sex is right up there, of course, but so is putting yourself in someone’s hands and trusting them.  Or having them place themselves in your hands and trust you won’t hurt them beyond what they can endure.  Beyond what they have negotiated.

The relationship development between River and Ellison is critical to the progression of the book.  That being said, there are some amazing secondary characters.  I loved Deidre and Ravi, especially Ravi’s retelling of his first ‘scene’.  There was a complete realism to the event and his acknowledgement that it went bad, and the reason why was a cautionary tale.  There are reasons why there are classes in BDSM.  Why mentoring – for both the Top and the bottom – are so important.  Ravi and Deidre provided good explanations as to why they chose to do the extreme scenes they do and what they get out of it.  And, as Mariah assures River, kinksters are not born in the womb, and each one goes on a journey.

And Mariah?  OMG, I LOVE this woman!  Not only because she doesn’t let a physical disability hold her back, but because she is so brutally honest – about everything.  Her experience allows her to validate River’s perceptions, to challenge his misconceptions, and to guide him into the world of BDSM.  She is also able to vet perspective Tops.  This is so important.  Someone new to the scene (or even people who have been around for a while) should not just jump into a scene with someone they don’t know or who hasn’t been vetted.  And people within the community are, for the most part, willing to share their experiences.  Mariah is a mentor for River and this is an important role. So are the munches where River can meet other kinksters in a vanilla setting.  No pressure to dress up in gear (or down to nothing), and just a place to hang.  In fact, the novel begins at a speed-dating event for kinksters.  “Speed Kink Night.” A brilliant idea if I have ever heard one.

Speaking of secondary characters, I love ‘T’.  They are a character who doesn’t identify as either male or female.  If the listener hasn’t experienced a character like this before, the pronoun choices can be confusing.  I have friends who choose to identify as ‘them’ or ‘they’.  Whether as an acknowledgement of the hegemony of binary sexuality or simply to show support to people who don’t want to be identified, the choice is more prominent in the kinkster community.  I would like to believe it is because many kinksters aren’t hung up on gender roles.  They are open to more than labels.  Anyway, T’s quiet but consistent presence works well.  They know about River’s true heart’s work and can hold a mirror up to River, helping him see where things might be not working.

I want to give a quick shout-out to Michael Fell, the narrator.  I hadn’t listened to a book narrated by him, but now, even a month later, I can still hear his voice.  His performance was pitch-perfect and I adored him.  He brought authenticity to River’s vulnerability and internal monologues.  His Mariah was fabulous and his Ellison just worked for me in so many ways.  I will be looking for more books narrated by him.  And if they were written by Casey Cameron?  Oh, that’s an auto-buy for me.  But I digress…

Another aspect of the book that I liked a lot is the discussion of triggers.  Many vanilla people posit that only mentally ill people engage in BDSM.  Not true.  In fact, there is a lower rate of mental illness (I have read a couple of studies).  Many people in BDSM are more self-aware.  You almost have to be if you are going to trust someone so completely.  Ellison says to River, “You’re very self-aware,” and River replied, “Well, I’ve had a lot of therapy.”  I am going to leave it at that because I want readers to discover River in their own way.  In that self-awareness, though, is his ability to recognize triggers.  In his desire to push through them, though, he makes a few missteps.  River also has an uncanny ability to get inside his head and stay there, losing touch with what is going on around him.  Ellison recognizes this and adjusts their interactions so he can not only keep River present, but help him fight his demons as well.

But with that kind of power, comes great responsibility.  Which Ellison recognizes:

“I’ve had more of an effect on you than I had intended.”  He sighed, his hands slack on my shoulder.

 “You’re so eager to please me.  It didn’t occur to me that it meant I could essentially mold you, turn you into my perfect idealized submissive just by guiding you to fulfill my desires.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”  Maybe I was well-fucked and sleep-addled but I was pretty sure he wasn’t making a sense.  “I…thought that was kind of the point.”

“Not to this extent. No.”  He sighed again, finally moving his hands to gently stroke my arm.  I tried to keep it from soothing my objections away but, God, his touch just felt so good.

“I didn’t want to change you.  I didn’t want to remake you just to please me.”

“Well, you did.  And I don’t really care,” I said with a shrug.  “I’m having a good time.”

“Maybe you should explore a little more.  With other people who could show you other ways to do this.”

The sting of the words startled me.  Like a branch suddenly whipping me in the face.

“Are you really suggesting that I see other people?  Because we had a discussion about this and you might remember I had some very clear feelings on the matter.  That’s something you definitely haven’t changed about me.”

“I don’t mean as an ongoing thing, just for a while, just to have a few more experiences.  I’m not thrilled about the idea of sharing you, but I want to do this thing in a way that is healthy for you.”

“Okay, well here’s a pro-tip – it’s not healthy for me if you try to foist me off on someone else.  It makes me feel really shitty, actually.  Maybe don’t do that.”

My brain is not malleable.

I know that was a long passage and I don’t think there were any spoilers, but I think it clearly demonstrates why this is such a great book.  The self-awareness isn’t just on River’s side.  There is a lot of contemplation and reflection in this book – clearly for both, even if the entire book is in River’s point of view.  Often, when there is one point of view, I want to see inside the other character’s mind.  Ms. Cameron’s writing is so accurate and full that I didn’t feel that way.  Plus, being inside the mind of a Top can be wonky.  Whether they are a woman or a man, whether they are sadistic or not, Tops are a whole other can of worms.

Finally, I love that there was consent.  There was a safeword, of course, but both men understand that things go both ways – it is a dialogue.  And sometimes, the Top needs to use the safeword.  As it is noted, ‘consent goes both ways and if he was uncomfortable, he has a right to stop’.

I cannot say enough good things about this book.  There are plenty of good BDSM books out there, have no doubt.  There are plenty of crappy BDSM books out there.  Those are mostly (and clearly) written by people who are not in the community. Nothing wrong with writing about something you don’t know about, and I get that some writers do it out of curiosity and others do it for money, but I feel there is a need for BDSM books that accurately reflect the truth of BDSM.  I have no idea if Ms. Cameron participates in BDSM or not, but it doesn’t matter because her book is so authentic.  So whether written from personal experience or by fantastic and thorough research, this is one of the best BDSM books I’ve ever read.

Do I think everyone should read this?  Yep.  The caveat being that if there are triggers or BDSM is not your thing, then probably not.  But any reader who is curious and wants authenticity, this is your book.  I adore these men and their journey spoke to me in ways that many books just don’t.  The emotional intensity and psychological punch made me come back to the book and I will likely listen to it again.  I will sign off with two final quotes.  Both are from River and perfectly sum up his new (and fantastic) life:

My cruel tyrant.  My Sir.  My love.  The man who could open me up with a single look and spill all my secrets like glittering beads of the floor.

“I’ve put myself in the hands of a Sadist”.

Yep, a man after my own heart.

  • Ever After

  • A Gay Fairy Tale
  • By: Christina Lee, Riley Hart
  • Narrated by: Joel Leslie
  • Length: 8 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 66
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65

As next in line for the Evergreen crown, Prince Merrick Davendall’s future involves ruling, marriage, and producing an heir of his own. But he’s long been tormented by desires that are far from princely. Especially when the beautiful Cassius is promoted to be his new valet, and Merrick is struck by a longing like never before - a longing to know him far beyond royal and servant.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Ever After: Adorable and Infuriating

  • By Paula on 09-21-18

An inclusive fairy tale

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

Reviewed: 01-09-19

I grew up with Disney Princesses.  Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty were all movies and stories I enjoyed as a young girl.  The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin came out as I moved into adulthood and I continued to enjoy the movies as they have come out.  I still haven’t seen Frozen (gasp), but I will eventually.

All that being said, I never dreamed of being a princess.  I never saw myself living in a castle.  I never dreamed a man would come and sweep me off my feet.  Good thing, too, because I’ve only ever met frogs in my adult life. 

But I digress.

I recently read another royalty book with two men and I adored it.  It was very contemporary, though, and therefore quite realistic.  Like it could actually happen.  ‘Ever After’ isn’t grounded in the same reality because it is a fairy tale.  There are sports cars but apparently no cell phones.  There is media, but gossip is spread by word of mouth, not the Internet.  There was something charmingly quaint about that. The focus of the story was the two men and how they were going to negotiate their way through their relationship.

Prince Merrick is the firstborn and is expected to ascend to the throne upon the death of his father.  He has been raised in luxury but also taught the importance of service. He participates in events for charity and them partakes in diplomatic engagements.  He does his duty but sneaks out to bath houses when he needs relief.  And with a mother hell-bent on marrying him off to an eligible member of royalty or, in desperation, any lady of good repute, relief is needed.  There is no one, to his knowledge, who knows his secret.  Well, his sister Marjorie does, but they never speak of it.

Cassius is a servant who has worked his way up to footman, but a crisis in the royal household creates an opening for him to be promoted to Prince Merrick’s valet.  Both men have preconceived notions of the other and I enjoyed how those perceptions were slowly but inexorably changed.  Both men are honourable, taking duty to heart and living their lives for others – Merrick for the continuity of the royal family and Cassius to support his widowed mother and two younger sisters.  There is, properly, a barrier between employer and employee, but valets are very intimately involved with their charges and it is not long before Cass and Merrick discover they both favour men.

There are other interests they share as well, including their personal passions.  To find a soul who understands your passion is truly beautiful  And whether attending the orphanage or riding horses, the two men find a way to bond.

Although they have a number of interludes, these moments are fleeting and there is always the danger of discovery.  There is one night when they get to be themselves and, wow, I loved that scene.



Merrick:  We will have one night in each other’s arms.

Cassius: Yes, my Prince…I would like to be on my knees for you, my Prince.

Merrick: You are beautiful, sweet Cassius.

Cassius: I shall smell you until your scent is engraved in my memory.  Each time I smell eucalyptus, I will think of you.

Merrick: Your words slay me, Cassius…They are like a sword that cuts into me.  Yet also the stitching that makes me whole.



Okay, I might have swooned.  Because who doesn’t secretly wish for someone to love them that way?  And, for the record, this is an equal opportunity relationship – both men give and take, treating each other as equals.

There is a moment of reckoning, of course, and I might have cried.

Okay, I cried.  I wanted the two men to have their happy ending and I wanted the world to embrace them and accept their love.  I live in the real world, though, and see every day how the LGBT community gets treated.  Still, I had high hopes for this magical kingdom in the snow.  As one of his sisters says to Cass, “do not allow Merrick to be your greatest regret,” after he tells her “he will do such great things in Ever Green.”

I am so glad I listened to this wonderful book, narrated by the brilliant Joel Leslie.  Since Ever Green is a fairy tale land – minus the magic – there is no grounding or need to be accurate.  Given that license, Joel was the perfect choice of performer, providing an accent that is indefinable but clearly present.  Prince Merrick has an upper crust tenor while Cassius is more of a commoner and, as always, Joel’s portrayal of the women and children in the men’s lives are brilliant.  For a man with such a deep voice, his ability to bring the lightness to the women is pitch-perfect and his orphanage matron’s voice had me laughing out loud.  I could just envision the woman haranguing the children and I got my smile.

Riley and Christina have collaborated before, but not in a fairy tale.  I hope that all little boys and girls get to hear about Prince Merrick and his Cassius.   (The PG version, of course.)  Maybe there might even be a children’s book…?

  • Bickering Birds

  • Cozy Corgi Mysteries
  • By: Mildred Abbott
  • Narrated by: Angie Hickman
  • Length: 5 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 21

When Katie caters a meeting of the Feathered Friends Brigade and drags Fred along, they expect nothing more than loquacious chatter about birds as they endeavor to build a professional relationship with the owner of the wild bird shop. Fred and Katie are quickly roped into a moonlight snowshoeing hike in hopes of spotting a rare owl. While the endangered bird proves elusive...the murdered man in the snow is hard to miss. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A good read

  • By cosmitron on 10-24-18

Fred and Watson are back

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

Reviewed: 01-08-19

Fred and Watson are back

“…a bull elk stared at me from less than thirty feet away, its seemingly limitless pointed antlers forming a crown above its head…it huffed a steaming breath and then moved on, only then did I notice another five or six farther back in the trees.”

This is why I keep going back to Mildred Abbott’s books. I’m enamoured with Estes, Colorado. Bookshop owner Fred and her sidekick Corgi, Watson, are back at their antics. Fred has finally opened her bookstore The Cozy Corgi, and it is the centre of attention at opening. Katie’s baking, though, really has the crowds excited. And then Fred’s two potential suitors show up. Sergeant Branson Wexler has taken Fred out several times on what be considered ‘dates’ while wildlife officer Leo Lopez has indicated he has interest in spending more time with Fred.

As Fred observes after the two men greeted each other, “It was such a male thing to do. Almost like two bighorn sheep I’d seen on a drive in the park the other day, each circling and measuring each other. With any luck, Branson and Leo wouldn’t end the meeting with a skull-crushing head-butt.”

An interesting image. I am reminded of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. And I want to see Leo and Branson as Ranger and Joe Morelli, but cozy series are tamer, so we won’t get the hot bedroom scenes. A little action in the romance department wouldn’t hurt, though, and hopefully that will happen in subsequent books.

The actual mystery was interesting, mixing the discussion of wildlife versus keeping pets. Myrtle, the head of the birdwatching group, talks passionately about how even the most beautiful bird cage is still just that – a cage. As a society, we have decided that owning domesticated pets is acceptable. As society’s view of the environment changes, so does our view of animals. Humans are driving the extinction of animals and this book is a commentary on how nature should be protected.

Of course there’s a murder to solved. And despite being warned against getting involved, Fred does. There is humour in the book and I’m glad I listened to it. Angie Hickman is a great narrator for this series. I love her interpretation of Fred and she is fabulous with the other characters. This book provided a challenge with Myrtle’s voice being bird-like. Angie hit it spot-on. Another great collaboration.

And, of course, I continue to be a Watson fan.

  • Bill Gates’ Rules for Success: How to Become Unstoppable in Business and Life

  • By: Eric Mortimer
  • Narrated by: Kevin Theis
  • Length: 1 hr and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Performance
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 10

The face of Microsoft and a man now worth $92.3 billion, Bill Gates has a lot to teach us about hard work, success, kindness, unkindness, ruthlessness, tenacity, intelligence, and philanthropy - more so than might be apparent from looking at the easygoing, oft-smiling Gates. Now is as good a time as any to try and understand how a geeky kid (said with the utmost respect) from Seattle became such an ambitious and bold revolutionary in the tech world. I will do so by pointing out a few facets that I think are the most important parts of Gates' career and personality. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The Geeks rule.

  • By cosmitron on 09-05-18

Lessons to live by

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

Reviewed: 09-21-18

I was curious who Eric Mortimer was going to sum up the life of Bill Gates in a one-hour audiobook. I mean, there are lots of full-length books out there, so I wondered if there was something more that could be added to that cannon.

This book was a pleasant surprise. Mortimer gives a quick summary of how Gates rose to the pinnacle of success, then breaks down rules people can live by to make themselves more like Bill Gates. But not just Gates the public persona. Gates the successful business man. Gates the ruthless tycoon. Gates the philanthropist.

So, I sat back and listened to the ‘Rules for success’.

The two points I found most relatable where the fact Bill Gates is endlessly curious and how he has dedicated his life after he retired to philanthropy.

Gates’ sense of wonder is boundless. He questions, he strives to make things better, he asks questions. Gates used to work in long, marathon sessions and although he has slowed down, his reading list is just as long.

I was also curious about Gates’ philanthropy. I have, of course, heard of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and am familiar with some of their good deeds, and I wish this book had been more specific about the goals and practical steps it takes to improve the lives of those less fortunate.

Kevin Theis is a good narrator, but I found his performance over-the-top. Now, this is just how I felt – but, to me, he was speaking so forcefully it felt like he was shouting. I truly appreciate narrators who are enthusiastic, but this is one of the times when it was just a bit over-the-top.

Overall, it is a good short book about how someone can become more like Bill Gates and because of the number of rules, each listener can select the ones that most apply to them

  • Healthy Pregnancy

  • What to Expect When You Are Pregnant
  • By: Jennifer Smith
  • Narrated by: Heidi Baker
  • Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 20
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20

You're filled with joy – you have just found out you're expecting, and you can’t wait to experience all the changes your body will go through as your baby grows inside of you. Then it hits you: you suddenly realize that you have no idea what to expect during your pregnancy. It's okay. Although many of us experience different symptoms when we are expecting, the same thing is going on inside of all our bodies. We are growing a tiny human and creating a new life, right inside of our own wombs. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Short but informative

  • By KD on 09-06-18

Information is your friend

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

Reviewed: 09-20-18

My sister-in-law announced she was expecting just a couple of days before listening to this audiobook and I was fascinated by the progression and development of the fetus into a baby while in the uterus. Now, I’m going to take two seconds and say I’ve never been pregnant and won’t be anytime soon, but the changes in a woman’s body are endlessly fascinating. There were a couple of times when I wondered why women would voluntarily go through this process, I simply had to remind myself that you get to hold your baby after the pregnancy and that makes it worth the stress and pain that your body endures.

The tips and tricks in this book are simple and easy to follow. How to deal with constipation, how to relieve aches, and the best way to tackle nausea and morning sickness.

One of the most important sections of the book is about nutrition – vitamins, folate, possibly iron supplements, as well as eating healthy foods. There are discussions about weight gain and the other changes to a woman’s body. Often, there are mentions of things that aren’t necessarily normal, ending with a calm suggestion to contact the doctor.

This is a short audiobook which I think is a great start for women who have just discovered they are pregnant. It provides a great overview of what to expect without overwhelming the woman. And I would recommend her partner listen as well – partners should be just as aware of what is normal and what might be an issue so they can deal with the pregnancy as a team. Support for a mom-to-be is very important. It might have been nice if there had been a discussion about depression during pregnancy, but that is a little thing.

Heidi Baker was the perfect narrator. She has a soothing voice but still clear and strong. She comes across as someone trustworthy and since – to the best of my knowledge – the information is accurate, that is a good thing.

Just a great audiobook and I would recommend.

  • Lucy

  • An Open-Door Policy Novella
  • By: Anna Ambrose
  • Narrated by: JD Elcie
  • Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 35
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34

When 19-year-old Lucy Whitman's best guy friend of 10 years admits he’s part of a community with an “open-door policy” on sex, Lucy is intrigued. She’s always wanted Rylan with a fierceness bordering on obsession. Getting him to agree to take her may be her only shot at having him in her bed, but Rylan’s reluctant agreement comes with three stipulations. One: She can’t tell anyone. Two: She’ll have to be okay with him being her main partner, even if it’s completely weird for them both. Three: She has to do anything he tells her to - no questions asked.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hot, short and satisfying

  • By Kathryn M on 01-10-19

A good start to what promises to be a good series

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

Reviewed: 09-20-18

I often struggle with stories that involve what I call Con non-con. Consensual non-consent. In other words, you are consenting to everything that is going to happen to you and once the scene begins, you can not pull out of the arrangement. Basically, you’re consenting to give up your ability to consent. This is a real thing and it does go on in BDSM, but it should be extensively negotiated and only embarked upon by educated and experienced partners.

Lucy is neither educated nor experienced. Yes, she can agree to Ry’s rules, but that is because she has no concept of what she is getting into. To the reader, it is obviously she is beyond naïve, but it’s obvious she thinks she knows what she’s agreed to. The question is – can you consent if you have no concept of what you’re going to see or partake in? In this story, you can. In real life, I don’t recommend it.

But fiction is about escaping real life and, in this tale, Lucy is the embodiment of a puritanical upbringing. If children are ‘protected’ from sex ed, they are more likely to wind up pregnant or with diseases. If abstinence is preached, how are young men and women supposed to be able to protect themselves? Because let’s be honest – virginity pledges are all well and good, but when hormones are involved, common sense tends to go out the window. Lucy justifies her actions, claiming they are because of her feelings for Ry.

Also, truth be told, I wasn’t sold on Lucy’s motivation. Sometimes she’s going to the party to take revenge on her ex, and other times it’s to get close to Ry. As the synopsis says: a variety of group M/F, M/M, and F/F scenes in a friends-to-lovers college-sex-club setting. Given that, the name Open Door makes sense. Interestingly, this is a party that does not allow voyeurs or looky-loos. Nope, Lucy is expected to be a full participant, following Ry’s every instruction.

I’m not going into detail of all the variety of acts taking place in the sexual cabal. Every possible combination is performed and although that can be titillating, in the structure of a novella, there wasn’t enough time to flesh out (pun intended) the relationships. The characters were reduced to first name and physical description. Intentional, for sure, but even people at a sex party are more than just body parts. The next installment in the series is a full-length novel, so I do have some hope.

Also, as an aside, lots of profanity is not necessary to have a rough sex multiple partner romp. A few swear words are fine, but they should be used for effect, not just tossed around. Too many and they become meaningless. The story was missing depth and although hot, I had trouble seeing how Lucy’s entire life might change after just one night. In fiction, I suppose it can.

JD Elcie is a new narrator to me and I quite enjoyed her performance. She carried Lucy’s adolescent character well, balancing that voice with the deeper voices of Ry, Xander, and Liam.

Although I didn’t love this audio, I definitely enjoyed it and would be interested in listening to the next book.

  • Breaking the Honor Code

  • Northstar Security Series, Book 4
  • By: Stanalei Fletcher
  • Narrated by: Charles Henderson Norman
  • Length: 6 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12

Reformed playboy Sloan Cartland doesn’t work that hard to live down his reputation, especially when it gives him an advantage as Northstar’s profiler. But when the company’s network is hacked, he puts on his game face and joins forces with the firm’s cyber queen Allison Richards to track down the cyberterrorist. Sparks fly between the total opposites as Sloan moves past Allison’s geeky persona. The passion is unexpected but pleasurable, until Sloan receives evidence that implicates Allison as the hacker, compelling him to question her loyalty and his feelings. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Who has betrayed North Star Security?

  • By Darcie on 07-31-18

Another great installment

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

Reviewed: 09-16-18

I enjoy Stanalei Fletcher’s books and have avidly snagged each book in the Northstar Security series. That being said, there are times when I feel Ms. Fletcher takes a leap toward creating characters who are equal in the romantic relationship, but then pulls back just before that goal is achieved. Allison is a great character. A former police officer, a computer analyst, and avid gamer, she breaks many stereotypes. But then she withdraws back into her insecurities and shies away from being assertive. Often, when interacting with the ‘reformed playboy’ Sloan, she comes off as churlish and rude. I had a difficult time discerning whether she was snappish as a character or if it was the narrator. Certainly, many lines leant themselves to sarcasm.

Also, Allison is nicknamed the ‘Cyborg Queen’ by her coworkers because she holds them at arm’s length. And that moniker comes from the people who like her. One man who doesn’t, calls her ‘Nerd Diva’. Part of me railed against the stereotype that all women programmers are socially awkward and standoffish, uncomfortable in social situations.

Now, some of that was laid aside when Allison engaged with her adorable nephew. Their interactions spoke of a familiarity and comfort. Mitchell is intelligent, precocious, keen, and eager to learn new things. I loved that he embraces the notion of Bushido – honor. That theme carries through the book as Sloan is forced to face the fact Allison might be the hacker who is putting Northstar in danger. Allison is forced to defend herself, and even Mitchell is called upon to step up.

I am enjoying the series and the narrator, Charles Henderson Norman does a good job, but his voice is more suited to the men in the series. His female voices are a little off and it is occasionally hard to listen to him as Mitchell. After four books, though, I am used to Mr. Norman’s performance and it would not keep me from purchasing another book nor did it hinder my enjoyment.

This was another good book and I hope the final book of the series will be out on audio soon. I will be sorry when the series ends.

  • End of the Rainbow: An Aggie Underhill St. Patrick's Day Short Story

  • An Aggie Underhill Mystery, Book 13
  • By: Michelle Ann Hollstein
  • Narrated by: Jax Russell
  • Length: 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14

It's St. Patrick's Day, and Aggie, Betty, and Roger are celebrating at an Irish pub in Palm Springs when Betty's leprechaun love interest drops dead. Could it be murder? Join Aggie and friends as they embark on a celebration they won't soon forget.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Romance, mystery, and humor 💋

  • By Mandymay💄👠👛 on 07-07-18

Not your average St. Patrick's Day

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

Reviewed: 09-15-18

This is my second Aggie Underhill mystery. I love quick little listens as I often choose books that are eight hours or more. I am always in awe of authors who can pack a mystery into a short story. Michelle Ann Hollstein does a great job with the story, but the narration was hit-and-miss with me.

The narrator is American, which is fine. Jax Russell is very competent. Except Aggie, Roger, and Betty are all British. And there is an Irishman with a thick brogue as well. Yeah…Jax tried, he surely did, but it didn’t work for me. I almost thought it would have been better if he hadn’t tried an accent at all. Interestingly, I called out the narrator in the last book because he was British and the story takes place in Southern California. This one does as well, so I guess it’s a crapshoot. There are some authors who can narrate American and do good accents but securing them can be difficult.

Narration aside, this was more of a character study than an actual mystery. Betty is Aggie’s oldest friend and Roger is her cousin. The man is…well, what you would envision an upper crust uppity British gentleman to be. Well, I use gentleman loosely. Anyone who repeatedly insults the bartender at an Irish pub needs to have his head examined. Bartenders take their jobs seriously, especially during celebrations, and Roger’s fussing doesn’t go unobserved. Later, when he humiliates Aggie, I wanted to throttle him. He didn’t endear himself to me in the last book and his annoying streak is continuing.

Roger is a nice contrast for John, Aggie’s American cop suitor. He is working tonight, but when a man drops dead at Aggie’s feet, John shows up at the scene.

The dénouement was a little convoluted, but, as I said, I was more interested in the characters. I love that Aggie is a widow who is finally stepping out of her comfort zone in SoCal and I’m hopeful her relationship with John will grow in the next book.