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Erryn Barratt

Canada
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  • 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 18
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 18

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 26
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 25

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.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Lucy is great

  • By Ashten on 11-05-18

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.

  • The Shipwreck

  • Lavender Shores, Book 4
  • By: Rosalind Abel
  • Narrated by: Kirt Graves
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 24
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 24

Lamont Price’s romance novels have been a hit for the past few years. But even with his success and the love of his family, Lamont feels hidden from those around him. Maybe the first step is attending a writing conference and revealing the man behind his pen name.... Tyler Dixon survives off his beauty and charm. While his appearance is taking him places, his life as an artist has little more than flatlined. When an author hires him to appear as the face of her brand, Tyler thinks it’s just one more job. Little does he know another writer is going to steal all of his attention.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Great addition to the series! Wonderfully narrated

  • By Karen on 09-30-18

Can you find love later in life?

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

Reviewed: 09-11-18

For the record, Lamont Price is not THAT old. 45 is hardly washed-up in the romance department, but he’s feeling like he’s missed his opportunity. Some of the most important people in his life, are paired up, and Lamont’s been an observer for a while now. He’s happy for his family. He’s happy with his life. He’s even – for the most part – happy with his career. That being said, his agent has talked him into ‘coming out’ to reveal the man behind the woman’s pen name.

There is often a lot of debate about authors choosing pen names that clearly represent the other gender. I don’t have any problem with it. Where I have a problem is when that person puts themselves out as an expert about that gender. As for the rest…? Each to their own.

Lamont is worried about the coming out and given that his own coming out of the proverbial closet when he was a teen was so uneventful, it’s not surprising he’s worried. He grew up in Lavender Shores, the most gay-friendly town in California – possibly in all of the US. These days, that kind of haven is where many of us would love to live. Lamont being gay was not a big deal, but his status as a single man? Yeah, his family cares about that. They want him to be happy and they believe the best way for him to find fulfilment is to be in a relationship.

First, though, his desire is to survive his unveiling. Before it happens, a cover model for one of the other authors puts in an appearance. The man is a hunk, and Lamont thinks, “he looked like he could be James Bond and I wanted to be a Bond Girl”.

Oh, really?

Tyler Dixon is that proverbial James Bond and he is quite accustomed to being objectified. He has essentially traded on his good looks so that he can work a flexible schedule and chase his true passion and dream. And I have no trouble imagining Tyler at work – gorgeous and someone who ‘goes both ways’; he is able to attract and mesmerize men and women equally. He enjoys sex and is good at playing at being someone else.

The true questions are, does Tyler know himself and how will he accomplish his goal?

When Lamont and Tyler manage to escape the throngs of women fans, they find themselves enjoying a drink together. One thing leads to another and Tyler manages to convince Lamont to hire him as a fake boyfriend to get his family off their back. Tyler could use the money, sure, but he wants to help Lamont and see the fabled Lavender Shores.

I like the fake boyfriend trope because it is a way to force two characters to get to know each other and can bring a lot of humour to the situation. Often one is quicker on his feet than the other and, unsurprisingly, it is Tyler who handles the situation deftly, answering the family’s questions and accepting the adoration without too much guilt. At the end of the evening, Lamont freely admits that Tyler hadn’t oversold himself and he was good at his job.

Perhaps too good, because as the men spend more time together, the lines get very blurred. And Tyler, in getting to know Lamont, can see the man behind the pen. When Lamont says he was the “fat red-headed kid with braces and glasses”, Tyler accurately points out that “you look in the mirror and still see that fat kid”. Those moments of insight endear Tyler to me more and more because he then added, “You’re no longer a fat kid. You grew into a swan.” I loved that Tyler was able to see the real Lamont and still love him. Many single people in their forties, especially those who still desire to find a partner, know it’s not so easy. Age does take a toll. There are a few more lines, less hard muscle, and more curves. Lamont doesn’t have a paunch by any means, but he does compare himself to the younger Tyler and find himself wanting. Tyler doesn’t see the imperfections. He sees a man who has followed his dream and succeeded. He sees a man who is lonely and is willing to be there for him.

It’s not all sweet romance, though. When things get hot and heavy, Tyler edges Lamont. “I want to save this… I want to save this load for the rest of the day and then tonight I’m going to ride that big tool of yours and absolutely cover your chest hair”. Lamont then notes to himself that ‘despite having just come, my dick twitched at his words’. What really spoke to me, though was how rare this intimacy is for Lamont. He is someone who has to have an emotional connection to share himself with another man and so his willingness to invite Tyler to his bed was a clear indication more was going on, at least for him.

The Shipwreck has special meaning for Lamont – a place where he can escape to. All the books in this series have places tucked in various locations in Lavender Shores where they feel most comfortable. As with the others, when Lamont brings Tyler to the wreck, he is sharing a very intimate part of himself. I may not have a special place like that, but I do understand making myself vulnerable and risking everything by showing my true self. Lamont’s honesty was heart-rending, but it was a lack of honesty on Tyler’s part that leads to the quick demise of the relationship.

The time the men were apart was painful for me and I might have sniffed a few times. Not the outright sobbing from when I had read the book, but a tear might have escaped. My moment of levity came when Deuteronomy came to visit Donovan while he was talking to Lamont. Donovan isn’t in ‘therapist’ mode per se, but he is a willing ear. That his squirrel buddy dropped by was just the comic relief I needed. (Especially because it’s Donovan’s Spencer who loves musicals and yet Donovan chose the name for the squirrel, after the cat in the musical, of course.)

Moments when the two main characters find each other again can be moments of great passion or moments of quiet acceptance. They are moments when hurts have to be dealt with or moments when the past can be left behind and a future forged. Best line of the book? “If we get lube stains on the pool table, I’ll cut it out and frame it.”

Yep, that’s Rosalind Abel’s sense of humour, always present in these books.

The series is being narrated by Kirt Graves and, as always, I adore him. He can pull off Lamont’s deeper voice along with Haley, Andrew’s sister and the other women in the book. Oh, and Kirt’s portrayal of Robert? Lamont’s father is a favourite character of mine and Kirt gives him just the right vitality and verve. I can’t wait to hear the next book in the series.

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  • The Spencer Cohen Series, Book Three

  • By: N.R. Walker
  • Narrated by: Joel Leslie
  • Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 71
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 69
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 69

Learning to be in a committed relationship has been easy for Spencer. In fact, too easy. Andrew has fit into his life seamlessly. Spencer's let go of his insecurities and hang-ups, and he and Andrew are enjoying where things are headed. For the first time in years, Spencer's life is unbelievably perfect.
Andrew overthinks everything. So when Spencer gets a phone call from Australia, he's certain Spencer will push him away. But instead of driving them apart, maybe it will solidify what they already have.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 4.5 Stars

  • By Belen on 05-12-18

N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie are brilliant partners

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

Reviewed: 09-10-18

Book 3 begins with Andrew’s co-worker Michelle (Shell) and her girlfriend Wendy coming to Emilio’s tattoo shop. I loved that Andrew was happy to show off Spencer and prove he actually has a boyfriend and a really good excuse for why he’s been grinning like a loon for weeks.

As tattoos played a major role in the first two books, (Spencer DOES have two full sleeves AND lives above a tattoo shop owned by his landlords who happen to also be dear friends…) they are central to this book as well.

Spencer dares (or asks, depending on your perspective) Andrew to draw him the perfect tattoo that Emilio can put on Spencer. Andrew balks, of course. A small one? Sure, he can come up with something simple that he feels represents Spence, but something elaborate? Something permanent? Yeah, even I wondered if he could pull that off.

Since Spencer and Andrew did – eventually – consummate their relationship in the last book, there are some truly sexy times afoot in this story. Whereas Spencer calls Andrew, “Bossy Andrew’ with true affection, Andrew’s demons come out.

“I’m a perfectionist, but not perfect.”
“Don’t ever censor yourself. Don’t ever change…you are perfect.”
“I am not.”
“You are for me.”

Spencer also has a new client, and again, I loved that Andrew was (relatively) understanding and not (overly) jealous. Peter, the new client, is nicknamed ‘Stuffy Old Guy’. Unlike Wanker Lance (Yanni’s abusive ex-boyfriend from the last book), I found Peter’s moniker didn’t’ suit him. He’s not stuffy. (Or old, because he’s younger than me, for Pete’s sake, and I’m not that old…am I?) But Peter has a thing for twinks and so hires Spence to see if there is any hope for a second chance with his ex, Duncan.

Now, I try not to judge others and their relationship choices. One of my favourite books (Julie Bozza’s ‘The Apothecary’s Garden’) had a 40-year age gap and yet it worked. For those two men, in THAT book, it worked.

In real life, I know several couples with significant age gaps and I tell myself it is their business, not mine. Who knows why they are together or what makes them happy?

Still, I could understand Duncan, an apparently quite immature man in his early twenties, not wanting to settle down with a perceived ‘old’ man who is in his early forties and prefers a night in rather than partying at the latest nightclub.

As always, it is Spencer who has to deliver the reality check and his genuine care for Peter’s well-being reminded me why I love him so much. And Peter? He has a story, I know, but his willingness to invite Spencer’s Andrew and a friend of theirs to join his pity party, gave me hope he would soon move on. His kindness to the group despite his heartbreak gave me the notion that I hadn’t seen the last of him, unlike Wanker Lance.

And, in fact, when Andrew and Spencer invite their combined friends to a Universal Studios tour, Peter, and even the very fragile Yanni, join in. Again, this is real life – a couple trying to fit together like pieces of a puzzle by integrating their friends. These moments may be ordinary, but are so powerful because this is often the basis of successful relationships.

Ordinary is good because things get kind of crazy from there. A health scare precipitates a visit to the emergency department and is so serious it requires a stay in the hospital. Fortunately, Helen and Alan Landon (Andrew’s parents) are, uh, good actors and quick on their feet, ensuring Andrew and Spencer aren’t separated.

Have I said how much I LOVE Andrew’s parents?

Upon returning home, Spencer checks his voice mail messages. Since it’s in the synopsis, I’m not giving anything away by saying Spencer has to go back to Australia. Although I guessed some of the plot points ahead of their revelation, I was still dragged through the emotional wringer.

And when Andrew went out of his way to find the ‘perfect’ way for Spencer and his L.A. crew to honour Spencer’s reason for the trip, I was bawling. Yep, sobbing. Thanks, N.R. Remind me to keep the tissues close. And when Spencer realizes ‘this is what a family is’? Well, I pretty much lost it.

And that was only the beginning of the tears, so consider yourself forewarned. That being said, every moment was genuine. My emotions were not purposely being manipulated because what Spencer goes through is the reality for so many children who have been disowned by their parents – whether because they are gay or for other reasons. It hit a little close to home for me.

But there are moments, like in the hotel after a particularly poignant and painful moment when Andrew and Spencer are discussing the their private parts and I was able to find an even keel for my reeling emotions.
Eventually, Andrew and Spencer head back to L.A. or ‘home’. On the flight, Andrew can’t sleep and he draws the tattoo for Spencer on the back of an airline safety manual. (See? Those things are good for something.) Andrew asserts, “It’s not perfect,” but Spencer counters “it’s perfect for me”.

And it is.

I could never have guessed what the tattoo was going to be (but after having spent about eighteen hours with these guys, I was willing to try). I wasn’t close, but the choice was brilliant and I’m hoping there is an artist out there who will create a rendering (if it hasn’t already been done).

After these books, I seriously (okay, maybe seriously is a strong word) considered getting a tattoo. I loved how Spencer’s life could be told through his tats. Just as I loved how Andrew’s love for Spencer came through in his choices of music for Spencer. And I STILL need to find Jeff Buckley’s version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

The book ended as perfectly as it could and I was left without an iota of doubt that these two amazing men belong together.

Yet again, how many great things can I say about Joel Leslie’s narration? From Spencer’s Aussie to Emilo’s Latino to Andrew’s California to Helen Landon’s elegant aging actress, he hit every single note – every single character – perfectly.

I love N.R. and I love Joel. Together, they create magic in the form of a story. Reading the books is wonderful, but hearing Joel interpret them is a special treat.

Happily ever after.

  • Tear Me Apart

  • By: J. T. Ellison
  • Narrated by: Eva Kaminsky, Rebekkah Ross, Jacques Roy, and others
  • Length: 13 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 225
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 207
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 208

Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended by Lisa Garner!

  • By Lucy on 08-30-18

The stakes couldn’t be higher

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

Reviewed: 09-09-18

This is a JT Ellison book, so I knew I was in for quite a ride.

I wasn’t prepared.

I enjoyed ‘Lie to Me’ and eagerly awaited this new release. I snapped it up and then listened to the book in a day and a half. Several times I was ready to throw my iPod because I thought the story was going in a particular direction, only to keep listening and find it heading somewhere else. I never felt cheated – everything was there and I should have been able to put the pieces together. I had a personal bias that affected how I viewed the book, that lens only becoming clear as the story played out.

There are parallel stories going on, one in the past and one in the present. And I mean ‘present’. Ms. Ellison writes in the third person present tense and although it normally drives me crazy, her writing helps me overcome my loathing. Also, there are a couple of small scenes that were written in the first person – just to make sure I knew how important those moments were.

As the synopsis alludes, at the heart of this book is a mystery about lineage. Is it nature or nurture? What if you suddenly discover you are not who you have always believed yourself to be? What if the life you’ve been living is a lie? And what if that quirk of fate – like a crash flying down a ski hill – didn’t happen? Would you have ever found out the truth or died believing the carefully constructed lies?

I am adopted and so know that I do not carry my parents’ DNA. My parents opted for complete openness and I have always known I was adopted. I have a clear memory of my mother telling me before I started kindergarten that I shouldn’t tell other kids I was adopted because they might make fun of me. (She has since denied ever making that comment.) In the end, there were several of us who were adopted – including several of my cousins, and it never was a big deal.

But I had that truth. I also had some vague understanding of my biological parents’ situation. What led them to make the decisions they made. Was some of it sugar-coated? Yes. When I met my biological mother, I was provided with far more details. I was able to thank her because I understood keeping me was impossible and she did what she believed was best. I have always respected that. When I was twenty-seven, we met in person. She was able to provide me with more updated medical information. And introduce me to my three half-siblings, who were born in a marriage subsequent to my adoption.

Nature does have some influence, I can promise you. Preferences, quirks, traits…I share a number of them with my grandparents, mother, and siblings. In fact, of her four children, I look the most like her. And when I metthat side of my biological family, a lot of pieces of the puzzle of my life fell into place. I love my adopted family, but there was something very comforting in finding people like me.

I completely empathized with Mindy’s dilemma. Yes, she is seventeen and very sick, but she also is facing a new reality – and not just cancer or the potential loss of her professional sports career. Her entire life has been based on a lie and now her survival depends on the adults in her life unravelling that lie as quickly as possible.

That threat – of a fast-moving cancer – was a brilliant premise for a book and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. I loved the twists and turns. I loved the characters who I knew weren’t totally trustworthy, but I wanted to root for. I loved that there was a love story embedded deep in the book, but it was secondary to the suspense. I loved the unreliable narrators, but yearned for someone who knew the whole truth.

I have to say that the character of Katerina was perfect. Her role was critical and her place in the book was wonderful. ‘Kat’ was the embodiment of the need to cope with tough situations. And I love the humour she brings. Nothing better than a “big goof ball”.

An underlying theme in this book is mental illness and although I don’t want to get too deeply into it, I had a strong and visceral reaction. One character talked about each depression getting worse and wondering if the bottom would ever come. I’ve been in that position of just wanting to give up because I could not see the surface, I was so far down.

I also understood what can happen with a controlling mother. A mother you can never please. A woman who picks favourites. Again, this was another thing that pulled me in. Ms. Ellison has a line on dysfunctional characters whom I relate to.

Scary, eh?

This, to my mind, is her best book to date. She tackles some current issues with a deft hand, mixes in fascinating characters, and makes magic. This is a thriller to remember and one I might even listen to a second time.

There are six narrators and I am not sure who performed each character. I could look it up, but it doesn’t matter because all six are very talented. Each had a voice that matched the image in my mind and the whole production worked. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Oh – and I want a book for Brianna Star!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Void

  • By: Cassy Roop
  • Narrated by: Meghan Kelly
  • Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 61
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 57
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 57

I am an escort. I screw men and get screwed for money, living my life everyday as Jericho Lane. My clientele list is immaculate. I am sought out, demanded and damn good at my job.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I enjoyed this one

  • By RobertT364 on 07-04-15

What if you couldn’t feel anything?

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

Reviewed: 09-05-18

I was warned when I chose this book that it is not a traditional romance. And it isn’t. But I’m always willing to try something new and this book is definitely unique. It is hard to compare it to other books accurately – especially romances.

Alexithymia is a personality construct characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions in the self. The core characteristics of alexithymia are marked dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relating.

So what does it mean if your heroine has this disorder? Is it a mental illness? Is there treatment? If she is happy, does she really need to change? Is change even possible?

Nicola has life mapped out. She was diagnosed at a very young age as being unable to show emotion. She’s present, but does not feel emotionally invested. Her parents noticed pretty quickly something was wrong, but all the therapists in the world won’t fix what is wrong with her. Or so she believes.

As an adult, she has chosen to be an escort. And why not? The pay is good, hours are decent, and she has complete control. The best part? She has no feelings. Her clients are just that – a means to an end. A way to pay her bills. Even the act of sex doesn’t elicit any particular pleasure. But she’s good at sex and so that works for her. I liked that Nicola/Jericho Lane was empowered. Some women end up being an escort because of financial reasons while many women choose the lifestyle because they enjoy the money, the sex, or the power.

Or all three.

Because of Nicola’s alexithymia, she is a void. She might feel pain, but she has no emotional reaction to it. She can acknowledge the emotions others feel and can pretend to have those emotions when it suits her purposes, all the while feeling nothing.

Anyone who has ever suffered crippling grief over the death of a loved one, or heartbreak when losing the love of your life, or jealousy when someone gets something you have coveted, might envy Nicola. I didn’t. I need connections in my life, not just casual friendships, transitory relationships, and people who come and go. I need to emotionally and physically connect with people. Not necessarily sexually, but at least to have touch and physical affection.

A void.
Nothingness.
No connection.

I’ll take anything over that.

When Link appears in Nicola’s life, everything changes. Since I am not familiar with her illness, I don’t know how realistic her turnaround is, but that almost doesn’t matter because I want her to find happiness, to find fulfillment.

Her encounters with Link are sexually fulfilling, but when Nicola begins to crave the emotional interact, he puts up barriers. (A quick note – he has reasons and they didn’t impress me, but that’s just me.)

There is an entire subplot which almost distracted from the characters’ growth and development, but in the end, I found the book oddly satisfying.

This is not the first book I’ve listened to that was narrated by Meghan Kelly and I continue to enjoy her work. I will definitely listen to more.

As Nicola said, she was ‘no longer void,’ and she is ‘now fulfilled’.

  • Traitorous Toys

  • Cozy Corgi Mysteries
  • By: Mildred Abbott
  • Narrated by: Angie Hickman
  • Length: 5 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 36

Fred’s dream bookshop is becoming a reality, and Christmas is only days away. The toy store beckons Fred and her friend Katie, who dash in out of the cold during a shopping spree to discover handmade toys, cuddly stuffed animals...and a dying man on the floor. When Katie’s desperate attempts to save the man end in her being taken in for his murder, Fred once again dons her detective hat. But as quickly as clues point to one person, new discoveries shift the spotlight to another.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • enjoying this series

  • By DPiazzi on 08-29-18

Corgis and Nutcrackers

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

Reviewed: 09-04-18

Angie Hickman is the perfect narrator for this series. She is a fabulous Fred (Winnifred Wendy Page), and she handles all the voices and characters beautifully. She is bringing these unique cozy books to audio, doing Mildred Abbott proud.

As for the book, Fred is new to Estes Park, planning to open a bookstore named after her loyal sidekick, Watson. The ‘Cozy Corgi’ was the site of a murder shortly after Fred arrived. Her step-father was exonerated and Fred helped track the killer, but now members of this small close-knit tourist town are wary of the pair. Christmas is just around the corner, and Fred drops into the local toy store to see if she can find gifts for her twin step-sisters’ children.

Fred is greeted by a very handsome man at the store, but her family quickly sets her straight shortly after being enlightened (or hearing the gossip) about Declan, his father Duncan, his wife Daphne, and his brother Dolan. Even if Fred didn’t have her police detective father’s DNA, she wouldn’t be able to miss the family dysfunction. When Fred and her best friend Katie find one of the family dying on the floor, suspicion falls upon the women, particularly Katie, given that she was covered in blood.

Fred would love to get Branson, the gorgeous police officer who fancies her, to help, but he is mysteriously out of town. That leaves Officer Susan Greene investigating the attempted murder. Her animus toward Fred is quickly redirected toward Katie. It is up to Fred to clear Katie’s name and when attempted murder becomes actual murder, her need to stop a killer becomes even more dire.

I enjoy these books, but I must give a special nod to Watson. I was never a Corgi fan, but since I began reading this series, I’ve glanced at a few online videos featuring these charismatic canines . And Watson? Fred wonders whether nature or life made the ‘sourpuss and grump’. Honestly, I don’t care, because his personality is just so precious. I mean, he’s normally tolerant of other Corgis, but Flotsam and Jetson drive him crazy and he actually growls. He’s barely tolerant of most people, but Leo Lopez, the super-hot forest ranger is instantly one of Watson’s favourite people. In the end, though, Fred is his person and, having been the ‘person’ for a rescue of my own, I know it’s the most rewarding position.

So, even though Fred is up to the task of solving the murder, it is her relationship with Watson that I think really makes the book. This is another great listen.