• Friends without Benefits

  • Knitting in the City, Book 2
  • By: Penny Reid
  • Narrated by: Devra Woodward
  • Length: 15 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (4,929 ratings)
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Friends without Benefits  By  cover art

Friends without Benefits

By: Penny Reid
Narrated by: Devra Woodward
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Publisher's summary

There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Finney: 1) She suffers from severe sarcastic syndrome, especially when she's unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her like Nico Manganiello, and 3) She knows how to knit.

Elizabeth Finney is almost always right about everything: the musical merits of boy bands are undervalued by society, "benefits" with human Ken dolls are better without friendship, and the sun has set on her once-in-a-lifetime chance for true love. But when Elizabeth's plans for benefits without friendship are disarmed by the irritatingly charismatic and chauvinistic Nico Manganiello- her former nemesis- she finds herself struggling to maintain the electric fence around her heart while avoiding electrocution or, worse, falling in love.

©2013, 2014 Cipher-Naught (P)2015 Cipher-Naught

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Ugh. I just...

I love this series.

That's all I got as something good to be said about this book. That and the glimpses of the other ladies in the knitting group. As for the rest... yikes.

Rant incoming. All the spoilers.

There's so much cringe. First, let's just get the audio out of the way. BUY THE BOOK if you want to read it. Do NOT listen to this audio version. I've listened to this series 4 times now and I gotta say I think I'm done with this book. I just can't.

Apparently I'm not alone in this review. Because NICO IS BORN IN IOWA. HE SAYS HE LEARNED ITALIAN AS AN ADULT. WHY IS HE SPEAKING WITH AN ITALIAN ACCENT. AND WHY DOES HE SOUND LIKE HE'S HIGH?! OR IN SLOW MOTION?

Bad narration, Devra Woodward (or production director). Full stop.

The book tho. As someone who loves the other books, this review hurst to write - I even waited a day (I'm listening to Sandra make plans with Alex now so I'm even calm) but it has to be said. I think this book is a good example of why, if you go the self-publishing route, you need good HONEST beta readers. And if you make a book with lots of hospital stuff, get nurse and doctor beta readers.

This whole book is "tell don't show." The love interest, NICO, is a comedian. How do we know? We are told he is. The one joke he tries to pull off with the other resident doctor (who, according to Elizabeth is the same level as her but somehow holds authority over her in the beginning? Was that an accidental character change without a full transition?) falls flat, the doctor gives a douchey half-laugh, and that's it. All we really know about his show is that he jello wrestles girls in bikinis and the audience (in part) is naked. What the what? And the clincher is when clueless Elizabeth points this out even tho she never watched it, he informs her that he's an uber feminist because all the bikini models are grad students (etc) and the girls he wrestles are lesbians and things is a funny inside joke on the audience. HAH. I mean...

To be honest, this book wasn't really funny at all - it was more of a drama - a train wreck between two clueless people.

Nico has been in love with Elizabeth from the beginning so he showed it, like some boys do, by tormenting her. But not just tormenting. In Kindergarten he frigging cut one of her braids off. WHAT? As a parent I'd be livid. In high school he introduced her to new kids as a boy. He harassed her on a level that left her traumatized and then he's all indignant when she chooses his friend over him. And he never apologizes, really, in the whole book. If he was so clueless he should have an OMG what have I done?! moment but he doesn't. He "understands" and tries to bring her over to his way of thinking.

And Elizabeth, sigh. I liked her in the earlier books but I honestly wonder how she's a doctor. She actively sabotages her creditability on a regular basis by pulling pranks. 10-year-old pranks on doctors when they're with patients. WHAT? That whole lotion in the glove thing was not remotely funny and the weirdest part is, she droned out the voice of the doctor who was nicely berating her for her behavior. Oh she'd be fired by that point. Medical career gone.

Not to mention Meg. Who's apparently OBSESSED with Elizabeth to the point of helping out her stalker. She actually terrorizes Elizabeth too - and after the main stunt she pulled she would have been fired. All those years and dollars invested in med school to be a bratty adult? WHAT? That's too many WHATS but you get what I mean.

In the beginning, that stunt with the lotion... Meg switched the doctors which is why Elizabeth got caught - so meg was an accomplice. Elizabeth could have shoved that in her face the moment she admitted to it - and it doesn't even cross her mind. She spends most of the book which cringey inner monologues (Freaking Nico) obsessing over someone she pushes away constantly and OH THE ANGST.

She actually gets physically violent at one point. She actually starts hitting Nico because she feels pressured and when he leaves she's like OMG YOU LEFT?!!! I just...

I think Sandra needs to hand her over to her Psychiatrist friend to be honest. You'll meet him in the next book.

And this review hurt to write - I just had to get the rant off my chest because, ugh. I love this series, Penny Reid is wonderful, and even enjoyed this book the first time, but with every listen these things become glaringly obvious.

Beta readers, authors, get good beta readers.

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55 people found this helpful

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

Silly Protagonist. Subpar Narration.

This book has potential. The idea behind it was a good one, and I was initially really interested. But the combination of mediocre narration and an idiotic protagonist makes this book difficult to like. Elizabeth is supposed to be a smart, successful doctor. But she's pretty darn stupid when it comes to love....not naive, but stupid...exceptionally so. It's pretty much impossible to have any sympathy for her.

The narration really leaves something to be desired. She kind of sounds like a depressed robot.

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19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Shocking narration

This is one of those 'buyer beware' reviews. Everything is wrong with this narration. From the embarrassingly offensive Italian accents to Elizabeth's constantly defeated voice. The medical professionals are ENTIRELY unbelievable, and Elizabeth's workplace decisions and relations are painfully unprofessional and often very stupid. I just couldn't buy her as an intelligent person at all, and she is supposed to be a doctor at 27. It is hard to understand how this book and recording came to be published.

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17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Story was good, but the narrator ruined it!

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

No. This sounded like having Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson read the script from When Harry Met Sally.

Any additional comments?

A few hours into the book, I had to stop listening and I bought the kindle version to finish it. Once I did that, it was pretty enjoyable. As suggested by other readers, there were also some problems with the story. But there were also many laugh out loud moments. This is the third book that I have read/listened to by Penny Ried and I think her books need more editing. They are probably too long and could do with fewer internal dialogues of the characters. However, Friends Without Benefits definitely has many Rom-Com moments that will leave you smiling and liking the characters despite their flaws.

Problems:
1a) This biggest issue was the narrator. It makes NO sense that she uses an Italian accent for the main love interest, Nico, who grew up in Iowa! I know Italians living in Italy who have less of an accent than she gives him. Also, the accent she does use is terrible. I really could not keep listening.
1b) This novel should read in a much more light-hearted tone for big chunks of the book. The main character, Elizabeth, is supposed to be known for her sarcasm and Nico is supposed to be a comedian. Both end up sounding like tragic moody characters in some broody new adult vampire romance. When Amanda Ronconi narrates a book, you hear all the sarcasm and laugh at all the jokes. This sounded like having Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson read the script from When Harry Met Sally.
2) Aside from the narration, it was really hard to buy Nico as a shock comic with the heart of a feminist. I'm not saying that it's not possible, but the writing does not do a good job of convincing you that the underwear model turned raunchy feminist comedian is a thing that could exist in the universe. I think that Ried just used this device as a set up for the big finale of the book, which just ends up feeling kind of false and staged as a result. We get a Nico POV in the epilogue and he does sound more like how his character is described, but I found him to be way less likable in it.
3) There are other issues with the writing. As other reviewers pointed out, toward the end of the book, the characters do dumb things (no spoilers, but trust me). Also, an alert for people who care about authenticity. As someone in healthcare, a lot of the medical stuff sounds weird, it's just not the way people in the medical field talk about things - the patient is getting mysterious infusions that only Elizabeth is can administer. The way her residency rotations work is not right. Most people in the medical field will tell you that no doctor (besides an anesthesiologist) ever administered IV therapy. She also gives the impression that the side character who is an Advance Practice Nurse is doing bedside nursing, which is not how things work. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief about Nico's profession and the stilted medical discussions, the book has some good qualities.

On the plus side:
1) The book has many genuinely funny moments that truly caused me to laugh out loud.
2) If you ignore the fact that Nico makes a living as a raunchy comedian, his devotion to Elizabeth and the way he took care of her after a trauma they experienced in their teens will have you all swoony.

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

I'm with everyone else...

How could the performance have been better?

I listen to books while I'm locked up in an office pushing paper all day. I thought perhaps I missed something when the narrator had some weak Italian accent for the male character, Nico. This is someone who grew up in Iowa. He's also meant to be a famous comedian yet with this performance he's made to sound like he's some slow Goodfella. It doesn't add up. Whoever gave this direction to the narrator was WAY off. Makes me wonder how much input the author has.While it's annoying, I've kept listening because I have the rest of the series in the cue to listen too.

Any additional comments?

This series is a little juvenile but hey, I'm listening to it at work. If I were reading it I'd probably have stopped after the first book.

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I was looking forward to this book, since I enjoyed the first book in the series "Neanderthal Seeks Human." However, as much as I liked the characters in the first book, I disliked them in the second. The hero is supposed to be a standup comic, but you wouldn't know without constantly being told how funny he is (he never says anything remotely funny). I wanted to ring the necks of both main characters! As far as the narration, why does a man who grew up in the US have an Italian accent?

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

Doesn't measure up

I LOVED Neanderthal seeks human. The story captivated me and I couldn't get enough. I tried to pike this story and it started off promising. But between the weird Italian accents (one person had Italian heritage but wasn't from there had a bad Italian accent) and the story that took FOREVER to go anywhere after hour three, I stopped listening. I have almost four hours left and I just can't bring myself to finish. Glad I got it on sale.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Wasn't feeling it.

I have LOVE all of Penny Reid's stories so far... but this one... The story itself was a okay for the most part however Elizabeth was extremely hard to tolerate. She was all over the place and not in a good way. Nico could have done so much better than Elizabeth, the relationship never came together for me.

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Good grief

I knew following the hilarity of Janie and Quinn was going to be a tall order, but I never imagined it would be this bad, or that I would ever have a bad review for Penny Reid, but here we are. I am so glad I somehow missed this book in my foray into reading all of her books in order, or I never would have met the Winstons.

This book is a complete departure for the author, who normally has me in stitches. I currently have two hours left, and I am reading reviews because I haven't laughed once, and I had the overwhelming urge to know other readers struggled with this one, too. That's right, I need safety in numbers to finish this one. I am only sticking it out for glimpses of the likeable characters from other Penny Reid novels. I actually thought I might be depressed, and the problem was with me, especially after seeing 5 star reviews.

I have nothing nice to say about Elizabeth. Ironically, Janie''s summation of the problem with most romance novel heroines from the Neanderthal books exactly describes Elizabeth. Or was that Ashley's rant? I digress...

In short, I haven't laughed once and I am actively rooting against Elizabeth. For a book where the male lead is a comedian, it's nothing less than unbelievable.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Main character: insipid & whiney, Narration: bad

I rarely leave written reviews and even more rarely stop reading/listening mid-book. But, I had to take the time to leave a review for this one because I was not able to make myself finish this particular book. Made it to chapter 14 and just couldn't go any further. (Possible minor spoilers ahead.)

Knitting in the City and its sister (well, brother ;-) ) series for the Winston Brothers are really good, overall. But this installment is just not good. Elizabeth comes off as strong, sassy, and self-possessed in the other books and in the description of this book. I was excited to witness more of the promised sarcasm thrown at other people. However, in her own book, where she should really shine, Elizabeth comes across as whiney, clueless, rude, arguably weak, and stubbornly and stupidly set on convincing herself and others she's actually not a good person and that she "uses" men. Her backstory and the resulting mental/emotional stuff she's working through could have made for a very interesting story, but it was handled all wrong. The majority of the of story is just her idiot inner monolog where is either going on and on with her unjustified self-hatred or about her being stunned into awkward silence due to the presence of a hot guy (Nico) or difficult situation she is currently facing. For as verbose as she is in her head, you'd think she'd say at least half of that out loud. Elizabeth's insistence that she should be considered a bad person and a man-user because she participated in 3-4 monogamous relationships with men she didn't have feelings for is just stupid. And her girlfriends that know of her relationship history and that she thinks this of herself do a terrible job of helping Elizabeth recognize the truth of her false self-assessment. Heck, in the previous book, Elizbeth tried to convince Janie to have relationship-less, consensual sex with Quinn for fun and for release but here she's lamenting that sort of behavior supposedly makes her, Elizabeth, a bad person. ...Ok? Aside from that minor backstory detail, Elizabeth's self-deprecation is completely illogical overall.

Normally Penny Reid writes some very amusing situations and characters, and I honestly think she thought she was doing that here, too. But, it mostly falls flat, if it even took off to begin with. I don't know why Nico is classified as a comedian. Nothing he did or said was amusing. Elizbeth does not come across as sassy. She's rude at best, whiney and awkward at worst. Her promised supposed "severe sarcastic syndrome" is only in her head, at best. She hardly ever spoke such biting remarks out loud. The few "slapstick" situations that occur with the intent to provide levity were not all that funny. Or, they may have been if it weren't for the narration...

Speaking of the narration, it is terrible. Devra Wooward reads Elizbeth so slowly, with little emotion, and with more vinegar than spice. Elizabeth's dialog or, more likely inner monolog because that's pretty much all this book is, was probably written with the intent to be witty, comes across as unintelligent, awkward, or just plain boring. Also, Devra's voicing of Nico is somehow even slower and with an undeserved Italian accent when he absolutely should not have one. (He was born in the U.S.!) The audio for this should not have been over 15 hours. The majority of the rest of the Knitting in the City series is under 14 hours each. The narrator's drawl makes no sense for either Nico or Elizabeth. She was able to read other characters like Sandra with appropriate speed (if not appropriate accents). Either the narrator or production director, or both, had very weird ideas of what the characters should sound like and what the pacing of the book should be.

Summary: skip this one. But do read/listen to other Penny Reid stuff.

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