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Apr
23

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 1-2

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 1-2 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Kowalski Family 1 & 2 Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #1 & #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Exclusively Yours (Book #1) I just adore Shannon Stacey’s voice and storytelling. After reading a couple of her stand alone novellas, I was excited to finally start the Kowalski Family series. I started listening to the first book, Exclusively Yours, and pretty much consumed it within 24 hours of starting. It was just that good and well-narrated. Keri Daniels and Joe Kowalski have a history. Once high school sweethearts and lovers, she broke his heart when she left their small New Hampshire town for the bright lights of California. After 18 years of living on the West Coast, she’s come home to see Joe with hopes of getting an exclusive interview with the now famous (and reclusive) author. Forced into the situation by her editor and her job on the line, Keri agrees to Joe’s requirements that she go on the two-week Kowalski Family camping trip in order to get the interview. Once on vacation, the pair’s passion reignites, confusing what should be a simple 2-week professional interview. Ms. Stacey writes feel-good, happy romances, and this book fits that bill perfectly. But don’t mistake feel-good for emotionally shallow because Exclusively Yours is anything but. Full of three-dimension characters who are gritty and real, the tale has both highs and lows, laughs and tears. While the story focuses on Joe and Keri’s personal journeys and eventual love affair, we are also treated to the marital and family drama of his three siblings. I appreciate and enjoy how real and touching each sibling’s story thus far and look forward to seeing where life takes them in the books ahead. Joe and Keri make for a special couple. While the word sweet comes to mind when describing their romance, so does sexy and passionate. Rekindling an 18-year old flame happens quickly and naturally, but there are bumps in the road. I fretted over what would happen and celebrated their successes as I listened. And mostly, I enjoyed the honest emotions and true character growth that infused the tale. The narration by Lauren Fortgang was superb! After listening to her as Gin in the darkly wonderful Elemental Assassin series, I wondered how it would translate to this light-hearted contemporary romance. I was pleased that from the moment I started listening, I...
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Apr
9

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: No Matter What by Erin Nicholas

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: No Matter What by Erin Nicholas Welcome to our weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: No Matter What Author: Erin Nicholas Narrator: Rebecca Estrella Listening Speed: 1.0x Reviewer: Una No Matter What is the short and sweet story of Jaden and Adam.  Though it was somewhat of a whirlwind romance and a slightly clichéd love story, it was an enjoyable listen. First, let me say that overall, I did like Jaden and Adam’s journey.  I really like them as characters.  Though I enjoyed Jaden’s mental struggle between her attraction to Adam and her strive to be professional, I did find it funny that the temptation of Adam usually won.  Every time she got herself under control and walked away…she just couldn’t resist him.  Adam was more interesting.  I found it odd that he had no problem hiring Jaden and immediately succumbing to his attraction to her by flirting.  Since he was so concerned and overbearing about his daughter and her well being, I was surprised he thought he could just have both; Jaden the lover and Jaden the physical therapist for his daughter. I liked how time passed between the interludes of unprofessional flirting, giving them time to get to know each other and think about the situation.  However, it was a bit of a whirlwind romance.  But for those that enjoy a contemporary that indulges a hopeless romantic fantasy, this is entirely up your alley!  As we approached the end, however, I was surprised by the seemly abrupt twist that pulled them apart as well as how they reunited.  I really loved how the story ended.  Absolutely loved it! I liked Rebecca Estrella’s narration overall.  Though her voice differentiation wasn’t as strong between the male characters and female characters, I was able to follow the story for the most part.  There were only a couple of instances where I had difficulty discerning who was speaking.  Since I was listening via iTunes and I couldn’t figure out how to tell my phone it was not “music” but an audiobook, I was unable to alter the listening speed.  I might have enjoyed it more if it had been pushed up to 1.25x, which seems to be my usual listening pace. Though No Matter What was a fairly simple and somewhat straightforward contemporary romance, I liked the story of Jaden and Adam.  The romance had a strong initial attraction and then allowed time to build up the romance.  I was a little put off...
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Apr
2

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Dragon Conspiracy by Lisa Shearin

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Dragon Conspiracy by Lisa Shearin Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Dragon Conspiracy Author: Lisa Shearin Narrator: Johanna Parker Audio Speed: 1x Series: SPI #2 Source: Audible/purchased We join SPI “still a newbie” agent and local seer Makenna Fraser, along with partner Ian Byrne and a handful of other agents, as they attend a swank art show in Manhattan. The items on display are a cursed set of diamonds called the Dragon Eggs, known to SPI for some pretty powerful magical properties. When a group of harpies makes off with the diamonds, SPI is left trying to discover who was behind the plot and what is his or her ultimate goal. Unfortunately, as Mak and Ian begin to uncover the pieces of the puzzle, they learn that the conspiracy is much larger and more dangerous than anyone imagined. Once again, I find myself enjoying the humor and intelligence of agent Makenna Fraser. Like the first book in the series, The Dragon Conspiracy is shared from Mak’s first person POV, and Johanna Parker’s southern drawl is a perfect fit. Mak’s wit and snark make even the most dire situations enjoyable. I love the humor shared between agents and Mak’s amusing outlook on any situation. I enjoyed the comradarie of the SPI agents as Mak makes more friends among her peers. I especially delighted in the deeping friendship between Mak and SPI leader, Vivienne Sagadraco. And while this book is far from a romance, there are hints of budding relationships that may or may not play a part in future stories. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on board with the potential pairings, but it didn’t ruin the story in any way for me (and I’m still holding out for a certain pair of agents to find some lovin’). The mystery of the Dragon Eggs is engrossing, and the overall plot ended up being far more complex than I would have imagined. I liked that the story kept me guessing and isn’t predictable. The climatic scenes are dramatic and exciting, although the afterwards seemed to go on a bit too long. I enjoyed meeting new characters and learning about new supernatural beings. Once again, my biggest complaint is the amount of repetition found in the story. I really don’t need the several reminders of what will happen when all the Dragon Eggs are activate, and that New York has the highest concentration of supernaturals in the world. Over and over again, facts like these...
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Mar
26

Listen Up! Audiobook Challenge Update 1st Quarter

Listen Up! Audiobook Challenge Update 1st Quarter Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Now that I am firmly part of TEAM AUDIOBOOK and an avid listener, I signed up for the annual Audiobook Challenge hosted by The Book Nympho and Hot Listens. My personal goal is to meet the My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) level 30-50 audiobooks during 2015. For more information about the 2015 Audiobook Challenge, click the image below. Audiobook Challenge First Quarter Update So far I’m right on track to reach my goals. I’ve listened to 14 books during the first three months of 2015, which actually puts me ahead of schedule. My listens for 2015 include: Book 01. Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews, Narrated by Renee Raudman (1/3) Book 02. The Death Cure by James Dashner, Narrated by Mark Deakins (1/7) Book 03: If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski, Narrated by Emily Eiden (1/10) Book 04: Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (1/13) Book 05: One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (1/16) Book 06: At Grave’s End by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (1/26) Book 07: Sink or Swim by Sarah Mlynowski, Narrated by Emily Eiden (1/29) Book 08: Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (2/2) Book 09: Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (2/4) Book 10: Undeniably Yours by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (2/12) Book 11: Visions in Silver by Anne Bishop, Narrated by Alexandra Harris (3/2) Book 12: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs, Narrated by Holter Graham (3/9) Book 13: The Dragon Conspiracy by Lisa Shearin, Narrated by Johanna Parker (3/18) Book 14: Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (3/19) My favorite story so far is Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey. My favorite performances so far are Renee Raudman in Burn for Me and Lauren Fortgang in Yours to Keep. You can find most of my audiobook reviews either by checking out my Listen Up! Posts or on Booklikes and GoodReads. What about you – how are you doing in the Audiobook Challenge? Do you like to listen? What are your favorites of...
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Mar
19

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Destined for an Early Grave

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Destined for an Early Grave Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Back at the beginning of the year, I started to work on my TBR pile by listening to audiobooks for some high-volume series. One such series that has been on my TBR for a long while is the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I posted my thoughts on the first three books in the series back last month, and here is my review of the fourth title in the series… Note: this review contains spoilers from previous books in the series. Audiobook review: Destined for an Early Grave Author: Jeaniene Frost Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Audio Speed: 1x and 1.25x Series: Night Huntress #4 Source: Audible/purchased The fourth book of the Night Huntress series finds lovers Cat and Bones on a much needed vacation. But knowing their luck, it doesn’t last long and soon the pair discover that a not-so-nice vampire is after Cat, claiming to be her husband. I’m not going to sugar-coat this… I absolutely HATED the premise for the story. My eyes were rolling and face grimacing over and over as the plot came to light. The fact that there is a big chunk of Cat’s youth ripped from her memory and we just now find out about it bothered me. Additionally, I am a bit tired of all of these vampires that want to collect Cat. Unfortunately, this situation brings out the worst in Bones and I grew to dislike him over the course of the book. He was cruel, and I don’t feel that he made up for his actions by the end of the book. There was so much bickering and arguing, Cat blaming herself, and Bones saying “This is who I am.” I fell out of like of this couple. I am glad the plot was resolved by the conclusion of Destined for an Early Grave, but I almost didn’t care by the time it was over. I will agree that there are some highly emotional parts that did grip and my heart and pull on my heartstrings. But unfortunately the few shining moments didn’t make up for all of my issues with the book. While I had issues with the opening, the story did pick up for me midway through. I found that regardless of how we got to that point, the story was gripping and compelling. Once I hit a certain point, I found that I couldn’t stop listening until the end. This is what saved the...
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Mar
12

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1x Series: Alpha and Omega #4 Source: borrowed Having recently devoured the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, I found myself anxiously awaiting the release of Dead Heat over the past couple of months. Werewolf mates Anna and Charles Cornick have become one of my favorite book couples because of their well-balanced and loving relationship. The urban fantasy series, set in a world filled with dangerous Fae and newly outed werewolves, splits time between an action-filled paranormal/UF plot and the emotionally satisfying love story of Charles and Anna. For the second book in a row, the story takes place outside the normal pack setting. Anna and Charles find themselves in Scottsdale, AZ visiting Joseph, Charles’ longtime friend who is near death, and to purchase a horse from Joseph’s family for Anna’s birthday. Unfortunately Charles and Anna’s getaway is cut short when Joseph’s daughter-in-law and grandchildren are the target of a Fae attack. Soon the pair are reunited with FBI Special Agent Fisher (Fair Game) and the hunt begins for a deadly Fae with a taste for young children. Like its predecessors, Dead Heat is a marvelous mix of action-filled conflict and thoughtful character interactions. The storyline following the malevolent Fae and its horrific actions is suspenseful and well-written, leaving readers guessing who is behind the attacks and what are the motivating factors. Ms. Briggs excels at laying out clues and feeding bits to readers a little at a time, which kept me glued to the pages and in a hurry to find out what was happening. While the storyline behind Dead Heat is all of the above, I was a little disappointed that more was not discussed regarding the significant events occurring at the close of the previous book. I want to know what motivates the Fae and what is going on with their self-imposed exile. Maybe this storyline will play out more in its sister series, the Mercy Thompson series. One thing that I did appreciate is that there seemed to be a great percentage of the book spent on the personal interactions of Charles and Anna. Readers learn more about the mysterious Charles, including some of what motivates him and makes him the stoic man he is in present day. Through the process of horse shopping, we see a new side to both Anna and Charles, and I enjoyed following along...
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Mar
5

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop Author: Anne Bishop Narrator: Alexandra Harris Audio Speed: 1x Series: The Others #3 Source: Penguin Audio Vision in Silver is the third book in and continuation of the Others series by Anne Bishop. The books outline with great detail an alternate world populated by the terra indigene, or Others, top predators with the ability to shape shift into forms such as wolves, crows, bears, and even vampires. After befriending Meg Corbyn, a special human known as a cassandra sangue, the Others in the Lakeside Courtyard are learning to adjust to having a “human pack” within their own, and even learning to trust and care about these humans. The books are all interrelated and build upon one other, making it important to start with the first book in the series, Written in Red. Due to the nature of the series, this review will have spoilers from the previous books. As with the previous books, Vision in Silver showcases several plotlines, all occurring simultaneously, most of which are tied together before the end of the book. Of key interest this time around are stories focusing on Lakeside Police Officer Montgomery and his concerns over his daughter Lizzie, the outfall from the attack on and subsequent closing of the institutions that house the cassandra sangue, the relationship between the Lakeside humans and Others, and the growing power of the HFL (Humans First and Last) movement. And while not covering as much of the page time as it did in the second book, we witness Simon Wolfgard and Meg continue to explore and stretch the boundaries of their unique friendship. While one strength of the series is the intricate world-building and well-developed characters, at times this is also part of its weakness. I enjoy how the author takes the time to share some of the everyday details and going-ons of the courtyard and its denizens; however at times, I felt like the book took too much time meandering though insignificant minutia when I wanted more meat and to move forward with the overall storyline. I did enjoy the deepening look at the cassandra sangue, especially finding another girl who is learning how to live outside the specialized compounds. I also liked that while Meg has made a successful transition without much difficulty, she isn’t perfect and will make mistakes. Luckily she learns from them, which gives the reader more insight into Meg’s character, as well as those around...
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Feb
26

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 2

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 2 Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Alpha & Omega Series Books 2-3 A couple weeks ago, I posted my audiobook reviews of the first two Alpha & Omega books (prequel novella and book #1). With the upcoming release of the fourth book, Dead Heat, I’m sharing my reviews for the rest of the series. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I do! Note: This series can be read independently from the Mercy Thompson series, but the two series are somewhat intertwined. For more information on chronological reading order, please visit Hurog forum website. Due to the building nature of the series, each review may contain spoilers from previous books. Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1x Series: Alpha & Omega 2, 3 Hunting Ground, Book 2 As Hunting Ground opens, we find Anna and Charles married and mated, working on discovering the necessary give and take required for both to feel comfortable and whole. The pair is sent to Seattle as Bran’s representatives to oversee a dialogue with the European werewolf packs over the issue of coming out to the humans. While Bran is planning on doing this no matter what (see Mercy Thompson series), he wants to make the Europeans at ease with his decision. Unfortunately, Charles and Anna are both put to the test from foes coming at them in all directions, and the pair must work even harder at their relationship to ensure their very survival. I now understand, when I told people that I was going to start reading Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, why so many told me 1) how much they loved Charles and Anna and 2) how they like it more than the Mercy Thompson series. While I would love to discuss the merits of these statements, especially the second one, that would not be helpful as a review for this wonderful book. (Find me… let’s discuss!) Anna and Charles MAKE this series absolutely wonderful. Like Kate and Curran of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, each compliments the other so beautifully that you know as a team, they will be able to concur all obstacles in their path. I admire that their mutual, growing love is the strongest bond portrayed by the author. I also adore that neither really has a clue, and with open, honest dialogue, they are learning together what works. The internal struggles each experience creates rich, three-dimentional characters that I care about...
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Feb
19

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Will by Kristen Ashley

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: The Will by Kristen Ashley Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Will by Kristen Ashley Today Una shares with us her audiobook review of The Will by Kristen Ashley. This is Una’s first audiobook review for the blog. Please leave her a comment and let her know what you think! Author: Kristen Ashley Narrator: Hollis McCarthy Audio Speed: Series: Magdalene #1 Source: Audible Studios I admit it. I’m not a big contemporary romance fan. I have read a few in the past that I didn’t like and decided the whole genre wasn’t my thing. After listening to The Will, I have decided that I do like contemporary romances; I’m just picky. And, this novel may make me a fan. My biggest complaint about contemporary romance is the couple falls into bed too quickly. Maybe it is because I’m not a fast mover and shaker. I’m shy when it comes to intimacy and can’t see myself plunging into a one-night stand situation or allowing myself to be vulnerable with someone I’ve barely met. I want the slowly burning romance, the flirting, the butterflies in the stomach, and the anxious anticipation. I want the real stuff and I want to see them get to know each other and build some trust and foundation first. Don’t skip to the end, and give me the warmup! The Will has that and more. The majority of the story is from Josie’s point of view. I have to give some major credit to Ms. Ashley. I didn’t like Josie at first. In fact I really disliked her. I found her superficial, self-absorbed and haughty. I have nothing in common with a fashionista. But through the course of the novel, I was able to get to know Josie. As she delves into her own issues, we learn that Josie is a fiercely loyal and loving person who had been severely scarred. Though she appears perfect, she is actually broken and a bit awkward. As her walls and barriers fall, her disguise was dismantled, and the beautiful soul within her was revealed. What was wonderful was the realization that the people in Josie’s life knew that but allowed her the space and the security she craved. They took what she allowed them to have and cherished that. There are few precious chapters that are from Jake’s point-of-view. I treasured these. Jake is a seriously fabulous and perfect guy. It isn’t until the end that you find out how...
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Feb
12

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 1

Listen Up! Alpha & Omega Series, part 1 Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Alpha & Omega Series Books 0.5-1 After picking up and blazing through the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs on audiobook, someone encouraged me to listen to the spinoff series, Alpha & Omega. I was more than a little frustrated with the Mercy series (possibly another Listen Up! post), and I was told by a number of people that they, in fact, enjoy Alpha & Omega more than Mercy. After finishing the first two stories, I can whole heartedly agree! Overall, the Alpha & Omega series has a balanced feel, sharing equal time between romance and action, as well as male and female characters. Whereas Mercy is told from the first person point-of-view of the heroine, the Alpha & Omega stories have multiple points-of-view, adding to that sense of balance. Today I’m sharing my reviews of the prequel novella and first book, and be sure to come back next week for my reviews of books 2 and 3. Note: This series can be read independently from the Mercy Thompson series, but the two series are somewhat intertwined. For more information on chronological reading order, please visit Hurog forum website. Due to the building nature of the series, each review may contain spoilers from previous books. Author: Patricia Briggs Narrator: Holter Graham Audio Speed: 1x Series: Alpha & Omega 0.5, 1 Alpha & Omega, Book 0.5 The series opens with this novella, sharing the story of how Charles and Anna meet. For those unfamiliar with the Mercy Thompson world, Charles is her adoptive brother of sorts – the son of Bran, head of all werewolves, the man that helped raise Mercy. This story takes place during the same time as the first Mercy book, Moon Called.Anna is an emotionally and physically abused female werewolf, who didn’t ask to be turned (a big no-no in this world). She knows little about her own kind except darkness and cruelty. When she realizes something isn’t quite right with her pack, she contacts Bran and shares her concerns. Charles is Bran’s second and executioner. He arrives in Chicago to discover what is wrong with the local pack, but finds himself inexplicably drawn to the timid female wolf, Anna. Anna and Charles are special right from the start. There is a huge gap in their experiences, ages, and knowledge, yet the pair click immediately – even through Anna’s fear. What I love is that instead of this being explained away...
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