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Jun
18

Listen Up! Audiobook Challenge: 2nd Quarter Update

Listen Up! Audiobook Challenge: 2nd Quarter Update Welcome to my 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 Second Quarter Update I am kicking butt on the challenge, and at 28 books through mid-June, I am nearly at the lower end of my goal category. I really want to get to 50 books by the end of the year, and at this rate, it shouldn’t be a problem. My listens for April – June 2015 include: Book 15: The Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy, Narrated by Cris Dukehart (3/31) Book 16: All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Renee Werbowski (4/3) Book 17: All Her Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (4/7) Book 18: All Her Ever Dreamed by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (4/9) Book 19: Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (4/14) Book 20: Taken with You by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (4/17) Book 21: Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey, Narrated by Lauren Fortgang (4/21) Book 22: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox, Narrated by Coleen Marlo (4/24) Book 23: First Drop of Crimson by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (5/5) Book 24: Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (5/10) Book 25: This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (5/20) Book 26: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones, Narrated by Lorelei King (5/26) Book 27: One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost, Narrated by Tavia Gilbert (6/2) Book 28: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs, Narrated by Lorelei King (6/14) My favorite story I listened the second quarter of 2015 is Taken with You by Shannon Stacey; however, many of the books I listened to rated an A- or better. I found renewed love for the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost after taking a break because I didn’t care for the fourth book. I love the direction of the spinoff series and later books in the series. I also found a great new series (that I had to finish reading on my Kindle because only the first title is available in audio)...
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Jun
11

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Shards of Hope Author: Nalini Singh Narrator: Angela Dawson Listening Speed: 1.0x Reviewer: Una Audiobook Source: Tantor Media What I’m Talking About: Nalini Singh is one of my favorite writers, and I am an avid follower of her Psy-Changling series.  This is the first time I’ve listened to one of her new releases via audio book before reading a hard copy.  It was an interesting experience.  Not only did I enjoy the story, but I learned about what type of reader I am. Overall, I liked Shards of Hope, even though it wasn’t quite what I expected.  I feel that the romance of Aiden and Zaira was not balanced within the overall plot of the future of the Arrows.  Their story felt like the background to Aiden trying to secure and create a family or pack for the Arrows.  Though I really enjoyed the plight of the Arrows, the predominance of this plot line gave the book a more urban fantasy feel than paranormal romance.  Aiden and Zaira’s journey had similarities to a few other previous pairings, though there were enough unique characteristics that though it felt familiar, it still was fascinating and touching. This story starts very slowly as compared to some of the other novels in the series.  In fact, I felt that it was moving very slowly until about the fifty-percent mark.  It was then that the story really started moving, the action and romance barreling towards the conclusion.  There were quite a few different groups that needed to come together and there were quite a lot of pieces to get into position before the story could reach its climax and begin the resolutions.  All of this, although it slowed the progress of the book, was very fascinating and intricate.  I found the political ramifications very intriguing.  The ending resolution was surprising and holds such promise for more in the future novels. Nalini Singh is an expert writer.  Until this experience, I never realized the nuances and subtlety of her writing, or rather how many I’d miss by listening to the title before reading it.  I’ve listened to a Psy-Changling novel via audiobook after having read it a thousand times or more via my ereader.  I enjoyed the experience of hearing it, but the plot and the characters were familiar if not memorized.  This time around, I felt as if I were missing...
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Jun
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love a Little Sideways

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Love a Little Sideways Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Love a Little Sideways Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #7 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased What I’m Talking About I am binge listening to this series, and although each book is unique, I have to admit, they are all starting to blend into one big Kowalski-story-of-doom, and it’s hard to distinguish each of the individual pieces to write a comprehensive and distinctive review. With that said, Love a Little Sideways marks a change in the Kowalski Family series, moving from a focus on saving the Northern Star Lodge, which reached its peak in the previous book All He Ever Dreamed. This time around, the story centers on the return of sister Liz, who ended a long-term relationship and moved back home after a 15 year absence. Back a couple books ago, Liz was home for her eldest brother, Mitch’s wedding, and had a quick hook-up with Mitch’s best friend, Drew Miller. Drew had also recently ended his relationship, a marriage to his high school sweetheart. Telling themselves that it was only a one-time thing, the pair skirt around their mutual attraction for the sake of Mitch and because they wanted different things in life. But when the pair is forced to spend a lot of time together at the Kowalski Family camping trip, they can no longer deny their feelings. Overall, Love a Little Sideways is a good story, but not nearly my favorite of the Kowalski Family series. As a stand alone, it works, but Drew and Liz’s story really starts way back with Drew’s split in the fourth title of the series. While I liked the pair together, they didn’t seem to have the spark that the previous couples exuded. Possibly because both Drew and Liz have baggage, or because they are convinced it won’t work, but I found myself not as connected to the couple as I would want. And while I loved that the book went back to the campground where the entire series started, I actually missed Whitford and its residents. I also missed the side stories that have always accompanied each book in the series; Love a Little Sideways only had two POVs – Drew and Liz. Having an additional POV and side story would have helped diffuse the monotony of the constant baby discussion, which grew tiresome after a while. It wasn’t until about the 90% mark of the...
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May
28

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Eighth Grave After Dark Author: Darynda Jones Narrator:  Lorelei King Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Charley Davidson #8 Genre: Urban Fantasy Source: purchased from Audible If you are a reader of my reviews, it’s no surprise to you that I have a love-hate affair with the Charley Davidson series. While Charley is one of my favorite characters in literature, she’s also one of the most frustrating. And after having several issues with the previous two books, reading Eighth Grave After Dark became a “make or break” book for the series. While I still had some issues with the book, it is by and large a step above the subsequent two titles. I did make one big change this time around… I listened to the audiobook rather than read the story. I realized that I needed to step away from the trappings of the written word and my note taking, and rather just sit back and enjoy the story. I think that went a long way towards helping me reconnect with Charley and the gang. Picking up eight months after the conclusion of the previous novel, we find out that Charley and Reyes have moved into an old convent outside of Albuquerque – onto sacred ground – to keep the 12 hellhounds away from attacking Charley, Reyes, and their unborn daughter, Beep. The story opens with a special wedding between Charley’s Uncle Bob and her best friend and partner, Cookie. Unfortunately, evil doesn’t stop for the festivities, and soon Charley and Cookie find themselves working on a missing persons case for Special Agent Carson. And of course, Charley, once again, makes her own way into trouble. As I mentioned, overall Eighth Grave After Dark was much better than the sixth and seventh books. Two of my biggest complaints with those books were 1) inconsistencies and continuity errors and 2) too many subplots and storylines, especially ones that didn’t give value to the overall story. I am very happy that Eighth Grave After Dark did not fall victim to these pitfalls. The primary storyline of the missing girl was entertaining and kept my interest, and I was glad it didn’t have any misdirects, although it did result in a trip Charley won’t soon forget. And per usual, there was a ghost who need Charley’s help, leading to another enjoyable subplot, again, with consequences that were a direct result of the storyline. Additionally, the book does a great job finally answering some long running questions that have been dragging from book...
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May
21

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Night Huntress World

Listen Up! #Audiobook Reviews: Night Huntress World Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Night Huntress World series Author: Jeaniene Frost Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Audio Speed: 1x Series: Night Huntress World #1-#2 (Night Huntress #4.1 & #4.2) Genre: Paranormal Romance Source: library loan After the first four books in her Night Huntress series, Jeaniene Frost takes a break from Cat and Bones and shares the romance storylines of two of her side characters. These books are more paranormal romance and less urban fantasy, telling the complete love story of the primary couple. While the books may be listed as a spinoff series, they are more than loosely tied to the primary series, and if you skip them, you will miss a bit of background for these characters once you start back with book 5 of Night Huntress. For that reason, I am referring to the books as #4.1 and #4.2. First Drop of Crimson (NHW #1 / NH #4.1) After struggling with the previous few Cat & Bones books, I took a break from the entire Night Huntress series. Now I’m back, and the next book, chronologically, is the first spin-off book in the Night Huntress World, First Drop of Crimson. Picking up about a year after the conclusion of the previous book (Destined for an Early Grave), First Drop of Crimson shares the story of Bones’s best mate and fellow vampire, Spade, and his long-lusted after love interest, Denise, who also happens to be Cat’s human best friend. While one may be able to read/listen to the book independently, it really is part of the Night Huntress series, and should be considered book 4.1. The first difference I noticed right away is that the spin-off titles are paranormal romance rather than urban fantasy. The story is shared from third person point-of-views, alternating between Spade and Denise, and the primary story is their romance. Denise is still heart-broken from the gruesome death of her husband at the hands of supernatural beings. Having been terrorized by Cat’s world, Denise decided to alienate herself; however, after she witnesses her cousin’s death at the hands of something not human, Denise calls Spade for help. Soon the pair find themselves in the middle of the very dark underbelly of vampire-kind. I was not overly impressed with Spade and Denise’s story. I felt the pair worked too hard at keeping the other at arm’s length rather than communicating and sharing their lives. It bothered me that Spade couldn’t even explain his over-protectiveness to Denise, leaving the job to...
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May
14

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: About Last Night Author: Ruthie Knox Narrator: Coleen Marlo Audio Speed: 1x Series: stand alone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: audible  About Last Night is the emotionally rich love story between perennial screw up, American Cath Talarico, and high-bred British banker, Nev Chamberlain. The unlikely pair have an intense and immediate chemistry that they indulge in over and over, but only under a set of strict rules. Cath doesn’t want to fall in love, so she keeps Nev at a distance. Nev isn’t happy under his mother’s rules and expectations for his life, but plays her game. What develops between the pair is magical and perfect, yet messy. Their road to happiness is filled with both beautiful and ugly moments, but it’s the journey of survivors. The story is shared from both Cath and Nev’s POVs. At first I felt that split between the two was unbalanced, and I wanted more from Nev’s POV. However, that apparent discrepancy fell away as I grew into the story – whether there was a better balance later in the book, or not noticeable because the story was so engrossing, I don’t know. While it is obvious right from the start that all of their issues would come to a head eventually, I was pleasantly surprised with how it all came to be. I felt that Nev’s mother did act a bit out of character, but in the end, it didn’t matter because I thoroughly enjoyed the outcome. Their Happily-Ever-After is picture perfect and well-deserved. The narration by Coleen Marlo is pretty good. I found her narrator voice soothing and enjoyed her performance of Cath quite a lot. At times I found that she reminded me of Renee Raudman, most especially her performance of Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews. Ms. Marlo’s British male voices were okay – with Nev’s being the best of the bunch and his brother’s most annoying. Sometimes the narration felt a little slow, but I didn’t like the sound at 1.25x (I listened at 1x speed). Overall an enjoyable audiobook and lovely romance. Story Rating: B+ Narration:...
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May
7

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 5-6

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 5-6 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Kowalski Family series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #5 & #6 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased All He Ever Desired (Book #5) Just after college, Ryan Kowalski took a risk and asked his best friend’s wife and young child to run away with him, but Lauren Carpenter loved her husband and said no. And when her bad marriage ended in divorce, Lauren always wondered what if… Now that Ryan is back home for a while to help refurbish the family’s Northern Star Lodge, he can no longer avoid Lauren, especially since her son, Nick, is working for Ryan to pay off a debt. Spending more time together leaves the pair considering why they should keep saying no to any kind of relationship. All He Ever Desired is yet another wonderful tale from Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series. Back in small-town Whitford, Maine, the book continues the story of the Northern Star Lodge that began in the previous book. I liked how the work on the Lodge and Josh’s concerns over running it flowed from the previous book right into this story, giving the whole series great cohesiveness without repetition. And seeing basically the same cast of characters really solidified my adoration of Whitford and the Kowalskis. Lauren and Ryan share great chemistry, although I wish they’d have acted on it a little sooner in the book. However, the stories outside of the romance were equally as strong, so it didn’t bother me too badly that it did take some time. I adored the pair, loved their banter, and found Ryan’s dealings with Lauren’s son to be fantastic. In general, I feel like the last couple of books have become a bit more serious. I still laughed and smiled so many times over the course of the story, but there is some hard reality going on, too. As much as I adore Lauren Fortgang’s narration and found her performance in All He Ever Desired to be excellent, I have to admit I missed some of Renee Werbowski’s voices, especially since it was her voice I first associated with many of the characters. In fact, I struggled a bit with Ms. Fortgang’s Rosie after being accustomed to Ms. Werbowski’s version. But in the end, the narration was near perfect, and I am happy with the performance. Definitely another must read from Ms. Stacey. Story: A- Narration: A- All...
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Apr
30

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Kowalski Family series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #3 & #4 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Yours to Keep (Book #3) Sean Kowalski is finally home from a 12-year stint in the Army, most currently serving overseas in Afghanistan. Not ready to go to the family lodge in Maine, Sean makes a stop over in New Hampshire to visit his aunt, uncle, and cousins. To his surprise, he finds out that Emma Shaw considers Sean her “fake” finance, telling Grandma Shaw in Florida that Sean is living with her and helping take care of her large New England home. Emma and best friend Lisa Kowalski made up her fake relationship to pacify Grandma Shaw’s concerns over leaving Emma alone when she moved to Florida. Now Grandma is coming to visit for a month and Emma wants Sean to move in with her and pretend to be the fiance Grandma believes he is. I cannot express how much I absolutely adored Yours to Keep and continue to enjoy the Kowalski family. I was a bit concerned that moving away from the original family after only two books would be too soon, but Ms. Stacey intergrates new-comer Sean perfectly into the Kowalski fold. Emma and Sean’s story is utterly adorible and simply lovely. While the fake-fiance trope could have been silly, instead, the story was full of humor and heart. At times I was laughing uncontrollably at the antics of trying to keep the various secrets straight and in place. The light-hearted humor and Kolwaski antics make this wonderful romance a perfect story. After getting over the initial shock of suddenly being with one another under false pretenses, Emma and Sean realize that they cannot hold back their mutual attraction. Of course, spending so much time together, coupled with indulging in some extracurricular benefits, the pair begin to fall in love, all the while ignoring and denying the obvious signs they are happy being a couple. The pace of their romance and the overall story is perfect, keeping my earbuds firmly planted in my ears. I fell in love with the couple as they fell in love with one another. The side plot involving Emma’s grandma, Kat, finding potential romance with old friend Russell is sweet and adds dimension to the overall story. The best side plot, however, is Aunt Mary and Kat coming together with their own, well-intentioned scheming. At more than...
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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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