500 Miles From You

500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan

Published:  June 2020 – Harper Audio

Borrowed from my library via Libby App

Description:  

Lissa, is a nurse in a gritty, hectic London neighborhood. Always terribly competent and good at keeping it all together, she’s been suffering quietly with PTSD after helping to save the victim of a shocking crime. Her supervisor quietly arranges for Lissa to spend a few months doing a much less demanding job in the little town of Kirrinfeif in the Scottish Highlands, hoping that the change of scenery will help her heal. Lissa will be swapping places with Cormack, an Army veteran who’s Kirrinfeif’s easygoing nurse/paramedic/all-purpose medical man. Lissa’s never experienced small-town life, and Cormack’s never spent more than a day in a big city, but it seems like a swap that would do them both some good.

In London, the gentle Cormack is a fish out of the water; in Kirrinfief, the dynamic Lissa finds it hard to adjust to the quiet. But these two strangers are now in constant contact, taking over each other’s patients, endlessly emailing about anything and everything. Lissa and Cormack discover a new depth of feeling…for their profession and for each other.

But what will happen when Lissa and Cormack finally meet…?  (publisher)

My take:  Two nurses, he’s from Scotland and she’s from London, change places and jobs for three months. She’s never lived in a small town and he hasn’t spent much time in the big city. Themes of loss and PTSD figure strongly in the novel. Jenny Colgan’s characters are warm, sympathetic and believable. I wanted to keep reading about Cormac and Lissa. This is the third in a series but can stand alone.  Recommended, especially on audio.


 

Forget About Me

Forget About Me by Karen Grey

Narrated by:  Emma Wilder and Brian Pallino

Published:  November 2020 – Home Cooked Books

Review audio courtesy of Karen Grey

Description:

Ben Porter may be living the dream, but it’s not his.

His dad’s health scare might not be the ideal reason to come home for the summer, but it’s a welcome break from the stellar glitz of Ben’s life in Los Angeles. Even if modeling has him rivaling Marky Mark’s fame, posing isn’t his passion. Landing a role with a Boston Shakespeare theater brings him closer to fulfilling his dreams of being a real actor.

Facing the reason he went west in the first place? That’s another story.

Lucy Minola’s dreams were shattered seven years ago when a drunk driver smashed into her brother’s car. She knows it was her fault. So as penance, she works hard to care for her family, goes to confession faithfully, and buries all the feelings she had for the person who left when she needed him most: her brother’s best friend.

When an injured dog brings them back together, Lucy’s good-girl façade begins to crack. Women everywhere are obsessed with the rad bod they see in magazines, but she’s the only one Ben seems to notice.

She can’t trust herself with the man who walked away…but can she let him go a second time?

This bittersweet romance, book 2 in Karen Grey’s 1980s Boston Classics series, proves that everyone deserves a second chance in love and in life. (publisher)

My take:  I enjoyed the first book in The Boston Classics series, What I’m Looking For, so I happily signed on for the second book. This is the wistful story of Lucy and Ben. Tragedy cut their relationship short but 8 years later they are back in the same neighborhood they grew up in. A second chance? Perhaps but they’ll need to work through the reasons they went their separate ways years ago. Karen Grey titled each chapter with an ’80s tune and, like the first book, worked Shakespeare and an adorable dog into the plot. Fans of the 1980s and contemporary romance are sure to enjoy this novel!

I loved the audiobook narrators. Emma Wilder and Brian Pallino were perfectly cast and kept me listening to “one more chapter” each time I listened. I was sorry to learn that Brian Pallino passed away after completing work on this project. His voice will be missed.

About the author:

Karen Grey is the pen name for award-winning narrator Karen White. A stage, screen and radio drama actor in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in the late 20th century, she started recording books in 1999. Now back in her home state of North Carolina, she shares a home with her family and probably too many pets, where she continues to narrate audiobooks as well as make up stories. Her first novel What I’m Looking For released in June 2020.


About the narrators:

Emma Wilder is a classically trained actor and narrator who has worked all over the world on everything from steamy romance novels to Shakespeare. When she isn’t behind a mic, she can be found rescuing and training animals, sipping fine bourbon, and watching home renovation shows.

Brian Pallino is a highly sought-after narrator of contemporary adult and romance books. He has voiced series for multiple award-winning authors, including Lauren Blakely, CD Reiss, and Meredith Wild.  He lives in NYC and is an unabashed fan of both the Yankees AND the Mets.  Brian is also a musician, and particularly loves playing audiobook characters who are musicians themselves or have musical backgrounds.  With a versatile range, Brian is a storyteller who strives to bring books to life and move his listeners.

Sadly, Brian recently passed away. His prodigious musical talent, which included arranging, composing and performing jazz and classical music, co-existed with his skill as an award-winning and prolific audiobooks narrator and voice actor.

“Angelo was passionate, intense, obviously talented, fiercely loyal and loving, very faithful in Christ,” said his mother, Martha A. Di Loreto. “But Angelo lived with the illness of anxiety and depression, and in his final moments the disease took hold of him.”

His mother and his father, Domenic Di Loreto, stressed that their son “lived a full life until the disease overtook him,” with close relationships with his family and many friends.

https://buffalonews.com/obituaries/features/angelo-di-loreto-30-award-winning-pianist-composer-narrator-and-actor/article_328bd322-13ba-11eb-9343-0f4e58387126.html


 

 

 

 

What I’m Looking For

What I’m Looking For by Karen Grey

Published:  June 23, 2020 – Home Cooked Books

Review audiobook courtesy of the author and Blackstone Audio

Description:

Recipe for a Boston Classic Cocktail: one part finance geek, one part starving actor, two shots of stubborn and a healthy squeeze of passion. Shake well and serve in a vintage glass.

 

When Kate Bishop walks into Boston’s famous Bull and Finch pub, all she’s looking for is one guy from her investment firm that she can trust to have her back—a tall order. With a salesman at her side, maybe stage fright won’t paralyze her completely when she presents her meticulously prepared research to clients. And maybe she can save her job.

 

Romance is the last thing on her to-do list, but a meet-cute with a Shakespeare-quoting bartender has her speculating on the value of diversifying her life portfolio.

 

Will Talbot is not a fan of the slick financiers who cram into his bar after each day’s closing bell. With their calls for Harvey Wallbangers and their Hermès ties, they’re all the same.

 

Except for a certain beautiful, buttoned-up brunette with fire in her eyes and a storm in her heart. They’re totally wrong for each other. He should be focusing on his upcoming audition, not coaching Kate on how to act like she’s a bona fide member of the Gordon Gekko club.

 

Problem is, they can’t seem to stay away from each other.

 

The course of true love never did run smooth, but in this 1980’s sweet-and-sexy rom-com, returns on love can’t be measured on the S&P 500. (publisher)

My take:  Kate and Will meet one night on opposite sides of a Boston bar. He makes her a drink and the rest is history. Or is it? The two are equally passionate about their careers. His is acting and hers is finance. They hit it off almost from the start so what could go wrong? I loved these two imperfect people. They were perfect for each other but could it be they met at the wrong time?

I loved listening to this ’80s romantic comedy. Karen White and Joe Arden’s narration was so enjoyable. Joe’s delivery of the Shakespeare lines was wonderful. I forget about the Bard’s genius until I hear it performed well. I enjoyed Karen Grey’s debut novel very much – from the meet-cute to the epilogue.

What I’m Looking For is the first book in the Boston Classics series and I look forward to the next book! Recommended to fans of Rom/Coms and authors like Julie James and Jill Shalvis.


About the author:

KAREN GREY is the pen name for award-winning narrator Karen White. A stage, screen and radio drama actor in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in the late 20th century, she started recording books in 1999. Now back in her home state of North Carolina, she shares a home with her family and (probably) too many pets, where she continues to narrate audiobooks as well as make up stories.


CONNECT:

eBook BUY LINKS:

 

Audiobook BUY LINKS

Narrators:

JOE ARDEN BIO

Joe Arden’s narration has been described as “sensual,” “sexy,” and “hot.” His recordings range from sweet and romantic to steamy and raw. In his spare time, Joe raises and trains rescue pitbulls and restores vintage motorcycles. Twitter @TheRealJoeArden

 

KAREN WHITE BIO

Karen White has been narrating audiobooks of all genres since 1999. Honored to be included in AudioFile Magazine’s Best Voices, she’s also a four-time Audie Finalist and has earned multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards and Library Journal starred reviews.


Praise for WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR:

This is my first book by Karen Grey and I’m hooked.” – Rachel, Rellim Reads blog

 

“Kate and Will share a sizzling attraction and complex connection, giving me all the feels in this timeless romance.” – Jen, That’s What I’m Looking For blog

 

“Set within the Boston theater community and the (equally dramatic) world of high-stakes consulting, Grey’s wry, charming, and compulsively readable first novel demonstrates that, when it comes to romance, falling in love is only the beginning.” —Dana Sachs, author of The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

  

“Set in the 1980s, this funny yet warmhearted character-driven tale checks all the boxes for classy contemporary romance while providing the longed-for ‘something different’ readers seek out. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It’s sophisticated romance at its best.” – Lea Hensley, co-founder of Audiogals blog


Brief take: How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

Narrator:  Laurel Lefkow

Length:  11 hrs. 16 min.

Published: July 10, 2017 Harlequin Audio

Borrowed from my library via Hoopla

My brief take:  I like novels about secrets and this one had plenty. The characters all seem to have secrets and their lives are in a state of flux. There’s Nancy, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of a 17-year-old.  One daughter is a recent widow and the other wants nothing more than to have a child. Granddaughter Mac finds out the most important people in her life deceived her in a big way. Nancy is on the cusp of finally living the life she craves – but first she’ll have to make some tough decisions. Juicy secrets and the lovely Martha’s Vineyard setting all combined for a novel that made a long solo car trip surprisingly quick.


 

Christmas In Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts

  • Title:  Christmas In Icicle Falls
  • Series:  Life in Icicle Falls # 11
  • Author:  Sheila Roberts
  • Narrator:  Amy McFadden
  • Length:  9hrs. 35min.
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  October 2017 – Mira Books
  • Source:  Library Audiobook (HooplaDigital)

Description:  When Muriel Sterling released her new book, A Guide to Happy Holidays, she felt like the queen of Christmas. She’s thrilled when the new tree she ordered online arrives and is eager to show it off—until she gets it out of the box and realizes it’s a mangy dud. But rather than give up on the ugly tree, Muriel decides to make a project out of it. As she pretties up her tree, she realizes there’s a lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has potential. Maybe even her old friend Arnie, who’s loved her for years. Except, she’s not the only one seeing Arnie’s potential…

Meanwhile, Muriel’s ugly-tree project has also inspired her friends. Sienna Moreno is trying to bring out the best in the grouchy man next door, who hates noise, hates kids and hates his new neighbors. And while Olivia Claussen would love to send her obnoxious new daughter-in-law packing, she’s adjusting her attitude and trying to discover what her son sees in the girl. If these women can learn to see the beauty in the “ugly trees” in their lives, perhaps this might turn out to be the happiest holiday yet. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve read all but one of the books (and I have it on my bookshelf) in the Life in Icicle Falls series. That said, this book can stand on its own. With a wink and a nod to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Sheila Roberts’ final novel in the series is a delight. I especially loved that Muriel Sterling, the sage of Icicle Falls, might not have it all together as her self-help books imply. I enjoyed seeing how things worked out for her! I also liked the storyline of local inn-owner Olivia and her relationship with her new daughter-in-law. They learned a lot about each other – and themselves in the process. There’s also single mother Sienna and her new friend Tim (nephew of Robert Cratchet). Sienna learns how to trust her decisions and her ability to have faith in possibilities where Tim is concerned. It all made for a heart-warming conclusion to a really enjoyable series. Narrator Amy McFadden did a fine job voicing the characters. Her performance added to the warmth of the novel.


 

Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis (audiobook)

  • sweet little lies - audio (6:28)Title:  Sweet Little Lies
  • Series:  Heartbreaker Bay #1
  • Author:  Jill Shalvis
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Narrator:  Karen White
  • Time:  9 hrs. 35 mins.
  • Published:  June 2016 – Harper Audio
  • Source:  Publisher

Publisher’s description: Choose the one guy you can’t have….

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas – the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody but Her. 

Fall for him – hard…

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hardworking hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast. 

And then tell him the truth.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story – because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything….

My take:   Sweet Little Lies is book one in the Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis. It is set in San Francisco, more specifically an apartment building (a renovated warehouse) with a ground floor pub and a courtyard fountain that just might grant wishes. We’re introduced to several characters who live in the building or frequent the pub so it’s easy to imagine possible future books in the series. This book is about Pru, a tour boat captain, and Finn, owner of the pub.

Pru and Finn strike up an instant friendship that escalates quickly. The reader discovers that Pru has a secret – a big one – and the longer she waits, the harder it will be to tell Finn.

Finn gave up a lot several years ago when he was left to raise his little brother. Now the two of them own the pub but it seems Finn does most of the work. Pru is a welcome distraction for Finn.

I enjoyed the story even though the “big secret” trope is not a favorite. Jill Shalvis used humor and her usual fun dialogue along with a dose of drama to form a good start to her new series. It’s a sweet, sexy (you might want to use ear buds for some scenes) and funny novel. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Karen White did a fine job with the narration. I liked how she voiced each character and I had no trouble determining who was speaking. One particular scene involving a character who experienced possible food-poisoning had me laughing – all thanks to White’s delivery and Shalvis’s words, of course.

Recommended to fans of Jill Shalvis, contemporary romance and Karen White.

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

  • jane steele (putnam)Title:  Jane Steele
  • Author:  Lyndsay Faye
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction; Mystery
  • Pages:  422
  • Published:  March 2016 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Reader, I murdered him.  So begins Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele.

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until she escapes to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess for the nine-year-old ward in his care.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents – the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose connection with Mr. Thornfield appears far more complicated and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him – body, soul, and secrets – without revealing her own murderous past?

Inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic, Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies.  (book flap)

My take:  Well, Readers, I loved it! Jane Steele is way outside of my normal reading zone but I was intrigued when offered a copy for review so I accepted. I’m so glad I did because it was such a fun read. It’s filled with drama, adventure, class differences, love and mystery culminating in an exciting denouement that seemed only fitting for Jane’s story.

There are references, subtle and pointed, to Jane Eyre (Jane Steele’s favorite book) that will hopefully make fans of the Brontë novel smile. It has been decades since I read it but now I’m tempted to do a reread. Thank you, Lyndsay Faye!

I appreciated the author’s historical afterward which points the reader to other books that helped to inform Jane Steele’s plot lines. Recommended to fans of Victorian novels, historical mysteries, Jane Eyre, and a good adventure. I’d also recommend Jane Steele to book clubs who want to shake things up a bit 🙂

Note: In addition to reading this book I used an Audible credit so I could keep listening when I couldn’t sit and read. Narrator Susie Riddell’s performance is perfection. Highly recommended!


 

More Praise for JANE STEELE:

 

“Let’s be honest here.  When I was sent an advanced readers’ copy of Jane Steele, which was billed as an historical crime novel with a Jane-Eyre-style heroine who becomes a serial killer, I thought someone was pulling my leg.  I decided to read ten pages, just to annoy myself as I’m often inclined to do.  Also, to show what a good sport I am.  I was hooked by page five and read my way through at a merry clip.

I loved this book!  The language rings true, the period details are correct.  Jane Steele is a joy, both plucky and rueful in her assessment of her dark deeds.

The plotting is solid and the pacing sublime.  If this were a series, this would be the perfect introduction.  As a stand-alone, I give it an A+”

—Sue Grafton

 

“Lyndsay Faye pulls off the most elusive feat of historical fiction: to give us a book that reads as though it was unearthed from a perfectly preserved antique chest.

Sneakily charming and wildly well written, like Faye’s other novels Jane Steele demands attention.”

—Matthew Pearl, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dante Club and The Last Bookaneer

 

Jane Steele is lethal good fun!  In Jane, Lyndsay Faye has created a heroine unwilling to suffer tyrants or fools.

The result is a darkly humorous, elegantly crafted story of an ‘accidental’ vigilante. A delicious read.”

—Suzanne Rindell, author of The Other Typist

 

“From the gasp-inducing moment Jane Steele utters the words ‘reader, I murdered him,’ you know you are in for a rollicking romp of an adventure that recasts the Jane Eyre story in an entirely new light.

But mixed in with the verve and vivacity is a story of real heart, exemplary, near-forgotten history, and an utterly unforgettable heroine.

Brava to Lyndsay Faye for what’s already one of my favorite thrillers of the year.”

—Sarah Weinman, editor of Women Crime Writers:Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s

 

“Enchanting.  Jane Steele is beautifully rendered and utterly captivating, from the first cry of

‘reader, I murdered him’ to its final pages.  Lyndsay Faye is a masterful storyteller, and this is her finest tale yet.’

—Maria Konnikova, New York Times-bestselling author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

 

Mini Takes

a taste of heaven (short novel)Synopsis: “Create one perfect bite.”
Good little widow Sophia Brown always follows the rules. When the producer of a cooking competition requests an amuse-bouche, the chefs stick with proteins. Sauces. A savory concoction. She has only one shot to impress the judges on A Taste of Heaven. But in a moment of defiance, she creates an extraordinary dessert, one that combines both the bitter and the sweet, just like her own life.
That one bite changes everything.
After a year grieving for her dead husband, forty-seven-year-old Sophia is finally ready to break out of her shell. Unfortunately, there is a large, angry obstacle standing in her way. Scottish chef Elliott Adamson has a chip on his shoulder the size of Loch Ness, and he’s blocking her path to victory.
Spurred by her daughters, she embarks on a poignant adventure that takes her from the wildflower fields of Vermont to the wind-swept vista of North Berwick, Scotland. Fear, courage, and inspiration from unlikely places will mark this journey, and Sophia is determined to persevere until the very end.
A TASTE OF HEAVEN is a 57,000 word short novel that includes a foodie romance, second chances, and a wee bit of haggis.

My take: If you enjoy cooking competition shows and contemporary sexy romances you’ll probably like A Taste of Heaven. I found the novel to be entertaining and light and I wasn’t ready for it to end. I’d read a sequel!

Purchased.


carolina man - audioSynopsis: Marine Luke Fletcher is determined to do his duty—first to his country and now to his ten-year-old daughter, the unexpected legacy of a high school girlfriend. But his homecoming to Dare Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks challenges his plans for the future and forces him to face everything that’s missing in his life. He wasn’t prepared to lose his heart to this child he never knew. Or to fall hard for coolly reserved small town lawyer Kate Dolan.
Former military brat Kate knows Marines can make lousy fathers…and she’s got the scars to prove it. Giving her heart to a man who’s bent on leaving seems one sure way to have it broken.
Now, no matter what it takes, Luke must prove to Kate and to his daughter that Semper Fi is more than a motto—and to himself that there’s more than one way to be a hero.

My take: The third book in the Dare Island series, Carolina Man is my favorite so far. It’s an emotional addition to the contemporary romance series addressing issues such as the death of a young girl’s parent, abuse, and the importance of unconditional love from family. I liked Sophie Eastlake’s narration and look forward to listening to the next in the series.

Purchased.

Audiobook review: Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark

  • stardust summer (audio - jukeboxaudio)Title:  Stardust Summer
  • Author:  Lauren Clark
  • Narrator:  Erin Mallon
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  2013 – Camellia Press
  • Source:  Publisher/Audio Jukebox

Synopsis:  Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. 

Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes. 

Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home. 

Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love again.  (publisher)

My take:  Grace has no intention of going to see her father and step-mother when she receives a formal invitation to a library function at the college where her father works. They’ve been estranged for a long time and she’s just fine with her quiet life in Mississippi. Her plans change when her father has a heart attack. She and her son Evan hurry to New York hoping to arrive before it’s too late. Their plan is to stay for a week or so but their visit becomes much longer for various reasons. In that time Grace will discover information about her past that could change the way she views her future. Will she be able to change her feelings with the new information? And is she willing to make a fresh start?

Dr. Ryan Gordon, Grace’s stepmother’s neighbor and friend, is at a place in his life where he finally understands the need for a life outside his practice. He shares Grace’s grief and would like to be more than a friend to her. He knows what it’s like to lose someone important so he understands, on some level, what Grace is going through. He also appreciates what is really important in life – family and good friends. Will Grace let him in and take a chance on love?

I liked this book but had to wonder about how Kathleen navigated her grief. I paused at some of the things she did in the week following her husband’s funeral. That could be just me, though. At any rate, I found Grace and Ryan’s story interesting. Lauren Clark’s novel is one I’d recommend to fans of contemporary fiction. I loved the setting – and the cover.

Narrator: I enjoyed Erin Mallon’s narration. From older Kathleen to younger Grace and Ryan to eight-year-old Evan, I thought she voiced the characters perfectly and would definitely listen to more of her performances.

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

  • knit the season (audio CDs)Title:  Knit the Season (audiobook)
  • Series: Friday Night Knitting Club #3
  • Author:  Kate Jacobs
  • Narrator:  Carrington MacDuffie
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  2009 – Penguin Audio
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Knit the Season is a loving, moving, laugh-out-loud celebration of special times with friends and family. The story begins a year after the end of Knit Two, with Dakota Walker’s trip to spend the Christmas holidays with her Gran in Scotland-accompanied by her father, her grandparents, and her mother’s best friend, Catherine. Together, they share a trove of happy memories about Christmases past with Dakota’s mom, Georgia Walker-from Georgia’s childhood to her blissful time as a doting new mom. From Thanksgiving through Hanuk­kah and Christmas to New Year’s, Knit the Season is a novel about the richness of family bonds and the joys of friendship. (publisher)

My brief take: I needed to finish knitting a scarf and wanted to do it before Christmas. That’s when I remembered I had this audiobook on my shelf. It was the perfect way to complete my project as well as Kate Jacob’s series about women who become friends because of their love of knitting.

The year is nearing the end and the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club are feeling that change is in the air. How will it affect the club? Why can’t things stay the same? Memories of the FNKC founder Georgia abound as the women find that though change is unavoidable some things will remain constant – most important being the support each woman gives the others.

This novel is about family – the one you’re born to and the one made up of friends you choose. Both are equally important. If you’re a fan of the first two books you’ll want to read Knit the Season. It’s a lovely wrap-up to the trilogy.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (audiobook)

  • that summer (CD)Title:  That Summer
  • Author:  Lauren Willig
  • Narrator:  Nicola Barber
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – Macmillan Audio
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  2009: When Julia Conley leads that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. When she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house she discovers a Pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open.

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts. When Arthur hires one of the artists to paint her portrait, no one can guess the outcome of events that the hands of fate have set in motion.  (publisher)

My take:  Lauren Willig had me from the synopsis with the dual-storylines (1800s and 2009).  I’m a fan of historical fiction especially when it involves art. At first I wasn’t sure listening would be as good an experience, in terms of distinguishing between the two eras, as reading a print copy but it wasn’t a problem.

Although Julia is the one trying to solve the mystery of the painting it is the reader who comes to know most of the details from Imogen’s story. Lucky for Julia that she is introduced to Nick, a dealer in antiques and friend of Julia’s cousins. From the start Julia (as well as the reader) is not sure of his motivation so there’s a trust issue. Julia has trust issues with a lot of people in her life so that isn’t surprising. That conflict worked well with the plot.

Not only is Julia looking for answers about the painting but she’s also seeking answers about people in her immediate family. Living at Herne Hill brings past experiences to the forefront in her memory. She needs to figure out if the memories are true or not.

I enjoyed the flow of the story. The resolution was satisfying if not a little surprising in how it came about. If you enjoy historical fiction (with light romance) and dual-storylines having to do with art I recommend That Summer.

Nicola Barber’s narration is wonderful. Her voicing of both female and male voices was easy to listen to and I wouldn’t hesitate to select any book she’s narrated. My thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing the review copy.

The Elephant Whisperer (audiobook) by Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence

the elephant whisperer

  • Title:  The Elephant Whisperer
  • Authors:  Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Narrator:  Simon Vance
  • Published:  December 2012 – Tantor Media (originally published 2009)
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn’t take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom. (from Audible.com)

My brief take:  A friend recommended The Elephant Whisperer at a time when I was looking to read something a bit different from the genres I usually read. I’m so glad I did. It’s a remarkable memoir that left me grateful for people who can and will step up to be caretakers and protectors of wildlife around the world. Mr. Anthony agreed to take care of the “rogue” herd of elephants on his game reserve in South Africa and then wrote about his experiences. It’s a compelling story that had me wishing for a film version so more people would learn about the amazing elephants and other creatures on Thula Thula and elsewhere.

Simon Vance’s performance was wonderful. In my mind, he was Lawrence Anthony. I highly recommend the audiobook! The Elephant Whisperer was an Audie Award Winner, Biography/Memoir, 2014.

The Hurricane Sisters (audiobook) by Dorothea Benton Frank

the hurricane sisters

  • Title:  The Hurricane Sisters
  • Author:  Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Narrator:  Robin Miles
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – Harper Audio
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at 80, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-aged and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful 20-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds. The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, and, Ashley deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all? This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering, but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.  (publisher)

My take:  I thought The Hurricane Sisters quite different in tone compared to The Last Original Wife but I still liked it. Some eccentricities aside, the Waters family is not that different from a lot of families. They accept and protect their own but sometimes they aren’t so nice to each other. Underneath it all they love each other and will defend them to the end.

At the forefront of the novel are the rather naive Ashley, her long-suffering mother Liz, and the matriarch Maisie who doesn’t tiptoe around anyone. Big secrets figure into the plot but rest assured all will be dealt with by the last page.

The Hurricane Sisters is just the second book by Dorothea Benton Frank I’ve read. I look forward to catching up with her backlist.

As in The Last Original Wife, Robin Miles’ narration was  great and made the book even more enjoyable. I loved her performance.

Mini Reviews: Only Mine; Only Yours; Only His – by Susan Mallery

I decided 2014 is the year for me to catch up in the Fool’s Gold series.

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  • audible only mineTitle:  Only Mine
  • Series:  Fool’s Gold #4
  • Author:  Susan Mallery
  • Narrator:  Tanya Eby
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  July 2011 – Brilliance Corporation
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Her town’s lack of men may make headlines, but it isn’t news to Dakota Hendrix. The beautiful blonde has bigger problems to deal with, such as overseeing the romance reality competition filming in Fool’s Gold. Screening eligible bachelors is a difficult enough task, but Dakota hits an unexpected snag when a sexy stranger comes to town. Finn Anderssen will do anything to keep his twin brothers — the perfect contestants — off the show. Despite Dakota’s better judgment, she finds herself drawn to the mysterious outsider. Like her, Finn knows about heartbreak and how a family can fall apart, so she doesn’t dare to hope for anything more than a fling. After all, even in the Land of Happy Endings, finding true love is never as easy as it looks on TV. (publisher)

My take:  The synopsis tells you what you need to know about Only Mine. I liked Dakota and Finn’s story a lot. They are a good match. Life has forced the two to give up on certain dreams. Can they find even better dreams together? I enjoyed finding out! The minor characters had fun story lines which made the book even more entertaining. As usual, Tanya Eby did a nice job with the narration.  Her performance always adds to the story.

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audible only yours

  • Title:  Only Yours
  • Series:  Fool’s Gold #5
  • Author:  Susan Mallery
  • Narrator:  Tanya Eby
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  August 2011 – Brilliance Corporation
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Montana Hendrix has found her calling — working with therapy dogs. With a career she loves in a hometown she adores, she’s finally ready to look for her own happily ever after. Could one of her dogs help her find Mr. Right… or maybe Dr. Right? Surgeon Simon Bradley prefers the sterility of the hospital to the messiness of real life, especially when real life includes an accident-prone mutt and a woman whose kisses make him want what he knows he can’t have. Scarred since childhood, he avoids emotional entanglement by moving from place to place to heal children who need his skillful touch. Can his growing feelings for Montana lead him to find a home in Fool’s Gold, or will he walk away, taking her broken heart with him?  (publisher)

My take:  The mayor of Fool’s Gold wants Montana Hendrix to convince Dr. Simon Bradley to put down roots in Fool’s Gold. The hospital needs more good specialists like him but he has no interest in staying in one place for long. He wants to travel the world performing surgery on children who wouldn’t normally have access to world-class care.  He’s also running from any emotional attachments and will not let the likes of Montana Hendrix become a reason to stay. They hit it off but then it becomes more serious and Simon is scared by his feelings for her. Will he be willing to rethink his future? I thought Susan Mallery wrote a touching story and Tanya Eby’s performance was just right.

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audible only his

  • Title:  Only His
  • Series:  Fool’s Gold #6
  • Author:  Susan Mallery
  • Narrator:  Tanya Eby
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  August 2011 – Brilliance Corporation
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis: Wedding bells are ringing in Fool’s Gold, but not for Nevada Hendrix. Her triplet sisters are engaged, and even her mother has a more active love life than she does. Determined to make a fresh start, she applies for her dream job, only to discover that her new boss is her first love. Maybe she could overlook the fact that they’ve seen each other naked, but she’ll never forget the way he broke her heart.

Tucker Janack agrees to Nevada’s “business only” ground rules. After all, love is a trap that the construction millionaire has avoided his whole life. But when great business partners turn out to be so much more, every rule gets broken. Will either of them be willing to try again…or will their past get in the way?

My take:  This book was all over the place but nonetheless entertaining. I enjoyed Nevada and Tucker’s story. They have an uncomfortable history but are intent on getting past that. The connected story lines were interesting (Jo’s secret is revealed) and wacky (Cat, the artist who was Tucker’s former lover). Add to that Nevada’s mother who reconnects with her old boyfriend and you’ve got an entertaining book. Tanya Eby’s narration was spot on with all the voices.

Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery

finding perfect audio

  • Title:  Finding Perfect
  • Series:  Fool’s Gold, #3
  • Author:  Susan Mallery
  • Narrator:  Tanya Eby
  • Published:  August 2010 – Brilliance
  • Source:  purchased

Synopsis: When Pia O’Brian’s best friend dies, Pia expects to inherit her cherished cat. Instead, the woman leaves Pia three frozen embryos. With a disastrous track record in the romance department and the parenting skills of a hamster, Pia doesn’t think she’s meant for motherhood. But determined to do the right thing, Pia decides to become a single mother – only to meet a gorgeous, sexy hunk the very same day. A former foster-care kid now rich beyond his wildest dreams, Raoul Moreno runs a camp for needy children in Fool’s Gold, California. After his last relationship, Raoul thought he was done with women and commitment. Still, he can’t get sweet, sexy Pia out of his mind — and proposes a crazy plan. But can such an unconventional beginning really result in the perfect ending?  (publisher)

My take:  So the only reading challenge I joined this year is the 2014 Finish the Series challenge and the Fool’s Gold series is first on my list to finish. Trouble is Susan Mallery keeps adding to the series! Good thing I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read so far – I don’t mind knowing there are a lot to be read. This is the third book but I don’t think you’d miss much by not reading the previous books. That said, the first book introduces the reader to the town and that’s worth reading!

The frozen embryo inheritance aside (I mean, really?!), I liked this book a lot. I found Pia and Raoul to be both charming and sympathetic characters. If Pia wasn’t so nice and good-hearted she’d come off kind of flaky but we find out she has grown through her experiences in life up to this point. The same could be said for Raoul. Both have been deeply affected by people disappointing them and/or leaving them. So they need to get past the inclination to not commit. Enter one sweet little boy who makes them reconsider everything including their definition of home and a perfect family.

I enjoyed Tanya Eby’s narration. Her rather staccato performance of Pia added to the kind of flaky impression I had of the character. She also did a nice job with Raoul’s voice and young Peter’s as well as those of the supporting characters.

Down By the River by Robyn Carr

down by the river

  • Title:  Down By the River
  • Series:  Grace Valley, #3
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Narrator:  Therese Plummer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  2013 – Recorded Books
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  June Hudson is the town’s doctor, a caring, capable woman who now has a bit of explaining to do. People are beginning to notice the bloom in her cheeks – and the swell of her belly. Happily, DEA agent Jim Post is back in June’s arms for good, newly retired from undercover work and ready for new beginnings here in Grace Valley. Expecting the unexpected is a way of life in Grace Valley, and the community is overflowing with gossip right now. Who is the secret paramour June’s aunt Myrna is hiding? Does the town’s poker-playing pastor have too many aces up his sleeve? But when dangers, from man and nature, rise up with a vengeance to threaten June and the town, this community pulls together and shows what it’s made of. And Jim discovers the true meaning of happiness here in Grace Valley: There really is no place like home.  (publisher)

My take:  The publisher’s synopsis perfectly describes this final book in the Grace Valley trilogy. I enjoyed all three books that cover the arc of June’s journey from a single, thirty-something, overworked small town doctor to a life she hadn’t expected.

Robyn Carr wove threads of minor story lines through June’s story that enhanced the novel. Grace Valley is populated with people down on their luck, people of means who share unselfishly, and regular, flawed people just doing their best to get by. As this is the last book  I’m going to miss them all.

As usual, Therese Plummer’s narration was perfect for the book. I always enjoy her performances.

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This is the first series I’ve finished for the 2014 Finish The Series Reading Challenge!

Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery

fg3

  • Title:  Almost Perfect
  • Series:  Fool’s Gold, #2
  • Author:  Susan Mallery
  • Narrator:  Tanya Eby
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  June 2010 – Brilliance Audio
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Back in high school, Liz Sutton was the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Then she’d stolen the heart of the most popular boy in town and their secret romance helped her through the worst of times. Until Ethan Hendrix betrayed her and everything they’d ever meant to each other. Devastated and pregnant, Liz left Fool’s Gold, California forever, she thought. Now Liz must return to town and face the man who doesn’t know of their son’s existence. And this time she won’t have the option of making a quick getaway. Ethan and Liz can’t deny their passionate attraction, even after all these years. But will their desire be enough to spark a second chance at love? (publisher)

My take:  Almost Perfect is the second book in the Fool’s Gold series. I’ve read a few books out of order but I’ve found they can stand alone and I always enjoy my visits to Fool’s Gold. I thought Tanya Eby did a fine job with the narration.

I liked Liz. She’s an author who really doesn’t want anything to do with the town where she grew up. When she’s called home to Fool’s Gold for a family matter she drops everything and returns. Once there she deals with more than the family matter – she sees Ethan and stuns him with her news. I found Ethan  not very likable. I get why he’s upset but he was kind of a jerk through most of the book.

Susan Mallery’s story held my interest throughout. I had to see how Liz and Ethan would find their way to a happy ending. Woven into the main story was the thread about Liz’s nieces who’ve been abandoned by a stepmother. They depend on Liz to save them.  Familiar characters from the first book make appearances and, along with a few new ones, set the reader’s expectations for future books.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

trp

  • Title:  The Rosie Project
  • Author:  Graeme Simsion
  • Narrator:  Dan O’Grady
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  October 2013 – Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. 

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.  (publisher)

My brief take:  The Rosie Project is Graeme Simsion’s charming novel about a socially awkward professor on the search for the perfect wife. When he meets Rosie he quickly determines she’ll not be a candidate for the Wife Project. These two people seem about as far apart on the compatible scale as two people could be so they don’t even think about a romantic involvement. That made their story even more enjoyable. It’s a bit of a comedy of errors at times that had me laughing as I listened. To that point – I’m glad I listened to the audiobook. Dan O’Grady did a great job voicing the various characters. His narration added to my enjoyment of the novel. Recommended.

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

The Supreme Macaroni Company audio

  • Title:  The Supreme Macaroni Company (#3 Valentine series)
  • Author:  Adriana Trigiani
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Narrator:  Cassandra Campbell
  • Published:  November 2013 – Harper; Harper Audio
  • Sources:  Publisher (print copy); I purchased the audio

Synopsis:  For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret. 
A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.
Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.  (publisher)

My take:  The Supreme Macaroni Company is the final installment of the Valentine series. I’ve been a fan since I first met Valentine Roncalli in Very Valentine. She’s a modern, sometimes confident, usually headstrong woman who is intent on keeping her family’s shoe company in business.

Val knows what she wants and one of those wants is Gianluca – the love of her life. Where Val is modern, American and in her 30s, Gianluca is a traditional Italian and in his 50s. These two don’t always see eye to eye but they never lose sight of their love for one another. When they marry Valentine must learn to compromise – easier said than done. Gianluca wants to take care of her and sometimes makes decisions without consulting Val. This causes some rocky times in the early days of their marriage.

What Val learns is that a willingness to sacrifice and compromise from a place of love will be a blessing to them both. Adriana Trigiani’s story is emotional and at times had me in tears so have some tissues handy. I’m going to miss the Roncallis and all the rest – maybe in five or ten years we can convince the author to let us know what’s going on in their lives.

Audio:  Cassandra Campbell’s narration is first rate. Her performance of Valentine and the other characters enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

Audiobook: Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax

  • Ocean BeachTitle:  Ocean Beach
  • Author:  Wendy Wax
  • Narrator:  Amy Rubinate
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher:  October 2013 – Tantor Media
  • Length:  11 hours 50 minutes
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Unlikely friends Madeline, Avery, and Nicole have hit some speed bumps in their lives, but when they arrive in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood, they are all hoping for a do-over. Literally. They’ve been hired to bring a once-grand historic house back to its former glory on a new television show called Do-Over. If they can just get this show off the ground, Nikki would get back on her feet financially, Avery could restart her ruined career, and Maddie would have a shot at keeping her family together.

At least, that’s the plan – until the women realize that while having their work broadcast is one thing, having their personal lives play out on TV is another thing entirely. Soon they are struggling to hold themselves, and the project, together. With a decades-old mystery – and the hurricane season – looming, the women are forced to figure out just how they’ll weather life’s storms.  (publisher)

My take: Once again Wendy Wax delivers a novel that, partnered with Amy Rubinate’s narration, thoroughly entertained me. The ladies of Ten Beach Road are back and trying to make a go of renovating another grand Florida home – this time on the Atlantic coast.  They hope to turn the filmed experience into a home-reno show for a cable channel. What they didn’t notice when they signed on for the pilot was the fine print. Every minute will be filmed and the show will be presented as a reality show. Yikes! Couple that aspect with a mystery the homeowner would like to solve and you’ve got the makings of a good story. 

There’s drama in each woman’s personal life too. I won’t go into each one but suffice it to say that the drama moved the plot and at the end of the novel there are enough unwrapped stories to make me think there could be another novel in this series. I’m hoping.

If you enjoyed Ten Beach Road I think you’ll like Ocean Beach. Amy Rubinate’s narration enhanced my enjoyment of the novel.