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.


 

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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.