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Audiobook Review – Upside Down – Lia Riley

upside downUpside Down
Author: Lia Riley
Series: #1 in the Off the Map series
Rating: ☆ ☆

Narrators: Brittany Uomoleale, Tim Wright
Run Time: 8hrs and 39min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

When i read the description of Upside Down, it seems like a book (or audiobook that I would be attracted to) – the plot description just drew me in. Unfortunately that is about all I can say about it, when it comes down to brass tacks. The idea of going on a student exchange and then finding love was intriguing and I’m surprised it doesn’t actually get used more in romance novels, but that being said, in the instance of Upside Down, it just didn’t work for me. I think my biggest issue with Upside Down was that for a good portion of the book, the sex overwhelmed the story and it just seemed underdeveloped. Yes, I know, me saying the sex took over the story is something you don’t hear very often, but it just felt like every time there was opportunities for the author to develop the plot and more the plot forward and instead the characters ended up in bed with each other.

I thought that the premise of the story was interesting, Natalia (or Talia as she was referred to in the book), trying to find herself after a family tragedy while studying abroad. And at the beginning it was like that, but unfortunately, the story took a quick down into the overly angsty realm and I really struggled to finish listening to it (and if I didn’t have it slotted into a challenge, I may have actually put it aside). I liked Bran as a character, but it seems that so many authors rely on the guy (or girl) with a secret premise to achieve the story (or in this case, both of them).

Both of the narrators, Brittany Uomoleale and Tim Wright, were new to me but I was intrigued enough by their narration that I may listen to other narrations done by them in the future. I found that both of the narrators were well-suited to the ages of the characters that they were narrating (meaning, they didn’t sound too old or too young for the ages of Talia and Bran). Overall, the narration of Upside Down made a mediocre story better but not by much. I gave the narration of Upside Down 3 stars.

While I know many readers like the new adult angsty romance, it just doesn’t work for me and unfortunately, Upside Down featured pretty much every element that I dislike in the genre – the big secret, the angst, more sex than plot. I gave Upside Down 2 stars but it may work for someone else more than it worked for me.

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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Audiobook Review – Curing Doctor Vincent – Renea Mason

curing doctor vincentCuring Doctor Vincent
Author: Renea Mason
Series: #1 in the Good Doctor Trilogy
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrators: Noah Michael Levine, Erin Deward
Run Time: 6hrs, 10 min
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Audiobook Provided by Author

One kinky doctor + one indecent proposal = one life-changing week in Paris

Elaine Watkins, Public Relations Advisor, is surprised when she receives a summons from the very attractive and enigmatic Dr. Xavier Vincent. She worships the talented physician and company icon responsible for developing the cure that saved her sister’s life and isn’t immune to his charm. Even though puzzled by his request, she is excited and eager to get started on his latest project.

But Dr. Vincent has other ideas. Instead of discussing cures, drugs and marketing strategies, he asks Elaine to join him in Paris to indulge his unique sexual appetites.

Torn between gratitude for saving her sister, her attraction for the powerful man and compromising her pre-conceived notions of sexuality, she must decide if it’s easier to feed his desires or walk away. Until she devises a plan of her own.

I’d never heard of Renea (which is pronounced Renee) Mason until I got an email from her a few months ago about reviewing the audiobook for her erotic romance, Curing Doctor Vincent. But she managed to catch my attention from the get-go when she compared the narrators of her audiobook (Noah Michael Levine and Erin DeWard) to one of my favorite pairings, Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross (who narrated Karen Marie Monings Fever series). I mean, my initial reaction was like, no one is better than Phil and Natalie – i mean, they totally rock all their narrations. But boy was I wrong – I sat in the car listening pretty much slack-jawed and Noah and Erin rocked this audio and they both earned a place in my top 5 narrators/pairings.

But back to the story itself…if you were offered one week in Paris on a trip of sexual exploration, would you take it? I know that I would probably have to stop and think about it and would probably wimp out, but Elaine did none of those things. Curing Doctor Vincent was a roller-coaster ride of emotions, I know that I experienced pretty much the whole spectrum from anger to sadness; from excitement to deep and abiding love. There is something about Renea’s writing that just made me feel like I was in Paris with Xavier and Elaine, and experiencing all the sexual satisfaction that Elaine was feeling.

the story itself didn’t unfold the way I expected it to when I began. I’ll be honest – my initial thoughts when I read the description would be that Elaine’s experiences with Xavier and his sexual appetites would be the majority of the story. In fact, I was kind of shocked when there was actually more story than sex – haha. I know that probably sounds weird, but its true – there was a lot more to Curing Doctor Vincent than just the trip to Paris and lots of sex – I was actually expected that that would somehow be the cure that was alluded to in the title. But boy, was I wrong! The ending of the story was sweetly satisfying (although there was definitely a scream of agony that resonated when I finished my road trip with 30min remaining on the book – the torture of having to wait until the next day to finish it up…has to fall under cruel and unusual punishment).

I will say holy hotness on the writing of those sexual experiences – so often in erotic romance, those scenes just feel like insert Tab A into slot B, very mechanical or on the other end of the spectrum, overly flowerly purple prose, but Renea managed that fine balance between the two. I will say that I found myself fanning my face several times during my car ride as I was listening. I could probably gush about the audiobook all day, but I will say, my favorite thing about the narration was that it was a true alternating POV narration – where Noah read all the male parts and Erin all the female – so often in dual narration audiobooks (at least in my experience), it ends up being male reads one chapter, including any female dialogue and vice versa – so this was a pleasant surprise.

I gave Curing Doctor Vincent 4 stars and the audio narration 5 stars. I’d recommend this to people who like erotic romance with a solid storyline and satisfactory conclusion (with no cliff-hanger). Unfortunately, now I have to wait for the next book in the trilogy to come out (or at least the audio version)…hopefully that will be relatively soon…

Amazon Buy Link:
Curing Doctor Vincent: The Good Doctor Trilogy – Book #1


Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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Audiobook Review – Rocket Man – Melanie Greene

23688675Rocket Man
Author: Melanie Greene
Series: #1 in the Roll of the Dice series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Amy Rubinate
Run Time: 12hrs 31min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

Serena Colby wants one thing. Dillon Hamilton wants everything. Steady, focused graphic artist Serena has her life perfectly planned out. After a childhood being moved from one place to another, she craves the permanence of a home that’s hers and hers alone. And everything is lining up just right. That is, until disruptive copywriter Dillon comes blasting into her workplace and spins her personal life out of control. Though order-loving Serena shies away from Dillon’s messy complications, she can’t escape her fantasies. When Dillon’s determined pursuit leaves Serena breathless, it might just be ‘all systems are go’ for ROCKET MAN.

This is a harder review for me to write because I liked the premise of the story (I mean, I wouldn’t have accepted the audiobook for review if I didn’t) – but at the same time the execution fell a bit flat for me. Taking it from the beginning, I’ll admit to liking workplace romances, although I know how tenuous they can be, especially if something happens and there isn’t a happily ever after – so with that in mind, I dove into listening to Rocket Man (which BTW, I now have that song stuck in my head!).

From the get-go we meet Serena who is very organized and practical (pretty much the antithesis of me) and Dillon who turns her world upside down. If i had to pick a character that I identified the most of the main 2, it would have been Dillon – if you ask any of my friends, they will tell you how disorganized I can do and they are normally in shock, if I actually manage to arrive on time…(apparently 10years in the military didn’t teach me much…lol). but in all honesty, of the characters in Rocket Man, I probably actually identified with Janice the most and since the second book in the series is about her, I am considering reading it.

I think my biggest overall issue with Rocket Man wasn’t the story itself (although, I’ll be the first to admit there were a few times that I felt like Serena needed to be slapped silly – which of course, highlights my violent tendencies at times), was that there were places where the writing felt chunky and redundant. I don’t know if its because I read so fast that I normally don’t notice stuff like that but in listening, I hear everything and there were a few places where it felt like the author was just regurgitating a previous section of the book, not in huge chunks but a paragraph here or there, or a personality detail – it was just enough to irk me and pull me out of the story.

I honestly can’t remember if Amy Rubinate is a narrator that I have listened to before – I recognized her name when the author mentioned it in her review request, but when looking at her narration backlist, I didn’t see any books that I had listened to recently – so maybe its a case of hearing her name mentioned else and recognizing it. That being said, I liked her style of narration, it flowed well and felt very conversational. All of her voices were easily distinguishable for the different characters and it was easy to listen to. I’d likely pick up something narrated by her in the future.

Overall, I gave both the story and the narration of Rocket Man 3 stars, but I was intrigued enough to want to potentially check out more by the author in the future.

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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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Audiobook Review – The Mountain Can Wait – Sarah Leipciger

23197320The Mountain Can Wait
Author: Sarah Leipciger
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrator: Robert Petkoff
Run Time: 8hrs, 1 min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

“Her face in the headlights flashed like a coin. She was an instant, the sulphuric flare of a match.”

Tragedy erupts in an instant. Lives are shattered irrevocably. A young man drives off into the night, leaving a girl injured, perhaps fatally so.

From that cliffhanger opening, Sarah Leipciger takes readers back and forward in time to tell the haunting story of one family’s unraveling in rural logging country where the land is still the economic backbone. Like the novels of Annie Proulx, this extraordinarily lyrical debut is rooted in richly detailed nature writing and sharply focused on small town mores and the particularities of regional culture.

As I started listening to The Mountain Can Wait, I realized early on that a key theme/echo through-out would be, ‘the mountain can give and the mountain can take’ and that is how I would describe this book by Leipciger in 10 words or less. From the description of the book, the reader (or in this case, listener) goes into it knowing that there is going to be an element of mystery (although not really suspense), but that there would be more of a focus on family ties and character interaction. Its actually kind of hard to describe without giving huge spoilers.

For me the most enjoyable part of the story (aside from the narration which is a whole separate beast) was seeing the representation of different cultures that the author managed to weave into the story. Having never been to Canada, and not growing up in the US, my knowledge of geography in the British Columbia/Saskatchewan area is basically nonexistent, as well as my knowledge of the indigenous people that live in the area. The relationship between the main character, Tom and his children (Curtis and Erin) seemed very distant and potentially almost neglectful at times – although it was written in a way to make the reader try to understand the hard life that loggers have – when they have to leave their families/homes for potentially weeks/months on end in order to earn money to survive and especially in the sense that they might not have support systems; or their lack of presence may cause issues with their support system (in this instance, Tom’s wife who disappeared prior to the book starting).

I really liked/appreciated how the author approached the writing – taking a certain event that occurred and then going back in time and working forward to the event; and even then continuing on until the story completion in the epilogue. While its a harder style to write than a true linear one and it needs the right kind of story to use the style, it was definitely suited for this book.

I will admit that if Robert Petkoff hadn’t been the narrator that I probably wouldn’t have picked it to read/review. There are some narrators that I will automatically gravitate to, no matter the style of book, or if its a genre of book I normally read or don’t read – and Robert Petkoff is one of those narrators. For me, the strength in this audiobook was that it was told predominantly from a male POV. At the same time, the cast of characters wasn’t necessarily as diverse as other books I have listened to and since the two main characters (Tom and Curtis) were family, it made for some similar voice intonations during the narration (although I would expect that if the book revolved around family, since it is often the case). While The Mountain Can Wait was 8hrs long, it flowed it a way that made it feel substantially shorter – which is always good for me when it comes to listening.

Overall, I was intrigued by Sarah Leipciger debut novel and I’m intrigued to see what she writes about in the future. I gave The Mountain Can Wait 3.5 stars for writing and the narration 4 stars with a solid performance by Robert Petkoff like always.

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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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Audiobook Review – The Sweetheart Deal – Polly Dugan

the sweetheart dealThe Sweetheart Deal
Author: Polly Dugan
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Narrators: Kathleen McInerney, John Glouchevitch, Brad Abrell, Adam McArthur, Aaron Landon, John Salwin
Run Time: 9hrs 40min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Leo has long joked that, in the event of his death, he wants his best friend Garrett, a lifelong bachelor, to marry his wife, Audrey. One drunken night, he goes so far as to make Garrett promise to do so. Then, twelve years later, Leo, a veteran firefighter, dies in a skiing accident.

As Audrey navigates her new role as widow and single parent, Garrett quits his job in Boston and buys a one-way ticket out west. Before long, Audrey’s feelings for Garrett become more than platonic, and Garrett finds himself falling for Audrey, her boys, and their life together in Portland. When Audrey finds out about the drunken pact from years ago, though, the harmless promise that brought Garrett into her world becomes the obstacle to his remaining in it.

I’m not sure what it was about this audiobook that caught my eye when I was looking at the available list. I think because I am a sucker for romances (I mean, look at what this blog reviews most of the time), I was curious to see how the author would handle an issue like death of a husband and the potential romance between his widow and best friend. Yes, it felt kind of sketchy to me, but I was intrigued. This is the first book i’ve read by Ms Dugan, but taking a look at the descriptor of her other book, it seems as though she likes tackling these difficult themes and ideas (her other book looks at two women dating the same man and the outcomes).

From the get-go, I was glad (as bad as that maybe sounds) as to how she handled the death of the husband – it was sudden and unexpected, not prolonged. Having seen how both types of deaths have been handled in my family, I would take the sudden/unexpected over the prolonged any day of the week (if I was forced to chose…which I hope I never am). I also found that she did a good job of capturing the different cycles of grief that people go through – how Audrey handled the death of Leo, compared to Garrett (his best friend) compared to Leo and Audrey’s son’s – each was individual and you could see that the author had done research into different methods of coping, dealing with grief etc. I know that Garrett just up and quitting his life in Boston (where he was an established professor) was drastic but I could see it as his way of coping.

i think for me the most appealing (if that is the right word) of this was that it took place over a period of time – it wasn’t like there was the death and then wham bam, Audrey had moved on. You could see (most definitely in her) how she progressed through the stages until she could be in a relationship with someone again. That being said, I still found the time period to be too fast, Audrey and Leo had been together for close to 20 years and so to have her move on in less than a year, just seemed too quick.

For me, the most enjoyable parts (for lack of a better phrase) was seeing Garrett interact with Audrey and her family. Seeing him try to fit into an established role and navigate what were potentially rough seas. I found that the author did a good job of making all the voices of her characters unique – not only because the audiobook used multiple ones, but because they were different. That being said, maybe it was because I was listening to the audiobooks, but the dialogue tags drove me nuts. I know its a probably a personal peeve, but a few times, it got very he/Garrett said or she/Audrey said in their conversations and seemed almost redundant to me.

For me, the book itself was brought to life by the narration. Honestly, I don’t know looking back, if it is a) a book I would have picked up without it being an audiobook and b) if I would have stuck with it, if was I just reading it. I thought that the use of multiple narrators (a different one to narrate each POV) worked well – although looking now, it strikes me as funny that there was really only one female POV in the book, compared to the 5 men. Maybe it was because the majority of the book was alternating between Audrey and Garrett’s POV’s, with the other ones playing a more minor role. All of the narrators were new to me and I was intrigued enough that I want to check out more work they have done in the future.

I thought all of the narrators, especially Kathleen McInerney, who was the narrator for Audrey’s POV were able to convey the different emotions/feels that were tied to parts of the story. You could hear the grief in her voice early on in the narration, the desolation of realizing that the life she knew was gone – but at the same time, as she began to move on with her life, you could hear the strength returning to her and a sense of purpose.

While I liked both the book and the narration, I gave them 3.5 stars each. I would recommend The Sweetheart Deal with readers who like women’s lit and potentially new love later in life type books.

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Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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Audiobook Review – The Interview – Silk Jones

the interviewThe Interview
Author: Silk Jones
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Shoshana Franck
Run Time: 51 minutes
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Author

A laid off legal secretary with a curiosity about the B.D.S.M. lifestyle responds to an advertisement in a lifestyle magazine placed by a law firm seeking a “submissive legal assistant” and gets more than she bargained for. This short story is the kickoff to a series about a law firm that has quite a bit going on behind closed doors.

When the author of this book approached me for a review, I was intrigued about the premise, but skeptical about how well it would play out as an audiobook – mostly because of the length – for a book to be less than an hour in audio format, as a listener, I know that the book itself, is probably only about 30pgs. In general, I tend to not read/listen to novellas that are that short, because I rarely feel like it was worth it when the book is done. However, since it was approached as a prequel to a new series coming out and the description caught my eye, I decided to take a chance on the offer – and if nothing else, it made me commute home one night decently entertaining (sometimes I am glad its only me in the car on the commute – I can only imagine what someone else would say…).

Really when all was said and done, The Interview was much more of a vingette type novella rather than a story with a beginning/middle/end – meaning that it was limited to a very specific scene that occurred. However, since I knew that going in to the listen, I was intrigued to see how well one scene could be developed in a limited page count – so often in a full-length novel, a scene may be only 1-2 pgs (depending on what is going on), rather than the 20-30 that occurred in this novella. So it allowed Ms Jones to more fully develop the view of the characters and go more in depth into their thoughts/actions.

The narrator, Shoshana Franck, was new to me (I honestly don’t know if I have ever seen anything narrated by her before), but I was intrigued by her style – it seemed very conversational, which felt right for the writing style. I could tell that her male voices weren’t necessarily going to be a strength of hers, so I liked how she didn’t really try to voice one that way, but rather just used different emphasis on words.

I thought that while short, The Interview had a solid basis for a vignette style telling and I enjoyed the narrator – I’ll admit that I am curious to see what the author could do with a longer piece of writing and I’m pretty sure that I will check out more by the narrator in the future. Overall, I gave both the book and the narration 3 stars.

Buy Links
The Interview: Law Firm Erotica Book I (Kindle)
The Interview: Law Firm Erotica Book 1 (Audible, via Amazon)

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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Audiobook Review


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The 2015 Audies – my thoughts on the winners…


Last night in New York (as part of Book Expo America (BEA)), the Audio Publishers Association (APA) held their annual award ceremony – also known as the Audies – These awards recognize the achievement in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. In previous years, I was able to freely stalk twitter during the event (thanks Xe Sands and others who provided running commentary) and while the event this year was live-streamed for those of us unable to attend, I was unable to watch. However, I do have some thoughts on who the various winners were (and a bit of a rant as well).

mandelaAudiobook of the Year: This is the biggie award, equivalent to the Best Picture at the Oscars. When I initially saw the nominations (that were released in April), I was unsure of which book I thought I would win, however, based on previous years, I figured Amy Poehler’s, Yes Please would be a heavy favorite to win. Personally, I’m not a fan of self-narrated audiobooks or comedian autobiographies, so I figured I was setting myself up for disappointment by hoping that another book won. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Mandela: An Audio History – narrated by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela declared to be the winner. Of all the books in the category, I figured that was the complete underdog to win and likely wouldn’t have picked it in a million years.

alphaErotica: Over the last few months, I listened to the majority of the books in this category – the only one that remains unfinished had the same two narrators as another book in the category – so I figured I had a good idea of how that one would play out and while the category in general was disappointing to me, I had picked Alpha (Jasinda Wilder) to win. It was not only the closest representative to the erotica genre in the category, but had the best narration – it was heads and shoulders above. While my review isn’t yet written – it should be up in the next week or so and I’m looking forward to listening to the next book(s) in the series.

girl of all giftsParanormal: I knew that this was going to be a tough category going in – after listening to (once again) all but one book in the nominations – the separation between the different books for narration/performance and writing was miniscule. Honestly, I can say that I would have been happy with any of the winners because it was an exceptionally strong category. But I will admit that I was a bit upset that my favorite narrator who had multiple nominations in the category didn’t win. While I really liked the winning book (The Girl with all the Gifts) and wasn’t surprised to see it win, I would have loved to have seen Damoren (Seth Skorkowsky; narrated by R.C. Bray) win – it was my favorite in the category (and audible even named it as a book to watch on one of their posts in the lead-up).

bridges madison countyRomance: This is where I rant – just so you are forewarned. In previous years, I have listened to and loved the romance category of the Audies – even last year when Nicholas Sparks was nominated for and won the romance audio of the year – admittedly, it was closer to a romance than any of his other books, but still not one by the industry definition of the word. But this year – in a multi-billion dollar a year industry (yes, romance brings in that much), that there were only FIVE nominations in the category (where others had 6) and that TWO of the nominations weren’t even romance by the industry standard (which is defined as a Happily Ever After/Happy For Now). Within the 5 nominations, there were only 3 true romance audiobooks and none of them won. The winner was (no drumroll) The Bridges of Madison County – now, I’ll readily admit, I haven’t read the book, but I saw the absolutely horrible movie that was made of it a while back – but any book that has a basic premise of cheating and having an affair center stage will NEVER be a romance. It may be literary fiction with some romantic elements, but it is NOT a romance. I just cringed when I not only saw the nominees, but which book was the ultimate winner. I have no idea how/if nominations for categories are even vetted for appropriateness – based on not only this one, but the erotica category, I have to believe that they are not.

I’m still looking at the various other category winners – so there may be an addendum to this post later on – you never know…

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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Armchair Audies


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