Source: Audible

Birthday Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book Review

Posted June 11, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Birthday Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book ReviewBirthday Suit by Lauren Blakely
Series: Sexy Suits #2
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on January 17, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 306
Source: Audible
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
5 Stars

There is no rule in the Man Code as unbreakable as this: no matter how beautiful, smart, clever, and witty she is, do not—under any circumstances—fall in love with your best friend’s woman.

Yeah. So there’s that.
Look, it’s not like I didn’t know I screwed up by falling for her.
Also, for the record, unrequited love sucks big time.
And, I might have cut myself some slack by now, given everything that went down in the last few years, but Lulu just walked back into my life in a big way.

***

There are three things I've never been able to resist—my friends, my family, and chocolate.

Leo Hennessy? He was nowhere on that list. He's been a true friend—a friend who walked through hell and back with me.
Now, I'm stepping into my new future. I didn't expect it to include a riddle-filled, race-against-the-clock scavenger hunt across New York City.
With Leo.
Suddenly, I'm looking at this man with new eyes...
But my life spun out because of a man once before, and I can’t risk my fresh start, no matter what the temptation. And Leo is most definitely a temptation of the sexiest, sweetest, and most dangerous variety.
More irresistibly delicious than chocolate...

I will admit, I grabbed this immediately after loving and finishing the first book in this series, Lucky Suit (a novella). And yes, I loved that book a lot, but I think loved it more than I if I had actually read it with my eyes because of the narrators. So when I saw the huge cast of narrators for Birthday Suit (which includes Shane East/Steve West, my love) and read the synopsis (YES), I decided to shove all current plans aside and listen to this immediately. Boy, am I a good decision maker.

Things I Liked:

  • The narrators. Each character in Birthday Suit has their own narrator and, instead of alternating chapters like some audiobooks do with narrator duets or trios, this one was read like it was a TV show! Lulu (Andi Arndt) and Leo (Sebastian York) narrate alternate chapters as a whole, but then whenever any of the characters have anything to say, the narrator assigned to that character reads their lines. It’s SO much fun. This is an AMAZING cast of narrators, and each one brought so much life and personality to their characters. It felt like an episode of Friends. I will actively seek out full casts from now on, and already have a bunch on my wishlist.
  • I have to hand it to Lauren Blakely, because she obviously wrote the book to facilitate the kind of narration we got. It was amazing. The snark and personalities that she created gave the narrators amazing content to work with. All those full cast audiobooks I mentioned above that are now on my wishlist? Yeah, they’re all by Lauren Blakely. I think I’m a total fangirl. I ran to her website to sign up for email notifications so I’ll know exactly what to wish for next.
  • Lulu is a chocolatier with big dreams. She’s divorced after a rather toxic marriage to a guy who had a better relationship with alcohol than he did with her. I really, really like Lulu. She can do hard things and make hard decisions. She puts her best interests ahead of everything else, yet she’s still so caring and compassionate. I really loved reading her story.
  • Speaking of her being a chocolatier… this book will make you crave chocolate. Trust me on this and have some handy while you read because you’re going to be hearing about chocolate recipes and truffles and chocolate fountains… sea salt and caramel… SO MUCH CHOCOLATE.
  • Leo is awesome. He works for a company called Heavenly that is all about chocolate. He immediately recommends Lulu for their Rising Star event, and they bring her on to the team to develop a new line of chocolate treats. Leo has been in love with Lulu since before she married his best friend, and the two of them have the cutest friendship. But, of course, he wants so much more with her. His pining and infatuation with her was very sweet. I loved how he looked out for her and protected her and loved her while also trying to respect his friendship with her ex-husband. He really had to suffer, and I felt for him. He’s got some baggage and some emotional turmoil going on in his head, and he’s so torn on some decisions he has to make.
  • Lulu and Leo have a very cute romance, too. I loved their flirtiness and their backstory as a duo. And their riddles. They love to do riddles together, many of which they make up on their own, and I thought that was so cute!
  • There’s a lot of depth and intense underlying issues going on, which added some interesting layers. I liked the light-hearted romance and chocolate and scavenger hunt, but I also liked the growing and healing and moving on that some of these characters are having to do.
  • The supporting characters are great. Lulu and Leo both have wonderful and supportive friends.
  • All the loose ends are tied up, and things are so swoony and sweet!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • This is hard, because I’m not sure there was anything I didn’t like! I think my only disappointment is that I didn’t get more info on Ginny’s romance. Ginny is one of the supporting characters that I loved. I hope she gets her own book.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Definitely get your hands on the audio if you can! I know it made the story so much better for me. And at the end there’s a 1-hour bonus interview between Andi and Sebastian that was really fun. Listeners learn what recording was like, and rituals of audiobook narrators. They talked about lots of fun things.
  • I could EASILY re-listen to this. I’m not much of a re-reader, but this was so much fun that I know I’ll go back to it again someday.

All in all, this was a total win for me and I’m a Lauren Blakely fangirl! I can’t wait to listen to/read another one of her books! Highly recommended, and a brand new favorite!

5 Stars

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book Review

Posted June 4, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Lucky Suit by Lauren Blakely | Book ReviewLucky Suit by Lauren Blakely
Series: Sexy Suits #1
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on July 1, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 129
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
5 Stars

Kristen Leonard is done with setups. She’s not interested in your son or your nephew or your butcher or the guy who mows your lawn, thank you very much, grandma! After all, she’s a modern woman—she’ll take her chances on the algorithms of online dating to find her ideal man. Before long, she meets a man who might just be the one—he’s hilarious, quick-witted, and full of heart. And when she meets up with Cameron in real life, he certainly looks exactly like his profile picture…but something’s not quite right.

There’s really no telling what brought them together and all bets are off as to whether or not they can trust their hearts over their heads. After all, can you fall in love with someone you’re not sure you really even know?

Lauren Blakey might be one of my new favorite authors! After reading Lucky Suit and its sequel, Birthday Suit, in less than a week’s time (and giving both of them 5-star ratings) I’m eager and excited to read more from her! Lucky Suit was a free Audible Original about a year ago, so I grabbed it because I’m a huge lover of romance (as you know). This one was short and sweet, just how I like them sometimes!

What I Liked:

  • I loved the narrators. Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber have both rocketed their way into my very favorite narrators ever. They were both so much fun to listen to, and really brought the characters to life. I’m going to keep an eye out for books read by both of them in them in the future. Andi’s got this sassy, sweet voice and can really bring the snark and sarcasm. And Zachary has this swoony, sexy voice that made me totally fall for Cameron. He’s also great at infusing personality into the character.
  • Kristen and Cameron are both such great characters. I love Cameron for how sweet he was with Kristen’s grandma, playing online poker and talking fancy cars with her. I can just picture him winking and humoring her, and I love guys like that. He’s also funny and charming and so sweet!
  • Kristen is super relatable. She’s skeptical of dating and finding the right guy, and I totally agree with her. She’s very smart and completely analytical about a lot of things.
  • Jeannie, the grandma, is a HOOT. I love her so much!
  • The pranks in this story are top notch. No spoilers, so I won’t expound on this!
  • No sexytimes, which I appreciate because they make me blush on audio!!

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Honestly, I just wish the story was longer. I wanted more romance, more online chats, more Jeannie antics, more everything! But it’s a favorite of mine just as it is, so I’m not that upset!

Additional Thoughts:

  • Definitely read this one before you read Birthday Suit. Even though it’s tiny, and basically a novella, Cameron shows up in Birthday Suit and I was excited to see him again. You appreciate him more in BS if you’ve read LS, at least in my opinion. Although, I’m pretty sure Lucky Suit takes place DURING Birthday Suit because we never hear about Kristen, just a “mystery woman”. But anyway! Do it for Cameron.
  • Must find more books read by Andi and/or Zachary!
  • Must go browse Lauren Blakely’s other books and find more swoony stories!

All in all, this was so much fun and I highly recommend it! If you can listen to it, do it, because I think it made me love it even more.

5 Stars

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book Review

Posted May 21, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | Book ReviewThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on August 6, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 337
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
4 Stars

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

I really love books set in creepy buildings… and I love them even more if isolation is thrown into the mix, so The Turn of the Key had my name written all over it. And Riley Sager, author of my favorite creepy building book: Lock Every Door, recommended it to me when I reached out on twitter so I was EXCITED. And I was so engrossed. I quickly became very addicted to the story and could not stop myself from reading long into the wee hours of the night.

What I Liked:

  • I listened to the audio, and Imogen Church is an amazing narrator.
  • Ruth Ware is SO GOOD at the atmospheric, suspenseful feelings. This book is eerie and dark and tense in a very subtle way that works itself into your very being. I’d read about a creepy sound and then feel sure I’d just heard that sound in my own house. I was afraid to run across the hall to go to the bathroom at 2 AM. I wouldn’t say the book is scary, it’s just got this underlying sense of foreboding like anything could happen at any moment.
  • The Turn of the Key is written as a letter from Rowan to a solicitor she hopes will represent her in her murder trial. I enjoyed reading a book in this format, and felt it brought some added intrigue to the situation. Rowan is currently in prison for murdering one of the girls in her care, but she swears she’s innocent. I loved unraveling her story and trying to figure out what really happened. 
  • The setting was exactly what I hoped it would be. I was so creeped out and uncomfortable reading about this isolated smart home with cameras and voice controlled everything (and I mean everything). Lights turning on on their own, doors locking themselves on their own, secret locked doors with who knows what behind them, a do-I-trust-him-or-not groundskeeper who seems to be very nice but might actually be a serial killer. I was so unsure of everything.
  • During the day Rowan and the girls explore the grounds a little bit, and discover a bit of the house’s history. CREEPY. I’d love a prequel book to get the story of the original inhabitants of the house in more detail. 
  • All the previous nannies could not handle living in Heatherbrae House, and I really loved trying to figure out the mystery of why. This book was really one mystery within another, and I liked all the layers that gave me to work through. I was never bored.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • I feel like we never get a heroine who is strong and level-headed in a Ruth Ware book. Unreliable narrators are a Ware hallmark, it would seem, and sometimes I don’t love it. Rowan put herself into some pretty sucky situations and then didn’t trust herself enough to be able to handle them. She never stuck up for herself. She never put the bratty, misbehaving girls in their places. I got a bit annoyed at how spineless she was, and how quick she was to believe that’s she’s going insane instead of the victim of someone other than herself.
  • The ending is VERY unsatisfying. So much is left up in the air and, after everything I had gone through as a reader, I wanted more answers. Be prepared to Google for other readers’ theories or find someone to chat with when you’re done (I’m happy to DM on twitter if you need someone to listen to your theories or discuss things!).

Additional Thoughts:

  • I really want to read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James now and see what the original story is like!
  • Imogen Church has to mimic a creaking floor in her narration, and oh man. It gave me goosebumps.
  • I never, in a million years, would have guessed the ending. Ruth Ware always tricks me and I never get it right, so that’s obviously one of the main reasons I keep coming back for more! She’s a very entertaining storyteller and a great writer.

All in all, The Turn of the Key was creepy and atmospheric and so engrossing. The ending drove me insane and I still think about it all the time, but I guess that serves Ruth Ware well! She’s always marinating in the back of my head. I keep telling myself I need to stop reading her books because I always come away slightly frustrated, but perhaps that’s her goal. And… I know I’m going to read more of her books. lol. So great. More torture on the horizon for me!

4 Stars

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook Review

Posted September 10, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 8 Comments

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook ReviewThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 409
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
5 Stars

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read and loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy years ago before I started blogging, and was captivated by her storytelling and beautiful writing style. The Scorpio Races sounded like something I would love and I immediately aded it to my TBR, but then The Raven Boys came out a year later and I DNFed it (I know, I know… total black sheep here), so I was worried Maggie was a one hit wonder for me (especially since Books of Faerie duology was just ok for me). Needless to say, I was worried that I’d never love another Stiefvater book and that broke my heart a little. But I LOVED it. I’ve broken this review up into sections: my thoughts on the audiobook and my experiences listening to it, and then my thoughts and feelings about the story itself and the world and the characters. If you’re not interested in the audiobook, feel free to skip the first section!

Audiobook Thoughts:

While looking for a great audiobook to listen to, I remembered how much Brittany loved Steve West’s narration of The Scorpio Races, and that he made her really fall in love with Sean Hunter. I listened to the sample and YES STEVE WEST, so I jumped right in. Basically, the stars aligned and I took a leap of faith regarding Maggie and audiobooks (because those don’t always work for me either). I am so glad I did, because I loved this book and I loved listening to it more than I think I would have loved reading it. Steve West’s voice drew me in and took hold of my heart. His voice drips with emotion and feeling, and he brought Sean to life. I think I fell a little in love with both Sean and Steve. Hehe. Whoops. Fiona Hardingham’s voice really complimented Steve’s. I loved listening to both of them, and the personality and depth they brought to the characters. I loved the musical bits that were composed by Maggie throughout the book. It totally set the celtic tone of the story and transported me right to the beaches of Thisby. I tried to actually read the book instead of listen to it one day because then I could read faster, but I just couldn’t do it. I made it a page and things felt so wrong. This is truly a book to listen to.

Story Thoughts:

This. Story. It has become a part of me, and I loved it so much. It’s very simple: a girl named Puck feels compelled–both by the need for money and the need to prove herself to herself–to enter the races and become the first female ever to do so. Sean, the reigning champion of these races needs to win, too, but not for the same reason Puck does. They both need it, they both need each other, they both need Thisby, and they both need their horses. This is their story. It’s not just about racing. It’s not just about horses. It’s about two lonely, incomplete souls risking everything to gain everything. They are both incredibly flawed and lost, and they find something in each other. I wouldn’t say this is a romantic book in the lovey-dovey sense. There’s definitely intrigue and feelings, but it’s romantic in the sense that it’s emotional. There’s so much feeling and mystery surrounding the water horses and the people who ride them. The mystical aspects of the island and the races themselves made me forget I was even reading anything. It’s really hard to explain.

Maggie’s prose and style is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost hurts. I love how she so intricately weaves her words together to create such a perfect and mesmerizing atmosphere. The story alternates back and forth between Sean’s and Puck’s points of view, and it’s done in first person. I usually do not like first person or multiple points of view, but they are both done so well in this book.

There’s so much I can say about Thisby and the characters and the yummy food, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think the synopsis is vague for a reason. That’s the magic! Bottom line, I LOVED The Scorpio Races. It’s the perfect fall story, with an eerie atmosphere; biting, salty winds; harsh waves; and monstrous creatures that will take you a bit by surprise, with their viciousness and intellect. These horses are magical in more ways then one. I do hope you pick up a copy and discover the magic and mystery of autumn on the tiny island of Thisby.

5 Stars

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook Review

Posted June 21, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 2 Comments

Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision | Audiobook ReviewOver Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision
Series: Lady Pirates #1
Published by Self on March 20, 2018
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 239
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Author
Add to Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
3.5 Stars

The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board.

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.

I love stories set on the high seas, particularly when pirates are involved, but I usually gravitate towards romantic stories with male pirates because I have a major crush on bad-boy pirate types, apparently. lol. I’ve never read a book with female pirates before, but I really enjoyed this one!

First off, the narration was amazing. Victoria Boulton’s performance really drew me in and had me hooked from early on. She did not read too quickly or too slowly, and her British accent brought each character to life.

I loved the setting of the Lady Luck, and reading about all the ins and outs of life aboard the ship. The crew is made up entirely of women, who live by a very strict code of honor. No men are allowed on board, no children can be kidnapped and forced into service, no crew member is allowed to steal from the rest of the crew, etc. And unlike Captain Barbosa, these rules are not merely guidelines. They take these rules very seriously, and I quite liked reading about a bunch of pirates who at least have some morals.

The story itself was not particularly unique, but I still enjoyed this adventure on the high seas. The crew is on the hunt for the holy grail of all treasure: a map that will lead them to any treasure they wish. There are obstacles along the way, and two of those obstacles come in the form of two brothers who Grace saves from the Mordgris–the sea monsters who took her mother from her. Grace breaks a cardinal rule and brings them aboard the ship. As it turns out, the older brother, Leo, can help them find his map. The little brother, John, endears himself to the crew, so they decide both boys can stay. For now. I liked Grace, John, and Leo, but didn’t feel much for the rest of the characters. They all felt like typical pirates to me, with no real unique traits that made them stand out to me.

This was my first book by Jennifer Ellision, and I really enjoy her writing style and creativity. While the story kind of follows the normal pirate adventure formula, she’s added some elements that set it apart. I’m super intrigued by the Mordgris. I want to know more about them and their origins and purpose. What are they really about? Who are they? They play a big part in Grace’s life quest and are the real reason she wants this magical map. She hopes, against all odds, to find her mother. I loved reading about her determination, and the fact that she believes that family is more important than all the riches in the world. I’m really eager to see how things work out for her and to learn more about this world and the map. There’s so much to look forward to with the next book! And beware, this book ends on a major cliffhanger and you’re going to want more story ASAP!

3.5 Stars