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Seed by Ania Ahlborn (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 6+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Seed by Ania Ahlborn, narrated by Eric G. Dove, is a creepy story that reminds me of the Exorcist in that there seems to be a demon child running around its pages. Jack Winter and his family live in Louisiana and they are far from rich, but they seem to be a pretty happy family. But following a car accident, something happens to his daughter, Charlie, that brings to the fore echoes of Jack’s past.

“The craziest of them all seem nice and normal and happy until some vital part of their brain fries like bad wiring.”

The narration is great, though there is one point in which he forgets to modify his voice for Jack’s wife but it didn’t deter me from listening to the story. I wanted the story to be creepier, but it definitely wasn’t gory, which is perfect for those who do not like those kinds of horror books. Charlie is creepy, but she really doesn’t become overly creepy until nearly the end of the book, so her change is very gradual and not as dramatic as I would expect from a demon-related story. The interconnection between Charlie’s story and her father’s past, however, gets really juicy.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn, narrated by Eric G. Dove, has elements of a good Stephen King novel like Cujo, but at the same time, it seemed to lack a certain amount of depth. The characters felt flat as I listened and I wanted more from Jack. His motivations to lie at every turn are murky at best, and why he lies seems to be a plot device. I wanted it to be more developed than it was. Charlie is definitely creepy, but her character also seems to act older than her six years even before the takeover. This was a quick read but had some faults.

RATING: Tercet

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis, is one of the “it” books of the year because it challenges readers to see interactions from the other person’s point of view. Alix Chamberlain is a wealthy, white, entrepreneur and mother who leaves her chic New York City life for Philadelphia. As she continues to work on her first book and maintain some sense of her successful self in a place she refuses to publicly acknowledge as her new home, she seeks out help with her two-year-old daughter Briar. Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old black woman who is unsure what she wants to do with her life after college — with some serious typing and childcare skills, it seems like she could find a full-time job and get health insurance but something is holding her back.

This book starts off with a bang in a racially charged incident in which a security guard attempts to detain Emira and Briar in a local grocery store near the Chamberlain home. Naturally, this incident is caught on video by a young, white professional who offers to post the incident on the internet to seek out justice. Emira is having none of it and her babysitting job is something she loves and she really cares for Briar. Her main focus is protecting this girl. As we take this journey with Emira and Alix, the interactions between the two are awkward from an objective viewpoint, but on closer inspection, Alix is trying so hard to be her friend, it borders on obsession. There’s nothing really untoward here between Alix and Emira, but the dynamics of this relationship are cringe-worthy in many ways.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is multi-layered and tension filled, highlighting cultural differences between blacks and whites, especially affluent whites with good intentions. Emira is a smart woman if a bit rudderless and under pressure to find a job and stable insurance. Alix should be a stable and savvy businesswoman, but she acts childish and seems not to have evolved much beyond her high school years. This would be a good book club pick for discussions about race and class. But I really did not like Alix. I found her character absolutely ridiculous and high-schoolish, trying too hard to be cool for her babysitter. Her need for acceptance and friendship from Emira is odd and obsessive. The introduction of her old high school boyfriend further complicates the story, but his character seems to be a foil for Alix’s character. The narrator, however, was a gem, very articulate, and great about differentiating between the characters.

RATING: Quatrain

The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely (audio)

Source: Audible Purchase
Audiobook, 19+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a delectable treat with the uber sexy voice of Sebastian York at the help. The duet of books in the series follow Joy Delivered CEO Jack Sullivan and Co-CEO Casey Sullivan as they navigate not only sex toy business affairs, but also unexpected seduction. This steamy set of books will hear up your days and are what I would call ear candy. Very light on complex plots but heavy on seduction and play.

In “Nights with Him,” what can Jack Sullivan do when he realizes his one night stand is the same Dr. Milo he has a therapy appointment with the next morning? Sullivan is in need of therapy after losing his fiancée in a tragic accident for which he blames himself but not in the way the wonderful paparazzi and media think. Michelle Milo is a no-nonsense woman who is very focused on her career and earning respect from her colleagues. In a business deal, therapy is punted to another therapist while he pursues more than a one-night stand with Michelle. But perhaps this kind of therapy is what he needs.

In “Forbidden Nights,” Casey Sullivan has been direct and a true business leader, but some of her boyfriends have said they don’t like her controlling ways in the bedroom. Hotel mogul Nate Harper has been her friend for many years, and he’s her best guy friend, but what happens when they cross that invisible line when Casey asks for his help in letting go? Nate agrees because his fantasy can become reality but he knows he cannot be her true love. Being with his best friend, Nate soon begins to realize what he’s been missing since his divorce. How will they navigate their new relationship? Will they both back away and return to friendship land, or will they take a leap into the unknown, all the while screaming into the passionate night?What happens when years of desire and lust ignite a passion that can’t be denied?

Both of these are high on sex, low on plot and complexity. The characters become entangled with one another at any time, any place, and any where. The scandal with Michelle and Jack is wrapped up quickly and vanishes just as fast, even as it was the biggest obstacle to their kinky happily ever after. Meanwhile, Nate and Casey’s story is a bit more sweet, romantic, and sexy. The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a piece of dark chocolate that you want to swallow whole while also wanting to let it melt in your mouth. Delectable, at times dirty and erotic, but entertaining.

Rating: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #565

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Persuasion: Behind the Scenes by Maria Grace and Susan Mason-Millk, a freebie.

You pierce my soul.

Before Jane Austen wrote that romantic letter from Captain Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot, she crafted a masterful story of heartbreak and longing that still resonates with readers today.

But what of those scenes that Jane Austen never wrote? What Persuasion fan doesn’t want to listen in on Anne and Wentworth’s first courtship, laugh at the follies and foibles of the Elliot family, sail along on Captain Wentworth’s harrowing adventures at sea or attend Wentworth and Anne’s wedding.

Twelve authors of Austen-inspired fiction: Diana Birchall, Marilyn Brant, Jack Caldwell, L.L. Diamond, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Kara Louise, Susan Mason-Milks, Jane Odiwe, C. Allyn Pierson, Mary Lydon Simonsen, and Shannon Winslow collaborated to put this unique collection that fills in “missing” scenes from Austen’s classic work, sure to delight any true Persuasion fan.

Jane and the Visitors from Pemberley by Margaret Lynette Sharp, a freebie.

A Short story — Fifteen-year-old Isobel, the youngest daughter of Jane and Charles Bingley, is overjoyed when, despite her mama’s misgivings, she is allowed to go on holiday with her friends at Brighton. Will this high-spirited young woman somehow manage to behave with uncharacteristic decorum? Or will history repeat itself?

Liz and Darcy, Part 1 Boardroom Battle by Kelsie Fann, a freebie.

Will Darcy’s pride bankrupt Liz?

When Liz Bailey discovers she only has 24 hours to save her southern media company, she leaps to the quickest solution: find a buyer, fast.

Chicago based investor Darcy Williams isn’t interested in the poorly run business. . . until his nemesis shows up.

The new buyer instantly attracts Liz. He’s beautiful, charming, and he has deep enough pockets to save the company.

Except he’s broke, and Darcy knows it. Now Darcy has to chose. Does he care enough to save Liz’s company? Or should he leave and let her deal with the fallout?

Will Darcy let himself fall into the land of sweet tea and seersucker before it’s too late? Or will the clock run out on Liz’s southern charm?

Love and Other Machines by Alix James, a freebie.

Her life was going smoothly until love threw a wrench into it.

Her uncle’s pet and her mother’s trial, Elizabeth Bennet has always been… different. Blessed with a quick mind and a knack for all things mechanical, sometimes the simplest things—like love—are harder for her to fix.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is anything but simple. A gentleman by birth but an engineer at heart, he wastes no time in dismantling Elizabeth’s secret. The gentleman, however, has secrets of his own that cause him to linger, to falter, and then to risk everything.

A chance journey with Elizabeth’s uncle to Mr Bingley’s factory in Birmingham had seemed the ideal opportunity to indulge her fascination without risk to her reputation. But a lady of gentle birth and modest means must never tinker with machinery, and most certainly should not have grease on her cheek.

What began as a mechanical challenge becomes a personal test when rioters and old enemies turn the tables. Can Elizabeth and Darcy work together, or will the gears spin out of control?

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Nicole Lewis, purchased from Audible.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At 25, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn, Eric G. Dove, purchased from Audible.

With nothing but the clothes on his back – and something horrific snapping at his heels – Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever.

Now, years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.

Surviving a violent car crash seems like a miracle for Jack’s family, but Jack knows there’s nothing divine about it. The profound evil he uncovered as a boy has finally found him again. The thing that crouched at his bedside with soulless eyes and grinning, razor-sharp teeth is back with plans for Jack and his angelic youngest daughter, and a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave.

Wasted Words by Staci Hart, a freebie.

Some universal truths refuse to be ignored.

Peanut butter and jelly are a match made in heaven. Spaghetti and meatballs are best friends forever. And guys like Tyler Knight don’t go for girls like Cam Emerson.

She knew from the second she met him that he didn’t belong on her bookshelf, the six-foot-six ex-tight end with a face so all-American, it could have sold apple pie. So she shelved him next to the supermodels and rock stars and took her place on her own shelf — the one with the flannel-clad, pasty-faced comic book nerds. Most of her boyfriends have existed between the pages of books, but rather than worrying over her own lacking love life, she puts all her energy into playing Cupid, using her job at the book bar, Wasted Words, as her stomping ground.

Tyler Knight always looks on the bright side. His career-ending injury turned into a job as a sports agent. A horrible breakup led him to Cam, his quirky, smart roommate who is far more beautiful than she realizes. She’s made it perfectly clear she’s not interested in him — not like that at least — but if she ever changes her mind, he won’t hesitate. Because he doesn’t see the lines she’s drawn between them, as much as she insists that they’re there. Deep down he knows that despite their differences, they’re a match well made.

What did you receive?

Darcy vs. Bennet by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 7+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Darcy vs. Bennet by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is not as the cover suggests a battle of wills between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, which is a delightful departure. It is more reminiscent of the themes in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet meet before the start of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice at a masquerade ball, and while she discovers his identity, he only knows her Christian name. It is delightful to see them together falling in love even behind a mask, but they are soon separated and forced to forget one another by time and space, until they are thrust together again. Another wonderful twist of fate here is that Mr. Darcy’s father is alive and not as honorable as his son.

While I do adore when Elizabeth and her William are together stealing kisses, there are so many moments where they are too consumed with one another to remember that they need to be discreet to avoid scrutiny and detection by Mr. Darcy. I almost wanted to shout at them to break it up and use their rational minds, especially Mr. Darcy since he knows the scheming his father is capable of. Much of my irritation stemmed from the enormous buildup about his father’s efforts to keep his son from the Bennet daughter, but the end fell flat to me and was wrapped up much too quickly.

The battle between Mr. George Darcy and Mr. Bennet is in the background. Although it does cast a shadow on the romance and their ability to come together, I would have liked to see more of that in flashbacks and potentially how his father would have told the tale to his son, rather than just getting Mr. Bennet’s version from Elizabeth. I fear there could have been more obstacles and prejudices played with here given the long-held animosity of these two parents. These stories could have colored Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s perspectives, causing a great deal more tension when Elizabeth and Darcy had to reconcile what they knew of one another from the masquerade ball.

Zimmerman, once again, is a wonderful narrator for Austen-inspired fiction. She does well with each of the characters, including the new villain Mr. George Darcy. I enjoyed her dramatic portrayal of him and all of the other characters we’ve come to know well.

Darcy vs. Bennet by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful diversion and has a range of emotions and plots to recommend it. Do not let my qualms with the plot stop you from enjoying this wonderful romance between two of our favorite characters — Darcy and Elizabeth. There are stolen kisses and embraces, as well as wonderful confessions of love.

RATING: Tercet

Mailbox Monday #561

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Minuteman by Greg Donahue from Audible.

Greg Donahue’s The Minuteman tells the story of one of Newark’s native sons—ex-prizefighter and longtime Zwillman enforcer Sidney Abramowitz, a.k.a. Nat Arno—who took over leadership of the Minutemen in 1934 and made it his personal business to put an end to what he saw as the homegrown Nazi movement’s “anti-American” activities. For six years, Arno and his crew of vigilantes battled Newark’s Nazis at every turn. The Minuteman is a story of the ethics of violence in the face of fascism—a forgotten legacy that is as relevant now as it was nearly a hundred years ago.

The Power of Self-Compassion by Laurie J. Cameron from Audible.

Join expert Laurie Cameron to discover tools—including meditations, exercises, journaling, and in-the-moment practices—that will help you evoke mindfulness and empathy in your everyday life in a way that it becomes your natural response—your new set of habits. As you adopt these practices, you’ll start to see a shift in how you work with stressful life events, as well as how you connect with the shared human experience of loss, challenge, and disappointment.

What did you receive?

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 2+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, is a short novella similar to a Hallmark movie in which a young professional finds a certain young man from another division at her company annoying. Riley Kennedy‘s emails keep being sent to Kennedy Riley, who works in another division at the same company. But rather than simply forward her replies, he has to offer his two-cents. Clearly, writing personal emails to an advice columnist is ill-advised from a work email account, but Riley’s really bummed about the holiday’s and her mother’s bragadocious Christmas letter to everyone in the family about her siblings.

Kennedy offers her an out — take him home for the holidays as her boyfriend.

Yes, Hallmark lane, here we come. Is it cheesy? predictable? Ultimately, yes. However, we all need that feel-good, hilarity once in a while, and this one fit the bill for me. It doesn’t hurt that my ears have a crush on Sebastian York’s sultry voice, either.

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York, is fun, funny, and delightful. Complete with the white horse and city streets of New York.

RATING: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #558

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward, narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian York from audible.

Eggnog. Check. Roaring fire. Check. Hot romance audiobook. Check!

Riley Kennedy’s emails keep getting crossed with her male colleague, Kennedy Riley. The infuriating man forwards them along with his annoying commentary and unsolicited advice. At least she never has to see him in person, since they work in different locations…until they come face to face at the office holiday party.

As luck would have it, Kennedy turns out to be outrageously handsome…though still a jerk. Yet somehow he’s able to charm her out on the dance floor—and convince her to participate in his crazy scheme: he’ll go home with Riley for a Christmas party and pretend to be her boyfriend, if Riley agrees to be his date to a wedding. It sounds easy enough. Little by little, however, the act they’re putting on starts to feel like so much more than a Christmas pact—and Riley’s about to learn there’s more to Kennedy than she ever imagined.

Romance audiobook dream team Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward join forces again to deliver an engaging, funny, and sexy story that will make listeners laugh while it sets their hearts racing. Narrated by the double audio act of Andi Arndt (inducted into The Audible Narrator Hall of Fame in 2017) and Sebastian York, this sizzling novella will heat up the holidays…all year long.

What did you receive?

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart and Neil Strauss (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 11+ hrs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart and Neil Strauss is a look back at the hard road of comedy and the bumpy road to stardom, but it is also explores Hart’s own life and how it impacted his future career and family. Hart pulls no punches in this one and lays everything bare, including his problems with alcohol, domestic abuse, and more.

Growing up near Philadelphia was hard, especially with a strict single mother and a father who was addicted to drugs and hardly ever home. His stories about his family are outrageous to say the least, and Hart will say that he couldn’t have made them up if he tried.

Throughout the book he offers advice he received from other comics on the scene in Philly, New York, and LA. But he also offers lessons from his own life. One takeaway that really resonated with me is that even though his mother forced them to take public transportation even when they had another option, trained him for his rigorous show schedule and the waiting on TV and movie sets that can be not only frustrating but tedious. His mother’s tenacity also inspired him to keep striving for his goals, as he faced empty bank accounts and non-paying venues.

Hart is funny throughout the audio, which he narrates, but there are moments of crassness early on when he talks frankly about becoming an adolescent boy and later in life when he’s in Hollywood. These are part of his story, and if you don’t like profanity or detailed information about sex, you may want to skip this one or those parts.

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart and Neil Strauss was wildly entertaining, funny, and enlightening. I learned a great deal about where my own determination and drive comes from by Hart reminding me of those restrictive days as a kid in my parents’ home. I can now see how those restrictions helped me become the disciplined person I am. Hart’s still on a journey, but his journey is now aimed at improving the lives of his children, encouraging him in the way his mother did, and ensuring they don’t think they can skip school and do the things that he did. There were many laugh out loud moments, but there are lessons that you won’t soon forget.

RATING: Cinquain

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 3+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, explores a “what if” scenario regarding Jane Bennet’s reaction to when she learns the Bingley’s have been in London and that Caroline has effectively kept Mr. Bingley in the dark about her presence in the city. This novella will have you on your toes for a bit, especially as Jane Bennet becomes a bit more daring like her sister, Lizzy, and seeks to “bump” into Mr. Bingley on the streets of London.

Kincaid’s Jane has a bit more backbone that Austen’s original, and I enjoyed her “light” scheming. She’s no where near the level of Caroline Bingley, but she does give her a run for her money. We also find a different Mr. Bingley in Kincaid’s work. He’s prone to being led about in Austen’s novel, but when he learns that people he loves have meddled with his happiness look out! Although there are breaks in social convention, there’s nothing overly outrageous — just a pushing of the boundary here and there.

Zimmerman is a fantastic narrator as always, and I never lost interest in the story with her narrative lead.

When Jane Got Angry by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a wonderful addition to Jane Austen-related fan fiction. My one complaint would probably be I wanted to know more of what Lizzy would have thought of Jane acting more like her. Wonderfully written and no loss ends. Kincaid has a talent for these kinds of “what if” stories.

RATING: Quatrain

Camp Red Moon by R.L. Stine (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 4+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Camp Red Moon by R.L. Stine is a collection of four creepy camp stories written by others and introduced by R.L. Stine — The Werewolf in the Woods, The New Camper, Battle of the Bots, and The Ghost in the Cabin. The stories are sufficiently creepy and probably should be read with others if you get scared easily. I listened to these in the early morning hours while getting ready for work, and definitely got the chills a couple times.

My favorite of the stories was The New Camper in which a young man soon realizes that his new cabinmate is slowly usurping his personality and friends. Soon, his friends are calling his new cabinmate by his name. Battle of the Bots was a bit predictable, but it was still entertaining, as as The Werewolf in the Woods. The Ghost in the Cabin was spooky in all the right places, and the laughter was sufficiently creepy. However, to be more accurate, this should have been called “The Ghosts in the Cabin,” since there was clearly more than one (not a spoiler).

These are probably more frightening than the Goosebumps series of books, but they are definitely great campfire stories to add to your own tales in the woods. This is family friendly, and would be OK for younger readers, probably not under age 10. Camp Red Moon by R.L. Stine would be a fun listen on a road trip, especially in the wilds of the Northeast or in the woods.

RATING: Quatrain

Mailbox Monday #551

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Camp Red Moon by R.L. Stine from Audible.

Camp nights or camp frights?!

Every sleepaway camp promises memories that last a lifetime. But the memories from Camp Red Moon might give you nightmares!

• The campfire appears to dim when the moon turns blood red and strange creatures prowl the forest.

• Do you find a total lookalike at camp? Is it coincidence or is he a shapeshifter trying to take over your life?

• Why don’t your competitors at the robotics competition seem exactly…human?

• And why do campers do anything to avoid Cabin 6?

What did you receive?