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Jude

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Fun story, excellent narration

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-03-20

Madison (not her real name) is a media tycoon, whose reputation as a lesbian Romeo is embarrassing the other members of the lesbian billionaires secret club she belongs to. They ask her to stay out of the media (it sounds a lot like going back in the closet) and settle down with a nice woman or get out of the club. At first angered, Madison decides to give the settling-down idea a go when she meets Claire, a supposedly straight and utterly gorgeous waitress.

I don’t usually go for arrogant characters but I kinda liked it in Madison. She’s got so much money and power she could be completely blasé, but the possibility of losing the club makes her vulnerable, as does the fact that most women are only interested in her for her wealth and status. She’s so resigned to this that Claire’s sincerity takes her by surprise, and that’s something I liked about her.

The only way to enjoy this story is to suspend disbelief, there’s not much that sounds plausible (or maybe it is, I don’t know that many lesbian billionaires), but it doesn’t really matter. There are a lot of extremely sexy scenes and some unexpectedly grimy crime action. This would probably be a 3* novel if I had read it, but the narration is excellent, so 3* for the book, 5* for the narration and an overall total of 4*. And since this is the first book in a series and the ending is open, I’m looking forward to listening to book 2, The Lesbian Billionaires Seduction, as soon as it is in audio.

Emotional, sad and hopeful at the same time

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-03-20

Pets. Some people have cats (I have two), some have dogs. Some even have chinchillas. Marty Bell had an elephant. And that’s not even what’s most surprising about her story.

When her wife Brooke inherited her great-aunt Marty’s farm in upstate New York, Peyton Kennedy thought they’d sell it and go back to their life in New York City. Brooke insists on renovating the house and what Brooke wants, Brooke usually gets. Peyton knows how often undertaking such huge work can break a relationship, and their marriage is already shaky. But when they find a box full of letters and an old diary hidden behind drywall, Peyton immerses herself in Aunt Marty’s love affair with another woman, Vera, a circus worker.

Historical novels are not my go-to at all. I like them well enough when I read them, but they’re rarely my first choice. Neither are flashbacks. I shouldn’t have liked this book so much. And yet here I am, giving it five stars.

The letters and diary tell a story of young love (in every way, as Vera is seventeen and Marty eighteen when they first meet), discovery of oneself, of love, of loving someone of the same sex, of hoping for a future together and how life (and war) gets in the way, while, in parallel, Peyton and Brooke are a longish-term couple – they’ve been married for five years – in a rocky marriage. When the novel begins, Peyton is wondering whether it’s all worth the effort and keeps a divorce lawyer card in her wallet. The contemporary story is told from Peyton’s point of view so at first, all we see of Brooke is what Peyton is annoyed with. As the story develops, Brooke’s real personality breaks through and, through Peyton’s eyes, the reader gets to know a much less shallow and much more loving person. This couple seems doomed from the start yet Peyton comes to understand her wife is not the only one responsible for their problems and lets herself rediscover the woman she loves.

Vera and Marty’s story, beyond their love and the elephant (there really is an elephant but I am not spoiling this), opens a window onto the life of women in the late 1930s, WWII and later. Their characters show that, despite their environment, strong women managed to live independent and, to some degree, happy lives. The main message of the novel is how much has changed (and still needs to change) for women in general, and for lesbians especially, but also that badass women have always been around.

As Long As Love Lasts works really well as an audiobook. I love Lori Prince’s voice, I especially loved her voice for Brooke, and I’ll forgive the sometimes-awkward pauses for the way she says “desire”.

All this makes for an emotional read / listen, sad and hopeful at the same time, with so many feelings that I’m not recovered yet.

A perfectly narrated sweet comedy

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 13-02-20

Due to a series of bad decisions and mistrust of police, Amy and her best friend Kerry find themselves on the run.

Amy is a brilliant twenty-five-year-old woman who is so scared of failure that she never quit her student job at a motorway service station. She’s also very naive and trusting in a rather adorable way. When the customer she has a huge crush on, Cara, disappears, she tries to get the police involved, in vain. She decides to investigate on her own and finds out the woman left a flash drive stuck under one of the tables every morning and a man would come later in the day and retrieve it. Until a few days ago when Cara left the memory stick under another table, which the man didn’t find. Amy gets the flash drives, opens it and bam! The scary man and the MI5 are suddenly looking for her and Kerry, who helped her get away.

A former MI5 operative, Claudia McAllister is now a freelancer. Yet she’s the best huntress, so her former boss hires her to find the two fugitives, who are considered dangerous terrorists.

This story reminded me of the Australian TV series Wanted in some ways. It’s a comedy of sorts, with a hint of romance, and it was quite enjoyable. I liked Rebecca McKernan’s accents a whole lot, that’s probably what I liked best. That, and the friendship between the MCs.

Funny and romantic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-20

Holly Lovelace’s brain never stops thinking. It’s both a gift and a curse, as Holly can’t help thinking she should be able to do more to save the world. Being super smart also gives her an excuse for never taking any time for herself since she’s irreplaceable.

After she calls him in the middle of the night, crying and babbling that she just can’t do it anymore – a phone call she doesn’t remember the next day -, her best friend Nolan forces her to take a leave of absence and sends her to the house he inherited on King Popham’s (aka Poppy’s) Island, off the coast of Maine. Being the stubborn workaholic she is, Holly views her exile as punishment and isn’t prepared to give the island and its inhabitants a fair chance. As she waits for the ferry that will take her to what she sees as the middle of nowhere, she meets Ivy, whose truck broke down. Ivy is hot so she offers her – and her goat – a lift. Misunderstandings and bursts of lust ensue, resulting in a love story that manages to be both comedic and romantic.

Ivy is the island sweetheart, always trying to make life easier and better for the struggling families yet not conscious of how loved she is by them, how grateful they are. I was expecting Holly to be more of an ice queen, as a big-city tech genius millionaire, but she’s more socially awkward than icy. It’s that awkwardness that drove her to isolate herself from the rest of the world and focus on computers and apps, to the point of not being aware of the difficulties others face. Under Ivy’s influence, she’ll open her eyes and do better.

I always find it very interesting when authors get together to write a story. At first, I can’t help wondering who wrote what, but when it’s done well (as it is in this instance), you can’t really tell. At times I thought “Oh this is pure Markinson!” and then “Or maybe MacLeod?”. Their styles mesh incredibly well and they share a sense of humour that works perfectly with this story. I’m not big on bodily functions-based jokes, and there are quite a few in Holly & Ivy, but as they come from two of the funniest and clueless secondary characters I’ve read about in a while, I’ll give them a pass.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in this story, but every time I mentioned it while I was listening, I said: “it’s such a cute story!” It’s sweet, funny and heartwarming. And you can always count on Stephanie Murphy for a solid and lovely narration.

Not her student anymore

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-01-20

I wanted to enjoy this as much as I had But She is My Student, which tackled a delicate issue in a sensitive way. In Instigations, Kat and Freya are free to love each other, Freya is not Kat’s student anymore, she’s at university, studying to become a teacher herself.

I found some parts ridiculously funny, and smart, like when Kat, always the teacher, explains gaydar and how to reach multiple orgasms with the same gusto. I really enjoy the relationship between Kat and Freya, the angst (they’re both rather young still, 19 and 24), learning to trust and all that, even if it sometimes felt a tad artificial.

However, I didn’t like the comedic aspect so much, which I felt was often overt the top, almost crude, and didn’t mesh well with the rest of the story. It was okay in the first book but took too much importance in this one, and I can only take so many clichés.

Jessica Jeffries’ narration is impeccable, as usual.

"I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

Interesting story

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-12-19

Cigars are everything to the Huerta family. Alejandro emigrated from Cuba to Nicaragua, passing his passion on to his sons, Roberto and Manuel. With Roberto’s unexpected death, his daughter Sofia, who has dedicated her whole life to cigars too, inherits the family business, much to her brother’s chagrin. Roberto Junior, aka RJ, will try everything to gain control of the Huerta cigar empire, including blackmailing an American lawyer (and his daughter) into challenging his father’s will.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would, in great part because the narration is so uneven. Some moments were great, others were really flat. The other reason is that the story took way too long to start. About a quarter of the book is about setting the scene. I get why it was necessary, but it was still too long for me, especially in a story where men take so much space, which I’m not used to in lesfic.

However, once it really began, I liked it a lot. I’ve learnt a lot more about cigars than I thought I’d be interested in but it was never boring, even though I’m not a smoker. I also enjoyed the way the relationship between Sofia and Laura developed. They’re both strong but kind women, both ready to fight for what they believe is right and for their love. I also wish the ending had been a little less rushed. Especially since the beginning was so slow, I felt the readers deserved a little more time with these two women.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review

Very sweet story, excellent narration

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-11-19

I love how narration can elevate (I’m not sure it’s the right word…) a book. I really liked The Road Ahead when I read it, but listening to it was even better. There’s nothing obviously extraordinary about Ella Lynch’s narration, it’s simply perfect for the story. The things that had mildly bothered me in book form didn’t matter in audio, they completely worked when told with the right tone.

Both fun and charming, totally my kind of book

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-11-19

Wow, this book hits the ground running… When she goes to the bank to deposit money that morning, little does Lia know that the pretty woman she has noticed a few times lately at her favourite coffee place is there too. She doesn’t know either that she is going to get shot by bank robbers and that said woman will save her life. Then move in with her while she recovers. The most important thing she doesn’t know is that the woman, Dylan, is an FBI agent keeping an eye on her in case her ex-husband gets in touch with her on his run from the Giametta crime family.

I love Dylan and Lia together, whether they’re flirting or fighting. At first, when Lia still believes Dylan to be a computer consultant, it seems pretty obvious they’re falling for each other, easily and inevitably. Dylan tries to fight it – she’s on a job, dammit! –, but that’s fate for you. Then when all hell breaks loose and the two women have to run for their lives, they finally find themselves on an equal footing.

I’m surprised Lia didn’t feel like the most unlucky woman on Earth at times, with so many things going wrong. The reader knows why all these things happen, but she doesn’t for the longest while, and I’d have freaked out a lot more than she does if it all were happening to me.

While the pace slows down a bit after the excitement of the beginning, Little Lies is filled with adreline-fueled action scenes and many unexpectedly funny moments (Dylan baking a cake being one of them). I truly enjoyed listening to this book a lot. The narration might not have been as dynamic as I’d have liked every now and then, but it’s pretty good overall. Like many narrators whose work I like, Tia Rider Sorensen is at her best with dialogues, her voices for the different characters are varied and easy to distinguish. I especially liked the voice for Lia, most notably her little “uh huh” sounds, which worked very well with the character.

Little Lies is both fun and charming, totally my kind of book.

Another great story (with wonderful characters)

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-11-19

I love Lise Gold’s characters. They’re good and selfless women who do their best to make life beautiful and easier for the people they love. They’re strong (much stronger than they think) and flawed, sweet and determined.

Mia Donoghue loves her job as a senior purser. Travelling, discovering new places or enjoying favourite ones helps her cope with the guilt she’s been carrying for fifteen years, guilt that has kept her away from her family. On one of her flights, she meets Ava Alfarsi, who has recently been promoted to captain. Mia and Ava soon find out that they share more than an immediate and undeniable attraction.

When they first meet, Ava seems to be at her better place in her life, yet she has huge control issues. They both make the other stronger, even though Mia is not ready to admit it at first.

One of the things I’ve discovered these past months, with Lise Gold’s books in particular, is how much I love simple stories that tackle sensitive issues without any violence. Don’t get me wrong, I love complicated stories, I love getting lost in labyrinthine tales. But I also love straightforward simplicity. Day to day life, when cleverly told, can be fascinating.
Lise Gold has a gift for creating lovely characters, Mia and Ava are no exceptions. Another Gold trademark is the travelling, and this book takes the readers to Dubai, New York, Kuala Lumpur… Every time I read a book by Lise Gold, I want to buy a plane ticket. Every single time.

Despite the delicate topic (addiction and the every day struggle that is sobriety), Fireflies is a pretty joyful novel, with plenty of banter and steamy scenes. And loads and loads of feelings. Once again, it’s everything I love. And the narration, by Stevie Zimmerman, is excellent.

Good story and characters, strange ending

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-11-19

This enemies-to-lovers / ice queen romance was really good until I got to the last part. And then it got too much. Way too much. It’s definitely worth reading nevertheless, but know the end is OTT.

Jessica Barron is a well-known solicitor in Leeds (England), specializing in divorce, which is kinda ironic since when we first meet her, she finds out her husband is cheating on her with the nanny. She gets rid of both offenders – fires the nanny, files for divorce – which leaves her in need of another live-in nanny to help her take care of her two young children, Luke and Gemmy. Renée Arden, the owner of the Home Solution Agency, needs a place to stay after breaking up with her girlfriend so when Jessica mistakes her for “just” an employee, she goes with it. At first, they can’t stand each other, what with Jessica being haughty and bordeline rude, but Renée is so good at making her life easier that she ends up realizing how precious she’s become to her.

I really enjoyed the first part, with Jessica trying to regain control of her life. For years, because of her husband’s recklessness, she’s had to work non-stop to pay for the extravagant Italian-style house he insisted on building. Her children don’t really know her any more, and a huge part of the process of rebuilding her life goes through getting their affection back. Besides her husband’s infidelity, Jessica is also coping with the loss of the love of her life, her first husband Damian, whom she never stopped grieving. She reluctantly lets Renée in, and finds she doesn’t always have to protect herself. Once she realizes she’s fallen in love with her, she takes it in stride. A little internal struggle would have made it a tad more plausible, though.

There’s a lot of grief in Jessica’s life, and I felt the story should have stopped when she finally got some balance back. The last part of the book felt like it could have been another story, tacked on at the end.

As for the narration, it was rather good, despite the sometimes odd pronunciation of French words (Renée is half-French) and funny accents of some of the French characters. But at least I understood the words, even when they weren’t said correctly, so it could have been a lot worse.