LISTENER

Kate @MLHearingThings

  • 131
  • reviews
  • 63
  • helpful votes
  • 289
  • ratings

The perfect cosy mystery to transport us elsewhere

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

Reviewed: 28-03-20

A Shot in the Dark kicks off another charming mystery series from the authors of the best-selling Cherringham audiobooks.

As I wait - rather impatiently - for new books in the Cherringham and Bunburry series' by this publisher, I took my first trip to Mydworth; where Harry Mortimer and his his wife, Kat, arrive with quite a splash. It's unusual to have a happily-married young couple as the amateur sleuths in a story like this, but they make such a good team that it was a very welcome change. Harry's unguarded devotion to his wife and the pride he took in her skills and successes was a delight, and made him far more likeable.

As with all Lubbe productions, this audiobook featured their signature jangly musical intro - which I'm not especially fond of.

Mydworth is another excellent cosy mystery series from Richards and Costello, and it was the perfect audiobook to take my mind off the tumult in the world right now. It's a short enough adventure that it didn't seem daunting to embark upon at a time when my attention is being pulled in 100 different directions at once, but it still packs a punch.

The narrator, Nathaniel Parker, was a joy to listen to, as ever. He has the perfect classic, refined voice to bring out the best in aristocratic characters from the roaring 20s, and even manages Kat's American accent without it sounding too false or out of place in the English village. He has such a soothing voice that he makes a wonderful narrator for cosy mysteries, and I knew the story was in good hands from the start.

I've already put book 2 on my wishlist, and I'd heartily recommend the Mydworth series to fans of Cherringham and Bunburry, but also to listeners who enjoy T. E. Kinsey's Lady Hardcastle series, which is set in a similar period.

3 people found this helpful

A diverse and delightful collection

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

Reviewed: 28-03-20

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of stories, some of which re-imagined the Darcy we know, and others that reinvented him completely. It is impossible to review such a varied collection of tales as a whole, for they each have their own merits, but I especially enjoyed Death of a Bachelor by Caitlin Williams, If Only A Dream Pt1 & Pt 2 by Joana Starnes, Clandestiny by KaraLynne Mackrory, Reason to Hope by Jenetta James, and Pemberley by Stage by Natalie Richards.

The majority of the stories - like the original - are sweet/clean, with a few containing a little mild heat.

The narrator, Harry Frost, was new to me but was a delightful discovery! He was wonderful, and the perfect choice to bring us so many interpretations of Darcy. He had a rich, rounded voice, with a natural-sounding nobility and authority that instantly transported the listener back in time or across the Atlantic.

I'd recommend this collection to Janeites everywhere, but also to anyone who enjoyed the Quill Ink's previous anthology, Rational Creatures, as much as I did.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

Steamy, sensual, and surprising...

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

Reviewed: 29-02-20

What a Courtesan Wants is the stern and explicitly-steamy Regency tale of two people from very different sides of the tracks, who may just be exactly what the other needs. When Lucinda's husband dies she not only loses her Lord but her Master. Can trained Dominant, Aubrey, really fill the hole that Magnus left behind?

When we first meet Lucinda she is determined to try and recapture a little of the spirit that deserted her after her husband's passing, and once at Lady Dane's townhouse, Benedict entices Lucinda to peruse Aubrey's wares most tantalisingly!

I also enjoyed the departure from the historical 'norm' that we saw in Aubrey Drake. Despite his dissatisfaction with the work as a Courtesan, it was nice to see a man with African heritage in a historical. Historical fiction has neglected the diversity of the British Isles for far too long, and the romance genre as a whole has a widely-acknowledged problem with inclusivity. Yet his ethnicity was not the defining feature of his character or his interactions with others, without downplaying the impact it had on his experiences.

I laughed aloud at the description of a playful object, with "its base winking in the firelight" but, alas, dare not furnish you with the context in such polite company...

Vale's stories are always deeply character-driven. She does not neglect the setting, but there is always the sense that their surroundings recede a little as the couple's interest in each other grows.

One of the things I especially enjoy about the Gentlemen Courtesans series, and What a Courtesan Wants in particular, is its focus upon male friendship. Historical romance often features a heroine and her gaggle of sisters, or a hero and his second, but it is rare to find a group of men who are invested in each other's lives.

The excellent narrator, Darcy Stark, moves seamlessly from cool, clipped tones to softer and more sumptuous vocals, clearly differentiating not only the different characters and sexes but their moods and desires.

I would recommend What A Courtesan Wants to everyone who enjoys dark Regency stories, and especially to those seeking historical romance with broader representation than is standard. It can be listened to as a standalone but is at its best as part of a wickedly entertaining series.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

Peter's back, and this time he plays the piper...

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

Reviewed: 25-02-20

False Value is told in a series of discombobulating flashbacks, identified only by reference to the month at the start of each chapter. Once I realised this, it became much easier to follow. This swirling inconsistency and feeling of time being stretched, squished, and manipulated, suited the theme very nicely once I stopped feeling like I was grappling with an Infinite Improbability Drive!

The Serious Cybernetics Company base their entire operating structure around H2G2 references, in that pretentious way kooky tech startups think is cool and ironic, and everyone else stops finding funny after the second or third time they were allowed to call someone a Vogon without being hauled in to HR. It lends an absurdity to the whole situation that makes it harder to spot the things that are really wrong, but it's not long before Peter finds himself tangled up in a web with worldwide implications.

False Value is very much Peter's book, perhaps more than any to date. Cut off from the badge and uniform that usually prop up his investigations, and while surrounded by the kind of tech that his magic usually fries, he must rely on old-fashioned detective work to help him catch the 'rat' hiding amongst the Mice.

This audiobook contains all the signature humour and every-man bluntness we have come to love from Peter Grant, and much more information about the international magical community.

The last chapter of the book is this podcast by Orion, which interviews Ben and Kobna about the Rivers of London audiobooks and what lies in store for them, and Peter, next.

As ever, the narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, was marvellous. He always brings the books so vividly to life, and somehow copes with the myriad of accents that Aaronovitch tries to trip him up with. He will always be the voice I hear in my head when I think about Peter Grant.

Overall False Value is an excellent Peter Grant novel, and - despite being quite a departure from the rest of the series - it felt like it harked back to the earlier novels before they became a little too bogged down in the resolution of the Faceless Man story arc. I would recommend False Value to anyone who enjoyed the earlier books in the series, but would suggest that fans of urban fantasy who have yet to try Rivers of London go back to the beginning, as it is not really a standalone tale.

1 person found this helpful

Another fascinating tale from the Revolution

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

Reviewed: 24-02-20

I have enjoyed previous audiobooks in Hedbor's series and was keen to learn a little more about the period. In this tale from the Revolution, we glimpse the impact of the fighting on the Native American peoples. As with the rest of the series, I was glad that Hedbor did not make this a novel in which things are black and white, with a 'right' side and a 'wrong' one, and most specifically that he did not pit the indigenous population as a whole against the Rebels. Allowing for a more nuanced story, in which the local tribes become embroiled in the affairs of both sides, is important in ensuring that their tale does not generalise or dismiss any of the characters as part of a broad, homogenised group. Neither the soldiers nor the tribesmen are one-dimensional, with each capable of as much harm as joy as they fight to secure the future of their kin. Ultimately, The Smoke challenges the ways those men classify 'kin' and proves that even those from very different worlds can become brothers in arms.

The narrator, Shamaan Casey, did another great job with this audiobook. I love the depth and resonance to his voice, which gives the stories a gravitas that helps the historical setting feel as though it is telling the true stories of the characters we meet in Hedbor's novels. His performance always holds my attention and is quite relaxing to listen to, even when he is describing some of the Revolution's hardest times.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories from the Revolutionary era, or those - like me - who are looking for a gentle introduction to the times that covers the many facets of the war and its impact, without specific bias.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

A charming, traditional, Regency cosy mystery

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

Reviewed: 19-02-20

Never Borrow a Baronet is another charming audiobook in what is shaping up to be a highly diverting series.

I was delighted to return to Regina Scott's Fortune's Brides series with Patience's story, as she was an interesting minor character in the previous novel, Never Doubt a Duke, and deserved a tale of her own. When we meet her again she is in the process of escaping her irascible employer, Lady Carrolton, and assuming a new position as the laboratory assistant to an eccentric but warm-hearted maiden aunt.

This audiobook was charming throughout, and very easy to listen to. This series' style contains very little of the formality that is found in classic Regencies, but that gives it an ease and air of friendliness that makes it a relaxing and undemanding listen.

This second book involves more intrigue and mystery than its predecessor, taking the familiar house party setting and pitting the guests against an unknown villain who seems intent on harming the inhabitants. Scott does very well to introduce so many characters without it feeling slow or crowded.

There is a little too much repetition at times, but the chapters are structured exceedingly well, with a good hook at the end of each, compelling the listener to play 'just one more chapter' again and again.

Never Borrow a Baronet was also another great performance from the narrator, Jannie Meisberger. Her voice always reminds me a little of Anna Massey reading children's stories, and of Angela Thorne's style in The Secret of Platform 13 .

There's something wonderfully nostalgic about Meisberger's performance in more general terms, too; harking back to the classics I grew up loving. Though her performance is lively enough that it does not feel old-fashioned, it is still traditional and comforting for its familiarity.

I can recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoyed the previous book in the series, and all those who are looking for a Regency that is not sweet but not saccharine.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

Fun contemporary romance with an adventurous hero

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

Reviewed: 17-02-20

Whilst the writing isn't the sharpest, and it would have benefited from a male narrator for alternating chapters, this is still a fun, lightweight story about rediscovering first love with just enough peril and adventure to keep it moving along.

The narrator, Victoria Mei, does her best to bring it to life but doesn't have the depth required to do the male chapters justice. I liked her voice for Dani, though, and think she'd have been great as part of a duet version of this story. (Though I'm not sure I can forgive her for missing a Buffy reference and pronouncing Rupert Giles' name with a hard 'g'. Someone send the woman a box-set!)

Heat: Mild to Moderate. (Some sexy scenes but not toooo graphic.)
Tropes: First Love, Second Chance at Love, Forbidden Love.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

A sweet YA fantasy adventure

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

Reviewed: 10-02-20

Mermaid's Destiny is a sweet, clean, little fantasy adventure, but despite being categorised as Epic Fantasy here, it felt much more like a Children's book. Until a gently passionate clinch in Chapter 25, I would have said it was solidly middle-grade, but the romance may bump it up to young YA. (Though it is not a 'kissing book', to paraphrase The Princess Bride, I think that it would have been in the 11-13 Years shelf of my local library.)

I found the story rather slow to get going, with dragon and mermaid taking forever to figure out where they were, how to escape, and whether or not to work together. Once they did, the action picked up, and they had to combine their strengths and overcome their people's indoctrinated prejudices to save Cirona's soul, and Argun's heart.

The language is very simple, there is no swearing, the lines between good and evil are distinct and unyielding, and the soulmates' faith in each other turns to a true love that conquers all. There are moral messages throughout, teaching the benefits of teamwork and friendship, embracing the differences between communities, and the perils of avarice and the pursuit of power.

Whilst there is some resolution, it's unfortunate that the story ended on quite such a cliffhanger, especially as the author appears to enjoy creating new series' more than she likes finishing them.

The narrator, Beverley Murray, had a nice, clear voice and read in a bright, lively, manner. Her performance reminded me of being read fairytales at bedtime as a child.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fantasy adventure they can listen to on road trips with older children, or those looking for a book to suit kids who are at that 'in between' age; too old for middle-grade books but not quite ready for the adult themes in YA.

*I received this audiobook free of charge from Audiobook Obsession in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

The cosiest of mysteries with a favourite duo

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

Reviewed: 09-02-20

Death Around the Bend is another garrulous adventure for Emily and Flo, as they bimble about countryside society sticking their noses everywhere they don't belong.

I can always rely on the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries to cheer me up, for nothing ever seems to fluster the amiable Emily Hardcastle and her loyal ladies maid. Having grown up in the circus, Lady Hardcastle's companion is useful for more than just repairing her gowns and arranging luncheon, which is especially beneficial given the pair's penchant for finding trouble. This time around we're treated to a traditional House Party murder-mystery, and not all the guests will make it through their country sojourn.

Packed with all the charm and humour of the previous books in the series, it didn't take me long to settle back into Kinsey's world and view the characters as old friends. The murders had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing for a while, and the conclusion - whilst not surprising - was satisfying.

The narrator, Elizabeth Knowelden, once again gave a lively and articulate performance. She handled the voices for all the characters very well especially given that there were several upper-class ladies and gentlemen of the same ages and backgrounds to try and make distinct, and neither muddled their voices in her reading nor left me confused over which who meant to be speaking.

I'd recommend this audiobook to everyone who thinks they would enjoy lighthearted cozy mysteries with a pinch of P. G. Wodehouse, and anyone who enjoys stories with humour, heart, and plenty of amateur sleuthing.

1 person found this helpful

Not all the fallen are angels...

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

Reviewed: 09-02-20

Ethan Drake is an ex super-soldier security enforcer turned cop, who finds himself still battling the same demons, and frequently outside of the law. Making use of all the bodily upgrades he received in his previous occupation, it takes more than just his cutting-edge biotech to keep the city safe.

It seems there's a fair bit of (one of my favourite Legends), Constantine, in the inspiration for Drake. Ethan lacks John's roguish charm, however, and in many ways is less anarchic than D.C's introspective antihero.

This book is quite graphic in places. If you like to listen to audiobooks in your lunch break this is not the book for you. There are also repeated references to child loss.

I enjoyed Martin's storytelling, and it takes some skill to help the reader (or listener) care about a character who isn't sure whether or not he really cares about himself - or anything else - anymore. The writing is a bit clunky in places with lots of repetition in certain scenes and more than a few clichés, but it doesn't detract from the story.

The Hellicorn provided some much-needed levity, albeit of a very dark kind, and I hope he features in the rest of the series.

Disappointingly, none of the female characters were anywhere near as well-developed as the men, and many conformed to distinct negative stereotypes but, admittedly, the men in this book aren't healthy role models either. None of the characters are really likeable; nor are they meant to be.

This was my first audiobook narrated by Brian Wiggins, but I enjoyed his performance and felt that he had a good pace and tone to his voice. The slightly flattened, hollow tinge to the voice he gives Drake anchors the performance in grief and speaks of a man whose torment has exhausted his spirit. I was less keen oin the echoey telepathy sound-effects.

I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking for a new fantasy crime series and is happy with a hero who not only gets his hands dirty but accrues a few nasty stains on his soul as well.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.