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Kate

Audiobook Blogger. Linktr.ee/MLHearingThings. Follow @MLHearingThings on Twitter, FB, Instagram, & Goodreads.
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  • 205
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  • Good with His Hands: A Steamy Short Story

  • By: Lucy Felthouse
  • Narrated by: Fleur Balavage
  • Length: 1 hr and 6 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

Layla is enjoying a beautiful moorland walk in the English countryside when suddenly, clouds start to roll in. The weather was forecast to be fine all day, so Layla is woefully unprepared when the heavens open and her visibility is reduced to next to nothing. Trying hard not to panic, she carefully makes her way towards a remote hut she spotted before the fog descended. When she arrives, though, she discovers park ranger Stuart already there, and luckily for her, he’s much more prepared than she is, and they soon find a way to pass the time until the storm blows over. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Short, sweet, and sexy

  • By Kate on 22-03-19

Short, sweet, and sexy

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

Reviewed: 22-03-19

Good with His Hands by Lucy Felthouse is an erotic short story about a rambler whose country walk throws her into the path of a rugged park ranger.

Lucy Felthouse's saucy short stories are often delightfully British in essence, and her female characters feel much more genuine than the many similar tales of perfectly sculpted and spray-tanned women which tend to dominate the genre. It was refreshing to have the protagonists use protection, considering they were strangers hours before they began warming each other up in the isolated shepherd's hut. So many stories dispense with realism in favour of indulging airbrushed fantasies, but Felthouse's erotic stories always feel as though they are written about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations.

I felt that the story could have done with tightening up a little, as some of the descriptions felt rather like filler. (For example, listing the contents of her lunchbox item by item the moment she removed the lid instead of either cutting it or integrating the progression of her meal into the story.)

The narrator, Fleur Balavage, has a nice voice but seems slightly disengaged at points. She appears to struggle with some of the longer sentences and runs words together a little, either not enunciatiating clearly enough or doing so with a marked deliberation, almost like someone trying to conceal a regional accent.

I think, perhaps, that the narrator may not have a great deal of experience, or lacks familiarity with the genre and was thrown by the prospect of reading an erotic story. She did settle into her performance, but it was not the most natural reading at the start. I think Balavage has the potential to be quite good if she is given the opportunity to develop her skills and her confidence.

Speeding the playback up the tiniest bit to 1.10x improved the pace of the narration and helped it feel much less plodding at the points which had begun to do so. Once set to that speed her performance was enjoyable despite the initial awkwardness, and I would listen to her narrating books in the future.

In a surprising contrast to the previous story I listened to by Lucy Lofthouse, On Her High Horse, the first fifteen minutes of this hour-long audiobook are spent following Layla on her walk, and nothing raunchy happens for the first three-quarters of the story. I would therefore recommend it to people who prefer romantic stories more than to someone who hopes for steamy scenes throughout. It could be a good introduction to erotic fiction for anyone looking to dip into the genre for the first time, as there's an intimacy to listening to
sex-scenes which differs greatly to reading them, and this audiobook builds up to it gently.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • The Devil You Know

  • By: Sophia Holloway
  • Narrated by: Matt Addis
  • Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6

The Honourable Catherine Elford - Kitty - is presented with an awful choice. Either she is cast off, penniless, by her stepbrother, or she marries the handsome Earl of Ledbury, who would be perfect were he not a serial womaniser. Ledbury has only ever courted other men’s wives and does not want a wife of his own. However, Kitty’s generous dowry, which will keep him from selling his beloved racehorses, proves too tempting. 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Thoroughly enjoyable and marvellously narrated

  • By Kate on 12-03-19

Thoroughly enjoyable and marvellously narrated

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

Reviewed: 12-03-19

The Devil You Know is a traditional Regency romance by Sophia Holloway. A confirmed Rake, neither the Earl of Ledbury nor his reluctant new bride are expecting that their marriage of convenience will lead to romance. And yet, through their tentative friendship comes a burgeoning fondness to which both Lord and Lady Ledbury must learn to respond. The Devil You Know follows the newlyweds as they explore married life, their own feelings, and each other.


From the moment I first listened to the sample I was excited to begin this audiobook. The narrator, Matt Addis, brings it to life with such liveliness and vibrancy that I settled into it immediately. The voices for each of the characters felt just right, and he handled the rapid switching between characters with aplomb. His narration was well-paced, emotive, and a joy to listen to. I will definitely seek out more of his work, for his company has been a pleasure, and I could easily have listened to him for twice as long. His voice welcomes the listener into the story, and helps to imbue the characters with personality from the very first page.


It is easy for a traditional Regency to feel staid due to the constraints of the formal language and cultural practices. So much so, in fact, that in contemporary Regencies it has become commonplace to use sexually-explicit storylines as an excuse to cast off the expectations of the era and break down the barriers between the central couple, but this book does not fall into that trap. The characters feel authentically of their time, but the energetic narration makes it a little more accessible. Many traditional Regencies are marketed as ‘sweet’ romances, but despite the lack of bodice-ripping The Devil You Know is far from saccharine. The Earl in particular is a man so unapologetically flawed as to almost be unlikeable, in that infamous Darcy-ish fashion common to rich men in a time when they were indulged a great deal and held accountable for very little. Yet there is a depth to the characters, and a vulnerability to his in particular, that makes him endearing. The talents of the author and of the narrator combine on this score, and I am delighted that I listened to the audiobook version, for the performance was impeccable throughout. It very much felt as though I was listening to the best possible version of the story, brought to life by the joint creative process of author and narrator to breathe life into the characters. I seldom warm to a narrator or new author’s world as swiftly or completely as I found myself settling in to this one, and am very glad to have been introduced to it in time to anticipate the release of the author’s next.


Having once drafted a Regency of my own – abandoned for an inescapable sense of being far too generic – I am always overjoyed to find one which simultaneously manages to feel like an old friend and a fresh discovery, which The Devil You Know achieves. It is undoubtedly a little formulaic, as novels in this genre almost always are, but for many that is part of their appeal. There is a comforting familiarity to each of the most common romantic tropes, and the enjoyment comes from meeting characters whose journey you wish to follow to its expected conclusion. The Devil You Know balances the progression of the relationship between George and Kitty with the required roadblocks and frustrations well, compelling the listener to remain with the story as their happy ending hovers ever so tantalisingly out of reach.


It is this very blend of vitality and formality which made the book so entertaining, and I think that it is simply a Regency which is very much of its time. Just as Heyer’s work differed in tone to Austen’s, so does Holloway’s differ from Heyer’s – but not to its detriment. The author’s familiarity with, and fondness for, the work of the women whose writing paved the way for her own is evident in her novel, and I am happy to have it in my Audible library alongside its notable predecessors. I enjoyed it from start to finish, cancelling the sleep timer more times than I care to admit in order to listen to a little bit more. (As the sound began to fade there was no way I could bring myself to switch off at the end of Chapter 21, as a key character settled into a chair with a gun in his hand; even if it was two in the morning.)


I felt that the book could have done with being an hour longer, to have better explored the tangle which ultimately led to the couple’s reunion, for it did feel a little rushed. I do not begrudge the time that was spent on other things, but did feel that the last hour or so packed rather a lot of important revelations – and realisations – into very little time. I would have liked to see Lord Knowle used a little more subtly in the beginning, for he was a little too obviously up to something nefarious, and it all came together rather abruptly. It did not spoil the story, however, and the other supporting characters were all much more favourably conceived.


It has been a while since I listened to an audiobook that I was either so excited to recommend, or so able to vividly picture the people whom I was most certain would also enjoy it. Anyone who likes Georgette Heyer and is content to listen to a romance which leaves its most sensual scenes in the reader’s imagination is likely to deal very well with the Ledburys. The Devil You Know was a thoroughly gratifying tale of love, friendship, and redemption, with which I was sorry to part at the end and which I know I will return to again.


*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • The Lovers

  • Echoes from the Past, Book 1
  • By: Irina Shapiro
  • Narrated by: Wendy Wolfson
  • Length: 14 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17

When Elise de Lesseps is sold in marriage to Lord Edward Asher, she resolves to be an obedient and dutiful wife, until, on their wedding night, she finds out exactly what her husband has in store for her. His request leaves her feeling shocked and humiliated, but being his chattel, she has no right to refuse. The consequences of that night seal Elise's fate and set her on a path that will lead to heartbreak and tragedy.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A tale of love, loss, plague, and vengeance...

  • By Kate on 01-03-19

A tale of love, loss, plague, and vengeance...

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

Reviewed: 01-03-19

The Lovers is the first book in Irina Shapiro's 'Echoes from the Past' series, which follows respected archaeologist Dr Quinn Allenby as she uncovers the secrets of times gone by. Quinn is uniquely qualified to give voice to the long forgotten, as alongside her academic knowledge and practical skill in the field of forensic anthropology, Quinn has another gift; she can glimpse history through the eyes of people who witnessed it firsthand, by connecting with objects they held dear in their lifetime. This proves to be a blessing and a curse for an archaeologist, and few people know of Quinn's abilities for fear that she will no longer be taken seriously by her colleagues if word gets out.

In this book, Quinn's personal life mirrors the fate of the titular lovers - James and Elise - who must navigate love, loss, vengeance, and plague in mid-17th-century England. It is clear that there will be no 'happy ever after' for this pair, as their story begins at its end. We first meet James and Elise as they take their last breaths, dying together and buried in an unmarked grave which will not be discovered for almost four-hundred years. Their fate is so compelling in those initial moments, and their interactions so tender, that it is impossible not to be drawn in to their story. Their parting gave me chills and immediately connected me to these doomed lovers, desirous to know how they met such a tragic end.

I was not disappointed, with the plot exploring their past in a way that often echoed Quinn's present. This was accentuated by the fact that the narrator, Wendy Wolfsen, used the same voice for Quinn and Elise, and for James and Gabe. Whilst this had the potential to be confusing, I did not find the book hard to follow, and found both the historic and contemporary couples equally compelling.

As it is the first book in the series there are aspects of Quinn's story which remain unresolved, but they are not such a cliffhanger as to be frustrating. I am looking forward to the other books in the series, as I very much enjoyed the premise and the recurring characters. I did feel like a few aspects of Quinn's life were a little rushed, and would have liked the intimacy between Quinn and Grant to have been explored in a little more detail as it blossomed, but as so often with a book of two halves it can be difficult to balance the needs of two distinct plot lines and sets of characters. James' relationship with Elise definitely took centre-stage in this book, perhaps occasionally to the detriment of Quinn's, but only a little.

Wolfsen's narration made the book a pleasure to listen to. Her voice is warm and inviting, and perfect for this story. I enjoyed her portrayal of almost all the characters, though I did find the voice she gave to Elise and Quinn to be rather insipid, which was a shame but did not entirely prevent me from connecting with the women.

There is some anachronistic language in the book, such as the use of 'making love' in a time when that would have meant little more than being particularly nice to someone, but the style is consistent throughout and thus it does not feel too overtly out of place. The vocabulary is suitably British for the most-part, which is a triumph for an author who I believe grew up in America, as there are lots of words and phrases which often trip people up. The language felt natural and not gimmicky, which was very pleasing.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes historical romance, and anyone who enjoys fantasy books with a bit of a twist. If you're looking for a sweet story that ends with the protagonists trotting off together into the sunset then this book isn't for you. But if you like your love stories to take the lead from darker tales of myth, legend, and Shakespearean melodrama, then you're likely to enjoy it as much as I did.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • The Freedman

  • Tales From a Revolution Series, North Carolina, Book 9
  • By: Lars D. H. Hedbor
  • Narrated by: Shamaan Casey
  • Length: 5 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

The Freedman is Hedbor’s standalone novel set in North Carolina from his Tales From a Revolution series, in which he examines the American War of Independence as it unfolded in each of the colonies. If you like enthralling stories of familiar events from unfamiliar viewpoints, you’ll love The Freedman.   

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating, compassionate, and compelling

  • By Kate on 19-02-19

Fascinating, compassionate, and compelling

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

Reviewed: 19-02-19

The Freedman by Lars D H Hedbor is the story of 'Jupiter' Calabar, a former slave who was cast out from the plantation he had worked since childhood. Separated from his wife and infant daughter, Calabar is forced to find his way in the world as a freedman, with only six months grace before he must move on from the colony and make his way out into an America on the brink of revolution.

As a Brit, my knowledge of the American War of Independence is woefully limited. (I've never been able to bring myself to invest in the plight of people who could waste good tea like that...) So it is fair to say that this audiobook isn't my usual listening. I was drawn in by the fact that this story details the Revolution through the eyes of a former slave, a freedman, rather than a soldier or rebel. The impact of such a turbulent time in history on someone whose position in society was already so vulnerable intrigued me, but I prepared myself for it to be unflinchingly bleak. It was perhaps because of this preconception that I found the small moments of compassion so touching. Cooper's assistance in helping Calabar integrate into society as a freedman was touching given the rarity it would have been at the time. And when the milliner, Albright, gives Calabar his first hat - something that helps mark him out as a freedman rather than a runaway - that simple kindness is a braver, bolder gesture than any of the political posturing occurring in the background. The humanity these men demonstrate at a time of such burgeoning destruction was a light in the dark.

Calabar's lesson in politics and culture from Mr Albright helped me understand the wider context of the events, and the ways in which the motivations of the different sections of society at the time intersected. Because Calabar's ignorance so neatly mirrored my own, his education was just as enlightening for me.

I found this book much easier to listen to and far more engrossing than I had expected. I enjoy learning about historical events in both fiction and non-fiction, so I'd felt sure it would be interesting but was not prepared for the required concentration to feel so effortless. This is always a sign of a well paced, well plotted story, and a talented narrator.

Shamaan Casey has a rich, deep, voice with a fullness and complexity that suited this audiobook very well. Casey is pleasant to listen to and was able to retain my attention with his vivid portrayal of a cast of characters whose experience is so far removed from my own.

I'd recommend this audiobook to anyone with an interest in the American Revolution, and to those like myself who wished to learn more about the war and the history of slaves and freedmen in that period. Theirs are the voices we still do not hear with enough clarity, even today. I was very glad to have an opportunity to reflect upon their stories vicariously through Calabar's experience, which was especially relevant given that it is currently Black History Month in America.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • On Her High Horse

  • A Steamy Medical Romance Novella
  • By: Lucy Felthouse
  • Narrated by: Julie-Ann Amos
  • Length: 1 hr and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

When veterinarian Brett Coulson and stable owner Samantha Hanson-Bishop meet, it’s hate at first sight. He thinks she’s a snobby, stuck-up bitch who wouldn’t know nice if it bit her on the backside. She thinks he’s a blundering, inexperienced little boy. When fate throws them into the same room together at a charity fundraiser, the resentment between them quickly resurfaces. But mixed in with that resentment is something they both tried to deny...attraction. Will the chemistry between them cancel out the animosity, or were their first impressions just too powerful to change?

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A saucy tale of power and seduction

  • By Kate on 18-02-19

A saucy tale of power and seduction

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

Reviewed: 18-02-19

On Her High Horse by Lucy Felthouse is an erotic short story which centres around handsome veterinarian Brett Coulson and haughty stable-owner Samantha Hanson-Bishop. The young vet has been warned about the practice's most demanding client, but nothing quite prepares him for their first meeting. It's fair to say that sparks fly between Brett and Samantha, but initially they are more of the kind we were warned about in 90s Public Safety Announcements about playing with a kite near a pylon. Thrown together again at a fundraiser they are both shocked to feel that initial frisson of electricity turning into something a little less deadly, but just as tingly all over...

The narrative style and writing were both as 'down to Earth' as Brett himself professed to be, and there was a distinct Britishness to it all that was quite refreshing.

Julie-Ann Amos' narration was engaging, with good intonation and inflection preventing her performance from being flat. Each of her characters had distinct voices, though my initial impression was that her tone was a bit headmistress-ish, but as I learned more about Samantha this actually came to feel like a good fit. The fact that Amos sounds not dissimilar to Liza Tarbuck was a little disconcerting at times - such as when she was very matter-of-factly describing Brett addressing his frustrations in a layby - but it helped the story lose the melodramatic pretension that is so common in stories of this nature, and lent it some humourousness (if sometimes unintentionally).

Whilst we are always encouraged not to judge a book by its cover, that is especially important in this case, as the cover does not represent the contents very well at all. Samantha describes herself as old enough to be Brett's mother, and a sexless, possibly pre-menopausal, divorcee who has not been attracted to any man in a very long time. I think that makes Samantha a much more interesting protagonist than the cookie-cutter Babestation-blonde on the cover, and one who would appeal to a broader range of women who might be searching for a steamy fantasy romp that also feels tantalisingly resonant.

The writing could do with a bit of polish but I doubt anyone is listening to this book for its literary merit. I also felt that the intimate scenes could have explored Brett's experience in more detail, but if you want a steamy short story that doesn't take itself too seriously then this one certainly fits the bill.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • Dreadful Company

  • By: Vivian Shaw
  • Narrated by: Suzannah Hampton
  • Length: 11 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 63
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 59
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 59

When Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, is called to Paris to present at a medical conference, she expects nothing more exciting than professional discourse on zombie reconstructive surgery. Unfortunately for Greta, Paris happens to be infested with a coven of vampires - and not the civilised kind. If she hopes to survive, Greta must navigate the maze of ancient catacombs beneath the streets, where there is more to find than simply dead men's bones.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Charming fantasy

  • By EastClareMum on 03-09-18

Another charming adventure for Dr Helsing and co.

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

Reviewed: 17-02-19

Dreadful Company is the delightful sequel to Strange Practice, the first book in the Greta Helsing series by Vivian Shaw. Greta is a fairly ordinary doctor, but her patients are far more unusual. Treating London's most magical and monstrous creatures is an everyday affair for Greta, but this book sees her head to Paris, where she discovers that trouble will indeed find her anywhere. Accompanied by old friends and new foes, Dreadful Company is a superb addition to a series that I hope will have a long run ahead of it. Battling the Parisian darkness alongside Dr Helsing are the trio of her trustiest companions from the previous book; the dapper, fabulous, vampire Lord Ruthven, introverted vampyre-with-a-y Sir Francis Varney, and loyal, dependable demon Fastitocalon - fresh from a spa break in Hell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though as it had been a year since I listened to the previous one I do wish I had gone back to refresh my memory. Although the evebta of this book are mainly stand-alone, I wouldn't recommend anyone start with this book without first listening to Strange Practice, as a great deal of the character development and grounding of the relationships occurs in the introduction to the series.

There were several moments in the book that made me laugh, but a memorable one was when Greta first encounters the little monsters someone is releasing around Paris, and Ruthven exclaims, "If this keeps up you're going to be the most absurd Disney princess, ever."

I also chuckled at the plight of a very young, very new vampire who smothered herself in body glitter because she believed that vampires were supposed to sparkle and thought she just wasn't any good at it. Not an overt jab at the sparkly vampires of another popular fantasy series, but one which very much hit its mark.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the benevolence with which it treats the outcasts, and even the villains. Even ugliest creatures - inside and out - can find some redemption if they seek it. This is particularly charming in Varney. Vampires (and vampyres) are so often painted as arrogant seducers, and even Ruthfen has the more stereotypical charm and elegance normally associated with 'sanguivores'. Varney is different, and the awkwardness and doubt he experiences as he tries to make sense of his growing feelings for Greta have a charming tenderness and humanity to them.

Suzannah Hampton's voice is pleasant and easy to listen to, but she's sometimes a little hesitant in her delivery, pausing inappropriately in a sentence which takes a while to get used to. I do enjoy the formal language with which this series is written, as it lends the book an almost timeless quality which suits the eternals and immortals who populate its world. The series has a strong voice, and despite being set in contemporary time, could almost be set in the Victorian era just as easily as our own.

If you like action-packed fantasy then this may not be the book for you, as it is much more a book about this disparate group of characters than it is about saving the world, which they just happen to do along the way in between cups of tea and pain-au-chocolat. Overall, the message of this book - as in the last - is about the importance of friendship, of justice, and of redemption.

  • Wyrd Sisters

  • By: Terry Pratchett
  • Narrated by: Celia Imrie
  • Length: 14 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,247
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 988
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 986

In Wyrd Sisters, the enchanting world of Discworld is turned upside down by 3 meddling witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick. Their interference in royal politics causes kingdoms to wobble, crowns to topple, knives to flash, and citizens to shudder in fear.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Hard work

  • By Linda on 05-05-09

Wyrd and wonderful...

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

Reviewed: 13-02-19

Wyrd Sisters is the 6th book in Pratchett's extraordinary Discworldseries, and the 2nd book of the Witches strand within it. The Witches' stories are one of my favourite Discworld subseries, and there's no dour mood that cannot be improved by the misadventures of Nanny Ogg, and a bit of Granny Weatherwax's headology!

Superbly narrated in its unabridged format by Celia Imrie, Wyrd Sisters brings back the inimitable Granny Weatherwax from the previous Witches book, Equal Rites, and introduces us to the incorrigible Nanny Ogg. The coven is made complete by Magrat Garlick, a young witch who believes in a newer, and often much more jangly way of doing things which is frequently at odds with Granny Weatherwax's no-nonsense approach.

"The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which the gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of the elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’

There was a pause.

Finally another voice said in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well I can do next Tuesday.’ "

With frequent nods to The Scottish Play, Wyrd Sisters contains as much royal intrigue and court politics as any Shakesperian offering, but all wrapped up in Terry Pratchett's unique warmth and humour. As the witches find themselves embroiled in a plot to overthrow a kingdom they realise that there's only one way they can put things right; they will have to meddle, despite it being somewhat against the rules for witches. And 'if you're going to break the rules, you may as well break them good and hard...'

If you're new to the Discworld and looking for somewhere to start then I often recommend the Witches books as a wonderful place to begin. Wyrd Sisters was one of the books that helped me really fall in love with the Discworld, and is one of the ones I return to with the greatest frequency.

  • One Wicked Kiss

  • Bluestockings Defying Rogues, Book Three
  • By: Dawn Brower, Bluestockings Defying Rogues
  • Narrated by: Megan Green
  • Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 4

In 1814, a young man rescues a woman during a snowstorm and experiences love at first sight. But she's running from an arranged marriage to an evil man. Can they overcome the danger, or will their fledgling love unravel before it has a chance to take root?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This was so good! I need the next part!

  • By Tasha Barefield on 22-01-19

A sweet teaser for a romantic series

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

Reviewed: 13-02-19

One Wicked Kiss by Dawn Brower is a Regency romance which declares itself from the very first moments to be of my favourite kind, with its series subtitle 'Bluestockings defying Rogues'. There's little I like more from a historical romance than for a woman - whose intellect and personality are a little too robust for polite society - to get the better of a man who thinks he can best her, so I had high hopes for this audiobook.

Miss Natalia Benson, the illegitimate child of Vicount Atherton, is indeed well-educated but seems a little timid compared to most 'bluestocking' heroines, and lacks the feisty wit that defines the type. She is not without courage, however, and Lia begins the tale by running away from an unfavourable marriage to a wicked French count. The group she meets on the road stand to change the course of her destiny; and she theirs.

As it is merely a brief prequel many of the characters and plotlines are left unresolved, but there's a lot of promise in both the primary and secondary relationships. The set-up for the next book certainly establishes both with enough depth to pique one's curiosity regarding their ultimate fates. It is the start of an adventure, but one which I feel ought to be a free 'teaser' for the series (such as Jodi Taylor's Chronicles of St Mary's prequel, The Very First Damned Thing).

Megan Green's narration is earnest and has a sweet, gentle charm, but is hindered a little in places by a slight lisp and awkward rhythm, which eases as she settles into the story and the language begins to feel more natural. Green delivers the various characters' voices admirably, switching easily from one accent to another without hesitation, despite there being quite an array!

It was unfortunate that there was so little subtlety to the protagonists' first meeting. Simply having the Earl think, inexplicably, that "she seemed special" before they had exchanged a word was a rather cheap observation with which to register his interest in the lady. Perhaps because this audiobook is only intended to be a short prequel novella it does not possess the lightness of touch at such a significant moment as would be expected in a novel.

It also borrows a few too many well-known names from Austen - Darcy and Western for example - which at times makes it feel a bit like Regency fanfiction. Whilst both surnames are common, I think one will always encounter a little difficulty in trying to establish a unique hero in any Regency romance when he is a wealthy, well-bred, gentleman by the name of Darcy.

Overall I felt that this story was a little too much of a whirlwind, and rather lacking in the level of detail necessary to make the romance feel sincere. There was little of the formality which was of such great import to the era, and the author told us that the protagonists fell instantly in love without really spending the time on making either appear worthy of the other's affection. It meant that the 'love at first sight' sentiment around which the story centered was not especially convincing. Anachronistic language (such as use of the word "wanker" as a pejorative) as well as uncustomarily-informal behaviour meant that it never really felt embedded into Regency culture.

I wish this hadn't been my first experience of a book by Dawn Brower, whose other work appears to be well regarded within the genre. I like the look of many of her other books, and think that this one suffers more from the restricted length than anything else, and would have been better if more time had been devoted to building the sense of peril that would have made Lia's abandonment of Lucas feel more necessary.

I'd like to listen to other books by this author before passing judgement on her work, as I do not think that this piece is probably very representative of such an established writer's usual novels. I really wanted to like it but it was rather disappointing.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • Living Lagom

  • A Swedish Guide to a Balanced Life
  • By: Maya Thoresen
  • Narrated by: Sarah DaMetz
  • Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

Lagom is used to describe the perfect state when something is neither too much, nor too little. The Swedish apply lagom to most aspects of their life without thinking about it. This book will show you how lagom can be incorporated into your personal life, family, relationships, work, home, health, and well-being. Living lagom is to live a moderate life where balance is the key to success in all areas.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • A thorough introduction to a more balanced life

  • By Kate on 05-02-19

A thorough introduction to a more balanced life

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

Reviewed: 05-02-19

Living Lagom is a comprehensive introductory guide to the Swedish principle of Lagom - the notion of having "just enough" to achieve a balanced, peaceful, fulfilling life.

I enjoyed learning about the idea of 'living Lagom' as it was a philosophy with which I was previously unfamiliar. It was interesting to hear how it relates to - and differs from - other practices such as Zen and the currently-popular Danish pursuit of Hygge. "Hygge is an activity or state of being, and Lagom is a view on life and a way of living." Both derive from a desire for balance, moderation, and satisfaction.

I found this audiobook to be a well-rounded approach to imbuing one's life with a greater sense of balance. As well as an introduction to the history, etymology, and cultural implementation of Lagom, the book also covers Zen principles, decluttering, mindfulness, yoga, the benefits of being in nature, the importance of alone-time, gardening, and diet as ways to improve health and find contentment and peace of mind.

The audiobook also contains several healthy, filling, recipes for things such as granola, oatmeal porridge, pasta carbonara, and lots of ideas for healthy snacks. The purpose of tgese being to help the listener understand that Lagom is a perspective that can be carried into every area of one's life, as that sense of balance and satisfaction is as important in our physical health as it is in our mental wellbeing or our home environment.

Unfortunately this book suffers from quite a few linguistic problems. The worst of these being that it confuses 'content' with "contempt" which is awkward when the theme of the book is satisfaction/contentment and we are instead told that the Swedish are very contemptuous! I'm surprised that the narrator didn't raise this issue with the author so that it could be corrected in the audiobook recording, as she trips over the word each time and it is quite a significant error given how antithetical contempt is to contentment.

The English is generally a little awkward at times, with lots of tense changes and clumsy phrases and I think this contributes to the narrator's occasional hesitancy. The narrator, Sarah DaMetz, has a pleasant voice but a stilted delivery and can often be heard taking a deep breath when reading, which is more commonly found in narrators with far fewer recordings to their name. I have listened to an audiobook DaMetz narrated before and do not recall the issues being quite as pronounced.

I love the cover art for this audiobook, and how nicely it ties in to other books in the series.

I think this is a useful audiobook for anyone who is looking for an introduction to the principle of Lagom, with practical tips on how to incorporate the perspective into their own lives. The 21 challenges at the end of the book are a particularly helpful guide for those who want to make their lives more Lagom.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

  • Growth: Lessons in Gardening in Tough Environments from the Eastern Cape, South Africa

  • By: Chirag Patel
  • Narrated by: Chirag Patel
  • Length: 2 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars 1

Collected herein are a series of gardening columns (written for the local newspaper), tips on companion planting and permaculture, and short stories of our in-school gardening projects that’ll give you a rounded idea of how to operate your garden as a space for growing, whether that’s veggies and wildlife or confidence and education. 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • An informative how-to guide to gardening

  • By Kate on 03-02-19

An informative how-to guide to gardening

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

Reviewed: 03-02-19

Growth is an audiobook which extolls the virtues of gardening to both individuals and organisations. Through a series of tips, tricks, and anecdotal reports, Chirag Patel leads the listener on a mindful, philosophical, and cultural tour of the practical benefits that can only be found by engaging with nature. Using his experience working with school groups, the author encourages us all to consider the ways we can promote growth; within ourselves, our communities, and our gardens.

One of my favourite lessons from this audiobook comes from the first chapter. When discussing ways to brighten an outdoor space with painted murals, Patel says, "Most importantly, remember: it's not forever. If it's a horrendous mess, you can always paint over it. Even if it is a mess, it's your mess, that you made to brighten everyone's day. People will respond to that."

Modern living is so driven by perfection, with everyone seeking lives that are 'Instagrammable', and this contributes to the depression and dissatisfaction so many of us feel when our projects or experiences fail to live up to this photoshopped and filtered standard. Gardening is, in many ways, the perfect antidote. It's messy and unpredictable, things grow out of control in unexpected directions, die off despite loving care, or stubbornly refuse to bloom until the week you happen to be away on holiday and can't see them. Plants force us to delight in small victories, resplendent in their imperfections, and to enjoy the process as much as the end result. No garden is ever 'finished', as each season or meteorological phenomenon brings with it a raft of horticultural duties. The passing of time becomes more mindful when you are connected to nature, and gardening - be it in an allotment or a window box - is one of the most accessible ways for people to plug back in to the natural world.

There are lots of great suggestions for improving soil condition, planting schedules, organic living, health, and sustainability. A few of the planting tips from the author's former newspaper column are location-specific (to the Eastern Cape), but can be adapted with a little common sense regarding the seasonal variations in your area. (Although the suggestion to "help clean up the streets by collecting donkey manure" may not have an easy 'swap' in most towns or cities in the UK!)

Narrated by the author, Chirag Patel, his enthusiasm for rewilding urban spaces and using gardening to aid in wellbeing was evident, and his passion was infectious. The positivity with which he approaches the subject felt full of the hopefulness and potential that I always feel from a park or garden.

I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who wants to begin growing things or creating a garden, but is struggling to find the motivation to get started. It would also be useful for anyone who hopes to integrate gardening into school or community groups. The author's expertise and enthusiasm provide a simple, accessible, guide to using gardening to improve your well-being, so there's something here for anyone with an interest in the topic.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.