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review 2018-07-19 04:03
The Lawrence Browne Affair (The Turner Series #2) (Audiobook)
The Lawrence Browne Affair - Cat Sebastian

Story: 4

Narration: 5

Overall: 4.5

 

This was even better than the first. I loved Lawrence, and Georgie is surprisingly more likable than I found him in the first book. Not that I found him unlikable. He was just sort of there.

 

So what happens when a career conman has to hide away from his old gang and is sent off to a remote country estate that's depilated from years of neglect and is home of an eccentric, mad earl? Well, you get Belle poking around the Beast's castle, of course. ;) I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if the candlesticks started talking to Georgie in that scene. :D

 

This is the farthest thing from Beauty & the Beast though. Radner suffers what we today would call social anxiety, something I'm very familiar with. Georgie had an unprecedented whim to let a mark off the hook and actually do something nice for a change, and now much find a way to make amends with the grifter boss or face the consequences. He initially considers Radner an easy mark, but of course that all changes.

 

There's even a bit of a mystery involved with Radner's staff, and why exactly rumors of Radner's implausible mad acts are floating over the countryside. Radner himself is recluse and a scientist, obsessed with trying to get his telegraph machine to work and has little care for anything or anyone else. 

 

I really enjoyed seeing how these two brought out the best in each other and accepted each other for what they were. There were no big misunderstandings or drama llamas here. The story unfolded authentically and while the MCs may learn to let go some of their own self-imposed preconceptions about themselves, they're still the same at their core, and this is what drives the story more than anything else. 

 

Gary Furlong agains does a marvelous job with the story. He brings the characters and scenes to life with his voice, and it's just such a pleasant voice to listen to. I even slowed down the playback speed a little so I could listen to him longer. :D

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review 2018-07-12 04:06
The Soldier's Scoundrel (The Turner Series #1) (Audiobook)
The Soldier's Scoundrel - Cat Sebastian

Story: 3.5 stars

Narration: 5 stars

Overall rating: 4.25 stars, rounded down

 

That cover looks like it belongs in a gay Halloween magazine, and it's the main reason I avoided this book for so long, despite everyone telling me that the story hiding beneath that hideously cheesy cover is actually good. And now I can join their number and say that the story is actually really quite good. Brilliant even, and if it were for a couple of my pet peeves that appear here, it would have gotten a higher rating.

 

So let's get the pet peeves out of the way first:

 

~Smexy times after an injury. *sigh* I just went through this with the last book. At least it was more realistic here, being "just" a flesh wound. 

~Gay-okay history. Like many an M/M historical romance, they want all the modern conventions like HEAs but don't want to put up with things like taboos. There is some consideration given to the fact that sodomy was a crime in these days, but that sure didn't stop Jack and Oliver from being reckless at times. But more than that, I would expect more of the side characters to have a more negative reaction to their relationship than they do. Look, people have a hard enough time finding that kind of positive reception in today's world, much less the 1800s. Is it too much to ask for more realistic reactions, even if they would be depressing as hell?

~The term "dating" wasn't coined until 1898 in America. Pretty sure a noblewoman of the early 1800s in London wouldn't be using the term. She would say courting. That one little word really threw me out of the book.

 

Those matters aside, I really enjoyed how Sherlockian this was. Nearly 99% of the mysteries out there involve murder from the get-go - even all those Sherlock knockoffs. But there are just way more mysteries to solve out there than that, and this story has a classic case of stolen letters kept by a married lady from her one-time suitor. 

Why would she have her own letters though? If she mentioned why or how she got them back from her former suitor at some point in the story, I missed it.

(spoiler show)

 

Jack Turner is a rogue, street tough and no-nonsense. He helps women who have no one else to help them (so long as they can afford to pay), and he'll do so by any means necessary, though he does have his limits. He has no time for stuffy aristocrats. Oliver Riverton is the youngest son of an earl just returned from war and desperate for the ordered life of society after the chaos and destruction he witnessed during the war. When he finds out his sister had paid Jack for a job, he's determined to make sure his sister hadn't been taken in by a charlatan. Instead, he gets entangled in Jack's world, in more ways than one.

 

Jack and Oliver are perfectly matched and I enjoyed watching them circle each other as they got to know one another. Lust was pretty immediate, but they don't fall into each other's arms right away. Trust needs to be built, and they need to start seeing each other as people instead of just assumptions based on class, or lack thereof. Jack's determination to keep the upper hand and constantly failing to do so was amusing, and Oliver is just naive enough to be charming but savvy enough to not be annoying, which is not an easy combination to achieve. They've grown up in different worlds that have different laws that govern them, and they actually learn from each other how to see the world in different ways.

 

Gary Furlong, who does the narration, did a fabulous job. He managed to convey the POV switches with ease and kept the MCs voices distinct from each other. I could visualize the story just as easily listening to him as I could have if I'd read it myself. He even managed to make some of the sex scenes fun - though I still thought there were a few too many of those. 

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review 2018-06-30 21:40
Brief Cases (The Dresden Files #15.1) (Audiobook)
Brief Cases (Dresden Files) - Jim Butcher

Another fun compilation of short stories and novellas set in the Dresden universe. I finished my read of the currently available books almost three years ago and have been waiting impatiently for Peace Talks ever since, along with everyone else. So I was happy to see this come out to break the dry spell a bit - and also impress upon me the need to do a relisten at some point in the near future. :D

 

A Fistful of Warlocks - 3 stars

 

I spent the first half of this trying to remember who Luccio was. Whoops. She never made much of an impression as a character, so it took me awhile to place her, especially since I heard19th century and got excited that maybe we were getting a story about Ancient Mai. Alas, no. Still, Wild West, Wyatt Earp and Warlocks - what's not to love?

 

Cassandra Campbell narrates this one.

 

B Is For Bigfoot - 4 stars

 

Harry must deal with bullies targeting Bigfoot's kid. Irwin is pathologically pacifist, and Harry's intent on making him understand that he can still stand up for himself. As ever, Butcher takes what should be a fairly straightforward issue and complicates the hell out of it. Plus, it's about time Sasquatch makes an appearance in this world.

 

AAAA Wizardry - 4 stars

 

Harry's again playing mentor, this time to young wizards. Harry shines when he's taking care of kids and teaching others how to be better. The classroom setting is intertwined with a case that Harry worked where things ... wait for it ... went wrong. I know! That never happens to him, right?

 

I Was a Teenage Bigfoot - 3 stars 

 

Irwin's again in trouble, and Harry's sent to help out. This one is fairly straightforward, on the Dresden scale, and we don't get as much interaction with Irwin this time around. And you will NEVER guess the motive for this one. :D

 

Curses - 5 stars

 

I actually never heard of the Billy Goat curse, and the way Butcher comes up to explain it is classic Dresden, whimsical and offers some of the most hilarious moments in this collection. 

 

Even Hand - 3 stars

 

Oh, Gentleman Johnny Marcone. I don't care for him, but he's hardly the worst villain out there. He reminds me a lot of Xanatos from Gargoyles, actually. Unrepentantly evil, but with his own moral code and rules. The best rule being "no kids." So when Justine come to him asking for help protecting a child, well...what's a cold-blooded mafia-type man supposed to do?

 

Jim Butcher narrates this one. And...well...Hermoine would approve his narrative style. His pronunciation is always very proper and precise - and as a result a little on the stilted side. 

 

Bigfoot on Campus - 4 stars

 

Bigfoot Irwin's all grown up and in college and has a girlfriend whose not what she seems. What could go wrong? Harry's got a condition on this one though: Papa Bigfoot has to meet his son, who is more than a little ticked off for being kept on the sidelines his whole life.

 

Bombshells - 4 stars

 

Molly's trying to fill the shoes of Harry after the event in Changes, and she's finding it to be quite an overwhelming task. I've always liked Molly, so was happy to see her POV and get inside her head. She's made some questionable decisions, and seeing how she navigates the world of wizardry as a result of those decisions and what she's learned since was fascinating. Plus, she gets company of Justine and Andi while she tries to figure out how to save Thomas. (I forgot Andi was dating Butters.)

 

Cold Case - 5 stars

 

Two Molly POVs in a row! And this one hurt. Molly's first assignment as the new Winter Maiden pairs her up with Carlos as they go up against monsters Alaska, and it doesn't go anything like she thought it would. Her new "mom" Mab is as cold and vicious as always, and a stark contrast to Charity. Mab's not here for sentimentality. She's here to fight a war. She does offer Molly the opportunity to find a better way to fight that war though, so hopefully that means Molly will be able to do that someday.

 

Julia Whelan narrates both of Molly's stories, and she does a great job.

 

Jury Duty - 4 stars

 

Harry Dresden has been found - by the government! Dun dun DUUUUNNNN! Jury duty happens. Wackiness ensues. Good fun.

 

Day One - 4 stars

 

BUTTERS! I love Butters - and totally forgot he was a Knight now. Whoops. He's called to his first mission as a Knight of the Cross and he does an excellent job of it. Oliver Wylan does the narration on this one and he captures Butters perfectly. 

 

Zoo Day - 5 stars

 

Harry spends his first full day with his 10-year old daughter Maggie and it's adorable. Of course, this is Dresden Files, so it can't just be a nice family outing. There's a lot going on here, and we get to see not just Harry's POV, but Maggie's and Mouse's too. Yes, you saw that right. Mouse gets his own POV here. Maggie's an amazing little kid, and Mouse's POV was charming as hell - in between all the horror, lol. 

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review 2018-06-23 19:11
The Valley of Amazement
The Valley of Amazement - Amy Tan

I did something while reading this book that I have never done before: I flipped to the last page to see if it had a happy ending. Because good lord does Violet get put through the ringer.

 

This is often a difficult read, so I'll say upfront: if sexual exploitation makes you squeamish, you may want to skip this book. I'm usually one who wouldn't touch this with a ten-foot pole, but while the tone was unflinching, the details when divulged were detached enough to not affect me too much. Everyone has different tolerance levels and triggers, though, so it's something to consider.

 

This is set in the first half of the 1900s in China in the culture of the courtesan houses. It resembles Memoirs of a Geisha in that respect and it doesn't shy away from how young girls were sold and stolen into this life, but beyond the inner workings of the courtesan houses, this is a much different story with a different focus. 

 

As with all of Tan's work, this story is about the relationship between mothers and daughters, but unlike her other stories, this one is told primarily through Violet's POV. We follow her from a young, conceited girl growing up in her mother's courtesan house - not as a courtesan though, just to be clear on that point. She can only see how things effect her, how her mother is distant and aloof, and how she doesn't feel like she's loved enough. After they're separated by a ne'er-do-well and Violet is sold to another house, she must use her fierceness and determination to survive her new life and come to terms with the many twists and turns that her life makes. 

 

It's not all dire. She has a friend in the courtesan house to help her and protect her as much as possible, and she knows how to navigate this world better than most, though she makes many foolish decisions along the way. There are good moments as well, and Violet learns how to appreciate others, the depths of love and sacrifices that we make for each other along the way, all of which helps her to better understand the choices her own mother had made. But every time she takes a step forward, she's knocked twenty steps back. It's a long hard road, but there is a hopeful ending.

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review 2018-02-06 19:39
Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel save fantasy!New York
Calamity Jack - Dean Hale;Shannon Hale

This second entry keeps all the fun, humor, action, and social commentary of the first but shifts the setting east for an urban makeover. It's the late 19th century and giants are pulling the strings of the city in this revolutionary spin on Jack and the Beanstalk. Art continues to be appealing, funny and a little manic.

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