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review 2017-06-26 12:57
#Audiobook Review: Rhythm and Bluegrass by Molly Harper
Rhythm and Bluegrass - Audible Studios,Molly Harper,Amanda Ronconi

The second story in Ms. Harper’s entertaining Bluegrass series follows Bonnie Turkle, a historian with Kentucky’s Commission on Tourism. Although the story is loosely tied to the first book in the series, it is completely standalone, and I think it takes place before the first book, as it mentions her boss’s boss, Ray, who retires in book 1: My Bluegrass Baby.


Bonnie loves history, especially preserving small town Kentucky’s unique stories. So when she discovers how amazing the closed down McBride’s Music Hall truly is, she opts to preserve and protect it, even if it means putting a road block in the way of a new underwear manufacturing plant. Although Bonnie’s had no intention of actually stopping the plant, her actions were proclaimed devious and underhanded by her man-crush and town mayor, Will McBride. The story tells how Bonnie makes it through the troubles and delivers on her promises to her adopted home, Mud Creek.


Overall, I enjoyed Rhythm and Bluegrass more for it’s silly stories and look at preserving history, rather than the romance between Will and Bonnie. I loved following Bonnie as she unravelled the mysteries of and pieced together the stories behind McBride’s. Her passion for her work and the discoveries was contagious. I also enjoyed the developing friendships with her landlady, the local sheriff, and the town’s librarian. They were organic and true, adding depth to the characters and plot line. 


While Will and Bonnie were cute together, I felt that their relationship was a bit weak. They started as flirtatious friends, even enjoying a very passionate kiss that made my belly flutter. However, Will’s desire to protect his town and the people in it lead him to do some pretty awful things to Bonnie and her reputation. Although Bonnie felt some of it was deserved, I didn’t. I felt it crossed a line. Bonnie rather, continued to look up to Will, seeing the good in him. Eventually he did apologize, but honestly, it was too late in coming. Their book ends with an HFN, which suits the story.


I always enjoy Amanda Ronconi’s narrative voice and overall performance a lot. Her style gels well with Molly Harper’s offbeat characters and silly humor. However, I don’t like that Ms. Ronconi uses the same narrative voice for each of the first person characters, who are different in every book, especially since I tend to listen to the books back-to-back. It’s not enough to diminish my rating, but it does take me a while to adjust to a new character without thinking of the previous book’s main character. I did enjoy her voice for Will, which was the perfect blend of southern charm and small town drawl. 


In the end, Rhythm and Bluegrass is a cute and entertaining story. While it’s not overly romantic or sexy, it was fun to listen to and enjoy.


My Rating: B

Narration: A-

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review 2017-06-26 12:56
#Audiobook Review: My Bluegrass Baby by Molly Harper
My Bluegrass Baby - Audible Studios,Molly Harper,Amanda Ronconi

Already a fan of Ms. Harper’s Jane Jameson and Half-Moon Hollow series (also narrated by Ms. Ronconi), I knew I needed to try her contemporary Bluegrass series. The first book sets up the world of Sadie Hutchins, the assistant director with the Kentucky Tourism Commission. While there are no vampires or shifters, I felt like she could have been friends with Jane and lived her world, as the quirky characters and silly shenanigans were very similar.


Sadie’s boss, Ray, is retiring, and she is ready to step into his shoes. She loves her job and cannot wait to take things to the next level. That is until Ray tells her big-city Josh was promised the job by the Commissioner himself. So Ray sets up a competition for the job, with the winner getting the promotion. 


What seems like a difficult situation for a romance plot, the battle for the job creates hilarious situations and, eventually, a reason for Josh and Sadie to get together. I appreciated that they fought their mutual attraction for as long as possible for the sake of fairness and such. The pair’s back-and-forth nature was entertaining and created wonderful sexual tension. And when they finally gave into their passion, it was explosive. The fact that they were coworkers, and eventually one would be the others boss, was handled well, until the end, when it really became a bit unrealistic.


Amanda Ronconi has that perfect southern charm for her narrative voice. She varies her tone just enough to create a handful of characters. While the familiarly had me thinking of the Jane books, after a while I was in Sadie's story. The timbre and pace was familiar and comforting, wrapping me up in the story without lulling me to sleep.


Overall, My Bluegrass Baby is a delightful, happy romance with all of Ms. Harper's trademark humor. She creates the most interesting, unique characters and brings them to live via silly escapes and fast-paced banter. The story is an escape. It's joyous and full of life. 


My Rating: B+

Narration: A-

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review 2017-06-26 12:50
#Audiobook Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus
Owl and the Japanese Circus - Audible Studios,Kristi Charish,Christy Carlson Romano

Owl (former archeology student Alix), is a well-paid antiquities thief. A year ago, she stumbled into the hidden world of supernatural creatures, accidentally killing a vampire in the process. Now she’s on the run, and it looks like her only way out of the mess is to make a bargain with a powerful dragon. Trusting only her best friend, Nadya, and a man who could break her heart, Ryan, she sets off on a dangerous journey, one that most likely will leave her dead.


Follow review teammate, Una, raves about this unique and interesting urban fantasy series, so I decided to give it a try on audio. Overall, I enjoy the mythology and storyline behind The Adventures of Owl series. I appreciate that Owl is a flawed human and makes mistakes. She is intelligent, but not always smart, which makes her a more realistic heroine. 


However, the very things I like about Owl also caused problems for me. She can be reckless and juvenile at times. Her character is inconsistent: at times smart and others not as much. She doesn’t seem to learn from her missteps. For example, the fact that she doesn’t walk away and hide from an online “friend” makes NO SENSE. She’s super careful, private, and protective, yet keeps going back to him, even though he is stalking her. Also, knowing how concerned she is with privacy, how can she NOT have any security lock on her phone? Again, an inconsistency of character.


The narration by Christy Romano was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed her narrator voice, which is fitting for the first person heroine. I started listening at 1.25x speed, but upped it to 1.5x after about five chapters. Ms. Romano does well with accents, however, at times they seems to drop. So when the dialogue is quick and clipped, both Nadya and Ryan’s voices sound very much the same. Also, Ryan loses his masculine sound at times, and it sounds like Owl is talking to herself. Overall, I like most voices, but the only voice I'm not fond of is the Red Dragon. It's described as perfect Western with no hints of Japanese. But it's too feminine. It doesn't suit a bad ass dragon.


Overall, I liked Owl and the Japanese Circus and the premise behind the series enough that I want to listen to the second book. I’m hoping Owl will begin to mature and develop into a more solid character, which seemed to be lacking in this first title.


My Rating: C+

Narration: B-

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review 2017-06-15 13:20
#Audiobook Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy
The Goal - Audible Studios,Susannah Jones,Elle Kennedy,Andrew Eiden

After the pregnancy bombshell delivered at the end of the previous book, The Goal actually goes back a bit in time and begins when Tucker and Sabrina first meet. Readers/listeners relive certain scenes and moments from the The Score, with a new perspective and focus, as well as several new scenes. 


Tucker is probably the most likable, easy-going guy we’ve met thus far in Ms. Kennedy’s Off-Campus series. He’s genuine, and while he’s easy on the eyes, he’s not all about scoring with the ladies. When he first lays eyes on Sabrina, he senses she is something special. I adore everything about this guy. He’s nearly perfect and has the patience of a saint. He never takes his eye off the end goal of making Sabrina his, but he allows the ebb and flow of life to take its course along the way. 


On the other hand, all we knew about Sabrina before this book is that she is Dean’s educational nemesis, and his perception is that she is a cold-hearted bitch. Ms. Kennedy removes that mantle from Sabrina immediately, by showing us Sabrina’s deplorable home life and the motivations behind her desire to achieve perfection at Briarwood. I fell for Sabrina’s flawed character hard. She’s driven and sometimes too focused, but she has a heart of gold underneath the layers of protection she’s built. 


Sabrina and Tucker make a great couple. There is insta-lust and sexual chemistry big time, creating an immediate interest in the pair. I like that they have time to fall a bit for one another before the baby news comes. I also appreciate that there are several ups and downs. It's very realistic with a happy ending. 


While I enjoyed their story, and I’m thankful to finally have Tuck's book, I was overwhelmed by the amount of focus on the pregnancy/baby storyline. Don’t misunderstand, Ms. Kennedy does an amazing job with the baby storyline; she didn't sugar coat what it's like to be pregnant and have a child. She also didn't minimize the impacts on the parents' lives and their relationship. However, it's too much baby for me. I am just not a fan of baby-romances.


Generally, the narration is good; better than book 3, but still not as great as the first two books. The male narrator, who also read The Score, has great drawl and perfect laid-back attitude for Tuck. At times, I felt certain words held too much of a Boston accent, but overall he is consistent. Mr. Eiden does a great job distinguishing between all characters and has a solid feminine voice. Similarly, the female POV narration is good, especially after I sped it up. (I varied between 1.25x and 1.5x.) I enjoyed her voice for Sabrina right from the start. She gives Sabrina a perky, upbeat air, yet is able to add the weight of life into her voice when called for. My biggest complaint is that Ms. Jones had extremely long pauses between dialogue and paragraphs which became annoying right away. Increasing the listening speed helped with that.


Overall, I enjoyed The Goal, and look forward to hopefully more stories in the Off-Campus series. Although there was too much baby storyline for me, and I missed the laugh-out-loud humor and silly moments found the previous three titles, Tucker and Sabrina make a wonderful couple with an entertaining romance.


My Rating: B

Male narrator A-

Female narrator B+


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review 2017-05-28 19:13
"Six Degrees Of Assassination" by M J Arlidge - an audible originals production
Six Degrees of Assassination: An Audible Drama - Hermione Norris,Audible Studios,M.J. Arlidge,Clare Grogan,Andrew Scott,Freema Agyeman,Geraldine Somerville,Clive Mantle,Julian Rhind-Tutt

"Six Degrees Of Assination" is a radio play rather than an audiobook.  It has a full, very talented, cast and the story is told entirely with dialogue supported by sound effects and punctated with (slightly annoying) "thriller" music to remind you how excited you are.

I spent a fun six and half hours on a sunny day, losing myself in the events following the assassination of a British Prime Minister in London.

I was convinced by the portrayal of British politics at a time of crisis. These are the types of politicians I recognise and understand. A couple of the political speaches were so well done, I felt sure I'd heard them before.

The list of suspects, foreign and domestic, was long and colourful. The story moved quickly and had a surprisingly large body count but never fell into the realms of the completely unbelievable.

The acting was what kept me interested. Most of the dialogue was good, some was even quote funny but the occaisonal "I'm saying this to move the plot along" lines were skillfully smoothed over.

I didn't guess who did it but I didn't feel tricked when I found out who it was.

A fun way to spend some time with a drama playing out in your head.

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