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review 2017-06-26 17:16
Surprise...it's my first time reading this author...
Forgotten Paradise (Dreamspun Desires) - Shira Anthony

Ok so I have to admit I was a little surprised when I realized this because truthfully I own more than a few books by this author and have somehow not managed to get to them yet...so many books, so little time...

 

"Forgotten Paradise" is part of Dreamspinner's Dreamspun Desires series and I enjoyed listening to the audio book. It was like being read a sweet, low angst fairytale...of the modern, adult variety, of course. 

 

Adam Preston is enjoying a well earned vacation in the Dominican Republic before returning home to deal with what can only be considered a hostile takeover attempt by Entech a company with a reputation for less than ethical behavior in their business dealings, when he decides to do a bit of scuba diving he's surprised to discover that his instructor is the attractive, charming and somewhat mysterious Jonah, whom he met at the resort bar the night before.

 

It turns out that Jonah's not just a mystery to Adam but to himself as well. Since he only remembers the last 10 years of his life when he woke up on a beach one day with no idea of who he was or how he got there. He's held that secret close until Adam, who for some reason is causing long hidden memories to try and resurface in his mind.

 

As Adam and Jonah get to know each other during their time together, their attraction grows and with each encounter Jonah finds himself recovering parts of a past he thought gone forever and one that maybe he no longer wants. 

 

It's a bit of a whirlwind romance between these two. Considering that they only have one week before Adam has to return to his real life. It works and I really didn't have a problem finding it believable...beautiful tropical setting, two intelligent, attractive, available people (men in this case) drawn to each other and who enjoy each others company.  Honestly no stretch of the imagination required here at all.

 

It's when Adam returns the real world that he begins to discover that his fantasy vacation was far more firmly rooted in reality than either he or Jonah could have ever imagined.

 

I enjoyed the first part of this story which introduced us to Adam and Jonah. Seeing their relationship go from a simple attraction to something so much stronger in spite of the fact that they knew they only had a week before Adam would be leaving.  It was fun and sexy and sweet and so easy the envision with the way that the author wove in the background information to create images of a beautiful tropical setting combined with the adventure of deep sea diving.  

 

However, it's the second part of this book that really won me over. Seeing Adam as he came to the realization of who Jonah was while also struggling to save his company and pull his family back together. More than the company that his father started Adam valued his family and while his relationship with his mother and his sister is fairly solid (his awesome sister, Karen...just sayin' with a name like that how could she not be awesome?), it's his brother Rodger whom he misses. They use to be best friends able to talk to each other about everything. But since their father's death that's changed and Adam wants to fix this. He's willing to do just about anything to have his friend and brother back.

 

Ironically when Adam's vacation ends he's not the only one who needs to return to real world. As Jonah comes to remember his life before waking up on a sandy beach he also comes to the realization that he can no longer hide from who and what he was. He needs to return to the life he's only now remembering and put his own house in order. 

 

While the first half of the book gave me a glimpse into the character of Adam and Jonah and what kind of men they are, it's the second half that really develops them and gives them depth. There are no cake walks here, both men have to fight for what they want. Proving that determination and strength of character is not in short supply where either of them are concerned.

 

"Forgotten Paradise" was narrated by Andrew McFerrin, who is a new to me narrator and while I have to admit I didn't fall head over heels in love with him. His voices were consistent and expressed emotion. While I can't say that any one voice was outstanding or hooked me into the story as I've had happen with other narrators. I wasn't put off by any of them either and I'm definitely willing to listen to future audiobooks by this narrator...I may even have a couple on my wishlist over at audible...the samples sound good so definite potential here for me.

 

When all is said and done it's 4 stars for the story and 3 for the audio portion and I'm just going to call it a day at 4 because if I take the median number as I usually do it's 3.5 and I'm just going to have to round up when I post this review in other places and I'm feeling lazy today plus truly this story deserves more than 3 stars so I'm not willing to round down...so 4 stars and I'm done here now.

 

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An audio book of "Forgotten Paradise" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-06-24 21:17
Life in the country isn't always as boring as it seems...
A Second Harvest - Eli Easton

David Fisher's lived his life according to everyone else's dictates. His father and then a wife and two kids, following the beliefs of the Mennonite church. But now his wife's passed away, his kids are grown and off at school and David's all but turned away from the church. David finds himself really just going through the motions of running the family farm.  Every days basically the same until the day he meets his new neighbor, Christie Landon.

 

Christie's escaped the city after leading life in the fast lane for years. A friend's close call when he overdoses causes Christie to re-evaluate his life and head for the country where he plans to sort out things at his aunt's house that he's inherited upon her death. Christie's looking to slow down, regroup and re-evaluate his life until he meets his new neighbor, David.

 

David and Christie are total opposites on the surface. David's closeted. He's lived his life in Lancaster County never travelling anywhere or seeing anything of the world. He's dreamed of if...his collection of National Geographic magazines can attest to that. At 40 years old not only does it seem like his life is over...it never really got a chance to start. While at 30 years old, Christie's a college graduate, he's got a solid career as a graphic designer, he's partied, walked on the wild side, seen a bit of the world and reached a point where he just wants to put the brakes on.

 

Neither of these men are really looking for a relationship but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants and common sense doesn't really factor into it. 

 

I liked the slow burn on this one. Seeing David and Christie build their relationship over food and farm work. Watching as Christie slowly draws out David's awakening sexuality until David neither can nor wants to deny it.

 

I really liked both David and Christie. David for me was someone who was thoughtful,  strong and honorable. He stuck by his convictions regardless of how hard it was...when he was confronted by members of the church or his own children he didn't automatically do the easy thing and capitulate to what they wanted. While Christie was out and proud he was also a kind, caring and compassionate person. 

 

"A Second Harvest" had all the makings of an incredibly good story and while I enjoyed it.  It didn't make the same connection for me that other books by this author have. I'm honestly not entirely sure why this one didn't totally work for my but I do think at least part of that was due to the narration. I was fortunate to be able to listen to the audio book for 'A Second Harvest' which was narrated by Will Tulin, who is a new to me narrator and unfortunately for me this narrator just didn't quite work. His voices for the characters weren't the same as how I had imagined they would sound and I found this to be a bit distracting. While he did check off my basic checklist of 'what I look for' in an audio book, the voices just didn't work for me. So I have to caution that this is a very subjective opinion being expressed here. 

 

"A Second Harvest" is a story not just of two men discovering each other but themselves. Other than my issue with the audio, I'm not sure why this one didn't work for me...maybe it wasn't quite the type of story I was looking for at the time...who knows sometimes things work, sometimes they don't and this time was just ok and not 'howl at the moon awesome'.

 

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An audiobook of "A Second Harvest" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-06-20 22:34
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch...
Noble Intentions - Andrew Grey

When Robert Ashton's uncles dies. Robert is in for a surprise when the will is read and he learns that he's the Earl of Hantford and that title comes with a couple of money pits. The family estate Ashton Park and a place in London which he quickly decides he'll probably sell but Ashton Park has been in his family for generations and it would break his mother's heart to see it sold and Robert's not sure selling Ashton Park is something that it's in his heart to do. But the problem is he doesn't have the money for the much needed repairs. However, Robert's thinks she has the perfect solution...she's sure that Robert just needs to marry someone with the much needed money.

 

Putting her plan for her son to marry someone with money into action. Robert's mom signs him up for a matchmaker service and before Robert knows it he's meeting Tech Wizard Daniel Fabian for dinner while on a business trip to New York. Danial has his own reasons for using a matchmaker and what he's looking for someone with a title so that when he goes to his high school reunion filled with old money snobs he can show up as a member of the aristocracy.

 

While Robert and Daniel ultimately ended up enjoying their first date in spite of it's awkward start and it did lead to arrangements for a second date. Thankfully it wasn't a case of insta-love. 

 

Overall I enjoyed the story and I liked that while it wasn't long before Daniel and Robert found themselves falling for each other it wasn't insta-love and they did take time to get to know each other. While neither of them confessed to their reasons for using the matchmaker service it was shared fairly early in the relationship so there wasn't any unnecessary miscommunication issues.

 

While there was the occasional bit of over the top sweetness it wasn't in excessive amounts and overall it didn't detract from the story for me. 

 

Robert Nieman was the narrator for this audiobook and while I really loved his narration for the previous audiobook that I listened to by him. This one wasn't working as well for me but I can't really say that has as much to do with the narrator as it does with the fact that while I liked this story I didn't fall over the moon in love with it. The only thing that bothered me that is directly related to the narration was the fact that while Robert was suppose to be British he really didn't have a British accent nor did his mother or any of the other secondary characters who were suppose to be British. The voices were distinct just not British.

 

'Noble Intentions' was a sweet standalone story about two men looking for solutions to the problems in their lives and what they find is that sometimes the answers to our problems come wrapped in love even when we aren't looking for it.

 

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An audiobook of 'Noble Intentions' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-06-19 22:48
The story was good but it was what came after that really got my attention...
Forest of Thorns and Claws - J.T. Hall

Having read the first two books in 'The Oddities' series by this author I decided that I'd like to try something different by the same author so when I saw 'Forest of Thorns and Claws' on NetGalley, it was like opportunity was knocking.

 

I liked the story well enough. It's got a solid plot about conservationist fighting to protect what is suppose to be federally protected land inhabited by rare and endangered species of both flora and fauna and unknown to the world of man it's also the home of a clan of tiger shifters. 

 

Donovan McGinnis is a veterinarian and Conservationist who along with his friend and business partner, Roark run a conservation center in Sumatra. Donovan becomes injured by a tigress when his patrol group rescues her from a poacher's snare. Donovan's life becomes even more complicated as he fights with the bureaucracy of local government to keep even more of 'Gunung Leuser National Forest' from disappearing into the pockets of big business, all while trying to understand his rapidly growing attraction to Kersen a member of the local were-tiger clan and adjust to the reality that he himself is now a were-tiger.

 

While I really enjoyed the part of the story that dealt with the battle to save the forest I think that if there had been a bit more focus given to the growth and development of the relationship between Kersen and Donovan it would have changed how much I enjoyed the story. I felt like the bond between these two men was meant to be really strong and intense and I just didn't get a sense of this from the story, so from this aspect things just didn't quite come together for me.

 

Although the book was only an ok read for me at the end of it all. What I really, really want to rave about for a minute here, if you'll just bare with me, is the fact that much of this story is based on real world events and the author has outlined it in the pages immediately following the story, something that I have to admit I read with a lot of interest. I love tigers and other wildcats. Whether it's a lion or a tiger, a cheetah or a jaguar these creatures have a beauty and grace that is incomparable. Needless to say the next thing I knew I was lost in the world of google. Learning things that quite honestly broke my heart...

 

Things like the fact that there are 5000 tigers in captivity in the United States but there are only an estimated 3,890 tigers living in the wild world wide. There are 9 different sub-species of tigers and 3 of those are extinct. Of the less than 4000 tigers, only an estimated 400 are Sumatran tigers. The Sumatran tiger is not the only tiger sub-species at risk, however, it is currently the most critically endangered.

 

What I also discovered was that while this seems so hopeless for these beautiful big cats, in 2007 the world population for the Amur Leopard numbered 30...just 30...3-0,  that's all that were known to exist and they were in Russia's 'Land of the Leopard National Park'. in 2014 that number was up to 57 plus another 8-12 were found to be living in adjacent areas of China. While this is still such a small and precarious number it gives hope that if we all take responsibility for guardianship of this world this can change for the Sumatran Tiger, the Amur Leopard and so many of the other animals of this world that man's thoughtlessness has endangered. 

 

This is just a small sample of the information that I discovered in my google research that probably never would have happened if I hadn't read this book and any book that motivates me to learn more about the world I live in is a book that I'm glad I read.

 

So in spite of the fact that this book was only a 3 star read for me. I give this author 5 stars for what motivated them to write this story and for sharing this information with the reader. It's a wonderful reminder that we all need to be conservationist in this world if we want to protect it for future generations. 

 

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A copy of "Forest of Thorns and Claws" was graciously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-06-19 21:05
And the happy place continues...
Bonfires - Amy Lane,Nick J. Russo

While Mary Calmes is a tough act to follow with me. There are those who are up to the task and one of them is Amy Lane and I just happened to have the audiobook for 'Bonfires' to review so of course when opportunity knocks I always do my best to answer the door.

 

'Bonfires' is definitely an Amy Lane favorite for me and Nick J. Russo is one of my favorite narrators so there's no way I was passing on this one.  Let's start with my review of the book because it still works for me...

 

Can I just say "Holy Hell! Amy Lane, you nailed it with this one." 

 

Seriously this book was so freaking close to perfection for me. I've been trying to figure out if there was anything that was off, that I didn't care for, or would have liked if it had or hadn't been in the story and seriously folks...I got nothin'. So I'm just going to stop trying on that one.

 

I loved that the MCs were older not just one, but both of them were in their late 40s. It was excellent. Both of these MCs had been married and had kids. Aaron's a sheriff's deputy, who lost his wife in a motor vehicle accident ten years ago and Mr. Larkin or Larx as everyone calls him is principle at the local high school and they've been dancing around each other for a few years now, until Aaron sees Larx jogging at the side of the road...half naked, sweaty and just too damned sexy to resist Aaron convinces Larx that they need to start jogging together. 

 

These two men fit together so beautifully their relationship may have initially progressed at a quick pace but seriously if you're pushing 50 and you've been dancing around the person of your interest as long as these two have and you need to take mountains of time to figure things out all I can say is "Seriously? Dude get a clue and go for it." 

 

I just need to take a minute here and say one of the best things in this book for me is the fact that Aaron is bi...he's not straight and gay for you, he's unapologetically bisexual and he loved his wife. His memories of her are warm and loving and he doesn't regret a day of being with her. He is a breath of fresh air in the world of bisexual characters and he was monogamous when he was married and he wants that with Larx and Larx isn't afraid that he's going to suddenly want himself a woman one day! Am I tickled pink over this little fact...damned straight I am. 

 

As always Ms Lane gave us a rich and plentiful background of characters for this story to play out with. Some I loved Yoshi! for his name alone he was awesome never mind that he's genuinely a good person, Larx's best friend and the high school's VP and Nancy Pavelle another awesome, spitfire of a teacher, Eamon the sheriff who wants Aaron to run for sheriff when he retires gay, bi, straight he doesn't care he's sure that Aaron's the man for the job. Eamon's wife who may be an awesome cook but should never be allowed to make cookies or possibly bake. The kids between Aaron and Larx, they  have 6 and as happens in any house that's filled with love there's always room for more. 

 

Larx gardens, Aaron has chickens, they run, they joke and laugh, the have problems and as everyone with kids knows there's never enough time to be alone and sex is frequently a scheduled event that gets postponed when life adds too many demands to your 'to do' list, but still you hang in there, you work together and you plot and plan until you get the stars to align or there's a good movie playing at the theater an hour away. Of course this all takes a little more effort when you get dead bodies and students getting assaulted while other students are working to make like a living hell for everyone added to life's everyday demands.

 

This one had it all everyday life, love, romance, teenagers, murder, mayhem, friends from heaven, parent's from hell. I can honestly say if time had permitted I would have happily gone back to page one and started reading this all over again...It was that damned good.

 

Now about the audio book...all of this plus...Mr. Russo you are awesome. Your character voices for this story were spot on! Not just Larx and Aaron but everyone, Yoshi and all those teenagers and the other secondary characters. It all worked and just made me love this story all the more. I've probably listened to more audio books with Nick Russo than any other narrator and without fail I have enjoyed ever one of them and my 'basic things I look for list' has been met and exceeded each time. In the scheme of things there are a lot of audio books and narrators that I have yet to listen to but with I feel fairly confident saying that Nick Russo is absolutely a favorite narrator for me.

 

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An audio book of "Bonfires" was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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