Friday, December 31, 2010

Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie ***

Crazy For YouCrazy For You by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had read this book a few years back, and found it to be a mediocre/ok read. The heroine decides she is in a dead-end relationship that she had no control over, so she leaves; the hero is Nick, her former brother-in-law who is also her best friend AND he's carried a torch for her for years and years. The Dead End Relationship fellow is the crazy one - he becomes a stalker of sorts, acting out all kinds of weird behaviors that show he is losing touch with reality.

It's typical Crusie - a weird/ugly dog, a cast of odd characters that actually enhance the story, and some scorching hot scenes. Since it came out as audio, I figured it would pass the time well for me. Unfortunately, I listened to it while on vacation and didn't take time to make any notes, therefore I cannot recall even if I liked the narrator! Dayum. But I have to make a little review for myself as proof I read it, since if I don't, I'll mess up and re-listen and wonder why it seems familiar.

Here's my original review from November 2008.

Damn. I really wanted to like this book. I was so in the mood for a light, funny, hot, quick read, and after reading the various reviews on AAR (4 reviewers, 2 posted - 1 DIK and 1 C) I was sure I would really enjoy this.

But it wasn't as good as I wanted.

The story revolves around Quinn, a 35-year-old single woman teacher needing a change in her life. I guess before the book starts, she already has a reputation for rescuing stray dogs. However, she has always found homes for them, until the one that pops up in the beginning.

See, she's been living with Bill - ok minor rant, to have both the boyfriends' names so similar (Nick and Bill) confused me for a a few dozen pages - anyway, she's been living with Bill for 2 years. He's referred to as a Viking, 6'5" tall, the beloved high school coach. He just won't stand for a dog - not to mention their apartment lease doesn't allow dogs. But she's decided she's keeping the dog no matter what...

Nick is actually the hero here - Nick is Quinn's former brother-in-law, married briefly to Quinn's sister Zoe, but divorced about 20 or so years ago. There's a number of related characters in this small town: Nick's brother Max who is married to Quinn's best friend Darla, Quinn's parents, Quinn's sister Zoe, various teachers, students and other folks. Nick has apparently been Quinn's best friend all this time - I gathered they saw each other every day somehow (which, well, seemed a little odd to me, but there you are).

Bill starts a downward spiral when Quinn makes it clear she's keeping the dog - he slips the first few inches when he takes the dog to the pound. That event is the first domino to fall - Quinn moves out, and her example starts a number of other events. Her parents make some changes; Darla and Max make some changes; Nick starts thinking about her as more than a friend.

OK - so what's not to like? Well, let's see: Bill was creepy. Way creepy. Quinn was often an idiot, and even more often a hypocrite. When she thinks "yes" and then says "No" and then follows with how what she wants is honesty, I just cringed. Hello?? How honest was it to think yes and say no?? And after being assaulted by Bill on several occasions, she couldn't be talked into calling the police? HELLOOO?

And what did Darla and Quinn want from Max and Nick? They sure had me wondering. Those guys bent over backwards from what I could see, and that wasn't enough. If Darla couldn't be clear about what she wanted, how could she expect Max to do what she wanted? That kept driving me crazy too.

One AAR reviewer pretty much panned the book - and I have often disagreed with this reviewer. The DIK reviewer actually had me going when she referred to "the feeling the book leaves me with when I've finished reading it." I thought, YESSS that's how I rate books too. But this book left me flat. I was so disturbed by Bill's actions and Quinn's inability to call the dang police that I had a hard time enjoying the story.

That's about it. I so enjoyed the first 3 Crusie's I read (Welcome To Temptation, Bet Me and Anyone But You) that I just felt puzzled the whole time, wondering when I was going to start laughing and getting into the story. Wondered it all the way to the end. Damn.

3 stars/mediocre.

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas ****

Smooth Talking Stranger (Travises, #3)Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK, this is just downright embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I already listened to this on audio once. But I don't have any review, or listing of it in my Bookpedia, or anything to prove it. I did read the first 2, got them from the library. I got this one from the library. All the way through it just seemed awfully familiar. And even now, I couldn't say with 100% guarantee that I did read it, but I think...

Alright, this is the 3rd in the Travises series by Lisa Kleypas. I actually do not like her historical romance writing style at all, despite having slogged through 5 or more of them to prove it to myself. But I do like her contemporary voice - and it's fun too that she sets the books in Houston, where I have lived most of my life.

Jack is the middle Travis - son of a wealthy River Oaks family who made their money in making money and, oh yeah, oil. Jack is a playboy by all accounts, and when he's named as the possible father of the heroine's infant nephew, Ella (aka The Heroine) finagles a confrontation. Jack is attracted to Ella, which is probably why he agrees to a paternity test that never happens. The sister admits Jack is right - she never slept with him. Jack and Ella pair up to find the real father, and he worms his way into her life and her heart while doing so.

The series uses 3 different narrators - Renee Raudman for book 1 (and she's good) and Emily Durante for this book. She's good too - she also narrated book 1 of the Bride's Quarter by NR. I probably need to take some paper along on vacations so I'll make notes about the books I read - it's bad enough that I'm sure I must have already read this, but to forget to list/review it this time and read it a 3rd time would really make me visit the Alzheimer's doctor.

4 stars - not a keeper type book, but a very enjoyable read.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins **

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am definitely not the audience for YA and listening to The Hunger Games reinforced that notion for me. In a Big Way. It wasn't made any easier to have a narrator with a sing-songy reading pattern that about drove me nutz (since we were in a car listening to it on CD, this is a sort of pun).

We tried to finish it before arriving at the Xmas lodge in North Carolina where our hosts' adult children had suggested we have a discussion of it. All of them seemed to have been enthralled by it; of the 4 of us in the car, 2 felt it wasn't good, 1 thought it was OK, and the 4th was prepared to listen to the entire trilogy. In fact, the 3 of them said I was too picky about narrators - HAH! as if! - because they didn't notice the boring reading until I pointed it out.

When one of the characters that I felt invested in was offed, I turned to another audio book and left them to deal with the gruesome, futuristic/Mad Max plot where children are made to kill each other for food as a spectator sport. What I did hear - the beginning and the ending - reinforced my feeling that there's too much teen angst and playing out of pre-teen fantasies in YA for me to get interested. Then there's that MESSAGE thing - I don't need no stinking message.

A good writer can take any plot device, any characters, and involve me in the journey - I think. Maybe if Linda Howard or Suzanne Brockmann or Diana Gabaldon wrote YA, I'd like it. But so far, Twilight and The Hunger Games has left me wanting something else.

I didn't hate it so I'm going with 2 stars.

A Man To Die For by Suzanne Brockmann ***

A Man to Die For (Silhouette Intimate Moments #681) (Undercover Cops, #2)A Man to Die For (Silhouette Intimate Moments #681) by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not my favorite Brockmann - this was a mediocre and somewhat dated book that was marred by a mediocre narration by Blair Windsor. Since I was simultaneously being forced to listen to The Hunger Games, truthfully I can't remember exactly what it was I didn't like about Windsor's reading - not enough differentiation between character voices; and considering the hero is Hispanic and says several Spanish phrases, surely a narrator who can reasonably pronounce Spanish would have been a better choice. She wasn't as bad as The Hunger Games, though. The plot conceit - undercover cop takes heroine hostage trying to protect her even though she doesn't believe he's the good guy but there's Chemistry - wears thin pretty quickly, and frankly I had a hard time figuring out when they managed to fall in love unless Stockholm syndrome can be attributed. Or the Soul Mate theory (where everyone has one and they were each others) which really only works well in fantasy for me.

But it kept my ears from hearing the middle part of The Hunger Games, which is a good thing and better than sticking my fingers in my ears and singing lalalalalalalal to make it go away.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What A Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden ****

From time to time, I find a reference in some forum or review blog that makes me want to read the book, and in this case it is a series. Caroline Linden is a new-to-me author and this one is the first in a series, although not the first book by Ms. Linden.

There are several often-used conceits in the book - the hero Marcus is a Duke and has a ne'er-do-well identical twin brother, robbed of the title and wealth by only a few minutes. The heroine Hannah is a commoner, the widow of a vicar, with a 4-year-old child. The bad twin drinks, has a race through the small village and crashes. He must be tended by Hannah, of course, and decides to marry her (no love is ever professed - he's just trying to be kind and save her). Right at the last minute he changes his mind and signs the papers with his brother's name instead. So, now it's also a marriage of convenience. To The Duke. With Consequences for Revealing The Truth because of the beloved stepmother and younger sister who is on the verge of Her Season. Big Sigh. How many overly done plotlines can we cram into one story?

Still, it was fun enough to read - not comic, but not dark - and not overly eye-roll-inducing. In fact, it managed to keep me up reading til 4 am while snowed-in over the Xmas holidays in a mountain lodge, so I must have liked it well enough. I'm going with 4 stars, even though I truly cannot remember much about how I felt about it now. Dang - I really need to keep notes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson ****

True Love and Other Disasters (Chinooks Hockey Team, #4)True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wasn't my most favorite Rachel Gibson in print, but I'm a big fan so when I saw the audio release, I had to get it! The narrator is new-to-me Susan Bennett, who has 14 listings at She was great! I thought she had just the right kind of voice for this genre, and although her range wasn't that great, she managed to give each character a separate, recognizable, consistent voice. The story is in the Seattle Chinooks/NHL series, and one or 2 of the other series characters make an appearance. Short, fun - if you're a Gibson fan, spend the credit!

below is my original review from May, 2009:

This book is one of many that involve Gibson's fictional Seattle Chinooks hockey team players, the first of which is... maybe Simply Irrestible? It includes See Jane Score as well, even though on Fantastic Fiction, True Love et al is listed as Chinook series #1 (that is just plain wrong!). In Simply Irrestible, Chinooks owner Virgil Duffy is left at the altar when Georgeanne runs away and gets together with Chinooks player John Kowalsky, who leaves a little souvenir behind (think Secret Baby plot). In See Jane Score, Jane is a journalist hired to be a temporary sports writer traveling with the team. In TLAOD, Virgil Duffy's widow Faith inherits the team and gets together with Chinooks captain, Ty Savage (pronounced sah VAH zhe, not savage).

So this is at least Book #3. [note: at Goodreads, it's called Book 4!]

OK, the plot has already been laid out: Faith is a former stripper and Playmate whom Virgil married as purely a trophy wife - he was too old and ill for consummating the marriage. However, she felt loved and protected, and he left her a lot of money in addition to the team. Of course, she was hated by his other family members, especially his son Landon who expected to get the team when Daddy died.

Now, think about Susan Elizabeth Phillips and It Had To Be You - blonde bombshell inherits a sports team without knowing dick about sports. Even the word Bimbo appears in the book cover blurb. The team circulates Faith's Playboy spread, and the players crack a lot of rude jokes at her expense. She fully intends to sell the team to Landon until he shows what an asshole he is - then she reneges on the deal, and steps in to try to run it herself, with the help of her loyal assistant. Yeppers, there's a lot of similarities here. There's even travel by airplane - but no Mile High Club initiation.

I did like this story well enough but it had some of those Rachel Gibsonisms that I don't like - she needs a better editor. She seems to repeat herself - no, I didn't mark any specific examples, but as I read, I kept thinking, "didn't she already say that?" as though she didn't go back over her work and pick out similar phrasing and wording while she wrote. Of course, that might have cut her word count by 10% or so, too, so maybe she was under some kind of contract and in a hurry. I dunno. But I wanted a tighter story. Authors: don't hit me over the head with what they're thinking, please.

Gibson does have a knack for steamy love scenes, I must say. And although her alpha hero was surly and rude some of the time, he did not really come off as an asshole as much as just someone who was surly, and sometimes rude. Maybe that doesn't make sense! But I didn't really have the urge to slap him like I have with, say, many of Elizabeth Lowell's heroes and even 1 or 2 of Linda Howard's. Ok, more than 1 or 2...

There's a slimy secondary relationship between Ty's father and Faith's mother that was really written to be creepy and not at all likable. I wanted to wash my hands after reading about those 2 moochers. And a dog - Valerie's dog - yuck, not notable at all.

So I'm calling it a 4 star read, because I did enjoy reading it, but not 5 star because I didn't love reading it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dark Lover by J.R, Ward ****

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1)Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had already read this in print, and then got it for cheap at an sale on audio. I liked it okay (4 stars) in print, and I know a lot of people love the whole Black Dagger Brotherhood series, so I figured if the audio caught my interest, maybe I'd search out the rest in audio.

About an hour in, I started to wonder if this narrator, Jim Frangione, was going to grow on me or drive me crazy. In the end, it wasn't actually either. He had a gruff sort of narration voice, like a Sam Spade mystery, and didn't do much to differentiate between characters. In fact, it was more like he was just reading it aloud and not really "voice acting". But that almost worked for me by the end (not that I'd classify him as a great narrator, but not as bad as I feared.)

I'm still not particularly drawn in by vampire stories, and after determining the rest are not available at the library, I'm not going to pursue the series. I do have at least #2 in print, so if I am searching for a book to read, it might get read...

Here is my original review of the print version from April, 2009:


I read this for the AAR Top 100 of 2007 challenge I'm participating in - even though I'm not exactly into vampire romance (after a disastrous encounter with some Feehan audio books). It's hard to follow the world-building of paranormals sometimes, and when there's entire species to deal with - with rules and lingo and even whole languages to understand and follow. This one even had a glossary in the front, which I consulted several times.

Plus, even though there are only 6 members (well, 7 if you count Darius) of the Brotherhood, they had nicknames and such, and even by the end I wasn't 100% clear who was who. Which one was Hollywood, anyway?? Wrath. Wrage. Phury. Zsadist. Tohrment. And one more. Oh yeah, Vishous. (and Butch, human cop, who gets sorta sucked into their lives - pun intended, they didn't actually suck human blood, heh heh.)

Even so, I can see the allure - the guys are all super-tough, beyond alpha, leather clad bad boys. Bigger than life. Vampires and ass-kickers too. Humans play a very small part in this story - the really bad guys (because, face it, the vampires aren't exactly Superman, touting truth, justice and the American way...) are the "lessers" italicized because it's a Vampire word, not the word lesser as in "less than". They are also undead, and are sworn to kill the Vampires. I sorta get the idea they aren't doing it to be evil but because they are mortal enemies. Maybe I'm wrong about that.

Wrath is the king of the vampires, and he's given the charge of helping a half-human, half-vampire woman, Darius's daughter Beth, go through the "transition" from human to vampire. I guess when they're half-breeds, it's not clear until Vampire Adolescence whether they'll transition or not. But Wrath, like all vampires, has keen senses and can smell Beth, her emotions, even that she is going to transition.

Of course, there's that soulmate thing with vampires too - there's the One "shellan" which is sorta like wife/soulmate. And hey, vampire males can have more than one, but they're territorial so shellans only have one "hellbren" which is the male version. Sorta like polygamists - sux, huh??

So while we learn the story of Wrath and Beth, we also meet all the Brothers and learn about them (as I said, I was pretty much confused about who was who) so we are prepared for the followup stories, of which the next 3 are also Top 100s at AAR in 2007.

I liked her writing - she makes the vampires out to be headbangers with tattoos, and it works. While they all have slight accents, they still speak American slang, carry a lot of weapons and are mostly looking to kickass all the time. Beth is pretty normal - she was raised in the foster system, didn't know she was half-vampire, but has her own apartment, a cat, a job at a newspaper. She's completely unaware of even the existence of vampires and lessers.

Well, I'm not sure I made any sense on this - the story was suspenseful, confusing, hot - Wrath had a serious jones for Beth, making him a fairly besotted hero by the end (but not all the way through so I'm not tagging it). The heroes were bad and the bad guys badder. And some loose ends to get you to read the next books. 4 stars. Serial Challenge, Spring 2009 Challenge and AAR Top 100 Quest.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne ****

The Spymaster's LadyThe Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had already read this in print, and liked it - 4 stars. The narrator, Kirsten Potter, was new to me, and I think I would give her a B/B- for this narration. Her reading in general was pretty good, and the French accent she gave Annique worked for me most of the time. She had a few mispronunciations that so struck me I physically shivered when she said them, notably "LeBlanc" where she put such emphasis on the final C. The C would not be pronounced in French; in fact, the name Leblanc is fairly common in Louisiana where the C is also not pronounced, sounding more like "luh-blah(n)". (The N would not really be pronounced, just sort of nasalized.) Another word that made me grind my teeth was gendarmes: the French would not pronounce the final S. OH, and Francois, the man she considered making love with (or was it him considering it with her?), would surely not like being given a woman's name: Francois would not have the S pronounced like the name Francoise.

OK, I'm being nitpicky but still - she went so far with giving Annique a French accent/pattern of speech (which, with Bourne's lyrical, French-patterned prose, she really had to do!) that having those kinds of things just spoiled the mood for me. It also seemed her voice got sort of scratchier by the end (or was it scratchy the whole time?) and that made Annique sound older. If I were rating this on narration only, I would have to lower it to 3 stars, maybe 3.5, but the story was wonderful and so I'm back to 4!

Below is my review of the print version from July, 2010:

This is a series that has had a lot of buzz in the past couple of years, so it's been on my radar to read. Since there is a new one in the series, it's risen on my list and I got the first 2 books, and am on a waiting list for the new one.

The heroine of Lady is Annique, a spy in her own right. She's 19 or 20 but has spent her entire life in the service of France because her mother and father were also spies, and raised her as such. She possessed a special gift - a photographic memory - which meant she could be trusted with maps, notes, photos that needed to be transmitted to the top spy via her memory. She's smart, she's wily, she's resourceful - I kept thinking of her as 19th c Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). She can throw knives; she can see in the dark; she can run like the wind. She's on a final journey, she figures, since there are several people who want her last big secret, and her mother and father are both dead.

Into her path comes Grey, the British Spymaster. She releases him from the cellar of the bad guy, and now their lives are entangled in oh so many ways, because Grey is the British Spymaster, and therefore her sworn enemy. And they are both attracted to one another - and he and she play a game of cat and mouse throughout the story, with him allowing her to lead him to the endpoint of her journey where he is hoping to learn the location of the secret everyone knows she possesses.

It seemed that much of the book was told from her (3rd person) POV, with a taste of how she would think in French, cleverly done with grammar mimicking the French way of speaking. The reader is also introduced to Grey's cohorts - Adrian and Doyle, also British spies. They make an engaging team, filling in strengths and making it more fun and oh so slightly more credible.

I really didn't see the final twist before it was revealed or how it affected the ending, so it was a surprise to me and I thought it made for a unique and interesting plot. Plus, from my vantage point, Grey was all besottedness and protection and I thought that made the ending very romantic. I just love a besotted hero! 4 stars - not a keeper but a wonderful story all the same.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just The Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James *****

Just the Sexiest Man AliveJust the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THIS WAS A GREAT BOOK! I was tempted into it by The Group (the Speaking of Audiobooks group), and partway in I admit I was sorta shaking my head, thinking No, it's too much like that inner fantasy we all had as impressionable pre-teens that some celebrity would think we could be best friends if we could just meet them in person. But no, the author - and bless her, the narrator Karen White - had such a great voice for this story. The tone almost bordered on snarky, but never really crossed the line. Our heroine, Taylor, was a smart, sassy and sarcastic lawyer, and that smart, sassy and sarcastic tone drove the entire story. It wasn't about a fantasy celebrity realizing he could fall in love with a non-Hollywood woman - it was about a woman staying true to herself and still managing to find herself in incredible circumstances. The more caught up Taylor got in the Hollywood scene, the funnier the story became, until at the end I was laughing out loud non-stop! But it's not over-the-top, or farce - it's just funny situations and a heroine that always has a better come-back than anyone else. The last line left me laughing for several minutes!

The narrator really nailed the tone and tenor of the story - I'm going to have to find other books she's narrated, cuz she's good! (apparently I'm not her only fan; her bio indicates she's narrated over 40 books)

Taylor is a hot-shot young lawyer from Chicago, on loan to her firm's LA office for a big case in her specialty, employment law - specifically sexual harassment in the workplace. Coincidentally, hot-shot actor and Sexiest Man Alive Jason Andrews has asked her firm to let him spend time with a lawyer as research for an upcoming film, and Taylor has to juggle a womanizing, bad-boy actor with a $30M lawsuit in the few months she is assigned to LA. She immediately takes a dislike to the playboy and pretty much manages to one-up him at every turn. Next thing you know, she's The Mystery Woman, seen only from the back in photos with the Sexiest Man Alive.

Jason is at first annoyed, then amused and then challenged by Taylor. The more time he spends with her, the more interested he becomes. However, being a Man, he manages to make more than his fair share of relationship mistakes, especially considering their relationship is pretty much strictly business in Taylor's mind. Enter the runner-up for every title Jason holds, pretty boy Scott who is out to topple Jason from his throne - and things start to really get complicated.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Coming Undone by Susan Andersen **

Coming Undone (Marine #4)Coming Undone by Susan Andersen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW When I read this in print - the 4th in a series that I had really liked - I rated it 2 stars. I thought it seemed too forced, the reactions of the characters not realistic, PJ's character especially being obnoxious. But I got this audiobook free at the library, so I decided to give it a try, since I usually like Susan Andersen's writing. Nicole Poole as narrator gets a sort of B+ on this one from me. She managed to infuse some realism into the story and raise it to 3 stars - hearing it in her voice, rather than just in my head, smoothed some of the reactions. It still felt forced, and Andersen's use of similes in this book got old after the first 4 or 5 dozen. I get it, that's supposed to be how southerners talk, right? (insert wry smile here)

Back to the narration: Poole was good, mostly, but she did have a few times where her pauses seemed to come in the wrong places, as if maybe she hadn't really read it before doing the recording and paused at the end of a page only to take back up on the next one. Her PJ voice was ok, her Jared voice pretty good, her Esme voice - well, minor character, so never mind; her Nell, Hank and Eddie voices all pretty mediocre - but consistent. She also narrated 2 of Rachel Gibson's Author Friends series, and I really liked her voice on those. Maybe she's better with better material!

My first read was in print, June, 2008. Here's that review:

Maybe I'm cursed. Maybe it's the moon.

I didn't much like Coming Undone. And I'm devastated to admit it.

Here I've been starting every one of my reviews of Andersen's books with Another Winner - but now, well, it ain't. And coming on the heels of my not much liking the latest Julia Quinn, it makes me question my very existence. Could it be me??

Coming Undone is the 4th installment in her Marine series, which was supposed to be a trilogy about these 3 former Marine buddies, Coop, Zach and John. Then Andersen decided to write the last one for John's brother-in-law Jared and his buddy PJ who appear in the third book.

I mentioned in that review that some time needed to go by because, after all, PJ was only 13 in that book. Andersen decided she could make it be 15 years that had passed, so the hero and heroine are fully grown up. Which makes it sometime in the future? Her note in the book admits she is using a known soap opera gimmick, where a child is born, then a year or so later, the child is a teenager.

She lost me at about page 20. First, we get a prologue putting Jared into the situation: PJ is now a country music star, and her recording company has hired Semper Fi Security to provide security for her on her upcoming tour. John, head of Semper Fi, chooses Jared to be the one. So now we know Jared is working for John, and that's about all we know.

Then we find PJ, who hasn't really disappeared as the tabloids are saying, but has just decided to take a road trip and hasn't checked in with anyone. PJ has just recently fired her manager - her no-good bitch of a mother - for embezzling, and the old lady is ratting her out to the press with a bunch of lies. I guess we're supposed to imagine the studio fell for the lies and that is why they hired Semper Fi, to keep PJ on the straight 'n' narrow. So, enter Jared. PJ is delighted to see him - it's been 15 years since their 2 week friendship on the streets of Denver, and they didn't keep up after that. Wait, wait, she's only delighted for a minute then she's pissed and the next thing you know, she's let the air out of his tires and split.


OK, wait: here is the assignment: per John, "Wild Wind Records retained us to find your old friend Priscilla Jayne." Then he says: "...mission is going to be two-fold. First to locate... Then to accompany her on her tour to make sure she doesn't disappear again."

So, yeah, it sounds like they don't trust her. But I guess we're supposed to remember how she just reacts off the cuff before thinking, like she did at 13. Or something.

Anyway, whatever the reasoning, I didn't follow it. She does everything possible to shake Jared off her trail. And so there's this immediate antagonism. And I just didn't buy it - I didn't buy the way she immediately jumped into his arms when they first met either. I didn't find either reaction reasonable or credible.

Basically, for the first half of the book, he tries to be reasonable and professional with her, and she does everything she can to get him away or in trouble or whatever. She tells a hotel manager he's a stalker. She convinces a bartender to have the bouncer throw him out of a bar where she performs. She lets her band members think he's a nuisance.

He spends a lot of his time reminding himself he's a glacier - and that includes after they finally decide to act on their attraction (attraction? didn't see it coming, did ya?). He's a big cold glacier who - damn him - insists on providing his women with multiple orgasms before succumbing to his own. What a jerk, huh? Well PJ thinks so - because he's so cold and calculating.

She should read Loving Evangeline by Linda Howard if she thinks Jared was cold and calculating. He doesn't begin to reach the level of that hero.

Let's see - I kept plodding onward, thinking maybe, just maybe, I'd get more invested in their story. Andersen does her "we-don't-know-whose-POV-we're-dealing-with" tactic (as well as her including-hyphenated-phrases-to-a-new-level device) to introduce a fanatic. This one's going to show PJ some old tyme religion if she doesn't straighten up. So just when Jared decides his work is done, we get a warning from the psycho, and his job changes from watchdog to protector.

Then, let's see, yada yada yada, blah blah blah, oh yeah, the secondary romance. We have to out an ugly duckling. Nell is a song-writer/manager. They sure seem to have a tiny little crew - 2 musicians, Nell and PJ are it (oh and the bus driver). It seemed inadequate, using my theater background for comparison. Anyway, Nell is not thin, doesn't wear makeup and dresses blandly. And she has a crush on 1 of the 2 musicians. Of course, duh, he (Eddie) only dates young bimbos, and the other musician (Hank) is the one with the hots for her. So - let's take Nell shopping, and let's get her some better clothes and makeup so someone will notice her.

To be honest, I wanted Jared to make a sort of play for Nell. He did compliment her but maybe PJ would have been a leeeetle bit more aware if... OK, so Andersen didn't play the jealousy card. But I needed something to get me interested. Now we have our swan Nell - and Eddie asks her if she lost weight. This crushes the life out of her crush - meanwhile Hank is bowled over. One thing eventually leads to another and Hank and Nell finally get hot and heavy. Just to be sure, later in the story Eddie almost sees the light, asks her out and she turns him down. OK, whew, got that outta our systems, huh?

OK, where was I? Oh yeah. I gave up and went to bed, thinking maybe if I finished it today I'd be happier. The stalker is finally revealed through some sloppy PI work - really, Jared, what took you so long? And he makes a move at the one time Jared lets down his guard. Jared manages to rush in at the last minute, and in her frenzy PJ tells him she loves him.

Whoa. (like we didn't all expect this, even if there wasn't quite enough evidence to actually say we saw it coming). That brings his guard up. OH NO MR BILL! Jared can't trust anyone but the Marines and his family!! And especially not PJ who left him without a trace after their 2-week ordeal 15 years ago when she was 13!!!

And on top of all this inanery, what in the world does this phrase in the epilogue mean: "a brunette with pale skin, red lipstick and a striking white streak in her black hair" Hello - is she brunette "a person with dark (brown) hair" or is her hair black? (it's Ronnie, from Book 1, of course - it's black). Arg.

OK look, I can't give it 2 stars. Really, I just can't - can I? Because, I mean, maybe it's ME. Maybe it's because I bought it full price instead of swapping it on PBS. Maybe it's the phase of the moon (half). By the way, they both admit they love each other, and the epilogue is their wedding shower, in case there was any question of a HEA.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Brockmann ***

Otherwise Engaged (unabridged audiobook)Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third of the Sunrise Key trilogy, it was pretty much just "ok" although it was interesting to have a book address issues of dealing with a hearing-impaired child, and the relationship of the child to the story. I thought our heroine was a bit more stubborn than necessary about almost everything, so that was annoying for me. And, ok, I read time travel so why finding the whole paparazzi element unrealistic I'm not sure! Unfortunately it was necessary to drive the plot, and I had a hard time buying it and their ways of dealing with it.

The narration by Susan Boyce was slightly over a 3 star - she didn't differentiate much between the hero/heroine voices, although it was easy enough to tell who was whom. I wouldn't avoid her but wouldn't seek her out either - not inspiring, but not annoying either.

This story deals with Sunrise Key's Billionaire Preston Seaholm, Fantasy Man Magazine's Most Eligible Bachelor. Yes, that one attribute makes reporters from all over the globe stream to the tiny town of Sunrise Key to follow his every move and catches him in clinch with new resident Molly Cassidy.

Molly is the widow of some famous writer who didn't really love her enough, we learn as the story goes along. They had a child, now 10 years old, with an unnamed degenerative hearing loss syndrome - a loss that will produce profound deafness by the time the kid is 20. Preston wants to buy the dilapidated mansion Molly has inherited, and therefore makes several increasingly large offers, and stubborn Molly turns them all down: she wants to remodel it and turn it into a B&B, even though she has no resources of her own (aka $) to do this.

To get the paparazzi to leave them alone, they somehow decide to pretend to be engaged. Unfortunately, not only does it just get the paparazzi more involved, they both feel the SoulMateElectricity in each other's company, so... blah blah blah, "let me give you all the money in the world and also let's boink" he says, "money can't buy me love even though my body wants to boink you" she says. They dance, literally, emotionally and physically, around the issues and then HEA. 3 stars, max.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kiss and Tell by Suzanne Brockmann ***

Kiss and Tell (Sunrise Key Trilogy, #1) (Loveswept #787)Kiss and Tell (Sunrise Key Trilogy, #1) by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fairly quick listen, and the narrator, Susan Boyce, is good, if you don't mind her not-exactly-English-accent she gives the British hero. I'd already read the second in the series, because it was released earlier. It's sort of early-Brockmann, and is a little different from her later series like Troubleshooters both in tone and plot. The whole fiance thing got on my nerves, and there's a scene where I thought the heroine was going to be the death of the dang horse while she threw a hissy fit. I was actually yelling THE HORSE! THE HORSE! while I drove! Still, I liked it.

Plot setup: girl returns to childhood home for the holidays where her brother and his best friend are; she's always fought with his best friend; she has a meaningless life with a fiance she doesn't love in NYC; you fill in the plot here.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie *****

Strange BedpersonsStrange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another book I'd already read and enjoyed that I had to hear on audio! It's like comfort food, macaroni & cheese - you know you'll enjoy it and feel good at the end. Narrator Madison Vaughn brings a nice, cynical tone to the characters that fits them to a t. It's an "opposites attract" sort of theme, along the lines of Dharma and Greg - she was raised in a commune and works at nonprofits, he's a Yale-educated lawyer trying to make partner. It's filled with Crusie's trademark witty banter, and Vaughn made me laugh out loud with Nick's secretary Christine's dialogue. There's some slight intrigue, a tiny mystery, but nobody dies - just some fun characterizations and a zany story. Yes! a reason to keep reading.

Below is my original review of the print book, a couple of years back.


I finished this late last night - and felt a pretty good 5-star glow after it was over. Of course, now in the light of day, it seems a little different, so I'm thinking it was more like a 4.5...

The basic plot is a sort of Dharma and Greg relationship except that in this case Tess isn't nearly as open-minded and happy as Dharma. I find Nick to be a lot like Greg though - besotted (a besotted hero?) with Tess, and sticking to his own principals while being really more open-minded than Tess about their differences.

She was raised on a commune by hippie parents. She continues their traditions by working as a teacher at a nonprofit foundation that runs a tutoring program for disadvantaged children, and also by protesting the ills of the world, and in general trying to fix everyone and everything. Living according to her principals, she shops at thrift stores, lives in a low-income area and in general you get the idea she's trying to minimize her footprint on the world.

Nick was raised in a middle-class, blue-collar family, but attended an Ivy League law school and is now a Republican lawyer hoping to make partner in a small family law firm, of which he is not family. He's ambitious but actually not in a cut-throat way. I think is says volumes about his scruples that he refused to make love with her in a public parking lot because it's against the law! OK, so it also shows him to be a little straight-laced and maybe even stuffy - but he is a lawyer, after all, so not breaking the law seems like a good idea - especially when he points out his bedroom was less than 10 minutes away. And it speaks volumes for her that, after he refused the car and suggested the bedroom, she refused him altogether. She's not really as open-minded and liberal as she thinks she is.

The verbal sparring in the book was pretty funny - I laughed out loud several times during the short read (about 250 pp) at the antics. Nick has a dilemma - a famous author the firm is wooing has specifically asked the lawyers to attend a weekend house party with spouses, and neither Nick nor his buddy Park are married. He goes to Tess - even though now they are no longer dating - and asks her to do this for him as a favor, and to get Park a date too. Tess is truly conflicted - her body is trying to override her mind about Nick, and she is really attracted to him. She keeps trying to tell herself their relationship cannot work because they are so diametrically opposed on so many issues, but she likes him as a friend so she obliges and goes, along with her best friend Gina.

Tess finds herself giving in to Nick on several issues - one of them is her trying to run everyone's lives. After the weekend, Park and Gina start a relationship, but Park is too lily-livered to stand up to his father and continues to show up at family affairs with a different woman, one his parents hope he'll marry. After he leaves Corinne, he heads to Gina - but he doesn't let either woman know. Tess would normally have told Gina, but for Nick she butts out - an action that later comes back to bite her.

Tess has a hard time realizing what is truly in her core values that she must do for herself, and what are the issues she can bend or compromise on where Nick and others are concerned. Nick is more sure of himself, although he does lean on his Superwoman secretary Christine for help - and she is the true hero in the book, in my eyes!! She is the one who finally makes the difference for the two of them.

It was a fun story and a great ending. If you are looking for short, hot, funny - this is it. 5 stars.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning ****

Kiss of the Highlander (Highlander, #4)Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had read book one in this series by audio back in March of this year, and decided it was ok, but not worth pursuing. I have read many reviews praising Phil Gigante as narrator, especially on this book, so I indulged when it came up for sale at

I like Gigante's voice well enough, although I agree with those who wish he would stop using his odd falsetto for women's voices. His Scots accent for the hero is good, his voice basso and yummy, but why did it sound as if some of the characters were Irish? And why did Gwen sometimes have almost a Scots accent? I think he's a little bit inconsistent with his voices. I think if I was enjoying the story more I wouldn't have nitpicked.

Moning's style of writing this series is somewhat reminiscent of Sandra Hill's humor - sort of over-the-top, almost a parody of romance that I think takes a certain mood to appreciate. Sometimes I do, sometimes I think "enough already". I made it to the end, I had a laugh or two, and I think I'm done with Moning's Highlanders now.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Veil of Night by Linda Howard - the audio version ***

Veil of Night: A NovelVeil of Night: A Novel by Linda Howard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 3-star review is for the AUDIO of the book, since I might have liked it even more in print but the narration was so inconsistent and sometimes awful. Clarinda Ross (the narrator) might be a good actor - her character voices are good - but either she just cannot read books out loud or she had very, very bad direction. Her narration (the stuff between the good character voices) was sing-songy with odd, disconcerting short pauses. I forged ahead with the audiobook anyway, but I think I need to read it in print now to really appreciate it. Her narration earned maybe 1 1/2 or 2 stars, but since the story seemed good, I'll go with 3.

The story was a familiar theme with me, since I'm just now reading the end of Nora Roberts' Bride series - Jaclyn is a wedding planner! She's in business with her mother, and she's dealing with the Bridezilla to end all Bridezillas - a young woman who has managed to pretty much piss off everyone in her path. She's not just wishy-washy - she's mean! Everyone was probably imagining inventive ways to off her when she actually gets offed - with kabob skewers. With kabobs still on them. Ewwww.

The detective on the case is our hero, Eric, who coincidentally had a memorable one-night-stand with Jaclyn the night before the murder. Small town. This sorta puts some distance between Jaclyn and Eric - she's thinking, how could he accuse me of murder? and he's thinking, how can I get her back into bed?

There was a nice cast of characters - the other women working the business, a couple of funny wedding scenarios that I think will be funnier when I read them to myself.

People, this is LINDA HOWARD - her books deserve the best! I have to repeat what I read on Was Joyce Bean busy??

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Faking It by Jennifer Crusie *****

The audio book of this is narrated by Aasne Vigesaa, who also narrated Welcome To Temptation - and she is good! It was just as much fun in audio 2 years later, and I probably laughed even more to hear the lines spoken out loud. Highly recommended! The review from November 2008 of the book:

What a romp! First of all, I had no idea that this was a sequel of sorts to Welcome To Temptation - the hero is Sophie's brother Davy Dempsey, con man extraordinaire. So that was a welcome surprise. And it also featured Clea from the same book - you know, the porn star who dragged Sophie and Amy to Temptation to make her video there.

The book features 2 families involved in deception - in addition to the Dempseys, there's the Goodnights. The Goodnight family has been involved in art galleries, art, painting - and forgeries - for centuries. Now they run an art gallery in Columbus, Ohio, but it's not doing so well, so Tilda (the actual heroine of the book although there are a ton of characters/family members) helps make ends meet by painting murals - more forgeries, usually, of famous paintings.

Tilda and Davy meet in Clea's closet one night: Davy's there to hack into Clea's computer to get back the $3 million his money manager embezzled from him and gave to Clea, Tilda's there to steal a painting inadvertently sold to Clea that is a forgery Tilda painted. Davy doesn't get his money and they almost get caught, so he sends her home with a promise to get the painting for her. Of course, he hasn't yet revealed his name or even his face to her at this point, although they've shared some hot kissing in the closet...

I don't think I can even begin to describe the lunacy that makes up this plot! It was a laugh-a-minute as we meet all the characters: Tilda's sister Eve, who is also alter-ego Louise - who works at a gay nightclub with her ex-husband Andrew and father of their teenage daughter Nadine; Andrew's current love, Jeff who is a lawyer; Gwen Goodnight, the matriarch who works Double Crostic puzzles and runs the gallery; Clea and her latest mark, Mason, who is actually more interested in Gwen; Ford, the hit man hired to kill Davy; Simon, Davy's partner-in-crime; and of course, Steve the dachsund aka Notable Pet. Oh, and Thomas-the-caterer and Davy's father, Michael Dempsey... well the list goes on and on, as we follow the trials and tribulations of keeping the forgeries and cons secret.

It was fast paced and filled with hysterical lines and innuendos and music titles and people who weren't what you thought and weren't where you thought - I found myself going back a page or 2 more than once to follow a reference I missed as I read. In the midst of all this, Davy and Tilda grew a real relationship - good thing, since they were sleeping together every night - that was touching and fun and all things good. They even get a nice HEA, no faking.

5 stars - it's a longer book (400+ pp) but a fast read nonetheless, as long as you are paying attention!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts ****

Savor the Moment (Bride Quartet, #3)Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the 3rd in a series about 4 women who grew up together and are now in a wedding business together. Laurel McBane, the chef of the group, has always had a thing for Del Brown "of the Connecticut Browns", which implies, as she says, that he's not just rich - but wealthy. Del is the brother of one of the 4women, so he was always around. Unfortunately for her, he always considered her another sister. So she had to take control and show him she wasn't!

La Nora writes such wonderful stories, and she excels in celebrating the friendships of women. I have not glommed her work (who could keep up with her?) but have read quite a lot - often I find her books wonderful, and occasionally I find them not so great. This one falls somewhere in between. The story is good, the characters fleshed out, if a little too good to be true. But where was the conflict? Well, it was all in Laurel's head and once Del figured it out, he fixed it. The End. OK, it was a sweet, romantic end, but... I guess I was in the mood for more than 2 minutes of angst. It smacked of Emma and Jack's story - a sort of made-up conflict that didn't really make you wonder if they could resolve it. While I was thinking, "is that it??", it was already resolved.

Angela Dawe has officially made my Rising Star Narrator list - she seems to be a very busy voice actor, with 39 listings on, all released in the last year. I sense her readings will become better and better as she gets more experience and her voice matures, too. Yay! Truly, a narrator can make or break the audio book, almost without regard for the quality of the story itself! More Angela Dawe!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie ****

Re-read as audio book in 2010 - originally read as paperback in Nov 2008- review follows:

I'm on a pretty serious Jennifer Crusie glom, mostly because I picked up a Lot of her books on eBay this month. She's got a definite style - witty, rapid-fire banter, women who fix things, Notable Pets - and this book has it all. It's a murder mystery too (and now that it's over, I'm still not clear on who killed which of the many bodies that showed up!)

The main heroine is Nell - a recent divorcée whose husband left her for a younger woman after 22 years of marriage. She's still in the walking-dead stage, something anyone who's been there might recognize - lost a lot of weight and still in denial about what happened. The opening scene (which is hysterical) has her sitting in the office of the main hero, Gabe, a PI looking to hire an office manager. While he talks on the phone, she manages to single-handedly and inadvertently wreck his office, complete with breaking a window and putting a hole in the carpet - I was laughing out loud the whole time.

Gabe's baggage is pretty heavy too - he's still sleeping with his ex-wife, they have a college-aged daughter, and their businesses are right next door to one another. His PI business has been around since before he was born, when his dad ran it. His father died some years back, but nothing has changed - the decor, the clientele - all leftover from the 1950s.

Nell starts to change all that the instant she gets the job, and meets resistance at every turn from Gabe and even from his cousin/partner Riley somewhat. But when Nell realizes the former secretary (that she replaced) swindled them out of $5k+, and then is found dead in a freezer, things start to, well, heat up - which is kinda funny since many of the deaths involve a freezer...

As usual for Ms Crusie's stories, there's a whole slew of characters including Nell's best friends Suze and Margie, who are also related to her by marriage, and whose families are also major clients of Gabe and Riley's agency. There's Gabe's side of the aisle as well - ex-wife Chloe, daughter Lu, clients Trevor (Margie's father), Jack (Suze's husband) and Budge (Margie's SO). Once again, a scorecard would come in handy to keep track of who's who. At one point, Nell points out she's slept with everyone at the table except her ex-husband's new wife in a crowd that includes the ex-husband, Gabe, Riley and Suze. Sorta boggles the mind and was another very funny scene to boot.

Oh, Notable Pet mention: Marlene (think Dietrich), formerly known as SugarPie, is the long-haired dachsund Nell stole from the ex-husband of a would-be client because the client thought the dog was being mistreated. It was Nell's first bad decision...

While the hunt is on to figure out what the former-now-deceased secretary was looking for and who killed her, there's an ongoing power struggle between Nell and Gabe that develops, albeit realistically slowly, into a relationship. Of sorts. It takes a while to form and grow and develop a life of its own.

So, it was a murder mystery that was also a romp (seems a little odd, no?) and I'm going with 4 stars.

audio book notes: the narrator is Sandra Burr and she's good in other books I've listened to - however, I finished this a couple of days ago and did not make any notes. Ooops, who can remember after a couple of days??

Trust Me On This by Jennifer Crusie *****

Trust Me on ThisTrust Me on This by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another winner for Crusie - fast paced story and dialogue, read by Angela Dawe who is quickly becoming a favorite narrator for me. Crusie herself calls it a "screwball comedy" - there are mistaken identities and con men and undercover cops and a bunch of staid and not-so staid college professors all holed up in a hotel for a four-day convention that ends up being not very conventional at all. Crusie even manages to introduce a dog into the story - after she finished writing it, because the publisher decided to put one on the cover! I found myself laughing out loud several times during this relatively short read - it definitely goes into my list of re-listens.

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Interestingly, it seems I can post my Goodreads reviews here! (see above!) However, I try to write short reviews there, and here is where I can rant and rave and go on and on cuz it's just me.

The plot: journalist heroine Dennie (I had a hard time with this being a woman's name) is looking for a break, something to break her out of her rut in the bridal/women's section of the paper. When she learns a famous marriage-guru's own marriage is on the rocks, she heads to a convention where the woman is speaking, hoping to get an interview. Coincidentally, undercover cop hero Alec heads to the same convention, expecting a serial con artist to appear.

The con artist appears, and - based on a tip - Alec assumes Dennie is working with the con man. The two are stuck in this hotel, him trying to trip her up so she'll turn state's evidence on the con, her trying to get to his aunt because she's a friend of the woman she hopes to interview; however, neither will own up to the other what they are actually doing. Both have honed their charming ways, so there's a fair amount of time each is trying to charm information out of the other - and the other recognizes the methods! Dennie picks up pretty quickly that Alec is not the dumb farm-boy he pretends to be so she'll sell him swamp land; Alec starts to think maybe she's not the con's bimbo associate after all.

The secondary romance (over at Goodreads they are calling it the May/December romance - I think it's more like early/mid December, considering she's 62 and he's 58...) is fun and much faster paced than the slow build of Alec and Dennie. There's even a tertiary romance that's pretty funny, all things considered. OK, it was only 4 days but still... I really enjoyed it! 5 stars!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Angel Creek by Linda Howard ***

AUDIO: I got this from the library, with narrator Natalie Ross. I like, or have liked, Ross as a narrator, but she either cannot do justice to this property, or she cannot rise above it, cuz I thought her narration was pretty dang mediocre on this book, which is also pretty dang mediocre (or worse). The audio of this book didn't make the story any better.

My Review from August 2008
First off - I got this in a Large Print 2-for-1 book from PBS. Yay! But I have to warn anyone who gets this book: Angel Creek is the second in the series, but for some reason it's the first in the book. Silly me, I didn't figure that out before reading them. It doesn't entirely ruin it, but there is a character in A Lady of the West who appears in Angel Creek, so if you read it first like I did, you'll know a spoiler going into A Lady...

Second off - holy moly. OK, it is Linda Howard, but it's early Linda Howard and although her writing chops were still great, man - it's - well - the men are not just alpha, they're complete assholes and I would have to say what they do pushes forced seduction so close to rape there'd be a hung jury or a conviction if the women pressed charges, ok? Hence my 3 stars because if the writing wasn't good, this would have been a 2 star or maybe even a DNF. She has these men just forget that No Means No - in their world, No means OK, I want it even though I think I don't. Bad. Oh yeah baby like that.

I tried to tell myself it was a Western thing, hard life, yada yada. But I mean. These men just said: "gimme" and took.

In this story, we have Luke - he's the owner of the Double C ranch, with no family left, and rich. We have Dee - no family left for her either, but all she has is her family ranch, not money - and Angel Creek, the best and sometimes only source of water in the region. We have a sorta bad guy - he's not really evil, but he's not all good either, named Kyle, and he's also a rancher with a big investment in land and cattle. We have a gently bred banker's daughter, whassername. And we have Luis Fronteras - he's a drifter from the first story, A Lady of the West. And we have a whore with a heart of gold, Tillie. Are you keeping track, here?? Get out a scorecard.

It seems everything traces back to something that happened 10 years ago, for every character. After the 4th or 5th time I saw the phrase "10 years ago" I kept thinking, what exactly was it about 10 years ago? It would have taken a calculator and some notepaper to figure out what year it was set in - some time after the Civil War (10 years?), but isn't exactly named - just references to what happened some time before.

Luke and whassername have a completely unspoken non-agreement. He figures she is what he needs as a wife if he ever decides he needs one. She is 25 - practically a crone - and figures she'll end up saying yes if he ever asks because where in the hell is she going to find a man to father children before her eggs dry up? Kyle and Tillie go way back - and also sometimes go upstairs for a poke - but Kyle wants to give Luke a run for his money, so he sorta almost pursues whassername. Maybe I should look up her name in the book. Kyle also pursues Dee because if she'd marry him, he'd have more/better water for his cattle. He also offers to buy Angel Creek.

Dee's a stubborn independent woman who shoots anyone who comes on her property, except, uh, Luke. Luke decides to sorta woo her a teensy bit, just for the land, mind you - except hot damn she's an exciting piece of flesh!! So - well - the bastard takes advantage of her when she's down and sort gets her all wanting him and stuff. Damn. He does start to realize that bonking Dee and marrying whassername might not be the best idea he ever had...

Luis wants whassername. Bad. He, of all the men in both books, is a gentleman for all he's a half breed or maybe full breed Mexican drifter gunslinger. He, of all the men in both books, treats his women right (and bonks them silly before offering for their hands... hmmmm....)

The big Turning Point is when Kyle goes crazy and lies to his men, telling them Dee will allow his thirst-crazed cattle onto her land. When they herd them over there, wouldn't you know that she's standing there with a gun, shooting at them? They all go nuts, wanting blood and rape and pillaging. Luis take Dee's side, runs to Tlllie, tells Tillie to get Luke to come save Dee, and then goes back to help Dee protect her property. Whassername doesn't even find out til the next day.

OK - did you need that scorecard to keep that straight??

The writing is good, the story is ok, the men are abominable and practically unforgivable. 3 stars, and only recommended to those (1) who happen to already own the book and (2) have nothing better to do or (3) are determined to read everything LH ever wrote.
audio notes: Natalie Ross did such a fine job on After The Night, which I have listened to 2 or 3 times, that I really expected her to make this one work for me, even though I hadn't thought much of this book 2 years ago. She does voices very, very well - but her narrator voice was just sort of sing-songy and not interesting. I just didn't like it that much, but then I hadn't like the story that much when I read it either.

It Must Be Love by Rachel Gibson ***

This is one of the last books by Rachel Gibson I hadn't yet read - surely by now I'm almost completely caught up in glomming her backlist!

This one didn't have much new or fun to offer - the copyright date was 2000, and in internet years that's about 1 billion, but in romance novel years, it's maybe only 20 or so. Really, the internet and everything related to it - ipods/mp3 players, smart phones, etc - date contemporary books so quickly!

I'm not sure why I wandered off course - nothing about the plot was really too dated. It's the Dharma and Greg scenario - she's (slightly) into the New Age stuff, making her own relaxation and massage oils with essential oils, and slightly believing in karma and not really believing in Fate, and trying vegetarianism but lapsing. Gabrielle Breedlove runs her own small business with a partner, Kevin, and is suspected of participating in a burglary ring that is ripping off art and antiques and fencing them.

Joe's the detective assigned to follow her every cute little move to see if he can catch her fencing the goods. Unfortunately she's on to him - except she assumes he's a stalker, and drops him with a can of hairspray. Then she becomes his confidential informant, so he poses as her - oh, gee, how about BOYFRIEND? and hangs around her shop trying to catch Kevin.

Yeah, they're opposites-attract, and there's an okay plot, and of course I like Gibson's writing pretty good, so it's a 3-star, okay read. Not going in my favorites list or anything, but it's... okay.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie *****

What a fun story this was! It's a Romantic Comedy Ghost Story With Kids, as Crusie herself describes it in a very funny interview with Susan Elizabeth Phillips. And I listened to it and the narrator, Angela Dawe, was wonderful! She has a youthful narrator voice - not child-like, but not too mature, which is nice; however, she did all voices, all ages, wonderfully, consistently, so that you were never unsure who was talking.

There is one thing about Crusie's writing - she does write "he said" and "she said" a lot which doesn't bother me when reading, but when hearing it, it gets redundant. Ok that's my only criticism. I guess other authors leave out the "he said" "she said" when there's a long dialogue, or maybe they use different verbs, like "she sighed" or "he intoned". I like "he murmured" - that's my favorite. Hey, at least this narrator didn't "heh heh" every time that one annoying character did it - the narrator just read what Crusie wrote and didn't try to add sound effects!!

The heroine is Andie - she left her ex-husband North 10 years ago, after a passionate courtship, whirlwind wedding and 1 year of wedded... boredom. He got so involved in the family business he all but forgot about her. They divorced, and she spent the next 10 years wandering - looking for a place to light. She finally meets the man who adores her, and although she hasn't said YES to his question, figures it is time to flush North from her mind so she can wed this new guy in peace.

North has a couple of problems, and when Andie shows up to give back all the uncashed alimony checks he sent her, he decides to ask her help. She agrees to spend 1 month with his new wards, 8 and 12 years old, for $10,000 - all she has to do is get them ready to move from their ancient, moat-surrounded and haunted house, something 3 previous nannies have not been able to do. Oh, yeah, one of his problems IS Andie - he's never really gotten over her.

Crusie writes great characters - Andie's mother is a tarot-reading hippie, North's mother is a ball-busting-bitch, North's younger brother is a ne'er-do-well womanizing rogue who manages to involve a career-climbing tv journalist, a parapsychologist and a whole bunch of other characters in the shenanigans which involve ghosts, death, and moving on. Of course, there are also the children - they're both a little odd, having to deal with ghosts in their everyday lives, but normal otherwise, once Andie reaches out to them.

And in addition to a Happily Ever After for Andie and North, there's a sort of trailer at the end - another HEA? Or a cliff-hanger? It was so much fun, and I ended up sitting up half the night, playing Sudoku (or is it Soduko?) and listening because I couldn't put it down. (should have been knitting - xmas is coming!!)

It seems I've heard Angela Dawe before - she narrated the 2nd in Nora Robert's Bride Quartet, which I've read, and the 3rd, which is in my TBR list. I give her a 4.9-star because, frankly, she's got to stand in line behind my absolute favorites: Anna Fields/Kate Fleming, Davina Porter, Barbara Rosenblat - and it may be a few years of experience for her to reach their 5 star status! The book is 5 stars - I loved it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let Me Be The One by Jo Goodman ****

I read this first in April 2008, along with the other 3 in the Compass Club series, but didn't write full reviews. I merely commented that I liked them all about 4 stars, but not as keepers. So when I found them for free downloads of audio books at the library, I figured - what the heck - I'll listen to them as well.

I think the 4 star rating stays. I did enjoy it, but not as a favorite; I will probably listen to all 4 but plan to measure them out and not do them back-to-back.

The story is of 4 friends from school, as adults it's the Regency era I believe. The boys all have potential titles, each of which has a "direction" in it: North, East, South, West. In this one, the hero has come into his title - Earl of Northam. He meets Elizabeth Penrose while at a house party, and pursues her.

Libby, although the daughter of an earl, has a sordid secret that keeps her from going out on the marriage mart. Since revealing it would be a spoiler, I'll just say she figures she'll never experience love _again_. She has a disfiguring limp and isn't much for the marriage mart niceties like painting and needlework.

Of course, the Compass Club adult men are all now spies - or something - it's just implied; there is also a Mystery of the Gentleman Thief, a cat burglar who is not only stealing jewels during grand galas but has also managed to obtain traitorous papers. Northam is on a mission to uncover the thief's identity and get the papers back. How can Libby help?

Because all 4 books happen at about the same time, we hear of the other 3 men and just teensy parts of their stories during this book.

The narrator is Virginia Leishman. She has a wonderful, very proper-sounding British accent (acquired as a child, having been raised in England, per Audiofile magazine online) that worked well with the story.

4 stars

Cutting Loose by Susan Andersen **(*)

My first review of this book from 2008 was of the paperback, and it is the first in a trilogy, so now that I've read the second (the third hasn't been published and might not be) AND the audio of this one, I'm going to go ahead and give it a 3rd star to bring it to the "it's Ok but mediocre" level.

so here's the first review:

arg. One of my favorite authors, and this new release is a stinker.

I think it's a combination of things that I really don't like:

(1) I don't like the voice of this book. Too... too much jargon, too much hard to follow banter that doesn't sound like people really talk. And jeez, this guy Dev - come'on - no guy thinks like this, do they??
2010 audio comment: the "voice" of the book is slightly easier to listen to, even if the narrator isn't that good.

(2) Forced - we're forced to read all this odd psychobabble about Jane the heroine and her parents and how because they're so dramatic, she's the complete opposite. We're forced into believing these 3 women are best friends forever - it's a trilogy of women thing. I have liked the 3-women premise before but this time I just don't get it. Which one was the "blond friend" anyway? Couldn't she have just referred to them by their names?
2010 audio comment: now that I have read the second book in the trilogy AND heard this audiobook, it really was easier to keep track of the women since I wasn't able to skim. The psychobabble was still reaching though.

(3) Oh puhleez, the villain! Give me a f*cking break. I skimmed most of his scenes.
2010 audio comment: still think the villain doesn't come across as a 3 dimensional, potentially real person - still too comic-book-ish for me, especially given this one doesn't have Andersen's great humor

(4) The storyline - the women inherit a mansion from a rich old woman? It just didn't ring true.
2010 audio comment: I still find this storyline implausible. But then, I read time travel, so I guess I'll go with the leap of faith.

There was more. Do Americans of Irish descent actually call their fathers "Da"? Maybe, but then their speech pattern was a little... Irish... too so were they actually Irish? Or just stereotypical?
2010 audio comment: the narrator - who wasn't great - did not give them any Irish accent and the "Da" seemed out of place. Aunt Eileen's brogue wasn't good either.

I started to give this 3 stars. I did in fact read the whole thing, after all. But then as I thought about it, I realized I. Did. Not. Like. It. (that is a direct reference to the book by the way.) So even though I've loved so many of Andersen's books, I just can't find it in me to like this one.

But it's worth a credit on PBS where some hapless fool, uh I mean some other member has it wishlisted. And hey - there's even a review there from someone who did like it. Go figure.

OK, I'll do a little bit of description.

Three women, friends from elementary school. Heroine: Jane - parents third-rate actors, overly dramatic, quasi-alcoholic. BFFs Ava and Poppy - one is blonde, one is red-headed, one is rich, one is Darma from Darma and Greg - but who can remember which is which? Not me.

Irish American family, 4 brothers running a construction business; 2 are married, 2 single; 1 is undergoing chemo, so our hero Devlin comes home from his usual life of sailing yachts overseas to help out the family business.

The women inherit a Seattle mansion. Jane is a junior curator at a museum that inherited jewels and clothing from same deceased. The 3 BFF women hire the Irish American fellows to renovate.

Dev and Jane have instant across-the-room chemistry, then have hot monkey sex, then - oh noes! - fall in love.

Meanwhile a really really evil bad guy steals things from the mansion.

OK, see where it is going? Neither do I.

2 stars.
2010 Audio Comments - yeah, I can give it a qualified 3 stars, but the narrator wasn't great. She wasn't AWFUL but her reading was sing-songy, and her men's voices - especially considering how low her own voice as narrator is - were done as if they were teens in the middle of changing voices. She used a sort of hoarse sound for Dev, the hero. And I'm afraid she didn't give Andersen's attempt at sounding like 20-somethings (20+10 in this case) any credence - she just read it like she read the narration, so the excess of jargon fell flat. Didn't work in my head reading it; didn't work in my head hearing this narrator speak it. Maybe it calls for a 20-something who talks like that to read it.

thank goodness for free library downloads

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Proposition by Judith Ivory *****

I read this book about 2 years ago, and wrote the following review. I recently got the audio with narrator Steven Crossley, who was superb! Audio notes, such as they were, at the end:


Ah, I'm in love! With this book! It was soooo wonderful and fun, and, hmmmm, it reminded me in many ways of Ms. Ivory's other book, The Indiscretion, which I also loved. In fact, since I listened to the marvelous Barbara Rosenblat read The Indiscretion, I kept hearing her in my head for this book as well. What fun!

The premise is similar but not the same in the 2 books. In this book, there's both a Pygmalion (think My Fair Lady) element and a Cinderella element, with both the hero and the heroine cast in the role of Cinderella.

Our heroine, almost 6-feet-tall Edwina, is an orphan and a spinster. When her father died, when she was 17, he left no male issue so his title (Marquis, I believe) went to a second cousin, Xavier. Xavier was a mean old bastard who pretty much threw Edwina out, although she did manage to keep a place to live. She supports herself as, of all things, a linguist, mostly by teaching young women how to behave and speak for their coming-out into the bon ton. She's a little gawky, and bookish, and thin, and thinks of herself as all that and less. She really suffers from a lack of self-esteem.

Mick first sees only Edwina's legs, from a prone position in a women's shop, where he is doing his job - ratcatcher. He can see under the screen where she is changing, and he's entranced. Later, through a little mixup, he is chased into the tea room next door where the folks chasing him manage to completely trash the place, chasing after him and his rat-catching ferret. A pair of twin brothers step in to save the day - although no one can understand Mick because of his thick Cockney/Cornish accent (which intrigues Edwina), the brothers decide Mick would make an excellent bet - can he, or can he not, become a proper gentleman under Edwina's tutelage? They pay off the tea room owner and the folks chasing Mick, and proceed to make The Proposition: They will pay Mick 120 pounds, all of Edwina's expenses, and buy him clothes if she can take him to the Uelle Ball in 6 weeks and pass him off as a viscount.

And wouldn't you know, the fanciest ball around, the most coveted, and it's given by mean ol' cousin Xavier too?

Of course, Edwina is interested. Mick is, well, maybe interested. So they bite - and Mick moves into Edwina's home so they can spend 12 hours a day getting him polished. He brings along his helpers - his faitherful rat terrier Magic, who is truly a Notable Pet, Freddie the aging ferret, and his other dogs and ferrets that he needs to run his ratcatching business.

Over the course of the 6 weeks, Ivory paints a delightful tale of Mick and Winnie (his pet name for her) as their relationship morphs from teacher and student to friends to his teaching her... Well, it's truly marvelous as they both grow and change into their new roles as more than friends. At one point, Mick takes Winnie to his side of town where they dance for hours in a pub and she truly learns to let down her hair and enjoy life.

Meanwhile, there's a question of the true identity of the twin brothers who started the whole thing, and the real reason behind The Proposition.

And also meanwhile, there's the underlying problem of Mick falling in love with Winnie but realizing he isn't her station, and will never be. Winnie suffers from the same problem - she is fast falling in love with the handsome ratcatcher, but she's not even sure she recognizes this new person, Michael, that she is creating.

When they finally, finally make it to the ball.....

Ya gotta just read it to find out. Right there at the end is a dash of suspense and intrigue and I sat at the edge of my seat wondering, wondering. Then there's a nice long and satisfying epilogue with a very funny ending. I loved it!

5 stars!

So, as I've said before, there's only one thing better than a favorite book - it's a favorite book read by a fabulous narrator! Steven Crossley did such a marvelous job with Mick's and Winnie's voices - he used the tone of the character in the narration from his or her POV - he has a wonderful way of using pauses to great effect (see my review of Mackenzie's Mountain new narrator, who just sort of barreled through without pausing). I love the story so much, and loved his voice and his narration! 10 stars!

Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard ****

I just did a sort of marathon listening - Judith Ivory's The Proposition, Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Mountain - unabridged, and Susan Andersen's Skintight. Mackenzie's Mountain is the only one I read before blogging, so have no existing review. I did have a review of A Game of Chance, one in the series of Mackenzies, in which I rated Mackenzie's Mountain 3 stars, and mentioned it might have been because I only read it in abridged audio.

Apparently there was a new, unabridged version made recently, and only available on MP3 CD. This was a challenge to get onto the iPhone, involving importing into iTunes and converting and stuff, but it is only 1 CD because MP3s are already compressed.

I'm giving this 1 more star because it did make a better story in unabridged, although frankly there were a couple of parts where I thought - why is a teacher better at detective work than their police? Or rather, why do they believe her theory (which is correct) when it's so out-of-the-blue? One of those assumption things - if the guy has freckles, he must be fair-haired, therefore the dark hair it appears he has must be a wig therefore he's gunning for Wolf and Joe.

This is about Mary, old-maid spinster teacher (she's all of 29 and it's probably the 1980s!! gasp!) who moves to a tiny burg in Wyoming to teach at their tiny school. She realizes that one of the former students who dropped out had a spectacular school record, so she hunts him down. It's Joe Mackenzie, half-breed son of Wolf Mackenzie, another half-breed. His mother was also half-breed, but she's dead. Wolf was wrongly imprisoned for rape, and released when the real rapist was caught, but the townfolk are still scared of him and consider him a dirty Indian/rapist. His son Joe also suffers because of this.

Of course, being one of Howard's earlier-to-middle books, he was very Possessive and Agressive, but not quite the asshole of Loving Evangeline. She was pretty spunky, even if it was laughable that a 29-year-old would consider herself an old maid. They face down the town and another rapist (wow, that's a lot of rapists in a town of less than 200...) and get married and start having more kids. There are books about Joe, Zane, the daughter (which I haven't read and cannot recall her name) and Chance, who is adopted. It's a pretty popular series among romance readers.

The new narrator is one I hadn't heard of - someone online commented they couldn't believe someone new was chosen to narrate this "romance classic" and I have to agree. Christina Traister sounds like, with a lot more experience, she might become an OK narrator. She used a distinctive, southern-accented voice for Mary who is from Savannah, Georgia, that was ok. Her voices for Wolf and Joe were done with an attempt to make them lower, but with no accent of any kind. Her other various voices were ... ok... Her narration was bland, using very little inflection. In my humble opinion, she needs to learn the value of pauses - like, uh, pause between sections, first of all. She just kept reading as if she didn't realize there was a shift in POV or time or something. She didn't use the character's voice at all when in POV - just a straight, I'm trying to put you to sleep voice.

I guess it's better that she didn't get all breathy and excited while reading Howard's hot and steamy scenes. But maybe some kind of inflection, feeling, something in her narrator voice would add to the experience - not just the hot and steamy experience, but the experience of hearing the book! And some pauses - not just between sections, but also for emphasis, for conveying meaning.

so I'd give her reading maybe 2.5 but the story 4.

Skintight by Susan Andersen *****

Audio booked it! Got it from the library and finished it up this morning - still a 5 star story!


Another winner from Ms Andersen! This is my 6th book of Andersen's, and so far I'm having a blast. Her writing is witty, interesting, hot - plotlines work for me - characters fully developed (if a little zany) - I'm enjoying them all immensely!

Skintight takes place in Las Vegas where heroine Treena is a dancer in a show. A Show Girl from a steel mill town in the east, where she grew up in a big, happy-enough family, feeling like the outsider because she had bigger dreams than marrying out of high school and staying there. She worked her way up in the world, paid for her own dance classes and made it big. As part of her backstory, she marries a much older man who, as it turns out, was dying from cancer. He was rich - but lost it all to the costs of health care - and died within months of their marriage.

His son, Jackson "Jax Gallagher" McCall is out to steal back what should have been his: a priceless autographed baseball now in Treena's possession. As it turns out, although it was not left to Jax in his father's will, Treena always intended to find him and give it back because she knew that's what his dad wanted. But Jax wasn't around - he wasn't there when his dad was dying, he didn't attend the funeral, and she's never met him - so she's in no hurry.

Jax comes to LV as a professional poker player in a tournament and has a plan: he'll introduce himself to his dad's widow with his professional name (Gallagher), seduce her so he can gain access to her house, find the ball after he's boffed her senseless, and skeedaddle. His backstory is that his mother died when he was young, and his dad raised him - poorly. He was a geek - a big, tall, brainy, scrawny geek - and his dad seemed to want an athlete. He skipped 3 grades in school, went to MIT at 14, but always felt like the outsider (see a pattern here??) and never felt he lived up to his dad's expectations.

Now he's a big, tall, brainy, built professional poker player with plenty of money. Unfortunately, under the influence of alcohol, he bet the baseball in a poker game to a fellow who is determined to get it by force if necessary. Hence the plan - he figures his dad's widow is a money-grubbing gold digger bimbo, and that his plan will work when he wows her with his money. In his mind, there's no point in just asking for it because she would never give it away. But he miscalculated - a big problem for a mathematical genius poker player!

There's a fun secondary romance that is almost unnecessary, but fills in the "built family" aspect - 2 middle-aged single neighbors who finally give in to their attraction for each other. They act as mother and father in her "built family" of neighbors who drop in and give advice and get in the way. The whole "built family" aspect is important to Jax in making him feel home for the first time in his life, contributing to his feeling of well-being with Treena. For me, this part makes the characterization of their relationship whole - it isn't just a lust attraction, but the whole package, and they develop a friendship outside the bedroom that is very realistic.

Of course, Andersen writes bacon-sizzling hot love scenes too, which doesn't hurt. I got a kick out of the obligatory "sex against the door" scene when he realizes he was rushing her, and tries another tactic. While she appreciates that, she decides she still wants the door aspect and manages to finagle it later.

And there's the other neighbor, another dancer, leading her way into her own story - Just for Kicks, next on my TBR list.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book - 5 stars and a keeper for sure. I re-read the AAR review for it - I like to see how other people characterize the books I read. Sometimes I feel they put what I felt into words better than I can, but in the case of this review, we diverged. That reviewer felt the whole identity deception on Jax's part messed up the story for her - it was out of character, and she didn't like waiting for the Big Reveal. I felt like Andersen made the slip-up of betting the ball very believable - no matter how one feels about one's parents, the death of a parent does affect most people, and Jax was affected and reacted. I felt waiting for the Big Reveal was part of the suspense of the novel (what will happen next?) and I also felt the way Treena discovers his identity was very realistic.

There ya go, different strokes for different folks. After all - if he could have just ASKED for the ball, there would be no story and we would have been short-changed.

Audio notes: the narrator is Johanna Parker, who reads the Sookie Stackhouse series. She's good - not grrrreat (Barbara Rosenblatt, Davina Porter, Anna Fields), but really good. I thought she did a fine reading on this book, giving each character his or her own, consistent voice. 5 stars.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie ***

This is another of the Crusie-audio-glom I did this past week, and finished this one today. It was going along pretty well (especially after I sorta DNFed What the Lady Wants) for the first, oh, maybe half of the story. I was enjoying Crusie's wit and writing, and her characters. Then it turned dark and confusing and frankly I felt the heroine kept making really, REALLY bad decisions so it turned out to be only 3 stars by the end.

OH - plus there's adultery. That's not a deal-breaker for me anymore, but it is for some. And - well, technically, what she does isn't adultery, because SPOILER


her husband was already dead, although she didn't know it.

Well, he was committing adultery too - we think. Actually, maybe he wasn't, but...

This is the story of an unhappy wife whose husband is up to no good - probably cheating on her - and she is planning to divorce him after she finds what she considers pretty good evidence. After all, 5 years ago he had cheated on her.

Maddie lives in Frog Point - a small town where everyone knows everybody else's business within 10 minutes of it happening. She grew up there, and married a local boy, and they have an 8-year-old daughter. 20 years earlier, when she was 18, she did have a one-night-stand with the town bad boy, but came to her senses and never saw him again.

Her mother lives down the street, as does her best friend and her family. Brent - the cheating husband - has family there too - his dad is mayor and hopes for Brent to follow in his footsteps.

Lawd, I hate small towns - I really do - and this is one where it really is portrayed as Not A Good Thing, as opposed to Virgin River (Robyn Carr) and other romance novel small towns.

The One Night Stand Bad Boy comes back to town - C.L. Sturgis. He's apparently carried a torch for Maddie all these years, but the real reason he came to town is because he's some hotshot ACCOUNTANT (woooooo, we know how sexy hotshot accountants are!) who is looking into potential fraud being done by - BRENT the cheating husband.

There's a lot of misdirection - C.L. sees The Best Friend with The Cheating Husband at the bowling alley; the next door neighbor lady who is getting a divorce might have had an affair with The Cheating Husband; and other stuff like that pointing to different people with a bone to pick with Brent. Meanwhile, C.L. and Maddie have the hots for each other, The Cheating Husband punches Maddie in the face twice and then disappears, Maddie's car is rear-ended and totalled, and...

It's a long confusing story, and I liked it at first but then, I dunno, it seemed a lot darker and less humorous as it went on, and Maddie kept making a lot of stupid mistakes, including finding a LOT of damning evidence in her safe deposit box then LEAVING IT THERE and returning the key to its original place at home. ???? OK, maybe taking the child's passport and destroying it was good, but how about destroying the airline ticket as well? Hello?

The narrator was Joyce Bean. She's a pretty good narrator who has done several of Linda Howard's books, but - ok, she has just a slight touch of tongue thrust or something, the barest hint of a lisp. I think the first book I heard by her was Linda Howard's Death Angel and as I recall, I wasn't that happy with her in that book either but the story was so wonderful I soon forgot all about her voice.

oh yeah and there was a dog. The End. 3 stars.