Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book Description:

Published: November 8, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Review –

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carroll’s 1863 classic Alice in Wonderland, being the history of one of the most recognizable characters in fiction; The Queen of Hearts. Set in the kingdom of Hearts, a world of talking animals, animate furniture and occasional bouts of unpredictable magic, the story follows Lady Catherine Pinkerton, the seventeen year old daughter of the Marquess of Rockturtle Cove.

Cath begins the book as sweet, naïve and rather overly sheltered, not to mention very much under her parent’s’ thumb (one reason for my lady’s initial exasperation), however seeing her change, grow and evolve through circumstances is truly a pleasure. Meyer seems to have a gift for character depiction since this is a book where even the minor players turn out to be more than they appear, and as for Catherine rarely have I seen an author write character development in such a pure sense, i.e. taking a character from one place at the start of the book, and showing how they journey to a very different place at the end of it.

I liked how the King of Hearts, despite being cast almost immediately in the role of an unwanted potential husband is neither sadistic nor lecherous. He is simply good natured, foolish, ineffective and not overly endowed in the brain department. While this makes him of course completely out of the question as a match for Catherine, it also makes her position a more unique one than a lot of characters facing forced marriages in modern fiction, since it’s one thing to wish to avoid a vile suitor at all costs, quite another to have to reject an innocent but dim-witted one.

The  character I did feel slightly short-changed by was Jest, the court joker and very obvious love interest. Dashing, clever, accomplished at everything from magic tricks to music and of course hopelessly smitten with Catherine (he even has golden eyes). While Meyer does undoubtedly reveal enough hidden truths about Jest to make him play an interesting part in the plot, I did feel that he was a bit too idealised. 

The final conclusion is a very apt end to the story, employing prophecy, destiny and character revelations. If you know the story of the Queen of Hearts then you know that this story will not end well, BUT you keeping hoping …

Despite its at times slow pace and its rather too obvious Joker I did very much enjoy Heartless. Take a large serving of Lewis Carroll, add a table-spoon of Jane Austin, season with a bit of Gaiman like twisted fairy tales and a likable, if rather sheltered protagonist and you have something sweet, fluffy and delicious on the outside, but with a dark, and troubled centre within.

Loved it!

 

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Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

Book Description:

Published: August 10, 2010

Format: Audio/Library Book

For eighteen years, Fran Benedetto kept her secret. And hid her bruises. And stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father. And because, in spite of everything, she loved him. Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son’s face, Fran finally made a choice–and ran for both their lives.

Now she is starting over in a city far from home, far from Bobby. And in this place she uses a name that isn’t hers, and cradles her son in her arms, and tries to forget. For the woman who now calls herself Beth, every day is a chance to heal, to put together the pieces of her shattered self. And every day she waits for Bobby to catch up to her. Because Bobby always said he would never let her go. And despite the flawlessness of her escape, Fran Benedetto is certain of one thing: It is only a matter of time…

Review –

“Frannie, a nurse, fell deeply in love with Bobby, a handsome New York cop who at the time seemed attractively “tasty and dangerous,” as well as kind and thoughtful. But after 17 years of marriage, Bobby has become more dangerous than appealing. Tired of being beaten up, and now coping with a broken nose, Fran takes her ten-year-old son Robert and flees their Brooklyn home. Helped by a women’s organization, she and Robert are given new identities and a new place to live: a duplex in Florida. Now known as Beth Crenshaw, Frannie also tries to make a new life for herself and Robert, whom she loves with a fierce and protective devotion. She finds a good friend in the resilient Cindy and a satisfying job as a visiting health aide. She grows close to her patients, especially Mrs. Levitt, a Holocaust survivor. But Frannie can’t relax her vigilance: Bobby has resources and investigating tools that might make it easy to find her, and so while her life is increasingly normal she dates Mike, Robert’s nice soccer coach she’s still afraid. The tension is nail-biting but nicely complemented by perceptive insights, as in Frannie’s meditation that “whenever I thought about leaving, I thought about leaving my house . . . balloon shades and miniblinds . . . mugs for the coffee . . . small things; routine, order that’s what kept me there for the longest time.” Inevitably, Bobby catches up with her and exacts a terrible revenge, but an appropriately bittersweet ending gives Fran, who’ll always wonder whether she was right to flee, a new love and life. Quindlen writes about women as they really are neither helpless victims nor angry polemicists, but intelligent human beings struggling to do what’s right for those they love and for themselves. A book to read and savor.” Kirkus Review

When I first started listening to this book I thought that at the end Fran would kill Bobby, what happened is much worse. When you’re done reading or listening you will be left thinking for a long time.

 

 

Damaged Goods (New York #2) by Lainey Reese

Book Description:

Published: August 21, 2012

Format: Audio/Audible

Dominance. Submission. Murder. And that’s just before lunch.

New York, Book 2

Homicide detective Brice Marshall’s current case has him stymied and frustrated. A serial killer is slaughtering young women. After a long, fruitless day poring over the most gruesome evidence he’s ever seen, he needs a break.

Stepping into his cousin’s BDSM club is a reminder that there is another part of himself. A part that has been left empty in a life ruled by work. The fact is, he’s a Dom in search of a sub. When he bumps into Terryn, a slender redhead who’s new to the scene, her wide-eyed eagerness even in the face of her nerves attracts him like gravity.

Terryn is the sub of his dreams, with the power to ease his soul. Without warning the murder case reaches ugly tentacles into the most private part of his world—the woman he wants to claim as his own. The woman whose stubborn search for the delicate balance between sub life and independence could put her directly in the path of the killer.

Warning: This book contains BDSM play, M/F/M ménage, graphic language and a drool-worthy Dom on the hunt for a sub and a killer.

Review –

Sooooo much better that Book One!

I loved this second book in the New York series. Damaged Goods is about Brice, the gorgeous Homicide Detective who we met in Book One, A Table for Three. This was another erotic indulgence set in the BDSM scene but we had some serious suspense in this one with a serial killer on the loose. I actually thought the suspense plot was fantastic and was really well written. It actually kept me guessing and it was woven into the romance really well and drawn out perfectly.

Brice is having a hard time on the murder case of a young vibrant girl and it’s all getting to him. Enter Cade’s BDSM club which Brice visits after an extremely stressful day at work. He wants to let go and find a willing submissive.  Brice knows he has hit the jack pot when he spots Terryn; an inexperienced redhead who immediately brings out all of Brice’s dominant instincts.

Brice comes across as protective, commanding and devoted; overall a gorgeous alpha male character without the arrogance! I loved him, he was a true hero!

Terryn was so adorable and genuine.  A truly likeable heroine who showed courage and allure yet was shy and honest. She had no fear of trying to get what she wanted despite the huge change of life style.

Together Brice and Terryn made perfect sense!

This is Brice and Terryn’s story however; Trev, Cade and Riley are back and we get to catch up with them a few years after we left them in Book One. We also have the hot and sexy secondary characters of Gage and Kent.

Looking forward to listening to Book Three!

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Book Description:

Published: June 5, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut–for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Review –

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave? Wonder no longer. It takes an age. However long you think it takes, double that.”  Those four short sentences make up Chapter One and grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

Erin and Mark are on their honeymoon in Bora Bora, and while scuba diving they find Something in the Water.  THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. They have to decide what to do with what they found, turn it in or keep it for themselves. The temptation is strong, since Mark just lost his job. They think no one will be willing to claim it, so why bother trying to find the owners? When the bodies start piling up and they realize they are being followed, the stakes get higher. But once you’ve been sucked in, it’s hard to go back. When you are faced with the greatest temptation is when your true colors come out and you find out what or who is really important to you. It’s also when you discover that maybe that person you love more than anything has a side you’ve never really seen before. You’ll have to read the story to find out who survives in this book.

For a debut novel by an actress, Catherine Steadman played the part of Mabel Lane Fox on Downton Abbey, I thought this went fairly well. The characters had depth, and the writing was well done. I do think that the couple should have been  more middle-class instead of living in a million dollar home. It would have made all the craziness that they went through more realistic and I think the ending was a bit of a let down.

All in all, I enjoyed it very much.

The Edge of Dominance (The Dom of Her Life #4) by Shayla Black,Jenna Jacob, and Isabella LaPearl

Book Description:

Published: September 13, 2016

Format: Audio/Audible

Now that Macen “Hammer” Hammerman shares the bond he’s long craved with Raine Kendall and his best friend, Liam O’Neill, he should be looking forward to a bright future. But recent trauma has exhumed the demons Hammer thought long buried. He must confront them while Raine fights to forget her past and Liam struggles to keep their new family intact.

When a shadowy figure emerges, determined to right old wrongs, he sets in motion a plot that threatens to tear the trio apart forever. With emotions running high and forces mounting against them, can they battle their foes and bury their ghosts so they can live happily ever after?

Review –

I love BDSM stories and this series is a great one.

This book is just a guilty pleasure crazy ride.  The story goes in directions that really cannot be anticipated from the prior books and I loved it!

The trio is really challenged in this book as external forces threaten their happiness.  Finally, we learn about Macen’s past and it is his past which threatens them.  I thought this was the most emotional that we have seen Macen and I truly felt that with his emotional breakthrough in this book, the trio is on the best footing ever.

This book has a bit of a suspense/crime mystery involved as Macen is in danger of spending most of his life in jail.  The question for the friendly characters is who is out to get him.  This threat to Macen and the accompanying loss of control forces Macen to examine his life and make deep emotional changes.  I loved his struggle in this book (he’s been my favorite in the series).  I also loved how he has to lean on Liam and Raine (whereas previously he has been the steady one for them).

I loved the new characters that we got to meet.  Liam’s parents come to visit and their arrival changes the dynamic of this book.  There are some surprising twists that some readers might have to adjust their thinking for.  I especially loved Liam’s dad.  There is one scene toward the end that might be the biggest hoot in the series!

This book really shows the three developing a true equal relationship.  Throughout the four books in this series, these characters and their relationship has changed and grown.  The relationship between three people is deeply complex and I have really enjoyed the journey these characters have taken.

Of course there is a lot of hot sex, but it is really the emotional connection between these characters that is the most important.

The series is nicely wrapped up and there is a sweet epilogue.

The Dazzling Heights (the Thousandth Floor #2) by Katharine McGee

Book Description:

Published: August 29, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

All that glitters is not gold.

New York City, 2118. Manhattan is home to a thousand-story supertower, a breathtaking marvel that touches the sky. But amid high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, five teenagers are keeping dangerous secrets…

Leda is haunted by memories of what happened on the worst night of her life. She’ll do anything to make sure the truth stays hidden—even if it means trusting her enemy.

Watt just wants to put everything behind him…until Leda forces him to start hacking again. Will he do what it takes to be free of her for good?

When Rylin wins a scholarship to an upper-floor school, her life transforms overnight. But being there also means seeing the boy whose heart she broke, and who broke hers in return.

Avery is tormented by her love for the one person in the world she can never have. She’s desperate to be with him…no matter the cost.

And then there’s Calliope, the mysterious, bohemian beauty who arrives in New York determined to cause a stir. And she knows exactly where to begin.

But unbeknownst to them all, someone is watching their every move, someone with revenge in mind. After all, in a world of such dazzling heights, just one wrong step can mean a devastating fall.

Review –

I love it when an author begins a sequel right where the preceding book leaves off and Katharine McGee did not disappoint.

Just like its predecessor, The Dazzling Heights is a character-driven story. The character developments are definitely something I really look forward to. I want to see how the characters moved on and if they learned anything from the incident. Avery was a character I liked in the first book. However, I’m not sure if I liked Avery in The Dazzling Heights. All her storyline focused on her relationship with Atlas. I was actually expecting more for Avery’s character development. I have to say though that Avery became more exciting toward the end of the book. Finally, some drama from Avery. 

Leda is the character I strongly disliked  the most at the end of the first book. At the beginning of this book, my feelings didn’t change. I still hated her. She was truly sly and cunning in order to get what she wanted. Although I have to say that I wasn’t expecting the development with Leda. While she didn’t become a completely different person, there was a lot of changes in her. I think having Watt by her side helped her a lot in realising what she did wrong in the first book.

Watt is still the same Watt in The Thousandth Floor. In this book you’d meet him a lot because he spent a lot of time with Leda – which leads to him developing feelings for her. I have to say that this new romantic development was totally fine. The transitions from “enemy” to romantic interest was done really well.

Rylin was my favourite girl in the first book. The scholarship was something I didn’t expect to happen. To have her in the same school with the others had drama written all over it. One of the biggest question I had for her was how was her relationship Cord going to be? Are they going to be friends again? Did Cord hate her? I really want them to be together. Aaaand I wasn’t disappointed! I liked how their relationship was played out in this book. I knew it would be impossible for them to get back together right away given the ending of the first book. I really liked Cord as a character I wish we got his POV in the next book.

One of the things I wished for this book was more Marielle. I was hoping that Marielle would play a bigger role in this book, but no! We got a new character instead. For me, Calliope was a very welcome addition to the story. She brought new dramas and excitement to the story. Although I have to say that with her being in love with Atlas, there were SO MANY mentions of Atlas which made me wish there was an Atlas POV.  Beyond Atlas, her backstory was very sad and helped you to understand where she was coming from. I wasn’t sure how to feel about her in the middle of the book, but at the end, I liked Calliope. Despite her con-artist activities there were many instances in the book where you got to see the real Calliope. I’m really excited on how she’s going to be in the next book.

Love this YA series!

The Bold and the Dominant (The Dom of Her Life #3)by Shayla Black, Jenna Jacob and Isabella LaPearl

Book Description:

Published: February 10, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

After spending weeks trying to reach Raine Kendall, Dominants Liam O’Neill and Macen Hammerman have finally broken past the walls to their submissive’s wounded heart. Before they can enjoy their newfound closeness, Liam’s past comes back to haunt him when his ex-wife drops in—with a secret that could tear his world apart. Forced to leave Raine in Hammer’s care, Liam is stuck on the outside, stewing in frustration and insecurity…and wondering if Raine no longer needs him or if Hammer alone completes her.

Always the pillar of strength, Hammer tries to help Liam while sheltering their woman. But Raine soon discovers the truth that threatens the trio’s chance of a happily-ever-after. Determined to hold them together, the two men cook up a scheme to uncover the ex’s secret. When an old nemesis returns and targets Raine, can Liam and Hammer come together to slay the danger and save the woman they both love?

Review –

Book Three of The Doms of Her Life series brings more strife between the three lovers along with a couple of bitter pills from their past jumping in to try to stifle their future happiness.  Exciting and sexy hot!

Macen “Hammer” Hammerman and his best friend Liam O’Neill have finally managed to break down the walls their shared sub Raine Kendall has had up around her heart when their happiness is put to the test!  Liam’s ex-wife shows up causing a ruckus and he has to leave Raine in Hammer’s hands while he goes to deal with her.  During his absence, he lets his insecurities get the best of him and wonders if Raine even needs him anymore now that she has Hammer, and how he could ever mean as much to her as the man who she has pined after for years does.  Will his demons get the best of him and tear down their happily-ever-after before it even gets started? When a past nemesis puts Raine in grave danger, will Liam and Macen be able to protect her? A final big cliffhanger sets us up for the conclusion of the series.

A Table for Three (New York #1) by Lainey Reese

Book Description:

Published: April 20, 2010

Format: Audio/Audible

Riley Ramirez knew that moving to New York would change her life. She just didn’t expect it to start on her very first night in town. Her attraction to nightclub owner Kincade Marshall is instant, mind-blowing—and mutual. When she finds he is a Dom who requires her complete surrender, even when it comes to submitting to his best friend, Trevor Wellington, she finds herself willing and eager to embrace the sexual adventure.

From their earliest days, Cade and Trevor have shared everything, including women. Yet it only takes one night with Riley to know she is their forever lady. Convincing her that this is more than a temporary fling, though, will take every tool in their sensual arsenal.

As Cade and Trevor set their sights on Riley, however, they’re unaware—until it’s almost too late—that someone is targeting their fragile relationship. Someone who’s taking deadly aim at Riley. Suddenly their struggle to keep their forever woman is a fight to keep her alive…

WARNING: This book contains m/f/m ménage, bdsm play, lots of steamy p.d.a, and a fine dining experience that will leave you salivating for more.

Review –

This book is pretty much sex, from cover to cover and not a lot of story line other than two dominants looking for the perfect sub.

The characters were on the weak and shallow side. Riley was a goody-two shoes who wanted to do volunteer work but get paid for it.

The men, Cade and Trevor, are handsome, wealthy and kind. No flaws, OF ANY KIND.  It would have been nice to see a scar or a commitment issue or even a fear of HEIGHTS. I think the problem I had with them was that they were fantasy men – the kind we women put into our daydreams and think we want but when it comes to real life, realize we don’t really want all that fawning and attention. We just want good sex and to have the garbage taken out.

On the whole, okay but that’s about it. I’m going to try the next book in the series only because Bryce, a cousin of the of the PERFECT men in the first story has a REAL job. He’s a detective , which may give him a more complex personality. I can only hope.

 

 

An Accidental Death (DC Smith #1) by Peter Grainger

Book Description:

Published: October 3, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

The story opens with the apparently accidental drowning of a sixth form student in the Norfolk countryside. As a matter of routine, or so it seems, the case passes across the desk of Detective Sergeant Smith, recently returned to work after an internal investigation into another case that has led to tensions between officers at Kings Lake police headquarters. As an ex DCI, Smith could have retired by now, and it is clear that some of his superiors wish that he would do so.

The latest trainee detective to work with him is the son of a member of his former team, and together they begin to unravel the truth about what happened to Wayne Fletcher. As the investigation proceeds, it becomes clear that others are involved – some seem determined to prevent it, some seem to be taking too much interest. In the end Smith operates alone, having stepped too far outside standard procedures to ask for support. He knows that his own life might be at risk but he has not calculated on the life of his young assistant also being put in danger. He might still get his man but at what cost?

Review –

For me, one of the biggest treats of  reading is discovering a new series you really, really love and reading all the books straight through. Recently I discovered  a novel called An Accidental Death by Peter Grainger. It’s the first of a series featuring Norfolk Detective Sergeant DC Smith, and I liked it so much I intend to read the seven  other books in the series. DC (short for David Conrad) is a former Detective Chief Inspector in the fictional Norfolk city of King’s Lake, and has chosen a demotion in order to do real police work rather than management. He is an older man of many hidden talents of which most are unknown to his colleagues. He is not afraid to use unorthodox methods to achieve successful results. DC is such an original voice, and the books are complex explorations of character and relationships. 

The current case under investigation is unusual without being sensational. It covers contemporary topics from school briefings on drugs through to international terrorism and is designed to provide as much insight into DC Smith as it does to the causes and execution of the crimes being investigated.

Loved it and look forward to reading the rest!!!!!

 

Side Note:

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the phrase or quote “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”, but in all my reading I have NEVER seen it referenced until THIS book and I thought that was cool.

Killer by Nature by Jan Smith

Book Description:

Published: November 30, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Are we born evil, or do we have evil thrust upon us? This is the eternal question of nature vs nurture at the centre of Killer by Nature, a brand-new psychological thriller from Audible Originals.

Dr. Diane Buckley, a talented freelance forensic psychologist, is drafted in to examine a grisly murder – a body found in a children’s playground. The murder carries all the hallmarks of one of her most famous incarcerated clients, ‘The Playground Killer’ (aka Alfred Dinklage). In a series of intimate 1:1 sessions, Buckley has to race against time to unpick the facts and delve into Dinklage’s often manipulative, complicated mind to understand his past whilst striving to prevent further murders…as someone out there will stop at nothing to complete Dinklage’s work.

Fully dramatized, with an immersive SFX soundscape, Killer by Nature features an all-star cast, including Katherine Kelly (Mr Selfridge), Rob-James Collier (Downton Abbey), Thomas Turgoose (This is England), Angela Griffin (Cutting It) and Will Mellor (No Offence).

Length: 4 hours 31 minutes.

Review –

I didn’t like the SFX sound and felt it really didn’t enhance the experience and  the actors were okay but a lot of times talked over each other which was distracting.

The storyline was good, although, I wish it had stuck to one and not have subplots to muck up things.

My favorite part was the ending because I did not see that coming!

All in all, a short audio mystery is always a good way to kill a few hours.