Net Impact

Dick hated anomalies.  All spies did.  They usually meant something, something important.

Donald J. Bingle
Net Impact

Format:
Audio & ebook

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Dick Thornby is not Hollywood’s idea of a spy. In his rough and tumble job there are no tailored Italian suits, no bimbos eager to please, and no massive underground fortresses built by evil overlords seeking world domination – just an endless series of sinister threats to the safety and security of the billions of mundane citizens of the planet. Sure, Dick’s tough and he knows a few tricks to help him get out of a tight spot, even if his boss accuses him of over-reliance on an abundance of explosives.

But he’s also got a mortgage, a wife upset by his frequent absences on “business” trips, and an increasingly alienated teen-age son who spends way too much time playing in gaming worlds on the computer.

When a young computer expert back at the Philadelphia headquarters for The Subsidiary, an international espionage agency created in the aftermath of 9/11, discovers that bad guys are involved in a vast conspiracy, Dick is forced to partner with the espionage neophyte to battle evil on multiple fronts, leading to a final confrontation that incorporates real-world conspiracy theories and cutting-edge technology.

In the end, Dick can save his partner, save his marriage, save his son, or save the world, but he can’t do it all.

Point of view:
3rd person. Multiple POVs, not by chapter, but clearly defined.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
This is a difficult review for me. This book should be everything I love. An intersection of spycraft and gaming, a not-so-perfect agent, combined into a mystery/suspense/thriller novel. In some respects, I enjoyed Bruce Pilkerton’s narration. He has a wide variety of voices, accents, and emotions. Yet, somehow, I really struggled to get into the story and Pilkerton’s portrayal of the characters. I found myself constantly starting and stopping and having to remind myself to go back to it.

At about the 50% mark, I opted to just read it myself and things vastly improved. Bingle definitely has a talent at bringing together a huge cast of diverse characters and what initially seemed like unrelated events into a compelling thriller. It crossed a lot of genres – but in a way that I personally enjoyed. As a gamer myself, the MMORPG aspect was enjoyable and it was a treat to experience Dick’s uncertainty in that world.

This isn’t a cliffhanger, but Bingle does leave some loose ends in secondary storylines. I’m looking forward to reading Wet Work.

Narration:
I really think that this was an issue of the specific combination of this narrator with this story not working for me. I would be willing to listen to Pilkerton again, probably in a different genre.

I own the ebook, but did receive a free copy of this audiobook from  Story Origin  and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

About the author:
Donald J. Bingle is the author of six books and more than sixty shorter tales in the science fiction, fantasy, thriller, horror, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. He has a longer bio and delightful list of “random true facts” here.

You can connect with Donald J. Bingle here:

My Favorite Quotes

Now he knew what it felt like to be collateral damage. – Net Impact by @donaldjbingle #DickThornby #Thriller #Spy #Suspense

Dick hated anomalies.  All spies did.  They usually meant something, something important. – Net Impact by @donaldjbingle #DickThornby #Thriller #Spy #Suspense

Merry Cherry Christmas

Like most redheads, his blushes could be seen from space.

Keira Andrews
Merry Cherry Christmas

Format:
ebook

Publisher’s Synopsis:
A nice boy gets naughty…

Redheaded freshman Jeremy “Cherry” Rourke is certainly living up to his childhood nickname, although still being inexperienced is the least of his concerns. After coming out, his parents barely talk to him. He hasn’t made any friends at university. Worst of all, he’s about to spend Christmas completely alone in an empty dorm.

Jeremy clearly needs a fairy godfather, so football captain Max Pimenta takes him under his wing to help him find his dating groove. But Jeremy’s wound way too tight. He’s too vulnerable. Max can’t trust some random guy with him. He needs to take care of Jeremy himself and introduce him to no-pressure exploration. It’s not about romance or feelings—he’s just doing the kid a favor.

Max is definitely not falling for this lonely, beautiful boy. No way.

And it’s not like he can leave Jeremy all alone for the holidays. He’ll bring him home to his family’s maple syrup farm—strictly as friends since his parents have rules. No more fooling around. No more eager, breathless fun. No more making Jeremy shiver and blush with suggestive whispers in his ear. No more sweeter-than-sugar kisses. All nice. No more naughty.

But Jeremy’s sleeping right across the hall, and Max wants him for himself. The twelve days of Christmas will last an eternity if they don’t break the rules.

Shhh. No one has to know…

Point of view:
3rd person. Alternating character POV by chapter.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
This is the perfect holiday read, adorkably sweet and sexy fun! Fairly low angst and absolutely hilarious. Keira Andrews is good at weaving a bit of humor through many of her stories – but I was seriously laughing out loud through much of this book. This was many of my favorite tropes – yet unique in a lot of ways. While Max is comfortably out & definitely sexually experienced, he’s also sensitive to Jeremy’s concerns and perspective.

I loved Max’s family, especially his relationship with his sister Meg. Fans of Andrew’s Santa Daddy will be treated to a cameo by Nick & Hunter who live in the neighboring farm. It’s not necessary to have read it to enjoy this, but if you like to read chronologically, you’ll want to start there.

This really is low angst with most of the drama coming from Max grappling with his after-graduation plans and Jeremy navigating a less than supportive family. While set in a very short amount of time (less than 3 weeks, I think) – Max & Jeremy do spend a lot of time getting to know each other outside the bedroom, which really solidifies their HEA. Andrews also gives us a lovely epilogue.

Note: I’ve listed this under my “Football” trope tag. While Max plays football there’s no game play in the story and most of it is actually set at Max’s family’s farm. I wouldn’t consider this a “sports romance”.

About the author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, fantasy, and paranormal fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

You can connect with Keira Andrews here:

My Favorite Quotes

Like most redheads, his blushes could be seen from space. – Merry Cherry Christmas @keiraandrews #MM #JockNerd #Virgin #Holiday #NewAdult #Romance #RomanticComedy

Jeremy had never wanted to climb another person like a tree so much in his life. – Merry Cherry Christmas @keiraandrews #MM #JockNerd #Virgin #Holiday #NewAdult #Romance #RomanticComedy

Maple syrup is very intense there. The business, I mean. The syrups vary. – Merry Cherry Christmas @keiraandrews #MM #JockNerd #Virgin #Holiday #NewAdult #Romance #RomanticComedy

How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps

Father always told me that true heroism was when someone fought for what was right, regardless of the risk to themselves. But Father was wrong. True Heroism was a passive skill only available to the Hero class, unlocked at forty-second level.

Andrew Rowe
How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps

Format:
Audible original. ebook is available via Kindle Unlimited at the time of this review.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
For thousands of years, there has been a cycle: a Demon King rises and conquers, and a Hero is reborn a hundred years later to defeat him. Each time, civilizations are ground to dust beneath the Demon King’s hordes, but humanity has remained secure in the belief that a Hero of legend will always save them. There’s just one slight problem. It’s only been 23 years since the Demon King’s latest rise, and this time, he’s already conquered more than half the world. If humanity simply waits for the Hero’s return, there may be no world left for him to save.

And so, Yui Shaw sets out with an ambitious plan. A 10-step plan.

She’ll find a way to obtain the Hero’s legendary sword. She’ll earn obscure classes, gain levels, and increase her skills. She’ll travel to the meticulously-crafted dungeons that seem designed for one specific Hero to complete. And, if she’s truly (un)fortunate, she might even find a fairy.

She might not be a Hero—but if she can fake it long enough, she might still be able to save the world.

Point of view:
1st Person. Entirely from Yui’s POV.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
First – this cover is absolutely gorgeous! It’s also the perfect representation of not only the world Andrew Rowe created, but captures the excitement of the adventure Yui is embarking on.

This was a fun listen that is perfect for all ages. The Princess Bride meets Ready Player One. Rowe refers to it as an “affectionate parody” and that’s exactly what he delivers. While only my second litRPG story, we’re a family of gamers so I was familiar with all the references and it was easy to be immersed in this charming world. I love that Rowe chose a female protagonist while also excluding any romantic element. This is pure action/adventure/fantasy.

I’m looking forward to more of Rowe’s work and to diving further into the litRPG and GameLit genres.

Narration:
While technically a Duet narration, Steve West has very few lines – only serving as the “game voice” announcing when Yui gains XP, items, skills, and unlocks achievements. No disrespect to his talent and it’s definitely a fun addition, however it’s really Suzy Jackson who brings this story to life. I adored her voice for Yui including the personality and delivery. Jackson gives all of Rowe’s delightful characters a unique sound and accentuating the humor. This was a fun listen.

About the author:
Andrew Rowe is a professional game designer. He’s also worked at awesome companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Cryptic Studios, and Obsidian Entertainment. When he’s not crunching numbers for game balance, he runs Shades of Venaya, a swords and sorcery themed live-action role-playing game. In addition, he writes for pen and paper role-playing games. Aside from game design and writing, Andrew watches a lot of anime, reads a metric ton of fantasy books, and plays every role-playing game he can get his hands on.

You can connect with Andrew Rowe here:

Narrators:
You can connect with Suzy Jackson here:

You can connect with Steve West here:

My Favorite Quotes

Are you just going to steal everything in here? – How to Defeat a Demon King in 10 Easy Steps by @TaelienSalaris #Audiobook narrated by @SuzyOpeningAct with @SteveWestActor #litRPG #YoungAdult #Comedy #AudibleOriginal

Taking magic seriously and handling it responsibly is important, kids. Just ignore the fact that I started out my journey by throwing random spells at a divine artifact. – How to Defeat a Demon King in 10 Easy Steps by @TaelienSalaris #Audiobook narrated by @SuzyOpeningAct with @SteveWestActor #litRPG #YoungAdult #Comedy #AudibleOriginal

I responded with a mighty battle cry, to the tune of, “Aaaaah why are there wall hands?!” – How to Defeat a Demon King in 10 Easy Steps by @TaelienSalaris #Audiobook narrated by @SuzyOpeningAct with @SteveWestActor #litRPG #YoungAdult #Comedy #AudibleOriginal

The Quasar Lineage

I’m the first Earth representative they have run across. This should be interesting.

Pearl Tate
The Quasar Lineage

Format:
Audiobook

This is a box set of the first 3 books in The Quasar Lineage series: Bren’s Blessing, Matthias’ Miracle, & Amari’s Adored.

At the time of this review the ebook for Bren’s Blessing is free and Matthias’ Miracle & Amari’s Adored are available via Kindle Unlimited.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Bren’s Blessing

I enjoy my job, so when things go sideways and aliens board my lab, I try to stay positive and make sure that I just observe and stay alive. But I’m immediately grabbed an taken to their ship.

It appears that I’m now the property of the alien that grabbed me. 

He’s big, possessive, and seems to want to get to know me a lot better.

Matthias’s Miracle

I wake from my abduction while being separated from my friends. Sore and groggy, I’m tied to a bed before I realize what’s going on.

As the circumstances start to sink in, I fight until I hear a roar of rage.

At first, my rescuer scares me as much as my captors, but when I realize he’s helping, he becomes my new best friend.

Amari’s Adored

Before I even wake up from my abduction, I’m “rescued” from the shuttle that crashed here on their prison planet. 

But as I’m coming to terms with everything around me, I become a pawn in a tug-of-war between my new rescuer and a group of unhappy aliens.

They are determined to break away from their prison, taking everything of value with them…and that includes me!

Point of view:
1st person. Alternating perspectives by chapter.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
I’ll admit I haven’t read a lot of alien romance, but this was a fun listen. These are shorter, fated mates, and super sexy stories. Combined as a box set – they’re a great deal. While they’re listed as standalone, the storylines all build from previous events and I’d definitely recommend listening in order. I’d minimally encourage Bren’s Blessing as it involves a lot of world building that will be helpful as the series goes on.

Bren’s Blessing kicks off the series as Hannah, an Astronaut, finds herself rescued from her self-destructing space station where she’s been living alone for a year. As much of the intrigue created by the book involves the revelation of Bren’s world, I don’t want to spoil it. Tate does a good job of slowly exposing the dynamics of Quasar contrasting with the speed of Bren & Hannah’s relationship. There’s also a fun action/suspense aspect.

Matthias’ Miracle is a continuation of the revelations in Bren’s Blessing. Matthias is with a team of other Quasar males who rescues Susan and several of her friends. Tate continues to weave a bit of mystery/suspense through the story as well as another rescue.

The events in Amari’s Adored run somewhat concurrent with Matthias’ Miracle. This also meant that earlier parts felt a little repetitive because of Amari & Rachel “discovering” things the same way as the previous couples. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it as much had I not binged all 3 in less than a week. There’s an engaging rescue mission & thriller aspect that rounded out the romance nicely.

Narration:
This is a fantastic DUET narration by Randi Johnson and Kelsey Navarro. Specifically, there are a ton of male voices, all aliens, and Johnson did a terrific job of giving them all unique sounds and personalities. I also love the emotions that Navarro gave these spunky women. It really was a treat to listen to. I will absolutely look for more from both narrators.

Trigger Warnings (possible spoilers):
Matthias’ Miracle: Susan & her friends are all kidnapped. Also, she was previously raped (off page) and Matthias rescues her from an attempted rape. While not overly detailed, it is an often discussed topic in the story.

Amari’s Adored: Amari was raped (off page) and again, while not overly detailed it’s mentioned several times.

While I own the first book & borrowed the others via Kindle Unlimited, I did receive a free copy of this audiobook from Story Origin and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

About the author:
You can connect with Pearl Tate here:

Narrator:
You can connect with Randi Johnson here:

You can connect with Kelsey Navarro here:

My Favorite Quotes

I’m the first Earth representative they have run across. This should be interesting. – The Quasar Lineage by @AuthorPearlTate #DuetNarration by @RandiRomance & @kelseydnavarro #AlienRomance #FatedMates

He’s probably wondering what the hell I am doing but these are the last minutes of my life. I’ll do what I want, dammit. – The Quasar Lineage by @AuthorPearlTate #DuetNarration by @RandiRomance & @kelseydnavarro #AlienRomance #FatedMates

I won’t be one of those stupid people who won’t take the help when it shows up. – The Quasar Lineage by @AuthorPearlTate #DuetNarration by @RandiRomance & @kelseydnavarro #AlienRomance #FatedMates

Secrets of the Ravine

Maybe the town and the talk of the mystical realm had him intrigued with the mystery surrounding her, but whatever the reasons, Magpie had him hooked.

Brenda Whiteside
Secrets of the Ravine

Format:
ebook

Publisher’s Synopsis:
When a ringer for her long-dead love walks into her life the same day skeletal remains are found at the edge of town, Magpie MacKenzie can’t ignore what the universe is telling her…solve the mystery, or become the next victim.

Lawyer Zack Peartree’s life is orderly and entanglement-free until he visits purportedly haunted Joshua, Arizona, and meets free-wheeling shopkeeper Magpie. Despite experiencing troubling visions and odd moments of déjà vu, Zack’s instantly drawn to Magpie and to the unsolved murder which troubles her so.

Using clues from her father’s past and Zack’s déjà vu moments, Magpie and Zack race to solve the mystery, avoid a murderous fate, and to discover their future…together.

Point of view:
3rd person. Alternating perspectives from Magpie, Zac, & Frank.

Rellim’s Thoughts:

This is my 300th book of the year!


I enjoyed Brenda Whiteside’s Love & Murder series and was excited to see her new series, The MacKenzie Chronicles. Set in the small town of Joshua, Arizona this is too sexy to be considered a cozy mystery but has a lot of the same elements I enjoy in those. A tourist who holds a strong resemblance to a young man that disappeared nearly 30 years earlier amidst a murder investigation has the town stirred up.

For Magpie MacKenzie – it’s a whirl of emotions and memories. Zac Peachtree immediately notices the town noticing him, but the connection goes deeper than anyone realizes. While Magpie is 15 years older than Zac, attraction and more zings between them. They work to discover not only who the murderer is but whether they have a connection beyond the mystery. Amateur sleuthing, flashbacks to Joshua’s “hippy days”, and a bit a bit of a mystic element combine to give this a truly unique feel.

Whiteside does a solid job of worldbuilding in a book where the town of Joshua is an integral character as much as its citizens. While we definitely get to know Magpie & her father, Frank – there’s also a glimpse of Magpie’s siblings Harlan and Elidor. Not sure who gets the next book, but I’m looking forward to it.

About the author:
Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries–so far–she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo while splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life. 

You can connect with Brenda Whiteside here:

My Favorite Quotes

Maybe the town and the talk of the mystical realm had him intrigued with the mystery surrounding her, but whatever the reasons, Magpie had him hooked. – Secrets of the Ravine by @brendawhitesid2 #Mystery #Romance #SmallTown #MacKenzieChronicles

As if her energy vibrated within him, he was in tune with her. – Secrets of the Ravine by @brendawhitesid2 #Mystery #Romance #SmallTown #MacKenzieChronicles

Don’t always trust the rational. – Secrets of the Ravine by @brendawhitesid2 #Mystery #Romance #SmallTown #MacKenzieChronicles

Skyjack

‘What are you doing?’

‘Creating an alternative form of ingress.’

K.J. Howe
Skyjack

Format:
ebook & Audiobook

Publisher’s Synopsis:
When Thea Paris’s flight is hijacked over the Libyan Desert, her first priority is the two former child soldiers she is escorting to a new life in London.

As an international kidnap specialist, Thea Paris negotiates for hostage release as part of her job. She knows one wrong move could lead to deadly consequences.

After she is forcibly separated from the boys and the other passengers, Thea and her tactical team quickly regroup. And in their desperate search for the hostages that follows, unearth a conspiracy involving the CIA, the Vatican and the Sicilian Mafia, and a plot far more sinister than Thea could ever have imagined.

Point of view:
3rd Person. Multiple perspectives, always clearly defined.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
While Skyjack can be listened to on its own, there are definitely spoilers to events from The Freedom Broker and you’ll want to read/listen to these in order.

Thea Paris and the Quantum team return in what is Summer blockbuster movie material and 11 hours of audio. Howe introduces an even larger cast of characters and new situations that individually are compelling – yet culminate in a thrilling ride with a slightly surprising ending.

This book has it all – a Broken Arrow, skyjacking, mobsters, kidnapping, secret societies, terrorist plots, boat chases, and numerous shoot outs. At times it seems like maybe a little too much, but overall it was a fast paced, enjoyable, and suspenseful thriller. I especially appreciate what is obviously a lot of research Howe does to provide accuracy and details to her story. She takes us to numerous locations and the descriptions were so rich I truly felt like I was there.

Note: I have the ebook & audio and read along at times while listening. I’m not sure why, but there were several parts of the audio that seemed “Americanized”. For example the book says “dustbin lorry” and the narrator said “garbage truck”. It wasn’t a huge discrepancy but it did seem odd at times given the setting and characters.

Narration:
This is my first time listening to Thérèse Plummer and she will definitely be going on my list of narrators to follow. Her range and consistency of voices across genders, age, accents, and emotions was perfection. Combined with Howe’s writing – this was a fabulous audiobook and I’m going to go back and add the audio of book 1 to my collection.

About the author:
Born in Toronto, Canada, KJ enjoyed a nomadic lifestyle during her early years, living in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Caribbean, which gave her an insider’s view into many different cultures. While abroad, she read every book she could find, which triggered in her a desire to create her own stories.

She attended Salzburg International Preparatory School, Neuchâtel Junior College, and Albert College before earning a Specialists Degree in Business from the University of Toronto. KJ found success in the corporate world, but her passion for travel, adventure, and stories drew her back to school where she earned a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She is a Thriller and Barry Award nominee, and she has won several writing awards, including three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellent in Mystery and Suspense.

You can connect with K.J. Howe here:

About the narrator:
Thérèse Plummer is an actor and award-winning audiobook narrator working in New York City. She has recorded over 350 audio books for various publishers. She won the 2019 Audie Award for her work on the multicast, Sadie by Courtney Summers for Macmillan Audio, was nominated for the Mutlicast Any Man by Amber Tamblyn for Harper Audio and her solo narration for The Rogue Planets Shaken by Lee W. Brainard for Podium Publishing. The American Library Association (ALA) awarded her work on Sourdough by Robin Sloan as part of the 2018 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration for Adult Listeners.

You can connect with Thérèse Plummer here:

My Favorite Quotes

‘What are you doing?’‘Creating an alternative form of ingress.’ – Skyjack by @KJHoweAuthor narrated by @tplummer76 #Thriller #Suspense #KidnapAndRansom #StrongFemale #TheaParis

Only a kid could think of this shaken-not-stirred flight as a good time. – Skyjack by @KJHoweAuthor narrated by @tplummer76 #Thriller #Suspense #KidnapAndRansom #StrongFemale #TheaParis

Being taken down by a woman had probably done more damage to his ego than her forehead had done to his shattered nose. – Skyjack by @KJHoweAuthor narrated by @tplummer76 #Thriller #Suspense #KidnapAndRansom #StrongFemale #TheaParis

Fade to Blank

I’ve had everything taken from me. Everything. This is all I have left. A story to tell. And I want you to tell it.

C. F. White
Fade to Blank

Format:
Audio or ebook

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, vilified celebrity Jackson Young enlists the help of rookie journalist, Fletcher Doherty, to clear his name and write his biography.  

Jackson has a secret, though. One he must keep from becoming public. But Fletcher’s dreamy green eyes, Irish drawl, and effortless charm makes it hard to suppress those long-buried feelings, even if it could compromise his innocence. 

Uncovering the murky past behind Jackson’s rise to fame, Fletcher grows closer to a man he’d once declared as talentless and their intense attraction starts to affect not only his professional integrity, but the life he’d made since moving to London. 

Falling for the subject of his book could be fatal for Fletcher, and Jackson should know better than to trust a journalist. 

Point of view:
3rd person. Alternating perspectives, not always by chapter but clearly defined.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
First – this is a Cliffhanger. I’m generally not a huge fan of Duets & Trilogies. Too many of them feel like single stories needlessly dragged out or chopped into smaller sections to become multiple books. However, after enjoying White’s District Line Trilogy, I was more than happy to dive into this one. While there is a lot of story to justify breaking this into parts – this does not stand on its own. Be prepared for multiple books/audios to get the whole story.

Second – I think this will best be enjoyed knowing that the romance is secondary to what is a strong and compelling mystery/suspense storyline with some well written thriller elements as well. I think if I had realized this going in I wouldn’t have been so frustrated by what I initially felt was a slow start and unsubstantiated vagueness on Jackson’s part. Once I shifted my perspective – I was completely immersed in this world and with Jax & Fletcher as individuals.

Set in 1999, White has weaved a complicated tale of murder, emotional turmoil, secret lives, and manufactured celebrity. In addition to the secrets Jackson is keeping there is an enormous amount of tension created by trying to evade the press and whoever is really responsible for Tallulah’s death. The main characters don’t know who they can trust and that extends to each other. Jackson & Fletcher are flawed yet quite relatable characters. In the background is a slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers romance. Slow burn is right, don’t expect any sexy times in book 1 of the series. Honestly, I didn’t miss it because the suspense aspect is so captivating.

I have already grabbed Hide to Seek and can’t wait to dive in.

Narration:
I already knew from the District Line series that Piers Ryman is absolutely phenomenal. He again expertly navigated a large cast of characters using a variety of accents and registers consistently throughout the book. I always knew who was talking whether the text indicated it or not.

I purchased the ebook, however I did receive a free copy of the audiobook from the author and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

About the author:
Brought up in a relatively small town in Hertfordshire, C F White managed to do what most other residents try to do and fail–leave.

Studying at a West London university, she realised there was a whole city out there waiting to be discovered, so, much like Dick Whittington before her, she never made it back home and still endlessly search for the streets paved with gold, slowly coming to the realisation they’re mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of staring at them vacantly whilst holding a polystyrene cup of watered-down coffee.

Eventually she moved West to East along that vast District Line and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job and creating a life, a home and a family.

After her second son was born with a rare disability, C F White’s life changed and it brought pen back to and paper after having written stories as a child but never had the confidence to show them to the world. Now, having embarked on this writing journey, C F White can’t stop. So strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride

You can connect with CF White here:

My Favorite Quotes

Everyone had abandoned him. He was nothing. Faded. Blank slate. Where the hell did he go from here? – Fade to Blank by @CFWhiteUK #Audiobook narrated by Piers Ryman #MM #RomanticSuspense #Mystery #EnemiesToLovers

I’ve had everything taken from me. Everything. This is all I have left. A story to tell. And I want you to tell it. – Fade to Blank by @CFWhiteUK #Audiobook narrated by Piers Ryman #MM #RomanticSuspense #Mystery #EnemiesToLovers

There was a pull. A tug. Something tying itself around Jackson and winding toward Fletcher. Something enveloping them both. – Fade to Blank by @CFWhiteUK #Audiobook narrated by Piers Ryman #MM #RomanticSuspense #Mystery #EnemiesToLovers

Downpour

“FUCK YOU, JUNGLE!”

I spat into the sodden leaves, hoping that somewhere, somehow, some ancient god would be offended and send a servant to off me and end my misery.

Ashton Macaulay
Downpour

Format:
ebook

Purchase directly from the author.
Amazon/Kindle Unlimited.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
From hunting the dreaded Yeti in the Himalayas to dealing with pesky lake monsters in the suburbs, Nick’s seen it all. Even if some of the details might be a little fuzzy.

In Downpour, Nick battles serpents, spirits, and starvation as he struggles to fulfill a promise to an old friend. Confronted by demons both personal and supernatural, he journeys through the Central American jungle in pursuit of the fabled Land of the Dead. Along the way, Nick befriends strange new allies while haunted by familiar enemies in search of revenge.

Point of view:
The main story is told in 1st person. There are interspersed scenes where Nick is relaying the adventures and these are written in 3rd person. I was accustomed to this format from White out and it actually made it easier to track what was past story & what was current conversation.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
Downpour is the second book in the Nick Ventner Adventures series. While it is a complete and enjoyable novel that stands well on its own – it contains numerous spoilers for Whiteout and has a few nods to events in the prequel novella, A Man of the Mountain. You absolutely want to read them in order.

It’s hard to express how much you enjoy the latest book in a series when you already gave top reviews to the first two books – but I’m going to try. Downpour is the perfect mix of action, adventure, and horror with an irreverent and often drunk anti-hero. Nick literally crash-lands in South America trying to rescue a former apprentice from a fate worse than… well, you’ll see. Macauley’s descriptions of the jungle, Amazon river, warring tribes, and a host of supernatural beings are so vivid that I couldn’t help but feel like I was there and be a little unnerved.

While I found Downpour to be quite a bit darker and even more perilous than Whiteout – it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the story in any way. Nick alternately befriends and battles villagers and the undead. He encounters forest monsters, river serpents, and enters the underworld in compelling and unique ways. I found the pacing of the story to be well-balanced and it made it difficult for me to put down.

Macauley gives Downpour a fantastic and unpredictable ending while simultaneously setting the stage for another adventure. I can’t wait for Maelstrom.

About the author:
Ashton Macaulay is a fiction writer living in Redmond Washington. His works include Whiteout, the tale of drunken monster hunter, Nick Ventner, Man of the Mountain, an intriguing audio drama surrounding a man trying to maintain the Bigfoot legend and various short stories published through Aberrant Literature.

You can connect with Macaulay here:

You can connect with Aberrant Literature here:

My Favorite Quotes

Action films from my childhood were always the primary source of my half-baked plans. – Downpour by @RealMacAshton @AberrantLit #Thriller #Suspense #Horror #MonsterHunter #NickVentnerAdventure

“FUCK YOU, JUNGLE!”I spat into the sodden leaves, hoping that somewhere, somehow, some ancient god would be offended and send a servant to off me and end my misery. – Downpour by @RealMacAshton @AberrantLit #Thriller #Suspense #Horror #MonsterHunter #NickVentnerAdventure

There was nothing left to do but try to say something cool before I died. – Downpour by @RealMacAshton @AberrantLit #Thriller #Suspense #Horror #MonsterHunter #NickVentnerAdventure

Even the most joyous laugh from a ghost was the stuff of nightmares. – Downpour by @RealMacAshton @AberrantLit #Thriller #Suspense #Horror #MonsterHunter #NickVentnerAdventure

The words ‘mutually beneficial’ were never good coming from a supernatural enemy. – Downpour by @RealMacAshton @AberrantLit #Thriller #Suspense #Horror #MonsterHunter #NickVentnerAdventure

Jump!

One got the sense that man had launched himself into the heavens, and only then remembered that he couldn’t float.

Daniel Engber
Jump!

Format:
Audiobook, included borrow via Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, or Audible Plus.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
In the first few years of the twentieth century, inventors discovered how to soar into the sky. This breathtaking true story is about two men who, on one fateful weekend, tried to show the world a way back down.

It was early February 1912, and Franz Reichelt, a Paris tailor, and Rodman Law, a self-described “professional jackass” from New York, were poised, respectively, on the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, ready to deploy an experimental parachute. In bat wings and bundled linen, they were almost certain their contraptions would work. Here is the tale of their inspirations and their pluck—and what happened next.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
At just over an hour this short story is included as an Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, or Audible Plus membership benefit. These make great lunch break (or while folding laundry) listens. Here’s a full listing of Amazon Original Stories if you’re interested in more of these shorts.

Obviously, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive biography of either Reichelt or Law.  Instead Engber uses newspapers, diaries, and interviews to share an interesting tale of two men who sought to keep gravity from ensuring death. Their motivations and personalities were quite different and the juxtaposition of their lives and time in history is compelling.

Note: While I listened to the audio, I also “read along” with the ebook. I highly recommend this as there are numerous photographs that add to the experience.

Narration:
I’m a fan of Amy McFadden and she’s a great choice to narrate this story which is at turns humorous and poignant.

About the author:
Daniel Engber is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Radiolab, Slate, This American Life, Wired, and other publications.

You can connect with Daniel Engber here:

About the narrator:
From Amy McFadden’s website: Hi! This part is all about me. Just me. It feels weird to write a bunch of stuff about myself but I don’t like pictures of me so I’ll have to use words instead.

I live in Michigan with my fiancé, Joe Anderson. He makes me laugh so much I never have to do situps. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t do situps anyway, but hey, it’s still a nice bonus to our love.

I’m an actress now, and I used to be a 2nd grade teacher. I loved that part of my life, but after doing it for a bunch of years, I was ready to move on to the next version of me. They’re not really very different versions-teachers and actresses both reach out and engage people through stories. I’m NOT a morning person, but waking up to tell stories makes mornings better-than-tolerable.

I love books and the Muppets and smart people and kind people (not necessarily in that order) and sleeping and chocolate and coffee and writers and learning and Oreo cookies and a bunch of other stuff-but I’m starting to make myself gag on all this love.

I hate a bunch of stuff, too, but who cares about that junk? It’s probably the same stuff you hate, so I won’t bore you. Except I REALLY hate listening to people eat bananas.

You can connect with Amy McFadden here:

My Favorite Quotes

One got the sense that man had launched himself into the heavens, and only then remembered that he couldn’t float. – Jump! by @danengber #Audiobook narrated by @amymcnarrator #AmazonOriginal #ShortStory #Biography #History

“It’s three-fourths mathematics,” he’d explain, “and the rest is bunk.” – Jump! by @danengber #Audiobook narrated by @amymcnarrator #AmazonOriginal #ShortStory #Biography #History

You could say my whole life has been one long risk. – Jump! by @danengber #Audiobook narrated by @amymcnarrator #AmazonOriginal #ShortStory #Biography #History

Forget About Me

The last seven years have proven that I can live without the love of my life. I just don’t want to.

Karen Grey
Forget About Me

Format:
ebook

Updated 11/19/2020 for Audiobook.

Publisher’s Synopsis:
Ben Porter may be living the dream, but it’s not his.

His dad’s health scare might not be the ideal reason to come home for the summer, but it’s a welcome break from the stellar glitz of Ben’s life in Los Angeles. Even if modeling has him rivaling Marky Mark’s fame, posing isn’t his passion. Landing a role with a Boston Shakespeare theater brings him closer to fulfilling his dreams of being a real actor.

Facing the reason he went west in the first place? That’s another story.

Lucy Minola’s dreams were shattered seven years ago when a drunk driver smashed into her brother’s car. She knows it was her fault. So as penance, she works hard to care for her family, goes to confession faithfully, and buries all the feelings she had for the person who left when she needed him most: her brother’s best friend.

When an injured dog brings them back together, Lucy’s good-girl facade begins to crack. Women everywhere are obsessed with the rad body they see in magazines, but she’s the only one Ben seems to notice.

She can’t trust herself with the man who walked away… but can she let him go a second time?

Point of view:
1st Person. Alternating perspectives between Ben & Lucy.

Rellim’s Thoughts:
Forget About Me is the 2nd book in Grey’s Boston Classics series set in the late 80s. You could start here as there aren’t any spoilers for Will & Kate’s story (other than they end up together – but this is romance, so yeah). However, I definitely recommend book 1, What I’m Looking For and the free prequel novella, Signed, Sealed, & Delivered.

Insert small grumble here about the fact that this is labeled “Historical”. Seriously, I’m that old??? Anyway…

I was so excited to get to read this! This incorporates one of my favorite tropes: Best Friend’s Sister/Brother’s Best Friend and the added bonus of an adorable dog. What I really enjoyed here is that while it’s a cohesive addition to the series – it’s definitely a unique story. Ben & Lucy were brought together in friendship as children by Lucy’s brother, Tony and then torn apart as young lovers by his death. Forget About Me has it’s fair share of grief and growing pains to go along with it’s hilarious RomCom status. Add in the constant stream of music referenced from Lucy’s obsession with mixtapes and this is a truly delightful story. (Have your Spotify or Amazon Music app ready!)

I’ll admit, I am not a fan of flashbacks – the story regularly takes the main characters on trips down memory lane, mostly to 7 years earlier – but Grey weaves them in so well that instead of disrupting the flow they reveal bits of information and emotion at the perfect times. While there are numerous sexy scenes for Ben & Lucy, I truly enjoy romance where I get to know the characters individually and together as a couple. I want to believe that these people belong together and I’m thrilled that’s exactly what I get. In some respects, we get their love story twice – young love as new adults at 21 & 18 and again at 28 & 25 with more life experience and self-awareness.

Extra little note. Grey’s pin for Ben. Wow!

Up next – “Hot Steve” and Alice (from What I’m Looking For ) get their own novella, Like It’s 1999.

Narration:
Dual narration by Brian Pallino and Emma Wilder was fantastic. While I loved the narrators for What I’m Looking For – I like Grey’s decision to give each couple in the series their own narrators. Pallino & Wilder both do a wonderful job on a variety of voices, accents, and emotions. While I truly enjoyed the book when I read it – the audio brings it up another level. I was brought to tears and laughed out loud. There’s a “tape rewind” noise that provides a unique way to differentiate the flashback sections from the current storyline.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from the author and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

About the author:
KAREN GREY is the pen name for award-winning narrator Karen White. A stage, screen and radio drama actor in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in the late 20th century, she started recording books in 1999. Now back in her home state of North Carolina, she shares a home with her family and probably too many pets (canine, feline, avian and reptilian) and continues to narrate audiobooks as well as make up stories.

You can connect with Karen Grey here:

Newsletter signup: https://bit.ly/KarenGreynews

About the narrators:
Brian Pallino is the pseudonym for Angelo Di Loreto. Di Loreto died on October 17, 2020. His amazing talent simultaneously lives on and will be sorrowfully missed.

Emma Wilder is an audiobook narrator, specializing in Romance. She’s great with accents, appreciates fine bourbons, and has a passable sense of humor. You can connect with Emma Wilder here:

My Favorite Quotes

The last seven years have proven that I can live without the love of my life. I just don’t want to. – Forget About Me by @KarenWhitereads #Audiobook narrated by Brian Pallino & @AKAEmmaWilder #BostonClassics #RomanticComedy #ItsThe80s #BrothersBestFriend #BestFriendsSister

I’ve met hundreds of drop-dead gorgeous women since leaving Arlington for Los Angeles. Not a single one measured up to Lucy. – Forget About Me by @KarenWhitereads #Audiobook narrated by Brian Pallino & @AKAEmmaWilder #BostonClassics #RomanticComedy #ItsThe80s #BrothersBestFriend #BestFriendsSister

My body has no sense of self-preservation when it comes to that man and his mouth. – Forget About Me by @KarenWhitereads #Audiobook narrated by Brian Pallino & @AKAEmmaWilder#BostonClassics #RomanticComedy #ItsThe80s #BrothersBestFriend #BestFriendsSister

All my reasoning, all my defenses, all my willpower just puddle on the floor.  – Forget About Me by @KarenWhitereads #Audiobook narrated by Brian Pallino & @AKAEmmaWilder#BostonClassics #RomanticComedy #ItsThe80s #BrothersBestFriend #BestFriendsSister