Monthly Archives: October 2021

Audiobook Review: Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

Satisfaction Guaranteed

In a family full of dreamers, Cade Elgin is the one with her feet firmly planted on the ground. She’s spent years as her parents’ accountant and helped their art gallery survive and flourish. It doesn’t leave much time for any other considerations in life, including in the romance area. It probably doesn’t help that one of Cade’s first romances was overly critical of her, leaving her full of self-doubt.

Selena Elgan is also full of self-doubt. A promising art student, seduced by her professor, Selena gave up on art when that relationship crumbled, even going so far as burning all her paintings. Working in Cade’s aunt’s sex-toy shop, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Selena has decided to swear off sex and romance until she can prove to herself that she’s an adult.

When the aunt dies, Selena and Cade are left co-ownership of Satisfaction Guaranteed and given a month to try and get it above water again. But apparently, the aunt had other intentions beyond making these two business partners — she saw that Selena and Cade needed each other and could be exactly what each other needed.

With the unique sex-toy store setting and quirky, believable characters, Satisfaction Guaranteed is an enjoyable romantic comedy that hits all the right notes. Of course, there is a lot of early denying the obvious attraction these two feel for each other and the road to love never does run smooth. But all of those speed bumps feel entirely earned by Karelia Stetz-Walters over the course of the story. Both Cade and Selena are flawed characters who can’t get out of their own way at times — which makes you root for them just a bit more as the story unfolds.

The audio version of this one was light, fun and wonderfully entertaining.

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Review: Falling by T.J. Newman

Falling

T.J. Newman’s Falling created a buzz in the publishing world, landing her a big-league publishing contract and multiple studios looking to adapt the novel for the silver screen. Newman’s background of working in a bookstore and then as a flight attendant made for a potent combination and I have nothing but respect for her tenacity in getting his novel published.

I just wish I’d loved it as much as many of the authors who provided a cover blurb for the novel did.

Pilot Bill Hoffman takes on a last-minute assignment to pilot one-hundred-and-forty-three souls from the West Coast to the East Coast. This move has created tension at homes, where Bill promised his son he’d be there for a critical baseball game. But little does Bill know that will be the least of his worries by the end of the day.

Seems that a group of terrorists has kidnapped Bill’s family and is holding them hostage. Bill now has a choice — sacrifice his family or the souls aboard his plane. And if he tries to tell anyone or call for help, his family pays the price.

The idea of a good man being put into an impossible situation and required to make a choice isn’t necessarily a new one. And for the first third of Falling it feels like Newman might be trying to explore this dilemma a bit. However, the longer the situation goes on and the more players she puts on the field, the less interesting the dilemma and the story become. By the end of this one, I was reading mostly to see if my guesses for what happens next would come true and less because I had any investment in the story or characters.

And that may be the biggest drawback to Falling — the lack of any characters to invest in. Each character feels more like a cliche than an actual person. And while I can see what the story is trying to do with the motivation of the terrorists (which takes far too long to come to light), I’m not necessarily sure I walked away feeling like the characters or this reader has necessarily learned anything.

Honestly, I’m not sure what all the buzz is about. This one has potential, but it never quite lived up to it.

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Review: A Spindle Splintered by Alex E. Harrow

A Spindle Splintered (Fractured Fables, #1)New takes on classic fairy-tales are nothing new.

So for Alex E. Harrow’s new spin on Sleeping Beauty in A Spindle Splintered to feel like it’s exploring an entirely unique take on the classic fairy-tale makes it something special.

Zinnia is approaching her twenty-first birthday and the end of her life. A rare condition that causes protein build-up in her body and rarely sees people live past twenty-one has loomed large over her life for as long as she can recall. So, when her best friend throws her the best birthday party ever for someone whose time is rapidly closing, Zinnia finds herself transported inside her favorite fairy-tale.

Harrow sells this one as Sleeping Beauty meets Into the Spider-Verse and she’s not wrong. But that elevator pitch doesn’t really indicate just how subversive and entertaining this take on the classic story of Sleeping Beauty really is. A great deal of the enjoyment stems from Zinnia’s first-person narration, which is equal parts jaded, cynical, and optimistic. This is a refreshingly new take on the material and one that was a pleasure to read.

In the interest of full disclose, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall

The Delaney family history is intricately tied to the world of tennis. Stan and Joy meet and fell in love playing tennis and ran a successful and prestigious Australian tennis academy for years. Each of their four children played the game, with varying levels of success.

Now grown and having taken a step back from the world of tennis, the Delaneys world is shaken up when a mysterious woman shows up on Stan and Joy’s doorstep and is taken in, and then months later, Joy vanishes, leaving her cell phone behind. Suspicion falls on Stan, who isn’t forthcoming with answers. Of course, neither are the Delaney children who each harbor their own secrets and are firmly divided on whether or not Stan did something nefarious to their mother.

And yet, despite all this swirling of potential family drama, Liane Moriarty’s The Apples Never Fall falls into the same trap as many of her other offerings — it simply overstays its welcome. The central mysteries (who is the girl, where is Joy?) propel the first third to half of the novel, as do the character-building of the various children and their secrets. But its once we get to the fateful Father’s Day (which is heavily foreshadowed to the point they might as well put flashing neon signs saying, “This is important!” above passages about it), that things began to derail a bit.

Part of this could be that the group of siblings tied to a sport and having daddy issues was explored already this year in Malibu Rising (and probably better done there, to be honest). Part of it could be that Moriarty’s books all seem to tread water in the middle third, not really dolling out new information so much as presenting things we already know again, just from another character’s take on it. I’m all for giving us character insights by showing us how various characters react to the same circumstances. It’s just that the insights should feel like insights rather than attempts to pad the overall page count.

Maybe I am just not cut out for the domestic thriller. Maybe I have different expectations of the central mystery in a novel that advertises itself as a mystery.

Or maybe I should just consider this the final confirmation that while Moriarty can create a hell of a set-up that taking the journey of reading her novels fully isn’t necessarily for this reader.

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Review: In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

In the Wild LightWhen Cash’s best friend Delaney discovers a new fungus that could help treat multiple diseases, she becomes the toast of the world. Receiving multiple offers to pursue her educational aspirations outside of their small East Tennessee town, Delaney makes a bargain with a prestigious private school for her and Cash to be a package deal.

The only thing holding Cash back is his dying Pawpaw. Pawpaw eventually convinces Cash to go and a whole new world opens up to him, including his discovery that he might be a poet (and not know it).

A new novel from Jeff Zentner is something to look forward to and In the Wild Light is no exception to the type of authentic, character-driven young-adult novels he’s written before. However, I have to admit that somehow In the Wild Light didn’t quite hit it out of the park in the ways some of his other books did.

It could be that part of it is because this novel feels a bit weightier than some of his other books. Cash’s struggle with his own self-worth and depression is well explored, though it does make for difficult reading in some passages — especially late in the novel as it feels Cash just can’t quite catch a break. And yet, in all the darkness, Zentner offers up a commentary on how the arts can help and their value. Cash’s discovery of poetry and his talent for writing it is one of the great threads in this novel and seeing Cash explore that part of himself is one of the best parts of this book.

>In the Wild Light includes some Easter eggs to previous works from Zentner. I’m sure I saw many of them but missed a few more along the way, but it’s that extra bit of world-building that was appreciated by this reader.

In the Wild Light is a great read. It has some beautifully realized passages that I had to just re-read to appreciate the beauty of the language. But, it could be that Zentner has set too high a bar in his previous works that no new book could quite exceed. This one comes close but just feels a bit off in the final analysis. But that still makes it one of the shining highlights of the young-adult genre and a book that’s definitely worth your time and attention.

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Audiobook Review: The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

The GirlfriendThe Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Michelle Frances’ The Girlfriend‘s cover blurb had intrigued me enough to put it on my Audible wish list. So, when it was included in the Audible plus program, I figured I had nothing to lose except a few hours listening to it.

When Daniel falls for his real estate agent, Cherry, his mother, Laura can’t wait to meet her. And while their first meeting is cordial, both sides believe the other has an agenda for Daniel and his future. And so, begins the long, slow burn between Cherry and Laura.

The Girlfriend hints at something nefarious happening early in the novel before jumping back and forth in time to catch readers up on what’s happened and why. The problem quickly becomes that it’s difficult to sympathize with any of the characters over the course of the story. Every one has something to hide and it feels like Daniel becomes a pawn in some odd game between Cherry and Laura. And yet, I was intrigued enough to want to know the answers, even if my own guesses proved far more interesting to me than what we actually get here.

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