Audiobook: Big Gay Wedding

by Byron Lane
Read by Noah Galvin
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Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, some tasteful on-screen foreplay, and a giant, graphic, naked gay wedding cake. There is also homophobia, including the use of the other f-word. It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

There is a farm in rural Louisiana called the Polite Society Farm. It’s run by Chrissie (I’m not sure if that’s spelled right) Durang, whose husband passed away a couple years back. She’s made do, but she’s hoping that her son Barnett, who is coming home for a visit, will take over so she can retire. The problem is that Barnett isn’t coming home to help his mother out. He’s coming home to get married. To his future husband, Ezra. And his mother doesn’t know yet.

It seems trite to say “hilarity ensues” but hilarity really does ensue. From Chrissy spite-eating all of Ezra’s mushroom-laced chocolate and getting high as a kite to the side characters (Ezra’s family! Pawpaw!) to just the hugeness and over-the-top-ness of the wedding, this one had me guffawing (seriously) while listening. But there’s some depth to it. Chrissy’s not happy with her son being gay, living in Los Angeles, or marrying a man. She’s a homophobe (as was her dead husband), and she learns and grows to accept both her son and his lover. It’s quite lovely to see. The town’s pretty homophobic as well, but there are some bright spots and learning lessons. And, if the sheep death at the end (spoiler, but not much of one) didn’t have me tearing up.

The audiobook is spectacular. Galvin does a fantastic job with the characters and keeping the book flowing and embracing the crazy. I’m not sure I would have laughed half as much if it weren’t for the audiobook.

So, yeah, highly highly recommended. So much fun.


by TJ Klune
First sentence: “I was twelve when my daddy put a suitcase by the door.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: July 4, 2023
Review copy pilfered from the ARC shelves at work.
Content: There is a lot of violence, swearing, and sex (on-screen and talked about). There is mention of child abuse and pedophilia. It will be in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Ox Matheson has spent most of his life believing he was nothing – it’s what his father told him, after all. But then, at age 16, he meets 10-year-old Joe Bennett, and the whole Bennet clan, and Ox’s life is forever changed. Over the 10 years that this book takes place, Ox and Joe grow into each other, as Joe grows into manhood, and Ox learns more about the Bennett family and their werewolf ways (not sure if that’s a spoiler, sorry). Additionally, the wolf clan will fight a rogue wolf, one who blames Joe’s dad for the death of his family, and who will stop at nothing to hurt the Bennetts. This will shape not only Ox and Joe and their relationship, but the whole town they live in. 

On the one hand: while this is early Klune (it’s a re-issue of his first book), there are still some elements of his writing in there that I love. it was very funny at points, and Klune has this way of writing characters that are just good at their core. Ox is one of those characters, and I really enjoyed spending time with him. 

On the other hand, there was a LOT of violence. A lot. It got to the point whenever one character threatened to show up, I had to put the book down because I knew people – often children – would be hurt. And if you ever wondered if Klune could write a very graphic but also very hot gay sex scene, the answer is: yes, he can. But it was also 500 pages of angst and violence and werewolves, and I’m just not sure I want to read the three more books in the series. 

So, while I liked this one, I didn’t love it the way I love Klune’s other books. I’m glad I read it, though.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess

by Sue Lynn Tan
First sentence” There are many legends about my mother.”
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Content: There is a lot of violence, most of it on-screen. It’s in the science fiction/fantasy section of the bookstore.

I started to type out the plot for this one, but it’s really long and somewhat convoluted. Simply: there is a woman, Xingyin, who is forced to flee her mother’s home on the moon and ends up in the Celestial Kingdom, where she does quests and challenges (and saves the prince’s life a bunch of times while falling in love with him) to have her mother released from her imprisonment on the moon.

This one came really highly recommended, so I wanted to like it. But I just…. didn’t. I grew impatient with Xingyin’s quest after quest after quest after quest. And the love story between her and the prince was just… meh. And then, in part 3, there’s a twist that comes out of freaking nowhere, and I just lost patience.

I did finish it, but I have no interest in reading the sequel. I do wish I could have seen what others saw in it, but it just didn’t work for me.

Audiobook: Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club

by J. Ryan Stradal
Read by Aspen Vincent
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Content: There was some mild swearing (maybe one or two f-bombs?) and a lot of death/hardship and mention of abuse. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

In northern Minnesota, there’s a restaurant – the Lakeside Supper Club – that has been family owned for nearly a century. It’s managed to stay open in the face of unhappiness on the part of the owners, meddling kids, and upstart chain restaurants. Sure, it could use a bit of a facelift, but it still has that down-home, family quality to it that it had when it opened all those years before.
This is the story of some of those owners, and how the last one, in a long line, came to sell it.

Sure, it’s about more than that: it’s about making choices and having the freedom to make choices. It’s about parent-child relationships, and how those shape our lives. It’s about owning a small business in the ever-encroaching world of fast food and chain restaurants. It’s about life in Minnesota.
It does follow several generations of characters, through time, as they make their choices and mistakes – and I came to realize that they were happier having chosen the restaurant rather than having it forced upon them. Maybe that’s a metaphor for life?

The narrator was fantastic, and I enjoyed every minute of listening to her read this book. I don’t know if I want to go out and read another Stradal book (though several of my coworkers love his stuff), but I liked this one quite a bit.

Audiobook: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Read by Anna Li
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Content: There’s not much objectionable. it’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

In a small, underground cafe in Tokyo, there is a chair that will take you back in time. There are rules, of course, but if you follow the rules you can go back and meet someone. Perhaps it’s a husband who has now forgotten you because of Alzheimer’s; or a boyfriend you had a bad conversation with; or a sister, who is now dead. Or maybe, you are brave enough to go into the future to meet the daughter you birthed but then died shortly after. Whoever you meet, while you can’t change the present, maybe you can just set your heart at peace. 

I was at first charmed by this short book – the narrator is good, and the translation (it was originally written and published in Japanese) isn’t bad. But honestly: as the book went on, I became more impatient with it. They repeated things – do I really need the Rules for Traveling every time someone new sits in the seat? – and while I didn’t dislike the characters, I didn’t really like them either. I feel like there was so much more Telling than Showing – let me tell you all about this character or this situation, rather than just letting it unfold naturally. I usually listen to my audiobooks at 1.0 speed, because I liked to hear the narrator and the story unfold at a natural pace. But I got fed up with this one, and sped through the last quarter because I was just Done with this book (but too close to the end to bail). 

I don’t get why people love it, or why it sold so many copies. But that’s just probably me.

The Seven Year Slip

by Ashley Poston
First sentence: “‘This apartment is magical,’ Aunt Analea once said, sitting in her wingback chair the color of robin’s eggs, her hair twisted up with a silver dagger hairpin.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: June 27, 2023
Review copy sent to me by the publisher rep who has definitely got a bead on what I like to read.
Content: There is some swearing, including multiple f-bombs, and a couple of on-screen sex scenes. It will be in the Romance section of the bookstore.

Celemtine’s favorite aunt has just died and left Clementine her apartment. She’s having a hard time with her aunt’s death, and it’s difficult to go home to a place where her aunt had filled with so much life. That is until she opened the door one day to seven years in the past when Iwan was staying in the apartment. (Poston tells you in the first sentence, that the apartment is magical. She meant it!) Iwan is an up-and-coming chef, someone who wants to make it big in the culinary world. But Clementine’s aunt had two rules about the apartment: 1) always take off your shoes. And 2) never fall in love. When you’re in love with someone seven years in the past, finding them in the present is an impossibility. Isn’t it?

Oh, I adored this. I sat down to read just a bit one day and when I came up for air, I was nearly done with the book. Clementine and Iwan are fantastic characters, and I liked how, while this was a romance, it didn’t follow your typical romance book tropes. When you’re playing with time like Poston is here, you open up a whole lot more possibilities and I enjoyed that.

It just was a perfect book to sit and read on a lazy day. And I’m so glad I did.

Audiobook: The Lonely Hearts Book Club

by Lucy Gilmore
Read by Angie Kane
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Content: There is some mild swearing, and talk of death. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Sometimes, you need a book that just reaffirms your faith in humanity. That there are good people out there, and that connecting is the best thing. The Authenticity Project is one of those books. As is this one.

Sloane Parker is an unassuming 20-something, who is engaged to a chiropractor, mostly because he’s safe. She works at the Cour d’Alene library, and one of their patrons – Arther MacLachlan – is an old crank, but he and Sloane take to sparring. So, when he doesn’t show up at the library for a few days, Sloane is worried. She risks her job to get Arthur’s address, where she finds him throwing out home nurse aids, having just been released from the hospital. From there both Sloane’s and Arthur’s world expands as they meet, make, and grow some pretty wonderful friendships along the way. And of course: there’s a book club to propel all this along.

Yes, it is a bit mundane, and everyone’s problems are quite ordinary. But, it’s also delightful, especially on audiobook, so you can hear Kane’s brilliant voices embody the characters and make them come alive. It’s sweet and charming and delightful. And sometimes, you just need that.


by V. E. Schwab
First sentence: “Victor readjusted the shovels on his shoulder and stepped gingerly over an old, half-sunken grave.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a lot of violence, and some swearing, including quite a few f-bombs. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Victor has just gotten out of prison, after spending ten years there for a murder he accidentally committed, and he is out for revenge. The target is his ex-best friend Eli, who has decided to become the judge, jury, and executioner of the city’s EO – extraordinary people, those with special powers. The thing is that Victor and Eli are both EOs: ten years ago, when they were best friends at college, they became interested in how EOs came to be, and they recreated the conditions to give themselves powers. But things went awry (hence accidental murder) and Victor is hell-bent on stopping Eli.

This is a straightforward revenge story, building up to a climax at midnight when the two foes face each other. But, because it’s Schwab, it’s also more than that. You get their history together (and a feeling that Victor was in love with Eli), and the ups and downs of their early experimentation. And the way their relationship so spectacularly imploded. There are minor characters you both come to care about as well as loathe, and you have to wonder who is “good” in this book. (Answer: no one, really.) The last bit made me incredibly anxious: Schwab is ruthless and has no mercy for her characters, so you didn’t know, going in, who was going to come out of this alive.

In short: it was fantastic.

Mrs. Nash’s Ashes

by Sarah Adler
First sentence: “Rose McIntyre Nash died peacefully in her sleep at age ninety-eight, and now I carry part of her with me wherever I go.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: May 23, 2023
ARC pilfered from the shelves at the bookstore.
Content: There swearing, including a few f-bombs, talk of sex, and some very on-screen sex scenes. It will be in the Romance section of the bookstore.

The plot: Millicent Watts-Cohen has a mission: she is going to reunite some of her dead neighbor’s/friend’s ashes – the Mrs. Nash of the title – with the woman that she fell in love with in the 1940s, who is currently living in an assisted living center in Key West.

She’s at the airport, all set to fly down there, when the flights all get grounded (the reason doesn’t matter). She ends up pairing with Hollis Hollenbeck, a former classmate of Millicent’s terrible, arrogant, back-stabbing ex-boyfriend, and they end up driving from DC to Key West. The way is not smooth – oil spills, suicidal deer, broccoli fests, and lots of paint-by-number Jesus portraits stand in Millie’s way. But, also, along the way she might just learn how to love again.

Oh, this one was delightful in so many ways. I adored the push-and-pull between the ever-optimistic, and slightly weird, Millie and the grumpy, pessimistic Hollis. I loved their banter – and laughed out loud more than once. I’ve often said that I don’t mind sexytimes in a book (and they were very good in this book), but I need to have a plot and some characters that I can enjoy to actually enjoy a romance book. And while this fits the formula of a romance, it was excellent in its execution. It was so very funny, and yet tender and heartbreaking at times. I enjoyed having Rose’s story interspersed with Millie’s adventures, and it made the ending bittersweet and that much more fulfilling. This is Adler’s debut novel, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here.

Audiobook: Nora Goes Off Script

by Annabel Monaghan
Read by Hillary Huber
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Content: Oh, well, it’s a romance book. Infer what you will. It’s in the romance section of the bookstore.

Nora is fine. She has a fairly successful career writing scripts for romance movies for the Romance Channel. When her husband left, she was sad, but he was also an asshole, so it wasn’t that bad. And then she wrote a script about their story and sold it to an actual movie studio and it got made into a movie. The studio spent a couple of days filming at her actual house – and the star, Leo Vance, is charmed by her home. After the filming is done, he sticks around, wanting to experience normal life for a bit (in order to process his mother’s recent death). He helps Nora with the shopping and cooking and with her kids… and eventually, they fall in love.

But things are not perfect; when Leo has to jet away to deal with a film contract, he promises he will come back. But he doesn’t. Nora’s heart breaks, and life goes on, and suddenly those romance movie scripts with predictable outcomes seem trite. Will Nora be able to get her life back on track after the second man in as many years has walked out on her?

Oh, I liked this one. It was delightful on audio – Huber does a fantastic job, keeping me engaged in the story. Which was a lot of fun as well. It seems that the current trend in romance books is to be the thing while critiquing the thing, so while I knew the beats of the story, there was some depth to it. I liked how the focus was more on Nora’s ability to be resilient and vulnerable to others, as well as making her children her priority. I liked the relationship between her and Leo, and even the conflict felt real. It was a solid romance book, and I’ll be happy to read whatever Monaghan writes next.