Audiobook: Thank You for Listening

by Julia Whelan
Read by the author (who happens to be a very excellent audiobook narrator)
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm!
Content: There is swearing including multiple f-bombs and some pretty steamy on-screen sex. it’s in the Romance section of the bookstore.

Sewanee Chester was an aspiring actress untl a tragic accident took that off the table. She turned to audiobooks, doing romance unders a pseudonm for a while, but has let that go too, doing more mainstreem books these days. That is until an offer she couldn’t refuse – a dual record with unknown but super steamy narrator Brock McKnight – came along. While she’s heating up the emails and texts with Brock, she still has her mind on Nick, the one-night stand she had in Vegas after a book convention.

Of course there are ups and downs, of course there are high stakes (and low stakes), and of course there is a Happily ever after. But what I thorougly enjoyed about this one is that it was the thing – a romance book – whiile poking fun at all the romance tropes and romance authors and audiobook narrators out there. I love it when the thing is the thing while poking fun at the thing. And this is definitely lots of fun.

I think it was especially fun because Whelan is an excellent narrator, and she did All The Voices, which just made it that much more enjoyable. (In fact, sometimes I wondered if she made certaincharaters the way there wer just so dhe could do that particular voice for them.) I may not have loved it as much if I had just read it, but it was absolutely delightful and hilarious in audio.

I had a hilariously fun time listening to this one. Definitely recommended.

Heat Wave

by TJ Klune
First sentence: “Near dusk, shadows stretch like reaching darkness, the heat from the summer day like molten claws to the chest, digging into the beating heart of a city under siege.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Extraordinaries, Flash Fire
Content: There is an extended discussion of gay porn, how to have anal sex, and a very awkward sex scene. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, but really needs to be moved.

We pick up with our illustrious heroes soon after the events of Flash Fire. Except Nick’s mom isn’t dead. Right? It’s all weird. Owen is back as a villain, and Simon Burke is the Big Bad – not only is he running for myor of Nova City, he wants to do away with Extraordinaries.

Underneath all of that Nick is trying to enjoy his relationship with Seth, and figure out how to be an Extraordinary. Plus apply for college. It’s a lot for a kid.

Honestly, while this was fun, and an okay ending to a series, it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t know if it’s because I wanted and lost the momentum I had between the other two, but even though I adored Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz and their very healthy relationships with their parents, I didn’t really like the book. Maybe because I felt like it took too long to get going. Maybe it was because I ahdn’t read the others in ages Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Not Klune’s best book, but I am still glad for the LGBT representation. Not a bad book, just not for me.

Audiobook: Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes
Read by Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. There is also off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Laurie grew up in a small Main town, and couldn’t wait to get away. She didn’t return often, and once her immediate family moved away, there wasn’t much reason to return. That is, until her Great-Aunt who had no children of her own, passed away. Suddenly, it became Laurie’s job to go through Aunt Dot’s house and get it ready to be sold. Once there, she discovers a wooden duck in a blanket chest, and that starts off a chain of events that leads Laurie to a greater understanding of her aunt. Along the way, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Nick, who is recently divorced.

I liked that this was a less-than-traditional romance. While it’s still about people falling in love, it features a heroine who called off her wedding because she didn’t feel right about it. She’s nearly 40, she’s she’s a larger woman; Holmes mentions “size18” and “larger body”. Laurie is a woman who knows that she wants to live alone and that maybe being married isn’t for her. She’s bucking societal norms, not doing things the way things are “supposed” to be done. I really really appreciated that. And honestly: it was this embracing of non-traditionalness that made the book a really good one for me.

Whelan is still a delightful narrator; she makes the listening experience super engaging and enjoyable. I will have to listen to her read more! In short: thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Audiobook: Yerba Buena

by Nina LaCour
Read by: Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is some talk of drug use, some prostitution, off-screen sex, and swearing including f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Emelie and Sara are two women, both at odds with their life. Emilie has been in college for seven years, changing her major five times, and has yet to graduate. Sara ran away from home at 16, without finishing high school when her best friend (and lover) was found dead in the river. She spent years working her way up from the bottom to become a respected bartender. When she and Emilie first meet, though, it’s an instant spark, but at the time, Emilie is having an affair with the owner of a restaurant. When they do connect, things don’t go well. In fact, that’s the whole point of the book, I think: Emilie and Sara have to become their own individuals before they can successfully become a couple.

I think that’s the whole point of the novel: it’s much less a love story than it is a growing-up story. Both Emilie and Sara have pasts they need to reconcile with and futures they need to figure out. Yes, they are ready for a relationship, but maybe not quite ready enough, which gives the whole book an air of the bittersweet to it. I adore LaCour’s writing and the way she makes characters come alive. It also helped that Whelan’s narration was incredibly engaging.

Definitely a good book.

Audiobook: The Charm Offensive

by Alison Cochran
Read by: Vikas Adam, Graham Halstead & Cassandra Campbell
Support your local independent bookstore buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s a bunch of swearing, including multiple f-bobms. There are also some steamy scenes. It’s in the Romance setion of the bookstore.

Dav is a producer on this reality Bachelor-eque reality TV show, Ever After. he’s still pretty into the premise: finding that magical fairy tale love. But, when he’s suddenly switched from being the handler for the women to being the handler for their newest “prince, ” Charlie, Dav starts to wonder a bit about this whole “Truve love” thing. Wealthy, tech-giant Charlie is everything Dav is not: sophisticated, handsome, awkward, intense, and on the show just to get a job in tech again. Things start out on the wrong foot between the two fo them, but as the season goes on, they find out that maybe they have more in common than they thought.

I think my favorite trope is when the thing is commenting on the thing while being the thing. In this case, Cochrun comments on the toxicity and overall hetero-ness of reality-TV love shows, while the story is set on a reality-tv love show where two gay men absolutely fall in love. It’s sweet, it’s fun, it’s smart, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrators are brilliant and propel the whole book forward, definitely keeping me engaged the whole time. I couldn’t put it down!

Forging Silver Into Stars

by Brigid Kemmerer
First sentence: “This was supposed to be a peaceful protest.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series (sort-of; it’s a spinoff, but reading these helps):  A Curse So Dark and LonelyA Heart So Fierce and Broken, A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Content: There is some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Teen section grades 9+) of the bookstore.

So you know: this book picks up four years after the events in “A Vow So Bold and Deadly”. There will probably be spoilers for the first series.

Friends Jax and Callyn live in a small village, a few hours outside of the main city in Syhl Shallow. They’re just a blacksmith and a baker and are a bit wary of the idea of magic being in their country in the form of the king. so, when an opportunity to earn some silver ones their way, they jump at the chance. Little did they know they were getting into an organized insurrection, one that was determined to overthrow the king. There’s more to the story, one that involves Tycho, who is a friend of the king and a courier between Syhl Shallow and the neighboring country of Emberfall. There’s also some romance, betrayal, and a lot of riding horseback through the country.

I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t absolutely love it either. Kemmerer has a good storyteller, but maybe I wasn’t in the mood for this. Even so, i might be interested enough to finish the story when th enext book comes out.

Heartstopper Volume 4

by Alice Oseman
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
Content: There is a handful of swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

This picks up almost immediately after Volume 3: Nick and Charlie are still in the first parts of a relationship, one where they love spending time together. It’s still summer, and Nick is going to go on vacation soon. But Charlie is anxious: he wants to tell Nick that he loves themhim, bu twonders if the timing is worng. Nick has his own concerns: he cares about Charlie, and has noticed that Charlie has issues about eating. It’s a lot to handle, and Nick isn’t sure what he should do.

This one covers a lot of time: from the initial few days and then the weeks that Nick is gone on vacation, it skips ahead: first to New Year’s Eve, where nick catches us up on the previous few months, and then to March, where Charlie takes his turn. It doesn’t have s solid resolution, but rather a very hopeful one.

I like that while this is a book full of queer people it’s not a book that dwells on its queerness, but rather its a fact of life. It was remarkably matter-of-fact about it all. Charlie and Nick have an incredibly healthy relationship, and it shows them dealing with problems and issues in a mostly healthy manner. It’s delightful andcute, and very resfresting. I adore this series, and can’t wait for volume 5!

Book Lovers

by Emily Henry
First sentence: “When books are your life — or in my case, your job — you get pretty good at guessing where a story is going.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: May 3, 2022
Content: Oh. Well, there’s a LOT of sexytimes. And swearing. It will be in the Romance section of the bookstore.

Nora has grown up in New York, a pair of sisters of a single mother who passed away when she was in her early 20s. She has worked hard, getting a job at a literary agency and working her way up to be a respected and successful literary agent. The problem is that she hasn’t really ever taken time out for her social life. Sure, she has boyfriends, but they never last: inevitably going the “small-town romance cliche” route having their lives changed by a woman they met while on a trip in some small town somewhere. So Nora’s sister, Libby, put together a “small-town romance” checklist, convinces Nora to go to a small town in North Carolina for a month, and proceeds to try to get Nora to have a small-town romance experience of her won. Except, the first person Nora bumps into is Charlie Lastra, an editor from the city who is not Nora’s favorite person.

You probably know where it’s going to go from here. My favorite thing about this — aside from the palpable chemistry betwen Nora and Charlie — is that this is book is perfectly aware of what it is. Henry takes all the small-town romance cliches and satirizes them while absolutely being them at the same time. It made for a smart, fun, thoroughly enjoyable book. And yes, all the sexytimes were very swoon-worthy, adding to the tension between Nora and Charlie. I also liked them as characters, though: Henry gave them each a complex and believable backstory that made them interesting characters to spend time with.

I’ll put it this way: I have enjoyed all of Henry’s romances, but I think this one is my favorite.

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms

by Crystal Frasier, illustrated by Val Wise, lettered by Oscar O. Jupiter
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some bullying and a boy who won’t take no for an answer (though nothing “bad” happens). It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore, but I’d say 5th grade and up would enjoy it.

Annie is smart, but has a problem: she’s often antagonistic and her high school counselor thinks she needs to join something to show colleges that she can actually work with other people. She suggests going out for the cheerleading team. Bebe is an out trans girl, the captain of the cheer squad, but her parents are unhappy with her grades. The two of them form a team: Annie will help Bebe with her grades, and Bebe will help Annie become, well, more likable.

I went in thinking this was going to be a “cheerleader” book – yes, I have some deeply ingrained biases against cheerleaders — but came away absolutely loving this one. I liked the diversity on the team, not just ethnicities, but also shapes and sizes. It defied the expectations that a cheerleader has to look one certain way. I also appreciated how the cheerleaders were allies — the book very subtly teaches allies how to be better ones — and accepting of Bebe. It’s a simple story, but there are complex emotions and the art is good at reflecting what the characters are feeling.

I hope there is more in this series; I would love to spend more time with these characters.

The Matzah Ball

by Jean Meltzer
First sentence: “She just needed one more.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the romance setion of the bookstore.

Rachel is the daughter of a well-regarded rabbi, but she has a secret: she is a famous author (under a pseudonym, of course) of Christmas romance books. Jacob is trying to find his way back to Judaism after his mother’s death and is throwing the biggest party of the Season (on the eighth night of Hanukkah, no less). They knew each other, one summer at Jewish day camp, and had a brief fling (they were 12), but never kept in touch. But when they are thrown into each other’s orbit — Rachel’s publisher is demanding Hanukkah romance, and Jacob invites her parents to the Matzah Ball (yes, that is what the party is called). Sparks fly, of course.

On the one hand: I picked up this book because the title made me laugh. It hit all the right “Hallmark movie” moments; no one reads romances expecting them to be anything but predictable. There was even the added bonus of a disabled main character; she has chronic fatigue, which defies much of her life.

But. I didn’t buy that Rachel and Jacob had been holing on to 1) first love at age 12 and 2) a grudge because they had a misunderstanding at age 12. That’s silly and pushed the edge of suspension of disbelief. Also, there’s a throw-away line that’s anti-Palestinian, which I have to confess I didn’t realize was there until I read reviews after I finished. People were also concerned that the author used language around coming out as LGBT when describing Rachel’s “shameful” obsession with Christmas. I have to admit that I found her obsession with keeping it secret weird, but then again: I’m not Jewish.

IN the end, it was fun and cute, but nothing earth-shattering.