Wednesday, July 31, 2019

0 Audiobook Review: The Other Queen

The Other Queen: A Novel
(The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #15)
by Philippa Gregory 
Narrated by Richard Armitage, Alex Kingston, Madeleine Leslay 
Published June 25th 2019 by Simon Schuster Audio
Length: 16 hrs and 32 mins


Fleeing violent rebellions in Scotland, Mary looks to Queen Elizabeth of England for sanctuary. Though promised protection, Mary, perceived as a serious threat to the English crown, is soon imprisoned by her former friend as a “guest” in the house of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. The newly married couple welcomes the condemned queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court. 

To their horror, they grow to realize that the task will bankrupt their estate and lose them what little favor they’ve managed to gain as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. And Mary is not as hopeless as she appears, manipulating the earl and spinning her own web of treachery and deceit, as she sharpens her weapons to reclaim her Scottish throne—and to take over Queen Elizabeth’s of England.

My Thoughts

I wanted to read/listen to this book mostly because it was written by Philippa Gregory. I haven't read all her books, but what I have read, I've really enjoyed. The reason I wanted to listen to this as an audiobook is because it is narrated partly by Alex Kingston and Richard Armitage. 

Alex Kingston in a great actress, whom I admire. Though she's narrated many audiobooks in the past, this is my first experience with her as a narrator. She did not disappoint. Richard Armitage is a different story. Audible released a Christmas freebee in December 2019, The Christmas Hirelings
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and he did an amazing job with it. In fact, there were times that I forgot just one person was narrating the story. I had no previous experience with Madeleine Leslay. But now I do, and I'm glad.

The Other Queen is told from three points of view: Mary Queen of Scots (narrated by Leslay), Bess of Hardwick (narrated by Kingston), and George Talbot, Earl of Shewsbury (narrated by Armitage). It takes place after Mary flees from a turbulent Scotland into England, hoping to find sanctuary. However, Mary is perceived as a threat to the kingdom. Queen Elizabeth calls on her faithful servant, George Talbot, to house the displaced queen. 

The newlyweds, Bess and George, take Mary into their home as an honored quest, but also as a prisoner. It's not long until the stress and financial burden of taking on the queen starts to tear their household apart. Not to mention the plots to free Mary and put her on the English throne that could have them all condemned for treason--guilty or not. 

The characters in this novel are complex to say the least. Bess of Hardwick seems more concerned with money than with anything else. However, being a woman in the 1500s didn't leave you with a lot of options. So her obsession with finances can be understood, though she does seem a bit harsh at times.

It was said to look at Mary was to love her. Many people fell under her spell. She was exactly what a queen should be. She charmed all. Did she plot for Elizabeth's throne, or was she innocent? She seemed to trust all the wrong people. There were many layers to this queen without a country.

The Earl of Shrewsbury was as loyal as they come. He would do anything for Queen and country. His loyalty was famous. However, her could not stand up to the beguiling nature of Mary, not that he tried very hard. At times I felt so sorry for him because he wanted to believe Mary so badly that it almost cost him everything. 

This isn't a part of history many authors have written about. I loved that Gregory explored the alternate points of view of the main characters. The only issue I had with The Other Queen is that at times it was repetitive, especially at the beginning of the book. Still, the book was pretty awesome. Also, I highly recommend the audiobook. The narration was outstanding!

*I received this audiobook from the publisher for review purposes. This in no way influenced my opinions.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

0 One Fine Duke by Leora Bell

Title: One Fine Duke
Author: Lenora Bell
ISBN: 9780062692504
Price: $7.99
On-Sale Date: 7/23/19

USA Today bestselling author Lenora Bell returns with her third book in the sexy School for Dukes series.

Raised in the countryside by her overprotective uncle, Miss Mina Penny’s dream of a triumphant London season is finally here. She determined her perfect match long ago: Rafe Bentley, the wickedest rake of them all. There’s only one very large, very unyielding obstacle: Rafe’s brother Drew, the reclusive Duke of Thorndon.
This was supposed to be simple. Duke goes to London. Duke selects suitable bride. Love match? Not a chance. But when Drew meets Mina, she complicates everything. How can a lady armed with such beauty and brains fall for his irresponsible degenerate of a brother? Drew vows to save her from heartbreak and ruin, no matter the cost.
But Mina is no damsel in distress. She’s daring, intuitive, passionate…and halfway to melting Drew’s cold heart. And although Mina thought she knew exactly what she wanted, one breathtakingly seductive kiss from Drew changes everything. Now Mina must decide between long-held dreams and dangerous new desires. Could her true destiny lie in the arms of a duke?

Author Bio:

Lenora Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has lived and worked on five continents. She currently lives in New Zealand with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties. She loves hearing from readers! Sign up for her mailing list to hear about new books, sales, and giveaways.


“There he is, Wilhelmina,” Grizzy whispered, staring reverently across the crowded ballroom. “The Duke of Thorndon.”
Holy hell he’s handsome, thought Mina.
Jaw-dropping-on-the-floor handsome. Drool-on-your-lace-fichu handsome.
Distract her from her plan with his brother, handsome.
Her uncle had been right. Thorndon was a fine figure of a man. Objectively speaking, the finest she’d ever beheld.
Tall as a doorframe, with a face hewn from the same granite as the rugged Cornish coastline.
A face rendered seductive by contrasts: sharp cheekbones and curved, sensuous lips. Gleaming ebony hair brushed his collar. His eyes were a light, gold-tinged brown—the only warm thing about him.
He owned this ballroom. Literally. And he owned everyone in it by dint of his oversized presence and the cold, unsmiling arrogance scrawled across his face.
He didn’t even follow the dictates of fashion, preferring plain black attire to the white pantaloons and gaily-colored waistcoats of the other gentlemen.
Why should he follow the dictates of fashion? Everyone should follow him.
“When you’re introduced to Thorndon, pray speak as seldom as possible,” Grizzy whispered. “Attempt to appear biddable and do try to recall my decorum lessons. Remember, no one in London knows anything about you, thank the Lord.”
Mina had seen several polished, elegant young ladies staring at her, nudging each other and whispering. She was an outsider, a usurper, her proper place in the social hierarchy not yet established.
They needn’t worry. She had no designs upon their prize duke. And she was about as unpolished as a debutante could be—as rough as an un-sanded plank. If anyone touched her they might get splinters.
She longed to shed her country skin swiftly and emerge as the sophisticated social butterfly her mother had been. But she knew that it would take time, observation, and experimentation.
Her first flirtatious conversation, first kiss, first taste of brandy, first adventure…it was all ahead of her.
She couldn’t wait to taste it all.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

0 Magic and empowerment: Week 14 of Sync's Summer of Audiobooks For Teens

Available for a Limited Time
Remember — grab these titles before the Summer SYNC Program ends at midnight on 7/31/2019! While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not. Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobook is yours to keep and listen to at your leisure. 

by Maggie Stiefvater | Read by Thom Rivera
Published by Scholastic Audiobooks

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: What it takes to get one. Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado, is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars. At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo. They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

by Nnedi Okorafor | Read by Yetide Badaki
Published by Tantor Audio

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she has albinism. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent mystical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal well-versed in powerful juju?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

0 Audiobook Review: Sky Without Stars

Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1)
by Jessica Brody and  Joanne Rendell 
Narrated by Joy Osmanski, Emily Woo Zeller, and Vikas Adam 
Length: 18 hrs and 33 mins
624 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Simon Schuster Audio


A thief.
An officer.
A guardian. 

Three strangers, one shared destiny…

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.

*I received an mp3 file of this audiobook for review purposes only. It has in no way influenced my thoughts on this book.

My Thoughts

Part of what grabbed my attention about Sky Without Stars is that it's a retelling of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. I'm a huge fan of both the book and musical. I entered into this audiobook with a little trepidation with one question on my mind: How will it compare to the original? 

The book itself is rather long and it's only the first book of at least two books. However, it didn't really register that 18 hours had passed while I listened to it. In fact, an hour would go by rather quickly, which is a good sign. 

The story is told from three points of view: Chatine, a thief; Marcellus, an officer, and Alouette, a guardian. Each point of view had it's own narrator, and I loved that. It gave each character a unique voice. Although, sometimes the narration seemed a little too quiet. 

Sky Without Stars has much in common with Les Misérable. I could see many similarities, but I could also see many differences as well. I liked this aspect too, because at the heart they have the same message. The characters resemble those in Les Misérable, though a little more dramatic than they needed to be at times. 

Overall, I enjoyed listening to this title. The book ended with a cliffhanger, so the authors have sucked me in to listening to the sequel when it comes out. Which I suspect was their plan all along. If you like science fiction/fantasy and you're not afraid of big books, you should check this book out--even if you haven't read Les Misérable. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

0 Beyond Assumptions: Week 13 of Sync's Summer of #Audiobooks

Available for a Limited Time
Remember — grab these titles before they are replaced by a new pairing on 7/25/2019! While the title availability is time-limited, your listening time is not. Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, the audiobook is yours to keep and listen to at your leisure. 

by Veronica Chambers | Read by Karla Souza
Published by Penguin Random House Audio/Listening Library

Fans of Jane the Virgin will find much to love about The Go-Between, a coming-of-age novel from bestselling author Veronica Chambers, who with humor and humanity explores issues of identity and belonging in a world that is ever-changing.

by David Arnold | Read by Phoebe Strole, Michael Crouch, Ryan Vincent Anderson
Published by Penguin Random House Audio/Listening Library
Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell. It begins with the death of Vic’s father. It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle. The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it. But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between. Please note: this download does not come with access to the PDF that is referenced in the recording, but it is not necessary for an enjoyable listen.

0 LOVE BIG Giveaway

Written by Kat Kronenberg
Publisher’s Synopsis: The once thriving, African savanna has turned dry and desolate. Baboon watches animals who are so hungry that they seek only their own interest. Rhinoceros destroys Termite’s castle in his race to find food. Hare chooses not to share food with her family, and Lion steals from his pride. But after Baboon sees Rhinoceros give Hare his snack-on-a-stick, everything changes! Baboon realizes that a transformative power exists between the animals and the stardust that surrounds them once they share smiles and truly believe in themselves and each other. Read on to see if Baboon can save the savanna with this new secret and a very stinky, unlike hero…
Ages 3-10 | Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press | January 8, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-1626346000

Enter for a chance to win a copy of Kat Kronenberg’s Love Big, signed by Kat Kronenberg, and a school visit from the author valued at $550! Plus, everyone can be a winner by visiting Kat’s website and collecting all of the fun downloads.
One (1) winner receives:
  • A school visit from Kat Kronenberg*
  • A copy of Love Big, signed by Kat Kronenberg
  • Kat’s new Light-Up Heart of Stars plush toy
  • All of the downloadable activities and extras from Kat Kronenberg’s website
Five (5) winners receive:
  • A copy of Love Big, signed by Kat Kronenberg
  • Kat’s new Light-Up Heart of Stars plush toy
Giveaway begins June 20, 2019, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends July 20, 2019, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
Giveaway open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 17 and older.
Kat Kronenberg is responsible for prize fulfillment. *Date, time, and school for the visit is to be worked out between the winner and author Kat Kronenberg. The school must be within 2 hours driving distance of any major airport and on the mainline. Parent’s at the school must be offered a chance to buy Love Big so that their students have the opportunity to take home an autographed copy with their name in it – thrilling. Kat Kronenberg must be able to set up at least one more school visit in the area. Click here for the giveaway rules.


Per FTC guidelines, I work in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Jenn Holt.


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June 24, 2019
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Heart to Heart
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icefairy's Treasure Chest
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Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
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June 28, 2019
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
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July 1, 2019
Confessions of a Book Addict
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July 2, 2019
The Fairview Review
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July 3, 2019
A Dream Within A Dream
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Rosco's Reading Room
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Barbara Ann Mojica's Blog
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July 18, 2019
To Read, or Not To Read
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

0 Review: Death in a Desert Land

Death in a Desert Land (Agatha Christie #3)
by Andrew Wilson
Published July 9th 2019 by Atria Books
352 pages


Fresh from solving the gruesome murder of a British agent in the Canary Islands, mystery writer Agatha Christie receives a letter from a family who believe their late daughter met with foul play. Before Gertrude Bell overdosed on sleeping medication, she was a prominent archaeologist, recovering ancient treasures in the Middle East. Found near her body was a letter claiming that Bell was being followed. To complicate things further, Bell was competing with another archeologist, Mrs. Woolley, for the rights to artifacts of immense value.

Christie travels to far-off Persia, where she meets the enigmatic Mrs. Woolley as she is working on a big and potentially valuable discovery. Temperamental but brilliant, Mrs. Woolley quickly charms Christie but when she does not hide her disdain for the recently deceased Miss Bell, Christie doesn’t know whether to trust her—or if Bell’s killer is just clever enough to hide in plain sight.

My Thoughts

I've only been a fan of Agatha Christie for a short time. I've read a handful of her books, which I loved. On discovering her books, I've also discovered several other authors who have paid tribute to Christie by writing their own mysteries inspired by her. Andrew Wilson is one of these authors. I came across his first two books in the series early last year. I loved how he took facts based on Christie's life and used them to build a series that is wonderfully brilliant with the lead character being no other than the Queen of Mystery herself. 

Death in a Desert Land takes place in Ur, a land that is as old as time. Christie receives a letter from a family who believes their relative, Gertrude Bell, has been murdered even though it is thought she committed suicide.. After talking it over with Davidson, her government colleague, it is agreed that Christie should go to Ur to investigate.

From the moment Christie meets the Woolley's she realizes that not everything is at it seems. Mrs. Woolley is charming and brutal. She doesn't hide her dislike of Ms. Bell. The deeper Agatha digs, the more suspicious she becomes. And of course when another person turns up dead, the pressure is put on Christie to solve the crime before somebody else dies.

I often wonder if Christie was approached in real life by the police to solve the unsolvable. I believe she must have had a singular mind to come up with such thrilling plots. I love the fact that Wilson uses true elements from Christie's life to build a mystery of his own. One of my favorite parts of this book, besides the actual story, is the author's note at the end titled "The Facts." In this part, Wilson lays out what is true and what was a product of his imagination. 

As for the story itself, I loved it. Truly. It did remind me of one of Christie's stories while reading, with enough differences to make it its own. There's also a multitude of characters to choose from when trying to guess the murderer. Without giving anything away, I did guess the murder, but not the motive. However, it took me most of the book to do so. And there were enough surprises that it didn't take away from the story. I'm not sure when Wilson's next book in the Agatha Christie series will come out, but there's only one thing to do in the meantime: read more Agatha Christie books!


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