Quickie Reviews #6

Another batch of shorter-than-usual book and audio reviews 🙂


Will & Patrick Wake Up Married Series by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

Narrated by John Solo

After a drunken night of hot sex in Vegas, strangers Will Patterson and Dr. Patrick McCloud wake up married. A quickie divorce is the most obvious way out—unless you’re the heir of a staunchly Catholic mafia boss with a draconian position on the sanctity of marriage. Throw their simmering attraction into the mix and all bets are off!

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – A-

I read the Wake Up Married series last year and picked up the audios when they were whispersynced. Once you get past the daft premise, this is an entertaining, often very funny and sometimes moving story with two strongly characterised, appealing leads. Patrick – with his complete lack of filter – is a hoot, but I liked that he was just “this is me – take it or leave it”, while Will lacks confidence in just about everything apart from his ability to do his job, which is incredibly important to him. Both of them have emotional baggage to deal with – Patrick has become extremely successful despite an awful childhood; Will can’t see that the relationship he was in for several years was emotionally abusive and only added to his already deep-seated insecurities about his personal attractiveness and self-worth. His blindness about his ex is irritating, but it also works to show just how far he’s been manipulated and how his self-doubt has been fostered.

John Solo’s narration doesn’t always work for me; he’s good, but he has this weird way of suddenly going into what I term “movie-trailer-announcer-mode” when his speech loses natural rhythms and he emphasises words oddly – it usually happens in sex scenes or when the characters are thinking about sex, and other times of heightened tension or emotion. I don’t know whether he didn’t do that as much here, or if I just didn’t notice it as much once I got used to it, but he delivers a really good performance in this and his interpretations of Will and Patrick are especially good and fit their characters perfectly. Will is softly spoken, Patrick is more abrasive and his dialogue has a harsher edge. The secondary characters are well-differentiated and if it weren’t for that odd quirk I mentioned, he’d be on my list of all-time favourite narrators.


Valor on the Move by Keira Andrews

Narrated by Iggy Toma

Growing up gay in the White House hasn’t been easy for Rafael Castillo. Codenamed “Valor” by the Secret Service, Rafa feels anything but brave as he hides in the closet and tries to stay below the radar in his last year of college. His father’s presidency is almost over, and he just needs to stick to his carefully crafted plan. Once his family’s out of the spotlight, he can be honest with his conservative parents about his sexuality and his dream of being a chef. 

It’s definitely not part of Rafa’s plan to get a new Secret Service agent who’s a walking wet dream, but he’s made it this long keeping his desires to himself. Besides, it’s not like Shane Kendrick would even look at him twice if it wasn’t his job. 

Shane’s worked his way up through the Secret Service ranks, and while protecting the president’s shy, boring son isn’t his dream White House assignment, it’s an easy enough task since no one pays Rafa much attention. He discovers there’s a vibrant young man beneath the timid public shell, and while he knows Rafa has a crush on him, he assures himself it’s harmless. Shane’s never had room for romance in his life, and he’d certainly never cross that line with a protectee. Keeping Rafa safe at any cost is Shane’s mission. 

But as Rafa gets under his skin, will they both put their hearts on the line? 

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – C

Nothing new to see here, but an easy quick listen with Iggy Toma doing the honours in the narrators’ chair, and I’d listen to him read the phone book, so…

I generally enjoy May/December romances but in the best ones (like Annabeth Albert’s At Attention or N.R Walker’s The Thomas Elkin Series), the younger protagonist is generally more mature than their years and has a bit of life experience behind them. The problem here is that Rafa, at twenty-one, feels much younger. He’s lived in the White House for seven years (since he was fourteen) and has been pretty sheltered; some of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that he’s closeted and hasn’t wanted to draw the media spotlight by going out with guys, but he comes across as naive. I did like that he was appreciative of the people whose job it was to keep him safe though – so many of these types of bodyguard stories have the protectee trying to give their details the slip all the time and getting into danger as a result, and at least Rafa doesn’t do that. The coming out scene was pretty intense and the emotion – both in the author’s words and the performance – when Rafa was talking about the marriage bill his father had passed really shone through.

So 3 stars for the story, 4.5 for the narration. I might listen to the sequel at some point.


Spring Strings by Lily Morton

Malachi Booth is a supermodel. He’s used to moving about the world, sleeping with whoever takes his fancy and watching the money roll in. The last place he expects to find himself is on a run-down farm in Cornwall, but a bad bout of bronchitis means that he’s stuck there. The only compensation for this dismal state of affairs is that the farmer is very good looking, even if he’s the grumpiest person that Malachi has ever met.

Cadan Landry’s farm has been in his family for hundreds of years but that doesn’t make it any easier to make ends meet. As a consequence, Cadan could be called grumpy. Most men would consider a supermodel collapsing at their feet while dressed in the skimpiest pair of briefs ever made to be a sign of good fortune. Cadan just resents the fact that the young man is taking up space in his cow field.

These two men are from different worlds, but can they ever meet in the middle?

Rating: A-

Utterly delightful.

It’s the rare novella that can offer all the things this one does – off-the-charts chemistry, a well-developed romance, interesting backstories and strong secondary characters – so to find all that here was a very welcome surprise. (Although at 162 pages, this is more of a short novel; there are books billed as novels that come in at a similar page count!)

Spring Strings is an opposites-attract romance between a Cornish farmer and a supermodel, a pairing that absolutely Should Not Work. When beautiful Malachi Booth meets hunky but grumpy Cadan Landry, it’s snark-at-first sight (this is Lily Morton, queen of snark after all!) and sparks fly. When Malachi ends up staying at Cadan’s farm to recuperate following an illness, the pair gradually start to re-assess their preconceptions about each other and a cautious friendship develops, albeit a sexually-charged one.

Malachi is brilliantly written; he’s cynical and closed off and comes across as a total diva to start with, but the thing is that he knows he’s demanding and difficult and looks on it as part of his job, which makes it easy to like him in spite of it. Ms. Morton makes a number of very pertinent and serious observations about the world he moves in beneath the banter, and also gives him a backstory that completely explains the choices he’s made. And Cadan is a genuinely good man but is struggling and pretty much working himself into the ground because of a poor choice he made in the past (although that doesn’t make the situation he’s in his fault).

Watching the pair of them gradually letting down their guards and allowing the other to know him was just lovely, and I especially loved that Malachi had, at long last found somewhere and someone with whom he could really be himself.

Short, sweet and snarky, but with plenty of depth to make it more than a simple piece of fluff, and just the ticket if you’re looking for a pick-me-up in book form.

Quickie Reviews #5

I always mean to do these more regularly but… you know, life. Anyway, like many people right now, I’ve got a bit of extra time on my hands, so I’ve pulled together short reviews of a bunch of books and audiobooks I’ve read and listened to over the past few months but haven’t written full-length reviews for. If you’re looking for a read or listen to keep you company over the next few weeks, maybe you’ll find some inspiration here.


Two Man Station by Lisa Henry

Gio Valeri is a big-city police officer who’s been transferred to the small outback town of Richmond with his professional reputation in tatters. His transfer is a punishment, and Gio just wants to keep his head down and survive the next two years. No more mistakes. No more complications.

Except Gio isn’t counting on Jason Quinn.

Jason Quinn, officer in charge of Richmond Station, is a single dad struggling with balancing the demands of shift work with the challenges of raising his son. The last thing he needs is a new senior constable with a history of destroying other people’s careers. But, like it or not, Jason has to work with Gio.

In a remote two-man station hours away from the next town, Gio and Jason have to learn to trust and rely on each another. Close quarters and a growing attraction mean that the lines between professional and personal are blurring. And even in Richmond, being a copper can be dangerous enough without risking their hearts as well.

Rating: B

With two cops as leads, I’d thought this might be more of a mystery/suspense story, but it isn’t; rather it’s a fish-out-of-water tale as a disgraced big city cop relocates to a small rural community and discovers that policing there is very different to the sort of thing he’s used to. Lisa Henry evokes the small town/back of beyond atmosphere really well – although this town isn’t at all small really; Jason and Gio’s “beat” covers a massive area, but it doesn’t boast all that many inhabitants.

Amid the series of vignettes as to the various disputes the pair are called upon to work through is the relationship that gradually grows between them. They get off to a rocky start because of what Jason has heard about Gio’s reason for relocating (that he was an informant who got another officer dismissed from his job), but as they work together and get to know each other, Jason starts to wonder if that’s the whole story. (Of course, it isn’t).

Jason is a widower with a ten-year-old son, and is only just realising that he really needs to make proper childcare arrangements. Before, his two neighbours – a young couple with kids of their own – would always pick up the slack and were happy to help out when Jason had to answer a call at night or worked long shifts – but now they’ve moved away, he’s struggling to reconcile the demands of the job with his job as a father.

The slower pacing works and I enjoyed the book overall, although I would have liked a stronger romance. There’s a definite attraction between Jason (who is bi) and Gio, but a few pages before the end, Jason tells Gio he’s still in love with his dead wife (and he’s still wearing his wedding ring), which was unexpected and seemed a really odd move; and although they’re still together six months down the line (shown in the epilogue) it felt to me as though there was more to be said about their relationship. There are no ILYs – which is fine when I feel that the characters are committed to each other – and I don’t necessarily need the mushy stuff, but their emotional connection wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for by the end.

Even so, I’m giving this four stars because I really did like the story and the characters. I’m going to pick up the next book soon.


Leaning into the Fall by Lane Hayes

Narrated by Nick J. Russo

Nick Jorgensen is a quirky genius. He’s made a fortune in the competitive high-tech field with his quick mind and attention to detail. He believes in hard work and trusting his gut. And he believes in karma. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People are difficult, but numbers never lie. In the disastrous wake of a broken engagement to an investor’s daughter, Nick is more certain than ever he isn’t relationship material.

Wes Conrad owns a thriving winery in Napa Valley. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcome departure from his former career as a high-rolling businessman. Wes’s laid-back nature is laced with a fierceness that appeals to Nick. In spite of his best intention to steer clear of complications, Nick can’t fight his growing attraction to the sexy older man who seems to understand him. Even the broken parts he doesn’t get himself.

However, when Wes’s past collides with Nick’s present, both men will have to have to decide if they’re ready to lean into the ultimate fall.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – B

Nick is a tech genius who doesn’t do well in social situations and frequently comes across as an arsehole; Wes is more than a decade older and considerably more chilled than Nick, but seems to just ‘get’ him – even the parts of himself Nick doesn’t fully understand. I liked the way their relationship developed; laid-back Wes is a great foil for Nick, who is sometimes driven to the point of obsession and oblivious to everything around him. There’s plenty of hot sex, but there’s an emotional connection, too -Nick has never clicked with anyone the way he has with Wes, and realises that for the first time ever, he’s developing feelings for someone that go beyond work or friendship.

The conflict comes fairly late in the book and although it seems a little contrived, it does actually fit with Nick’s character – he gets worked up and anxious easily and does tend to blurt the first thing that comes into his head, and the ‘black moment’ works because of it.

Nick J. Russo narrates and does a great job!


Setting the Hook by Andrew Grey

Narrated by Greg Tremblay

William Westmoreland escapes his unfulfilling Rhode Island existence by traveling to Florida twice a year and chartering Mike Jansen’s fishing boat to take him out on the Gulf. The crystal-blue water and tropical scenery isn’t the only view William enjoys, but he’s never made his move. A vacation romance just isn’t on his horizon.

Mike started his Apalachicola charter fishing service as a way to care for his daughter and mother, putting their safety and security ahead of the needs of his own heart. Denying his attraction becomes harder with each of William’s visits.

William and Mike’s latest fishing excursion starts with a beautiful day, but a hurricane’s erratic course changes everything, stranding William. As the wind and rain rage outside, the passion the two men have been trying to resist for years crashes over them. In the storm’s wake, it leaves both men yearning to prolong what they have found. But real life pulls William back to his obligations. Can they find a way to reduce the distance between them and discover a place where their souls can meet? The journey will require rough sailing, but the bright future at the end might be worth the choppy seas.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B

Sweet character-driven romance between a workaholic businessman, groomed by his parents to take over the family engineering firm, and the owner of the boat he charters a couple of times a year to go fishing.

A bad storm following William’s latest fishing trip leaves him stranded in Florida for a few days; Mike invites him to stay with him (he lives with his mother and ten-year-old daughter) and the nacent attraction they’ve both been feeling for years now becomes impossible to ignore or resist.

They’re from very different worlds, but no matter how strong the emotions growing between them, Mike’s life is in Florida and William’s is in Rhode Island. Yet the months apart after William’s last visit only prove to both of them that there’s something between them worth exploring, and both men have to decide how much they’re prepared to sacrifice in order to be together.

It’s nto going to win any prizes for originality, but Setting the Hook is an enjoyable story featuring likeable characters, and of course, Greg Tremblay’s narration was flawless.


Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely.

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Rating: B

Lovely and just what I needed right now.

Charlie Sutton is just twenty-five but is now the owner of the 2.58 million acre Sutton Station in the Northern Territory, Australia. He loves what he does, even though he knows he’s likely to spend his life alone; he’s gay and closeted, his late father having insisted that “no fairy” was ever going to be able to run Sutton Station and that it needed a “real man”. Yes, his father was an arsehole, but those words struck so deep that Charlie – although he’s doing a terrific job – can’t seem to see beyond them.

Enter Travis Craig, an agronomy student from Texas who has come to Sutton to see how things are done as part of an exchange programme. Travis is handsome, confident and, as quickly becomes clear to Charlie and his staff, knows his way around horses and cattle; he settles in quickly, becoming part of the team and establishing friendships with the others, but Charlie tells himself he must keep his distance.

There’s not a lot of angst in this one (a bit of very plausible drama in the second half worked well to ramp up the tension) and it’s mostly the story of Charlie learning to let go of his father’s bigotry and be his own man, and finally allowing himself to believe it’s possible for him to live his life with a loving partner by his side.

There are some great secondary characters (I loved Ma, who rules the kitchen with a rod of iron… or spatula, whatever) and the author’s descriptions of the Outback setting, the “red dirt”, the night skies, the sunsets are fabulous.

If you’re looking for a simple, well-written story that will transport you somewhere else for a few hours, this could be just what you’re after.


The Prince and his Bedeviled Bodyguard by Charlie Cochet

Prince Owin

Being a fierce predator – not at all adorable, despite my graceful stature – the last thing I needed was a bodyguard. Especially a wolf shifter, whose presence alone was an insult to my princely principles. 

As prince of the Ocelot Shifters, I prided myself on my infallible feline instincts, uncompromising dignity, and flawless fashion sense. If having a canine follow me around at all times wasn’t bad enough, I now faced the most important moment of my entire life. 

The time had come to prove I was worthy of my crown. If only I could find a way to get rid of the pesky bodyguard…

Grimmwolf

When the king of All Shifters asked me to guard Prince Owin, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Cat shifters tend to be a little intense, not to mention kinda cranky. Owin was no exception, though he seemed crankier than most. 

Being his bodyguard was proving to be one of the greatest challenges of my life, but not nearly as great as convincing him there was something special between us. 

When Owin was tasked with a perilous quest to prove his worth, I was determined to keep him safe, even if the same couldn’t be said of my heart.

Rating: Narration: A; Content B-

I wanted something short and sweet and this definitely fit the bill. The prince of the ocelot shifters has to team up with his bodyguard, a wolf shifter, to fulfil a quest set him by the king of all shifters… of course, they spar like cat and dog (!) and shenanigans ensure.

It’s not deep and the worldbuilding is minimal, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, especially in audio where Greg Boudreaux demonstrates once again that he’s a master of comic timing (and just about everything else when it comes to narration!)

Quick, fun and sexy – just what I was looking for, and I’ll probably pick up more audios in the series as they become available.


Sergeant Delicious by Annabeth Albert

Soon to be ex-marine Xavier has a bright future as a firefighter. But stationed far from home, he’s lonely and homesick for more than just his favorite foods. Thinking ahead to his homecoming, he responds to an ad seeking a date for a special gourmet dinner, but he doesn’t anticipate an immediate connection with the intriguing foodie who placed the ad.

Food writer Damien is looking for his big break, and reviewing an uber-exclusive secret restaurant may be exactly what he needs if he can score a date to go with him. He doesn’t expect to enjoy corresponding with Xavier quite so much, nor is he prepared for his powerful surge of lust for the hot marine.

However, Damien’s had more than his share of bad luck when it comes to romance, but Xavier is determined to win Damien over. Course-by-course, they fall deeper into like. When they finally give into their passion, sparks fly. But is it a flash in the pan or the recipe for lasting love?

Rating: B-

A sweet and sexy short story previously published in a charity anthology, Sergeant Delicious begins with soon-to-be demobbed Xavier answering an ad from “fun foodie guy” (a food writer) who wants someone to go with him to an upmarket dinner on Valentine’s day. The first part of this short story/novella shows the pair getting to know each other a bit via email, which makes the attraction they experience when they meet more believable. Both men are likeable and down-to-earth, and one of the things I really appreciate about novellas when they’re done well, is that the shorter page count doesn’t leave room for silly misunderstandings and other distracting plot points; and this is one of those that’s done well. The author doesn’t allow Damien’s hang-ups to get in the way (in fact, making good use of them! *wink*) and devotes all her page time to building the relationship between the leads.

A quick, fun (and did I mention sexy?) read.


Bitter Pill by Jordan Castillo Price

Narrated by Gomez Pugh

There’s a new drug on the streets called Kick. The side effects are so brutal, most folks only try it once…unless they’re psychic. Then they do it until it kills them.

Psychic medium Victor Bayne is well acquainted with pharmaceuticals, from the Auracel that blocks his ghosts to the Seconal that offers him a blissful nights’ sleep. But he’s managed to steer clear of street drugs…so far.

Jacob Marks has a medicine cabinet filled with every over-the-counter remedy known to man, but none of them are doing much for his mood—and his long, fruitless days of combing through records at The Clinic are taking a heavy toll.
But their lackluster investigation does have one silver lining: a front row seat at The Clinic when the first Kick overdose comes in. And as scary as the drug might be, if it truly does augment psychic ability, the appeal is not lost on Vic.

Because the very first hit never killed anyone.

Where did Kick come from? Why is it so addictive? And why is everyone at The Clinic acting so darn shady? That’s what Vic intends to find out. And if he’s lucky, he can also expose a shadowy figure from Camp Hell.

Unfortunately, the demons of his pill addiction might prove just as deadly as his long-buried history. He thought he’d managed to ditch that pernicious habit. But what if it was only lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best time to rear its ugly head?

Rating: Narration: A; Content A-

Gah, I love this series so much, and it seems to get better and better! So much going on here besides the actual plot, about the investigation into a deadly psyactive drug (Kick) that is killing psychics. I’m loving Vic’s character growth, especially over the last few books as he’s finally realising what it’s like to work with people who respect him and is really gaining in confidence as a result. He still can’t quite believe it, and is still as endearingly self-deprecatingly shambolic as ever, but we – and Jacob of course – see it and appreciate it. And I like that we get to see Jacob’s more vulnerable side; he’s one of those people who, by virtue of his good looks, imposing physique, intelligence and charisma has come up against little in his life that he hasn’t been able to deal with, but that’s changing, and although he’s still very much the Jacob we all know and love, that extra dimension to him is great to see.

Vic and Jacob’s relationship continues to grow and their love for each other to deepen; they get to work with Zig and Carolyn again, and we get some closure for one of the characters who’s been around since book one; Jackie, the ghost who spasmodically haunted Vic’s old appartment. Her story is a tragic one, and the author does an amazing job in the scenes where Vic and Jacob find out the truth of what happened to her and then help her to move on – they’re incredibly poignant and Gomez Pugh is simply brilliant in them and captures every single drop of emotion.

On the subject of Mr. Pugh – his portrayal of Vic is so absolutely perfect that it’s easy to forget sometimes just how good he is at the rest of it. He can produce an amazing variety of character voices for what is, after eleven books, a large secondary cast, many of whom have appeared in several books throughout the series, and his inventiveness (and consistency) is remarkable.

And – whoa, that ending! When’s the next book out?!

Quickie Reviews #4

Another batch of shorter-than-usual reviews of a few things I read/listened to over the past couple of months or so.


Fake Out (Fake Boyfriend #1) by Eden Finley, narrated by Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma

Maddox – The reason I rarely go home is three simple words: I’m a liar. 

When the pressure to marry my childhood sweetheart became too much, I told her I was gay and then fled to New York like my ass was on fire. 

Now, five years later and after a drunken encounter, I find myself invited to her wedding. And I have to bring my boyfriend-the boyfriend who doesn’t exist because I’m straight. 

At least, I think I am. Meeting the guy I’m bribing to be my boyfriend for the weekend makes me question everything about myself. 

Damon – When my sister asks me to pretend to be some straight guy’s boyfriend, my automatic response is to say no. It’s because of guys like him people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m gay. 

But Maddox has something I need. 

After an injury that cost me my baseball career, I’m trying to leave my playing days behind and focus on being the best sports agent I can be. Forty-eight hours with my sister’s best friend in exchange for a meeting with a possible client. I can do this. 

I just wish he wasn’t so hot. Or that he didn’t kiss like he means it. 

Wait… why is the straight guy kissing me? 

Overall Grade: B+ / 4.5 stars

I needed a palate cleanser after my last, very boring, listen and this fit the bill perfectly. I like the fake-relationship trope, and this was a low-angst, funny and sexy little story about a guy who told his high-school girlfriend he was gay because she was suffocating him and he couldn’t think of a way to dump her without hurting her feelings. Um… okay, yeah, so that was a dick move.

Coming from a very small town, that news spread like wildfire, but Maddox isn’t too bothered by it – he lives and works in New York now anyway, and doesn’t go home often so it’s no biggie as far as he’s concerned. Until one evening that ex-walks into the same bar he’s in, and promptly invites him to her upcoming wedding. Oh, and he should bring his boyfriend…

It’s daft, but it kick-starts the story, which is generally light-hearted, even though both Maddox and his fake-boyfriend, Damon, have some issues to deal with. Maddox, while not at all freaked at the fact that his attraction to Damon means he must be bi, is a commitment-phobe, while a bad experience with a lifelong friend who came on to Damon and then accused him of manipulating him has made Damon very wary of bi-curious guys.

The two narrators fit their assigned characters well; Alexander Cendese is good at playing the lively, slightly dickhead-y, clueless jock with a heart of gold (although Maddox isn’t a jock here) and Iggy Toma’s portrayal of Damon, who is more considered and – as Maddox says, has his shit together – is a nice contrast. Cendese’s female voices aren’t great, but they actually add comedic value here.

Fake Out was an enjoyable listen overall – the narration definitely enhanced the story and it proved to be a great pick-me-up.


In Her Sights by Katie Ruggle

Bounty hunter Molly Pax fought hard for everything she has, turning the bail recovery business she shares with her sisters into an unqualified success. So when their sticky-fingered mother jumps bail and puts the childhood home up as collateral, Molly’s horrified. To make matters worse, every two-bit criminal in the Rockies now sees her family’s misfortune as their next big break.

She needs help, stat.

Enter rival bounty hunter John Carmondy: six feet of pure trouble, with a cocky grin to match. John’s the most cheerfully, annoyingly gorgeous frenemy Molly’s ever had the pleasure of defeating…and he may be her only hope of making it out of this mess alive.

Grade: C / 3 stars

I’ve not read anything by this author before, so I was pleased to be able to jump into a new series. The Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters are a group of five sisters, the eldest of whom, Molly, has been as much of a mother as a sister to her siblings owing to the irresponsible nature of their actual mother, Jane. All the sisters work as bail enforcement agents – bounty hunters – and In Her Sights opens as Molly Pax – the eldest – is interrupted in her surveillance of her current target by the unexpected and unwanted presence of the ridiculously pretty and ridiculously annoying John Carmondy, a fellow bounty hunter who wants Molly and her sisters to come and work for him.

John is always bright and breezy, his flirtatious grins and quips stirring the attraction Molly feels for him but ruthlessly keeps a lid on; the problem here is that she keeps a lid on it for rather too long, because there’s no real progression in the romance until over three-quarters of the way through the book – John and Molly don’t even kiss until the 80% mark, and the sex scene that follows was strangely flat.

The plot concerning the Pax ladies’ struggle to extricate themselves from their mother’s mess – she puts their home up as collateral and then skips bail – is entertaining, but is not concluded here, so I guess it’s going to run through the series. I liked the relationship between the sisters, but the plot whereby Molly and John chase down a bail-jumper was fairly run-of-the-mill and not all that suspenseful. John isn’t a particularly well-drawn character; he’s funny and he’s cute, but we don’t get to know much more about him other than that he’s a goner for Molly and everyone can see that but her; and Jane is a one-note villain.

I enjoy romantic suspense, so I might give this author another try, but I think I’ll find something from her backlist, because if the rest of this series runs along the same lines as this one, I don’t think it’s for me.


Bonfires by Amy Lane, narrated by Nick J. Russo

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

Overall Grade: B+ / 4.5 stars

A lovely story about two men in their late forties finding love after years spent alone, one because his wife was killed in an accident, the other because of an acrimonious divorce. The relationship between sherrif’s deputy Aaron George and school principal Larkin (who goes by Larx) is superbly developed, and I really liked the “found family” aspect of the story. Both men have been single parents for a number of years and I liked that the romance played out realistically against the backdrop of their jobs and family lives. These are two mature characters with responsibilities that didn’t magically disappear when they wanted “together time”.

Running alongside the romance is the plotline concerning an attack on one of Larx’s pupils, a young man who had, only hours before, come out (along with his boyfriend, another pupil at the school). There’s little doubt this was a hate crime, and the suspect is a fellow pupil, the spoiled daughter of one of the town’s most influential families who is well known for bullying and making trouble for her peers. Aaron is also dealing with the investigation into what looks like the murder of a man whose body was found floating in a nearby lake – while Larx finds himself hauled up before the school-board, which is trying to get the school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) group disbanded. He’s not out publicly – his kids know he’s bisexual as do some of his colleagues and friends – but it’s not widely known, and given the way his career was almost ended years earlier around the time of his divorce, he’s wary of giving the officials yet another stick to beat him with.

[One of the things that struck me hard as I was listening was a fundamental difference between the school as depicted in the book and the ones I work in. I can only speak with experience of state schools, but in the UK, a teacher would face disciplinary action for NOT acting to protect the rights of LGBT kids rather than the other way around; the fact that Larx had to stand up and defend his actions in front of the school board or whatever was just mind-boggling to me. I had to check the publication date of the book to make sure it wasn’t something from the 1990s (it’s not – it came out in 2017).]

Nick J. Russo does a great job with the narration, providing distinct vocal characterisations for all the characters and really capturing the essence of the two principals. Aaron is a bit gruff and quite deliberate, whereas Larx is mercurial; passionate about his job and those he cares for, funny and flirtatious – and all of those qualities come through perfectly in the performance.

I’m looking forward to the next book, which I plan to pick up soon.

 

Quickie Reviews #3

Another handful of Quickie Reviews – all audiobooks this time – of things I’ve listened to over the past few weeks but haven’t written full-length reviews for.


Fit to be Tied (Marshals #2) by Mary Calmes, narrated by Tristan James

Deputy US Marshals Miro Jones and Ian Doyle are now partners on and off the job: Miro’s calm professionalism provides an ideal balance to Ian’s passion and quick temper. In a job where one misstep can be the difference between life and death, trust means everything. But every relationship has growing pains, and sometimes Miro stews about where he stands with his fiery lover. Could the heartstrings that so recently tied them together be in danger of unraveling?
Those new bonds are constantly challenged by family intrusions, well-intentioned friends, their personal insecurities, and their dangerous careers—including a trial by fire when an old case of Miro’s comes back to haunt them. It might just be enough to make Ian rethink his decision to let himself be tied down, and Miro can only hope the links they’ve forged will be strong enough to hold.

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

A bit uneven storywise; the plotlines tend to be a bit choppy because of the nature of the job these guys do (they’re not detectives or FBI agents following a single case), which is fine, but things kinda just chug along until the second half when Miro and Ian are sent to Phoenix following the escape of a nut-job serial killer with a serious crush on Miro. There’s plenty of humour and snark between the leads, who are now an established couple, but things in the garden aren’t all bunnies and rainbows as Miro wants to get married and Ian isn’t keen on the idea, which causes some friction between them. All told, it’s an entertaining listen, although not as good as the first book, IMO. Tristan James is a good narrator and I like his voice, but he gets his character voices mixed up from time to time (so Miro will sound like Ian or vice versa) … if not for that and a few other niggles, I’d be rating the narration more highly.

Is it my imagination or is the author kinda hung up on describing Miro’s wardrobe? And how does a guy on a government salary afford Armani suits and an $800,000 house?


Dead Speak (Cold Case Psychic #1) by Pandora Pine, narrated by Michael Pauley

Demoted to the cold case squad after shooting a suspect in the line of duty, Detective Ronan O’Mara knows that his career with the Boston Police Department is hanging by a thread. His first assignment is the case of Michael Frye, a five-year-old boy who has been missing for seven years. With no new leads or witnesses to interview, Ronan has to start from scratch to solve this mystery. When he sees a handsome local psychic on television, Ronan figures he’s got nothing to lose in enlisting the man’s help to find Michael.

Psychic Tennyson Grimm is riding high after helping South Shore cops find a missing child. He’s even being courted by the Reality Show Network about a program showcasing his abilities. He has no idea that his midday appointment with a customer, who instead turns out to be a police detective, is going to change the course of his life and his career.

With the blessing of the BPD, which badly needs an image makeover, Ronan is allowed to bring Tennyson in to assist with the Frye case. Being thrown together in front of cameras is never easy, but add in an emotional missing-person investigation, a tight-lipped spirit, and a cop who’s a skeptic, and it definitely puts a strain on both men and their working relationship.

When the child’s body is found, the work to identify his killer begins. As Ronan and Tennyson get closer to solving the case, the initial attraction they feel for one another explodes into a passion neither man can contain.

Will working together to bring Michael’s killer to justice seal their fledgling bond, or will unexpected revelations in the case tear them apart forever?

Overall Grade: C- / 2.5 stars

There are other reviews (such as this one) that nicely sum up the shortcomings of this book, but here are my thoughts, in a nutshell.

The romance – such as it is – is completely based on insta-lust. We’re told the story takes place over a couple of months, but there’s no sense of this, or of time passing, so it just feels as though these two jumped into bed and got serious after a few hours.

The villain was straight out of Bad-Guys-R-Us – seriously, all he needed was a cape to swirl and a moustache to twirl and to utter “I’d have got away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids!”

Ronan’s ex. I hate books in which one of the main characters’ ex is shown to be a nasty piece of work, because it makes me question that person’s judgement. This guy – Josh – was a complete and utter arsehole. Yet Ronan MARRIED HIM. Why??

The idea of a dead body being preserved in a bin bag for seven years is ridiculous. They’re plastic – they heat up and no way would there have been any viable remains.

I’m no expert on police procedures on either side of the Pond, but even I could spot aspects of it here that are distinctly wonky.

Finally – I’ve listened to and enjoyed some of Michael Pauley’s narrations in the past but here he was full-on Movie-Trailer-Announcer-Guy and it was really grating (and often, really funny, usually where it wasn’t meant to be.)

I don’t often return books to Audible… but yep, this one’s going back.



Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #1) by Abigail Roux, narrated by Brock Thompson

After barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him get back on his feet – after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.

Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part…or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address. Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other – friends and brothers in arms or something even deeper – before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.

Overall Grade: B- / 3.5 stars

A quickie that fills in a couple of the gaps between Touch & Geaux and Ball & Chain in the Cut & Run series, and fills us in on how Nick and Kelly got together. After the events in New Orleans that left Kelly badly injured, he’s finally out of hospital and Nick takes him home to Colorado. Kelly admits to being curious about what it’s like to have sex with guys; Nick is all “not going there – you’re loopy on painkillers and lack of sleep” – until he isn’t. Kelly goes from being bi-curious to bisexual fairly quickly, but it helps that we already know these guys have history and that they’re already incredibly close.

I especially liked the scene at the airport where the Sidewinder guys say goodbye and have to leave Kelly and Zane behind; also included here is a short story Bait & Switch in which Zane receives an unexpected visit from Nick while he’s on a special pass from his deployment, and it was nice to see them getting along.

Narrator Brock Thompson does a good job, although I’m kinda used to J.F. Harding for these guys, so some of the different characterisations took getting used to.


In the Ruins (Metahuman Files #2) by Hailey Turner – Narrated by Greg Boudreaux

Truth and lies. 

Captain Jamie Callahan knows the Metahuman Defense Force frowns on fraternization. For once in his life, he’s breaking all the rules. Having Staff Sergeant Kyle Brannigan on his team and in his bed is worth the risk of being found out. When a mission comes down requiring Alpha Team to go undercover in order to infiltrate a criminal alliance, Jamie knows it won’t be easy. Putting his family’s name on the line is nothing compared to the role the MDF wants him to play—that of a billionaire’s son, discharged from the military, with a lover on his arm, looking to make his own shady business deals. 

Dirty little secret. 

Kyle knows the only way to be with Jamie is to hide their relationship from their superiors. Waking up to Jamie at home is more important than being together in public, or so Kyle thought, until he comes face to face with what he’s been missing. Pretending to be a couple on paper for the sake of the mission thrusts Kyle into a world of incredible wealth and a social status he’s not sure he belongs in, but he’ll do anything to stay by Jamie’s side. 

Play the game to win. 

Surrounded by the enemy, Jamie and Kyle need to trust each other now more than ever. Their covers—and the life they’re trying to build together—depend on it. 

Overall Grade: B+/4.5 stars

Another exciting instalment in this military/sci-fi series – the action shifts to London and I was pleased at the way the author incorporated it into the story (I’ve done a lot of walking backwards and forwards through those tunnels under Exhibition Road on the way to South Ken station!) The overarching plotline of the series – terrorist groups are out to create Metahumans of their own – really kicks into gear, and we get to meet Jamie’s friend, Liam – thirteenth in line to the British throne – and a new team-member, ex CIA agent, Sean Delaney. Hm. Alexei doesn’t like spooks. Although… he might like this spook…

I’m loving the storyline about Jamie and his family – he really is stuck between a rock and a hard place, caught between his desire to serve his country and his love for his family (and he does love them, no matter that they drive him up the wall) – and there’s more relationship development in this one. In In the Wreckage what was going on between Jamie and Kyle was more of a full-on shagfest, but now there’s the sense that what’s between them is more than that. There’s still some full-on shagfesting going on, but I was pleased by the relationship stuff as well 😉

Greg Boudreaux is excellent as ever – he sports a suitably posh English accent as Liam (and the few other English characters in the story), and although there are a lot of male characters in the main cast, they’re well differentiated so there’s no confusion as to who you’re listening to. My one niggle is that there’s a scene featuring an Irish character who sounds mostly Scottish. But that’s it – otherwise, it’s a strong performance that hits all the highs and lows and everywhere in-betweens.

Fingers crossed the rest of the series will come out in audio soon.

Quickie Reviews #2

Here are another couple of Quickie Reviews; books I’ve read or listened to recently but haven’t written full-length reviews for.


Among the Living (PsyCop #1) by Jordan Castillo Price

Rating: B-

An entertaining novella, first in a series featuring the rather endearingly shambolic PsyCop, Victor Bayne. The author sets up her world – in which “stiff” (non-psychic) cops are paired up with a psi – very well, and clearly shows there’s a downside to having psychic gifts. Victor and his new partner, Lisa Gutierrez, are assigned to investigate a murder in which the victim is artfully arranged on a bed, surrounded by glass/mirror fragments. Victor, a level five medium is concerned when he can’t sense the dead person – usually their ghosts hang around to bitch about being dead – so this is odd. We’re also introduced to Victor’s love interest, Jacob Marks (another “NP” – non-psychic) and his partner, Caroline who is the human equivalent of a lie detector, and the four of them set about solving the mystery and finding the killer.

Because this is a novella, certain aspects are rushed – like the relationship between Victor and Jacob, who, in the books first pages, hook up at a party, but hopefully there’ll be more development in future books.

Victor is an engaging narrator and I’ll be checking out more of the books in the series.

ETA: I recently picked up the audio version of this in a Whispersync deal, and Gomez Pugh does a terrific job with the narration.  Great character differentiation and a terrific portrayal of Victor – I’m definitely going to pick up more of this series in audio.


The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham

No Rating

This was actually a very rare DNF for me, so I will not be rating the book; I didn’t finish reading it because I didn’t care for the BDSM element of the story. I’m no prude, I read books with explicit sex scenes on a regular basis, but I just can’t equate pain with sexual pleasure and I was unable to sympathise with the hero as a result. (And as a hero-centric reader, that’s pretty much the death knell for any book for me.) What I read was well-written and I would be interested in reading more from this author, but the BDSM scenes – though very few – turned my stomach. I also didn’t care for the cheating fairly late on in the story (I skimmed through to the end after I stopped reading); there’s a scene in which the heroine discovers the hero on his knees, stripped to the waist, and obviously aroused while being whipped by another woman.  YMMV of course, but in my mind, that’s infidelity and although I can deal with it in a romance under certain circumstances, this wasn’t one of them.  I don’t have many dealbreakers when it comes to what I read, but two in one story torpedoed this one.


Quickie Reviews #1

Given that both my TBR and TBL are normally fairly full of review copies, I don’t always get many opportunities to read or listen to books that I’m not reviewing somewhere. But lately, I’ve been getting through a large number of audiobooks due to the fact that I have a thirty-minute commute each day, and that when I get home, looking at words on a page sends me to sleep so it’s easier to listen than to read!

I like to keep track of my reading/listening, so even though I haven’t got time to write full-length reviews for these titles, I’ve posted short reviews on GoodReads and thought I might as well put them here as well, given this blog is supposed to be the Place Where I Review All The Things. (One day, I might even get around to using it that way!)

So here are some quickie reviews for audiobooks I’ve listened to over the past few weeks.


Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford, narrated by Greg Tremblay

The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – C+

An enjoyable steampunk novella/short story set in a recognisable alternative Victorian London that plants lots of threads and ideas – I’m guessing for a series that has never materialised? And that’s a shame, because the world-building is richly imagined and the two central characters – a viscount (although the author needs a bit of guidance about the use of titles and inheritance, because a third son would not have a courtesy title) and an inventor – are likeable and intriguing. This review pretty much encapsulates my thoughts 🙂

I’ve heard Greg Tremblay’s British accent before, although he didn’t have to sustain it as long as here; he does an extremely good job with both central characters, although one of the secondary cast (a female doctor) does sometimes sound more Antipodean than Cockney (a fairly common problem with American narrators who Bring the Brit) but for the most part, he does a superb job. Just one thing, Greg – I love you to bits, but “duke” is NOT pronounced “dook” on this side of the pond! (More like “juke” – just sayin’).

If this ever expands into a full series, I’ll definitely be picking it up.


Third Solstice by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert


Gideon’s managed to swing a few festive days off, and he and Lee are looking forward to celebrating their little girl’s first birthday. But duty calls, and Gideon is too good an officer to ignore the summons. He finds himself on the streets of Penzance, helping police the midwinter Montol celebrations.

It’s his third winter solstice with Lee, and disturbance, danger and magic are in the air. His daughter is beginning to show some remarkable gifts, and not all the family can cope with them. As the Montol festivities reach their fiery heights, will Lee and Gideon find a way to keep those they love best on the right side of the solstice gate?

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – B

Another charming – though short – visit with the Tyack-Frayne household, as baby Tamsyn approaches her first birthday and is showing signs of the magical and supernatural abilities that run in her bloodline. The focus is firmly on the domestic here; Lee and Gideon are more in love than ever and their time as new parents is brilliantly depicted – anyone who has had to cope with the chaos of having a young child/toddler in the house will be nodding their heads sagely at the descriptions of shirts stained with breakfasts or sticky hands!

Zeke and Ma Frayne are back, and we also bump into a number of other characters we’ve met throughout the series, and – as is the case with each of the books in the series – we’re given more glimpses of the supernatural world of Dark and Cornish/Celtic folklore; it’s a bit bonkers sometimes, but I love it.

Narrator Tim Gilbert does a spectacular job once again; he captures Lee, Gid and Zeke so perfectly, and his narration is wonderfully nuanced and hits all the right emotional notes. Recommended.


All Kinds of Tied Down by Mary Calmes, narrated by Tristan James

Deputy US Marshal Miro Jones has a reputation for being calm and collected under fire. These traits serve him well with his hotshot partner, Ian Doyle, the kind of guy who can start a fight in an empty room. In the past three years of their life-and-death job, they’ve gone from strangers to professional coworkers to devoted teammates and best friends. Miro’s cultivated blind faith in the man who has his back…faith and something more.

As a marshal and a soldier, Ian’s expected to lead. But the power and control that brings Ian success and fulfillment in the field isn’t working anywhere else. Ian’s always resisted all kinds of tied down, but having no home – and no one to come home to – is slowly eating him up inside. Over time, Ian has grudgingly accepted that going anywhere without his partner simply doesn’t work. Now Miro just has to convince him that getting tangled up in heartstrings isn’t being tied down at all.

Rating: Narration – B : Content – B

An enjoyable m/m romantic suspense story featuring two US Marshals, All Kinds of Tied Down is my first experience with author Mary Calmes. The first half of the story is somewhat disjointed, although I suppose that’s largely due to the nature of the job these guys do; I’m not too well-versed in who does what when it comes to US law enforcement, but if I’ve understood correctly, these are the guys who are sent to pick up and escort prisoners and oversee witness protection and things like that, which means this is a bit different from your normal police procedural when the characters will follow a case from beginning to end. There’s a meatier plotline that runs from about the halfway point, but what the earlier section does well is set up the two central characters; the fashion conscious, organised Miro(slav) Jones, an all-round nice guy nobody seems to have a bad word to say about, and his partner, Ian Doyle, who is also a Captain with the Green Berets (I have no idea how that works, but I went with it). Ian is prickly, snarky and a slob – so we’ve got a bit of an odd couple thing going on. Oh, and he’s straight, which is hell for Miro who has a serious crush on him.

The author sets up their friendship well – Ian is a regular pain in the arse and everyone says that he’s only bearable when Miro is around – and because the story is told through Miro’s PoV, we recognise all the signs he misses that Ian might not be as out of Miro’s reach as he thinks he is. It’s a decent story with likeable characters – not the best I’ve ever come across, but it’s entertaining and the banter and teasing between Ian and Miro is well done.

Tristan James narrates – I’ve listened to him a few times now and he delivers an entertaining performance, although sometimes there wasn’t sufficient differentiation between the principals, but he does a good job overall, his narration is well paced and he captures the spirit of the central relationship really well.

This is a four book series, so I’ll probably pick up book two at some point and see how it goes.


HIM by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, narrated by Jacob Morgan and Teddy Hamilton

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Rating: Narration – A : Content – A-

NA (I’m calling it that because the two main characters are in their early 20s) isn’t my normal cuppa, but I’ve heard many good things about this story – and the narration – that I thought I’d give it a go and picked it up in an Audible sale recently.

It’s a superbly done friends-to-lovers / sexual awakening story featuring two likeable protagonists; cocky, loudmouthed Wes is out, long-time friend Jamie has no idea he’s not completely straight. Sweet, funny and hot, it’s very well narrated and was definitely worth a listen.


Guardians of the Haunted Moor by Harper Fox, narrated by Tim Gilbert

The wedding is just the beginning…Gideon and Lee have spent a year in chaotic married bliss, with all the trimmings – a dog, tricky in-laws, and a baby girl they both adore. But even the best of lives can be fragile, and a shocking family loss hits their new world like a demolition ball.

Gideon has little energy left to investigate a murder that’s taken place in the fields outside Dark. He still has his duties to his community, though, and with Lee at his side, he begins to unfold the mysterious death of Farmer John Bowe. It’s harvest time, ancient West Country magic in the air, and rumors are flying through the village of an enemy Gideon thought he’d left behind long ago.

Can the beast of Bodmin possibly be real? Everything in Gideon’s stoical police-sergeant’s nature says no. But Lee has taught him to see the world differently, and now they must pool their resources to unmask a killer before more lives are lost – and somehow find a way to mend their shattered family, too.

Rating: Narration – A- : Content – A-

I love this series, and this fifth instalment doesn’t disappoint. Gideon and Lee have been happily married for six months and are preparing to adopt a child – Lee’s niece – but unfortunately things don’t go to plan, leaving them both bereft. But there’s no time for them to process or grieve properly; a horribly mutilated body is discovered at one of the local farms, and with rumours once again circulating about the Beast of Bodmin, it’s up to Gideon to find out the truth.

I love the way the author blends the mundane and the supernatural in these stories; Cornish myths, rituals and ancient folklore all combine to create an atmosphere of eerie uncertainty, and the devastation Gideon and Lee feel over the sudden upset of their cherished plans is palpable. The characters are well-established by now – Lee and Gideon of course, but also Gideon’s brother, Ezekiel, and his “right on” mother, both of whom have important roles to play in the story and in the life of the central couple.

Tim Gilbert’s narration is – again – spot on and thoroughly enjoyable. I know these stories are novella length and thus quite short when compared to many audiobooks, but believe me, they really are worth the credits.


I’ve optimistically titled this as Quickies #1.  Hopefully, I’ll have time for more in future.