The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan, Eilidh Beaton (Narrator)

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan, Eilidh Beaton (Narrator)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, HarperAudio (Publisher)
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her four year old son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where shouting football fans keep them awake all night. Hari’s dad, Jaz, a charismatic but perpetually broke DJ, is no help at all. But his sister Surinder comes to Zoe’s aid, hooking her up with a job as far away from the urban crush as possible: a bookshop on the banks of Loch Ness. And there’s a second job to cover housing: Zoe will be an au pair for three children at a genuine castle in the Scottish Highlands.

But while Scotland is everything Zoe dreamed of—clear skies, brisk fresh air, blessed quiet—everything else is a bit of a mess. The Urquart family castle is grand, but crumbling, the childrens’ single dad is a wreck, and the kids have been kicked out of school and left to their own devices. Zoe has her work cut out for her, and is determined to rise to the challenge, especially when she sees how happily Hari has taken to their new home.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

I honestly don’t know where to start, what to share and how to avoid spoilers. To say this is a busy story is putting it mildly. My mind is blown, my emotions and feelings are all over the place because there are so many reasons to smile, cry, worry and grin. There are parts where I could feel my eyes widen, my jaw drop and my breath stall in my lungs from suspense. There are so many details to all the personalities that star in this novel. The fact that I spent 11 hours listening over two and a half days, at work, late at night, right after breakfast, basically every chance I got tells you how involved I was in the story of Zoe and her little son, Hari. I didn’t know what to expect when I took a chance on this book. I’d never heard of the author before and that’s my loss. I am wowed by this novel.

The narrator has a voice I had to get used to. I did though and now I’ve come to believe that Ms. Beaton’s voice is absolutely perfect for the characters of Ms. Colgan’s characters, especially Zoe, the heroine, and Ramsey’s son, Patrick. The narrator has some other gems throughout but I’ll let readers, if they listen to the book, discover that charming point for themselves.

Here’s the problem with listening to a book instead of reading – I have no idea how to spell some of the names and I don’t want to get it wrong so I’m going to have to describe people through their roles or some such. Bear with me. Patrick is Ramsey’s youngest, Mary is the second oldest and the eldest son has a name I would probably spell wrong. Out of all the hero’s kids, I think Patrick is the most adorable, outgoing and just plain cute. His relationship and effect on Hari is one of the strong elements in the book and one of my favorites. The two were thick as thieves and a delight to read about. I believe Ms. Beaton’s narration was spot on for those two.

Mary’s character is a hard one. That child has issues – serious issues that caused me heartache on her behalf, and is involved in the few scenes that affected my emotions the most. Zoe’s influence is one of the paramount reasons that what happens to Mary is so powerful and important.

Ramsey’s eldest son isn’t quite as prominent as the other two, but Zoe’s gentle guidance took this sullen, internet-gaming young man and turned him into a person with confidence, goals and helped him discover a grand new passion through which he experiences success, joy and a possible path to a career. I liked that.

I think I’m writing this backwards. Zoe is the main character, a single mom of Hari, and Hari can’t speak yet. He’s 4 years old and hasn’t made a peep. Zoe’s love for him comes through loud and clear. He lucked out when he got Zoe for his mom. His dad, Jaz, not so much. Oh, he loves the little tyke, but … there’s a reason Zoe and he never got married. And yet, I didn’t dislike Jaz. He’s irresponsible, yes, but he truly loves his son and I consider that a redeeming quality.

When I first meet Zoe, the author paints a very scary picture. The heroine is in dire straits and things don’t look good. She gets a helping hand from Jaz’s sister and that’s how the whole story in Scotland starts up. True, when I first started listening to the story, I got a little confused about who was who in which chapter, but that confusion didn’t last long. There is a significant reason the author wants readers to meet certain players early on. Readers need to understand what is going on in Zoe’s life, why she takes the jobs that were offered sight unseen and they need to meet the people that mattered in that stage of her life. Here’s another unusual aspect of the book – it has four parts and each part has a ton of chapters. It’s like the author tells Zoe’s and Hari’s story in stages – as a crisis point or major plot twist puts the heroine on a new path, each path becomes a section of her life and that’s why I think the novel is formatted in this manner. It is different, that’s for sure.

When I listed the genre as contemporary fiction, I did not add romance to the list. There are romantic elements, yes, but the book doesn’t really focus on a romance between Ramsey and Zoe. That just happens as Zoe’s influence heals everyone in the house, and that includes the housekeeper. It was nice to see it happen but the focus, the whole story is about Zoe dealing with the hand life has dealt her. It’s showing a reader how she herself heals while she patiently works with all of the hero’s children, meeting each challenge as they come, with compassion, firmness, stubbornness, a gentle grace and love. However, Zoe’s interactions with adults prove to be a bit more challenging. The dialogue comes in fits and starts because she initially is extremely nervous, downtrodden and at the lowest point in her life. That’s at the beginning. By the end of the book, Zoe has come into her own, and she’s a woman a reader can cheer for, care about and be happy for. This novel is basically her journey towards being the strong, confident, and beloved woman she becomes.

Oh my goodness, there is so much more I want to say, to share, to really impress upon readers of this review that The Bookshop on the Shore is worth reading. I mean it. It’s not a fluff read because the author also tackles some hard topics, like what happens to a child that is emotionally traumatized and does things to harm themselves or others. It’s handled with competence, respect and love. Then there is the truth about what really happened to Ramsey’s wife. The townsfolk bandy about lots of rumors and conjectures but don’t believe any of them. The truth is a lot more tragic than any could guess. Yet, it also opened my eyes to what a wonderful person Ramsey is, in his own quiet, few-worded way.

I’ll stop here. I mean, I didn’t even get to mention the evil chicken, the possible sighting of Nessie, what triggered Nina’s contractions to go from 0 to 60, the storm, what happens with the books – see what I mean? This novel is amazing – it’s like a whole world and I felt like I was living it with Zoe. I don’t know if it’s because of the skill and talent of the narrator bringing Ms. Colgan’s words to life or what, but if readers haven’t discovered this heartwarming tale, and are fans of stories that engage a reader on a deeper level, then this book is a must read. Oh, and the HEA is as unusual as Zoe’s life. I couldn’t figure out if it was really a happy ever after or a happily for now. I guess you’ll have to read it and decide for yourself. It does satisfy though because it wraps up with a surprising twist that bodes well for all the people I’ve come to care about.

Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore! By by Jane O’Connor

Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore! By by Jane O’Connor (Author), Robin Preiss Glasser (Illustrator), Chloe Hennessee (Narrator)
(I Can Read Level 1)
Publisher: HarperCollins; HarperAudio
Genre: Contemporary, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Fans of Fancy Nancy will delight in this festive fall adventure story from the beloved New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser.

Join Fancy Nancy on the perfect fall field trip—to the apple orchard. Fall is an extra-fancy season. Even the trees wear fancy colors! Nancy is determined to find a perfect Gala apple for her dad—it’s his favorite kind, and even the name sounds fancy. But what if the perfect apple is just out of reach?

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I decided to try this little book in the audio version and I’m glad I did. The only thing I missed was seeing the illustrations, but I could tell by the cover that they’re colorful, busy and active. Listening to the story was delightful and charming.

The audio publisher introduces and concludes the story with a chipper musical melody. Young Ms. Henessee’s narration was clear, adorable and easy to listen to. I thought it was really cool when I heard the tree branch sound effects. I didn’t expect that and it added to the level of interest and engagement.

Lionel’s antics reminds me of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, so it’s a wonderful way to teach kids about the consequences of practical jokes that aren’t funny at all. If a parent chooses to use the audio version of this short story, listen for the other sound effects. It took me listening three times in the process of writing this review to hear that the tree branch sounds aren’t the only ones that enhance this story.

I also liked how the story teaches new words by incorporating them naturally during the storytelling and adding “That is a fancy way of saying…” and they’re recapped at the end of the book under Fancy Nancy’s Fancy Words. My favorite is Orchard, a garden of trees. That’s the cutest description I’ve ever heard and I really liked it!

It wraps up with Lionel doing something goofy and the little heroine finding the perfect apple for her dad.

I wish they had audiobooks like this when my kids were little. I could do voices but I know I wouldn’t have been able to do the kind of cool sound effects I heard in Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore! It’s like a mini play and gives a child a well-rounded word experience. So, my recommendation is that parents do both – read the story and have their kids listen too. Since Ms. Hennessee’s voice is young, bright and energetic, I think kids will be able to relate and engage with the heroine’s apple adventure.

To Marry a Scottish Laird by Lynsay Sands, narrated by Kieron Elliott

To Marry a Scottish Laird by Lynsay Sands, narrated by Kieron Elliott
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Highlander Campbell Sinclair is no stranger to battle, so when he sees a lad attacked by bandits, he jumps into the fray. He didn’t count on being stabbed. Grateful to the boy for nursing him back to health, Cam offers to accompany Jo safely to his destination. But when he accidentally comes across the lad bathing in the river, Cam discovers that Jo is actually Joan . . . with the most sinful of curves.

Joan promised her mother that she would deliver a scroll to the clan MacKay. But traveling alone is dangerous, even disguised as a boy. When a Scottish warrior lends his aid, she is more than relieved . . . until he surprises her with lingering kisses and caresses that prove her disguise hasn’t fooled him. As their passion ignites, will the secrets of the scroll force a wedding . . . and lead to a love she’s never known?

I’ve read many a book by Lynsay Sands but I’ve never listened to one in audio format before. I think I’m in love with the book, the hero, and the narrator.

I have enjoyed Ms. Sands’ Scottish heroes in the past because they are usually so hunky, heroic and sexy. The heroines can be plucky, strong, and engaging and are always a good fit for the hero. Until now, I’ve only read them in my head and I have no gift for accents. Bring on the narrator in the audio book, Kieron Elliot, and my book experience just shot to new heights. It was an overload of pleasure and enjoyment. The narrator had a BROGUE!!!

Some common adverse effects reported by people include dizziness, headache, upset stomach, nasal congestion, blurred vision etc. generic soft cialis Thus many viagra viagra sildenafil people in one way or another indulge in different kinds of martial arts discipline during their lifetime. Kamagra jellies’ formula is similar to the original formula of Sildenafil Citrate, both therapeutically and biologically. cialis wholesale In their opinion, if someone has posted their email address for all to see, then other people have the right to contact that person and ask them questions or send them offers. pill sildenafil I thought Cam was a fine hero. He showed his honor early on when he came upon a young man being beaten. Not for a second did he hesitate to come to the lad’s rescue even though he was outnumbered. The camaraderie between the two as they traveled to deliver the mysterious scroll the lad had in his care was clear, comfortable and sweet. That complacent feeling was yanked right out of the story when the hero came across Jo clearing the dust of travel off in a river. The narrator brought to life Cam’s astonishment when he discovered Jo was a Joan. I listened to that part twice, grinning from ear to ear both times.

At that moment I realized that Joan was no ordinary heroine. She had qualities that made “Jo” earn Cam’s respect, but as a woman? It was doubly impressive because Joan wasn’t a fainter, she’s a doer. I have to respect a person who doesn’t let life hold her down after being delivered devastating news – the loss of her mom and the place she called home. I appreciated that Cam came to the same conclusion – being a woman did not change the fact that she earned his respect. But, once he knew that he was a she, that opened up a Pandora’s Box – they were traveling alone and the chemistry was starting to sizzle and pop. Romance readers know it’s only a matter of time.

Since this is an audio book, I want to share an observation. Some narrators fit the characters they’re reading, male or female. There are some male narrators whose voice simply doesn’t lend itself well to a higher pitched lady’s voice. Not so with Mr. Elliott. He brought Cam’s growly lower voice to life and did an effortless job of creating a convincing and ear pleasing voice for Joan.

Supposedly it should take about 10 hours to listen to the audio version of the book, but like Ms. Sands’ print novels, time flew as I lost myself within the story. A 384 page book would take me about 3.5 uninterrupted hours to read, so it couldn’t have taken me that much longer to listen, did it? I didn’t fast forward even once – it was ALL GREAT! That’s because the story was great. All the characters – from Joan’s aunt and uncle, Cam’s mom and dad, the ladies that were there to marry Cam … yes, there was quite the mix-up that made things interesting over all.

There was a bit of suspense too because someone is trying to harm Joan. I thought for sure I knew who it was. The mystery to solve is, why? Why would someone go to those lengths to get rid of her? And, how far was the villain willing to go? The answer surprised me.

I thought I was going to blush scarlet when the narrator started reading the bed scenes between Cam and Joan. It wasn’t as bad as I feared because I forgot how well Ms. Sands writes them. They serve a purpose and weren’t placed there just to titillate. So, I listened and blushed just a little.

To Marry a Scottish Laird had every element I enjoy in a well-written romance. A plot that kept my interest, parts that made me gasp and scenes that made me giggle and chortle. There were surprises aplenty with near misses as Joan survived the attempts to harm her. Best of all was the romance flourishing between the two of them and the happy ever after delivered with a wonderful closing scene in the epilogue. I strongly believe that Cam and Joan’s romance story is a perfect read in any format, audio or print and I credit that to the strong writing skills that Ms. Sands is known for. I’m a happy … listener.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, Narrator Marin Ireland

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, Narrator Marin Ireland
Publisher: HarperAudio
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability.

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.
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Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

Ever since she took the fall for her friend back in high school, Lillian’s life has gone nowhere. Stuck living with her mother and working dead-end jobs, she’s in a rut she can’t find her way out of. Worse yet, the friend she’d protected has gone on to a life of luxury as the wife of a particularly important politician. When Madison contacts her out of the blue, Lillian thinks it’s a joke. She’s prepared for failure again, but she’s not prepared for what she actually gets.

Our narrator, Lillian, is a potty-mouthed take-no-prisoners sort of gal and I loved her tough, ‘bring it on’ attitude. Even though she wasn’t excited about this job, she embraced it and promised to do her best to see it through. Watching her come to not just like the twins, but love being with them, was amazing. Probably the best characters in the book though were the twins. They knew they were weird, they knew that they’d not had a good life, but they kept on moving forward every chance they got. The way the author handled the twins’ spontaneous combustion was great, too. He made it seem like all kids burst into flames the second they got agitated and I stopped thinking it was weird after the first couple times. I think that the way Lillian downplayed the spectacle helped a lot in that regard.

The version I picked up was the audiobook and the narrator nailed it. She has this smooth, soothing voice that lulls you into a comfortable place. She tricks you into thinking that there really is nothing to see here, despite the fact she’s talking about two ten-year-olds currently burning – literally – with rage. The deadpan and mellow way that the narrator delivered such crazy scenarios really made the experience for me.

Everything about this book drew me in. From the crazy cover with a cartoon child in flames to the idea of kids that spontaneously combusted, it was right up my alley. I’d gone in expecting a humorous look at parenting and left with what was not just one of the funniest books I’d read all year, but one of the most heartwarming as well. Lillian’s transformation from ‘I’m just here because I’m getting paid’ to honestly, earnestly wanting to help these kids, made my motherly heart ache in the best way possible.