4 Stars, Anna Martin, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Narration Rating - 1 Star, Reviewed by Amy

Audio Review: Soufflés at Sunrise by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin – Narrated by John-Paul Barrel

Title: Soufflés at Sunrise

Author: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Narrator: John-Paul Barrel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 hours and 17 minutes

At a Glance: I love M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin writing together, and find that they mesh well, but I hope they pick another narrator for the rest of the series.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: “Welcome to a new season of Burned, where we find fresh new cooking talent… and a few culinary disasters! Every season we do something a little different, and this time it’s all about the sweet things in life. Get ready in week one as twenty pastry chef hopefuls and dessert connoisseurs compete for the thirteen coveted workspaces in our *Burned* kitchen. With stakes this big, we ask the one question on everyone’s mind: Do these chefs have what it takes to rise to the top? Or will they get Burned?”

Burned contestants Chase and Kai are attracted from the start and can’t wait to spend more time getting to know each other… until they see the first episode treatment and realize the producers intend to portray them as bitter enemies. At first it’s fun to pretend to bicker—enemies on film, lovers when the cameras stop rolling—but soon it’s hard not to take the faux rivalry seriously. It’s only when their choice is to band together and bake their way to the final or get burned that they find where their real loyalties lie.

Dividers

Review:  Sigh. Where to begin? I often listen to an audiobook and dislike the narrator, but I can separate the book from that narrator to gauge whether it is a great book with poor narration. Sometimes I don’t like either the story or the narrator. This is one case, though, where it was impossible for me to separate the narration from the story, so I am not going to review the book and the narration separately.

I picked this book because I have read (not listened to) other books in this series, and really enjoyed them. I love M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin writing together, and find that they mesh well. So, this is by no means a bad review for them, but this narration was absolutely painful!

After listening to Souffles at Sunrise for five minutes, I was saying, do I have to continue? It took me two weeks of turning it on for an hour and then turning it off again because I couldn’t continue. John-Paul Barrel spoke as if he was trying to annunciate every single word clearly. It was like listening to an instruction manual.

I hope they pick another narrator for the rest of the series, as the stories seem to be fun and entertaining. I, however, would never recommend another book narrated by John-Paul Barrel.

TNA_Signature_Amy

 

 

 

You can buy Souffle’s at Sunrise here:

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5 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Devil’s Food at Dusk by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Devil’s Food at Dusk

Authors: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: If sweet romance and a fast moving story is what you are after, you will not go wrong picking up a copy of Devil’s Food At Dusk.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Joe Fitzgerald hates New Orleans, but he’s stuck there until he convinces one stubborn local family to sell Lumière, the crumbling French Quarter restaurant they’ve owned for generations. The place is a wreck, and it’s hemorrhaging money. Joe figures he’s their best chance for survival.

Remy Babineaux despises Pineapple Joe’s and everything the chain stands for. He refuses to let Lumière become some tacky corporate tourist trap. Theme drinks and plastic beads in his restaurant? Yeah, right. Over his dead, rotting corpse. The last thing Remy wants is a meeting with the restaurant chain’s representative, but his father agreed to at least listen to the proposal. There’s nothing Remy can do about it.

Remy figures an anonymous hookup is exactly what he needs to decompress. When he ends up across the table from his fling the next morning, real sparks fly. Joe refuses to give up his prime location; Remy refuses to give up his legacy. It’s war, and they’re both determined to win at any cost. Neither of them counted on falling in love.

Dividers

Review: Above is a fairly complete synopsis of this delightful novel. I can add little to it without giving away spoilers, but allow me to tread carefully and attempt to throw in a bit more.

Joe and Remy are both fiercely competitive and willing to give anything it takes to get what they want. For Joe, the acquisition of property rarely causes him any guilt. Avoiding the “human aspect” of what his company does—move in and gobble up failing businesses—is just a minor glitch in an otherwise profitable, cutthroat job for him. He is “the closer” and he always gets his deal.

Remy has one passion in life—Lumiere. Since his father’s retiring, he and his brother Andre have poured all they have into saving the family business, which, unfortunately, is crumbling around them. It is Remy’s passion—the one thing aside from his family that he loves with every fiber of his being. When it is threatened, Remy digs in and angrily refuses to even consider the offer Joe puts on the table. However, his brother Sal, the accountant for the family, and his own father, Tom, are not so like-minded. Before long, Sal is negotiating with Joe behind Remy’s back, while Remy is trying to convince Joe to choose a different locale for his company. It is a train wreck bound to happen, and to further complicate the matter, two sworn enemies are unknowingly beginning to fall in love.

Why did I simply adore this novel, Devil’s Food At Dusk? Well, it could be that two of my favorite authors, M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin, penned this sweet and sensuous romance. It could be the outstanding characterization, the in-depth creation of those same characters, and the way in which both Joe and Remy grew and learned more about themselves during this story. Then, again there is also the secondary cast of players that are so lively and beautifully written that I truly could not find one throwaway in the bunch. This was a novel about family, and the one that these authors built was fascinating and tightly knit.

However, I think the key reason I found this novel to be exceptionally well done was the way in which this neatly woven plot was interspersed with gorgeous flowing passages describing the French Quarter and the world that was Lumiere. Never boring or overwhelming, these descriptive moments only added to the ambiance of this novel. You were suddenly transported to New Orleans and the magic it possesses. From the heat of the kitchen to the cacophony of sounds from the open market, the lyrical prose placed you plum in the heart of the story. Couple that with the slow building relationship between Joe and Remy, and you have a beautiful novel from beginning to end.

If sweet romance and a fast moving story is what you are after, you will not go wrong picking up a copy of Devil’s Food At Dusk. It is a delightful way to escape into fantasy for a few hours.

TNA_Signature_Sammy







 

You can buy Devil’s Food at Dusk here:

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3.5 Stars, Anna Martin, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 4 Stars, Reviewed by Jules

Audio Review: Summer Son by Anna Martin – Narrated by R.L. Davis

Title: Summer Son

Author: Anna Martin

Narrator:: R.L. Nelson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 5 Hours, 51 Minutes

At a Glance: If you’re looking for a sweet, easygoing story, and don’t mind a bit of insta-love, then definitely give this one a listen.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Ellis Broad never imagined he would end up a single father before he turned twenty-nine. Then again, most of his expectations for the future evaporated when his husband of three years filed for divorce, leaving Ellis as their six-month-old son Harrison’s only parent. After the divorce Ellis hides, working from home on his small graphic design business so he can be a full-time dad. He succeeds until Zane Hadlin stumbles into his life.

Zane is everything Ellis desires and everything he fears at the same time. A former gang member from the wrong side of the tracks, Zane turned his life around after his older brother was killed in a shooting. Now an artist, Zane shows Ellis a path back into the world and all he’s been missing out on.

The only problem is, Ellis’s ex-husband hasn’t quite gone for good, and his digging into Zane’s past could drag up secrets no one is prepared to deal with.

Dividers

Review: I have to say right off the bat that I’m a big fan of Anna Martin’s books, and typically a huge fan of family stories. This should have been right up my alley. But, for a few reasons, Summer Son was hit and miss for me.

The main character, Ellis, is a single dad who has found himself in a day-to-day rut of caring for his six-month-old baby, Harrison, and working from home. If he’s not spending late nights up with Harrison, then he’s burning the midnight oil, finishing up some design project or other, and has basically given up on the idea of a happily ever after for himself. He’s wrong, of course, and his shot at happiness appears in the form of Zane Hadlin, whom Ellis meets on a very rare night out with friends. Zane is adorable, and the two of them together are very sweet. And, Zane with Harrison? Fuhgeddaboutit. I swooned so hard in chapter five, when Zane shows up in the middle of the night and helps Ellis with a sick Harrison, and then feeds and takes care of him in the morning so Ellis can sleep. Cute factor, off the charts.

I initially enjoyed the story and the narration. As far as I can tell, this is the first audiobook done by R.L. Davis, and overall, he does a very good job. I’ve discovered that I’m extremely picky about my narrators. I can’t tell you how many times I have started listening to a book, then turned it off within two chapters. That wasn’t the case here at all, though. Davis’s performance is, as I said, quite good. His voice is nice and lends well to the characters. He does a great job with a couple of the female characters; I particularly enjoyed what he does with Ellis’s attorney! I even stopped and made notes a couple of times while listening, that I could hear the smile in his voice and other little things that I liked. For the most part, his reading was solid.

There is a big glitch with the production, however, at the end of chapter 4 (the contents lists it as chapter 5, because they have the Audible intro as chapter 1). The audio cuts off about 10 pages at the end of the chapter, so you lose a whole section where Zane works/plays with Harrison at the art center, as well as a bit of insight into Zane and his career goals, and how he is with kids. Luckily a friend was able to loan me the book so I could see if my suspicion about the problem was correct, as the chapter ended so abruptly that I thought something had to be off. I read those pages for myself, but that was a bummer.

Things move along with the guys; they become close very quickly and decide to move in together. Ellis’s ex-husband, Oliver, is a giant prick, and tries to cause trouble with Ellis due to some unexplained prejudice he has against Zane. It is initially made out in the book to be a much bigger deal than Oliver just not wanting someone else to have Ellis, but that’s really all it turns out to be. I definitely felt like there was a lot of drama just for drama’s sake. Things with Zane and Ellis also moved much too quickly to be believable, and much of the ending seemed very contrived.

That being said, there were also a lot of things that I liked about the story. I loved the tight-knit community of friends and family that Ellis and Zane are a part of, and how they always have each other’s backs. I have a group like that myself, and there are times that I couldn’t have made it without them. Also, Zane as a younger guy with an old soul really worked for me. He had been through a lot in his life, and it was easy to imagine that he was pretty clear on what he wanted out of a relationship and for his future. I liked how driven he was. And, I loved the parts of the story where it was so obvious how much Ellis completely adored his son. Even though he didn’t choose to be a single parent, and things were tough, Anna Martin makes it clear that Harrison is Ellis’s world.

If you’re looking for a sweet, easygoing story, and don’t mind a bit of insta-love, then definitely give this one a listen. I think you’ll enjoy it.

TNA_Signature_Jules






You can buy Summer Son here:

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Jules

Review: Signs by Anna Martin

Title: Signs

Author: Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: After spending most of his life in special schools, Caleb Stone now faces public high school in his senior year, a prospect that both excites him and threatens to overwhelm his social anxiety. As a deaf teenager, he’s closed himself off to the world. He speaks a shorthand with his parents and even finds it hard to use American Sign Language with people in his local deaf community. But Caleb finds comfort in his love of photography. Everything he can’t express in real life, he posts on his Tumblr.

Struggling to reconcile his resentment for his father’s cruelty with the grief of losing a parent, Luc Le Bautillier scrolls through Tumblr searching for someone who might understand his goth look and effeminate nature. When Luc reblogs a photo by Caleb, sparking a conversation, they both find it easier to make friends online than in person.

Luc and Caleb confront their fears about the opinions of the outside world to meet in New York City. Despite Caleb’s increasing confidence, his parents worry he’s not ready for the trials ahead. But communication comes in many forms—when you learn the signs.

Dividers

Review: There is a lot to love about Anna Martin’s newest release, Signs. At the top of the list are Caleb and Luc. I adored these guys. They were refreshing and real, and just had a really lovely innocence about them. The more I’ve thought about this story in the last few days since finishing it, the more I realize how much I liked it, and how much of that has to do with them.

Caleb is an eighteen-year-old high school senior who is passionate about photography, and starts a Tumblr account to share some of his pics. He also happens to be deaf. I liked that he wasn’t a ‘typical’ deaf kid. He isn’t a superstar at sign language, and only begrudgingly attends meetings of a local Boston chapter of Deaf Youth to appease his parents, who want him to try to interact more. Being deaf isn’t the only issue keeping him from having a more normal teen life; unfortunately, he also suffers from social anxiety, making it even more difficult to make and keep friends. He gains a few followers on Tumblr, though, including catching the eye of a teen boy from New York City named Luc.

Luc is a goth kid who doesn’t really relate to his family, and though he does have a few friends at his new school in the city, he’s also a bit of a loner. Luc lives with his sister, Ilse, and his mother, who is never home. She stays out drinking and hanging out with her socialite friends, leaving Ilse to do most of the parenting for Luc. But, something about Caleb’s work speaks to Luc, and he ends up sharing and commenting on a couple of his posts, sparking conversation between the two.

The story mostly consists of watching Caleb and Luc become closer, and grow and mature together. The only drama coming from a bit of push-back against the parents – typical kids testing boundaries and exerting their independence – and also when Caleb applies to be in a trial for a new type of cochlear implant. But, sweet was the exact right feel for this story. They didn’t need a ton of angst or drama, it was simply enough to enjoy watching them fall in love, and decide what direction they want their lives to go.

Things get a little off track in the middle of the book. It definitely started out strong, but I felt like it wandered a bit through the midsection. There were a couple of awkward scenes, some unanswered questions – one being what happened to Jay? Luc had a best friend who disappeared, seemingly for no reason, which begged the question, why even include him in the story at all? And I think the cochlear implant stuff was maybe a bit drawn out.

That being said, however, there were even more things I loved: Luc helping Caleb work on his speech techniques (swooooon), the letter Luc wrote to the people in charge of the implant trial (amaaaaazing), the fact that even with all the communication barriers, these two were better at communicating than most adults I know. So much good stuff. We never learned what Luc’s aspirations were, but in the post-book story in my head, he studies to become a speech therapist. :)

From Tattoos & Teacups to Cricket and Jurassic Heart, and now a wonderful NA book about two fantastic young men in Signs, I continue to be a big fan of Anna Martin – an absolutely fantastic storyteller. I can’t wait to see what she gives us next!






You can buy Signs here:

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Pia

Review: Soufflés at Sunrise by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Soufflés at Sunrise (Just Desserts: Book Two)

Authors: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 206 Pages

At a Glance: If you’re after a light and fun romance, this is the book for you.

Reviewed By: Pia

Blurb: “Welcome to a new season of Burned, where we find fresh new cooking talent… and a few culinary disasters! Every season we do something a little different, and this time it’s all about the sweet things in life. Get ready in week one as twenty pastry chef hopefuls and dessert connoisseurs compete for the thirteen coveted workspaces in our Burned kitchen. With stakes this big, we ask the one question on everyone’s mind: Do these chefs have what it takes to rise to the top? Or will they get Burned?”

Burned contestants Chase and Kai are attracted from the start and can’t wait to spend more time getting to know each other… until they see the first episode treatment and realize the producers intend to portray them as bitter enemies. At first it’s fun to pretend to bicker—enemies on film, lovers when the cameras stop rolling—but soon it’s hard not to take the faux rivalry seriously. It’s only when their choice is to band together and bake their way to the final or get burned that they find where their real loyalties lie.

Dividers

Review: In Soufflés at Sunrise, we meet Chase, the blonde farm boy who is the owner of an ice cream shop. We also meet Hawaiian pastry chief Kai, both of whom are auditioning for this series of Burned–think master chef/top chef and you’ll get the idea. I enjoyed reading about the challenges, cooking, and the behind the scenes of the show. Some of the desserts sound just lush, and I hope M.J O’Shea and Anna Martin got to try some of them. All in the mane of research, of course!

While I usually like a lot more heat in my books, I loved the slow build of the relationship. I’m so glad this wasn’t an overly glib, insta-love story. It’s fun to read, and it left me feeling happy and optimistic that good things are going to happen for our MCs.

If you’re after a light and fun romance, this is the book for you.






You can buy Soufflés at Sunrise here:

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Macarons at Midnight by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Macarons at Midnight

Author: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 214 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Tristan Green left his small English town for Manhattan and a job at a high profile ad agency, but can’t seem to find his bearings.

He spends a lot of time working late at night, eating and sleeping alone, and even more time meandering around his neighborhood staring into the darkened windows of shops. One night when he’s feeling really low, he wanders by a beautiful little bakery with the lights still on. The baker invites him in, and some time during that night Tristan realizes it’s the first time he’s really smiled in months. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Anna Martin’s “Summer Son ” Reminds Us What Family Really Means

“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.” – Jim Butcher


Title: Summer Son

Author: Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Ellis Broad never imagined he would end up a single father before he turned twenty-nine.

Then again, most of his expectations for the future evaporated when his husband of three years filed for divorce, leaving Ellis as their six-month-old son Harrison’s only parent. After the divorce Ellis hides, working from home on his small graphic design business so he can be a full-time dad. He succeeds until Zane Hadlin stumbles into his life. Continue reading

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Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press

It’s Really Easy To Dig Anna Martin’s “Jurassic Heart”


“Do not think of knocking out another person’s brains because he differs in opinion from you.” – Horace Mann


Title: Jurassic Heart

Author: Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: When paleontologist Nick Eisenberg learns that someone thinks they have found velociraptor bones in Alberta, his curiosity overrides his desire to stay in London. After all, he’s one of the world’s leading experts on prehistoric predators and has always wanted to look for the velociraptor’s North American cousins. There’s only one problem: eco-conservationist Hunter Joseph. While Nick supervises the dig, Hunter rallies support from the locals to oppose the way the team is destroying the landscape in their search for dinosaur bones.
Continue reading

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Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press

There’s No Sticky Wicket In This Cricket

The best love story is when you fall in love with the most unexpected person at the most unexpected time – Unknown

I absolutely loved Anna Martin’s Tattoos & Teacups. I was looking forward to loving Cricket as well. It didn’t happen quite as easily as I had expected. It was difficult to get in to the story. The first third or so seemed to move very slowly. The reason I gave Cricket four out of five stars is because the rest of the book was quite enjoyable.

Henry Richardson has lived in New York City his whole life. He knows his paternal Grandfather emigrated from England but is unaware of any family still located there. Henry receives an ominous summons to his lawyer’s office in the middle of the day. He finds out that he does, indeed still have family in England. In the form of ninety-one year old Annabell (Nell) Richardson. She is his Great-Grandmother and a very wealthy woman. Henry was named after his father and his grandfather. Nell is his Grandfather’s mother.

Nell knows she is dying. She has moved to an assisted living facility. There remains, however, the matter of Stretton House. It has been the family home for generations. No one has lived there since it was used as a hospital during WWII, but Nell does not want to see it crumble to the ground. She chooses Henry, because he is named after her son, to leave the mansion to prior to her death. She is entrusting that he will restore it to its former glory.

Having been a wedding planner in New York, Henry sees the perfect wedding venue in the mansion and begins restoration. He wants to use as much local labor and as many local suppliers as possible. This is how he meets Ryan Burgess.

Ryan is a local farmer. He supplies many local businesses as well as his sister’s pub with their produce and eggs. He was married at a young age to a high school sweetheart, divorced soon after and hasn’t dated since. His ex-wife told him that he is gay. Ryan doesn’t necessarily believe her and doesn’t explore the possibility.

As Henry & Ryan become close friends, Ryan invites Henry to move in to the remodeled attic of his farmhouse. Ryan lives there alone and Henry is paying to stay at a local bed & breakfast. As work on the mansion progresses, so does the relationship between Henry and Ryan. Anna Martin takes us on a deliciously slow journey of exploration of the feelings the two men are developing. Once they acknowledge the attraction, they agree to take it very slowly since Ryan doesn’t know what will happen to his business if he comes out.

Their journey is like the swan ride at an amusement park. Slowly gliding through the smooth water around them, in and out of the light (although there is no real dark place for them) until it eventually reaches the pre-destined placid ending.

The title Cricket refers to the game cricket. Ryan talks Henry into joining the local cricket team. Although Henry knows nothing about the game, under Ryan’s hands (pun intended), he becomes quite an accomplished player.

There is a small dip in their glide to happiness that I won’t ruin for you, but it makes for a very romantic and grand gesture on Ryan’s part.

There are many layers to this love story. Henry falls in love with Ryan, we expect that. He also falls in love with Stretton House, with Nell. He embraces his new country and village. He falls in love with Ryan’s sister and her family. It seems that every aspect of his new life is not what he expected, but exactly what is right for him.

I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, for the calamity that normally occurs in romance novels. For the mean ex or poorly received coming out that most often leads to a separation of sorts for our MCs so that they can be brought back together in a mass of clinging limbs, clashing tongues and teeth and professions of undying love. It never happened. Ms. Martin’s swan ride was so smooth, it was over before I knew it. That is what makes Cricket a four star read. That’s why we go on the swan ride at the fair, for a relaxing journey with no hidden surprises. A journey that we know will end right where we expect it to. It’s comforting, warm and very welcome. I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Cricket here:

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