Audio books have improved my life times 1,000. They make boring or annoying tasks go by in the blink of an eye. Now, when I’m pounding away on the treadmill or swiping on mascara, I’m also reading at the same time. Such luxury! If you’re not on the audio book train yet, you need to get on board!
Without further ado, here are some audio books I’ve had in my ears recently. I’ve got a super slow burn contemporary sports romance, gay witches and shapeshifters fighting crime and falling in love, a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in Pakistan, a left-at-the-altar contemporary romance, and my new favorite historical romance.
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
This was my first Mariana Zapata book, but from what I can tell, she writes long, slow burn romances, emphasis on the long. This book is almost 700 pages (16 hours in audio), and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a turnoff for me at first. However, she seems to have a cult following and I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I’ll admit for probably the first third of the book, I wasn’t that into it. Zapata’s writing style can be clunky, with annoying repetition and ranty interior monologues that don’t advance the plot. HOWEVER. I was curious to see how Vanessa and Aiden, two people who seemed to totally hate each other, were somehow going to end up together, and by the end I was super invested in their relationship. They start out as employer/employee, with Vanessa working as personal assistant for Aiden, a professional football player. This dynamic leads to her knowing a lot about him and him knowing basically nothing about her, because he’s kind of a jerk and never cares enough to really talk to her. When Vanessa decides to quit, who should show up on her doorstep begging her to return but her former boss? My, how the turns have tabled! Despite the pacing issues, I had a good time listening to The Wall of Winnipeg and would read Zapata again in the future. (One note on the audio version: the narrator CANNOT do a Canadian accent. Unless Canada is located somewhere in Texas. Bless.)
Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk
New favorite series! The Hexworld books are the ultimate comfort reads—because what could be more fun than gay shifters and witches solving crimes together? In this fantasy world, some people are shapeshifters, some people are witches, and some people are just people. The shifters and witches can bond with each other to strengthen their power, but while any two can be bonded, each shifter has one witch who is their ultimate match. In the first book, Hexbreaker, Tom is a witch who hides his power because of issues from his past—he’s adopted a new persona and works for the regular NYC police. Cicero is an unbonded cat shifter who works for the magic police, and he knows as soon as he lays eyes on Tom that he’s his witch. But he doesn’t want Tom finding that out—which will be tricky, since they’ve been assigned to work a case together—because Tom is nothing like Cicero hoped. He’s a big, unkempt bruiser, not stylish and witty and flirty like Cicero and his friends. Of course, first impressions turn out to be wrong all the time, and Tom is the sweetest, kindest marshmallow under his rough exterior. I loved how both Tom and Cicero rushed to judgment and had to rethink their opinions once they got to know each other. Icing on the cake: narrator Tristan James executes both Cicero’s British and Tom’s Irish accents expertly. Seriously, these books are like a hot bubble bath—I’ve already read book two!
Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
I don’t get the hype about Jane Austen in general, and Pride and Prejudice in particular. It seems like a lot of women say they luhrve Jane Austen because they want to sound smart, as if reading a book from another century somehow makes them better. So yeah, even I am a little surprised I decided to read Unmarriageable, a retelling of P&P set in Pakistan.
I had to read P&P for my degree but apparently blocked out the experience completely, so this book, despite reportedly adhering closely to the original, was like a brand new experience for me, one that I appreciated entirely on its own merits. Alys comes from a big family with many sisters, and the fact that she and her older sister Jena are unmarried well into their twenties is the bane of their mother’s existence. Neither of the girls wants to marry a man they don’t love, though, and hijinks ensue as their mother tries to set them up with various men. I loved main character Alys, how independent and feministy she is, and the slow burn romance between her and Darsee is extra fulfilling because of how much they dislike each other when they meet.
Getaway Girl by Tessa Bailey
Can’t resist that cover or this premise: Elijah, candidate for mayor of Charleston and the ultimate blueblood, is jilted at the altar. Outside the church, Addison, cousin of the bride from the black sheep side of the family, waits in her car to offer him a ride. She’s never met Elijah before, but she has a feeling he’ll want to get out of there fast. They become instant friends and he immediately moves into her guest room, with her assuming he’s not over his former fiancée and him trying to keep his attraction to her quiet because he doesn’t want to ruin the friendship. This supposed conflict doesn’t hold up under scrutiny—who becomes “best friends” that quickly? Who would move in with a friend they secretly want with the expectation of things remaining strictly platonic? Eventually I realized I didn’t care about those pesky questions—the book is too funny and steamy for things like logic to matter overmuch. I’m also not one to automatically root for a wealthy, straight, white male politician, but Elijah won me over. I blame it on the relentless southern charm. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book nearly as much without narrator Joe Hempel’s gloriously over the top southern accent—and for the most part, I enjoyed Lori Prince’s gravelly portrayal of Addison, although she got a little too into the baby talk at times for my taste. This is one of those times when I think the audio version really adds something to the experience.
Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas
Private Arrangements has secured a place in my top five favorite historical romances ever. Sherry Thomas is just a fantastic writer—my introduction to her was the smart and feministy Lady Sherlock historical mystery series, and her work in the romance genre is just as good, if not better. This is the story of a very unhappy marriage between two flawed and angry people, and I loved their journey to forgiveness and true love. The older I get, the more I value romances that center screwed up, bordering on unlikeable characters. I don’t necessarily need more dewy virgins or Prince Charmings—it’s much more compelling to me to see growth and change and the hard work of acknowledging past wrongs and fighting to be a better person. Despite how heavy I’m making it sound, there’s a hefty sprinkling of humor throughout—the hero and heroine are well-matched verbal sparring partners, and their dialogue is enhanced by narrator Virginia Leishman’s crisp and distinguished delivery. Ooh—almost forgot—there’s an absolutely delightful secondary romance between two older characters (the woman is in the neighborhood of 50—gasp!), which just makes the book even more swoony than it already is.