Heart of Gold by J. A. Cipriano & J. B. Garner

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Jason A. Cipriano (2016)

Length: 5 hours 7 minutes

Series: Book 1 Clans of Shadow

Cipriano’s Page ~ Garner’s Page

Frank Butcher delivers packages. He’s got a big ego and a crush on Dr. Gabrielle Perez. During one of his flirtatious encounters, the crap hits the fan as part of the building explodes around him. When he wakes, it’s a magical device that’s keeping him alive and the cultists want it. Pretty soon he has to make a hard choice as the cultists aren’t above threatening children to get what they want.

I want to say this is set in Florida but I may be wrong. Anyway, it’s a big city with some Hispanic and Latino influences. While I did like the Spanish used here and there, it’s el corazon and not la corazon. It’s a small mistake, but it did make me listen closer for other such linguistic errors.

Setting aside the language lesson, this was a very fun book. It’s brain candy and Frank is the star. True, he’s got a big ego, but he’s also got a big heart of gold, literally. There’s plenty of humor thrown in, though sometimes it was borderline punny and a little much. At times the humor felt like a worn thin comedic routine and at other times I was laughing out loud.

There’s plenty of action, and since Frank is a vet, there’s some gun play as well. Mixing magic and guns nearly always works for me. I really liked Gabrielle. She’s right in the mix. No shrinking wall flower status for her! She’s often the one keeping Frank on track or keeping him alive or getting him out of harm’s way. Then her son Max becomes a focus for the cultists so Frank and Gabrielle have to come up with a new game plan.

I did enjoy the bigger plot concerning the cultists and what they are up to. Frank and Gabrielle certainly have their hands full. And poor Gabrielle! I’m sure she feels betrayed by certain people. This tale wraps up well but leaves a larger story arc open for a sequel, which I look forward to enjoying with some popcorn.

The Narration: Joe Hempel makes a great Frank Butcher. It seems he really had fun with the character’s ego and humor. He also did a great job with Gabrielle’s voice and I liked his Hispanic accent for the little bit of Spanish in the story.

What I Liked: Fun brain candy; gorgeous cover art; great narration; some fun humor; Dr. Gabrielle Perez is awesome; the heart of gold magical item. 

What I Disliked: A few little slips with the Spanish; sometimes the humor was a bit worn thin. 

What Others Think:

AudioFile

Lomeraniel Audiobook Reviews

The Sick House by Ambrose Ibsen

Narrator: Jake Urry

Publisher: Ambrose Ibsen (2016)

Length: 6 hours 48 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Ulrich Files

Author’s Page

Harlan Ulrich is a private investigator and he’s just about out of coffee. He needs a case that will pay well enough to make rent and replenish his kitchen. Dr. Klein has gone missing and his friend has already checked all the usual possibilities. He needs a professional to investigate. So Ulrich is off to the small town of Moonville, Dr. Klein’s last known location.

This was a dark piece of fiction that kept me entertained. It wasn’t a gore fest, which I was concerned about due to the cover art. There was some descriptive scary bits here and there but it wasn’t gratuitous. Ulrich is an interesting character. With a name like Harlan Ulrich, how could he not be? He has this coffee fetish that keeps coming up throughout the story. The quality of the coffee really affects his mood and I can understand that. I say better no coffee than bad coffee.

Set in mostly in Moonville, Ohio, the folks are small-town minded. They like to keep their town secrets and while curious about outsiders, they aren’t jumping to open up about the past. Ulrich has to do some digging to learn about the Sick House, which was an infirmary run by nuns and was shut down some decades ago. Dr. Klein once worked there and Ulrich makes a visit to the run down place. What he finds gives him the creeps and he’s hesitant to return a second time.

Mysterious notes follow and he finds a person who once worked there that can shed some light on the past. Here is the one weak spot in the plot. Once a certain character is brought up, it really becomes clear what happened so the rest of the book is just watching Ulrich piece it together and find evidence. It was still an entertaining read. I really didn’t know if Ulrich would fall prey to some supernatural entity and have to make a run for it (there’s at least 3 books in the series, so I know he lives) or perhaps burn the place down. So that was exciting to see how the author would wrap things up in a way that leaves Ulrich and his travel coffee mug free to do PI stuff another day.

The ending was a satisfying one. Old wrongs are acknowledged and some things are set to rights. The mystery of the missing Dr. Klein is neatly wrapped up. I look forward to Book 2!

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Jake Urry has a mesmerizing voice. I really do like it but here I have to give him a B for final product even as I give him an A for effort. He has an English accent that he does a pretty good job of tucking away for this Ohio based story. Yet sometimes there are certain words that get a very distinct English accent. Still, even with this, I really liked his voice for Ulrich. He has a rich deep voice that can gripe about bad coffee or show fear in the face of some paranormal unknown. Urry also did a great job with keeping his character voices distinct and his female voices were pretty good.

What I Liked: Mysterious, a little creepy, but not a gore fest; the small town setting; nuns; abandoned infirmary; a dark history for the Sick House; Ulrich’s coffee fetish; Urry’s narration even with the English accent.

What I Disliked: At a certain point in the story, the rest of the plot became very clear. It was still entertaining to watch Ulrich figure it out. There were certain words that had a distinct English accent for the narration, which was at odds with the Ohio setting.

What Others Think:

The Page Turner

Mia Celeste

The Haunted Reading Room

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Narrator: Hope Davis

Publisher: Harper Audio (2011)

Length: 12 hours 25 minutes

Author’s Page

Set mostly in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, this tale follows Dr. Marina Singh as she searches for answers. The pharmaceutical company she works for is concerned about the secretive research Dr. Annick Swenson is involved in. Just recently, another colleague, Dr. Anders Eckman, has died while searching for the same answers. Now Marina is dually tasked in discovering the status of Swenson’s research and digging up the details of Eckman’s death.

Where to start with this book? It was intense and kept me riveted to my audiobook player. Let’s start with Dr. Swenson. She once worked at a hospital and taught interns some of the finer points about birthing babies. Marina was once such a student but a mistake changed the trajectory of her career and she ended up in pharmaceuticals. Throughout most of this story, she has vivid dreams where memory and fears collide and some of those concern Dr. Swenson and her opinion on Marina’s worthiness. Dr. Swenson is a terribly blunt person who has high standards for everyone, including herself. This makes her rather abrasive. Yet the fact that she’s often logical and correct makes her a fascinating character. Nearly all her actions and words are calculated without giving a fig for people’s feelings.

Then we have Marina. She starts off a bit timid. She’s in her 40s and her past mistakes seem to haunt her and cause her to question her decisions. She also seems to be a bit of a pushover, letting the company boss ship her off to Brazil in this quest for answers. Yet it is there in the heart of the jungle that she gains confidence and becomes a stronger person for it. I really enjoyed her story arc.

This book made me question some of my assumptions about medical ethics. This tale shows me that what is right in a modern hospital with sanitary conditions and a pretty universal understanding of the most basic medical ideas isn’t always applicable in a jungle field office where there isn’t a mutually understood language. There were several great scenes where Dr. Swenson, who has been working with this jungle tribe for decades, is doing what she’s been doing for decades and Marina questions the ethics of the situation. The punch comes when Swenson calmly lays out the facts and why what they are doing is the best choice. It was hard to disagree with Swenson.

Now there is Easter. He’s perhaps 12 and he comes from a neighboring tribe that is rather combative to any outsiders. Swenson treated him when he was very young and now acts as his surrogate parent. He’s deaf but can make verbal sounds (though he usually only does so when he has a nightmare). He’s clever and Dr. Eckman taught him the very basics of the alphabet. Easter knows something of what happened to Eckman but Marina isn’t sure she will ever get answers about Eckman’s passing.

The medical mystery they were researching was interesting as well. The women of the local tribe stay fertile well into their 70s or 80s. Plus there is a side mystery that Swenson is very excited about and that involves a possible vaccination for malaria. The story has just enough science and medical talk to add to the story but not enough to leave the non-science person scratching their heads.

All around, it was a most excellent novel. It does wrench the emotions out of the reader later in the book. I loved that it made me question some central medical ethics. The characters were also very interesting. Ah! Easter!

The Narration: Hope Davis was just fabulous! She had distinct character voices and was great at switching between them swiftly and clearly when the characters were in conversation. She also had believable male voices. Her Dr. Swenson was clipped and brutal in her speech, just as I expect she would be in real life.

What I Liked: Jungle medical ethics; the mystery of what Dr. Swenson is really up to; Dr. Eckman’s death; Marina’s strange dreams; Easter!; great narration; makes me question how universal medical ethics are; wrenched some emotions out of me by the end.

What I Disliked: Nothing. This was a very interesting book.

What Others Think:

Fiction Writers Review

Kissing Blue Karen

Write On Purpose

A Wandering Reader

I’d Rather Be Writing

Anthony Simpson

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: JB Rockwell, Science Fiction Author

Folks, please give a warm welcome to J B Rockwell to the blog today. Learn about Jennifer’s dream library, just who the Swiss Army knives of spec fic are, and how she ended up in a duel of toothpicks at dawn! Interested in winning a CD copy of her latest SF book Dark & Stars? Then scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Well, if you could resurrect Firefly, I’d be all over that. Me and Kaylee hanging out, slinging wrenches in the engine room, lobbing one-liners at the rest of the crew. 🙂 If we’re sticking with something current, I’d love to be on Fargo—that is the darkest, funniest, most oddball show out there and I love it. I’d want to play a Deputy or something so I can PACK HEAT AND EAT DONUTS ROWR!!!!

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Smaug. I mean, that poor little guy was the only dragon left in Middle Earth and, yeah, he was squatting in the dwarves’ house, but c’mon! Dude was cold! And gold hungry! Can’t blame him for wanting to move in! And what do they do? Run away. Abandon him. Leave him all alone sleeping on a cold, hard bed of coins. Sheesh. No wonder he had anger issues. They could have at least given him a kitten. I’d love to see a rewrite where Bilbo lures Smaug out with a pretty, little lady dragon and they fly away to live happily ever after on some nice, warm tropical island where there are no dwarves at all. THE END.

Is there a genre or literary niche that you feel hasn’t gotten it’s deserved amount of attention?

I don’t even know what to call it, but there’s this grey area between horror and mystery that needs more love. I love a creepy, mysterious story that’s a little scary, but I don’t necessarily need the graphic gore. So light horror/creepy—more of that, please! Oh, and give it a name, too, so I know how to google it.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

UGH! THIS QUESTION IS TOO HARD!!!! Soooo many books.

Okay. If I have choose something, let me highlight a few sections I think are mandatory:

1. Every edition and every cover of Lord of the Rings ever printed—some of those were GORGEOUS. Also include any of the companion books, map books, art books, etc. I want all the Lord of the Rings book things!
2. An entire section devoted to folklore. And make it BIG because I want Celtic and Norse, Russian and Bulgarian, Korean and Japanese and African and everything else. GIMME ALL THE FOLKLORE FROM ALL THE CULTURES!!!
3. An entire section dedicated to books on dragons. And not just fiction books (stop laughing, dragons are real). Science books, picture books, biology texts, I want it all.
4. An entire section devoted to female spec fic authors. Another section for spec fic POC authors. A third for spec-fic LGBTQ. I want to highlight their awesomeness—they deserve more space!!
5. A Dr. Seuss area with all his books, a load of bean bags, and some big, comfy chairs. And puppies. And a few kittens.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Supernatural creature hands down. I can even see how this scenario would play out: Nessie saves me and takes me to her secret and awesome lair beneath the loch (this is also where all the world’s unicorns hide out, too, by the way). Over tea and cake we become fast friends, spending our days playing bagpipes and eating shortbreads, and our nights drinking beer and tossing haggis at the tourists.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Modern fantasy is a lot more all-encompassing, so definitely, yes. Early fantasy was very western culture and myth centric (still is), but we’re gradually seeing more books based on African, and Asian, and other world cultures, which is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. The global economy is exposing people to other foods, and beliefs, and ways of thinking, and fantasy is giving us amazing new backdrops, and creatures, and characters that influence art, and culture, and fashion, and so many other aspects of our lives. We just need more—MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE!!

What future invention would you like to see not only created during your life time, but readily available to the public?

TRANSPORTER PLEASE??!! Raise your hand if you’re sick of sitting in traffic? Or driving hours to the airport to sit for hours in the airport and then spend hours on a plane. Granted, there’s the whole ‘catastrophic failure ending in subatomic deconstruction’ thing, but c’mon! Hawaii in 2 minutes! GIMME THAT!

You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

I love that first line, by the way. It simultaneously reads like poetry, and like I got dropped into a choose your own adventure story. 😀

And now, my answer! I am TOTALLY bringing Elizabeth Bear because she would either fight her way through any and all adversities, or lie, cheat, steal and swindle to pull us through. I’d also want N.K. Jemisin because she seems to think quickly on her feet and would come up with some wonky and entirely unexpected solution to save our bacon. Bear and Jemisin: the Swiss Army knives of speculative fiction.

Often various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. In your opinion, what are some examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre?

So, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series. One of the things I loved most about these books (beyond the movement between time periods) were the references to various cultures, and myths, and stories that are sprinkled throughout. ‘See the Turtle of enormous girth’ is an obvious reference to a classic creation myth. The character of Roland: a reference to Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came. The six beams and their guardians—all references to Native American totems and myths. That’s just a sampling of the rich tapestry of this multi-part story, a series that mixes sci-fi, fantasy and western elements and pulls it off in style.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Oh man. I was lucky enough to get invited onto the Super Awesome Geek Show (twice!) and we geeked out so hard on Star Wars. I’m a huge fan but not a super fan so I love talking Star Wars, but I admit I also enjoy mercilessly teasing the ‘cannon’ quoters. 🙂 I honestly can’t remember what specific part of Star Wars we were discussing—this was in the run-up to The Force Awakens this first time, and Rogue One the second time—but it ended with a challenge involving toothpicks at dawn…?

May 2016 Episode of Super Awesome Geek Show with J B Rockwell

December 2016 Episode of Super Awesome Geek Show with J B Rockwell

About Jennifer Rockwell: 

J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe…

Places to Stalk J B Rockwell

WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ GoodReads

Book Blurb for Serengeti

It was supposed to be an easy job: find the Dark Star Revolution Starships, destroy them, and go home. But a booby-trapped vessel decimates the Meridian Alliance fleet, leaving Serengeti – a Valkyrie class warship with a sentient AI brain – on her own, wrecked and abandoned in an empty expanse of space. On the edge of total failure, Serengeti thinks only of her crew. She herds the survivors into a lifeboat, intending to sling them into space. But the escape pod sticks in her belly, locking the cryogenically frozen crew inside. Then a scavenger ship arrives to pick Serengeti‘s bones clean. Her engine’s dead, her guns long silenced; Serengeti and her last two robots must find a way to fight the scavengers off and save the crew trapped inside her.

Amazon ~ Audible

Book Blurb for Dark & Stars:

For 53 years Serengeti drifted, dreaming in the depths of space. Fifty-three years of patient waiting before her Valkyrie Sisters arrive to retrieve her from the dark. A bittersweet homecoming follows, the Fleet Serengeti once knew now in shambles, its admiral, Cerberus, gone missing, leaving Brutus in charge. Brutus who’s subsumed the Fleet, ignoring his duty to the Meridian Alliance to pursue a vendetta against the Dark Star Revolution.

The Valkyries have a plan to stop him – depose Brutus and restore the Fleet’s purpose – and that plan involves Serengeti. Depends on Serengeti turning her guns against her own.

Because the Fleet can no longer be trusted. With Brutus in charge, it’s just Serengeti and her Sisters, and whatever reinforcements they can find.

A top-to-bottom refit restores Serengeti to service, and after a rushed reunion with Henricksen and her surviving crew, she takes off for the stars. For Faraday – a prison station – to stage a jailbreak, and free the hundreds of Meridian Alliance AIs wrongfully imprisoned in its Vault. From there to the Pandoran Cloud and a rendezvous with her Valkyrie Sisters. To retrieve a fleet of rebel ships stashed away inside.

Amazon ~ Audible

GIVEAWAY!!!

J B Rockwell is offering up 1 audiobook (CD) copy of Dark & Stars (US Only due to shipping). Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments. 1) What state do you live in? 2) What future invention would you like to see during your lifetime? Giveaway ends May 27th, 2017 midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview: Jem Matzan, Author and Narrator

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Jem Matzan to the blog today. He’s a narrator of several books in Laurence Shames’s Key West Capers series as well as having written and narrated his own novel, The Hero. Today he has given us an entertaining look behind the curtains of such an artist. Enjoy!

What decade from the last century would you pick to have been a teenager in?

I was a teenager in the 90s, which I hated because it seemed like everyone was obsessed with being as counter-culture as possible, which meant rejecting everything “old” no matter how good it was. I’d just discovered The Doors and Pink Floyd, though, so it was frustrating that all the popular music was the melodically-challenged slacker chanting of “alternative rock.” So the music was terrible, but the movies were great. I think I would have had more fun in the 1980s, though. When I was a kid it seemed that teenagers had a better time than I did only 6 or 7 years later. So much of American teenage culture got locked down, locked out, and put on rails in the 90s, and it hasn’t stopped getting worse since then.

If you could, what book or movie or TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Sopranos, because it needs to be watched carefully at least three times to get everything. There’s so much more you see the second and third times through — subtle hints at things to come, actors playing more than one role, David Chase cameos, Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s ghost in the mirror at Tony’s house…

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I don’t think most books would make good games. However, back in the early 1990s there was a game called Betrayal at Krondor, which was a unique RPG based on Raymond E. Feist’s “Riftwar” fantasy series. There was nothing bad about it, and there hasn’t been another game like that since (except maybe the pseudo-sequels, which I didn’t play). Ironically, the Riftwar series was based on the D&D world that Feist and his friends built and LARPed with in the late 1970s, so Betrayal at Krondor was actually a game based on books that were based on a game. (I just checked to see if his books are in audio; only a few of the more recent ones are, plus some foreign language versions of the first Riftwar book. Anyway, one of his narrators is Richard Ferrone, who narrated some of Larry Shames’ “Key West Capers” series, which I’ve narrated/produced four of. I didn’t even need Kevin Bacon for that!)

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Of the ones I’ve narrated, I like Charlie Ponte from the “Key West Capers” series. Partly it’s the voice I did for him, partly it’s that he’s a bad guy, but not truly the villain. He’s also got a lot of great lines that were fun to perform.

Of books I’ve not narrated… I don’t really know, because I haven’t read any fiction recreationally in years. I do so much professional reading that it just seems like more work. I never liked hardcore villains, though, they seem unrealistic. When I was a kid, cartoon villains were always after “power” and that never made sense to me, especially when they were already in charge of a gang or an army. True villains are in search of fun, stimulation, status bestowed by unreachable gatekeepers, a self-image that lives up to some unattainable fantasy.

If you couldn’t be a writer or narrator, what would you chose to do?

I would have been a software engineer. Computer science was the direction I was heading in high school, but back then it was still a niche profession that used archaic languages, mostly for machine control, finance, and other high-end computing stuff. It wasn’t very exciting — nothing like today.

I applied to go to film school in my junior year of high school, but my grades weren’t good enough I guess — I truly hated school and couldn’t wait to get out and be free. At the time that was devastating, but now I’m glad I didn’t waste all that money on something I could more quickly and easily learn for free. I’m amazed film school even exists anymore, now that everyone’s got a good-enough movie camera on their phone, and easy access to decent video and audio editing software.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Self-promotion isn’t a very successful strategy, I think. My strategy is: be seen and heard as often as possible, interact personally and positively on social media every day, and only talk about my professional work when there are new releases or when something substantial happens. When you spam the world, you have to get increasingly louder and more ridiculous over time. I’d rather tone it down, be human, and just let people know when I’ve got something new to read or listen to. I’m anti-hype; unfortunately, we live in an age of overwhelming hype.

If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

I’d rather talk to them one on one or in a smaller group, but… Bert the Shirt from the Key West Capers books, Allan Quatermain, Spock, the Alec Guiness Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Larry Darrell from The Razor’s Edge.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I’ll give you two:

Last year at the Audio Publisher’s Association Conference, I sat down at lunch with a table of people I didn’t know, and got involved in a conversation about crossing over from audiobook narration to other forms of acting. We were all wearing nametags on lanyards, but they often flipped around so you couldn’t see who was who. About 10 minutes into the conversation, this one really tall guy who was being really protective of his voice in the loud room (wish I’d done that, too) mentioned that he was trying to get into TV work and had been in a few shows, but going back and forth to LA was a bit of a hassle. Then someone at the table asked who someone else was, and we all turned our nametags around and introduced ourselves, and I discovered that I’d been talking to Simon Vance. In general I’m not a big fan of any other narrators, but he’s the one exception. The introduction hit me in mid-chew of something I was eating, and with a partially-full mouth I’m all like “zomg, Simon Vance, I love your work! I used your performance in Dracula as a vocal model for characters in a few books.” And he kind of looked down and blushed and seemed surprised, and I realized I’d just acted like a huge dork and made him feel uncomfortable. If you’re reading this, sorry about that, Simon! I only acted like a dork because it caught me by surprise. If I’d recognized him when I sat down, I wouldn’t have blubbered like that.

The second one was a long time ago, at one of the last Star Trek conventions before they kind of fizzled out for a while in the late 90s. The featured actors were Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips from Star Trek: Voyager, a NASA astronaut who piloted two space shuttles, and Robin Curtis, who played Lt. Saavik in Star Trek 3 and briefly in 4, and a smaller role in a two-part episode of Next Generation. Overall, it was a pretty good show. I have to say that the actual astronaut was the most fascinating of the bunch, but the actors were pretty cool with the exception of Peter Mayhew, who we were told would not speak to anyone in the autograph line and no one should attempt to make eye contact with him. Anyway, Robin Curtis was first or second on stage, and did her speech on life and Star Trek. She shared the obligatory horror story about Rick Berman, trivia about the Saavik character, and finished by saying that she’d recently retired from acting and moved to a small town where she’d enjoy her hobbies and take lovers half her age. Well, the small town she’d moved to was only about an hour away from me, and I don’t know if I was half her age at the time, but she was about 42 and I was in the vicinity of 22… so I had one of those moments of panicked inspiration where I saw an opportunity for something marvelous, but it was such a big risk in front of a crowd of about 1500 people. While I was deciding whether or not to risk it, she said she’d take questions from the audience and without even thinking, I raised my hand and stood up. I was the first person to do that, so she pointed to me and said, “You, right there. Hi!” I said, in my projected theater voice: “About those lovers half your age…” there was a chasm of silence in the auditorium, then after about two seconds, the whole place burst out laughing. I think even Peter Mayhew laughed. When she’d caught her breath, she asked my name, we exchanged small-talk, and then she said I was cute and she’d talk to me after the show, to which the crowd “Oooohed.” Then she moved on to other questions, and the other featured actors. I did talk to her after the show for about 10 minutes, but I guess I wasn’t all that impressive up close, because I didn’t manage to get a date with her. I still have her autograph, though. And Peter Mayhew’s — he’s a nice man, just very shy in front of crowds.

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

I’m not really in obstacle course condition right now, so I wouldn’t be very competitive. But if I were to choose a teammate for something like Ninja Warrior, it would be Bruce Lee. He had the perfect body composition and kinesthetic sense for that kind of thing.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

The upcoming project I’m really excited about is titled “Money Talks,” written by Laurence Shames. Back in 2007, Donald Trump’s people approached Larry’s people about ghostwriting a series of novels under Trump’s name. Larry thought about it, met Trump, talked to people who’d worked for him, and said “No thanks.” But then he got to thinking about what might have come of that scenario, and wrote a fictionalized version of it as a murder mystery novel in which the villain is a Trump-like character named Robert Maxx. It’s sort of like a cross between Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and The Great Gatsby (if you switch Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan). Back then it didn’t catch on, but it’s got some new life now that Trump’s in public office, and I’m hoping the audio edition will ride that wave. There are lots of new voices to develop in this project, and I’m really looking forward to starting it.

After that, I’m taking a bit of a break so that I can finish writing at least one of my own books. I have three book projects that have been almost done for several years, and I feel like I need to complete one of them this year.

Places to Stalk Jem Matzan

Website ~ SoundCloud ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Audible ~ GoodReads

Book Blurb for The Hero

The Hero is a work of impressionist adventure fiction set in a desolate, postfeudal civilization. When the charismatic leader of a merchant guard crew is killed in a senseless accident, his designated replacement decides to fulfill a promise to the late captain by quitting the crew and finding his surviving relatives in a remote village. Instead of a quaint valley settlement, the new captain finds a decaying town on the verge of collapse, an old landlord who appears to welcome its decline, and a thriving stronghold of highwaymen fresh from murdering what remained of the merchant guard crew. As the valley’s mysteries unwind and the tension escalates, the captain’s mental condition begins to deteriorate as almost-forgotten memories begin to connect with horrible realities.

Amazon ~ Audible

Book Blurb for Tropical Depression:

When Murray Zemelman, a.k.a. The Bra King, pops another Prozac and heads to the Keys, he has nothing much in mind beyond a quixotic hope of winning back his first wife, Franny, whom he dumped years before. But when he forms an unlikely friendship with Tommy Tarpon, the last remaining member of an obscure Indian tribe, another plan also starts shaping up in his fevered brain. Why not open up Key West’s first casino?

Why not? Well, how about because the Mafia, in league with some of the nastiest politicians you will ever meet, is determined to kill anyone who tries? Somehow, Murray, Tommy, and Franny didn’t think of that until they were in way too deep. Laugh along as they improvise a manic and ever more desperate campaign to keep their casino dreams – and themselves – alive.

Amazon ~ Audible

The Thief Taker by C. S. Quinn

Narrator: Napoleon Ryan

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2014)

Length: 11 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 1 Charlie Tuesday

Author’s Page

Set in 17th century London, the plague is on! Death is every where. Charlie Tuesday is a thief taker – he’s hired to find those that steal from the dead. Now Marie has hired him to find out who killed her younger sister. Charlie is soon caught up in witchcraft and is a suspect himself.

This was a very interesting book. I was caught up in it right away. I have a morbid interests in plagues so the description for this book had me hooked before I even started it. Now I can’t speak to the validity of the historical details, but on the whole, it was an entertaining fiction.

Charlie Tuesday is a great character. He’s got this dodgy past that’s hinted at throughout the tale, though we learn more of it by the end. While he’s definitely interested in making enough to keep himself fed and housed, he’s also got a moral compass. When he sees what was done to Marie’s sister, he can’t walk away. There are certain details that lead him to believe that her death is not an isolated murder. Someone walks the streets of London dressed as a plague doctor killing people.

Enter the witchcraft aspect. Now I could have used a little more here, but it was still used well to build suspense and provide that sense of the forbidden. Charlie could end up in dire straights indeed if he is arrested for witchcraft!

Then we have Marie. I liked her well enough at the beginning. She had her own motivations and made some tough decisions. Then she gets wrapped up with Charlie and much of her time is spent being the comedic relief or the damsel in distress. I would have enjoyed her character more if she had kept on her initial character arc.

All told, it was a chilling tale of plague, murder, and witchcraft. I look forward to exploring the rest of the series.

I listened to this audiobook through Kindle Unlimited.

The Narration: Napoleon Ryan did a really good job as Charlie Tuesday. I’m not an expert on the various English accents, but I feel Ryan did a good job, keeping all the characters distinct. I also thought his female voices were well done.

What I Liked: Great setting; excellent cover art; chilling murder mystery; the plague!; witchcraft!; Charlie Tuesday is a very interesting character; great narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used more witchcraft; Marie’s character started off good but then became rather silly.

What Others Think:

A Sentence Crafter

Shelf Full of Books

Crime Review

Cannonball Read

Giveaway & Review: Dropping the Dime by Ellie Ashe

Scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

Narrator: Teri Schnaubelt

Publisher: Ellie Ashe (2016)

Length: 7 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 2 Miranda Vaughn Mysteries

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.

Miranda Vaughn has continued to work for Bob, who was her defense attorney when she was wrongly accused of fraud in Chasing the Dollar. Now she’s helping out on a new financial fraud case, her job being to work closely with Chief Financial Officer Kathryn. Looks like there’s some irregularities and Kathryn thinks there’s another chunk of numbers that her boss doesn’t want her to see, but her name as CFO is on many of the company’s legal documents; this gives her plenty of reasons to worry. Meanwhile, the FBI have been called in, and that means that Miranda has to work with Agent Jake Barnes. There’s still sparks between the two, but is that all it is?

I think this book was even better than the first. The plot felt tighter and the characters better defined. There was some humor as well as personalities clashing or folks accidentally step on toes. Miranda has gotten her legs back under her after the events of Book 1. She’s gainfully employed doing something close to doing what she did before her trial. Many folks have moved on but she does bump into a few peripheral characters that feel she’s guilty no matter what the courts decided.

And speaking of that, enter a new love interest, Quinn. He has a drug conviction under his belt though there’s some mystery surrounding it. He’s also part of a rich family and has a nice ranch complete with horses. Miranda may be swept off her feet by this man if she’s not careful. After all, he can understand better than most Miranda’s myriad of feelings about law enforcement and the justice system in this country.

Now we still have Jake Barnes, as handsome as ever, and he’s clearly still interested in Miranda. The author does a good job of not getting caught up in some silly love triangle drama. Merely, Miranda has choices in her life and she has to decide what, or who, she wants to pursue. Plus, all three of these characters have more than romance going on in their lives and that makes them interesting.

Now the main mystery was a good one. I did not see all the angles and that made it interesting. There’s also Miranda’s added complication of her little breaking & entering that muddies the waters. On the surface, financial fraud seems like dull investigative work. The author makes it exciting by showing how the criminals can gain from it and the lengths they are willing to go to cover it up.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Teri Schnaubelt continues to be a great Miranda Vaughn. I like how expressive her voice is for Miranda, because Miranda goes through quite a variety of emotions in this book. She also does a good job with the male voices, making Quinn and Jake both sound interesting and sexy (when needed) yet distinct.

What I Liked: Interesting financial fraud; the deeper mystery; Quinn’s past; Jake’s role; Miranda’s breaking and entering error; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this one!

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Author Ellie Ashe:

USA Today best-selling author Ellie Ashe has always been drawn to jobs where she can tell stories—journalist, lawyer, and now writer. Writing quirky romantic mysteries is how she gets the “happily ever after” that so often is lacking in her day job.

When not writing, you can find her with her nose in a good book, watching far too much TV, or trying out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats, all of whom worry when she starts browsing the puppy listings on petfinder.com.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of Dropping the Dime:

Miranda Vaughn was once falsely accused of stealing millions, and now she’s helping others who are facing criminal charges. While being an assistant to her former defense attorney isn’t Miranda’s dream job, she’s eager to prove herself, and her first task is a simple one – protect Kathryn, a shy CFO turned informant, and help her prove that a popular real estate developer is embezzling millions from his company. But what should be a straightforward assignment is deliciously complicated when Miranda is thrown together with FBI Agent Jake Barnes, the man who saved her life, broke her heart, and then disappeared.

Beneath the neatly plotted rows of new homes lurk dark secrets, bitter feuds and a whole lot of greed. Nothing is what it appears; even Miranda’s timid client is hiding secrets of her own. Despite her growing distrust of her client, Miranda must protect Kathryn from becoming the target of the FBI’s investigation and protect herself from the real thief – all while protecting her heart from the sexy FBI agent she can’t seem to resist.

Audible        Amazon

About Narrator Teri Schnaubelt:

Teri Schnaubelt is a Chicago-based actor, voice actor and audiobook narrator with over 100 titles, including NY Times Bestsellers.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

GIVEAWAY!!!

The Blog Tour and the author have teamed up to giveaway a Kindle Fire! Enter below through Gleam! Ends May 14, 2017.

Miranda Vaughn Mysteries Giveaway

Pirates of the Outrigger Rift by Gary Jonas & Bill D. Allen

Narrator: Kate Rudd

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2014)

Length: 8 hours 23 minutes

Series: Book 1 Tales of the Outyonder

Jonas’s Page ~ Allen’s Page

Sai Collins is an efficient courier and she’s on a secret mission to deliver her last package from the recently murdered security director of Nebulaco. Things don’t go as planned. Pretty soon, she’s teaming up with jaded PI Mike Chandler and prickly pilot Hank Jensen. Oh, and there’s pirates.

This was a fun, light read. There’s plenty of action, snarky comebacks, and humor. While this book is pretty entertaining, don’t look for much depth here. Most of the characters are archetypes; beloved archetypes, but still pretty much cookie cutter characters. Mike is your typical private investigator that’s fed up with the system and wants to do something that will make a positive difference for once. Hank doesn’t mind breaking a few rules to make a little extra cash or even just to stick it to some government agency. He’s kind of a cross between Malcolm Reynolds and Han Solo. They’re fun characters, no doubt.

Sai Collins is pretty much the only female character. She’s a great character, having the most uniqueness of the crew. She’s got these psi-tech abilities, which is her big secret and also the thing that saves her more than once. She’s efficient and can make decisions. Yet…. well, do we really have to attach her to a man to satisfy some plot line? Apparently….

The pirates… well, this story isn’t really about them despite the title. It’s about Sai, Hank, and Mike. The pirates do come into it but they aren’t the central aspect nor the main threat. In fact, most of them are just comedic relief and not very good at being pirates.

In short, it’s a fun read. Just don’t expect too much from the characters or plot. The setting was fun and I did enjoy all the ‘big galaxy to explore or hide out in’ stuff. Also, I’m a sucker for a tale that has a small number of individuals going up against a big corporation.

I listened to this audiobook through Kindle Unlimited.

The Narration: Kate Rudd was fantastic as Sai. She really owned that role and she was great with all of Sai’s emotions and humor. She also had distinct male voices for all the guys.

What I Liked: Great cover art; fun setting; the central plot is one I always go for; Sai Collins is a great character; fun side characters; great narration.

What I Disliked: Not much depth in the characters; Sai is the only female character; the pirates were mostly a joke.

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Narrator: Holter Graham

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2009)

Length: 10 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 1 Alpha and Omega

Author’s Page

Set in Montana, this book starts up right after the events in the prequel, Alpha and Omega. While it’s not necessary to have read the prequel story first, it does help explain several things about Anna Latham and her first impressions of Charles Cornick. This romance driven tale follows Anna and Charles on their quest to find a rogue werewolf in the wilds of Montana.

Charles is the son of Bran, the Marrock for North America. Bran leads all the werewolf packs and Charles is his right hand man for handling disputes among the packs, hunting down rogue werewolves, and sometimes carrying out executions. Anna just came out of the Chicago pack; having been terrorized by them for a few years, she is now learning what it’s like to be part of a caring and mostly stable pack in Montana. She’s an Omega, which means she isn’t compelled by the werewolf magic and hierarchy to follow the rules all the time. She can be a peacemaker and become the glue that holds a pack together.

On the surface, these both seem like interesting characters. For me, they were OK. Charles is Native American, but that part of his character feels a bit forced. Perhaps it will become more natural as the series progresses. Anna is so submissive and while I get she’s just come through the other side of some hellish years, I expected her to blossom a bit more in this tale. I don’t need her to become some badass archer. I just need her to feel like she can go have a pee without asking permission first.

Asil was the most interesting character for me. His past is a bit nebulous, but he looks Middle Eastern and had spent some quality time in Spain at some point. He’s still in mourning for his wife and adopted daughter after all these years and his mind may be slipping. Lots is going on with this character and I really wanted to know more about him. There was this other really interesting character, but they were eliminated, so I can’t name them without giving out a spoiler. I was bummed. I thought they added something to the story and Briggs could have done much more with that character in subsequent stories.

The ladies in this tale, for the most part, have no status unless the man in their lives has status. Such a turn off. A woman’s self-worth is not inherently tied to the men she’s related to nor the man in her bed. I’m OK with characters believing this, but I need the storyline to show why this isn’t the case, show me how women step outside of the system, or show me the shadow hierarchy among the ‘lesser’ members. That way, we have something interesting going on instead of a worn-thin trope.

Now the hunt for the rogue werewolf was fun. Anna had the chance to show off some of her camping skills, which was great. And who doesn’t like watching werewolves frolic in snowy forests? The mystery surrounding the rogue werewolf was two fold and I enjoyed watching Charles and Anna figure out what was truly going on. There were some chilling moments and I wasn’t sure everyone was going to make it out OK. This part of the tale was well done.

The sex scene was brief. It started off hot and we got just so far before all the truly interesting details were skipped over and the lovers are laying side by side, satisfied. Since this is paranormal romance, I could have used more here. It would have made up for the weaker points of the story.

The Narration: Holter Graham continues to be an excellent Charles and an excellent Bran (the Marrock). His female voices were OK, though sometimes I had trouble discerning one woman from another. I love his accent for Asil! He sounds so much like Puss in Boots, so I kept picturing Asil as a large orange cat.

What I Liked: Gorgeous cover art; Montana woods; Bran’s level head; Asil is a complex guy; the rogue wolf mystery; Anna’s camping skills.

What I Disliked: In werewolf society, a female’s worth is tied to the men in her life; a character I felt had much more to give is killed off; Anna feels she needs permission all the time.

What Others Think:

The Bibliosanctum

Love Vampires

Fantasy Book Cafe

Vampire Book Club

Sarah’s Reviews

Eyrie

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

Narrator: Holter Graham

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2013)

Length: 2 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Alpha and Omega

Author’s Page

Set in Chicago, Anna is the lowest in her pack, a werewolf pack she wasn’t given the choice in joining. After years of abuse, she is ready for a change. The Marrock has sent his son Charles to sort things out. Neither Charles nor Anna get what they expected.

I listened to this book as part of a group read and it’s a prequel to Cry Wolf. The Alpha and Omega series is a spin-off of the Mercy Thompson series and is more romance oriented. Honestly, it’s been some years since I read Mercy Thompson but I believe I like that series quite a bit more than this series.

So Charles is a dominant male among the werewolves and he’s a big handsome guy with skills. He meets Anna and discovers she’s an Omega, which is a person who can soothe and bind a pack together. However, her pack isn’t using her skills; instead they are just using her. By that I mean they take a chunk of her paycheck, have her clean and run errands, and pass her around sexually to reward pack members for questionable deeds. Obviously, Charles is not pleased at this at all. There shall be a reckoning!

There was insta-love between Anna and Charles on a primal level in which their inner wolves recognized it but their human sides took longer to figure it out. I liked the dual nature of this aspect of the story. I also like that this tale shows just what the Marrock, Bran, doesn’t want among the North American packs.

While some justice is meted out by the end, I felt that certain wolves didn’t show remorse over their actions, claiming they were ordered to abuse Anna and other lesser members. Obviously, some of these wolves will need further calibration.

The story had some intense moments, but the romance was a meh for me. I felt that Anna’s character was just too submissive all around. There’s the need to survive a bad situation, sure, but we could have used some inner Anna thoughts about how to avoid the worst of it, or change it, or sabotage food. Something.

The Narration: Holter Graham makes a very good Marrock and a very good Charles. His feminine voices were OK. I liked the harsh tones he can adopt when two wolves are squaring off. I also liked his soothing, patient voice for the Marrock.

What I Liked: Werewolves; Chicago; not all that bend are weak; the dual nature of the werewolf; the worst of the batch do meet justice.

What I Disliked: Anna is always bending, giving way; many of the misbehaving wolves showed no remorse over their actions. 

What Others Think:

The Bibliosanctum

Dear Author

All Things UF