A Forest Encounter by Derendrea

DerendreaAForestEncounterWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Ivy Swanson

Publisher: Derendrea Books (2015)

Length: 1 hour 18 minutes

Author’s Page

Clara & Dathen are traveling through the mysterious Darkwood Forest. Some very sensual mysteries will indeed be encountered! Just to be upfront in this review, this is an erotica book so some adult themes will be discussed, sometimes using euphemisms and sometimes not.

We started off with Clara fantasizing about Dathen. At first, it wasn’t clear to me that it was a fantasy and it took a little bit for me to realize the two were riding on separate horses, etc. If I have any little criticism about this book, this is it here. I had this initial confusion about the setting and who was where doing what. But sexy things were going on so I didn’t mind all that much. Anyway, things quickly become clear as the two have to make camp for the night.

Dathen seems like a good enough guy, being somewhat oblivious to Clara’s yearnings. We learn very little about him in this book and he is mostly scenery. Very nice scenery. Indeed, this book is all about Clara’s pleasure, which was very nice. I really appreciated the focus being on her enjoyment and exploration.

And there is some very interesting exploration indeed! The Darkwood Forest didn’t get it’s reputation for nothing! There’s a creature in the forest that is very interested in Clara’s pleasure.

In this book, we have some fantasy scenes, and them some scenes where two beings are enjoying each other. These are explicit, hot, and sexy. The author took efforts to describe not just the sex acts but also Clara’s mental arousal, the sensations all along her skin, and the anticipation of exploring the unknown. Indeed, this is no crude story.

This book has a touch of the fantasy genre to it. Clara & Dathen are traveling from point A to point B, so they are armed and dressed appropriately for a long horseback trip. Dathen has a little bit of the adventure barbarian going for him. The most fantastical element is the mysterious forest creature that comes to pleasure Clara. I could see this being the first of many stories placed in this not-yet-fleshed-out fantasy world.

I received a copy of this book from the author (via the Audiobooks Addicts Facebook group) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Ivy Swanson was OK. She started off really slow in her pacing. Also, she tried to make every word sexy. Honestly, I don’t need every word to be sexy, even for an erotica. Her performance did get better as the tale continued and by the end I was enjoying her voice for Clara and pacing. I would try another book narrated by her to see if her performance quality improves.  

What I Liked: The cover art; plenty of sexy scenes; focus is on Clara’s pleasure; a touch of the fantastical.

What I Disliked: Initially, I was a little confused as to who was where doing what; the narrator’s pacing was initially very, very slow.

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Domino Finn, Author of The Seventh Sons

FinnTheSeventhSonsEveryone, please welcome Domino Finn! He’s the author of the Sycamore Moon series. I greatly enjoyed The Seventh Sons, book 1 in the series. Today we chat about Miami, Sherlock Holmes, a few movies, plus so much more! Also, we have a lovely AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY (open to US & UK) so don’t miss that at the end of the post.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

This might be a cop out, but I’d have to go with Conan Doyle. (I considered Poe and Dumas, and while I might have more fun at a bar with them, I think I could learn the most from Doyle). As a huge mystery fan, his Sherlock Holmes adventures really inspired me to write. I would pick his brain about story ideas, research methods, and iconic character development.

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

I wouldn’t say they need to become more. It’s okay for Chewbacca and Boba Fett to be one-dimensional. They can still be cool. But relationships are two-sided, and a well-fleshed out sidekick can really challenge and deepen the hero. Dr. Watson is an interesting example. The original Sherlock canon didn’t delve too deeply into his character, but if you watch modern cinematic interpretations, a living, breathing, opinionated Watson does both characters some good.

Which would rest easier on your shoulders: to never be able to leave your home city, or to never be able to go back to it?

Which is my preferred hell, huh? I left my home city of Miami eleven years ago and I used to visit often. Not as much nowadays, but I couldn’t dream of never going back. That said, I love to travel. The Americas, Europe, Asia. It’s a tough question. But because you drive a hard bargain, I suppose I’d admit there’s no place like home.

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

I HAVE SO MANY ANSWERS. The Matrix for the ground-breaking special effects (and the twist). The Sixth Sense for the emotion (and the twist). But I think I’d have to go with Seven. For some reason, I was so invested in the detectives catching the killer. Kevin Spacey played such an arrogant serial killer and I couldn’t wait for the climax of that film.

How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I like to fall somewhere in the middle with references. I definitely stay away from the latest meme or twitter hashtag – that stuff won’t be funny a month from now – but a lot of modern pop culture will stand the test of time. References help fill the gaps of our fictional societies, so I go big and don’t worry about dating. Besides, time and place is what gives a novel character. I love all the pay phone stops in the first Harry Bosch book!

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersWhat has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Writing is easy compared to other professions. Let’s get that out of the way. It takes hard work, dedication, practice – but it’s not manual labor. I love my job most days. You want a difficult job? Program video games. With cutting edge technology, you need constant improvement to stay ahead of the curve. The hours alone violate the Geneva Convention.

Do you have any superstitions?

Most days I’d say no, but when I’m watching college football, I swear the players can hear me through the TV.

Would you choose to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours?

So I’m allowed to leave Miami?

I’d definitely go with the temporary option. After a while, Wonderland gets a bit overwhelming.

What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I never declared that I’d be a writer, but I constantly came up with stories and games. Novels, Choose You Own Adventures, flip books, board games, computer rpgs. I’m not really sure I finished all that many but I was full of ideas. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized I could pursue a creative field, however.

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

I’ll go with a guy’s night out at a bar.

Batman, for his war stories.
Homer Simpson, for years of laughs.
R2D2, for his loyal sidekick/ beer-fetching qualities.
James Bond, to class up the joint.
And Tyrion Lannister, because who would be more fun to drink with?

FinnTheSeventhSonsThe Seventh Sons book blurb:

Two years after his wife went missing, Detective Maxim Dwyer is still running down leads. The isolated woods of Sycamore are home to many lawless men, and no one’s talking, but that hasn’t stopped Maxim from gathering suspects. Topping his list is the local motorcycle club, the Seventh Sons. His biggest obstacle? Everyone swears the bikers are werewolves. The small-town residents are wary of provoking the MC, and the marshal’s office is no exception.

Everything changes when a routine biker brawl turns fatal. Going against procedure, Maxim presses an enigmatic stranger for answers. But Diego de la Torre is running his own con. The outlaw deals in lies and legends, and no adversary can back him down. Not even the police.

It’s too bad that nobody’s above the law for Maxim. He’s willing to risk his badge, and his life, to prove it.

The Seventh Sons is whispersynced (with the ebook purchase, the audiobook only costs $1.99). The first 5 chapters are up on Domino’s site.

FinnTheBloodOfBrothersThe Blood of Brothers book blurb:

Diego de la Torre is officially an outlaw now, a full-fledged member of The Seventh Sons Motorcycle Club. The werewolf MC runs the wild lands of Sycamore with ease. At least until a dead body shows up and points to them as the culprits.

Detective Maxim Dwyer presses the Seventh Sons hard, but there are other guns in play. California bikers look to expand their drug trade. A mercenary outfit seeks revenge. Top that with an overbearing FBI agent who undermines local police, and both detective and outlaw have their hands full.

Brothers or not, Sycamore’s about to get a whole lot bloodier.

Places to Stalk Domino Finn

Website
Twitter
Facebook
GoodReads

GIVEAWAY!

Domino Finn is giving away two Audible copies of Book 1 (The Seventh Sons) and two of Book 2 (The Blood of Brothers). Each book stands on it’s own. Winners will need to redeem the audiobook gift through Audible.com or Audible.co.uk. You don’t need an Audible account to redeem the gifted audiobook, just an Amazon account. Enter the Rafflecopter below, or answer the following in the comments: 1) How do I contact you if you win? 2) Do you have a preference of book if you do win? 3) Which 5 fictional characters would you invite out for a night of beers? Giveaway ends Midnight Aug. 31, 2015.

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The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

JohnsonTheColdDishWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (2007)

Length: 13 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 1 Walt Longmire

Author’s Page

Set in Absaroka County, Wyoming, Sheriff Walt Longmire is having to deal with a dead body. He rather be drinking. Before long, another body turns up. Four years before, 4 boys were given a suspended sentence for rape of a mentally handicapped Cheyenne girl. Since two of them have turned up dead in a short amount of time, Walt revisits that old case for suspects to the recent murders.

There’s a lot of great characters in this book along with a complex mystery. First, let’s talk characters. Walt himself is an interesting man. He has a keen wit, but rarely feels the need to flash it about. He knows a well-timed silence can bring him more information than blathering on. Four years prior to the setting of this book, he lost his wife. He’s still mourning her in some ways. However, his best friend since childhood, Henry Standingbear, feels it is time for him to clean up, work out, start dating, and complete the final touches on his cabin on the outskirts of town. Henry and Walt served together in Vietnam, and Henry knows just how far he can push Walt when. For the reader, Henry is also a bridge between two cultures (American and Cheyenne). the humor displayed between these two often lightens a dark moment, or adds a touch of poignancy to a dire situation.

There’s plenty of women in this book and while they are all side characters, they have their own personalities and agendas. Overall, they are well written. However, I will say that I find it convenient and a bit amusing that all the women in the book (with the one exception of a mother I can think of and Walt’s daughter) are drawn romantically to either Walt or Henry. Still, I look forward to seeing how the women fare in the rest of the series.

The setting seems to be 1990s, though I might be off about that. There’s computers and a few cell phones, etc. However, I think Walt and Henry are in their 50s, and they both served in the Vietnam war. So, maybe late 1990s. If you have watched the TV series, Longmire, then you will have noticed that the TV series is set in modern times. No matter the year this book is set in, it is a modern-day Western. I really enjoyed the setting as it is somewhat like New Mexico, where I live. Lots of folks are hunters, own guns, plenty of space between homes and farms, and quite often a person can find themselves without backup in an emergency situation.

The murder mystery itself had some twists and turns and I was not expecting. Having it coupled to the older crime of the rape 4 years previously gave the murder mystery some depth. First, Walt had to determine if the two deaths were related to the older crime. If they were, he had a list of suspects. If they weren’t, then he had to find the motive before he could figure out suspects. One by one, his list of suspects dwindles. The ending was a bit of a surprise to me. However, the author did a good job of showing through Walt’s eyes how he missed the clues in front of him.

I’ll definitely be continuing this series. Mostly, it is the characters that drew me in and held me. They each have some flaw in their character that makes them human and easy to connect with. I am very curious to see where the author takes these characters that I grew attached to in such a short amount of time.

The Narration: George Guidall was a good fit for Walt Longmire, through whose eyes the story is told. Guidall is not always my favorite narrator as he has a limited range. for this book, he put it to good use. However, most of his female voices sound very similar to begin with and over the course of the book lose their individuality.

What I Liked: Modern Western; great characters; complex murder mystery; the deep friendship between Henry & Walt; female characters are individuals; the ending was satisfying.

What I Disliked: Nearly all the ladies are romantically interested in either Walt or Henry; George Guidall’s narration of the female characters could use a little work.

What Others Think:

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Back by Sunrise by Justin Sloan

SloanBackBySunriseWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Rebecca Greene

Publisher: Justin Sloan (2015)

Length: 2 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 Eternal Light

Author’s Page

This story is primarily about Brooke and how she deals with a very difficult time in her life. She and her dad have been working on painting a mural in her bedroom. Unfortunately, they aren’t able to finish it together before he is called out to serve his country over seas. Brooke awaits her father’s return only to hear the sad news he will never return. Yet she has this necklace from him, which turns out to be magical. Through her adventures, she learns to let go of some of her anger and to carry the sadness.

This was a rather touching little piece of magical modern-day fantasy. I’ve listened to several other Justin Sloan books and this one is the tamest and perhaps the slowest of pace. Brooke is a typical kid, occasionally arguing with her brother, not always obeying the parents right away, painting on walls, etc. The first part, which sets the scene for the family dynamics, goes by very quickly. Once Brooke finds out her necklace has the power to change her into a bird, the story picks up.

Her adventures as a bird start off pretty small. She stays close to home, makes a friend or two, and learns to eat bird food (which her human brain tells her isn’t very tasty at all). There’s some humor, a little action. Mostly, this part of the story is tame exploration of Brooke’s new world. It is a bit slow at this point and that is my only mild complaint on this book. But then Brooke wants to be a human again and that turns out to be a bit challenging.

My favorite part of the story was the last bit. The action really picks up, Brooke has foes to face (in bird form), and has to figure out how to turn into a human again. This is where Brooke’s emotions towards her mom and her now-gone father really bubble to the surface and she has to make an active decision as to how to deal with them. I really liked this aspect because it shows a kid making an adult decision and I think many of us have had moments like that when we were kids.

The final ending was very satisfying. After Brooke’s sadness and anger, all her adventures, we get this ending that tied up the story nicely. The story started with that bedroom mural and we get to return to it. That really closed the loop on this story, or at least this installment of it, for me.

I received a copy of this audiobook from the author at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Rebecca Greene did a very nice job. She was a very good fit for Brooke. She had these very believable little kid voices, which she used for the kids, but also for the young animals bird Brooke befriends on her adventures. She had an excellent way of imbuing quite the range of emotions into Brooke’s character.

What I Liked: Touching story; a touch of magic; dealing with the difficult subject of loosing a parent as a kid; watching the progression of Brooke’s emotions; the bird adventures; the ending.

What I Disliked: Part of the story is a bit slow, but this minor criticism would not keep me from recommending this book.

What Others Think:

Amie’s Book Review Blog

4LN

Teddy Bears and the Halloween Ghost by Justin Sloan

SloanTeddyBearsAndTheHalloweenGhostWhere I Got It: Free on the author’s YouTube channel

Narrator: Michael Gilliland

Publisher: Justin Sloan (2015)

Length: 24 minutes

Series: Book 2 Teddy Defenders

Author’s Page

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

Halloween is my favorite holiday and when I saw Justin Sloan had a Teddy Defenders book set on this holiday, I couldn’t turn it down. It’s Halloween night and Rick and his little sister Tiffany are getting dressed up to go Trick-or-Treating. Meanwhile, the Teddy Defenders alternate between playing deaf and dumb cute toys and discussing the fun of being taken out with the kids on this fun night. However, things don’t go as they planned. Mia, Tiffany’s Teddy Defender, and her friends are able to move around more freely on this night because of all the costumes. They overhear a conversation about a scary ghost scaring the kid’s at Tiffany’s school and they head there to investigate and take care of the ghost. After all, we know that goblins and such are real; why not ghosts?

While this is a short story instead of the longer novella that Book 1 (Teddy Bears in Monsterland) is, I felt that it was better balanced. The pacing is better, the plot tighter, and we have a better mix of the genders. I also like that we get to know Rick and Tiffany a bit more as they had very small, if significant, roles in Book 1. Additionally, the Teddy Defenders have kept some of the friendships they made in Book 1 as well, so we get some non-Teddy characters in the mix.

We learn a little more about the Teddy powers, especially if they are stressed. Plus Tiffany has a little secret and we all know that Halloween isn’t just the night for treats, but also for tricks. Mia was quite stunned at the revelation and it was fun to see the Teddy Defenders caught off guard and their various responses. All in all, this was a fun little tale fit for the family and it makes a good lunch break listen. I’m looking forward to seeing where Sloan takes this series!

The Narration: Michael Gilliland narrated Book 1 and I am glad the author kept him for Book 2 even though most of the character viewpoints are female. Gilliland has pretty good female voices and excellent little kid voices. He does a great job of keeping each character voice distinct. He also does an excellent job of imbuing the characters with emotion when required. I especially liked his determined or ticked off voice for Mia.

What I Liked: The cover art; Halloween!; more time with the female characters; get to know the kids and the Teddy Defenders better; a fun ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

The Candle Star by Michelle Isenhoff

IsenhoffTheCandleStarWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Michelle Isenhoff (2015)

Length: 4 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 1 Divided Decade Collection

Author’s Page

Set in the late 1850s, Southern Belle Emily Preston has been sent by her parents to live for a spell with her uncle Isaac Milford. She comes from a slave plantation in Carolina and she is in for some culture shock in Detroit, a land where slavery is not tolerated. Also, her uncle insists that she earn her keep and this means chores and attending school, things she did not have to do in Carolina.

This was a very interesting book. Most books I have read that are set in this time period always make slavery and slave owners out to be the big monsters of the story line. In this book, the author does a most excellent job of showing how slavery and white supremacy was handed down generation to generation and reinforced with culture and politics. Basically, it was never a simple black and white issue (no pun intended) and while I knew that from reading nonfiction history books, I had not seen an author willing to tackle that in fiction. So, big kudos to the author for showing the complexity of the times through Emily’s eyes.

While the plot itself was pretty straightforward (rich girl has to learn that other people are worthy of regard) the characters made it very engaging. Emily starts off pretty rude and conceited, but we also see right away that she is suffering from homesickness and is somewhat afraid of the unknown. After all, she has never been to Detroit or met her uncle. So right off, I am a little conflicted over her – I don’t want to like her because of many of her attitudes and yet I totally connect with the homesickness and dread of the unknown. Well played because Emily’s story arc has the most growth and by the end I was wanting to invite her into the kitchen for tea and biscuits.

Meanwhile, Isaac’s boarding house employs several free blacks and an Irish woman. They all still have to cater to whoever is willing to pay for a room, even the questionable Mr. Burrows (a slave catcher)  and his crew. At first, Emily has great trouble accepting the idea of free blacks, and she initially finds the idea of blacks reading and going to school to be preposterous. But over several months, it becomes apparent that everything she has been taught about the supremacy of whites is incorrect. It’s a hard, bitter pill for her to swallow. Malachi, a black teen who is attending school, is instrumental in showing Emily a new way of thinking. Meanwhile, the old slave Ezekial who accompanies Emily on her trip, has revelations about his slave status that rock Emily’s world as well.

I appreciated that the author showed that Emily had prejudice against anyone, white or black, that she felt was beneath her family’s status. She comes to truly dislike an Irish maid at the boarding house, believing her to be beneath her uncle’s notice. It was very interesting to see that Emily came from a plantation-owning family that thought and acted very much like minor nobility. So many people of many colors and backgrounds were below their status. It made me wonder if the ‘minor nobility’ of the Deep South got a little inbred after a few generations.

The story progresses, showing us glimpses of the underground railroad that helped move slaves from the south to the northern states. Emily catches glimpses of this throughout the story but doesn’t truly grasp it until the end. And the end was nicely done too. We have some suspense that culminates in Emily’s choice concerning slavery. I was very satisfied with how this book ended and look forward to seeing what the author does next.

I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a very nice job with this one. He had a very good stuck-up voice for young Emily. I also liked all his regional accents. There’s a speech by Frederick Douglas in the story and Wolinsky made it sound very epic, like a turning point in history (and for Emily it was an important moment). 

What I Liked: The cover art; showing the complexities of the times; Emily’s story arc; the support characters; all the eye-opening moments for Emily; a very satisfying ending; the excellent narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was an excellent listen.

What Others Think:

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London Warriors by Paul Rudd

RuddLondonWarriorsWhere I Got It: Won a copy

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Thorstruck Press (2015)

Length: 10 hours 24 minutes

Author’s Page

The world as we know it no longer exists. The boundaries with Hell have fallen and a variety of demons and mutated humans run amok. London has taken drastic measures to protect some of its human population by building a big wall around the inner city.  Plenty of humans, mostly the poorer ones, have been left on their own. Now Roman leads a band of disgraced and hardened convicts on a suicide mission to thwart the demi-god Demiurge.

This book had a lot of potential. I dived into it thinking it would be a great hit. On the surface, it has a lot of elements that I enjoy: mutated humans, supernatural forces, suicide mission, questionable heroes. But as I got further into the book, I realized this one wasn’t for me.

Let’s start with the questionable heroes. Some of these guys, and one gal, had interesting jobs, like bounty hunting, that got them in hot water and then incarcerated. Some were incarcerated for rape and murder. So it is a pretty interesting mix of ‘heroes’ for this book. Because some of these guys have impulse control problems coupled with a violent nature, they often made sexually violent remarks to the few women. At first, this added to the flavor of the book and gave me a few characters to hate. But these remarks, and later actions, became so common place they outshone the plot.

There is a lot of threatened, implied, and carried out violence towards women in general in this book. It was not balanced out with strong, competent female characters. I’m not a squeamish reader. I enjoy books with cussing, violence, sex, and the occasional terrible event that defines our characters. However, the author chose to put our female characters in skimpy hot pants for the fighting. Yep, hot pants. Who in their right mind wears hot pants to a suicide mission? None of the men did. Also, we were often told how awesome the few female characters (I recall 3, but there might have been a few more) were instead of shown. Much of their awesomeness happens off stage and we don’t get to live through their great deeds. Plus they often have to be rescued. Also, nearly all the plot decisions are made by male characters.

I will say the pacing was fine and I kept getting sucked back into the plot hoping things would even out. Many of the characters have some sort of super power and those were fun to explore. There’s a touch of romantic feelings between Roman and Eden (they use to be on the same espionage team until Roman got thrown in prison and Eden captured while on a mission). Yet despite the individually interesting characters, the action-packed plot, and the Hellish setting, this book was dud for me. It started off strong but then devolved quickly with the overboard gender-biased violence.

I won a copy of this book from the publisher via the Beauty in Ruins book blog.

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a fine performance. He had strong voices for the demons and other monsters and had a fine, commanding voice for Roman.  He had quite a range of characters to perform for this book and he did them well. 

What I Liked: The cover art; the story’s premise; mutated humans; Hellish monsters; suicide mission; questionable heroes.

What I Disliked: Overboard with the gender-biased violence; weak female characters; much of the women’s accomplishments happen off stage and we don’t get to live them; while the women get skimpy outfits, the men are dressed appropriately for the mission.

What Others Think:

Sapphire Reader

Audiobook Reviewer