Dare the Devil by Elaine Raco Chase

ChaseDareTheDevilWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrators: Destiny Landon, Lee James

Publisher: Elaine Raco Chase (2012)

Length: 5 hours 59 minutes

Author’s Page

Cam Stirling is a stunt woman and she’s with a crew filming a Neanderthalish action flick in Wyoming (I think it was Wyoming). But the crew has inadvertently wandered off government land onto private ranching lands and Luthor (Thor) Devlin is none too happy about that. However, he is pretty intrigued by this daring stunt woman who works with such large, exotic animals such as an elephant (who plays a woolly mammoth) and a tiger (who plays a sabertooth!). Eventually Thor and his ranch hands have their hands full between the movie people and the yearly summer influx of teens to the ranch. Add to it that there have been some horse and cattle wrestlers in the area stealing livestock.

If you read my blog regularly, then you know that contemporary romance is not my usual cup of tea, but I keep trying it here and there. I listened to another book, Designing Woman, by the same author some time ago and found it clever. So I gave this one a try. Both Cam and Thor are characters with flaws and concerns and real personalities. They have been shaped by their families and the lives they have chosen. Cam is no swooning, vapid love interest. She’s there to do her job and she comes from a long line of stunt women. She feels no need to show off or take risks. She’s a professional. She also happens to be in quite good shape, which Thor has noticed. Thor comes from a ranching family and grew up an only kid. His crew is his extended family and the land means much to him.

There’s plenty of romance in this book with the two main characters getting to know each other. There’s flirtations and stolen kisses and secret rendezvouses. It’s sweet. Even though this genre is my least favorite, I still found myself chuckling a time or two at the initial blundering attempts to get to know each other. Late in the book, we do get a few sex scenes (hooray!) and they are steamy without being spicy.

Of course, the two lovers have to have at least one misunderstanding and that happens too. Thor grew up primarily in a man’s world without too many women doing a “man’s” job. So you might guess how the little spat came about. Essentially, Thor needed to grow up a bit. While I totally agreed with that assessment, we don’t see such a significant flaw with Cam, and hence, we don’t see her making a significant change in her life to accommodate the relationship. In that regard, the giving was mostly on Thor’s side. I would have liked to see Cam have to realize something big about herself and make some sort of change as this would have added further depth to her character. Overall, it wasn’t a bad little romance. I liked the stunts and the animals. The action scene near the end with the wrestlers was great and was probably my favorite scene in the entire book.

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

The Narration: Destiny Landon and Lee James split up the female and male roles. In the beginning, it clearly sounded like they recorded at different times and maybe even different sound booths. But the production gets smoother pretty quickly and soon they had a narration that sounded like two people having an actual conversation. Landon had a great voice for Cam – confident, sexy, professional. James was great for Thor having a rugged cowboy voice that reminded me a bit of Sam Elliott (whose voice will always be cowboy sexy). There were very few female roles for Landon to play (the main actress and a waitress) and she did them both well. I especially liked her somewhat snooty voice for the actress. There were plenty of male roles for James to show off his voice talents. I liked all the different cowboy voices and especially his screaming director voice.  

What I Liked: Good main characters that you can sink your teeth into; Cam is a stunt woman and comes from a long line of stunt women; Thor grew up ranching; the big animals for the movie; the livestock wrestler scene near the end.

What I Disliked: Well, it’s a romance, which is not my cup of tea; I felt Cam missed out by not having some personal epiphany in regards to the relationship.

What Others Think:

I Am, Indeed


Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Henry L. Sullivan III, Author of The American Fathers

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayFolks, it is with pleasure that I welcome Henry L. Sullivan to the blog today. I quite enjoyed the first episode (Swept Away) of his audio drama series, The American Fathers. We chat about obstacle courses, creating smart, lively characters, the importance of reviews, and so much more. Don’t forget to check out the audiobook GIVEAWAY at the end of the post!

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Interacting with readers and audiobook listeners is my favorite part of self-promotion. I’ve had private message (PM) exchanges with readers through LibraryThing and Goodreads. Hearing what people thought about something I’ve written is the primary thing that keeps me going. I think, on some level, all writers hope that the public will enjoy their work. I personally love it when that happens.

My least favorite part of self-promotion is having to ask people who have downloaded review copies of my work for honest reviews. I’ve used LibraryThing’s early reviewer program, and have found that only one out of twenty or thirty people who download the book through that program actually post a review. I’ve done several giveaways. If this is what LibraryThing’s early reviewer program is in reality, it would be great if it were just called that. And to be honest, I feel so bad about bugging people for the review they promised, that I usually don’t do it. The problem there though is that in reality your book lives or dies by reviews. I’ve read several articles and heard successful writers say that less than one percent of people who read a book will post a review of that book, even if they enjoyed the book. Most of the reviews I’ve gotten so far have been either five or four star reviews, but I appreciated the one star review I received from one early reviewer, simply because it was her honest opinion. I was surprised to find after receiving that one star review that it didn’t necessarily stop readers from buying the book. I was told by one woman through a PM that she tried my book because it had BOTH five star reviews and a one star review, which made her believe that the reviews were from real people and not provided through a service or by fellow writers, friends and family only.

SullivanDinnerInvitationThe mix of near-future political intrigue and erotica in The American Fathers series is both smart and sexy. What brought these two elements together for you?

Smart and sexy! (lol)​ I am so glad you see it that way.

I​n writing Sheila and Jasira I​ made mistakes at first, but things started to come together as I got two things right – Sheila’s character, and the role Sheila and Jasira’s relationship plays in the overall premise of the serial.

First let me explain how the Sheila you heard in the recording​ came to be. When I first started writing Sheila, the point of view character for Episode 1, I emphasized her political ideology – concern for workers’ rights and well being, opposition to the dominance corporations have in our society, similar to what Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been talking about for the last couple of years. There were two problems with that Sheila: 1) she didn’t have much personality, and 2) readers could not see why Jasira was attracted to her.

It may be hard to see the transition here, but Sheila became a stronger character when I started working with Adrianne Cury, director and narrator of Episode 1 – the full cast audio book (or audio drama). It happened quite by accident. We were trying to figure out how to promote the project, but even though we had already ​cast Fawzia Mirza in the role of Jasira, we hadn’t cast anyone for Sheila, so we didn’t have dialogue recorded for that character. Adrianne offered to perform Sheila’s dialogue for the promotional recording. I should mention here that Adrianne spent her childhood in the south, but the character, Sheila, was originally from Ohio. Adrianne’s suggestion made me consider, for the first time, making Sheila a southerner. That background change totally transformed my perception of the character. Sheila went from being a kind, passive, lonely, and yet ​a ​passionate academic, to a feisty, opinionated, socially awkward, and not necessarily nice but well intentioned academic/advocate. ​Once a southerner, she literally jumped off the page, and became one of my favorite characters to write because her choices and behavior ​we​re so compelling and​ interesting.

Figuring out how to use each episode to lay out the overall premise of the serial was the other thing that happened around this time. Feedback I received in a developmental edit from Juliet Ulman was extremely helpful. Juliet thought Sheila’s relationship with Jasira in the original version of Episode 1 was a Rom Com (romantic comedy), while the serial’s overall premise was more akin to an action thriller or drama – ​in 2032, the United States of America officially becomes ruled by thirteen dynast​ies. Sheila and Jasira’s relationship in the original version of episode 1 didn’t have anything to do with the overall serial. ​I knew the premise, I just hadn’t written it into the story.

Both Juliet and Adrianne were pretty blunt with me. Juliet said I missed​ a great​ opportunity conve​ying the conceptual aspects of dynastic rule in 2032 America ​through the work and perspective of a labor economist – Dr. Sheila McKinley. Adrianne said Sheila and Jasira’s dialogue was too ditzy and silly for intelligent women – one, a successful economist, the other, a successful journalist.

They were both right. As I said earlier, making Sheila a southerner made her interesting and a lot more fun to write. I tried to make her obsession with and suspicion of the dynasties work by expressing it through ​her new,​ pushy, no-nonsense personality.

You may be wondering about Jasira. All I can say is that for some reason she has been a clear, easy character for me to write from the beginning. The combination of her ambiguous relationship with the dynasties, the fact that this matters a lot to Sheila, Sheila’s attraction to Jasira, Jasira’s unexplained and yet explicit interest in ​Sheila, are all juicy elements that come together like a great gumbo.

One important thing to know about my ​writing ​style is that I ​lay out my​ stories through the framework of ​romantic ​couples.

  • Skepticism about this new political arrangement – dynasties ruling America – is told through Sheila’s relationship with Jasira.
  • The personal toll this new arrangement has on the people in power is told through Devin Wayne’s relationship with Irene Daco (Devin is military intelligence. Irene is America’s first princess).
  • The story of dynasties rising to​ become America’s official rulers is told through Victor Daco and Natalia Daco meeting, ​getting, and building the most powerful dynastic House in America (The New Rule creates thirteen houses, and Victor and Natalia are Irene parents).
  • The story of how some r​ebe​ls are just disgruntled elites is told through the story of Todd Giannopoulos (a Point One Percent, or POP Watcher​ – the POP Watchers are hacktivists​) and Ever Harrington (heir to House Harrington).

As for the sex, I’ve been told Devin and Irene’s sex is generally steamier than Sheila and Jasira’s, but I guess that all depends on the personal preferences of the reader. Sex has had a big influence on my personal relationships, so I have a hard time writing these couples without sharing their sexual experiences with the reader. To me, that’s the heart of how fiction works – the author shares the personal experiences of a character with readers. Since sex ha​s been important in my life, sharing the sexual experiences of my characters with the reader just makes sense to me.

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

For over ten years I worked as a manager for different national retail and restaurant chains. I hated that job. I had to work thirty two hours straight once because every one of my employees quit instead of coming to work. This happened four shifts in a row. I was the new manager of that gas station, and each employee quit without notice.

Writing is an extremely satisfying experience. The world is a better place for me when I’m writing.

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

The BBC adaptation of White Teeth by Zadie Smith is the truest book to TV adaptation I have ever seen. I don’t play video games, however.

Full-cast audio experience versus single-person narration: what made you choose one over the other?

I have a strong preference for the fullness in sound produced by full cast as compared to regular audiobooks. I’m impressed, sometimes, by an actor’s ability to perform multiple roles in a recording, but I never like the singular feel that method produces. I always know it’s the same person, even when they’re doing a great job distinguishing one character from another. I cannot remember ever liking a male actor’s portrayal of a female character. I’ve heard some that were terrible. But male to female or female to male, I always prefer hearing individual performances of each character.

American Gods, for instance, for me was a much more satisfying listen than The Fall of Hyperion, even though I enjoyed reading The Fall of Hyperion. Both novels were written very well, but for me the experience of listening to the recorded performance is better when different actors are cast for each one of the main characters.

SullivanTheAnalystWhat do you do when you are not writing?

​Housework. I’ve been doing the laundry in between writing responses to this interview. I can cook, but everyone in my household has different preferences, so I usually cook what I want to eat. I probably don’t clean to most people’s satisfaction, but I try not to make more mess than I can handle myself. ​

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

​I would either invite Bartimaeus (from the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud​), Seraphina (from the novel by Rachel Hartman), Celia Bowen (from the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern), or Brawne Lamia (Hyperion by Dan Simmons, which was also a great full cast audiobook by the way).

Drinking with any one of these characters would be extremely interesting. Seraphina is the only one out of the four who would complain the entire time (until drunk, of course), effectively serving as a burden, until her dragon uncle flew in to help.

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

I recently took two road trips – one from the Chicago area to Bimidji, Minnesota, the other to Lake Norman, North Carolina. During the first trip I formulated the background story for Devin Wayne, point of view character for Episode 3: Escape From New Orleans, Episode Five: Return of the Prince, and Episode 9: Voyage to Nowhere. Maybe because we took the second trip shortly after the Bimidji trip, I began writing Voyage To Nowhere. Here’s what I have for the episode summary so far:

Devin and Irene are running from teams of assassins working for House Watson. Devin has a plan. He knows they will be safe if only they can make it to Nowhere. For the first time in Devin’s life, he hopes he will have the opportunity to introduce a woman to his parents. He is sure about his feelings for Irene, but not about the nature of their relationship. What future can they possibly have? Her father, Victor, no longer wants to kill him. But Irene is still a princess whose kingdom is at war. Even if they make it home, he doubts she will want to stay Nowhere forever.

SullivanAmericanFathersSweptAwayBook Blurb for The American Fathers: Swept Away:

Fresh off a break up, Sheila McKinley, the easygoing college professor, meets Jasira Said, the up and coming journalist and political columnist.

Sheila has no idea her friend Rima is acquainted with Jasira, so their arranged meeting is easily disguised as a simple dinner party. Even after she agrees to show Jasira around town, she really doesn’t suspect her real intentions. But after an accident at a night club things move quickly, until everything is crystal clear.

Places to Stalk Henry L. Sullivan







Henry Sullivan is graciously offering ten Audible.com copies of Swept Away (Episode 1 of The American Fathers series). Honest reviews, of course, would be welcome and appreciated. In order to enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What are some of your favorite audio dramas? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you! Giveaway ends November 5, 2015, midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Anne Flosnik

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2009)

Length: 27 hours 52 minutes

Series: Book 2 Kushiel’s Legacy

Author’s Page

Note: It is possible to read this book as a stand alone as relevant events from Book 1 are reflected upon in enough detail for a reader of Book 2 to grasp the point. However, I highly recommend reading Book 1 as it is just so damn good!

We return once again to the alternate history of Terre D’Ange (France) and the surrounding lands. Book 2 picks up several months after Book 1 ended. Melisande Sharhizai is still at large. However, very early in Book 2 our heroine Phedre receives a challenge of sorts from Melisande – her sangoire cloak is returned to her via a carrier from Caerdicca Unitas (Italy) and more specifically La Serenissima (Venice). Phedre truly believes that Terre D’Ange and the queen (Ysandre) are in danger so long as Melisande is free. The challenge sets in motion events that will change Phedre’s life forever.

Here we have another masterfully crafted book from Jacqueline Carey. Sometimes sequels aren’t near as good as the first in the series but this series holds it’s own weight as it progresses. I have read this book several times now and this is my second time listening to it. First, I love how the characters continue to grow and how the world continues to expand as Phedre’s travels take her further afield. Second, Melisande continues to make a most worthy opponent. Phedre definitely has her work cut out for her in this book!

Once again, we are told the story through Phedre’s eyes. She was raised in the Court of the Night Blooming flowers and being subservient and unseen (expect maybe as a pretty plaything) comes easily to her. She polished off her training in Anafiel Delaunay’s house where she learned history, politics, languages, and how to think in a rational manner. Both served her well in Book 1 and they do so again in Book 2. Yet this journey she comes to understand her powers a bit more – her will power to live, her ability to forgive, her strength to deny Melisande. That which yields, is not always weak (a quote from Kushiel’s Dart).

There were two interesting themes that twined throughout the novel: loyalty and grief. Again and again, we see Phedre and other characters having to figure out where their loyalties really lie – with queen and country? To the deities they serve? To family? I think Joscelin struggled the most with this one. Grief made an interesting thread throughout the book. What is a mortal’s grief compared to the grief of a goddess? How do you mourn the passing of something not of a physical nature, such as friendship or love? These were some big ideas to contemplate even as my mind was fully engaged in the day to day decisions of the characters.

This time through, I listened to the book as part of a read along. It was a great experience and let me see things about the book I had not seen before. For instance, I had not really noticed before that Phedre is, on occasion, a little bit of a snob. Now I see it in small things and I see how it ties to her upbringing and culture. This in turn let’s me see it in other Terre D’Ange characters. And this leads to a nuanced part of the plot of this book – how Terre D’Ange has been a bit xenophobic towards other cultures for too long and it has cost them in the larger arena of politics. This book (and the entire series) is awesome because you can reread it and take something new away each time.

As with Kushiel’s Dart, there is also plenty of sex and it is told in just as much detail as the rest of the story. You may blush a bit. The sex scenes serve to show certain aspects of the characters involved or to move the plot forward. I never feel that space is wasted on these scenes. Plus, some of them are rather educational in and of themselves. ;)

As with Book 1, I was completely swept up into Phedre’s world once again. Jacqueline Carey makes great use of languages to round out a culture. If you’re a bit of a linguistics geek, you will love this aspect of the series. It’s a rich world, a devilishly intriguing plot, and characters you will never forget. Reading it the 7th time was just as good as reading it the first time.

The Narration: Anne Flosnik is once again the voice of Phedre, and a great fit she is too! Phedre’s voice is how we experience the story and, hence, Phedre’s emotions come through the loudest. Flosnik did a great job imbuing the characters with emotions, but especially, Phedre. My heart broke and soared for her multiple times throughout the tale! The linguistics keep piling up in this series and Flosnik met the challenge magnificnetly.

What I Liked: The cover art; Phedre, of course; yeah! more travels!; pirates!; interesting exploration of grief; Joscelin and Phedre have to work on their relationship; Melisande is the evil that you love to hate; fantastic narration; the ending was satisfying but left the door open for Book 3.

What I Disliked: Nothing –  I adore this book.

What Others Think:


Megan Cashman

Fantasy Book Review

SF Site


Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino

CosentinoDramaQueenWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Michael Gilboe

Publisher: Lethe Press (2015)

Length: 6 hours 31 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Nicky and Noah Mystery

Author’s Page

Nicky Abbondanza is at the center of this murder mystery. Set on the Treemeadow college campus that focuses on the theater arts, there are plenty of characters that are literally trained in the arts of deceit, deflection, deception, and out right artful lies. It’s going to be tough to figure out who is racking up the bodies. And then there is Noah Oliver, an assistant professor who is up for tenure. every time Nicky sees Noah, his heart does a little flip.

As you can tell by the name of the series (A Nicky & Noah Mystery) these two eventually team up. First, we have to go through all the cutsy stuff of them figuring out that they like each other. That was pretty sweet. Once their romance is off and running, it moves really quickly. In fact, that is probably one of the things that I found a bit silly about the plot. I think they went from friend/colleagues to lovers to moving in together in less than a week. Such a fast romance wasn’t really necessary for the plot.

The murder mystery itself was fun. There are plenty of suspects and plenty of bodies. So of course we have to wonder if we have one killer or multiple killers. The suspects have good motivations too for wanting some or all of the victims dead. I was guessing until the end. The final culprit(s) was a total surprise and I felt it came out of left field a bit. It left me a little unsatisfied.

Humor and wit twine together in this twisty murder mystery. Some of the humor was punny and a little predictable. I did laugh a few times. There were plenty of jokes about people being in the closet and being rather frustrated, angry folks because of it. The first time or two, it fit the plot and was worth a chuckle. Then some of the jokes kept being repeated throughout the story. This was one of those books I had to be in the mood for so I listened to it in chunks. This book definitely lives up to it’s name with plenty of characters having dramas big and little.

Now for the sex scenes. They are steamy and hot, sometimes lengthy and sometimes brief. Sometimes we get plenty of detail (including measurements of people’s personal equipment), and sometimes it was some kissing and then the curtain closed so we don’t get to see what they did next. It worked with the story and gave a little break from the action (of the murder mystery).

I really, really liked that we have such a representation of the LGBTQ community. In some cases (especially for the minor characters) that was their defining character. But for the main characters, their sexual preferences was secondary to their person (job, likes, believes,etc.).

Overall, I enjoyed this flawed tale. It was fun and unlike any other murder mystery I have listened to. The uniqueness definitely grabbed me up front. While the dramatic humor weared on me here and there, I was hooked by the plot and really wanted to know who did the deed. While the ending left me feeling luke warm on the plot’s resolution, I still wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another Cosentino book to see what he comes up with next.

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

The Narration: Michael Gilboe did a very good job on this book. It had a pretty large cast for a fairly short novel. His male voices were distinct and varied enough to keep everyone straight. He managed the same for the ladies with the added bonus of having believable female voices. He also pulled off the exaggerated gay accent when needed.  

What I Liked: The cover art; the setting; a unique murder mystery; Noah and Nicky (sigh); the romance is cute; a higher body count than expected; the murder mystery had me guessing the entire time; great narration.

What I Disliked: Sometimes the repeated dramatic humor wore me down; Noah’s & Nicky’s relationship moved really, really quickly; the ending left me wanting a bit more.

What Others Think:

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Joyfully Jay

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Gay. Guy. Reading and Friends

J. Barron Owens

The Novel Approach

Prism Book Alliance

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3 Chicks After Dark

Reviews by Amos Lassen

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Fantasy Erotica by Derendrea

DerendreaFantasyEroticaWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Roberto Scarlato

Publisher: Derendrea Books (2015)

Length: 5 hours 29 minutes

Author’s Page

This book contains two short erotica stories: Valkyrie (urban fantasy) and Forgotten (science fiction)

Valkyrie: On a dark and snowy night, Jason comes across an injured woman, but she’s not exactly a woman. She’s got these large, bat-like wings. He’s really not too sure what she is or how she came to be injured but he’s an all-around nice guy. So he takes her in and nurses her back to health. The story then fast-forwards a number of years to when Val (which is short for her full name, Valkyrie) and Jason are living together in a major city in an apartment. The sexual tension between Jason and Val is very palpable and yet they have never completed an act to fulfill those needs. I felt this point of the story was unlikely as we have two full grown people living together for a number of years that are clearly attracted to each other and not attached to anyone else.

Setting that aside, the action really picks up in the second half of the story. Val doesn’t recall who she was before she was injured and left alone that snowy night. But all that is about to be revealed as she meets others of the night. Unfortunately for Jason, he becomes tainted and little more than a beast. Val desperately tries to save him. I didn’t know how this story would end. The author set it up perfectly to give a tragic ending or a fist-pumping save-the-day ending. The suspense at the end was nail biting. The tale is definitely Val’s. She’s the one the story focuses on and the other characters are just there to bounce stuff off of. Even Jason was sadly pretty one dimensional.

This book is more urban fantasy with erotica elements than erotica first and foremost. There’s plenty of sexual tension throughout the book but the sex doesn’t happen until the last quarter. There’s a minor sex scene and then a major love scene (and it is love between the two characters). The second scene was quite lovely and also smoking hot. I really enjoyed this book because we got hooked on the character Val long before we get to the sexy bits. I also enjoy the urban fantasy setting and the challenges for the characters such a setting brings.

Forgotten: In a scifi universe, Lifea is your basic house slave. She’s been a slave for some years and sees to menial chores aboard the spaceship. She wasn’t always a slave and she still has that spark that dreams and hopes for better days. Then, one day the slaver’s ship is attacked. She really doesn’t want to be captured or killed. She ends up in a storage room with this kind of mechanized space suit she found earlier. She was drawn to it then and now it seems this is her only option for hiding, and perhaps escape. Once inside the suit, it chats her up, much to her surprise. Tcai is a kind of ghost in the shell, a being that tied his essence to the suit many years ago. However, an organic being is needed to wear the suit and have it operate.

The two escape, but it’s not exactly to the ideal location. A deserted planet with lots of sand becomes their new foe to defeat. During that time, they learn more of each other. The last quarter of the book has flashbacks to Tcai’s previous existence as the two meet their latest struggle. I was completely taken in by this story and was concerned for the characters. I do believe this is the best story by Derendrea I have read so far. This story is definitely more scifi than erotica, though there are indeed steamy, very sensual, detailed love scenes. If you’re into scifi romance, then check this book out!

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

The Narration: Roberto Scarlato did a pretty good job with this book. He has a rich masculine voice for the male characters and decent feminine voices for the lady characters. He didn’t balk at the love scenes. I especially liked his voice for one of the valkyries in the first story and for Tcai in the second story.  

What I Liked: We get tied to the characters before we get to the sexy bits; the cover art; definitely enjoyed the SFF backgrounds for the two stories; the love scenes were about sensuality and connecting for the most part; really, really enjoyed Forgotten all around.

What I Disliked: In Valkyrie, I would have liked Jason to have a little more personality; I found it hard to believe Jason and Val had lived together for years and not acted on their obvious attraction for each other.

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

PatakiTheAccidentalEmpressWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Madeleine Maby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2015)

Length: 18 hours 5 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a story of Empress ‘Sisi’ Elisabeth of Austria. The tale starts in the mid-1850s in Bavaria where Sisi and her older sister, Helene, reside with their parents and younger siblings. The Emperor Franz Joseph and his mother Sophie are seeking a bride for Franz and Sophie at least would prefer the bride to be a cousin. She selects Helene and she, her sister, and their mother (Ludovika) travel to the summer residence of Emperor Franz Joseph.

Not everything goes as planned. Franz seems to only have eyes for the younger sister, Sisi, instead of his mother’s intended, Helene. Sisi is a little outspoken, for her time, loves riding, and is a decent conversationalist. Meanwhile, Helene is much more the scholar preferring to stay indoors with her books. She is painfully shy around strangers. Pretty soon, Franz makes his intentions clear and he has chosen Sisi. There’s a bit of a dust up but he won’t be swayed out of it. Eventually, there is a wedding.

From there, we follow Sisi closely as her power ebbs and wains as she carries on a mostly silent battle with her mother-in-law. This book is a great behind-the-scenes look at the early years of Empress Elisabeth’s reign. We see the difficulties she has not only with Sophie but also with her husband and, later on, her children. She married Franz, who was 22, when she was 16 and was pregnant shortly thereafter. She left all she new behind at Possenhofen in Bavaria, a rural duchy. Indeed, she had so much to get use to on her own at the royal court. Her mother had her own little brood to raise and her sister was too shy to attend her at court as a Lady in Waiting. She had to rely on herself. It took her some time to figure that out.

Franz is the Austrian Emperor at a tumultuous time. He was born into a large Austrian empire that stretched much of the European continent, over to Russia, down into Germany and Italy. However, during his life he will see this change drastically. Of course, he insists on keeping Sisi out of politics for much of their marriage. Yet she goes the extra mile and educates herself on at least one political front, the Hungarians. She learns about their food and culture, and even becomes fluent in the Hungarian language. It takes many years before Franz acknowledges Sisi’s political savviness. The book leaves us in the late 1860s with the situation between Austria and Hungary in a stable place. I am hoping we get a sequel that explores the latter half of Empress Elisabeth’s life.

I really enjoyed much of this book because it educated me on a subject I knew little about – the massive Austrian empire of the 1800s. I was amazed at the decadence of the royalty and over all prosperity of Austria at the time. While women in general had some rights (education, riding horses) they still lacked in over all equality with men. Indeed, there is a theme of a husband’s marital rights throughout the book. Sisi was a character I easily connected with. She has her flaws, made some bad choices here and there, but she persevered. Several times, she had to pick herself up and come up with a new plan.

For me, the book slowed down in the last quarter. The romantic side story became the main plot and I felt it was all a little dramatic. Yet, aside from that one complaint, I was entertained and educated by this novel. As an added bonus, the publisher included a short interview with the author at the end talking specifically about this book. I always enjoy it when an author comments on where and why they chose to deviate from the known facts.


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

The Narration: Madeleine Maby did an excellent job. She had a great voice for Sisi and she portrayed the emotions of the character well. Her male voices were believable. There were several times when Austrian-German and Hungarian phrases were used in the book and Maby also did a great job of making these believable. I especially liked her voice for the over-bearing mother-in-law, Sophie. 

What I Liked: A little slice of history in an easy to digest novel; Sisi was easy to get attached to; the politics play a role in the marriage, creating stress; Sisi has many challenges and sometimes makes mistakes; the ending leaves us ready for a Part II.

What I Disliked: The last quarter of the book was a little slow to me as the emphasis was the romance.

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Colossus by Colin Falconer

Chupa snoring

Chupa snoring

Where I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Neil Shah

Publisher: Recorded Books (2015)

Length: 10 hours 17 minutes

Author’s Page


This is an alternate history that features Alexander the Great. The main heroes of the story are Gajendra and Mara. Gajendra rises swiftly in Alexander’s army, going from an elephant boy to general of the elephant forces. Gajendra’s personal elephant is Colossus who is the largest bull elephant in the army. Mara starts off as a grieving window who has lost her children as well and becomes an elephant boy herself (hiding her gender). Colossus is an important force in the army but also an important side character in this story, often being the reminder of more gentle things for both Mara and Gajendra.

I have long been fascinated by Alexander the Great, having read several fiction and nonfiction works about him. So when I saw this alternate history featuring him I had to give it a read. I was not disappointed. In fact, if you didn’t know much about Alexander, you could read this book and believe every bit of it; the story so masterfully intertwines fiction and facts.

Gajendra is a very interesting character. His Uncle Ravi took him in when he was a small boy and taught him the secret language of elephants. Right from the start of the story, Gajendra has mighty aspirations. He fell in love, or lust, the instant he spotted a certain noble woman, Zahara. Since then, he knows he must rise high in the army if there is to be any chance of winning her. But he knows he must treat the elephants well, not just because he cares for them as deeply as his uncle does, but because he knows they are the key to his success. As Gajendra rises in the ranks, he comes to the attention of Alexander himself. Throughout the tale, these two share some very intense conversations. Indeed, just remembering a few specific ones makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Now Ravi and Gajendra march together in Alexander’s army and they march upon Carthage. Many of Alexander’s foes have never faced elephants in battle and their mere presence unnerves both soldiers and horses. Of course, they take a lot of care when the army isn’t battling anyone and a disgruntled elephant can do quite a bit of damage to Alexander’s army as well. Indeed, I feel I learned some important things about elephants in reading this book. They were definitely an integral part of the plot and not just scenery.

It took longer for me to like Mara. We meet her at the depth of her grief, having lost all her family except her father, a general of Carthage. When the city is attacked by Alexander’s army, her father orders the loyal family servant to protect her at all costs. Lucky for both of them, Gajendra is the one to find them in the aftermath of the attack and take them in as the lowest of elephant boys, mucking dung and fetching water. Eventually Mara’s grief crystallizes and she puts it to good use. Colossus is key in her return to life. By the end of the book, I was very glad I had made the journey with Mara as I came to admire her efforts.

There are very few female characters in this book. Zahara is essentially a love interest and has very few lines. There are perhaps 2 priestesses mentioned and I seem to recall one of them having a few lines. Mara has the greatest presence in the book for the ladies. She is written well and has full depth of character as well as a character arc. My one little quibble is that I would have liked a few more female characters that had a bit of depth.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher (via Audiobook Jukebox) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Neil Shah did a great job. His voice for Alexander was excellent and I can imagine it was a bit difficult to maintain. Alexander’s voice is described in the text as having a kind of high pitched grating to it. Shah did a great job of getting this across to the listener while also keeping Alexander’s voice commanding and intense. His voice for Gajendra was also excellent having a light Indian accent. His female character voices were believable. 

What I Liked: Fascinating alternate history tale; great narration; Alexander is intense!; Gajendra is a complex character; the elephants are key to the story and not just scenery; Mara’s eventually won my heart; the ending was very satisfying.

What I Disliked: Would have liked a few more female characters with depth.

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