Lucifer’s Star by C. T. Phipps & Michael Suttkus

Narrator: Eric Burns

Publisher: Crossroad Press (2017)

Length: 10 hours 20 minutes

Series: Book 1 Lucifer’s Star

Phipps’s Page ~ Suttkus’s Page

Set in a galaxy far, far away, Cassius Mass, supreme star pilot, has lost his faith in his side of the war. All his life he believed he was fighting for the right side, the Crius Archduchy. Alas, the Archduchy fell to the Commonwealth and people rejoiced (much to Cassius’s surprise). Now he spends his days drunk navigating a freight hauler, the Melampus, going by the name Marcus Grav. That is, until he’s swept up into intrigue and revolution.

I know I have said this before about a new-to-me Phipps series: This is my favorite of Phipps’s works! Well, I say it again. This gripping scifi story is a little darker than some of his other works and yet still has moments of humor and all of it has this space opera feel going for it. I was rooting for Cassius throughout the story since I felt he would do his best to get the least number of average people killed.

Then I started rooting for Ida Claire, a spy master and captain of the Melampus who may or may not be on Cassius’s side, because she was so damn interesting! I kept picturing her with a bit of knitting as she read over the latest spy logs, quietly drinking rum-spiked tea and casually checking off boxes on the log that would determine who lived and who died. I know. She never had any knitting in the book and yet I always picture her with knitting. Maybe the knitting needle tips are poison dipped.

Let’s talk about Cassius’s tangled family tree. So he’s technically a clone of his father, yet he was raised as a sibling with his father’s biological offspring…. so that makes them his, well, we’ll go with siblings for now. Someone learned from that and decided to make a clone of Cassius to raise an Archduchy rebellion against the Commonwealth. Now Ida wants to stop that uprising and hunt down this clone and whoever is controlling him. Obviously, things are going to get messy for Cassius who was raised to have strong familial ties.

I loved the bioroids! Originally crafted to serve as a slave work force, sometimes a bioroid breaks free and spends the rest of their days working on some rundown freight hauler. Take Isla Hernandez, a medical officer, who is glad for her freedom but still harbors plenty of anger. The bioroids plight put me in mind of the human-like AI robots of Bladerunner and Battlestar Galactica.

There’s also aliens! Yes! Humanity knows they exist but has very little to do with them, per the aliens’ choice. We’re not evolved enough to be of interest. Then there’s the nearly alien Chel, a race of once-humans that are so far removed from humanity in purpose, biology, and technology that they are considered alien by most. Clarice has had contact with them and it wasn’t pretty. She’s got her own scars to keep tucked away.

Cassius is in a relationship with Isla, who used to be in a relationship with William… so there’s some personal tension between the two men. There’s also the young Hiro who is everyone’s little brother and he does Cassius a good turn, earning his trust. It’s a ragtag crew that often put me in mind of Firefly.

My one little quibble is that I found Cassius a bit too trusting beyond reason. He has plenty of hints that a member of the Melampus is working for a different team but is then surprised when that betrayal comes to pass. Same thing when he meets up with his siblings once again. Since we’re experiencing the entire tale through Cassius’s eyes, if we see it, then Cassius sees it as well. So I felt it was just a touch clunky trying to portray these hints of forthcoming betrayal and yet still keep Cassius’s blinders on.

All around, I really enjoyed this tale. There’s plenty of skirmishes, spy networks, and individuals making plays for personal gain. Most of our would-be heroes have deep scars that affect their choices, which in turn, put them or others in great peril. I also loved the witty humor that kept popping up, providing breaks from the grimdark feel of the overall story. Plus, there were a few references to iconic movies such as The Godfather and Airplane. I’m so looking forward to Book 2!

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Eric Burns was an excellent narrator for this story. I loved his voice for Ida, which could range from sweet grandmotherly to brutally honest. He also made a really good Cassius, holding onto that sense of honor throughout the story. He did a great job with the humor as well as the grim moments, expressing the right mix of emotions for any given scene.

What I Liked: Cassius being a fallen hero hiding in booze and mediocrity; Ida Claire’s spy abilities; the bioroids in general and Isla in particular; the Chel are scary!; plenty of double crossing; Cassius’s convoluted family ties; great narration. 

What I Disliked: In a few instances, Cassius was a little too oblivious to obvious signs of forthcoming betrayal.

What Others Think:

Beavis the Book Head

The Bloggin’ Hobgoblin

Beauty in Ruins

The Audiobook Reviewer

Brian’s Book Blog

The Bookwyrm Speaks

The Ring of Minos: At the Palace of Knossos by N. P. James

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Cv Publications (2016)

Length: 21 minutes

Author’s Page

The author visited the Palace of Knossos in 2005 and wrote up this little travelogue that includes his personal experience on the tour as well as his observations about the beauty and history of this place.

This book takes us on a tour of the Palace, starting with where the tour bus picks up the tourists. The history of the site is briefly covered and then we head into the royal apartments. I really like that the author includes the various materials used to create this Palace. A more detailed accounting of the founding of the Palace and the excavation is covered towards the end of the book.

There’s also a bit about the Minoan culture, especially the hierarchy of the society. I found it was a bit odd there was no real army. Perhaps this was because of the natural protection provided by it being an island. I was surprised by how wide-spread Minoan trading was. Minoan mythology is also briefly referred to. Of course, this mythology is reflected in the Palace’s architecture and art. Tales of the Minotaur!

There are a few references to either the tour guide or the other tourists throughout the book. I found these amusing and they were well-suited for this travelogue. Smaller Minoan bits can be seen at the tourist center & gift shop. I enjoyed the descriptions of the seals and how they were used in the Minoan culture. Then there’s the accounting table!

Definitely interesting for archaeologists and those with a keen interest in Minoan culture.

The Narration: Denise Kahn had multiple voices and accents for various people in this short book. While I don’t know about the accuracy of these accents since I’m not familiar with the Greek accent, Kahn was consistent throughout the book. Her recording does sound a little tinny. She does a great job of pacing, sounding interested in the topic, and clear enunciation.

What I Liked: The cover art; it feels like a travelogue all the way through; very approachable; peaks my interest in the Palace of Knossos.

What I Disliked: The recording is a little tinny.

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

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: A Human Element by Donna Galanti

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

Narrator: Chase Bradley

Publisher: Auspicious Apparatus Press (2017)

Length: 10 hours 8 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Element Trilogy

Author’s Page

By a lake surrounded by mostly empty cabins, a spaceship crashes and the government covers it up, calling it a meteorite. Ben Fieldstone lost his family that night. Sarah, a teen runaway, wouldn’t know just how affected she was by this event until 9 months later when she gave birth. A mysterious man in black from the government was there to whisk away the unusual child. The doctor and nurse did their best to hide the twin sister, Laura, that was born that night, turning her over to the loving Armstrongs to raise as their daughter. Years later, Laura survives one tragedy after another even as she starts manifesting powers from out of this world. Something hunts her but means to make her suffer emotionally before the final confrontation.

This is a science fiction story that turns into a romance. There’s a smidge of thriller in here as well as the hunter catches up to it’s prey. I enjoyed the scifi part and the thriller part was pretty gripping. However, the romance part was a bit too much for me. The middle of the books spends a little too much time talking about emotions and learning to love one’s self and how to love others, etc.

For the most part, Laura Armstrong was an interesting central character, though later in the book she ends up unconscious and needs to be carried to safety several times. I found the antagonist, X-10, to be the most captivating character. Right up to the end I kept hoping ( or wondering?) if he would be able to change despite all he had been through. He was raised in captivity undergoing tests and torture on a regular basis.

Ben ends up in the military and so there’s some true-to-character swearing and objectifying of women. It takes some serious events for him to decide he wants something else, even if he doesn’t know what he wants. I give full marks to the author for including a near-rape of an adult male situation as it is something that is not often addressed in fiction even though such crimes occur in real life. Once Ben meets Laura, he goes all mushy and doesn’t do much beside explore his feelings until the big action scene near the end. I could have used a bit more action in the middle instead of it being solid inner exploration of Ben’s character.

The plot was OK though certain parts were no mystery at all. We know from nearly the beginning that Laura’s twin is going to be a problem child. Even though Ben is ~10 years older and he traveled the world with the military, I knew that somehow he and Laura would have to come together. Still, I had to know how things would end. Mostly, this was because I wanted to see how much X-10 could change, if he could change at all. Part of me wanted him to continue on for the next book and part of me knew that wouldn’t be possible.

The mystery man in black eventually plays a larger role, though I sometimes found him a convenient catalyst, suddenly showing up with certain powers or knowledge, that helped move the plot along. The elderly Mr. B. was a lovely addition to the main cast. I adored his thesaurus skills and his grandfatherly guidance for Laura. All in all, I’m glad I gave this book a listen even though it left me wanting a bit more action and little less on the touchy feely bits.

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

The Narration: Chase Bradley was OK as the narrator. Initially, his voices were all distinct. He even had a few accents, like for Andy’s wife, which were well done. Once Ben and Laura meet, they always talk so soft and sweetly to each other no matter the subject or the situation that they actually sounded too much alike and sometimes I had trouble keeping track of who said what. He did have a lovely deeper voice for Felix and I wish he had used that voice for Ben as it would have worked so well for the sex scenes. And speaking of those few sex scenes, Bradley sounded a bit bored during them, like a yawn was just hiding in the corner of his mouth. He did a great job with Mr. B’s voice as he aged and he had an excellent wicked voice for X-10.

What I Liked: Spaceship crash; people overcoming tragedy; Laura’s special powers; X-10’s character development and the possibility that he could change; the mystery man in black and his back story; Mr. B because he simply is cool; Ben’s brush with personal injury.

What I Disliked: It’s a SF turned romance; the middle is heavy with characters doing a lot of inner reflection and too light on action.

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

About Chase Bradley: Chase was born and raised in a quiet town in upstate New York. He concentrated on musical pursuits through most of his younger years, excelling in anything that had to do with using his voice. He attended college in Potsdam, NY, where he studied Wilderness Leadership, Sociology and Vocal training at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Chase’s dream since he was a kid was to be a voice over artist and professional musician, but after college he decided to spread his wings and explore the world a bit first. He worked as a mountain guide in Alaska, leading Ice Climbing, Mountaineering, and Backpacking trips. He traveled all over North and South America for work and and pleasure, climbing and skiing everything that stood in his way. After meeting a beautiful woman (in Alaska of all places!) and falling in love, he settled down in Lake Tahoe California, where he currently resides with his wife and two children. Chase has finally returned to his roots and works as a full time voice over artist, and plays weekly shows with his band. Things have come full circle, and the dream has been fulfilled. Chase does commercial voice over work, but has found that his true passion is narrating audiobooks. He has narrated 14 audiobooks to date, with more to come! Chase is constantly looking for ways to improve his narration, and deliver the best possible performance for the authors and listeners.

 Website ~ LinkedIn ~Facebook ~ Twitter

Synopsis of A Human Element: Evil comes in many forms… One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite in her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts L
aura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his, and she has two choices—redeem him or kill him.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Donna Galanti: Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy (Imajin Books) and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ InstaGram ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

$10 Amazon Gift Card

A Human Element Giveaway #1

A Hidden Element (Book 2) Audiobook

A Human Element Giveaway #2

Zero Lives Remaining by Adam Cesare

Where I Got It: Review copy Narrator: Joe Hempel Publisher: Sky Warrior Book Publishing LLC (2015) Length: 6 hours 13 minutes Series: Book 1 Jonathan Shade Author’s Page   Set in modern day Denver, private investigator Jonathan Shade is hired by his ex-girlfriend Naomi Miller to look into the murder of her mother Cathy by her own husband David. Plenty […]

61XAlJ0cuuL._SL300_Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Rollin & Jeanie Press (2016)

Length: 2 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

 

The arcade is more than a kids’ favorite place to hang out. Legends are made in the arcade as the gamers compete for the highest score, the special items, and the secret levels. But this day will be different. Legends will die. Robby Asaro’s physical body passed away some years ago, but his consciousness continued on in his favorite arcade. Now an ill-timed act of bullying will trigger a deadly rage in Robby. This time, the body count is real.

This was a wickedly fun story! I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed it so much but I did. What gamer hasn’t fantasized about living in an arcade? Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man! There was definitely some nostalgia for me in this story.

There are few girls in the arcade and Tiffany Park has caught Robby’s eyes… attention. Unfortunately, she’s also caught the attention of the bully Chris Murphy. I really do like how the author portrayed the bully. He’s a messed up kid who’s looking for attention but he’s going about it the wrong way. We get little snippets of what’s going on in his head. I actually found myself hoping he would verbally express his loneliness and that Tiffany would sigh, tell him he had a jerk way of expressing it, and the two would have a friendly Galaga competition.

But this isn’t one of those books. This is a horror flick and it’s a good one. I was surprised how quickly the body count climbed as Robby’s spirit spiraled out of control. Tiffany has to use her wits to make it out of the building but there was no guarantee that would be enough. Her ally in these attempts was the maintenance man, Dan, who had lovingly tended to the arcade games all these years. They have to outwit and out-maneuver this now-malevolent spirit that has taken on the knowledge and attributed of each character it knocks out.

It was a great ride. I really enjoyed this tale. It had some surprising twists and the insight into Chris’s character put it over the top for me. While this is a short tale, I did get attached to some of the characters, Tiffany and Dan especially. I enjoyed the little surprises and the initial nostalgia of the arcade.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Joe Hempel did a magnificent job with this one. I’ve enjoyed several other books he has narrated and he didn’t disappoint with his performance here. One of the characters has a partially paralyzed face and Hempel brought that to life with his performance. He can bounce between angry jerk-face teen to Robby’s spirit to this partially paralyzed character with ease. 

What I Liked: Great narration; love the cover art; a wickedly fun story!; a bit of nostalgia; some insight into Chris the bully; Tiffany and the rest have to use all their smarts to get free; very few make it out alive; Dan and all his love for the arcade; great ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing – was truly a delightful horror story.

What Others Think:

Into the Macabre

Horror Talk

The Audio Book Reviewer

splatterpunkzine

Hellnotes

Scream Horror Magazine

Gingernuts of Horror

 

Lady Justice and the Lost Tapes by Robert Thornhill

51t3bYfFjZL._SL300_Narrator: George Kuch

Publisher: Robert Thornhill (2016)

Length: 5 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 2 Lady Justice

Author’s Page

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

Walt Williams was a retired senior real estate agent but he felt he still had more in him. So he joined the Kansas City police force as part of their senior citizens outreach program. Now he and his partner, Ox, traipse around the more colorful sections of town in this tale. The mafia wants certain real estate freed up and use nearly every dirty trick there is to get people to sell. Meanwhile, one of Walt’s friends uncovered a lost rock and roll treasure that needs to be kept under tight wraps for now.

This was a fun light-hearted murder mystery. There’s lots of corny jokes and the plot is pretty straight forward. The characters are lovable in a good-will-always-win-out sort of way. I really liked how this book had so many seniors in it. Some still work. Some are retired. Several do volunteer duties. Walt’s girlfriend, Maggie, is still working as a realtor and that gives Walt a bit of an advantage as he looks into the unusual circumstances of some recent sales.

Throughout this book, Walt plays dress up, going undercover more than once. The locations of interest to Walt and the police department include some lively bars that cater to the LGBTQ community. While there are plenty of jokes from both Walt and his fellow officers, they felt rather dated, like something an older uncle would say and the next generation would be slightly embarrassed for him.

Speaking of the humor, there’s plenty of it in this book. Everything from a whoopee cushion to a stand-up comedian to one-line zingers to ribbing from fellow officers. Some of it was well timed and funny. Some of it was rather worn and just got a groan from me. Sometimes I felt like the author had a big book of jokes sitting beside him as he worked on this book and he felt obliged to put in at least 3 jokes per chapter.

I did enjoy the main plot concerning the mafia moving in and forcing owners to sell their houses or businesses cheap. The story did a good job of showing the various ways the mafia went about getting their way. They did everything from polite requests to buy outright to dirty trickery to intimidation to torching a place. At first Walt is the only officer that is interested in checking this out but as things escalate, the force in general becomes committed to putting an end to it.

The minor plot line, that dealing with the lost tapes of a rock and roll idol, didn’t really appeal to me. I just wasn’t into the R&R idol and therefore, this chunk of the book didn’t grab me. When the main plot line wrapped up, I still had about 1.5 hours of book to listen to! Well, that was mostly this second minor plot line and a big holiday celebration. They were cute but not nearly as interesting as the mafia.

All in all, it was a fun, quaint little mystery. If you’re looking for something light and, perhaps, a bit predictable, then this would be a good book to check out. For me, it was so-so.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: George Kuch did a good job. He had an unexpected range of voices and even did a decent job with the female voices. His voice really fits well with the variety of seniors. There were a few times where I heard a few mouth noises but they didn’t distract from the narration.

What I Liked: No age discrimination in this tale!; Ox is a great side kick; Maggie is still a working woman and does volunteer work too; some of the humor made me chuckle; the mafia plot was interesting.

What I Disliked: I didn’t care for the rock and roll minor plot line; sometimes the humor was a bit tired or dated.

What Others Think:

Cross Plains Public Library

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

Narrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty and her family had quite the time on Vashon Island, Washington State. With her second husband (Don MacDonald) and her two young girls (Joan and Anne), Betty experienced the joys and disappointments of living on an island. Set during WWII, this mostly autobiographical book recounts Betty’s life with wry humor and insight.

Once again, Betty has amused me. By now, after reading 4 books by her, I feel like Betty is somewhat of a friend. I really enjoyed this book from clamming to peaches to teen years to housecleaners. Living on Vashon Island, which was only connected to the mainland via ferries and personal boats, was quite a bit rougher than she and her family expected. There’s also the beauty of having an island house which is also captured well in this book.

The MacDonalds took over the house during an idyllic summer. There were plenty of clams on their personal beach, including geoduck clams. The downstairs practically-outdoor shower was perfect for rinsing off after time in the sea. The great big hearth would be quite wonderful in winter. Then the cold season sets in. The family comes to find out that having a nearly-outdoor shower is onerous to heat up in winter. The great big hearth is truly magnificent but you have to haul in the wood for it, usually driftwood from the beach. The reality settles in and yet the MacDonalds still find much to love about the island.

Betty does such a great job with the humor. She gently pokes fun at everyone and is a little more jabby when focusing the eye on herself. She praises her daughters abilities while also realistically portraying their teen-aged arguments and volatile mood swings. There are plenty of characters that appear through the several years this book covers. Some are helpful handymen, some good cooks, some terrible at child rearing, some are drunk and merry.

Onions in the Stew does a good job of showing the hardships or inconveniences (depending on your point of view) of island living. Betty doesn’t paint the entire experience as a ‘wonderful’ way of life. Nope. Using humor she gives us a slice of reality. That is the root of why I enjoy her books so much. While The Plague and I is still my favorite book by her, this one was quite good as well.

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

The Narration: Heather Henderson is great as the voice of Betty MacDonald. She also did a great job with the voices of Joan and Anne even as they age throughout the book. I also enjoyed her male voices, including Don’s. Her Japanese accent was also good.

What I Liked: Plenty of humor; island living in all it’s glory and inconveniences; the clamming stories; other islanders are characters; the girls growing up on the island; the peach-picking summer; everyone makes it through the teen years.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great, fun read.

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

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

Synopsis of Onions in the Stew:

The bestselling author of the American humor classic The Egg and I continues the adventure with this collection of tales about life on the fringe of the Western wilderness. Writing in the 1950s, Betty MacDonald, sophisticated and urbane, captivated readers with her observations about raising a family on an island in Puget Sound. As usual, humorist MacDonald is her own favorite target. She manages to get herself into scrapes with washing machines set adrift in rowboats, used cars, and a $25 Turkey Squasher. And then there’s the scariest aspect of island life — teenaged children.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #1

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #2

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #3

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe

Check out the tour page for more reviews, interviews, and more. 

Narrator: Moira Quirk

Publisher: Jennifer R Kincheloe LTD (2016)

Length: 12 hours 44 minutes

Series: Book 1 Anna Blanc

Author’s Page

Set in 1907 Los Angeles, Anna Blanc is at the top of the social ladder. She has pretty French clothes, a handsome fiance, in vogue friends, and fancy makeup. Yet she longs for more. She secretly reads detective novels and desperately wants to have at least one murder mystery adventure before her life is sealed with a wedding. She comes up with a scheme to become an assistant police matron at the Los Angeles police department, assuming an alias (Anna Holmes) and a rough spun ugly uniform that doesn’t quite hide her lovely form. Pretty soon, Anna learns that this is more than just a fancy whim of hers; real people need her help and are affected by what she does or doesn’t do. However, if she’s discovered by either her father or her fiance, she stands to lose quite a bit. She has to choose between being an obedient daughter and fiance or catching a killer who is murdering prostitutes.

This was such a delightful book! I really enjoyed it. I thought it would be a bit intense, it being a murder mystery and historical fiction. The book does have those qualities, but the author took things a step further and threw in plenty of well-timed humor. First, Anna’s character is a strange yet compelling mix of innocence, curiosity, determination, and sleuthing ability. She’s had a mostly sheltered life so the salty atmosphere of the mostly male police force and the even saltier streets continuously fascinate her. She’s quick to learn, except when it comes to deciphering the reasons for the scowls she gets from certain coworkers.

There’s plenty of sexual innuendos throughout the story. Anna, being nearly completely innocent, misses the full meaning of most of them. Occasionally, another character will take a bit of pity on her and explain things. I also loved the hit and miss budding romance between her and fellow police officer Joe Singer. She first meets him when he’s dressed as a woman and very obviously drunk. Meanwhile, she has to be all proper when passing time with her fiance, Edgar. She wants him to be a little naughty and steal a kiss or two, but he’s all about being proper even when no one’s looking. I especially loved the arrow collar man advertisements and the interesting bit about how hysterical women are clinically treated. Funny and also a little window into the past.

As for the murder mystery, that had me guessing right up to the end. I felt like I had good company though as Anna was guessing up to the end as well. There was also a side mystery concerning a serial rapist that Anna helps close. These mysteries provide a backdrop to show how men and women were treated quite differently in the early 1900s, no matter their social status or skills. For instance, I didn’t realize that women could be arrested for smoking in public at that time. The humor keeps this from being a brow beating on social justice for women.

I’m definitely looking forward to Book 2. By the end of this book, Anna’s life has quite changed from where she started out. She’s a determined young lady but also still a bit prim, a bit focused on expensive girly things, and a bit innocent on how the majority of people live. I’m sure finding out how she handles a bit more first-hand knowledge will make a good story.

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

The Narration: Moira Quirk did an excellent job with this book. She was perfect for Anna. I loved how she handled the humor and the innuendos. I would love to hear her blooper reel on this one! I also thought she did a great job with the regional accents, giving a stiff upper lip to the socialites and a more salty accent to masses.

What I Liked: The setting; educational and funny!; great narration; Anna is such a fun character; the budding romance; I didn’t guess the killer until Anna did; great ending setting Anna up for some interesting life lessons in Book 2.

What I Disliked: Nothing – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

About the Author Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse’s aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She’s currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, THE WOMAN IN THE CAMPHOR TRUNK, is coming out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Pinterest

About the Narrator Moira Quirk

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She’s won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible’s prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

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Book Blurb for The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

It’s 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc is the kind of young woman who devours purloined crime novels, but must disguise them behind covers of more domestically-appropriate reading. She could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era’s rigid social roles, Anna buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. If the police find out, she’ll get fired; if her father finds out, he’ll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he’ll cancel the wedding. Midway into her investigation, the police chief’s son, Joe Singer, learns her true identity, and shortly thereafter she learns about blackmail. Anna must choose – either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

Audible ~ Amazon

Dead Like Me by Kelly Miller

Narrator: Angel Clark

Publisher: Kelly Miller (2017)

Length: 7 hours 34 minutes

Series: Book 1 A Detective Kate Springer Mystery

Author’s Page

Set in Tampa, Florida, Homicide Detective Kate Springer has just returned to the job. She and her partner catch the next murder case, a teen-aged girl, Kimberly Callahan, who shares an unexpected connection with Kate. As they dig into the murder, several suspects catch their eye. However, Kate is distracted by one in particular and that distraction may be her downfall.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. It was mostly Kate Springer who held my interest. I believe she will be a great main character for the series. She’s got this dark past that haunts her a bit even though she is well into her 30s. Throughout the book, she’s seeing the department psychologist off and on and that’s where we learn the most about her past. I also like that Kate knows she has certain behaviors for deflecting people which keep her from having close friendships and meaningful romances.

This book does deal with child sexual abuse. While none of it is revealed in detail, the author does a good job of focusing on how that abuse affects not only the child but the adult that child turns into. The story also brings non-sexual abuse and just plain neglect into the story as well.

Some aspects of the book were a bit formulaic. For instance, the killer was easy to identify. In fact, from the moment they strolled onto the page, I was pretty sure. Also, I didn’t ever really worry about whether or not Kate would live through this investigation, since we all know this is Book 1 in a series.

I really liked Kate’s work partner, fellow Detective Patrick Jessup. The two have a good rapport going with their jokes and random fact bets. I also liked the crime scene tech and her knowledge of etymology; for instance, she knows where the phrase ‘humble pie’ comes from.

There were a handful of things that felt a little rushed or slanted in a certain way for convenience. When Kate is doing her sessions with the psychologist, she’s asked to discuss her triggers and Kate doesn’t know what that means. Yet I was pretty sure that Kate had spent some time working with a psychologist or two in the past and also reading up on her own, so I don’t know why she wouldn’t know this basic term. I felt that was put there to give the psychologist the chance to explain it to the reader, not to Kate. Also, there is a fat, bullying cop who Kate is always trading insults with, though Kate’s insults are nearly always about his weight (which I felt was immature). My biggest complaint is that Kate’s past and her connections to the case remain unknown to the homicide department at the end of the story. I didn’t think this was realistic at all.

With that said, this book still gripped my attention. I really wanted to see how things would unfold, even though I had already guessed the killer. Kate is a fascinating character in many ways. She has issues but her focus on her work keeps her centered. The trusting relationship between her and Patrick, who is a happily married man with kids, leads me to wonder if things might get complicated for Kate in the future. Kate is slow to discover who the killer is, or rather, accept what her subconscious is already pretty sure about. I felt this was realistic and I enjoyed the cat and mouse game as Kate finds evidence to support the case. I look forward to Book 2 and seeing where Kate goes from here now that she can lay part of her past to rest.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Angel Clark was a great Kate Springer. I really liked her voice for Kate, especially the more emotional scenes. Clark also went the extra mile and included special effects to mimic speaker phone, PA system, and cell phone calls. Sometimes I did find a few of her voices for minor characters to be a little cartoony, but that is my only little complaint. 

What I Liked: A tough case involving a teen; Kate’s difficult past; her rapport with Patrick; the random facts stuck into the story; the cat and mouse wind up to catching the killer; how the killer is finally brought to justice.

What I Disliked: Sometimes Kate’s insults are a bit immature; it’s unlikely that her past would remain a secret from the department after this case; sometimes the narration was a little cartoony.

What Others Think:

Illiterarty

Book Giveaway & Interview: Josh Gagnier, Author of The Demon Within

Everyone, please welcome Josh Gagnier to the blog today! If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom.

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

The Big Bang Theory!

As far as what I would do…The show How I Met Your Mother has a background scene that goes through a couple meeting, to having a child graduate college, to one of them dying. I think it was to hyperbolize how long the group was making Canada jokes over the years.

Having a scene like that behind a Sheldon Cooper monologue would be funny.

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?

Absolutely.

One word answers are great, aren’t they 🙂

Seriously though, modern fantasy fiction is a multicultural, multiplatform community. When I was younger, “fantasy nerds/geeks” weren’t often popular and were perhaps a little outcast. Now cos-playing is an amazing adventure in which the people who don’t dress up are the new “outcasts”.

I think a major driving force with this shift would be those people are now game developers. The ones who played D&D and other d20 games on pencil/paper hours at a time are now creating video game versions of those same games.

Somewhere along the line, “nerd/geek” became a badge of honor. I think modern fiction and those writing it helped bring this change.

Many who are now driving forces in our entertainment were D&D players at one time (and/or currently) – Ranging from Vin Diesel and Dwayne the Rock Johnson to Kevin Smith and Felicia Day. Even as far to NBA’s Tim Duncan.

Fantasy fiction pulls on our imagination, and imagination has no limits.

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?

My answer is a little unfair as my favorite book series actually started as a D&D module – Dragonlance.

One of my favorite RPG video games is Wizardry 8. It has a 6 person party. I’ve played through several times with portions of the Dragonlance party as my in-game group.

I’m actually running a single character game with Fistandantalis – the most powerful wizard to have lived in the Dragonlance series. I used a game editor (Cosmic Forge) to make weapons from the books too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

My favorite villains would be one of two categories:
Those that redeem themselves before death – Darth Vader, Raistlin

Then there’s “villains” that aren’t really villains:
Jimbo from Summer of the Monkeys. To Jay, the 14-year-old protagonist, Jimbo is a formidable foe; from outsmarting his traps, to getting him drunk on whiskey. In the end, they were able to parley so to speak.

The Phantom Toll Booth – it’s a while since I’ve read it, but I remember two kings (one of words and one of numbers) who could not get along “because it was impossible” and they couldn’t agree on anything. Milo was able to “unite the clans” because:

“So each one of you agrees to disagree with whatever the other one agrees with, but if you both disagree with the same thing, aren’t you really in agreement?”

I actually used some of this type of perspective in my storyline. Sometimes what we see as good or evil isn’t as they appear; and more often than not things are a shade of grey rather than black or white.

Do you have any superstitions?

My superstitions are paradoxical in that they don’t exist if I believe in them and they do exist if I don’t believe in them.

For example – I won’t study within three days of an exam because I don’t want to unlearn the material. That’s nonsense, but I’ve psyched myself out on tests based on the “final reviews” that were within three days of the exam. I don’t suffer from test anxiety except for when I’ve studied within three days of the exam. Not to mention, if I don’t know it by then, it won’t stick with me anyway.

In writing your antagonists, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

The antagonist, Altha Galen, is more of a rumor and whisper for the majority of the book. The story leans toward boosting her reputation until the final battle when many perceptions are made clear while others are shattered.

The names of every character were chosen based on their meaning.

For example: Altha means “healer”; Galen means “tranquil” in Greek; it means “mad” in Swedish.

All parts of the character are held within their names.

A character we meet in chapter 1 is named Belath, named from Demonology Beleth (replaced the second ‘e’ with an ‘a’ or Alpha, aka ‘the beginning’). Beleth gives all the love of men and women. When appearing he looks very fierce to frighten the conjurer or to see if he is courageous. (The “alpha” makes sense after understanding the character’s purpose with the protagonist).

That said, I would recommend readers make absolutely no assumptions of protagonist vs antagonist. Remember, while we are the protagonist of our own story, we may be the antagonist in somebody else’s.

“The difference between religion and mythology is the audiences perspective.” Perspective, even an objective one, is still subjective.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Not to be cliché but Shakespeare would definitely be one of them. I mean, he invented nearly 2000 words. Imagine writing and thinking “what word am I looking for here?” not finding one, then inventing one to suit your purpose.

Dale Carnegie – I would love to be able to drink from the tap of all that experience and research into how to influence people and public speaking.

Sun Tzu – I have friends who own their own companies that have said The Art of War helped them with business strategy. I finally bought it and have added it to the list.

Einstein because, considering his accolades, he preferred imagination over knowledge.

Ernest Vincent Wright gets an invite because he wrote Gadsby without a single ‘e’. I wrote a poem without the letter e and struggled every step of the way.

We’d be required to eat before arriving. It would be a night of imbibing, most likely Leadslingers Whiskey and Rum. Imagine the stories that could come from a night like that! (of course assuming the language barriers weren’t present).

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

Batman VS Iron Man

Who would win? Most I’ve talked to say “Bruce vs Tony” Bruce would win because he has extensive martial arts training but “Batman vs Iron Man” Iron man would win because he outguns Batman.

Then again, Batman was able to defeat Superman through planning and tactics – so Iron Man shouldn’t be a problem, right?

My argument is Tony Stark also trains martial arts and with the creation of the Bleeding Edge suit, he is never without one. Bleeding Edge is a suit made of nano-machines which are stored in his own body. Not only that, the suit connects to Tony on a neurological level – it’s no longer a suit, but an extension of his own body.

While they are both billionaires catalyzed into herodom – and it could be argued they are the same character with different window dressings – Iron Man would win vs Batman.
Unless it’s Batman from the series in which he has the Green Lantern ring. Giving Bruce Wayne a power based on intelligence, willpower, and imagination is a cheat code.
(Let the internet hate begin! J )

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Summer of the Monkeys, The Secret Garden, and Dragonlance Chronicles are the first books I read around 10 or 11 years old.

My copies of Summer of the Monkeys and The Secret Garden had very specific smells to them. So much so, that when I get other books with similar smells, I am reminded of those two stories. They are a major reason I understand why a lot of readers prefer hard-copy over digital copies.

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Synopsis of The Demon Within:

Joe grew up listening to the voice in his head. It helped him through school, helped him gain wealth in his career.

The final temptation of power was too much. He hadn’t considered the cost.

Now he must find a way to defeat The Demon Within.

Little does he know, his every move is being recorded. Every misstep is being judged by a Great Council. As he gets ever closer to winning over his demon, heavenly eyes watch from above. Some root for his success while others hope he’ll fail.

While Joe fights his demon on the battlefront, the angel Michael fights for his Soul in the court of the Great Council.

Will Joe win out?

Will Michael be able to save Joe’s soul?

 

Buy the Book:  Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win a signed copy of The Demon Within (US only) or an ebook version (international). There will be 2 of each, making 4 winners! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Ebook or paperbook? What country do you live in? 2) What now dead author would you like to dine with? Giveaway ends April 8th, midnight, 2017.

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