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.

Giveaway & Interview: Marc Johnson, Author of The Passage of Hellsfire Series

JohnsonCatalystFolks, please welcome Marc Johnson, author of The Passage of Hellsfire series, to the blog today. We chat about young kid Marc, Leonardo’s Flying Maching, actress Laura Harris, and plenty more. Also, thanks to Marc, we have two GIVEAWAYS below – print books (for US shipping) and ebooks (for International)! Don’t miss those at the bottom of the post.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

I don’t believe that reality is that important in fiction. Every day and every second, people experience reality and its mundane trappings and extreme boredom. Fiction is a nice escape from it. That said, I do sprinkle in realty in my own work. Adds a sense of realism to it and keeps it grounded. It’s also something that people can relate to if they can’t relate to the magic, adventure, and life or death situations.

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

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and they’ve not been particularly difficult. I choose not to have to have difficult jobs, which for me would be mentally challenging jobs not physically challenging ones. That way, while I’m working I can think about my writing or any other thing I’m interested in that challenges me. If I wrote for my day job or actually had a challenging job, it’d probably make my writing suffer.

JohnsonWhatOnceWasOneWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Can’t say that there is. There’s plenty of books I’ve not read yet that I wish I had. Slowly making my way through some of those. Just wish they were cheaper on my Kindle.

If you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

If I could own something, it would be Leonardo DaVinci’s Flying Machine. I’ve always wanted to fly and it just looks cool. Plus, it would remind me of my favorite Voyager episode.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

When it comes to movies, I would say reboots in the 80s were fantastic. If we’re talking about words on a page, I would say today I don’t much care for them. It’s not because they don’t have interesting ideas, but more because everyone tries to make the retelling “dark” and “edgy,” not to mention violent and graphic.

That said, I did enjoy Wicked. But those stories that retell or reboot the classics without making them dark, edgy, gritty, or sexualizing them are rare. Not that I’m a prude, but doing that doesn’t add to the story and makes it lose focus of what the story was about.

JohnsonReawakeningIf everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Warning: An extreme case of pride.

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

As a kid, I was a pain in the ass. I had quite the mouth on me and an extremely sharp mind. Those parts of me haven’t changed. I was also very hopeful for the world and for people. That part’s long gone.

In any case, I did envision myself being a writer, among other things. I have a lot of stories I want to get out and plan on everything from books to short stories to film to comics to television. I want to do it all!

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

I once met Laura Harris as I was getting meat from my local butcher. She was my butcher, in fact, and I told her that she once looked like the actress from 24, Dead Like Me, and The Faculty. She told me she was! Never expected to meet an actor as I was buying meat. She was pretty low key and cool, and far more attractive in person.

Sadly, no one has ever gushed over my work to me. That’s all right. It would be extremely awkward if it ever did happened.

JohnsonCatalystCatalyst book blurb:

For centuries, the kingdom of Alexandria has protected Northern Shala from the monstrous creatures lurking in the Wastelands. Now, a dark force threatens that fragile peace.

Far from home, Alexandria’s princess is abducted. When a young villager named Hellsfire stumbles upon her and her captors, he rushes in to rescue her, alone and unarmed. His fear and fury unleash an uncontrollable magical force that grants him the power to save the princess—and change the world.

Hellsfire has never craved nor dreamed of power. But such magic as he now possesses has not been seen in Northern Shala for a thousand years, since the devastation of the War of the Wizards and the creation of the Wastelands.

Now Hellsfire must leave all he’s ever known, and make a dangerous journey to learn to master this wild, ferocious power—power he knows he is not ready to wield. More difficult still, he needs to master his emotions. If he can’t, the power will consume him, Alexandria will fall, and darkness will eclipse the land, destroying everyone he loves.

In the dead of cold, the spark shall burn…

JohnsonWhatOnceWasOneWhat Once Was One book blurb: 

Lead by the dark wizard, Premier, the kingdom of Alexandria was almost overrun by the foul creatures from the Wastelands. With the help of his friends and neighboring kingdoms, Hellsfire was able to defeat him, but only at the cost of his mentor.

Hellsfire is now a wizard, but he must finish what he started by hunting down Premier and retrieving the Book of Shazul. He must venture deep into the Wastelands, bypassing his way through thousands of creatures bent on killing him.

Beating in the heart of the Wastelands, is something far more dangerous than Premier or his beasts waiting for Hellsfire. It will force Hellsfire to make a devastating choice—a choice that will have repercussions not only for the Wastelands and Northern Shala, but for the entire land and the one he loves the most.

What once was one, will then be two, and never again be as whole…

JohnsonReawakeningReawakening book blurb:

To undo a mistake made a thousand years in the past, the wizard Hellsfire used his magic to bring down the Great Barrier that once divided the northern and southern lands. In doing so, he nearly brought war to his own homeland, and he afflicted the love of his life, Princess Krystal of Alexandria, with a potent and deadly curse.

Since then, Hellsfire has been working in Tyree with its Elemental Council, to rebuild its war-torn land and find a way to break Krystal’s curse. Now Krystal’s time is running out. As the princess fights for her life, Hellsfire learns that the wizard responsible for the curse—his old enemy Premier—is heading to the Burning Sands to steal the mysterious Jewel of Dakara.

If Hellsfire can capture Premier and learn the secret of the curse, he can save Krystal. But the Jewel of Dakara holds its own deadly secrets, and the hunt will take Hellsfire farther than he ever imagined, and cost him more than he bargained for.

The past is never gone nor buried…

Places to Find Marc Johnson






Folks, Marc has generously offered up two giveaways. 1) Open to US only consisting of both Catalyst and What Once Was One in print and Reawakening in ebook, as it’s only available as that for now. 2) Open internationally, winner will receive all 3 books in ebook format via email. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Are you USA or international? 2) What piece of art would you like to own? 3) Leave a way to contact you (email preferred). Contest ends October 27th, 2015, midnight.

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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.

What Others Think:

Open Letters Monthly


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History and Other Things

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Small Review

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Matthew Davenport, Author of the Andrew Doran Series

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranFolks, please welcome Matthew Davenport. It’s a pleasure to have him on the blog today. I really enjoyed his book The Statement of Andrew Doran several months ago and jumped at the chance to pick his brain. Today we chat about dead authors, networking, side characters, and much more! Also, we have an awesome AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY for you all. Scroll to the bottom to check that out!

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

Not in any of my works. Sidekicks all have value to some degree. I try to keep to giving anything that I introduce value. So, if you meet a new character at the beginning of a story but don’t see him for a while, just hang in there, because it’s very likely that he’ll have a pivotal role in the end of the story.

A great example of this is in my Andrew Doran novels. Andrew…collects certain people in his travels. At first they are just a means to an ends, but somewhere along the way, Andrew finds value in keeping these people along as more than just tools, they become friends and allies in his battles.

Comparatively, my horror novel The Trials of Obed Marsh does this as well. Instead of collecting people in his travels, Obed Marsh has family and friends that you might meet near the beginning of the story, but it isn’t until the story begins to climax that you realize their true role.

I’m a firm believer that every name, object, or place that an author focuses on needs to have some sort of reason that it was introduced. If you’re just going to say “Look, an apple!” and never use that apple as a plot device, it has absolutely no reason being in your book. Cut out the fluff before your editor does.

DavenportTheTrialsOfObedMarshIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

My first two novels (Random Stranger and Stranger Books) didn’t have any research…at all. But they were fictional accounts completely based on character development. The little research I did was focused on mythical creatures and their evolutions through different cultural interpretations. While that sounds heavy, it really wasn’t. A quick Google search of “All the names Santa Claus ever had” gave me most of my research.

Alternatively, The Trials of Obed Marsh and both Andrew Doran novels demanded a heavy amount of research. All three are heavily influenced by both the eras that they take place in, and the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I wanted the horror and adventure aspects within Lovecraft’s stories to resonate with the true fans, and read everything that Lovecraft wrote (again, as I was already a fan), taking very extensive notes. Once those notes were done, I looked toward the expanded works. A lot has been added to the mythos since Lovecraft died, and I wanted the relevant pieces to make it into each of those stories as well.

On top of that, the eras that these stories were placed in made a huge change to the flavor of each story, and they needed to be right. The Trials of Obed Marsh was a 19th century sailing story. I didn’t want to just guess at what sailing culture was back then, or how the boats would circumnavigate the globe, so I studied up on how it was done.

With Andrew Doran, I wanted it to be a sort of history lesson that had nothing to do with history. Each chapter of the first book takes place in a new city in Nazi-controlled Europe. I sprinkled in facts explaining the states of those countries during those years, and then I added monsters.

As for how I decide what to research, I start writing my draft notes and if I don’t know how something was done, I start searching the web for everything I can on it until I feel I could hold my own in at least a basic conversation about the subject.

It helps to read…a lot.

DavenportRandomStrangerAs a experienced author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

First: Networking. Outside of my author stuff, I run Davenport Writes, LLC. It’s a company that offers publishing resources for authors. I offer consulting, freelancers (cover artists, voice actors, editors) and book signings for the local folks. The most powerful tool in any author’s toolbox is a handshake. The more people that you can tell about your books, the more people who are going to want to help you get your books out there. What I’ve found is that everyone wants to help you, but they can’t help you until they know about you.

Second: Live. Say yes to everything. Even if it doesn’t sound entirely fun. Once you’ve had the experience, it’s a tool in your toolkit for writing. If I have a friend that wants me to do something that I find unpleasant, that little bit of life I’ll be living will be material for the next story. That adds realism and realism makes great writing.

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

H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams. Let’s start with a serious dinner and end on the lightest. I feel like we’d also end drunk, and drunk with Douglas Adams sounds more fun than drunk with Lovecraft. *shiver* A drunk Lovecraft would be a terror I don’t think many are prepared for.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I manage Davenport Writes, LLC, read, watch horror/adventure movies, and enjoy my evenings with my wife.

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

The first full novel I read, and it wasn’t really a novel like what I read today, was an old book called My First Toolbox. The book was about a kid who purchased a toolbox with his allowance in order to build…something or another…and then he found he still didn’t have enough money to make whatever it was he wanted to make. That was when he learned that he could make more money by fixing all the neighborhood kid’s stuff. I read that in first grade, and I was more excited that I had completed such a huge book (not even 60 pages, I’m sure) than about the book itself.

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 guess this would depend on the types of obstacles. I’m not inviting some lanky author to some sort of duck and jump obstacle course. On the other hand, I’m leaving the shorties behind if I’m going to have climb or jump on anything.

…I take it back. Ralph Macchio. Why not?

And yes, libations. I never say no to libations. Celebratory Templeton Rye

DavenportTheStatementOfAndrewDoranThe Statement of Andrew Doran Book Blurb:

Dr. Andrew Doran has been out of touch with the major civilizations for quite a while. When an emissary from his Alma Mater demands his assistance, Andrew is in such a state that he has no choice but to help. The Nazis have taken the Necronomicon from Miskatonic University’s library. With it they could call upon every form of darkness and use the powers of the void to destroy all who stand in their way of unlimited power. For years Doran has been at odds with Miskatonic University. Putting his negative feelings aside, Andrew takes charge and heads straight into the Nazi controlled territories of Europe. Along his journey from America and into the heart of Berlin, the dark Traum Kult, or Dream Cult, has sent beasts from the void between worlds to slow his progress. This is adventure and monsters unlike anything the anthropologist has ever experienced, and only with the assistance of the trigger-happy Leo and the beautiful Olivia, both members of the French Resistance, does Dr. Doran have any chance of success. Nazis, zombies, wizards, and beasts roam the path before Dr. Andrew Doran. A sane man would flinch. Dr. Andrew Doran charges in.

DavenportTheTrialsOfObedMarshThe Trials of Obed Marsh Book Blurb:

Innsmouth was a corrupted and fallen town, consumed by its greed and controlled by the Esoteric Order of Dagon. In 1928, the Federal Government destroyed Innsmouth and the nearby Devil Reef based on claims made by a man who had visited the town.

Four years after the mysterious disappearance of Robert Olmstead, the man who sent the FBI to Innsmouth, his closest friend has discovered new evidence into the reality of what Innsmouth truly was: He has found the Journal of Captain Obed Marsh.

The journal paints an intense scene of a vibrant town and how one man’s good intentions can pave the way to Hell itself.

Or in this case…to Y’ha-nthlei.

What can test a man so intensely as to break him from his righteous path?

Only the journal can shed light on that.

Places to Stalk Matthew Davenport






Davenport Writes, LLC


Matthew Davenport is generously offering up 5 audiobooks of The Statement of Andrew Doran and 5 audiobooks of The Trials of Obed Marsh. You’ll need an account to receive one of these books if you win. You can enter to win either book or enter to win both! To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an account? 2) Which book (or both) do you prefer to win? 3) What’s the first book you remember reading? 4) Leave a way to contact you! Giveaway ends October 26th, 2015 midnight.

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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.

What Others Think:

Open Letters Monthly

Killer Aphrodite

Night Owl SciFi

2 Book Lovers Reviews


Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Jeff Hays, Versatile Narrator

ForbesDeadLuckyOffer up the warmest welcome for Jeff Hays. I have enjoyed listening to several books he has narrated, including M. R. Forbes’s Ghosts & Magic series (which is freaking awesome!). It’s a great pleasure to have Jeff on the blog today as we chat about TV shows, challenging accents, cosplay, and much more. Interested in the US/UK AUDIOBOOK GIVEAWAY? Then scroll to the bottom of the post.

1) If you could be an extra on a period piece (Outlander, Spartacus, etc.) what would it be?

Peaky Blinders. If you’re asking what kind of extra, obviously I’d want to be one of the other gangsters.

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

Space alien. Then I’d want to look at all his gear!

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

Neal Barrett Jr. I’ve worked on two of his books, and I’d like to do the rest. He was absolutely brilliant, and I could talk to him about writing, his work in particular, and philosophical stuff because it’s pretty clear to me we share a lot of the same unpopular views.

PiccirilliThrust4) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

Neal Barrett Jr.’s Aldair series. I’ve never been so wrapped up, or surprised by the discoveries and surprises in a story. The real beauty of these mysteries is that the answers are all obvious, the clues are scattered around in plain sight, but because of Neal’s ability to really put the reader into the mind of Aldair, we feel the impact of his discoveries far more than one should expect.

5) How does modern pop culture influence your work as a voice actor?

First of all, music, TV, movies, and video games are all great sources when it comes to finding voices, melodies, sound effects and inspiration. The varieties are literally endless. Since I can remember, which is about 3 years old or so, I’ve been a parrot. I hear things, I find them entertaining or intriguing, I try to imitate them with my voice, and if I find it difficult, it becomes a challenge and I keep at it. I especially imitate things that irritate me, such as radio commercials or overly sappy acting, and then try to imitate them for fun. I learn a lot when my emotions are stirred up by a sound I’m parroting because I compare the feelings I’m having and the feelings I know that sound is trying to evoke. I then try to find out where the sound is going wrong and figure out what I can do to fix it and make it more effective.

Actors in the myriad forms of media around us inspire me particularly. Most of the actors that live in my head and get cast in this role or another also have a specific actor associated with them. But, even though I attempt to mimic that living actor as I picture them, my impersonations still aren’t completely accurate. As I develop the actor inside my head associated with a specific influential actor, tendencies begin to emerge in their performance related more to decisions I make according to the text and sounds that I tend towards out of preference rather than adherence to an impersonation, so everyone in the troupe inside my head starts out as an homage to an actor Or personality that I like, but ends up having their own identity and style.

RobertsVikingWarrior6) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to voice acting?

I consider myself fortunate when it comes to “jobs.” By that I mean, I haven’t had many, so picking out the worst one makes me feel a bit ungrateful. I would have to say working for my parents managing rental property produces the most unpleasant work memories. I did not like being responsible for the living situations of other people. Thankless work, and the worst of it came from dealing with people who had their rent paid for by the government. Lots of plumbing (uuuuuuuuuuuggggghhhhhhh), cleaning, electric work (not that unpleasant actually), painting white walls white. I listened to a lot more audio books back then…

This job does not compare with voice-acting. It was actual work. Voice-acting is play that I get paid for… Except for marketing.

ConneelyWitchForHire7) More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, and audiobook, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend?

Of course, everything is going digital. I still pop in a blu-ray now and then, or an Xbox game once in a millennium, but for the most part we’re moving away from physical media. It saves a lot of shelf space. More importantly, the price of media is plummeting. This will allow those who really love and obsess over particular stories or fictional worlds to dive deeper into them, and experience them in several ways. In the future, I see particularly successful fictional worlds developing entire production studios that produce content solely for those worlds. Due to this digital age, artists, including myself, are becoming more and more versatile, able to work effectively and use principles they’ve learned from their preferred medium and apply them to others, communicate more easily with other artists in different mediums, and work in more tightly knit teams in order to make these worlds that much more real. Not only will audiences be better able to choose their favorite medium through which to experience these popular fictional worlds, but these mediums are constantly blending, and new mediums that we’ve never even conceived outside of sci-fi speculation will begin to emerge. Video games are a prime example of this principle. They require skills from every other medium that came before: modeling, writing, video, sound-efffects, music, acting, etc.

8) Have you ever done a cosplay of a character from an audiobook you narrated?

As a matter of fact I have ;)

9) If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Will Answer Difficult Questions Honestly

MenapaceHairOfTheBitch10) If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Deborah Morgan (Dexter), Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, haven’t read the books, sorry), Sean Connery (Celebrity Jeopardy on SNL), The Joker (The Mark Hamil one), Genie (Aladdin). Now that’s a fuckin party.

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

Not sure what’s the most geeky, but the most recent one in memory was which iteration of Star Trek is the best. I argued for Next Generation. Picard is the man.

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

I literally just finished “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain. The most difficult audio book I’ve ever produced, but I love how it came out and I’m really excited for people to listen. Also, I begin production on M.R. Forbes’s “Tears of Blood Series” at the beginning of October. This is his interesting take on high-fantasy, and it really doesn’t get the attention it deserves. By popular demand, I will be narrating in an Irish accent, which is my FAVORITE accent, and I will be using many different UK accents for the very large number of characters throughout the series. This will really leave me open to criticism from discerning listeners and other narrators, so I look forward to the challenge.

Places to Stalk Jeff Hays




Jeff is generously offering up 10 audiobooks from his Audible catalog, US or UK, which means 10 winners! You can enter the giveaway by doing the Rafflecopter thing below or answering the following in the comments: 1) What fictional characters would you like to have a drink with? 2) Leave a way for me to contact you (email preferred). Giveaway ends October 25th, 2015  midnight.

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The Martian by Andy Weir

Claudie snoring

Claudie snoring

Where I Got It: Audiobook Swap Club

Narrator: R. C. Bray

Publisher: Podium Publishing (2013)

Length: 10 hours 53 minutes

Author’s Page


Set in a hopefully not too distant future, humans are sending manned missions to Mars. This is the story of one man, Mark Watney, who got to spend more time than he expected on the desolate, deadly planet. Alone.

Watney was part of a team that landed on Mars and erected a habitat. Unfortunately, Mars kicked up a sandstorm that threatened their ability to leave in the future, so the captain ordered an emergency abort to the mission. As they made their way from the habitat through the sandstorm to the escape vessel, equipment came lose, slamming into Watney and sweeping him off into the sandstorm. His vital readings went dead and his crew was forced to abandon his body. Later, safely aboard their orbiting ship, they wept. Watney woke up and took stock of things. And the odds were definitely not in his favor. But through determination, an inability to give up hope, and, dare I say it, boredom, Watney comes up with a plan that may or may not get him off Mars…..eventually.

This has been one of the best hard science fiction novels I have had the pleasure to read in some years. Watney is both a mechanical engineer and a botanist. He’s the guy who fixes stuff when it breaks and also does the plant experiments. He also swears a lot. Right off, I wanted to be his best friend. Watney was easy to connect with and immediately I was sucked into his story and I wanted him to beat all the odds and safely make it home to Earth.

Mars itself was like a character. We got to know her whims and moods, her terrain and climate. She had a myriad of ways she attempted to snuff the puny human known as Mark Watney off the face of the planet. Indeed, there were times Watney outright cursed Mars. I really love it when the setting becomes so integral to the story, shaping the plot. That’s exactly how it went with this tale.

Of course, it’s not just Mars gunning for Watney. Nope. There are a fair share of attempts by that pesky thing called Human Error. It was bound to happen, both on Mars by Watney and back home on Earth by NASA as they attempt to rescue Watney. Honestly, there were so many reasons why Watney would not survive this book, I truly did not know until the very end whether he would or not.

So not only do we have Watney’s tale, but we also have his crew on their ship (which is returning to Earth) and the folks back home at NASA. While this story is primarily Watney’s tale, he’s not alone and we get to see how all these people pull together to attempt to save him, a lone man on a foreign planet. Watching how this giant team of folks struggled to assist Watney was great. There’s a little bit of politicking, but mostly just people starting off with ‘It’s not possible!’ and going to ‘We’ll damn well find a way!’.

While Watney’s struggle is a persistent background throughout, there is also humor. Watney has it and definitely needs it in order to survive the ordeal. Much of the story is told through his daily log entries and often it is just us readers who get to hear Watney’s jokes. The humor lightened the mood but also made the death traps much more serious.

I’ve read that other people found the technical bits a little daunting. This is hard science fiction and the story is told by scientists all around. So, yes, there are plenty of measurements and technical babble here and there as Watney tries to figure out how to survive on Mars. As a biologist, this aspect of the story really gave it weight, letting me know that the author took his own work seriously. I truly liked it as this showed how important science was to the story.

When I finished this book, I literally hugged it.

Narration:  R. C. Bray is a very talented man. He had this perfect voice for Watney, no matter his mood or circumstance. There were a few foreign accents as well (German, Chinese, Indian) and he did all of these smoothly. His female character voices were quite believable. Watney, and others, go through several different emotions throughout this story and Bray did a great job of getting those emotions across to the listener.

What I Liked:  Hard science fiction; Watney in all his moods; a survival story; Mars is integral to the plot and basically a character in and of itself; all the folks doing their best to save Watney; excellent narration; I wanted Watney to make it against all odds but truly didn’t know how the story would end.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a most excellent novel!

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