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

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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.”

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website

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.

Connect with the author: Amazon ~ TwitterFacebook ~ GoodReads

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.

Connect with the author: Amazon ~ TwitterFacebook ~ GoodReads

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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The River by Bill Stokes

StokesTheRiverNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 19 minutes

Author’s Page

 

This is a tale of young man’s first deer hunt. The author starts us off with a personal note of how deer hunting has been a part of his life even if he no longer directly participates.

Set in Wisconsin in 1947, a teen boy on the cusp of manhood is invited on his first deer hunt. On the first night of the hunt, there’s stories and manly cooking at the hunting cabin as Uncle Duffy and his friends deal out the cards. Our hero soaks it all up. He desperately wants to be considered one of them. He feels a driving need to prove himself on this week-long deer hunt and he fears he won’t measure up.

First, I was a bit surprised that he was allowed to wander the woods alone on his first hunt as we typically make sure to go by twos on any kind of hike that is over an hour long. It’s a little unclear if the area was well known to our young hunter or not. Anyway, he navigates his way back to the cabin day after day.

There’s a rising urgency as the hunt progresses. The men shares stories of hunts past. I liked how the story built up and up. I could really feel the young man’s need to prove himself worthy. When finally the moment comes, there’s a big snag in his triumph, followed by a triumph of another kind. I was surprised by how things ended but was also well satisfied with it. Years later when this kid is a seasoned hunter, he will look back on this incident with wry humor.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Johnny Mack continues to do justice to this author’s short stories. He does a good job of sounding like a young man and also of sounding like an older Uncle Duffy.

What I Liked: The snowy river setting; the excitement of deer hunting; youth wanting to prove itself worthy; how nature has a tendency to show us just how small we are.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a fun hunting story.

RazorWire by Troy Hallewell

HallewellRazorWireAfterCivilizationNarrator: Troy Hallewell

Publisher: Asgard Publishing (2016)

Length: 7 hours 28 minutes

Series: Book 1 After Civilization

Author’s Page

 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Rock is an indie wanderer, traveling from place to place trading news and whatever he might have come by in between. He meets Caroline and her powerful father and is given a mission to escort her to the Wall. There her mission will begin as she attempts to find and bring back the last unscathed and powerful remnants of humanity. A tide of warriors is sweeping the land. They don’t trade, they don’t take tribute and submission. Instead, they seem bent on wiping the land clean of inhabitants and Caroline won’t let that happen without a last desperate attempt to push them back. Rock will have to figure out where his loyalties lie.

Basically, this was a Western given a little post-apocalyptic flare. It followed a pretty standard, and, at times, cliched, script. The beginning held a lot of promise and I was rather excited to venture into another destroyed future that was mostly desert and full of folks who have their own agendas. Once they started circling the wagons and shooting at warriors on horseback, I had to roll my eyes a little. This is a Western, which can be fun if a bit tired and worn.

On the plus side, Rock is an interesting character if a bit standard. I always have a thing for those strong silent types that are good in a fight but bad in relationships. Still, I was rooting for him the whole way. Caroline was your standard plucky female wild west woman. She’s beautiful and knows how to shoot but is a bit brash and wants to rebel. Still, she’s dead set on saving her people, if she can, even if it kills her. There were very few women in this story, which might explain why the world hasn’t managed to repopulate itself yet. There’s Caroline (who has plenty of lines), a mysterious female leader of the warrior tribe that is sweeping the land (who has perhaps 3 lines), a little baby girl that gets to be cute and cuddly for a scene or two, and then Rock’s remembrances of his own mother (who has 3 or 4 lines as well). This story could definitely improve with some gender balancing.

I also feel the need to comment on how the invading hoard all seem to be brown skinned, instead of a greater mix of ethnicities as I had been expecting with humanity surviving an apocalyptic event. Perhaps they are akin to a Mongolian tribe or perhaps akin to a Native American tribe. Since we haven’t met any of them individually, other than that brief encounter with one of their female leaders, we don’t know much about them. Still, their feathers, beaded clothing, horse skills, and archery all add to the Western story tone of the book.

Now I am very curious what lies beyond the Wall and why everyone thinks their saviors may be hidden in that direction. After all, no one has survived their journey over the Wall and returned to tell about it. In fact, bones of those who died shortly after traversing the Wall can be seen from it. I think Caroline definitely has her hands full in attempting this quest.

Over all, if you enjoy your standard fare Western and want a little more sprinkled in, then this is a good book for you. For me, it was so-so. It started off promising but the middle was very predictable. The ending has promise for the series with the Wall and beyond.

I received a free copy of this book through Audiobook Jukebox.

Narration: The author performed his own narration of this book. It was mediocre. First, the production quality wasn’t all good but it wasn’t all bad either. The volume goes up and down but never so loud as to blow out your ears. Also, sometimes it sounds a bit tinny and sometimes it’s good and clear. Hallewell does do a good job of keeping each character distinct. However, most of his voices appear to be based off old Western serials, which adds to the whole cliched Western flavor of this book. His female voice for Caroline is OK.

What I Liked: The cover art for the book; the beginning held promise; desert setting; Rock is an interesting character; Caroline’s quest; the Wall and what lies beyond hold promise for the series.

What I Disliked: It’s a cliched Western with a post-apocalyptic veneer; the invading hoard appears typecast; very few women and only one that has a real role; the narration was mediocre at best.

 

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Speakeasy Dead by Vicky Loebel

LoebelSpeakeasyDeadScroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrators: Emily Beresford & Nick Podehl

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press (2013)

Length: 12 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Demonic Intervention

Author’s Page

Note: This book and it’s loosely tied-in sequel, Keys to the Coven, can each work just fine as stand alones.

Set in Falstaff, Arizona in the 1920s during Prohibition, the Woodsens run a speakeasy bar and also sell some of their surplus alcohol to others. Now a Chicago-based mob is trying to move in and run the alcohol trade. They will be surprised at how little pushing it takes to upset a witch. Meanwhile, the youngest of the Woodsen cousins, teen Clara, is desperate to save her beloved movie star Beau Beauregard. She’s willing to break some rules in the name of true love (or her first crush). Her older cousin, Bernard (Bernie) Benjamin, is just the guy to help her out, even if he has to be lured to the basement and tied to the center of a pentagram. Demons and zombies have never had so much fun as they will during the dance competition!

Once again, Vicky Loebel has given me something original and very funny. There’s a bit of sexy (though it’s pretty PG-13 for this book) as well. Clara is a driven character who’s young enough to not know to look at the bigger picture when it comes to love, yet old enough to have just enough responsibility and autonomy to get into big trouble. She’s dead set on saving her ‘beloved’ Beau even if he has no idea she exists (and that’s because they’ve never met). She’s even willing to become a warlock by summoning a demon and striking a bargain with it. Hans is the handsome demon that appears and somehow he talks things around so that his demon familiar, Ruth, will enter a dance contest. The pit just gets deeper from there on out.

With the Chicago mob, Bernie and his personal schemes, Gladys the Golem, Beau’s resentment over the whole mess, zombies, stolen booze, and an older Woodsen sibling arriving soonish, Clara really does have her hands full. It was so funny! There’s plenty of clever lines and each person really has their own agenda in mind. Clara wants love from Beau, and to not get caught. Bernie doesn’t want to die a horrible death (which is surely what will happen when Clara’s older witch sisters find out about this whole mess). The mob want their booze, the money, and control (and they seem constantly surprised when that doesn’t happen easily). Beau is quite angry with his situation and Clara is totally surprised by what he truly wants. Gladys just wants to get back to housekeeping.

I really enjoyed the various magical elements. There’s the demon Hans and his familiar Ruth which have their intricate little dos and don’ts. Then Gladys who is a Golem and rather protective of young Bernie. One of Clara’s best friends is a ghost whisperer and she has a ghost familiar (Gaspar, complete with Spanish accent). Loebel manages to pull each one into the storyline seamlessly. Moreover, she gives each one rules to work with and she keeps them within those rules. With a comedy, it would be easy to have these various magical folk breaking rules, so I appreciated that once the author laid down a law of this is how this type of magic works, she kept her characters in line.

I did quite enjoy all the flirty, sexy behavior that popped up here and there. Demons love to trade on sex because it builds up their karma, which is basically spiritual coinage. Clara knows all this from her older witch sisters and her book on demons. Yet when the offers are made to her, she’s tempted. Bernie isn’t as naive but he’s not as well-schooled as he likes to pretend either. Ruth, being a large hunting cat most of the time, has a sexy confidence all the time, even when she’s totally mangling her dance partner’s foot during practice. There’s plenty of wit and humor with the sexy bits, making them just as fun as the rest of the book.

Having listened to both audiobook set in this urban fantasy world, I really hope Loebel gives us more. The humor is a bit unique and I love the mix of serious situations, magic, and laughter. Not everyone makes it out of this story unscathed. In many ways, Clara comes of age in this tale. Loved it and looking forward to more of it!

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Emily Beresford and Nick Podehl once again did a great job on this book. Even though they voiced totally different characters for Keys to the Coven, I read them far enough apart that I didn’t have character echos in my head, as can sometimes happen when you listen to books set in the same universe that have different characters yet the same narrators. These two are great with all the emotions and also delivering straight lines so the humor is left hanging there for the reader/listener to catch even as the story moves onward.

What I Liked: Arizona!; the Prohibition era; silly mobsters being all tough and hard to take a hint; Clara’s first real crush; Beau’s reaction to that crush; Bernie’s role in all this mess; Gladys is probably the most dangerous one in the mix but knows when to hold back; Ruth is a sexy beast; Gaspar and his Zorro sword; how it all ends with a Charleston.

What I Disliked: Nothing – so darn funny!

GIVEAWAY!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Speakeasy Dead! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) What attracts you most to this book? Zombies? Prohibition? Demons? Dance Contests? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends April 4th, midnight, 2017.

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