Posts Tagged With: 2016

A Knight to Remember – audiobook review

 

Dragons and damsels, turrets and turkey legs, colorful banners and noble knights. Holly’s life is not the fantasy adventure story she curls up with most nights at home. She’s a Boston librarian who loves her job, enjoys hanging out with her brother on his coven’s meditation nights, and on occasion ventures out to medieval fairs with her best friend, Carly. Life is pretty peachy, with the exception of her extremely toxic girlfriend of four years, Nicole. A single-minded businesswoman who schedules sex and treats Holly like a turd stuck to her shoe, there isn’t much in the way of redeemable qualities in Nicole. In fact, she’s a stain that just won’t come out, though Holly clings to the ghost of what their relationship once was. Part of her wants to gut it out with Nicole because she’s already lost enough in her life.

It takes a dark and stormy night for Holly’s life to spin on its axis. Out in the night, under cloak of darkness, two figures emerge from the thunder claps and lightning. A knight and an enormous beast battle in her backyard. In an instance, the raucous is over and Holly is left with the imposing form of the now wounded knight, Virago. As their adventure to find and slay the beast unfolds, the two women grow closer. No matter the outcome, however, they must answer the question: can people from two different worlds (literally, there’s a magic portal and everything!) establish a lasting relationship? There is a moment in the book in which Virago pitches woo that puts Heath Ledger’s Patrick Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You to shame! Is that a sword strapped to your back or are you happy to see me? 

A Knight to Remember is a fun, well-paced fantasy/adventure romance. There were times when I wondered at how Virago could put up with playing the waiting game when a monster lurked in the shadows, such as allowing herself to spend a day at the library when Holly has to work. It was still fun to see the characters interact in various places in Boston. Author Bridget Essex leaves plenty of room to expand on character relationships and all of those what nexts in Date Knight, the second installment of her “Knight Legends” series (which was just released on audio in January 2017!). Cheers!

Narrator Rose Clearwater delivers an engrossing and entertaining performance as she guides listeners through a world both ordinary and extraordinary. Her turn as the confident fish out-of-water Virago exploring an alien world (Earth) enhances the story. Listeners view the world through the knight’s eyes: everyday items to Earth-based people, like shopping malls, coffee, and seat belts become curiosities (though she quickly acclimates to her new environment). Clearwater uses a more matter-of-fact tone when Virago tells Holly that a knight does not leave their sword behind, not even to buy new clothes. Holly’s voice is full of the pauses that mark indecision and doubt. Her tone becomes more lively when she’s nervous, excited, or upset. Clearwater does a wonderful job of charting Holly’s personal journey as she takes charge of her life. And, as if listeners needed another reason to despise Nicole, Clearwater enhances those sentiments with the brisk, dismissive, and irritated tones and pacing with which she infuses Nicole’s dialogue. Even now, as I write this, I feel a surge of loathing for this woman who seems to think so little of Holly (in those few moments she does think of her). Ugh!

I look forward to hearing her narrate the continuing adventures of Holly and Virago in Date Knight!

A Knight to Remember by Bridget Essex
Narrated by Rose Clearwater (Note: In at least one place on the author’s website, Kelly Nugent is listed as the narrator and I’ve found an alternate book cover with Kelly’s name listed.)
Published by Rose and Star Press
Presented by Audible.com
Length: 7 hours, 17 minutes
ASIN: B01J2FBO6M
Released: July 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, and iTunes

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Categories: audiobooks, fantasy, fiction, lgbt, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Not-So-Straight Sue

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Not-So-Straight Sue, the second installment in Cheyenne Blue’s “Girl Meets Girl” series, goes fossicking about the Australian Outback with Sue Brent, a lawyer determined to keep her sexuality under wraps. Despite creating a life in London as a successful lawyer with great friends (Ger and Nora from Never-Tied Nora) – leagues removed from Yeringup, the small town that sent her deep into the closet as a teenager – she still can’t fully live her life. 

The story kicks off when Sue decides that she’s had enough of running from herself. Life in the big city teems with exciting entertainment, career opportunities, and kindred spirits. However, she steps away from a promotion to Senior Associate at the prestigious law firm where she works. Instead, she heads off to substitute at a small, one person practice in Mungabilly Creek, a small town a day’s drive from her hometown. The terrain is full of interesting characters, including the landscape. Felix, a woman living out between towns with her horses, provides potential for rich friendship when Sue first arrives. Mrs. T, housekeeper extraordinaire and all-around amazing woman, anchors the home front. And Moni, an American doctor serving rural areas of Queensland, reconnects with Sue, a handful of years after their first meeting in London. The romance of place and people is blended wonderfully. It’s also a fun distraction.

NSSS is an engrossing, entertaining story about a whole myriad of things, including coming out, rebuilding family relationships, and discovering that what and who you think you know can surprise you…in a good way. 

Recommended reading companions for this volume: a good red wine and a loyal pup.

Not-So-Straight Sue
Author: Cheyenne Blue
Publisher: Ylva Publishing
Publication date: October 2016

Available from Ylva Publishing, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: family relationships, friendship, lgbt, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As I Descended – audiobook review

as i descended.jpg

 

It’s barely fall, but the early mornings are darker and colder. Every sound in an empty room makes me jump a little. Amielynn Abellera’s narration plays a huge role in bringing out the full richness of the story. The eerie atmosphere, setting, and murky moral territory infiltrate every nook and cranny, like fog. As I Descended by Robin Talley draws some inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Listening to the story with headphones on in a quiet library intensifies the creep factor. 

I don’t believe in Ouija boards, yet I won’t touch one with a twenty foot pole. The story is a deliciously chill, vicarious thrill for those of us who looked under the bed as a kid. It pulls readers into the supernatural and what happens when a trio of friends — Maria, Lily, and Brandon— lay their hands on an antique Ouija board. Be careful what you wish for and never forget to say goodbye.

What better place to invoke the spirits than a private boarding school on a former plantation in Virginia? Ghost stories involving former tenants are dismissed by students, who enjoy being scared, but that’s about it. Maria, on the other hand, has a secret past with spirits and isn’t so quick to dismiss the tales. The story wastes no time in setting the mood with the initial events in the old cafeteria and doesn’t let up. Since the story is told in the third person, you find yourself inside the heads of the primary and secondary characters. The effect shows the increasing doubt, fear, and isolation the students experience as events unravel. The story includes a diverse cast, with no one person being singled out as a “villain” because of their social status, ethnicity, physical abilities, or sexual orientation. Though, that being said, the story shows high school kids at their best and worst…and worst.

~~~~~~~~~~

Amielynn Abellera is perfectly cast as the narrator. Her strong characterizations allow the story to come fully alive. The students that she voices converge on Acheron Academy from different regions in the United States, as well as Puerto Rico. Lily has a soft Southern drawl; Mateo speaks with Spanish accented English. Some students sound stoned, serious, or ditsy. The heights of elation and the depths of fear and despair will crawl under your skin. Abellera’s pacing allows the suspense to build and grab you, but never fully allows you to relax. She doesn’t rush the story or exaggerate her voice for a cheap scare, either.

As I Descended is a great companion for the long, dark nights ahead.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Narrator: Amielynn Abellera
Produced by Harper Collins
Length: 9 hours, 9 minutes
Release date: September 2016
Audio CD: ISBN-10: 1441708952, ISBN-13: 987-1441708953
Digital Audio: ISBN 9780062571823, ISBN-10: 0062571826

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Audiobooks, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: audiobooks, horror, lgbt, paranormal, retellings, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here Comes the Sun – audiobook review

here-comes-the-sun

 

In Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel Here Comes the Sun, Jamaica is not a paradise for everyone. Those with money fly in and stay at expensive resorts, like the Palm Star Resort. The men, women, and children who call the island home live in another world. Margot and her younger sister Thandi, along with their mother Delores, live in the financially impoverished community of Montego Bay. Margot works at Palm Star Resort and offers its customers a sanitized pleasure-scape. She trades her body for money to provide a better life for her sister and for her own deferred dreams. On stolen nights, she steals a piece of love for herself at Verdene’s home. After years in London, Verdene returns to Jamaica and finds herself on the outside. Thandi struggles to live up to the high expectations of her family and her own self-image. 

When a new resort threatens to destroy Montego Bay and its residents, long-held secrets and desires spill over. Here Comes the Sun illuminates a world of compromises, lost innocence, and love in hard places. How far would you go for the people you love? How much of yourself would you push below the surface? Each woman will make difficult choices and discover for themselves where to draw the line in the sand. 

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Bahni Turpin delivers stunning, immersive performances as Margot, Thandi, Dolores, and the rest of the Islanders. Her characterizations of the people who inhabit Jamaica are so vivid that I feel like I’m leaving a conversation midway when I turn my car off. The accents she uses convey what parts of the island, socioeconomic, and life experiences the people inhabit. The rhythms of the community flow from the region’s patois, which Nicole Dennis-Benn uses for the novel’s dialogue. Turpin brings the language to life in a way that as a reader I would not do justice.

The way in which the women speak to each other changes depending on the person they are talking to and the role they assume. Thandi consciously moves between her two worlds – the expensive private high school she attends and the economically disadvantaged Montego Bay – by switching back and forth from the studied tones of her wealthier peers to the dialect of her home neighborhood. Verdene, a woman who has returned to Jamaica after living in London for several years, has a complex accent. Her voice is a blend of her homeland, the high level of education she received, and the British English she steeped in during her life abroad. Her neighbors treat her like an outcast, a witch with sexual appetites to avoid. The elderly woman next door leaves dead animals and noisy, high-pitched Biblical condemnations. 

The sun never sets on this listening experience.

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You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Narrator: Bahni Turpin 
Produced by HighBridge Audio
Length: 11.75 hours
Release date: July 19, 2016
Audio CD ISBN: 9781681682709
Digital Audio ISBN: 9781681682716

Available as an audiobook from Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

You Know Me Well – audiobook review

 

You Know Me Well

 

You Know Me Well, an entertaining collaboration from authors Nina LaCour and David Levithan, follows a pair of teenagers as they navigate turning points in their lives at the end of the school year. The story is told in alternating, intertwined narratives through the eyes of high school students Kate and Mark. Although they have sat next to each other in math class all year, the two first really see each other at a bar during San Francisco’s Pride kick-off festivities. Despite being virtual strangers with a recognizable face, the emotional maelstrom of love and the unknown lead Kate and Mark to become instant friends.  It’s a jubilant story of new beginnings, dashed dreams, and evolving relationships. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this story as a great road trip or seaside companion.

If I didn’t already love David Levithan’s storytelling, I would have picked up this title for the sole reason that Emma Galvin narrates Kate’s sections. Previously, I enjoyed her turn as Tris from Divergent, the dystopian YA trilogy by Veronica Roth. She has the type of voice well-suited for playing strong and conflicted young women. If she reads the dictionary next, I’ll be first in line to listen. As Kate, a high school senior standing on the brink of the planned and the unknown, Emma explores the rocky terrain of desire, anxiety, friendship, and more, through skillful narration. The supporting cast of friends, family, and acquaintances are also wonderfully realized by both narrators.

Matthew Brown characterizes Mark, a high school junior in love with his best friend/secret non-boyfriend, so genuinely that I can’t imagine him as any one but Mark (and the other people he voices). Unlike Kate, Mark clings to what he wants, even when Ryan tells him that he just doesn’t feel the same way. Their relationship is complicated and it takes Kate and her outsider’s point-of-view, to help him through it all. Matthew provides nuanced characterization that aptly reflects the struggle Mark is experiencing. When the world feels like it’s falling down around Mark, the listener can’t help but feel it, too. Every awkward moment and new experience feels real.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

You Know Me Well
Authors: Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Narrators: Emma Galvin, Matthew Brown
Produced by Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 36 minutes
Release date: June 7, 2016
ISBN: 1427279500

Available as an audiobook from Audible, Audiobook, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

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Categories: audiobooks, fiction, friendship, lgbt, romance, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Touch of Temptation

A Touch of Temptation

Kate Dawson’s life is mapped out from cradle to grave. Her mother strategizes the best possible husband, career, connections, and friends, for her only child. On the morning of her bar exam, the last step before taking on a leadership role in her family’s prestigious law firm, Kate passes out from a sudden illness and lands in the hospital. After several weeks recuperating at home, with evenings spent watching classic movies with her gran (Katherine), the family matriarch, Kate is ready to go crazy from her inability to run a mile without getting winded or stay awake long enough to study for the next bar exam. Despite her love of Cary Grant’s and Katherine Hepburn’s onscreen shenanigans, Kate feels lost without the finely ordered path she has followed up to this point.

Gran pushes Kate out the door, insisting the woman recuperate at her mountain cabin, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It starts out a mixture of the life Kate leaves behind in the city and the solitude of a well-worn refuge. Cue Chris, the woman Kate later (playfully) refers to as the “Lesbian Casanova”. It’s lust at first sight for Chris and confusion for Kate (as she has never felt attraction for a woman before).

Chris Brent is the studly butch-next-door. She oozes a sexy combination of confidence and competence. When she’s not riding her motorcycle with her dad and friends, she is hard at work building up her small landscape architecture business. Weekends often find her mingling with lovely ladies at sex parties thrown by her friend, the sexually vibrant and insightful Georgia, in San Francisco. Chris doesn’t want any of the complications relationships may bring. Still, when she meets Kate (a serial monogamist), it’s becomes harder to insist on no-strings attached sex.

At the heart of the two women’s journey is their struggle with what they thought they wanted versus what they’re starting to realize they actually need. Sexuality plays a substantial role in the story. Kate isn’t the only character who embarks on journey of self-discovery in this arena.

When the outside world seeps into their semi-secluded retreat, Kate and Chris face even more barriers. Nicole, Kate’s best friend from college, plays tag team with Kate’s mother in their attempts to derail the burgeoning romance. Support comes from at least one unexpected corner, which I found pleasantly surprising.

One of my favorite aspects of Julie Blair’s storytelling is her ability to make me feel like I’m there.  The family mansion and its palatial grounds and the cozy tucked away amongst the trees, with more trees than neighbors, are distinct. The spheres in which the women live and work are clear, emphasizing the seeming chasm between the two. Even now, a few weeks after reading the final word, I can close my eyes and instantly imagine myself at the cabin, in one of the luxurious gardens, or standing in front of the painted ladies of San Francisco. I also appreciate how the author does not use the characters to insist on one type of relationship as the ideal (i.e. monogamy).  

It’s fun and flirty, with a delicious mix of family secrets, double lives, and “world turned upside down” life events. I highly recommend this story for anyone who enjoys a healthy dose of sensuality and erotica with their romance *fans self vigorously*

A Touch of Temptation
Author: Julie Blair
Published by Bold Strokes Books
Publication date: May 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-62639-489-6

Available from Bold Strokes Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

Categories: erotica, fiction, netgalley, romance | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Any Way the Wind Blows

Any Way the Wind Blows

 

The story does a wonderful job of showing the rich emotional life of Callie and Jo as asexual, aromantic women. Grant educates readers through Callie as the woman explains to Jo what asexuality means to her. These portions of the story don’t feel pedantic, which is a tribute to the author’s storytelling. Aside from the story, the text itself needs a little bit of editing here and there to clarify which pronoun refers to which character.

Most of the tension derives from the life expectations, fear, and misunderstandings about the nature of the women’s bond and about asexual, aromantic identity. Jo, a former US soldier, works as an auto mechanic in a small town. She’s under intense pressure from her parents and brother to get married. Callie, on the other hand, relishes her life as an itinerant farm-share worker. She spends months here and there on farms across the country, keeping her backpack and relationships light. When she arrives for another routine job on a California farm, she and Jo meet. Their chemistry as friends takes off immediately, guiding them through frolicky fun, inner turmoil, and obstacles.

At 15,000 words (or about 42 e-pages), you can devour this story in one sitting. I definitely recommend it!

Any Way the Wind Blows
Author: Carlin Grant
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 7 hours

ISBN9781620047415  

Available as an ebook from Less Than Three Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other vendors.

***I received a copy of this title from Less Than Three Press via Netgalley***

Categories: aromantic, novella | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

dutch_fairy_tales_1604Screenshot_2016-05-08-17-29-15~2

Hooray! Last fall I began the recording process for LibriVox’s audiobook version of Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks. Now that all the chapters have been completed, the collection is available for anyone to listen to 😃 I learned a lot about how to tinker with a recording (using Audacity) and ways to limit background noise. It’s so much fun and an easy way to get started with narrating stories.  LibriVox is a community of volunteers who record public domain stories, often sourced from Project Gutenberg.  The LibriVox forums, book coordinators, and proof listeners are very helpful during the recording process.

I narrate chapter five, Prince Spin Head and Miss Snow White.

Categories: audiobooks, LibriVox | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

What an awesome opportunity!  Maybe I’ll feel inspired to write a short submission for the contemporary romance collection ^^

Best Lesbian Erotica 2017 Edited by D. L. King To be published by Cleis Press Deadline: May 1, 2016 Payment: $100 and 2 copies of the anthology D.L. King is looking for your absolute best lesbian erotica. First, let me apologize for the extremely short window in getting your submission in. The publisher would like […]

via Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

Categories: short stories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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