Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

Welcome to MY New Domain!!

The title says it all, welcome to the new OneReadingNurse.com!! My most excellent web builder crafted this site AND brought over all of my old reviews from Wix!! I am still fixing categories and book related content while he tweaks display and site issues, so bear with us if things are rough at first!!

I want to thank all the publishers and publicists who have continued to send me review copies while my blog was down! I will continue to bring over recent reviews and let you guys know when they are posted! Thank you also to all the bloggers who helped me with platform ideas, examples, advice and more. Stay tuned for upcoming reviews, giveaways, guest posts and more as the new site takes off!!

Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Categories
Fiction Suspense Thrillers

The Favor (ARC Review) by Nora Murphy

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books for the free digital advanced copy of The Favor by Nora Murphy! All opinions are my own

I have mixed but overwhelmingly positive feelings about this book. It is a gripping domestic thriller that I read in two sittings. The author is a lawyer who has worked with survivors of intimate partner violence and it’s obvious she knows what she is writing about. My only issue was with one of the points of view that just didn’t ring true.  I would definitely recommend The Favor to anyone who enjoys a fast paced stressful domestic thriller.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Favor
  • Series: N/a
  • Author: Nora Murphy
  • Publisher & Release: Minotaur Books, 05/31/22
  • Length: 288 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fans of domestic thrillers

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Staying is dangerous. Leaving could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t—ever—find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop. They don’t—ever—discuss their problems and find common ground. They don’t—ever—acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Because Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be more dangerous than what’s outside. Driving past McKenna’s house one night, she sees what she knows only too well herself from her own marriage: McKenna’s “perfect” husband is not what he seems. She decides to keep an eye out for McKenna, until one night, she intervenes.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will

This is a shorter and very fast paced read that will be perfect for summer reading.  Like I said I read it in two sittings and have no regrets.

Both of the women have a present tense point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed their narratives and was just downright scared for them the whole time in the current storyline. As the author writes in the afterword,  IPV occurs among white collar professionals and it is just terrible how these things can happen even to well educated women like Leah and McKenna. They are respectively a lawyer and doctor. There was a second timeline that started when Leah got married and worked towards present day events, showing how things devolved once the husband got control

Once a crime occured and the third voice is introduced, I unfortunately thought the detective’s POV detracted from the book. The whole side storyline involving his partner showed that some people don’t escape the violence and may have helped to toggle his understanding of events. It generally felt distracting though. The detective felt like a very cookie cutter character and even just with some of the generic investigator lines that he said it was difficult to feel anything for him. I also think that due to the nature of the crime in the novel there would be no way that he could start to close the case so early. The social pressure would be unbelievable, heck maybe I’ve read too many procedurals but it seems like some special crime crew would get involved if he wanted to close the case. What happened definitely works for the book but it just didn’t feel real at all

The only other silly thing was that one of the women mentioned the importance of financial independence, well before the control and coercion started, but then didn’t hesitate to transfer all of her funds into a joint account when she got married. All of your funds – hello that’s not maintaining your independence! Good advice there for women to absolutely not do that and maintain a portion of their own finances. It was also shown that some banking related things can be subverted with forged signatures, but I thought banks required most of those forms to be signed in person?

Don’t mind me please I am just splitting hairs now. These things absolutely worked in the scope of the novel. The Favor is a thrilling, suspenseful, quick read and contains a list of resources for suspected abuse at the end as well as a thoughtful afterword which I think added a lot to the novel.  One good thing that the detective character accomplished was identifying signs that IPV may be happening to somebody, as in, what does it look like to people in their social circle?

Breakneck pace, suspense, danger, women you’ll care about, and I think the tough topics were handled well and without judgement.

Definitely do pick this one up if it sounds up your alley, these characters have a heck of a story. Out in May!

Categories
Fantasy

Obsidian (ARC Review) by Sarah J Daley

Thank you so much to Angry Robot for the free early digital copy of Obsidian by Sarah J Daley! All opinions are my own!

This is an adult (18+) fantasy novel set on a vaguely Italian feeling island; it is rich in world building and magic.  I read it fairly quickly and even though it can read as a standalone I definitely hope a second book is on the way

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Obsidian
  • Series: N/A?
  • Author: Sarah J Daley
  • Publisher & Release:  Angry Robot, 01/25/22
  • Length: 400 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of adult sword & sorcery fantasy

Here is the synopsis:

Shade Nox is the only witch in a land of wizards – a fiend, a rogue, a wanted criminal.

Defying those who think her an abomination, Shade wears her tattoos openly and carries obsidian blades at her hips. For years, she has protected the outcast clans who wander the blighted Wastes, but the land is growing more unstable and her blades are no longer enough.

To save her people, Shade vows to raise a Veil of protection – a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the magical Veils are said to belong to the Brotherhood church; if she succeeds in raising one, it will expose their lies. They swear to see her obliterated first.

Treading a dangerous path where allies can be as deceitful as enemies, and where demons lurk in the shadows, Shade chases a vision which could lead to her people’s salvation… or her own destruction.

There is definitely a lot to unpack with this book and for my current purposes I am assuming it’s a standalone

Let’s talk about the world building first:  if this is a standalone I think it had a perfect amount of world building.  Daley went pretty deep into the history of  Malavita.  She told us what we need to know about the war between the native peoples, the history of magic use, and how certain rituals were learned and eventually corrupted.  I really appreciated this storyline.

On a micro level she also did a great job describing the mood of various areas, the culture in different small groups, food and drink, weather and architecture.

I liked that small things were included like a character’s ambivalence toward cats, because they were susceptible to the blighted magic.

What I wanted more of: the Brotherhood’s history and how the religion developed widely enough that the four faces, the hidden, and the wild are consistent across the island.

As part of the setting and atmosphere, I did feel like the tone for each area was set with lush descriptions, temperature, sights and smells, and these things were consistent.  My favorite area was the glass fields.

For all of that, the book maintains a fast pace with plenty of action too.

Character wise: The main character is Shade Nox, a blood magic user who wields obsidian blades. She reminded me a lot of Mia Corvere because she takes crap from no one and is terrified of horses.  She is able to touch a hidden element of magic.  Apparently it is not normal in this world for women to be magic users or have the tattoos so Shade was an anomaly, ostracized, and wanted for various crimes.  She was bad ass and super powerful but also vulnerable, and had a tendency to fall in love with and/or seduce like … everyone she is in intimate proximity with.

This created a weird dynamic at the end of the book and all felt very unnecessary, but it’s adult fantasy and properly advertised as such, so characters can do what they want.   

The other main character is Raiden, who was stuck somewhere between duty and having a good heart and I liked him a lot.  He definitely had some innate unnatural ability but it was never explored, just hinted at, so I definitely needed more of that and docked a star for it.  That said, that’s where I wonder if there will be a sequel.

The other characters are numerous but each contributes something meaningful.  Many have interesting stories, abilities, and snark for days.

The magic system: there’s an interesting back story for the magic.  Veils are used to protect cities from the wild and corrupted magic of the wastes, and obviously there are corrupt people too, almost like a magical mafia of priests and mages that tax and tithe the people into poverty

The blood wizards (and witch) use blades of different gemstones and materials to designate how powerful they are. Tattoo magic is also incorporated as they serve as healing wards after the mage has performed blood magic. I definitely think the magic was the book’s strongest element – it tended to be over the top at times but who doesn’t love a grandiose display of elemental magic?

I feel like I did a lot of summary so here are my thoughts: The magic, characters, history, and world building all tie together and make this an enjoyable read. These story elements combine for a consistent feel where I can understand the character’s motivations and root for them within the world. It moved along quickly.  I like the theme of women defying social boundaries (tattoos, clothing choices, etc), and love that ink is making it’s way into fantasy more now.

One totally random stylistic thing that I absolutely loved was that Daley used a pretty wide range of vocab words like ‘hummocky’ and ‘cerestory’, so I was able to learn something while reading!

Overall I definitely recommend this one for fans of adult fantasy with big magic and big personality!

Lastly: the author is doing a Sunday Brunch interview which should feature at the end of the month!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Beronika Keres!

Thank you for joining us on the Sunday Brunch Series this week!

Episode 18 features fantasy and horror author Beronika Keres! We originally ‘met’ when her debut novel Cracked Coffins was considered too thematically intense for a book tour! Luckily I was able to have a read anyway because dark vampire thrillers are everything and it was definitely a thriller!

The second novel Binding Blood released on December 7th. There are purchase links below if anyone has not checked these books out yet!

That said – I am glad that we finally got to chat about challenging content, favorite vampires, obviously brunch, and more!

Here it is!


🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I’m Beronika, and I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to read and write. So far, I’ve published Cracked Coffins and Binding Blood, the first two books in The Cracked Coffins Series. I have a bunch of stories in various stages of production and am so antsy to get them out.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually studying for university, consuming copious amounts of caffeine, and listening to my favorite gothic rock or punk songs on repeat.

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤My publishing journey has been long, so it’s a dream that I was able to release my first book in 2020. I think I was eight or nine when I first tried to get something published. I wrote a little story, found a major publishing house’s address on the copyright page of some book, and sent it in. It came back with a return to sender stamp—of course—but I didn’t let that deter me. I tried many times to write a full book and did so successfully at twelve. I had some success with short stories over the years, but I was really focused on being a published novelist. This was way back when many viewed indie publishing in a negative light, so I was convinced traditional publishing was the only way. Yet when that view shifted, and I realized the control indie publishing would grant me, I pursued that instead. Two books in and I’m happy with that decision.

🥞Congratulations on the second novel! What do you think was the biggest point of growth for you as an author between the two books?

🎤Thank you! My biggest point of growth is probably my writing. I worked with an awesome editor for Cracked Coffins who taught me so much!

🥞Seeing as we just got through the holiday season, what would Marianna’s favorite holiday be? What about Denendrius?

🎤Holidays would be a sore spot for Marianna, given her situation, but she’d yearn to experience a normal Christmas the most. I can see Denendrius periodically liking Valentine’s Day under certain conditions. He also would have celebrated Saturnalia when he was a human during his time, so I imagine he would shift to celebrating a non-religious version of Christmas, providing he has a reason (like Marianna) to care about celebrating.

🥞Cracked Coffins is a perfectly dark story so far! Did you start off knowing that it was going to be a dark fantasy? Did it get less or more dark as you started writing?

🎤I actually first wrote Cracked Coffins as a young teen during the last vampire craze. Denendrius as a character existed before I completely knew the plot for the novels, so I knew any story including him would be grim. The first apartment scene and the following forest scene were the first parts written and were based off dreams, and I’ve been told the latter is one of the darker scenes in the book. Some parts of the series are darker than other parts, though there are lighter areas. Yet overall, the dark themes are fairly consistent.

🥞I love that vampires are making a comeback! Do you have any favorite fictional vampires or vampire related literature?  

🎤I love that they’re making a comeback too! Yes, of course! I love Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I just absolutely adore Lestat, Louis, and Claudia for so many different reasons. I also really liked Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. I think about that book from time to time, though the ending was bittersweet to me. 

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤I love brunch even though I don’t eat it very often. Bacon, waffles, and cinnamon rolls are my favorite!

🥞Marianna went through the ringer in Cracked Coffins, (drugs, death, domestic abuse, etc), is it emotionally difficult or otherwise challenging to put your characters through hell?

🎤It can be hard sometimes. Some themes and topics in Cracked Coffins are personal to me, so it can be interesting to wade through those feelings again to write. I always feel equipped to handle the topics, at least. Doing research can be difficult as well, especially stumbling upon real-life stories of people’s personal experiences (whether it be from those suffering from addiction or recovering, abuse survivors, or from those who were in the foster care system), or articles about abusive victims who weren’t able to escape.

But I also find it therapeutic to visit these sorts of situations with a fictionalized and supernatural approach. Including vampirism in a kidnapping/domestic violence story adds a whole new dynamic to explore. I thought the mortal/immortal power imbalance was a good way to portray some of the helplessness and hopelessness that can be felt in that sort of entrapment. Of course, adding violent creatures makes everything darker, but the supernatural also creates different avenues for hope that don’t exist in the real world.

🥞After two books, what’s the most valuable thing you have learned going forward into the next?

🎤How to adapt, be flexible, and try new techniques! Indie publishing makes this easy, which is why I love it so much.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author?

🎤It’s so hard to pick a favorite author since there’s so many that I love. John Saul, R.L. Stine, Stephen King, and Scott Westerfeld, to name a few.

One of my favorite literary characters is Janie Johnson from The Face on the Milk Carton (one of my favorite books since childhood) by Caroline B. Cooney. I always recommend that book and the subsequent ones.

A couple more of my favorite books that I’m always quick to recommend are Lighthouse Nights by Jake Vander Ark and Room by Emma Donoghue!

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add, say, or feature, add it here!

🎤Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. I’m currently hard at work on the third book in the series and can’t wait to share more information about it!


Meet the author – from  https://www.beronikakeres.com/

Beronika Keres is a fantasy, thriller, and horror writer. After deciding in the second grade that she was destined to be an author, she has spent her life honing her craft and pursuing her dream. Fueled by coffee, she can often be found chasing plot bunnies and writing books.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the forests, mountains, and lakes of where she resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Cracked Coffins is her debut novel


Social Media and Book Links!

https://www.beronikakeres.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beronikakeres/

https://books2read.com/CrackedCoffins

https://books2read.com/Binding-Blood-2

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Wake the bones (ARC Review) by Eilizabeth Kilcoyne

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate.  I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wake the Bones
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it

Here’s the synopsis:

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Winter (book thoughts) by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles was a refreshing and binge worthy reading experience.  I am getting so sick of YA books with terrible language, dumb characters, s*x scenes that aren’t at all appropriate for the advertised age range…

Then I read this series! Whew. I binged all 5 books and also checked out the short story collection.  Zero swears that I recall, innocent romance that’s appropriate for both age and situation, and, even the gore was pretty well contained.  The battle scenes and fighting were exciting and delivered shocks without going to extreme.

So yes I 100% confidently recommend The Lunar Chronicles for both teens and adults looking for a fun, futuristic battle for Earth and beyond.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the final book in the series – Winter

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Winter
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles, #4
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, November 2015
  • Length: 832 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Here is the summary:

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

We got a glimpse of the title character, Princess Winter, at the end of Cress, and also got some of her back story in Fairest. At first I wasn’t sure about her, since she is frankly nuts, but once we start learning more about the lunar sickness and how Winter refused to be like the rest of the lunar court, aka fake and using their glamours for ill, she becomes a much more likeable character.  Yes she is flaky but also strong enough to defy Levana for so long, and she is definitely not stupid.  Her strength comes out pretty evenly with the crazy and it’s an endearing combination.

Winter was a well loved princess who was prettier than a bouquet of roses and crazier than a headless chicken.

Also for some reason I thought that, due to the pets and the palace guard, that this would be an Aladdin theme … but it was definitely, very loosely, Snow White.

But anyway, the gang is back and there is more banter, more adventure, more kidnappings of Kai, and thankfully some hard won victories for the Rampion crew.

I like that the war and occupation of Luna wasn’t easy.  There were tons of civilian casualties, injuries and near deaths for the crew, trauma and everything else you’d expect from a war.   Parts of it felt a little Hunger Games ish with the gang going to different sectors to recruit people to overwhelm the Capitol.  Also reminiscent were the questions of sanity and PTSD after the conflicts and terrible things that were both done and witnessed.

I also liked how the main points of Fairest were recapped incase anyone hadn’t read it, although I still think that book enhanced the overall reading experience.

Best side character award definitely goes to Konn Torin in this one.  He turned the tide and came through in huge but subtle ways.  Everything would have been lost without him.  Bonus points to Alpha Strom too, that whole sequence with the wolf soldiers was something else.

I still think Scarlet is the most useless of the group.  It was great to see Cress really come out of her shell (pun intended) and be a hero! I have had some Cress coasters forever and it’s good to know what they mean finally.  Iko was another superstar throughout this one.

Meyer didn’t shy away from emphasizing either how brutal the Lunar regime was in itself.  As she really showed how the elite kept the outer sectors in poverty and submission it was the perfect grounds for a revolution.  There were those individual instances too like with Maha Kesley.  Everyone in the crew lost someone precious to them during the series.

One last thing to hit on the setting – I thought it was great to finally see all of Luna.  A lot of the history was finally given too, or at least enough to provide a background without bogging the story down.

The spot where the setting hit me the hardest was when Cinder hit the edge of the dome in the middle of the lake – and the crater was hundreds of feet below on the other side.  From that imagery to that of the Lunar palace I think Winter really tied things together well.

In a nutshell: four (five because honestly, let’s count Iko) unique main characters.  Banter and snark for days.  Adventure, plotting, war, rebellion. Heroes and villains. Dashing captains (haha had to mention Thorne somewhere). Happy endings.  Age appropriate content!  What’s not to love about this series?

Quick notes on the audio: this is obviously a pretty long audio, around 24hours.  Rebecca Soler made her first obvious OOPS in this one but considering it was the first noticeable one in 5 books, I was very impressed overall!  I think she added a lot to the book by voicing and interpreting Winter and the others how she did.  Definitely 100% recommend

Categories
audiobooks Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Benjamin Fife!

Hello friends! I certainly didn’t expect to take the entire month of December off from the Sunday Brunch Series, but life happens. Brunch is back in the new year!

Episode 17 is something a bit different, for the first time I am chatting with a professional audiobook narrator! Thank you so much to Benjamin Fife for offering to feature!

I am seriously visually impaired and 100% passionate that audiobooks ARE books! I am so excited to bring you guys this interview, read on to learn all about what it took to become a narrator, his favorite characters, and honestly more interesting sounding bookish recommendations than I have ever seen in one place before!

Here he is!


🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your background?

🎤 I took drama in High School from a very good teacher. We studied dialects, the international phonetic alphabet, 12 guideposts for actors, studied motivations for characters and so on.  At the time, it was an easy A, and I had fun with it.  Sometimes at the time and often in the years between then & when I started actually narrating, I tended to think I wasted my time with it and probably should have taken a foreign language instead. I DO still wish I had auditioned for more plays when I was in HS & college, but at the time I was fully immersed in Band Geek life (I was basically the head band geek at my HS).  I kept using the skills I learned in drama as my partner and I started having kids & I began reading aloud to them.  for a decade and a half at least, we’ve read nightly to our family & I gradually would do more characterization & performance instead of just “reading.” And the nightly family read, combined with a commute to my dayjob regularly listening to audiobooks, I became more and more interested in narrating professionally myself

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about how you became a professional narrator? What does the career path look like for anyone that might be interested?

🎤 About 4 years ago, my wife found the ACX website & with that, I had a new passion that overtook my interest in anything else.   For a lot more on this – check out the blog post.

https://www.bennyfifeaudio.com/post/an-unedited-and-mostly-transparent-account-of-becoming-a-successful-audiobook-narrator-part-i

{{This is a great post detailing how he got started and how ACX works – I had never heard of it before.  I definitely recommend any authors trying to have an audiobook made to check it out too, as well as interested readers}}

🥞What traits or aspects of an audiobook do you think makes a listening experience truly special?

🎤 An audiobook is an incredibly intimate experience.  I think of it as a partnership between the author, the narrator, and the listener and each is an essential part.  The idea – author; the performace – narrator; the imagination – listener.

I love narrating also for the emotional catharsis.  When you read a book, yes, you can have a unique imagination, but having it performed for you is like an individual play in your mind and performance is definitely the key.  Nothing makes me happier than when an author listens to my performance and is moved to tears, other than perhaps if a listener feels the same way

🥞Do you have a favorite genre or accent to narrate?

🎤 Fantasy and Scifi without a doubt.  Especially stories that explore the human condition in the tradition of Asimov.  I also adore classics.  My bestselling series combines a few of these and I love coming back to again and again.  Jane Austen’s Dragons by Maria Grace.  9 books so far and counting.  And an enormous little name drop twice in book 8 to let you know there’s definitely more coming.  Last year I also had the pleasure of narrating Ebenezer: The True Life Story of Ebenezer Scrooge by Douglas Bass.  A Christmas Carol is my favorite book of all time, Dickens is my favorite deceased author, and Doug did a great job expanding A Christmas Carol to something more like Great Expectations or David Copperfield.  I’m planning on eventually doing my own recordings of the complete works of Dickens, and this was a good primer. Doug’s version is 17 hours versus A Christmas Carol’s normal 3.

So along with that – I enjoy narrating in accents of the British Isles.  That was what I studied in HS & have held onto most – And yes, I realize I’m not perfect in my accents.  I’ve lived all but 2 years of my life in Idaho, USA. But when you get into accents of the UK, there are such a glut of variations.  I kind of have my own idiosyncrasies I’ve adopted for my basic “brit” narration, and then branch off from there for various characters.  But I love doing & learning all kinds of different accents. Mountain Folk by John Hood presented more in one book last year than I’ve ever done. (Think American Revolutionary war plus Myth Folk).  Various Brit accents, German, Indigenous American, southern us, and so on.  It was a fun challenge and a fun book.  I’m currently recording Ark of the Apocalypse by Tobin Marks and it features a lot of Russian accents, among others.

🥞Is there a standout favorite character that you have ever voiced? If so, what made them special to you?

🎤 Probably Brant from Jenelle Schmidt’s Minstrel’s Song series.  (Starting with King’s Warrior.)  He’s essentially the Ben Hur of the series.  Lots of depth to his character and some surprising and an abundance of tragedy and drama in his life.  Also the only series I’ve narrated that I read the whole thing outloud to my kids as well.  If you like LOTR, Lloyd Alexander, or C.S. Lewis, I think you’ll like that.

🥞Do you do any writing yourself or are you more of a reader?

🎤 I’ve mainly blogged so far – but I have several stories that have been floating around in my head for some time.  I’m committing to writing 30 minutes a day this year. (My answering these questions qualifies for today).  I have a nonfiction book I’ve outlined and a book I’m hoping to co-write with Maria Grace that will fit in her Jane Austen’s Dragons universe – but branch out considerably.    I work with some authors who put out an amazing amount of material and I have no idea how they do.  Ask me in a year & we’ll see how my 30 min commitment changed things for me. Hopefully I’ll have something to show for it.

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤 Considering my prime recording time is 10 PM to 2 AM, my breakfast probably qualifies as brunch.  I love a lot of breakfast foods.  Give me a good omelette any day.  Danish Delight is a dessert / breakfast / brunch food I think I’ve had just a handful of times in my life and its to die for.  My mom made it once, maybe twice when I was very young.  I never stopped asking her for it after that, but never got it again.  about 10 years ago, my wife surprised me with it on my birthday and she did it a couple more times after that…. I should learn to make it myself probably.

Also… I make a mean oatmeal for our family very often. Add a tablespoon of butter (or more) to the water while boiling, a pinch of salt and somewhere between a dash to a tablespoon of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and poppy seeds.  Serve with honey and raisins, or craisins, or whatever other fruit you want.  My kids love it.  So do I. Ready in 10 minutes, cheap, nutritious and delicious.

🥞As someone who is pretty severely visually impaired, I tend to be passionate that AUDIOBOOKS ARE BOOKS!!!  Do you have any thoughts or input on this debate in the reading community?

🎤 People who don’t think Audiobooks are books are being snobs. Plain and simple. I may garner slightly more information reading the physical book (or ebook – which is also a book), but I am able to consume & process so many more books because of audiobooks.  Dickens had characters who learned via audiobooks! (Our Mutual Friend (which I first listened to because of Person of Interest, but that’s another story entirely).  Cyrano de Bergerac presented the idea of Audiobooks in L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (“Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon” in 1657!  (Also known as A Voyage to the Moon – which the famous old silent movie was based on). I don’t take issue with anyone who has a hard time focusing on audiobooks.  Different people learn differently, but the material is the same whether you’re reading the symbols on the page or someone else is presenting them in the sounds that are also symbols for ideas.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author? Feel free to include audio recs!

🎤 Ebenezer Scrooge

And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran

Dead – Charles Dickens

Living – Timothy Zahn

Indie that I’ve narrated for – Gonna be hard to really pick, so I’m going for a 3 way tie so far – Maria Grace, Jenelle Schmidt, and C.D. Tavenor.  I’ve also narrated more for each of them than almost anyone else. More than a million words between the three of them.

Indie that I haven’t narrated for: Carol Beth Anderson.  I love her Magic Eaters series. And she does a pretty darn good job narrating it herself.

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview!


Here is his website and social media links!

https://www.bennyfifeaudio.com/  for audio samples, blog posts, and more!

On Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/fife_benjamin

On Soundcloud:

https://m.soundcloud.com/user-29643215

Categories
audiobooks Science Fiction Young Adult

Fairest (book & audio review) by Marissa Meyer

It’s been a rough week here, I keep looking around for or reaching over to pet the dog and she’s not there. The absolute worst

I haven’t gotten much reading done but have been listening to an audio while I can’t sleep. Eventually I will finish Winter. 

Fairest is the first book I read in 2022, the shorter Lunar Chronicles book that falls in between Cress and Winter.  I absolutely 100% recommend reading Fairest in that order with the rest of the series, as it gives a lot of background into Levana’s story, what happened to Cinder, the story with Winter and Jacin, the plague origins, and so many other things.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Fairest
  • Series: The Lunar Chronicles 3.5
  • Author: Marissa Meyer
  • Publisher & Release: Feiwel & Friends, January 2015
  • Length: 226 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for anyone reading the series

Here is the synopsis:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall.
Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her “glamour” to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story―a story that has never been told . . . until now.

New York Times –bestselling author Marissa Meyer reveals the story behind her fascinating villain in Fairest, an unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death

I think this provided a lot of the insight I was looking for into the Lunar world.  What is life like for the royalty, what are their expectations, what is society like, etc.

Levana iss more than a bit crazy as an adult and I liked her backstory. Sbe was influenced by early mind control and torture by her older sister, Cinder’s mother, which damages the mind of young children.  At least it was written that mind control is bad for the toddlers.  Also she was probably a little psychotic to begin with, AND just had terrible influence from Channary all along

That said – I don’t think this book was written to garner sympathy so much as tell the back story.  Other than the initial incident and bullying from her sister, Levana made her own choices and did a lot of really sick and questionable things

She’s a heck of a villain, kind of reminds of Joker in that she is just completely criminally insane by the time Winter occurs

Meyer also answered questions I had – like – how does the queen have a black step daughter? What was under the glamour? Who was Cinder’s mom? What about the plague origins? Heck even about Sybil Meara and the Lunar court.

I would love to know why Channary was as rotten as she was, but there were a few allusions to how the girls grew up fairly unsupervised and all of the Lunar royalty and their children tend to be absolutely terrible. As evidenced by the 8 year old boy torturing Scarlet at the end of Cinder

I definitely think this is good to read in between Cress and Winter, because now we know about the queen and even Jacin, and everything makes a little more sense to me

It’s definitely enhancing the reading experience for me in book 4.

Quick notes on the audio: Rebecca Soler definitely gives another awesome performance here.  She hasn’t missed a beat through 4 books now. From Macmillan audio, including the hour ish long preview of Winter, the length is 6h and 32 minutes.  I loved how creepy and murderous she made Channary sound saying “Come heeeeere baby sister” and in contrast, how Levana had to deal with things.  Definitely highly recommend as both a book or audio

Categories
Suspense Thrillers

Greenwich Park (ARC Review) by Katherine Faulkner

Thank you so much to Gallery Books for the ARC and merch for Greenwich Park! I just love the tote and the book is a decent, suspenseful read too

This is a domestic thriller, featuring a group of three siblings and their spouses or significant others. There is a wildcard character from the past that comes back and everything just gets bizarre and suspenseful real quick.

This is a great effort for a debut and I like Faulkner’s style. Read on to see my full thoughts!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Greenwich Park
  • Author: Katherine Faulkner
  • Publisher & Release: Gallery Books, 01/25/22
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of domestic thrillers and suspense

Here’s the synopsis:

A twisty, whip-smart debut thriller, as electrifying as the #1 New York Times bestseller The Girl on the Train, about impending motherhood, unreliable friendship, and the high price of keeping secrets.

Helen’s idyllic life—handsome architect husband, gorgeous Victorian house, and cherished baby on the way (after years of trying)—begins to change the day she attends her first prenatal class and meets Rachel, an unpredictable single mother-to-be. Rachel doesn’t seem very maternal: she smokes, drinks, and professes little interest in parenthood. Still, Helen is drawn to her. Maybe Rachel just needs a friend. And to be honest, Helen’s a bit lonely herself. At least Rachel is fun to be with. She makes Helen laugh, invites her confidences, and distracts her from her fears.

But her increasingly erratic behavior is unsettling. And Helen’s not the only one who’s noticed. Her friends and family begin to suspect that her strange new friend may be linked to their shared history in unexpected ways. When Rachel threatens to expose a past crime that could destroy all of their lives, it becomes clear that there are more than a few secrets laying beneath the broad-leaved trees and warm lamplight of Greenwich Park.

Faulkner is a great writer, and has some investigative journalism experience to help flesh out the story. I would have liked to somehow see a little more of the police procedural, but some of that action was told through Katie’s point of view.

Pacing wise, the book certainly was never boring and moved at a steady pace. It wasn’t always exciting but there was plenty of mood setting and just enough history before things started dicey. I was able to guess some of the outcomes but missed the big reveals.

Helen, the main point of view, was just the most naïve, kind of dumb character ever. She was was practically gaslit at times by another character, but she also had the worst memory ever and let a harmful situation (Rachel) into her house and then just forgot how bad everything was? Frequently? One minute she was finding stolen items, the next she missed Rachel? I didn’t get that at all, but Helen just didn’t seem that bright. I did feel badly for her being taken advantage of

Rachel, the wildcard character, was terrible from start to finish. She was just insufferably terrible, stupid and selfish, not paying rent, being a pain in the ass, etc. Regardless of what happened to her in the past, she has a history of making stupid and destructive life decisions and honestly at no point did I ever feel sympathy for her. Not that I advocate for anyone being brutalized but I mean, we see how she conducts herself!

Katie, the journalist, was the second point of view, and I liked her the most. Serena, the final point of view, felt super fake and it was hard to tell where she would fit into everything at the end. It was fun to try to determine whether Helen or Serena or both were unreliable narrators.

There was a mystery, Greenwich Park, point of view, and yep I took the obvious choice and was wrong about who it was.

It was a good suspense novel though, I felt pretty concerned for one or more characters throughout. I also really liked the setting of Greenwich Park and Faulkner’s descriptions of sights, smells, scenery, even tastes, she is great at providing those visual aspects. I googled Greenwich Park and that also helped me form a visual of the big mansions. It’s a timeless setting and explained why there were so many people there during the day too.

My only issue with the style was that some of the chapters, towards the end, chopped off in odd spots. I knew it was to keep the reader engaged but felt super abrupt sometimes. At least though she did always explain what happened after the action cut off.

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases.

….

Now this is spoiler free but if you haven’t read the book, I might suggest stopping here, even though I give no names or specific events away, I COULD NOT BUY ONE HALF OF THE PREMISE OF THE BOOK AT THE END!!

I just couldn’t! It’s a tiny spoiler to say why, even though I don’t use names or genders, so read it if you want.

.

.

.

.

.

Ok yeah So you are telling me that a passed out, stone cold drunk teenager under duress was able to identify some people hiding in a corner of a shadowy nighttime building…. Then recognize the people 10 years later on?? It just made no sense. Then everyone involved was batshit crazy to some degree. I was so annoyed with these characters that I understand why the eventual murder occured 😂

Heck what did the victim want, what did they think would happen?? The money seems like it should have been enough as far as the blackmail goes! It just seems insane that the Victim involved would go to those lengths to blackmail people she shouldn’t have even been able to recognize, when her original attackers were found not guilty in the first place. Tough crap, move on already?

I know I’m supposed to feel the opposite,that justice was terribly and unjustly not administered… but maybe don’t go crash a college party and drink to the blackout point?

I literally empathize more with the murderers. They should have given the victim nothing and could have easily high tailed away from the situation.

Anyway – shoot me for that but I stand by my feelings 😅😅 I hate manipulative people like what was happening to Helen!

I would say this is a good read though, for fans of domestic type thrillers and suspense involving groups of friends, unreliable narrators, criminal cases

Categories
Adventure audiobooks Crime Thrillers

Dark Horse (ALC Review) by Gregg Hurwitz

I have to say that as someone who can’t always read a lot of pages due to my eye problems and resulting headaches, that audiobooks are a lifesaver.

Thank you so much to Macmillan Audio for reaching out to offer my first Advanced Listening Copy! I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Scott Brick narrate Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz. I have not read or listened to anything else in this series of books, and while I didn’t feel lost at all, I do think a bit of knowledge of the background characters and events might add to overall enjoyment.

***on that note – I don’t know how long it is going to last but the first two books in the series are free to read/listen with kindle unlimited at the time that I wrote this post!!

AUDIO-Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dark Horse
  • Series: Orphan X, #7
  • Author: Gregg Hurwitz
  • Narrator: Scott Brick
  • Publisher & Release: Macmillan Audio (Minotaur Books) 02/08/22
  • Length: 14h30m (432 pages)
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of vigilante justice, spy thrillers, action novels, and a bit of snarky banter

Here is the synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission–The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area–supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated–a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man–no matter how just the cause.

So I want to focus more on the audio, since I am reviewing an ALC! Scott Brick is probably, as far as I know, one of the most prodigious narrators out there, I mean he read the Foundation universe by Asimov, Dune, at least some of the Lee Child books, some Erik Larsson, among other things.. and I think this is another amazing performance by him.

He has to voice cartel drug leaders, sicarios, Evan Smoak of course, teenage girls, and pretty much everything in between, and I don’t think he faltered once.  My favorite character was the weapon aficionado named Tommy –  the way Brick had him saying “MonGOlian CLLUSter-forNIcation” had he cracking up.  I think he’s a master, really.

About the book itself – so as I said I have not read any of the Orphan X books, but Hurwitz does a good job recapping who is who and bringing first time readers up on current events.  Obviously there is a bit of a storyline from book to book but it can be read as a standalone for sure.

There was good action throughout the book, good pacing, and a surprising amount of introspection from various characters as well.  I liked Smoak as a main character, the OCD was something a little different and I loved what he did at the end of the book.  Josephine was his little found-family-co-orphan and computer hacker. I liked her too. I want to go back and find the rest of her story, and that of her dog…named Dog!  It seemed like Tommy the weapons guy was featured in the prior book as well so I do definitely want to go back and read the series.

There are many things I could quote too to show the humor included throughout the book, but I will wait until a finished copy is out.  I did like the themes here of starting to trust people, self reflection, honesty with peers, and the whole debate of the morally gray, vs just evil drug lord.  The comparison of their parenting and values was actually pretty interesting and made Evan think about his own life quite a bit.

Anyway – I would definitely recommend this audiobook, the book itself, and potentially the series for fans of vigilante type novels, action books, with hints of romance and humor and found family elements as well.  It was overall good narration and good writing!

…and … there is a lion

 

Categories
General Posts, Non Reviews

So this is the new year (I don’t feel any different) – Reads & Recap

If you know that song, all the power to you.

It’s another wrap for the year and I feel like my sentiments are exactly the same.  I tend to read 52-55k pages per year, regardless the number of books, and this year was no different

The thing that interested me most was that my average rating moved up to 4.0 – either I’m getting soft in my old age 😂, read better books (maybe) , or was simply less critical this year.  Everyone else’s criticism wears on me.

I also have been going to journals and literary zines to find reviews and criticism, I just can’t with people on Goodreads who have nothing better to say than “oh this book wasn’t _____ enough, ONE STAR”

No thanks. That sentiment hasn’t changed from last year at all – stop telling me what to read and stop insinuating that people are X for reading Y book for Z reason, just stop

I lost track of my ARCs vs Backlist vs purchased reads, but think I read about 60%/40% new + gifted books vs backlist ones. Backlist Bingo helped a lot with that.

From the above screen shot, the Ransom books were a huge highlight this year. House of Dragons was a great standalone

In the Orbit of Sirens is one of the better indie books I read this year, the author featured on the Sunday Brunch Series as well. I was due for a Life of Pi reread and it did not disappoint on audio

I finally read (actually listened) to the first three Red Rising books. The audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds, was phenomenal and I can see that all the hype is real.

Shit escalates – Sevro

Dragon Mage was the longest book of my year, 986 pages, and also easily in my top 3 reads of the entire year

I also started the Wheel of Time series and managed to read the first three, plus 1/3 of The Shadow Rising. I’m not sure how much I really like the books, and the tv adaptation seems like a liberal media festival

Dreams of the Dying was another of my top three reads this year! Search that on my blog for review plus author interview! One of the first books that I have both mixed feelings and great love for

I also finally tried Janet Evanovich, fun reads, and Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series

Winterlight rounds out my top 3 books of the year.  Kristen Britain came back from two (IMO very weak books) and absolutely slayed Winterlight.

The Keeper of Night was one of the better YA books I read this year, as my other top three should be considered adult fantasy.

A Ritual of Flesh is an honorable mention for favorite books of the year.  Lee Conley also interviewed!

Lastly – I finally started reading some King books, and I think the Bill Hodges Trilogy was absolutely stellar.  Will Patton delivered an amazing narration.

I ended the year on a binge of the Lunar Chronicles series and have no regrets, Cinder is probably one of my top 5 favorite YA characters!


Well there you have it! I wish I had room and space to show all of the books (not all of the reads were shown) but I covered the highlights. That said, I read over 150 books and there are MANY more I would like to mention again – but reviews can mostly all be found on the blog here.

I think I was much more selective this year with arcs and book tours and it helped overall enjoyment.

My best advice for everyone in the coming year is to make sure you’re reading for YOU