Book Review: Carbon by AJ Eversley

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Author: AJ Eversley

Narrators: Chelsea Stephens, Steve Campbell

Length: 8 hours 55 minutes

Series: The Watcher Series, Book 2

Publisher: Author AJ Eversley

Released: Dec. 10, 2018

Genre: Science Fiction; Young Adult

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Strangers become allies. Lovers become enemies. And a destiny formed before birth unfolds.

Sawyer spent most of her life hunting the very thing she has now become. No longer the Watcher she once was, Sawyer struggles to make sense of her new identity. Though she now has the powers of a Carbon, she is also tied to the control Coleman has over all of his creations.

Desperate for help and answers, Sawyer travels to the United Isles with Max in search of an ally. Not only must she learn to harness her new abilities, she must find a way to mend a broken heart…if her past doesn’t kill her first.

The epic journey continues, and the war for the human race draws ever closer. Join the resistance in the next chapter of the Watcher Series.

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AJ Eversley is the author of the WATCHER series. A true north Canadian girl, AJ currently lives in Central Alberta with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found binge watching Harry Potter, quoting various movies in every day conversation, and eating copious amounts of candy.

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Narrator Bio

Chelsea Stephens has a long time love and appreciation for the performing arts, with experience in on-stage acting, singing and voice over. Her love for reading books and the pursuit of the story led her to narration. She enjoys unfolding characters and bringing listeners into new worlds. Chelsea is an experienced voice actor with a talent for mystery, fantasy and YA novels. She’s a mom to a gaggle of young ones living in the Midwest with her lumbersexual husband.

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Narrator Bio

My first priority as a voice-over artist is to convey your thoughts and ideas in an entertaining and insightful manner; not distracting from your message, but enhancing your words. It is my personal goal to help your audience engage with the text in an immersive and memorable way.

As a techie with a passion for performance and a love of the written word, the voice-over industry called to me. I am now fortunate enough to be living my dream of audiobook narration from my home studio, in Calgary, AB, Canada.

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Review

In my review of the first book, Watcher, I mentioned that I thought the beginning was a bit slow-going and I also felt that way about this book. I do want to emphasize that the pacing didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story; it just caught my attention.

Much has happened in Sawyer’s world, both her own personal existence and the larger world in which she lives. Coming to terms with her life as one of the Carbons she used to hunt is difficult, to say the least, but she’s also learning—and testing—her new-found abilities as a Carbon. What is really intense is the change in her relationship to those who mean something to her and Kenzie’s painful response to her is certainly understandable. Interestingly, Sawyer has become more appealing, with a softer side, now that she has been torn away from everything she’s always known and that growth in her psyche is what I found to be most compelling about this episode. Now that she has a new raison d’etre, a new target if you will, the action is really picking up and I can’t wait to start the next book.

Narrators Chelsea Stephens and Steve Campbell continue to bring Sawyer and Kenzie, as well as other characters, to life and both have good tonations and pacing. They are a pleasure to listen to, so important in audiobook storytelling, and they are a large part of why I want to continue with the trilogy.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 6, 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by AJ Eversley. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Giveaway

Giveaway: 3-month Audible Membership

Watcher Series Giveaway: 3-month Audible Membership

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Book Review: Bridge to Burn by Rachel Amphlett

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Author: Rachel Amphlett
Narrator: Alison Campbell
Length: 6 hours 39 minutes
Series: Detective Kay Hunter, Book 7
Publisher: Saxon Publishing
Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural
Released: Feb. 8, 2019

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When a mummified body is found in a renovated building,
the gruesome discovery leads Detective Kay Hunter
and her team into a complex murder investigation.

The subsequent police inquiry exposes corruption, lies and
organised crime within the tight-knit community – and Kay’s
determination to seek justice for the young murder victim could
ruin the reputations of men who will do anything
to protect their business interests.

But as Kay closes in on the killer, tragedy strikes closer to
home in an event that will send a shockwave through her
personal life and make her question everything she values.

Can Kay keep her private and professional life under control while
she tries to unravel one of the strangest murder cases of her career?

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Buy Links

Buy on RachelAmphlett.com

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Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Robert Crais, Stuart MacBride, and many more.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

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Early on in this series, I decided that the Detective Kay Hunter series had become one of my favorite police procedurals, enhanced even further by its British setting. This newest book is just as good with one exception having to do with the audio production as I’ll note later.

One of the attractions, for me, is the strong relationships among the characters, both professional and personal, and each new episode brings me closer to the people. That’s especially true with Kay, of course, but they all get their chance to stand out in one book or another. As for the plot, this one is a little different in that it leans more in the direction of white collar and organized crime and, while I don’t generally find those elements especially appealing, Kay and her team make them more intriguing and compelling than I would have expected, beginning with the mummified body falling out of a ceiling. How they follow various leads kept me riveted while I tried to figure things out myself.

Narrator Alison Campbell is one of my favorites but I did find the quality of this production less satisfying due to the recent switch to a new format meant for use on a cellphone. I really don’t care for this because I don’t want to listen to a book on my phone and the quality is just not as good as when I can download to my iPod and listen to it in my car. Perhaps it’s just me but I couldn’t play this through my car’s speakers and, as a result, it was a strain to hear it and Ms. Campbell’s voice frequently dropped too much.

That aside, I will most certainly continue with this series as long as Ms. Amphlett keeps writing them 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Rachel Amphlett. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Giveaway

3 Winners: Free copy of Bridge to Burn Audiobook from Authors Direct

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Book Review: Apocalypse 5 by Stacey Rourke

Apocalypse Five
Stacey Rourke
(Archive of the Fives, #1)
Publication date: February 12th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Good luck and have a pleasant apocalypse.

The end of the world is coming. How or when, scientists can’t agree upon. For decades, Earth’s best line of defense has been a team of young soldiers known as the Apocalypse Five, forced into virtual reality simulations to train for Doom’s Day. But, this is no game. Death on the grid is brutally final and calls up the next in a long line of cadets.

Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS Starship, the A5 are celebrities thrust into the limelight by a calling they didn’t choose. All it takes is one unscheduled mission, showing seventeen-year-old team leader Detroit a harsh and unfathomable reality, to shake the A5’s belief in all they thought they knew. After questioning people with the power to destroy them, the team is framed for a crime they didn’t commit and marked for death. Now, the hunt is on.

Can the Apocalypse Five expose the truth the starship would kill to keep hidden? Or, will their bravery end in a public execution?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

My Review

Certainly reminiscent of The Hunger Games, Apocalypse 5 adds a few twists. In the former, society has already suffered the events that led to a dystopian rule and the games are essentially an entertainment and a reminder of who is in charge. In the latter, the events are coming sometime in a nebulous future and the games are intended to defend society.

It’s an interesting premise but is puzzling and part of the story’s development has to do with understanding how it came to this, why death games are required for an essentially unknown danger. Ms. Rourke is an author new to me and I appreciate her storytelling abilities that kept me wanting to read. The characters are fleshed out nicely, although I could do without the ubiquitous romance, and I especially enjoyed the interaction and camaraderie of the team members.

All in all, this book is a good choice for anyone looking for an adventurous story and I’ll be back for the next tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

 

Author Bio:

RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel

Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012

Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013

Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

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Book Review: Triplicity by J. Mercer

Triplicity
J. Mercer
Publication date: January 6th 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies.

Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher’s daughter, she did end up with someone else’s purse in her hands, and Jesse knows way more than he should about what’s gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive—enough money and he could get back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they’ve told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.

*For readers of Kasie West and Jenny Han.*

Goodreads / Amazon

My Review

The nature of a cruise ship is to seat strangers together for meals and, based on my own experience, that can be awkward and the people at a given table bent on not enjoying each others company or it can be the source of some real friendships. In Triplicity, it’s the reason three teens are thrown together; in a normal world, they’d be very unlikely to pal around with each other.

The mystery here is pretty light and attention is focused more on personalities but that’s okay. The interesting thing, to me, is that Navy, Jesse and Isaiah are not especially likeable—Isaiah, in particular, was frequently obnoxious—but I enjoyed spending time with them as they tried to figure out who the thief was. Really, this is a bit of a character study of teenagers in an artificial situation and a small look into how people can create relationships of sorts when you might not expect them to.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

 

Author Bio:

J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband–though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on Facebook @jmercerbooks or online at http://www.jmercerbooks.com.

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Book Review: Alt Truths by Alec Birri

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Author: Alec Birri

Narrator: Jonathan Keeble

Publisher: Essential Music Limited

Released: Jan. 2019

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

What if you knew men, women and children were being slaughtered but had to cover it up?’

Fake news. Alternative facts. Truth, lies, damn lies and statistics. Just who are we to believe? In this near-future dystopian thriller, that will be United Nations Police “moderators”.

Thirty year old UNPOL officer Richard Warren has been embedded with the BBC and not seeing eye-to-eye with journalist Sarah Dyer is just the start of his problems. News of an Ebola pandemic is being withheld, and when it’s discovered Sarah’s artistic savant brother is involved, Richard’s determination to get to the truth takes an unexpected turn. But what if the truth must never be known?

And Richard thought Sarah was a challenge. The very concept of right and wrong is about to be tested and in a way that’s going to make fake news look like quality journalism.

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

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Narrator Bio

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of Alt Truths is no exception.

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Having consumed Mr. Birri’s earlier trilogy, Condition, as fast as I possibly could, I really was excited to have the opportunity to listen to this new book, both for the story and for Mr. Keeble’s narration and I wasn’t disappointed although I didn’t connect with it quite as much. I think that’s because there are an awful lot of ideas and plotlines here, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you. I just tended to get a little confused at times.

From the morass of political correctness to a literally explosive attack to biowarfare (of sorts) to the wonders and dangers of being a savant to fake/manipulated news…it’s all here and more, something for nearly every reader who loves the what-ifs to be found in a well-crafted story. Add to that a narrator who is a master at what he does with a collection of voices that almost make you think you’re listening to a bunch of different people and you’ve got what we all want, a book you just can’t stop listening to 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Alec Birri. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

‘By her own admission, my next guest has led an unconventional life. Born into privileged American society, and educated at some of Europe’s finest finishing schools, a life of fashion shows, A-list galas, political fundraisers and other well-heeled charity events was never going to satisfy the young Karen Bradley. No, this rebellious teenager had another career in mind and one that could not have been more opposite – pounding the beat as a humble police officer. Fast-forward forty years, and today, the United Nations’ most senior policewoman commands a contingent of UNPOL moderators to the UK. And not without controversy.

  • Chief Bradley. Your officers’ methods are currently bringing protesters out onto the streets. How do you respond to those who say forcing people to understand opinions opposed to their own is straight from the pages of a dystopian novel?’
    • ‘I would respond by saying: How else are we to tackle the rampant anarchy of so-called social media? The problem is not only beyond the control of the UK’s own police force but worldwide, so making the UN responsible for moderating the internet would seem to make sense.’
  • ‘But UNPOL’s remit doesn’t just cover social media, does it? News agencies, political parties, industry, institutions, even children’s organisations. Can you not see how unsettling that might be for some?’
    • ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures. Before the UN Security Council voted to accept the measure back in 2025, the world was on the brink of collapse and all because some bored teenager could start a war with a single tweet or post. Thanks to my officers’ interventions, that threat has all but been eradicated.’
  • ‘But by forcing everyone to consume views opposing their own?’
    • ‘Not ideal, I’ll admit. But it’s preferable to censoring. By ensuring both sides of a story are told, society as a whole is not only safer but better informed.’
  • ‘Well, I can see how that could work when it comes to countering lies with the truth, but the other way around? Isn’t that not only immoral but dangerous?’
    • ‘An unfortunate necessity. Blame Trump and Brexit. The world has never been more divided thanks to those two and if countering fake news with alternative truths saves the world, then so be it.’
  • ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right, Chief Bradley. A lie is a lie no matter how you dress it up.’
    • ‘Really? What colour is your tie?’
  • ‘I’m sorry?’
    • ‘It’s a simple question. What colour is your tie?’
  • ‘Er, Blue.’
    • ‘It’s green.’
  • ‘I think I know the colour of my own tie. Aquamarine if I’m not mistaken.’
    • ‘Not to someone who’s colour blind. Some sufferers would say it was green or even grey.’
  • ‘Well, as aquamarine is a sort of bluish-green…’
    • ‘And now, having considered the opinions of others, are we agreed? Your tie is both blue and green?’
  • ‘I suppose so.’
    • ‘Welcome to the world of an UNPOL moderator.’
  • ‘I think you’ve just proven my point – your methods involve concealing lies behind the smoke and mirrors of loosely connected facts. Which brings me to my next question. What is your relationship with the King?’
    • ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
  • ‘Don’t be coy, Karen. Is it true you enjoy more than a diplomatic relationship with our country’s monarch?
    • ‘It is true my privileged upbringing has allowed doors to be opened that might otherwise be closed, but I can assure you my relationship with His Majesty is innocent.’
  • ‘Innocent? You call sneaking into Buckingham Palace at two in the morning “innocent”?’
    • ‘We’re both busy people. Finding time for recreation is difficult.’
  • ‘Recreation? What sort of recreation?’
    • ‘Sex.’
  • ‘Sex? You mean you’re having an affair with the King?’
    • ‘Of course. And not only the King of England. The British prime minister, President Gatesberg, the Russian and Chinese premiers. Don’t you want to see the world making love and not war?’
  • ‘Er, I don’t know what to say.’
    • ‘We’ve just discussed how difficult it can be to settle the world and its differences. Brute force and ignorance might work in the short term, but there’s nothing like gentle persuasion for producing a lasting effect.’
  • ‘Chief Bradley. Is this a confession? Are you saying you’re sharing a bed with more than one of the world’s leaders? Some would consider that treason!’
    • ‘Blame the hippie commune I ran away to back in the 1970s. Taking over the world by making love and not war has always made sense to me.’
  • ‘Don’t you mean, saving?’
    • ‘I’m sorry?’
  • ‘You said “taking over the world”. Don’t you mean “saving the world”?’
    • ‘Did I? My apologies – slip of the tongue.’

Music Playlist

Richard and Sarah’s Top-ten
  1. Poison and wine by Civil Wars – “I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back…”
  2. The Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley – “You look like an angel…”
  3. Wish you were here by Pink Floyd – “So, so you think you can tell, Heaven from Hell…”
  4. The whole of the moon by The Waterboys – “I saw the crescent, you saw…”
  5. Shades of grey by The Monkees – “When a man should stand and fight or just go along…”
  6. I never cared for you by Willie Nelson – “And the sky was never blue…”
  7. Opposites attract by Paula Abdul – “Baby seems we never ever agree…”
  8. I choose you by Sarah Bareilles – “tell the world that we finally got it right…”
  9. You make me mad by Third Day – “You make me fall, you make me love…”
  10. Marry me by Jason Derulo – “Nothing else would ever be better, better the day when I say…”

Top 10 List

Alec Birri’s Top-Ten Tips For Writing A Dystopia

Blame Brexit. Blame Trump. Blame the rise of populism in general if you must, but there is no doubt we are currently living in what historians may one day refer to as ‘interesting’ times. And, if you know your pseudo-Chinese proverbs, that’s not meant to settle your thoughts. The literary upshot of that? A resurgence of interest in dystopian classics like Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World and the more modern, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. Want to have a crack at ensuring historians include your name in that illustrious list? Then read on.

  1. Write what you know. Don’t even think about penning a dystopia unless you’ve already spent decades living in a one. What? You haven’t? You mean to say you’ve never been denied entry to a bar, stopped by the police or made to do something you didn’t want to? Take all that and dial it up to eleven. Welcome to your dystopia.
  2. Use technology but avoid ‘hard’ sci-fi. Best done by setting your dystopia in the not-too-distant future. That way it’s more likely to feel ‘real’ to the reader, i.e. if we’re not careful, our children might end up living in it one day.
  3. It’s a thriller first. And some other blah about the environment, population control, conspiracy theories, thought police, eugenics, #MeToo, etc., second. Be passionate about your favourite citizen-oppressing subject but don’t let the detail of it get in the way of the action.
  4. It’s about us. It might be the narrator’s job to keep the listener entertained, but how you explore the human condition will ultimately decide your literary legacy. The chapter involving the rat in Orwell’s 1984 is gripping, but the way a hidden autocracy turned its citizens into unthinking, unfeeling but above all, obedient servants was far more unsettling.
  5. Don’t ignore utopias. A perfect society may make for a boring read, but lambs don’t lie down with lions for long.
  6. Use simple prose. The novel’s going to be complicated enough. The last thing you want your audience asking is, ‘But what’s it about?’
  7. Sex, religion and politics. Might be barred from the dinner table (well, the topics of conversation are) but all three are a must in a dystopian thriller. Remember, you’re aiming to explore why societies do the things they do and digging deep reveals these guys to be the main culprits.
  8. Avoid anything gratuitous. Particularly when it comes to writing political opinions that coincide with your own. If crucial to the plot, then have someone else in the scene state the opposing view no matter how distasteful to you personally. Let the reader decide.
  9. Build the novel. As evolution (creationism?) seems to have built us – step by step. Why does that appear to have resulted in so much inequality?
  10. And finally. Aim to satisfy the audience in this way: They have enjoyed an exciting thriller which has given them a lot to think about.

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Teeny Reviews: A Christmas Revelation by Anne Perry and How the Finch Stole Christmas by Donna Andrews

A Christmas Revelation
Christmas Novella #18
Anne Perry
Ballantine Books, November 2018
ISBN 978-0-399-17994-5
Hardcover

I stopped reading Anne Perry‘s books a few years back when they started getting so much longer than I care for but I’ve remained a fan of her stories about William and Hester Monk and Thomas and Charlotte Pitt plus a myriad of wonderful secondary characters. When this novella came along, I decided I needed to touch base again, so to speak, and I’m glad I did.

This episode is set in and around Hester Monk’s clinic where a young boy has found a family of sorts with a volunteer and a bookkeeper. When Worm sees a woman being abducted, he goes to Squeaky, the bookkeeper, for help and, against his better judgement, Squeaky jumps in. What the pair learns about the woman puts a real twist on things but, bottomline, the mystery surrounding the woman takes a back seat to the growing relationship—and mutual caring—between a child who’s had to grow up too fast and a rather crotchety older man. It’s a sweet story in many ways.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

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How the Finch Stole Christmas
A Meg Langslow Mystery #22
Donna Andrews
Minotaur Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-11545-4
Hardcover

When Meg Langslow’s actor/professor husband decides to put on a production of “A Christmas Carol”, it becomes a family affair with the twins and Meg actively involved but it’s the actor Michael hired to play Scrooge who becomes the star of his own self-important, drunken show. Meg follows him, hoping to find out who’s supplying alcohol to Malcolm and also accidentally discovers an illegal exotic animal trafficking operation. Naturally, Meg and her animal devotee family have to get involved but finding a dead body wasn’t part of the bargain nor did they expect Malcolm to be pegged as the killer. And is the killing connected to the smuggling outfit or something else entirely? Meanwhile, a rescue group has Gouldian Finches being fostered everywhere and more are coming.

Anybody who hasn’t read a Meg Langslow book needs to run right out and remedy that omission but, please, start with the first one in the series. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on a lot of the humor and the family dynamics. Plus, you won’t get the full effect of Spike 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

Book Review: Murder in Keswick by William Todd

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Author: William Todd

Narrator: Ben Werling

Length: 2 hours 38 muntes

Publisher: William Todd

Released: Oct. 16, 2018

Genre: Mystery

While on a well-deserved holiday in the Lake District to get away from the toils and troubles of London, Holmes and Watson find no respite. As soon as they exit the train, they hear news of a grisly murder making its way around the murmuring commuters. A local aristocrat, Mr. Darcy, has been found missing his head!

And that very night, the wealthy widow finds a stranger in her home who, upon seeing her, abandons his plans and quickly leaves. She believes the intruder to be the murderer of her husband who is now after a large sum of cash she keeps in the house safe.

Unsure if the would-be thief is the murderer or an opportunistic burglar, Holmes devises a plan to catch the burglar, all the while investigating the murder of Mr. Darcy. Follow Holmes, Watson, and the local constable Mr. Wickham as they untangle the mystery surrounding a Murder in Keswick.

I have been writing online since the early 2000’s, primarily writing horror stories in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. I was the 2nd most popular author on the website storiesbyemail.com for two years before moving on. I had my first book, a Victorian era horror compilation called Bumps in the Night, published by Mystic Moon Press just a week before they closed their website and never saw my hard work pay off. Afterwards I took publishing into my own hands, became an Indie author and haven’t looked back. My first self-published book was Dead of Night, another compilation of Victorian horror stories, published September 2016 by Createspace and on Kindle by KDP. After its publication I left my comfort zone for mystery and wrote a short story about Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle style. I loved it so much I then did a longer story A Reflection of Evil, both published in 2017 through Createspace and KDP. I have just release Beyond the Gossamer Veil, another compilation of both Victorian and modern supernatural/horror stories and am in the beginning stages of my third Sherlock Holmes installment.

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Narrator Bio

Ben is an award winning actor and voice over professional, who has performed all across the United States. From Shakespeare to Neil Simon, he has displayed a versatility and diversity in the characters and dialects he has portrayed. Ben received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Leading Actor as abusive talk show host Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s TALK RADIO, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Prosecutor Villeforte in Alexander Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, also in Chicago. He has worked with an extensive list of theaters in Chicago over the last three decades: Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, Famous Door, Next, A Red Orchid, Raven Theater, First Folio, Writer’s Theater, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, as well as Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Madison Repertory, and Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. He is an Ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago. For almost a decade he was the voice of the Adler Planetarium, hosting live shows and pointing out the stars, planets and constellations on the big dome. Ben has an eponymous weekly vlog on YouTube, that he films, produces, edits and narrates. He lives in Chicago with his wife Amy, two dogs and three cats.

Not everyone who wishes to add to the the Sherlock Homes pastiche can do so all that well but Mr. Todd pretty much nails it with Murder in Keswick. In fact, I think it might, in time, earn a place in the extracanonical body of work. Rather than the adventures of descendants of Holmes and Watson which have become so popular—and of which I’m very fond—this takes us back to the great detective himself and his companion.

The pair have set off for a vacation in the Lake District and Holmes is already bored without a worthy puzzle to solve so, when they step off the train in Keswick to hear talk about a headless body that’s been found, he can’t be happier. Who IS happier is the local constable, Mr. Wickham, who can’t believe he’ll be able to work with the famous detective.

Mr. Darcy, the victim, is naturally not happy without his head and the trio are soon hot on the trail of clues which, of course, only Holmes takes in but there are two women at the heart of the case, both very strongwilled and appealing. Could one of them be the killer? With a nifty twist near the end, all comes together…after Holmes shares his perspective, of course.

Ben Werling is a credible narrator who took me back to oldstyle Sherlock Holmes narrators, the best kind. He doesn’t differentiate voices all that well, especially females, but I actually don’t mind that. When I listen to a Sherlock Holmes story, I always hear Dr. Watson’s voice telling the story and I expect to hear him, not other characters. The only thing I didn’t care for in the production is the various background noises meant to enhance the settings; my hearing isn’t the greatest and I was distracted trying to figure out what I was hearing. I wouldn’t want them to be louder, just not there at all.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by William Todd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Q&A with Author William Todd
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I never used to even think about how a book would sound as an audiobook…until I finally had one done. Now, I do. The story is most important, whether read or heard. I a bad story is a bad story. But I am more cognizant now when I write with how a phrase might sound read aloud. I think my audiobooks now are much easier on the ear then my first ones because of that. And my narrator, Ben Werling, I’ve used on every story. He’s great and has a wide vocal range. He makes turning a book into audio so much easier on me. I think we’re a good team. I basically give him my manuscript with some simple directions as to accents, maybe weird words that might pop up, since I write typically late Victorian era material, and he does the rest. He does a chapter at a time and sends them to me to okay. We rarely have to redo anything. I am truly lucky because the process, at least for me, is very simple with Ben at the helm.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Because audiobooks are so prevalent and getting more and more popular by the day, I think you have to be conscious of it becoming an audiobook while writing, especially if you plan on using that format. And I think an author is selling himself short if he doesn’t at least consider putting his creations on audiobook. It is another channel to garner readers and followers…and revenue.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I put up three pages of my book for narrators to “audition”. I listen to each audition and pick the best one. But because Ben and I have such a good working relationship, ultimately, he gets my jobs. It is not only because he is such a good narrator. I write Sherlock Holmes and gothic horror. At least for the Holmes stories, I prefer having the same Holmes and Watson in each of my stories. Ben has been hands down the best Holmes and Watson I have found so why would I switch? I don’t think my readers would like that, and I know they would hear the difference.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I am. Until I land on the best-sellers list or get a movie deal, I have a job to pay bills and raise my family. I drive 45 minutes one way. Sometimes, that hour and a half is the only time I have to myself, and the perfect way to spend that time is listening to audiobooks. There are just times in this hustle and bustle life where cracking open a paperback is not possible. But your ears are always available to listen.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I might have to say all of it, but there’s a reason. Well, okay I’ll narrow it down to the final scenes of the book during a storm. But the reason I say all of it is because Ben employs subtle sound effects in the background much like the old radio stories. There is one part of the story where there is a storm, and the thunder and lightning in the background of the narrations lends itself perfectly to the feel of the scene.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • Oh absolutely. I would love to go back to say anytime between 1880 – 1915. The late Victorian era/ Gilded Age fascinates me. It was a time of extreme change, and those changes caused fear. I play off those fears in my horror stories, and Sherlock Holmes was the penultimate player in those times.
  • What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
    • For both it is the same–just do it. It is very easy for life to get in the way of writing. And it’s also very easy to fall out of the habit of writing. Mowing, cleaning, doing things with family, work, prepare for holidays, just plain being lazy (guilty as charged), etc. You have to make the time. This just happened to me where I wrote nothing for over two weeks, and I have deadline to have a Holmes story written by the end of the year for a publication next year. I had been under the weather and busy with life on top of that. There were times where I could have written but didn’t. The good habit of writing almost daily had been broken. But for me, all it took was forcing myself to sit at the lap top and writing a few sentences. Those few sentences ended at ten pages. Same with reading. Even if you have to force yourself, do it. If you love to read and love to write, just the mere act will set you right again. At least it does for me.
  • Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
    • That is where I usually get impetus for my stories, so yeah. Many characters I’ve come up with have appeared in my dreams. The trick is finding the story in which they will appear, especially when I might be working on more than one story at a time.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • Be picky in who you choose. The narrator is 50 percent of the audiobook, the other 50 percent being the story itself. I have heard many good stories butchered by bad narration.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I was approached by the editor of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories and asked if I would contribute a story to Volume XIII due out next summer, so I am honored to be one of the authors selected to add to that volume. It will be the first time that I am published with a traditional publisher but hopefully not my last.
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Dream Cast

Author William Todd’s Picks For Murder in Keswick
  • Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Watson: Martin Freeman
  • Constable Wickham: Rupert Grint (AKA Ron Weasley of Harry Potter)
  • Mrs. Darcy: Catherine Bell (Hallmark’s The Good Witch)
  • Morwenna McGlinn: Emilia Clark (GOT)
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Giveaway

Prize: $20 PayPal Cash

Murder in Keswick Giveaway: $20 PayPal Cash

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