Book Review: Oasis by Katya de Becerra @KatyaDeBecerra @MacmillanUSA @FierceReads @The_FFBC

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Title: Oasis
Author: Katya de Becerra
Publisher: Imprint/Macmillan
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Google Play // Amazon // Indiebound

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Oasis
Katya de Becerra
Imprint, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-12426-5
Hardcover

From the publisher—

The oasis saved them. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archaeological dig site in the desert with four close friends . . . and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

With their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed . . . until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against one another, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave . . .

Katya de Becerra’s new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.

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The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the absolutely beautiful and brilliant cover. Elynn Cohen is listed as the book designer and I assume this also means she designed the cover but can’t be sure. Whoever the artist is, brava!

The second thing that got my attention about this book was the synopsis—there is nothing I like better than an archaeology setting in a crossgenre science fiction and mystery story and this one offers hints of horror and supernatural goings on.

The third thing that struck me about this book was the statement shown above, found on the copyright page, hilarious and very much to the point 😁

So, did Oasis and its author come through for me after so much promise? You betcha, but with a tiny bit of disappointment because I was hoping for a creepy horror show and this doesn’t quite get there. Having said that, I was intrigued by the author’s continual introduction of one strange thing after another, such as a desperate man who walks out of the desert, a mindblowing sandstorm (no pun intended), equipment that doesn’t work, an oasis that seems to mean survival but, hmm, perhaps not…

The oasis has a weird and frightening effect on the six people who have reached it and I enjoyed seeing their darker sides and how Alif, in particular, copes with unexpected personality changes in herself and others. In fact, it was refreshing to have characters whose friendships are not all sunshine and lollipops for a change.

When all is said and done, what’s real, what’s hallucination? Or is there maybe something out there?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2020.

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An Excerpt from Oasis

You don’t really know heat until you come to a place like Dubai. The air was so humid it was like being in a sauna with your clothes on. Every inhale burned and tickled my throat. I tried breathing through my mouth to see if that was any better, but it made it worse. The second we stepped outside, Tommy produced a baseball cap from his pocket and put it on. Watching him, I felt irresponsible for packing all my headgear in my checked-in luggage and not in my carry-on, where it’d be easily accessible. During our short walk to the airport parking lot, the top of my head got so hot I was surely headed for heatstroke. Luke mimicked Tommy and put a cap on, pulling the brim as low as he could to shade his pale, freckled face. Lori unfurled the tasteful silky gauze scarf she had wrapped around her neck and spread it over her head in a casual but stylish way. Only Minh, Rowen, and I remained at the sun’s mercy until we reached Tommy’s monstrous four-wheel drive.

Tommy and Rowen secured some of our luggage to the top of the car, while the rest of our stuff was pushed into the spacious trunk. At last, I climbed inside the blissfully cool car, grateful for air-conditioning.

“Well, this is Dubai, kids,” Tommy said, eyeing our oddball group in the rearview mirror. “I hope you’re ready for the experience of your lives.”

“Yeah, that didn’t come off cheesy at all.” Minh snorted, and I caught a glimpse of Tommy grinning at her. I promptly looked out the window, focusing on the view instead of wondering whether Minh’s exchange with Tommy counted as mutual flirting.

As we drove farther and farther away the airport, the city of Dubai rose from the desert. A mirage of modernity, complete with skyscrapers glistering in the sunlight. The excitement that was pummeling blood against my ears dwindled when we didn’t enter the limits of the city proper, instead veering left and setting course for Tell Abrar, where Dad and the endless sea of dust awaited us. That was the reason we were here—the dig site. I could always check out Dubai with my friends on one of the weekends.

My eyes were glued to the car window, busy taking in the desert’s Mars-like scenery, alternating with modest houses and gas stations. A deafening roar of engines preceded a small group of motorcyclists speeding past us. The riders were wrapped in leather and the spirit of adventure, and I recalled a period of my childhood spent obsessing over Lawrence of Arabia. I imagined T. E. Lawrence himself standing on a dune somewhere, lungs filling with the clean hot air of the limitless desert. Or, perhaps, he was surrounded by the bedouin in the hinterland, or riding his motorcycle through the ocean of sand, leaving it forever haunted by his dagger-wielding white-clad ghost.

I exchanged an excited look with Minh and then with Lori, their eyes equally bright. The three of us had trouble suppressing our burbling anticipation. This was it. We’d made it.

After about an hour on the road, we arrived. Here at Tell Abrar the sand-swept landscape unfolded as far as the eye could see.

Tainting my excitement with unfounded worry, Tommy’s post on Dig It came back to me all of a sudden. Being here, away from modernity and surrounded by sand on all sides, the unforgiving sun over my head, it was easy to surrender to the idea of meteors crashing into the sands, their fiery spirits lingering to haunt the land to this day. I was about to ask Tommy about his strange blog post, but he finished parking our car and it was time to get out and get going.

Let the adventure begin.

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About the Author

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology and now works as a university lecturer and a researcher. Katya is a short version of her real name, which is very long and gets mispronounced a lot. What The Woods Keep was her first novel (out now), which is followed by another standalone Oasis in 2020. She has also authored and co-authored academic articles, book chapters, guest posts and opinion pieces.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Giveaway

Finished copy of OASIS by Katya de Becerra (US Only)
Starts: January 1st 2020
Ends: January 15th 2020

Enter here.

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Book Review: Crime Travel edited by Barb Goffman @BarbGoffman

Crime Travel
Edited by Barb Goffman
Wildside Press, December 2019
ISBN 978-1-4794-4838-8
Trade Paperback

A collection of fifteen short stories which feature crimes committed, prevented, or solved by time travel. The writing is uniformly excellent and the stories give way to flights of imagination, but always grounded in the reality of a crime. Some of the time travel is accomplished by time machine, some by supernatural methods, and some by original and surprising methods.

In Cathy Wiley’s “And Then There Were Paradoxes,” two detectives travel back in time to consult Agatha Christie on a puzzling locked room murder.

A boy discovers how his parents died in an accident ten years earlier, and wonders if there is any way to prevent their deaths in “Alex’s Choice,” by Barb Goffman.

Heidi Hunter’s story, “No Honor Among Thieves,” features a crook who gets an assist from time travel to thwart her partner, and to avoid sharing the spoils of their treasure hunt.

In “Living on Borrowed Time,” Melissa H. Blaine’s protagonist discovers a couple of teenage time travelers who are visiting all the crime sites of the infamous Fifty-State Stabber, and she realizes she will become one of the victims. Is there a way to foil her fate?

Fans of mystery short stories will find this an enjoyable collection of unusual and thought-provoking time travel tales.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, December 2019.

Book Review: Resistant by Erika Modrak @brwpublisher

Resistant
A World Divided
Erika Modrak
Black Rose Writing, December 2019
ISBN 978-1-68433-393-6
Trade Paperback

It is pertinent to preface this review by sharing my wish-list for turning A Book into The Best Book.

1.      Characters I attach to like Velcro. The kind that pop into my head, even when it isn’t buried in the pages, and evoke a wide range of emotions.

2.      So well written that I simply slide along the sentences. But not smoothly.

3.      Must have razor-sharp turns, tummy-flipping twists and a reveal so shocking, it hits like a giant wave of ice-cold water— from out of nowhere.

4.      The story itself must be its own kind of special. Something shiny-new, but with a pseudo-nostalgic, familiar feel. A couple of chuckle-worthy lines, a few to bring tears.

Resistant by Erika Modrak, doesn’t stop at checking each box; it fades my Kodachrome-color fantasy into a sad little stick-figure drawing.

Set in two drastically different worlds, separated by only miles and an impenetrable wall, this Young Adult dystopian marvel unfurls from different viewpoints, each providing a part of the big picture.

Cat and Abel are both fortunate—albeit the reasons are not the same—to live in the Dome. The great Dr. Grayson heads up and cares for The Community. He oversees order and all efforts to find a cure for the Virus. He generously provides basic essentials—beyond the vaccination—for this elite group. Protection, too. Under his watch, they are safe from the few survivors on the outside who have most certainly become criminals, quite possibly cannibals.

Wren and Ryder reside in a comfortable, if rough-around-the edges, camp with other folks that have somehow avoided the Virus. Not absolutely isolated, though. Ryder has managed to make a connection with someone inside the walled city, and periodically speeds away on his motor-bike for supplies. Sometimes, he allows Wren to join him.

And that is how Ryder and Wren learn that each camp rule was written for a reason. If broken, consequences are exponentially more severe than parental punishment.

They’ve caused worlds to collide. Secrets spill and cast a shadow of doubt over everything believed to be true. Wary partnerships are formed to ferret out the truth as those with the most to lose frantically try to maintain their malicious cover.

I’ll be happily handing out copies of Resistant as soon as it hits my hot little hands. It would just be wrong to keep it to myself.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2019.

Book Review: Refraction by Naomi Hughes @NaomiHughesYA @PageStreetKids @The_FFBC

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Title: Refraction
Author: Naomi Hughes
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
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Amazon // Google Books // Indiebound

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Refraction
Naomi Hughes
Page Street Kids, November 2019
ISBN 978-1624148903
Hardcover

From the publisher—

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

There is much to like about this book but two things in particular really made me love it—(1) the main characters are boys and (2) there’s no romance. No, girls do not have to be the stars of everything 😉

Marty is a flawed character in any number of ways, not least of which is his propensity to do what’s best for himself even if it’s not legal or good for anyone else; in fact, he has been known to actually put others in harm’s way. Despite that, he works hard to control his OCD and his ultimate goal is to find his brother. Before the alien attack, Marty was making progress under therapy to manage his OCD but it’s much more difficult now without professional help and, of course, medication is no longer available.

Earth is in shambles after the aliens brought monsters and survival is predicated on a strict ban on reflective surfaces because that’s how the monsters get through. That ban, quite naturally, created a black market for mirrors and Marty is a player. When he gets caught by another teen, Elliott, both are headed for real trouble, sent into the deadly fog. The two boys are on their own and have to rely on each other, developing a real friendship as they come to know and trust each other.

The plot here is creative and well-planned, keeping me flipping electronic pages to find out what would happen next. The author’s characterizations are vivid and appealing and the monsters are just as scary as they should be…almost as much as Elliott’s mother. Also, not to repeat myself, it’s really refreshing to have a story focused on two boys.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, Novenber 2019.

About the Author

Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.

Author Links:
Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Instagram

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Giveaway

PRIZE: Win (1) copy of REFRACTION
by Naomi Hughes (US Only)

STARTS: November 5th 2019

ENDS: November 19th 2019

Enter here.

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Book Review: Rival by Cindy R. Wilson @CindyRWilson @EntangledTeen @YABoundToursPR

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Title: Rival
Author: Cindy R. Wilson
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: October 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Entangled Publishing

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Rival
Cindy R. Wilson
Entangled Teen, October 2019
ISBN 978-1-64063-351-3
Ebook

From the publisher—

For years, our families have had one rule: We leave them alone. They leave us alone.
When Juno caught me scavenging for supplies in her family’s territory, I had no idea that the war between our two families was about to be pushed to the edge.

But she takes a chance on me. Trusts me. Lets me go.

Now there’s a greater threat to both sides. Someone’s stealing from my family, too.

And it’s up to me to find the thief before anyone else. Because if I can’t, both sides will blame each other. Rule broken. Game over. No one wins.

My only ally is Juno. The one girl I can’t be found with. The one girl who tempts me like no other. She’s the definition of off-limits. If our families knew how we look at each other, and kiss each other…

Star-crossed doesn’t even begin to describe our fate.

I’ve always been fascinated with the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys that lasted through much of the latter half of the 1800’s on the West Virginia/Kentucky border so, when I first saw the description of Rival, I hoped this would be a fitting re-telling of that inter-family war. I’m happy to say that Ms. Wilson has done a really good job with this.

Re-framed in a future time when conditions are dismal and people are struggling to survive, this also offers a nod to Romeo and Juliet in a sort of disjointed manner and the two threads combine into a tale that held my attention all the way through. Juno and Pillar have a friendship that has allowed them to survive a harsh life and, when Maddox ventures into their community’s territory, a hope for peace between the warring sides is born, if only tenuously. First, Maddox and Juno have to learn to trust.

Although I’m not generally a fan of the kind of angsty romance we usually see in young adult fiction, it works here, maybe because they really do have to overcome the hatred and distrust that have been bred into them. Ms. Wilson has gotten my attention with this story and I’ll be looking forward to many more.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2019.

An Excerpt from Rival

It was Maddox who’d broken the rules this time.

He reached for the lock on the storage room door then froze. It was undone. Wait—had he forgotten to lock it? Or had someone else been by? It was a simple lock, probably easy to pick, but they’d never had problems before.

He opened the door and felt around for the flashlight that hung on the closest hook—one of several he was pretty sure Theo had stolen from the people by the bridge.

He cursed the moment his eyes adjusted.

No, no, no. He shone the flashlight around the room, shock waves rolling through his body. When he’d illuminated every dark corner of the room, his heart dropped to his feet.

Things were missing. Half of their supplies and food were gone. Lanterns, flashlights, cans of beans…so many things missing.

It had to be a mistake. Maybe Theo moved some things, or his mom. But why would they do that? No one was allowed to take anything unless they had permission from the community leaders, and even then, it was only in the direst of circumstances. His mom and Theo were big believers that each family or individual took care of their own needs and only got handouts if the leaders agreed.

He reached overhead and pulled open cupboards, the doors banging against each other. Then he ducked down to the lowest shelves, but he couldn’t find much. Theo hadn’t said anything about moving supplies, had he?

Maddox swallowed, mind racing back to the girl on the beach. Someone had stolen from her, too. He hadn’t believed it. Or at least, he hadn’t believed someone from his community could have done it. But now…he wasn’t sure.

It looked like the girl on the beach might not be the only one who was dealing with a thief.

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About the Author

Cindy lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and loves using Colorado towns and cities as inspiration for settings in her stories. She’s the mother of three girls, who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels. Cindy writes speculative fiction and YA fiction, filled with a healthy dose of romance. You’ll often find her hiking or listening to any number of playlists while she comes up with her next story idea.

Author Links:

Website //  Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

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Book Review: Helix by Mary Ting @MaryTing @VesuvianMedia @XpressoTours

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Title: Helix
Series: International Sensory Assassin Network #2

Author: Mary Ting
Publisher: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // ISAN
Amazon // Indiebound

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Helix
International Sensory Assassin Network #2
Mary Ting
Vesuvian Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-944109-86-8
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Alliances are forming. The resistance is growing. Everything is about to change.

With her memory still fragmented, Ava returns to the International Sensory Assassin Network (ISAN) to find the twin sister she never knew she had.

But as Ava hunts for information, she finds herself tangled in a web of yet more lies and conspiracy. The Helix serum may not be required to access her superpowers, and the number of male assassins—previously considered too volatile to tolerate Helix—is growing in every territory.

The more Ava uncovers, the more of a threat she becomes to ISAN. Her only salvation may be to join the rebels—if she isn’t killed first.

Sometimes, a second book in a series lacks the excitement and energy of the first book but that is certainly not the case with Helix. If anything, it’s a lot more frenetic, and all the action and intensity kind of wore me out although in a good way for the most part.

interestingly, we get the POV of Rhett this time as well as Ava’s and that made it easier for me to buy into the relationship between these two. So often in young adult stories I think the hormones get out of control to a laughable level but I’m more comfortable and less distracted by the romance this time.

As Ava searches for her twin, she learns a lot more about her own unusual abilities and the widespread conspiracy behind them but it’s the introduction of the younger players, the children, that let Ava and me begin to understand. I wonder what the author has in store for us next time.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

International Bestselling, Award-Winning Author Mary Ting writes soulful, spellbinding stories that excite the imagination and captivate readers all over the world. Her books run a wide range of genres and her storytelling talents have won her a devoted legion of fans and garnered critical praise.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching after twenty years. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Mary resides in Southern California with her husband, two children, and two little dogs, Mochi and Mocha. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry.

Author links:

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Tour-wide giveaway (INT)

$25 Amazon gift card

Enter the drawing here.

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Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Rebecca Langham @rlangham85 @ninestarpress @AnAudiobookworm

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Title: Beneath the Surface
Series: Outsider Project #1
Author: Rebecca Langham
Narrator: Kate Roth
Publication Date: March 18, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Beneath the Surface
Outsider Project #1
Rebecca Langham
Narrated by Kate Roth
NineStar Press, March 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

When a change in collective conscious sends the Outsiders, a group of aliens, to the shadows below the city, humans reason that the demonetization of their peers is simply more “humane”. There’s no question nor doubt. Just acceptance.

Lydia had embraced that sense of “truth” for as long as she can remember. The daughter of a powerful governor, she has been able to live her life with more comforts than most. Comforts can be suffocating, though, and when the opportunity to teach Outsider children in their private, “humane” community becomes available, she takes it.

What she finds beneath the city is far from the truth she had grown to know. There she meets Alessia, an Outsider with the knowledge and will to shake the foundation of all those who walk above ground. The two find a new and unexpected connection despite a complete disconnect from the technological world. Or perhaps in spite of it.

Still, it takes a lot more than an immutable connection to change the world. Lydia, Alessia, and a small group of Outsiders must navigate a system of corruption, falsehoods, and twists none of them ever saw coming, all while holding on to the hope to come out alive in the end. But it’s a risk worth taking and a future worth fighting for.

Days after reading Beneath the Surface, I’m still unsure of just what I think about it and it keeps popping back into my mind. That’s not a normal state of events for me but it must be a good thing that I’m still cogitating over this book, right?

The premise is a good one, that humans have won the war with the aliens and have subjugated the survivors, and it’s refreshing to see aliens that are so close in appearance to humans and so subject to many of our behaviors. I missed having any  of the initial conflict between the two because that would have brought a lot of frenetic action to the page and, in fact, the story suffered, for me, by being sort of staid. I also could have done with less attention to the romantic entanglements—I always think there’s too much of that—but the characters did appeal to me a good deal.

Perhaps my indecision about this book lies in the feeling that there are too many threads to follow, too many soapbox issues. Did the author really intend that? I don’t truly know but there’s no doubt that this felt like an allegory for our current conditions in the US (and in a few other countries but most noticeably here) what with our government’s treatment of immigrants and the rise of racism, corruption, terrorism, broken promises and all the other ill will going on here.

Narrator Kate Roth does a nice job other than having some difficulty with male voices and her use of varying accents helped bring it all to life. I’ll gladly listen to more from her.

So, bottomline, Beneath the Surface has a lot to offer but there are facets that prevented me from liking it 100%. I’m hoping for—and expecting—some more booklove with the next installment  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

About the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, children, and a menagerie of pets. She has been a foster carer for over ten years.

A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, Rebecca is a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.  When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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About the Narrator

A global voice, Kate brings her broad experience and expertise into the studio and into her voice over delivery. With her unique blend of accents, a project can only “shine” with the versatility and distinct sound of her voice

Australian, British and North American accents are within Kate’s range.

Adaptive in style and tone, depending on your needs, Kate can deliver a wide range of voices. From conversational to authoritative; fun to serious; sophisticated to knowledgeable and beyond.

Connect with Kate:

Website // Twitter // Facebook

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Play an excerpt here.

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