Audiobook Review: Semester Aboard by Elizabeth Kirke

Author: Elizabeth Kirke

Narrator: Starla Huchton

Length: 14 hours and 34 minutes

Publisher: Elizabeth Kirke

Released: July 4, 2018

Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy

Jen Maddox is a few days into her summer study-abroad program and has loved every moment on her cruise ship turned college campus. Everyone tells her the experience will change her life, but none of them realize just how right they really are.

One night, Jen goes out on deck and encounters five other students. She knows Charlie from one of her classes, and he’s a funny, friendly, regular guy. Picture-perfect Dani and his gorgeous wife, Mariana, live right down the hall from Jen, and she has seen TS, who’s built like a truck, around the ship, and recognizes the cute but quiet Thomas as well.

Then Jen sees something that isn’t humanly possible. Jen would have thought that it was all a dream if not for the fact that Charlie, Dani, Mariana, TS, and Thomas are making every effort to cover it up. Suddenly, the five of them are everything but normal, and Jen is determined to figure out what they’re hiding.

When she does, her life really does change. Jen expected to spend her summer studying the cultures of Latin America; she never dreamed she’d learn about a magical culture instead.

But Jen’s childhood fantasy come true is about to turn into a nightmare; there’s something on the ship. Something dangerous. Suddenly, everyone on board is threatened by a creature that Jen never even believed existed. Jen and her new friends might be the only people who can stop it!

Now Jen has to learn everything she can about her new world before it kills her. And her friends. And maybe everyone on the entire ship.

Elizabeth Kirke lives with her husband, two young sons, a hound-mix, and two turtles. She wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn’t stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn’t long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn’t be happier now that that dream is a reality.

If she isn’t writing, she’s probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn.

Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can’t resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That’s her new dream.


Narrator Bio

Since debuting her narration skills in 2009, Starla Huchton has lent her voice to many podcasts and audiobook productions. She has read both character parts and main narration for authors such as Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine, and Lindsay Buroker, and her work spans across both fiction and non-fiction in multiple genres.


I loved the sound of this book, especially as it was likened to Harry Potter PLUS! The protagonist gets to spend a semester aboard a floating college and shortly after her arrival, suffers from sea-sickness and goes to get some air .. and her life changes forever.

The characters are wonderfully written and although there are LOTS of people and types of people to meet, it never gets too much and is easy to follow.

The plot was very obviously well thought out and complex too although easy to follow – I think that I prefer listening to these kinds of books as I tend to find that understanding complexities is easier when listening rather than reading!

The narrator was awesome – easy to listen to and definitely one that I am adding to my favourites list so that I can look out for other books in the future.

I only realised once I had finished this that it is the first in a series and I will keep an eye out for the other books in the series.

4.5 Stars.

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

  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Never in a million years. When I originally wrote the book I was actually posting it, chapter by chapter, in the Original Works section of a fanfiction website! Back then, ebooks were hardly even a thing. Merely publishing Semester Aboard was a pipe dream and having an audiobook never even crossed my mind. I hardly even expected to be where I am now, with three (plus a short story collection) books in the series and three more on the way. Not to mention having Semester Aboard win an award for Best YA Paranormal!
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • Sheer luck! Starla and I were already Facebook friends thanks to the networking power of the author world. We actually sort-of worked together before, when she made a wand for me. (Actually, she made the top half of a wand to fit onto the bottom half of my existing one. The top broke off and I buried it with my beloved cat but hated to have a broken wand just sitting around.) Anyway, I posted on Facebook asking my friends if they know any narrators and briefly described what I was looking for. Starla replied and sent a link to books she had already done. I knew she was the perfect fit right away, and the rest is history!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process?
    • Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
      I gave Starla an absurdly detailed document with pronunciation, bios, and even descriptions and pictures. It was probably above and beyond what she needed, but since she brought it to life, it was worth it! We chatted back and forth a lot for the first couple of chapters, but after she had the characters down I just let her do her thing!
  • Were there any real-life inspirations behind your writing?
    • Big yes! I was part of the Semester at Sea program back in college. I spent a summer on a cruise ship, operated (at the time) by the University of Virginia. I took college courses with UVA and visiting professors while touring Latin America on the ship. I strongly encourage college students to do it! That experience inspired this book, in which the main character is a student in the same program. As she navigates magic and vampires, her voyage takes her to the same ports that I visited. While a lot more magic is thrown in, the characters do have many of the same experiences in different countries and on the ship that I did.
  • In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
    • Interesting question. I think each pro and con play off each other. A con of plotting a series is that you need to plot out multiple books and come up with character development and arcs that span more than one book. So, the pro of a stand-alone is that you can wrap it all up with a bow. However, it could also reverse! A con of a stand-alone is that you have to keep everything succinct enough to be contained in one book, but exciting enough to keep readers interested. Likewise, a pro of a series is that you can get really in-depth and intricate, and you have room to grow. I think it all depends on your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I think it all benefits from Starla’s amazing performance. That said, I’ve gotten some negative feedback in the past regarding how slow some of the portions in the ports go. As you just read, they were based on my real experiences, so I think I got a bit too wordy and nostalgic as I describe them. But, Starla brings them to life and you really feel the excitement through the main character’s eyes as she reads. I think it really picks up the dragging parts. She also adds a wonderful sense of urgency to the fight scenes!
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • I would head straight to 1797 and visit George Washington. I worked for several years as a historical interpreter on his estate and would love to pop in and see it in its prime. Not to mention catch some time alone with the General to talk to him.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • People say that!? Ugh, people will complain about anything for the sake of taking enjoyment away from someone else. 100% disagree. First, there are numerous medical reasons to listen to audiobooks, and that alone should be worth something. Vision impairment, arthritis, dyslexia…The list goes on. Heck, even a nasty migraine that makes opening your eyes torture, but you can’t fall asleep. And who doesn’t want to read a book while stuck in traffic? Why not listen? And, most importantly: people enjoy them. That should be enough. We should be rallying against people who want to censor or limit access to books, not people making them more accessible.
  • What’s next for you?
    • Phew! The very next is Wrought-Iron Roses, the 2nd book in my paranormal romance series, The Curse Collectors. The first book opens with three sisters who inherit their aunt’s antique shop. Upon arrival, they discover that she was a rune-caster, and was in charge of breaking the curses cast upon all of the antiques in her shop. One of the sisters gets cursed, so they have to learn how to cast runes to save her.
      After that, I’m working on the fourth (fifth if you count Danio’s Prelude) book in the More than Magic series! I’m also hoping to get the audio for the next one lined up.
      Lastly, I’m working on the outline for a brand new series! This one is a paranormal cosy mystery series. I’m quite looking forward to writing it.

Jennifer Maddox

  • Height: 5’ 4” and slim
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Brown
  • Favourite Food: Pizza
  • Favourite Movie: Twilight
  • Birthday: June 17
  • Born: Oregon
  • Occupation: College student

In this book: Jen thinks the only “magical” thing about her summer on a cruise will be the cruise itself, little does she know, some of her new friends are quite a bit more magical. In fact, they aren’t even human. Learning about magic seems like a dream to Jen, but it quickly turns into a nightmare; something is on the ship with them. Something dangerous. Now, the lives of Jen, her new friends, and everyone on the entire ship are threatened by a creature Jen never even believed existed. And it’s up to Jen to stop it.

Thomas Clark

  • Height: 5’ 8” and borderline too thin
  • Eyes: Green
  • Hair: Brown
  • Favourite Food: Teppanyaki
  • Favourite Movie: Journey to the Center of the Earth (the original)
  • Birthday: October 8
  • Born: New York
  • Occupation: Special Agent with the Magical Enforcement and Secrecy (MES) agency

In this book: Taking time off for college is encouraged by MES, although Thomas and his friends are pushing the limits by signing up for a college cruise. Nevertheless, he’s ready for a fun summer of cruising and a three-month break from his job as the Resident Magic Coordinator with MES. In spite of all of his experience welcoming magical beings to town, he’s never seen anything like Jen. He’s never felt this way about anyone either. But, when a dangerous magic sneaks aboard the ship, Thomas knows it’s his duty as a Special Agent to stop it, and the lives of everyone on the ship may depend on what he can, or can’t, do.

Char Smith

  • Height: 5’ 6” and stocky
  • Eyes: Red
  • Hair: Red, orange, and yellow
  • Favourite Food: Anything spicy
  • Favourite Movie: The Shop Around the Corner
  • Birthday: June 7 (shared with twin sister, Callie)
  • Born: Arizona
  • Occupation: MES Agent, Magic-Owned Business Liaison Department

In this book: Charlie is less than thrilled to spend a summer surrounded by water; he’s out of his element, literally. But, as long as the ship doesn’t sink, he supposes he can give it a whirl. With the power of fire at his beck and call, he makes a powerful ally for Jen and the others. But, if he loses control, he could sink the very ship they’re trying to save…

Tethys Conall

  • Height: 6’3” and broad
  • Eyes: Dark brown
  • Hair: brown
  • Favourite Food: Meat
  • Favourite Movie: The Shining
  • Birthday: February 10 (shared with four siblings)
  • Born: Ireland
  • Occupation: MES Senior Field Agent

In this book: The only downsides to spending the summer on a ship, as far as TS is concerned, are his seasickness and monthly problem. A potion for the seasickness is easy enough. As for his other issue… well, he’ll just have to spend full moons in his cabin. Of course, it’s also annoying to speak seven languages and find yourself in a country that doesn’t speak any of them. For a Senior Field Agent, thinking on his toes is exactly what TS excels at. Handling a rogue magic on board should be a piece of cake. Of course, he’s also used to having back-up, weapons, and a wider field to work in.

Danio Pelagos

  • Height: 6’ 4” and lithe
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Blue
  • Favourite Food: His mother’s cooking, not that he’d admit it
  • Favourite Movie: The cheesier the better
  • Birthday: November 14
  • Born: Off the coast of Greece
  • Occupation: MES Special Agent, Secrecy Breach Cover-Ups

In this book: Prank-loving Dani was, naturally, the mastermind behind pulling some MES strings to get an all expenses paid vacation. The icing on the cake is being on a ship. Had he known the danger lurking, however, he would’ve taken a rain check. Dani’s no stranger to threats on his life, but he prefers to face them without the people he loves along for the ride.

Mariana Bar

  • Height: 5’ 10” or 7’2”
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Blonde or Green
  • Favourite Food: Fish
  • Favourite Movie: The Little Mermaid
  • Birthday: April 2
  • Born: Maine
  • Occupation: MES Intern

In this book: Mariana is eager to go along on a cruise with her friends, even if her bestie couldn’t make it. She’s ready for sun, sand, and (mostly) the depths of the ocean. There’s plenty of exploring to do with Dani by her side. But take her out of the water, and she’s not nearly experienced enough to take on the creature hunting them. Mariana feels more like a liability than a future MES agent. Nevertheless, she’s ready to do whatever it takes to defend herself and her friends.

Sep. 13th:

T’s Stuff

What Emma Read Next

Sep. 14th:

Patriotic Bookaholic

What Is That Book About

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Sep. 15th:

Turning Another Page

Sep. 16th:

Smada’s Book Smack

Sep. 17th:

Book Addict

Bookworms Corner Blog Spot

Sep. 18th:

Lilly’s Book World

The Book Addict’s Reviews

Sep. 19th:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Guilty Indulgence Bookclub

Declarations of a Fangirl

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Book Review: Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for “Perfect Ten” by Jacqueline Ward, being hosted today by Anne Cater over at Random Things Tours.

The Blurb:

Caroline Atkinson is powerless and angry. She has lost more than most – her marriage, her reputation, her children. Then one day, she receives an unusual delivery: lost luggage belonging to the very man who is responsible, her estranged husband Jack.

In a leather holdall, Caroline unearths a dark secret, one that finally confirms her worst suspicions. Jack has kept a detailed diary of all his affairs; every name, every meeting, every lie is recorded. He even marks the women out of ten.

Caroline decides it’s time to even the score. She will make this man pay, even if it means risking everything…

About the Author:

Jacqueline Ward is a Chartered Psychologist and scientist working in high hazard safety. She holds a PhD which explored the stories we use in everyday life to construct our identities, and in 2013 received an MBE for services to vulnerable people. She lives in Oldham with her partner and their dog.



My Review:

OK So I love the cover of this one – and yes I am someone that judges a book initially on the cover!

This is a book about a tough subject and the author deals with it in an interesting way.  There is a lot going on in the storyline and sometimes I found it hard to keep up but I did and I enjoyed it.

One thing that really stood out for me was the characters – I loved the differences between them but also the fact that the main character is a psychologist dealing with this psychological trauma – it certainly spices things up!  She does some questionable tings at times but I think, given the situation, it was in keeping!

I have to admit that it wasn’t particularly the kind of book that I usually read and so my rating may seem low but I think that it was a good book and I know of a couple of people that I will recommend it too based on their tastes.

3.5 Stars

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Book Review: The Austin Paradox by William R. Leibowitz

Book Details:

Book Title: The Austin Paradox by William R. Leibowitz
Series: The Miracle Man Series Book 2
Category: Adult Fiction, 461 pages
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Manifesto Media Group
Release Date: May 2018
Tour Dates: Aug 6 to Sept 14, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

The Blurb:

The Austin Paradox continues the remarkable saga of Robert James Austin in a gripping emotionally-charged thriller that explores the most compelling issues of our time.

Having lost his extraordinary intellectual powers in a laboratory explosion that was intended to kill him, Dr. Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in history, whose medical cures saved countless millions, struggles to find meaning in a life that has become devoid of purpose.

As he embarks on a journey of self-discovery in an effort to regain his abilities, Austin battles private demons, otherworldly forces, and a government obsessed with controlling him. When ruthless political and business interests align to pose an existential threat to humanity, Austin is thrust into the maelstrom.

Doubted even by those who love him, Austin is confronted by a harrowing paradox as time runs out to save mankind from extinction.

The Austin Paradox is the sequel to the critically acclaimed, award-winning novel, Miracle Man, which was named by Amazon as One of the Top 100 Novels of 2015, a Top 10 Best Selling Thriller and a Top 10 New York Times/Amazon Best Seller.

To read reviews, please visit William R. Leibowitz’s page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:


Watch the Book Trailer:

About the Author:

William R. Leibowitz practices law internationally and prefers not spending too much time in any one place. He is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Law School.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook



Author Interview:

Q: What sparked the idea for these two books?

A: In writing Miracle Man and The Austin Paradox, I wanted to create a modern day believable ‘super hero’ who is not a comic-book character and is not interested in celebrity. I thought that such a person could be inspirational when contrasted with the meritless celebrities that dominate media today (e.g., the reality TV stars who are famous for being famous, but have no real talent). I also wanted Miracle Man and The Austin Paradox to be the vehicles within which I could convey, in an entertainment context, certain spiritual and humanistic messages that mean a great deal to me.

Q: What was the hardest part to write in these books?

A: Because of the plot lines in these novels, I needed to do extensive research in several areas: (1) the nature of human intelligence (particularly genius); (2) diseases, treatments, attempted cures—and the medical/scientific methodology relevant to formulating cures; (3) ways in which money is laundered internationally; and (4) bio-terrorism. I knew that in order to really engage the reader and have the stories be plausible and realistic—I had to be detail oriented and know what I was talking about.

Q: How do you hope these books affect your readers? Are the books just for entertainment—or are you aiming at more?

A: Of course – my primary objective is to captivate readers with highly engaging stories that make the books hard to put down. But within that entertainment context – I seek to raise issues that I hope my readers will think about. Issues like the sanctity of human life and how corporate greed has undermined our health care systems and the quest for money has displaced ethical and moral values.

Q: I understand that your protagonist, Robert James Austin, is extremely intelligent. Can you get into this a little more?

A: Austin is extraordinary – there has never been a genius of his magnitude. He has 10x the intellect of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Leonardo DaVinci. Where his intelligence comes from –is one of the mysteries that are explored in the novels. Because I wanted the portrayal of Austin to be realistic, I did a great deal of research into the indicia of genius at various stages of life –and how genius is identified and quantified. I read the biographies of known geniuses and from this I gleaned what was “real”; I then “pumped up” the actual realities to reflect the fact that Austin was in a completely different league from the people whom I researched. In this way, I knew that I built my character on a solid foundation.

Q: You obviously are not a big fan of Big Pharma and that theme runs through both Miracle Man and The Austin Paradox. Is it true that there were cures for diseases that were suppressed by Big Pharma because it would hurt their business?

A: I don’t have an absolute answer to that but I do think there is a real problem. One of the powerful forces fighting Austin is Big Pharma which views him as their enemy since he cures diseases and thereby makes many of their “cash-cow” drugs obsolete. Like Austin, I find it incomprehensible that virtually no major disease has been cured in over 50 years. How can that be the case when so much money has been spent over the decades on research? Simply put, there’s a lot more money in treating symptoms than there is in curing diseases. Austin realized that Big Pharma has no interest in curing diseases. It just wants to keep on selling expensive symptom treatments—and as we know, many people are on “medication maintenance programs” for years, sometimes for life. Austin wanted to change that. I think that people need to start questioning Big Pharma on a host of issues –from the astronomical cost of drugs—to the question–“Where are the cures?”

My Review:

To read my Review of the first book in the series, click here.

In my opinion, you need to have read the first book before you read this one.  I mean, you don’t HAVE to have but I think that to enjoy it the most, you should!

This book has a nice, slow start – especially lovely as I went right from finishing book one into book two …. and needed a moment to calm down a bit!  The story builds though and I enjoy watching it ramp up over time.

I enjoyed seeing the ‘fallout’ from the first book – when someone as special as Bobby loses their genius-ness it must be a hard thing to deal with and I feel that the author handled it well and realistically too.  I liked that he didn’t shy away from the dark side of things and dealt with it in a way that i can relate to, even in a small way.

This book was a great continuation of the story and it leaves you wanting more .. and the I think there will be more as the ending lends itself to there being a third book – YAY!

4.5 Stars


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Book Review: Miracle Man by William R. Leibowitz

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for “Miracle Man” by William R. Leibowitz and hosted by iRead Book Tours.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Miracle Man by William R. Leibowitz
Series: The Miracle Man Series Book 1
Category: Adult Fiction, 446 pages
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Manifesto Media Group
Release Date: February 2014
Tour Dates: Aug 6 to Sept 14, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

The Blurb:


The victim of an unspeakable crime, an infant rises to become a new type of superhero. Unlike any that have come before him, he is not a fanciful creation of animators, he is real.

So begins the saga of Robert James Austin, the greatest genius in human history. But where did his extraordinary intelligence come from?

As agents of corporate greed vie with rabid anti-Western radicals to destroy him, an obsessive government leader launches a bizarre covert mission to exploit his intellect. Yet Austin’s greatest fear is not of this world.

Aided by two exceptional women, one of whom will become his unlikely lover, Austin struggles against abandonment and betrayal. But the forces that oppose him are more powerful than even he can understand.

Miracle Man is the winner of a Best Thriller national award, and was named by Amazon as ONE OF THE TOP 100 NOVELS OF 2015, a TOP 10 BEST SELLING THRILLER and a TOP 10 NEW YORK TIMES/AMAZON BEST SELLER

To read reviews, please visit William R. Leibowitz’s page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

About the Author:

William R. Leibowitz practices law internationally and prefers not spending too much time in any one place. He is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Law School.​

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook




My Review:

This is yet another book that i have loved from the first page!  I was hooked immediately and read it in two sittings.

I loved that we started at the very start of Bobby’s life, seeing what he had to deal with as a child, both the good and terrible – what that boy went through, and to remember absolutely all of it, was heartbreaking.  I think that we knew all of this throughout the book helped with the character development, especially as there were times when I wanted to smack him upside the head for being an idjit!

There were some really sad moments in the books and the author was wonderful at writing them in a way that didn’t linger, but didn’t rush past them either.

If I had to moan about one thing, it  would be the timeline – as the book basically covers the life of one person from the age of about 4 until just after 40, there is a lot to cover (especially a guy who wins 11 Nobel Prizes!) but there were times that I felt that it jarred just a little bit, but not enough to make me hate the book.

I thought I saw a twist coming and although I almost did, it wasn’t like I assumed it was and that was such a breath of fresh air!

Having said that .. the ending reveals quite a cliffhangery twist which suited the book really well and one that I *think* I possibly, maybe worked out just before it was revealed … I think ..!!

The great thing about this one and the fact that i am reviewing this book tomorrow is that I get to read the second book immediately .. and I have already started and am intrigued to see where it goes!

Great book – I hope book 2 follows in its footsteps! A great 4 Stars.


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Congratulations Silver Dagger Book Tours!

I am delighted to be taking part in this very special blog tour!  I am a Tour Host for Silver Dagger Book Tours and when Maia asked me to take part in her 2nd Anniversary celebrations, I didn’t hesitate to say YES!
Silver Dagger Book Tours is 2
years old this month!
Believe it or not, Silver Dagger Book Tours was created and is mainly operated by just one person!
I used to be just an internet crawler looking for new books and giveaways and stumbled upon book tours. After indulging in many dozens of tours, I decided I’d like to try my hand at blogging in my spare time (with absolutely no blogging experience at all!) I was a book blogger for several companies (and still am) and stuck with it for over 3 years. In that time, I learned all the ropes and became a pretty efficient blogger, but there was still something missing- I wanted to make my posts stand out a bit!
So, I started creating small graphics like “about the book” and the other standard graphics that you see in all my tours nowadays and started jazzing my posts up.
I became pregnant with my second child in the fall of 2015 and me and my hubby decided to try to purchase our first home finally, so I quit my waitressing job to pack up everything for the move and never looked back!
It took several months of trying to get the ball rolling and was quite difficult at first to get authors to tour with me. Thus, I had an idea to let everybody pay what they can comfortably afford instead of set rates as I thought what some other companies charged were just outrageous!
Since then, I have done over 1000 tours and worked with hundreds of amazing authors – many who come back for repeat tours! I have 2-3 tours kick off every weekday with occasional tours on the weekends and EVERY tour is required to have a giveaway so readers can gain a little something and have fun while they enjoy learning about new books.
I have an absolutely amazing group of bloggers that share my tours on their sites and really couldn’t have gotten this far without their continued support and would like to thank each and every one of them! Ya’ll are amazing!
I also have two assistants that help me check links and keep up with blogger activity – Janet, who’s been with me over a year, and Laurie, who is a new addition. Ya’ll ladies are spectacular and I couldn’t do it without you!
Absolutely everything else is completely run solely by me though and I really enjoy organizing tours and helping new authors get discovered. I don’t discriminate and host ALL fictional genres in ALL age ranges as me and my bloggers have a broad range of readers that enjoy many different genres.
After two years of astronomical tours, I am going stronger than ever now and growing on a daily basis with plans to continue hosting tours for many many years!
If you are an author interested in booking a tour with me, you can see a general FAQ page and booking HERE!
If you are a blogger interested in joining some of my tours, you can see my current sign ups HEREAnd sign up for email invites HERE!
A third generation local of the historic town of Fredericksburg, TX, I was born and raised among the rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country where the beauty of the landscape is breathtaking and town is famous for the Main Street historic shopping district, the best peaches in the world, wildflowers and wine. I really can’t imagine living anywhere else!
A country girl through and through, I grew up hunting, fishing and digging for Indian artefacts, all the while enjoying the many rivers and swimming holes around town. I’m a stay at home mom with three beautiful boys, ages 9, 2, and 1 that encompass my entire world!
A bookaholic from birth, I have always had a deep passion for reading and spend many late nights devouring books into the wee hours of the morning. My “real” book collection numbers over 3000 books and take up an entire small room in our house with custom bookshelves built by my husband that I call my “book cave”. I’ve been building this collection since my childhood and will keep on adding to it for the rest of my life. Of course, I also have a similar collection of ebooks as well as I  finally went digital a few years ago.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, playing with my kids, doing DIY renovation projects with my husband, cooking, and relaxing on my back porch with a good cup of coffee while I watch the massive axis deer herd come through the yard.
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Guest Post: Missing Christina by Meredith Whitford

The Blurb:

Christina Randall’s sudden death shatters her family. As they react in their various and sometimes shocking ways Jaques, her eldest son, an actor and narrator of the book, finds that his own grief is enough without having to take her place as the person everyone confides in and trusts to fix their troubles.

To distract himself, Jaques helps an Australian historian who is researching the 1967 disappearance of one of his mother’s childhood pen-friends. As the action moves from England to South Australia and back Jaques discovers a new love and the long shadows of old secrets. He has to keep family ties intact, but not everyone is being honest. Is there more than one mystery? And who is in danger?

With humour and unforgettable characters, Meredith Whitford uses her experiences as an adopted child, a writer, a publisher and a synaesthete to weave a heartfelt, gripping novel of the many different kinds of love.

Missing Christina is available in paperback and as an e-book from online and selected physical bookstores.

Guest Post ‘On Writing’ from the Author:

Missing Christina is my fourth published book, and another’s with an agent. My first two were historical novels: Treason, about Richard III, and Shakespeare’s Will, which I wrote because I was sick of (mostly male) biographers assuming Anne Shakespeare was an illiterate harpy whose husband would do anything to avoid her. Getting Treason published was difficult at first, for in the 1990s all I heard was “there’s no market for novels about Richard III”, and in Australia historical fiction had to be romance (“Is it like Jean Plaidy?” asked one publisher; who turned out never to have heard of any other writer of historical fiction), and Treason isn’t. An indie publisher took it on and it immediately won the 2002 International Eppie Award for Historical fiction – this was in the days when the concept of ebooks still needed promotion.

Then, without really meaning to, I found I was writing a biography of Esmond Romilly, Winston Churchill’s nephew, who married the ‛red’ one of the Mitford girls, Jessica. The Literature Board of the Australia Council gave me a research grant that enabled me to travel to the UK and USA to use various archives. (The experience of handling a letter written by someone who’d just taken tea with Hitler is better imagined than described.) Churchill’s Rebels: Jessica Mitford & Esmond Romilly was published in 2014.

Missing Christina was the only way I could write about my childhood as an adoptee – I had to distance the experience and tell the story as fiction through a narrator who’s as unlike me as possible. There’s a bit of mystery woven into the story, too.

I like writing historical fiction and non-fiction because I find plotting difficult, and need the structure of history. Missing Christina took me four years to get right – and, as with the fiction, I needed a ‛voice’ with which to tell the story. I don’t want to sound all mystical, but Treason only worked because its narrator strolled in one day and started telling me his version of the history. Shakespeare’s Will took off when one day, out of the blue, I ‛heard’ the first, bantering, rather sexy and punning scene between William S and Anne Hathaway. Most of the characters in Missing Christina changed completely during the writing, and again along came a helpful narrator, with his own jokes, to tell the story. I suppose this is just one way of trying to explain how writers’ minds and imaginations work, although when non-writers do look at me oddly when I try to explain it.

The fifth book, the one now doing the rounds with my agent, is a nice, amusing bit of fun about an Australian family, and with that one I didn’t need a narrator; I just had to eavesdrop of these characters arguing, teasing and making love.

At the moment I’m supposed to be writing a family biography, but Shakespeare’s daughters are talking to me…

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Book Review: The Spy’s Gamble by Howard Kaplan

Today I am reviewing “The Spy’s Gamble” by Howard Kaplan.

Purchase Links: Amazon UK


When the Israeli Prime Minister boards a new stealth submarine in Norfolk, Virginia intending a celebratory ride and the sub vanishes, it sets in motion a suspenseful story that intertwines the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a story of what could be.

Shai Shaham—an Israeli intelligence officer—contacts old friend and adversary Ramzy Awwad—a former PLO intelligence officer and one of the great writers of his people—for help in locating the missing prime minister. But can they trust each other? Can their friendship withstand the turbulent political landscape?

Eli Bardin—an agent who is feeling the strain of being away from his wife and children for so long in the field—is also tasked to contact Ramzy for the help in finding the missing sub. It seems the Russians have a great interest in the technology, and he must locate the prime minister…because losing him is a national calamity that threatens to upset a delicate political balance in the most terrifying ways.

Starkly depicting the excesses of both sides and moving through actual events, THE SPY’S GAMBLE relies on in-depth research to weave a thrilling tale of suspense of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

About the Author:

HOWARD KAPLAN, a native of Los Angeles, has lived in Israel and travelled extensively through Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. At the age of 21, he was sent on a mission into the Soviet Union to smuggle a dissident’s manuscript on microfilm to London. His first trip was a success. On his second trip, he transferred a manuscript to the Dutch Ambassador inside his Moscow embassy. A week later, he was arrested in Khartiv in the Ukraine and interrogated for two days there and then two days in Moscow, before being expelled from the USSR. The KGB had picked him up for meeting dissidents and did not know about the manuscript transfers.

He holds a BA in Middle East History from UC Berkeley and an MA in Philosophy of Education from UCLA. He is the author of five novels.

DAMASCUS COVER is now a major motion picture starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sir John Hurt and Olivia Thirlby.


My Review:

I have to admit that I don’t really know enough about the relationships and happenings in the region that the book is focussed on but the author clearly does and he imparts this knowledge in an easy and understandable way.

The story is a real ride, fast-paced and emotional rollercoaster and I love that the espionage and ‘big stuff’ happens alongside the pain of the families and everyday people as it helps put things into perspective.

I haven’t read any of the other books by the author but will keep an eye out for them and add them to my TBR when I can.

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Book Review: The Siren and the Spectre by Jonathan Janz

I am delighted to be taking part int he blog tour for “The Siren and the Spectre” by Jonathan Janz today, hosted by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours.

The Blurb:

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: FLAME TREE PRESS; US paperback edition edition (6 Sept. 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1787580059
ISBN-13: 978-1787580053
When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different.
Built by a 1700s land baron to contain the madness and depravity of his eldest son, the house is plagued by shadows of the past and the lingering taint of bloodshed. David is haunted, as well. For twenty-two years ago, he turned away the woman he loved, and she took her life in sorrow.
And David suspects she’s followed him to the Alexander House.

About the Publisher:

FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.

About the Author:

Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and numerous short stories. His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and the School Library Journal.
His novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year. Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.
You can sign up for his newsletter and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

My Review:

Good. Grief. This was, by far, the best book I have read in a long while, and that’s saying something as I have read some crackers lately.  I was hooked from the start and had to actually stop reading at one point for fear of scaring myself too much – despite the fact that I don’t scare easily. Jonathan’s way with words certainly got my imagination (and pulse) racing!
The characters are so well written – David for one is an easily unlikeable person but you can’t help but like him and are certainly rooting for him in the end. I LOVED Ralph .. well until I didn’t but you’ll have to read to find out why. He was sassy and funny and I know someone just like him!
The one character that .. shocked/awed/gobsmacked/angered .. and so much more was Honey – All the way through the book I was waiting to find out why she was like she was but it never comes and that was quite a breath of fresh air – I mean she is just a despicable person!  I spent a lot of time with my chin on the floor, eyes wide and shaking my head when reading her parts .. for may reasons!
I love the humour – who says horror has to be scare tactics all the way through?! I loved that Janz didn’t shy away from the hard stuff too – I mean there are some pretty graphic scenes and he didn’t wash over them which I admired.
The relationship between David and Jessica was a little predictable and whilst it was great that they teamed up, I felt that they didn’t really need to become involved .. but as it wasn’t thrust in your face, I let it slide! 😉
There were a couple of places that I had to go back and rad a page again – mainly because, and don’t tell me you don’t do this, when you’re at the good bits, you tend to speed up excited t find out what happens next .. and sometimes that can derail you when revelations are made – but that’s my fault and not the fault of the author (well it kinda is .. I mean he wrote the bloody brilliant story!).
I am also not sure about the link between the Siren and the Spectre and found that the Siren storyline felt secondary tot he Spectre but that’s nit-picking on my behalf really.
Seriously, if you are in any way a horror fan, READ THIS BOOK!  I do not hesitate in giving this a full 5 stars and will immediately go in search of Janz’ back catalogue to read as he obviously writes in a way that scares me good!

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Audio Review: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour of the classic book “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’ by Kate Douglas Wiggin, hosted by Jess – The Audiobookworm.

Author: Kate Douglas Wiggin
Narrator: Ann Richardson
Length: 8 hours and 11 minutes
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc.
Released: Dec. 8, 2017
Genre: Classics

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm has delighted readers for over 100 years. Published in 1903, when girls were inevitably depicted as pretty, gentle and proper, Rebecca Rowena Randall burst onto the scene of children’s literature. Sent to live with her prim and proper Aunt Miranda, who is expecting her much more demure sister, Rebecca is a “bird of a very different feather”. She has “a small, plain face illuminated by a pair of eyes carrying such messages, such suggestions, such hints of sleeping power and insight, that one never tired of looking into their shining depths….” To her Aunt Miranda’s continual dismay, Rebecca is exuberant, irrepressible, and spirited – not at all “proper” or “demure”. She wins over her aunt soon enough, and the whole town, and thousands of readers and listeners everywhere.
In 1904, author Jack London wrote Kate Douglas Wiggin: “May I thank you for Rebecca?…. I would have quested the wide world over to make her mine, only I was born too long ago and she was born but yesterday…. Why could she not have been my daughter? Why couldn’t it have been I who bought the three hundred cakes of soap? Why, O, why?” And Mark Twain called Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm “beautiful and warm and satisfying”.
This recording, narrated by Ann Richardson, whose sweet voice has a facility for accents and character voices, is a satisfying listening experience you’ll want to revisit. Upcoming from Post Hypnotic Press is a new annotated print/eBook edition of this book, with illustrations from the original publication and a new introduction, as well as a work-book for children.

Kate Douglas Wiggin (September 28, 1856 – August 24, 1923) was an American educator and author of children’s stories, most notably the classic children’s novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. She started the Silver Street Free Kindergarten, the very first free kindergarten, in San Francisco in 1878. She also established a training school for kindergarten teachers with her sister during the 1880s. Kate Wiggin devoted her adult life to the welfare of children in an era when children were commonly thought of as cheap labor.
Wiggin was born in Philadelphia, the daughter of lawyer Robert N. Smith. Her early childhood was coloured by the American Civil War and her father’s death when Kate and her sister Nora were still quite young. Their widowed mother moved them from Philadelphia to Portland, Maine, then, three years later, she remarried and they moved to the little village of Hollis. Kate and her sister, and a new baby brother, Philip, matured in rural surroundings.
From a literary standpoint, the most interesting event of her childhood was her chance meeting with the novelist Charles Dickens. Her mother and another relative had gone to hear Dickens read in Portland, but Wiggin, only 11 at the time, was thought to be too young to attend. However, on the following day, she found herself on the same train as Dickens. Wiggin’s engaged Dickens in conversation for the length of the journey, which she later detailed in a short memoir, A Child’s Journey with Dickens (1912).
Narrator Bio

Ann Richardson has been narrating for major publishers as well as independently published authors since 2008, happily giving voice to classics such as “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (Kate Douglas Wiggin), “Greenwillow” (B.J. Chute), and Zane Grey’s “Riders of the Purple Sage”. Her narrations have been awarded AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Awards, as well as having been finalists in the Voice Arts Awards in 2016 and 2017. In her spare time Ann is a volunteer narrator for Learning Ally (formerly Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic), and speaks to author groups and at writers’ conferences about the process of making an audiobook.


I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Post Hypnotic Press. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
I love classic books from this period – the difference in the way of life is so refreshing and interesting, and often funny too!  However there are darker themes as well which the author handles well, despite the fact that this was written so long ago!
I had not read or listened to this book before I listened to this one so have nothing to compare it to but the narrator really was wonderful!  Her accent was precious and one I could listen to all day and her voices for the different characters were very believable. One thing I particularly liked was that a lot of the time, you didn’t really need to be told who was speaking as it was obvious – that’s a true testament to a narrator and not something all can achieve.
It’s an easy listen – one that you can listen to whilst doing something else – I was sorting through my hard drive trying to free up space and it made the boring task more bearable and made the time go quickly!
It’s one of those ‘not a lot happens but by the end of the book a LOT has happened’ stories – does that make sense?!
I enjoyed it, but it’s not one I think that I would listen to over and over again but should I have kids, I will definitely make sure it’s read to them as a bedtime story – it has that kind of feel to it!
3.5 Stars
Confession – A lot of people seem to compare this to Anne of Green Gables (Rebecca was written first) .. I can’t comment as I’ve not read Anne yet (SHOCK HORROR!)

  • How did you wind up narrating audiobooks? Was it always your goal or was it something you stumbled into by chance?

I studied broadcast journalism in college, but life took me in other directions. When my job evaporated in 2008, I decided to revisit my passions, and found I didn’t desire to be the next Diane Sawyer, but was still interested in some form of voiceover. My mentor suggested volunteering for Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic (now known as Learning Ally), and I was smitten.

  • Did you find it difficult to “break into” audiobook narration? What skill/tool helped you the most when getting started?

It wasn’t too difficult for me to break into narration because I am a self-starter and motivated. It helped that the industry was on the cusp of a huge growth explosion. Tenacity and visualization were my biggest assets when I was starting out. I spent endless hours researching online, studying with coaches, and learning about the craft and the industry. Once I felt confident I could “make it”, I kept positive thoughts, meditated on how I wanted things to transpire, and tried to help others learn the ropes as well. I still do these things.

  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?

I am an avid audiobook fan and listen every chance I get (usually when I go running). I am unable to stop life and sit and read a book, so audio works perfectly for me. I try to listen to Audie award winning audiobooks, as well as my colleagues, and in addition to the story, I learn narration technique from each narrator.

  • Is there a particular genre you feel unsuited for? Have you ever declined a project because you didn’t think you were right for it?

I delight in non-fiction narration. To me, it’s intensely gratifying to communicate the author’s message. I also love a well-written literary fiction story with surprise twists. Once I was offered an inspirational memoir written by a man, and as much as I wanted to work for the major publisher who cast me for the project, I had to turn it down because it would not have worked to hear a man’s words narrated by my feminine voice. It was a horrible feeling to say no, but in the long run it didn’t damage my career, and the publisher thanked me for the integrity.

  • What about this title compelled you to audition as a narrator?

I sometimes think I was born a couple of generations too late. I spent much of my childhood on a farm in Nebraska, doing lots of chores and riding my horse all over the countryside, playing cowboys and Indians with my sister. I love Westerns and old, classic stories such as “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”. The rich descriptions of life in a different era, much simpler, much different, and to me, much more idyllic. I strongly associate with pioneers, strong women, and children who try their best to be obedient, but cannot suppress their effervescent zest for life and adventure.

  • Have there been any characters that you really connected with?

I connected with Rebecca instantly. I’d never read this classic story and when I did, I fell in love with her story and found myself wishing I new what happened to her after she grew up. I even toyed with the idea of writing my own version of what I thought she might have done with her life. She always gave her best effort and was thoughtful whenever she was in a situation to represent her family, her aunts, or her classmates. What a good heart she had!

  • How does audiobook narration differ from other types of voiceover work you’ve done?

I tried commercial voiceover for a very brief time, but found it very distasteful to generate insane enthusiasm for products I’d never used. It felt disingenuous and I’m sure it came through in my voice. Audiobooks are different because the narrator is living in the story, and portraying events and how people interact and react. It’s more authentic, somehow.

  • What’s next for you?

Audiobook narration continues to be my passion, but I also have a strong interest in narrating documentaries. I’ve begun taking coaching for that, and hope to begin building my body of work in that area.

  • Bonus question: Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?

I have had many interesting things happen in my booth, including once when my husband played a joke on my and began messing with my cursor from outside the booth (I record to a laptop that sits outside the booth, using a remote mouse and monitor inside the booth). I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on and grew quite concerned (read FRANTIC) that I’d gotten some type of malware. Another time I was recording, it was the middle of the afternoon, no one was home but me, and I hear the toilet flush in the bathroom right next to my booth. I froze. I listened hard for several minutes for other sounds of someone being in the house with me, feeling the hair rise on the back of my neck and goosebumps on my arms. I crept downstairs to check out the house, and found a notice on the front door that the utilities dept was working on the water lines in our neighborhood and it might cause changes in water pressure. I decided this was the cause of the phantom flush.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Giveaway: 3-Month Audible Membership

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