Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. ~ Audio Book Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

Narrated by Matthew E. Berry
Length: 6 hours and 16 minutes
Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing
Released: July 17, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Workaholic insurance attorney Luke Darringer has it all: money, looks, ambition. Sure, he hasn't taken a vacation in over a decade, and his personal life is almost nonexistent - but that's a small price to pay in order to maintain strict control, and minimize his vulnerabilities. 

But then Luke's firm, with the help of his cheeky administrative assistant Charlotte, strong-arms him into becoming the first-ever client of the new Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. The new company promises fantastical vacations to wealthy clients, as well as controlled therapeutic experiences to individuals suffering from various forms of mental illness, such as autism and PTSD. They're a potentially huge client for Luke's firm, but they need liability insurance before they can get off the ground. Luke expects he'll have a quick little canyoneering adventure like he did back in his college days, and then get right back to the grindstone.

But Luke's adventure doesn't quite go the way he planned. Eli, the entrepreneur in charge, assures Luke that the glitches are nothing to worry about, and they'll have things under control again in no time. Instead, Luke soon finds himself in a wilderness of questionable reality, where he is responsible not only for his own safety, but also Charlotte's, Eli's, and that of a nonverbal autistic boy whose vulnerability strikes a bit too close to home. Forced to confront his past and his deepest fears, Luke must decide whether to rewrite history and become the man he's always wanted to be - or whether instead he is doomed to repeat it.

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HALL WAYS REVIEW: Audio Book Review:  What a premise! Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. offers its clients a virtual get-away into the fantasy world of the client’s choice. Knights in shining armor? You got it. Alien world adventure? No problem. DA can create any alternate reality experience for your pleasure – or your therapy. Since I very recently had my own, first time interactive virtual reality experience that included a showdown with Darth Vader (at the amazing VOID in Orlando), this book had great appeal.

For main character Luke, he just needs a dang vacation, though as a workaholic, he feels he really can’t afford to take the time. His get-away isn’t anything as fantastic as being a part of the Rebel Alliance – he just wants to do some canyoneering, something he enjoyed earlier in life but for which he no longer has the fitness or time to do. But since he’s tasked by his employer to check out DA and see if they are insurable, off Luke goes on his adventure.

What I expected based on the cover blurb was a virtual adventure gone wrong – technology gone amok, human survival instincts kicking in for action and adventure and danger. I was thinking Yul Brynner/Westworld. And while readers do get all of the above (sans a Yul Brynner robot), and author C.A. Gray gives readers some edge-of-your-seat moments, the real focus of Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. is relationships. Specifically, the complicated thing that is love takes center stage, which threw me for a loop.

As if navigating a hostile environment isn’t enough for Luke, what he must navigate in dealing with Charlotte, his executive assistant in the real world, is any man’s hell.  The constant peppering of questions both she and Eli, the mastermind behind Dreamscape Adventures, is any person’s nightmare. Poor, self-centered, flawed Luke doesn’t get a break from being asked how to share how he feels and being put on the spot to share his heart’s deepest desires and fears and sorrow. To top-off that torture, in a strange “This is Your Life” kind of denouement, Luke is forced to literally face his past and deal with all the pain it inflicted.  Some vacation.

“It struck him ironically how very unselfish this was.”

In Dreamscape Adventures, Inc., author C.A. Gray weaves an interesting and at times engrossing tale of the extreme measures it takes for some to re-set their lives and priorities.  With more than a few unexpected twists, the author allows readers to not only observe, but to evaluate within themselves how this overstimulating, too busy world we live in takes its toll. It explores how snap judgments, assumptions, and privilege can lead to misery and loneliness and that sometimes, intervention is the only way out.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: Matthew Berry performs each of the characters very well, so that each is unique and easily recognized. He happily has mastered voicing females, and he nails the sass, snit, and sarcasm of Charlotte perfectly. I did increase the speed to 1.25x within the first chapter, which is standard for me, so the pacing was even and perfect. There were a few peculiar pronunciations and sentence pauses, but without seeing the text, I am not sure where the fault falls. Overall, really well-done and I’d definitely listen to Berry narrate again.

Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions and the author for providing me a digital audio book in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.  
I received this audio book as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audio book did not affect my opinion of it.

By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

Narrator Bio

Matthew has been very active in his career as a radiologic technologist, but something was nagging at him. His urging to be involved with the written word. The medical journals he wrote did not fill the desire for the kind of words he wanted to be a part of. He had always considered himself a writer. But one that often had difficulties completing the story. So, how else could he be involved? Matthew began listening to audio books and decided in 2017 that he was going to give it a try.

He now has nine audio book projects on sale at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with two projects in the works.
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Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Yazzy's Amazing Yarn ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Promo, Book Trailer, & Giveaway!

Illustrated by Emily Calimlim
  Genre: Children's Picture Book, Ages 4-8 
Publisher: Twenty-Eight Creative
Date of Publication: August 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 32

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Yazzy is a creative girl, always sketching out her next adventure. She loves yarn, and she loves to knit! Her neighborhood park is dull and rusty, but Yazzy has a grand plan. 

With a little help from her friends, Yazzy’s knitted wonders transform Penny Park into a fuzzy rainbow of warmth and color. What yarn-tastic idea will Yazzy think of next? 

The book includes a “History of Yarn Bombing” page for readers who are not familiar with this creative and whimsical type of art.

“As a teacher, it's refreshing to find a book that exposes children to an alternative art form. I'm inspired by Yazzy's story, and I know my students will be, too.” -- Deborah Horwitz, Art Teacher, The Emery/Weiner School, Houston, Texas.

Cathey Nickell is a busy author and elementary school speaker, having presented at more than seventy schools to date. Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn is her second children’s book about creativity and outside-the-box artistic endeavors. She is also the author of Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car, which was awarded first place by the Texas Association of Authors in the category of Children’s Picture Books-All Ages. Cathey lives with her husband, Kevin, in Houston, where they raised their four children.


Emily Calimlim, while not a knitting whiz herself, loves creating art with humorous and lively watercolor pictures for children. She lives in Houston with her fiancé, George, and silly studio bird, Simon. Emily spends her days capturing her ideas and imagination with paint and pencil.


August 27-September 6, 2019
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Monday, August 26, 2019

The Bird Boys ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Review & Giveaway!

A Delpha Wade and
Tom Phelan Mystery
  Genre: Gentle Noir / Mystery / Women Sleuths
Date of Publication: August 20, 2019
Number of Pages: 306

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The new novel from award-winning author Lisa Sandlin catches up with the almost-murdered secretary Delpha Wade (The Do-Right, 2015, set in 1973) as she’s released from a hospital in order to be tucked into the back seat of a police cruiser. Her boss, P. I. Tom Phelan, sets out to spring her. He needs her back in his investigation business, where he’ll soon be chasing a skulking grand larcenist and plotting how to keep a ganjapreneur out of the grabby hands of a brand new agency, the D.E.A. Delpha digs through old records and knocks on strange doors to unravel the dangerous case of two brothers with beaucoup aliases—verifying that sometimes truth is not true, but murder is always murder.


Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“What makes this crime novel soar is the humanity and humility of its main characters. It is by turns exciting, tender, suspenseful, observant, and gently funny. Readers will eagerly await the next installment.” 

Booklist, Starred Review
“Sandlin’s sequel soars on the wings of its spot-on evocation of a time and place and its utterly compelling central characters... A first-rate series crying for word-of-mouth support.”

Kirkus, Starred Review
“Proving that anything old can be new in the right, talented hands, Sandlin has crafted an outstanding series that readers will want to follow and savor.”

Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle
"I confess that as a Beaumonster who remembers that city in the early seventies, the book has a special appeal; Sandlin gets so many details just right. But you don't have to have lived there to be captivated by The Bird Boys. Its characters, wit, exquisite prose, and sense of redemption are so richly crafted that they'll stick to most anyone like, well, a shirt to your skin on an August afternoon in Beaumont."


HALL WAYS REVIEW:  Even days after finishing The Bird Boys by Lisa Sandlin, the weight of it surrounds me. The book is heavy, nuanced, and the very best of noir fiction. This second installment in the Delpha Wade and Tom Phelan Mystery series again had me completely immersed in the 1970s and the world revolving around these two characters. There is a top-notch primary mystery that as it unravels, reveals layer upon layer of surprises and switchbacks involving sketchy people and perpetrators. But the waters are muddied, and Tom and Delpha have to find a way to see through them to get to the truth.  Along the way, there are several side-cases that require the help of Phelan Investigations, and each involves quirky and colorful characters that readers won’t soon forget.

“People don’t like people that are indigent, Tom. 
They think they can catch it.”

Author Lisa Sandlin writes with a unique style and cadence to which I became accustomed in The Do-Right, book one of the series. The dropped conjunctions, the alternate spellings, and the deliberate word choices and phrases place readers fully in the moments as they unfold and enhance the sense of setting and situation. Peppered with pieces of history – like the Watergate hearings, the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs showdown, the $1.60/hour minimum wage – The Bird Boys not only informs (or for some of us, reminds), but that organic drizzling of facts lends an air of authenticity to the story. The historical elements pull-in the reader, and while Sandlin shows that great strides have been made since the ‘70s, she also shows where society hasn’t much evolved.

“Outside, steam was masquerading as air, and the small parking lot to the side of the building was an archipelago of blacktop islands
amid a rainwater-sea filling its ruts and dips.”

“Sultry September opened its square mouth and breathed.”

The art of Sandlin’s writing is in her observations and glorious descriptions that set the tone and lend to the mood. But amidst the gloom, Sandlin sprinkles in the ordinary delights that Delpha, free from fourteen years of incarceration, enjoys: the wind on her face through a rolled-down car window, the ability to fail without painful consequences, a flock of birds in flight, spontaneous trips to the library, simply existing on her own terms.

“That’s what I’m telling you. That’s what we do. There’s . . . 
there’s a whole army of reference librarians out there—every town in America.”

I must take a moment to say that in The Bird Boys, I love the prominence of the library and librarians as essential research tools, at the ready for anyone who needs them. It makes my librarian heart sing! But also, I like how via the library, readers see a little bit more of Delpha in her interactions with the feisty librarian, Angela, but we also see more of what’s happening inside Delpha’s head and how her mind works. One of the subtle feel-goods of the story is watching Delpha learn and grow and begin to find self-confidence and self-worth. And the library helps Delpha find order in the chaos. I can relate to the comfort it brings Delpha to rely on lists, on organization, on process. (ooh! I dropped my conjunction! It’s the Sandlin Effect!)

“What was in front of him was a clear and present treat 
followed by a comets-tail of trouble.”

While readers learn much about Tom and Delpha through their internal monologues (the story is told from both points of view), their external dialogue and interactions with each other ooze with innuendo. It is in this tentative relationship that by book’s end, readers see a glint of something shiny . . . is it hope? Can it be snatched out of the murky waters of the bayou or will it sink, never to be found again?

Having read both books in the series, I highly recommend readers do the same. The Bird Boys can stand alone, but it is immeasurably enriched by the experience of first reading The Do-Right and by knowing the backgrounds of the characters and their relationships. Looking for giggles and endings that will move you to tears of joy? Move along. But looking for intriguing characters, intriguing premises, and depth? The Bird Boys has those in spades. Don’t miss this thought-provoking series.

Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours, the author, and Cinco Puntos Press for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Lisa Sandlin is the author of The Do-Right, winner of the Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America and the Hammett Prize from the International Association of Crime Writers. Her new mystery thriller The Bird Boys is set in 1973 in the same town she was born, Beaumont, Texas. Her previous books are The Famous Thing About Death and Message to the Nurse of Dreams, Cinco Puntos Press; In the River Province, SMU Press; and You Who Make the Sky Bend, Pinyon Publishing.

THREE WINNERS: Choice of eBook or Print Copies of THE BIRD BOYS
August 20-30, 2019
(International - eBooks only)

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