Category Archives: Tantorian Favorites

Hidden Gems of Indie Audiobooks Cont.

Hidden Gems of Indie Audiobooks

Happy fall, everyone! ‘Tis the season for falling leaves, warm sweaters, and… pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. I myself just had my first pumpkin-flavored beverage of the year yesterday. Delicious! Or overdone, depending on your worldview, I suppose. This month I’m featuring an author writing cozy mysteries, perfect for listening while snuggled up with your favorite warm beverage, pumpkin or otherwise. I’m also introducing a wonderful LGBTQ romance author, as well as the memoir of a former drug addict turned successful entrepreneur. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

 

Bella Falls – Moonshine & Magic (Cozy Mystery)

Bella Falls has lived all over the world, but her paranormal cozy mysteries take place in North Carolina, right where she grew up. As a result, the down-home Southern setting of her books feel entirely natural, from the sweet tea and delicious comfort food to the main character’s extremely insincere “Bless your heart.” In the first audiobook of the series, Moonshine & Magic, Charli is a witch returning home to Honeysuckle Hollow after leaving her fiancé and family without a goodbye. She’s hoping to lie low for a while, but when she stumbles on a dead body her first night back, she’s drawn into the middle of a magical mystery that threatens not only her but her entire community. Can she use her unique magic to solve the case and save her town?

This series is narrated to perfection by Johanna Parker, who you may recognize from the wildly popular Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries, the basis of the HBO tv series True Blood. This experience puts this new paranormal Southern story is very much in Parker’s wheelhouse. If you enjoy Moonshine & Magic, you’ll love the sequels, Fried Chicken & Fangs and Sweet Tea & Spells!

 

Eden Finley – Fake Out (LGBTQ Romance)

Eden Finley is an up-and-coming contemporary romance author who writes MM (male-male), MMF (male-male-female), and MF (male-female) romances. Her MM romances have been particularly well-received, tearing up the Amazon and Audible charts. Her first audiobook, Fake Out, follows Maddox, a man who pretends to be gay to get away from the pressure to marry his female childhood sweetheart. When he agrees to attend her wedding, he needs to find a man willing to pretend to be his boyfriend to keep up the charade. Damon reluctantly agrees to act as Maddox’s plus-one in exchange for an important business introduction. Amid wedding-weekend shenanigans and ridiculous misunderstandings, unexpected sparks fly!

This is the first in Finley’s popular Fake Boyfriend series and has been described as light, hilarious, and sexy. Narrators Alexander Cendese and Iggy Toma are perfectly on point in this listen, bringing to life the sparkling dialogue and crackling heat between the two main characters. If you love Fake Out, be sure to check out the sequel, Trick Play!

 

Khalil Rafati – I Forgot To Die (Memoir)

If you’re looking for a rags-to-riches story, look no further. Khalil Rafati’s I Forgot to Die is a memoir of addiction and recovery, following his descent into drug addiction and hard-fought rise to becoming an extremely successful business owner. It begins with his abusive childhood, and his subsequent escape to Los Angeles, where he slips from a good job cleaning the cars of Hollywood stars to a life of heroin and cocaine addiction and homelessness. After nine overdoses, Khalil entered a rehab center, got clean, and began to work hard to turn his life around. His particular interest in vegetable and fruit juices eventually led to the launch of his popular juice bar business, Sunlife Organics. Today, he employs several hundred people through six Sunlife Organics locations, a recovery center, and a yoga studio.

I Forgot to Die has been acclaimed in the New York Times, the BBC, and numerous tv spots. The author narrates his work, a fact which reviewers have loved, and does an excellent job of bringing an unflinching, real voice to his life story.

 

By Elizabeth Sylvia

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Hidden Gems of Indie Audiobooks

By Elizabeth Sylvia

There are tons of great new audiobooks coming out every day. With all these titles to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to start when you’re searching for something new to listen to. Audiobooks published through big companies often get most of the attention, but there are plenty of amazing independent authors creating wonderful books who fly under the radar. To help you find the best of these hidden gems, every month I’ll be writing about two or three awesome indie authors, and I’ll make some suggestions about their best audiobooks to try.

Ruby Dixon is probably best known for her Fireblood Dragon romance series (the first book is Fire in His Blood). The series begins with an earth that has been decimated by invading shape-shifting dragons. Set in this dystopian world, the main female character of each book must find a way to survive through “taming” a dragon. But even as men, these shape-shifting dragons have no interest in being tamed! The series comprises five books, each of which can be listened to as a standalone, but which take place in the same world with returning characters.

 

Chris Sorensen – The Nightmare Room (Horror /Thriller)

You might recognize this name if you’ve listened to audiobooks such as Waking the Tiger or Empires of Light. In addition to working as an actor, playwright, and screenwriter, Chris is the vocal talent behind over 200 audiobooks to date, and has received four AudioFile Earphones Awards for his work. As impressive as that is, today I’m writing about his narration of his own book, The Nightmare Room. Though he’s written fourteen plays for the stage, this is Chris’ first novel, telling a story of an audiobook narrator, Peter, and his wife, Hannah, who move from bustling New York to small-town Midwest. (Talk about writing what you know!) However, strange things start to happen in their new home – a house purchased by Peter’s father years before. Strange voices mar his audio tracks, mysterious shadows darken the house, and a malevolent presence appears. Can Peter face these threats and save his family?

It’s an extra delight to hear Chris voice his own novel as a professional narrator, bringing fine and detailed characterizations to this creepy tale.

 

Ruby Dixon – Fireblood Dragon and Ice Planet Barbarians series (Paranormal Romance)

Ruby Dixon is an extremely prolific New York Times and USA Today bestselling author (35 books and counting!), best known for her paranormal romance. For any of you who might be new to this fast-growing subgenre, paranormal romances frequently take place in a sci-fi or fantasy setting and often involve relationships between humans and shapeshifters, vampires, ghosts, or aliens. Despite the unfamiliar environment, these books remain relatable, with the focus on heroines and heroes who face challenging and sometimes desperate situations, while fighting attraction to each other in the face of clashing cultural expectations or norms. What makes these romances fun and escapist are the exotic settings and imaginative characters.

If you’re looking for something cool and alien, rather than fiery dragon romance, try Ice Planet Barbarians, the first book in Dixon’s alien romance series of the same name.

 

Jevan Pradas – The Awakened Ape (Self-Help)

Ever wondered if you are living your life to its fullest? Author and researcher Jevan Pradas attempts to answer this question in The Awakened Ape: A Biohacker’s Guide to Evolutionary Fitness, Natural Ecstasy, and Stress-Free Living. Much like the intriguing title of his book, Jevan is not your average self-help guru. He lived for a time with hunter-gatherer tribes in the Amazon and studied the evolutionary foundations of health and mental well-being. He currently works as a Brain Trainer, which he describes as similar to being a physical therapist for those with cognitive disabilities.

Jevan advocates for a lifestyle similar to those of the nomadic hunter-gatherers he met in South America, with splashes of Buddhist meditation thrown in. Some examples of topics in his book include:

  • how to meditate
  • how to train your attention span
  • how to live like a caveman in the modern world
  • even how to properly use the restroom!

The Awakened Ape was a finalist for the Health and Wellness category of the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

 

Who are your favorite indie authors?

 

 

 

AudioFile Earphones Award Winner, Akata Witch

 

Read by Yetide Badaki

“‘Then you’re from here and there,’” says the Junkman in Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch. The first book in the eponymous series stunningly narrated by Yetide Badaki, tells the tale of Sunny, a girl who sees disaster in the flames of a candle and lives her life constantly straddling borderlines.

Sunny is an albino Nigerian girl who lived in America for most of her life before recently returning to her parents’ home country. And if that wasn’t enough of a contradictory jumble of life events already, Sunny soon finds out she is a Free Agent, a Leopard person with magical powers born to parents with no powers at all.  “‘One who walks between,’” says her friend Orlu, perfectly explaining the tension Sunny experiences as she tries to walk between her life’s many contradictions with balance.

The narration is also something that, “walks between.” With the many different cultures and identities to portray amongst a diverse cast of characters, Badaki has no small task before her. Yet she is able to evoke each so precisely it is as if hearing the individual characters speak. She slips in and out of speech and narration without a hitch, keeping you listening with interest so that even the narrative outside of dialogue takes on a character of its own. Badaki has an impressive résumé including a role as the goddess Bilquis on American Gods, extensive stage roles including at the Victory Gardens Theater, and an MFA in theater from Illinois State University. Though she takes care to make her narration part of the scenery, one could never say her voice disappears into the background.

After some startling events that reveal Sunny is more than just your average girl, she quickly picks up her companions in the form of Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha. She goes through a terrifying initiation ceremony and learns of the hidden magical city, Leopard Knocks, within her own city that requires the crossing of a dangerous bridge to enter.  The magic in Akata Witch is melded into the surrounding world, unnoticed by the Lambs—non-magical people—who surround Sunny.

Okorafor’s juju is a step beyond the wands and dragons of recent popular fantasy. In one scene Sunny cracks open the skull of a sheep on her kitchen countertop while trying to work a spell that will help her sneak out. Teenage angst combined with the power to do strange and unusual things is a heady rush for these characters, one they must learn to handle responsibly, particularly as the world they thought they knew steadily becomes darker. Okorafor has created uniquely terrifying ghouls in the shape of masquerades who rise out of termite mounds.

Compared to the imagination and style of the Harry Potter series, Akata Witch goes a step further. Where Harry Potter was the answer to a long line of traditional English tales, Akata Witch brings to popular consumption the mythologies of Nigeria and her people.

By the final showdown with a child-killer who has a dark connection to Sunny’s family’s past, Sunny and her companions prove that they have what it takes to fight and are willing, but there are so many questions left to be answered still in the darkness…and in the sequels.

By Emily Cahill

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez  

Narrated by Jonathan Davis

Languages are a series of sounds that we are introduced to as children. Like so many things the language we speak colors our home life along with all the other elements that surround us, each bringing with it memories of happiness, joy, sadness, etc.

Suppose one day someone came into that home and suggested that the sounds be changed, the language is changed, for the sake of the children in his household. In the Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez discusses the change in language that took place in home, where it went from the happy, “private” language of Spanish to the more public language of English for the sake of the education of himself, his brother and his sisters.

The subtle and simple change that was made willingly by his parents for the sake of the education of their children, changed the family dynamic. This book discusses that change from Richard’s point of view. Richard had to find his way in two worlds, the private world of his Spanish family and the public world in which he spoke English. During his journey, he found himself forever trying to close the perceived distance he feels from his family and never quite getting there.

Rodriguez tries to figure out a way to reconnect with his slowly distancing family, wondering, if it is even possible. Through Richard’s struggle and self-reflection, we see that he tried to make sense of all the changes that took place around him. This story shows the timeless struggle of every immigrant that has come to America. It also touches upon the changing world of the 1960’s and 70’s, during which the Hispanic population of the United States finds their voice.

The narration is brought to life through the smooth, and cultured voice of Jonathan Davis. Davis breathes life into the heart and soul to the story, is culture bringing the words off the pages and transporting us into Richard Rodriguez’s life.  Davis was perfectly cast in his narration of this book.  It is a please and a joy to listen to the subtle and heartfelt nuances throughout the book. You will laugh, cry and smile due to Davis narration, finding elements of your own family and friends throughout the tale.

By Maria Ferrucci

 

Listen today: http://bit.ly/2ApL1Ll

Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes, and Other Bullshit

By Elizabeth Sylvia

Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes, and Other Bullshit

Written by Jane Morris

It’s that time of year again. Trees are green with leaves, flowers are springing from the ground, and winter coats and boots have been banished to the back of the closet. In schools across the country, teachers and students alike are counting down the days (hours? seconds?) until the end of the school year. After a long ten months, summer vacation is almost here! What better way to celebrate than by kicking back and listening to Teacher Misery: Helicopter Parents, Special Snowflakes, and Other Bullshit by Jane Morris?

This book is a frank, funny, and at times frightening account of the day-to-day life of a teacher working at a school located just outside a major American city. Be forewarned: this book will raise your blood pressure and make you fear for our future! But don’t let that scare you away, this is a highly entertaining book, and impossible to put down. Everything the author writes about seems so ridiculous, I had to keep listening to find out what else the students, parents, and administrators at this school could possibly do to top what she’s already described. And top it they will – every story is crazier than the last!

The occurrences she records range from the hilarious (classroom exchanges about highly inappropriate student questions), to the infuriating (helicopter parents haggling endlessly over grades), to the downright horrifying (cyberbullying and threats). In one memorable instance, Morris writes about a student who sells drugs in her class, and who tries to convince Morris that this would be a good way to supplement her teacher’s salary. On top of this, the student admits to plagiarizing a research paper. The student received no consequences for either infraction!

Narrator Amy McFadden provides wonderful wit, sarcasm, and sincerity in her delivery, bringing life to the unbelievable experiences of the author. This book was written by a teacher, but you don’t need to work in a school to appreciate (and commiserate with) the crazy, heartbreaking, and infuriating happenings that come with education in the 21st century. Download your copy today!

Around the World in Eighty Wines

By Kaleigh Lawson

My love affair with wine started out  just because I really enjoyed drinking wine. At the time I couldn’t tell you much about the stuff. It wasn’t until I started blogging about fermented grapes that I started to realize how complex and quite fascinating wine really is.

My interest in wine has only continued to blossom, and to this day I continue my journey to learn more about wine and try different varietals. Did you know that a grape from one country can and does taste different from a grape grown in another country due to the climate and soil?  Naturally, when I came across Around the World in Eighty Wines I had to listen to discover more about wine and which wines that Mike Veseth sampled along his adventures.

The book is exactly what you think it is. It’s a detailed account of wine from different parts of the world with some fascinating facts and stories about wine—80 to be exact. While Veseth obviously wasn’t able to taste every single wine from the regions he visited (as cool as that would be) he was able to sip on varieties many of us will never have the opportunity to try. I guess I will have to just live vicariously through his description of Venissa wine produced in a lagoon in Venice, Italy and the Domaine de Bargylus made in Syria.

As far as the audio goes, I thought Eric Michael Summerer’s narration was very clear and easy to follow along. This is definitely something I recommend adding to your listening list!

Seinfeldia

By Kaleigh Lawson

Book Written by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Narrated by Christina Delaine

Raise your hand if you are one of those people that quote Seinfeld regularly, or finds yourself saying things like, “This is definitely something that would have happened on Seinfeld.” Guilty! For me, Seinfeld has always been one of those shows that I can watch the episodes over and over. They never get old, and I always laugh out loud at the very real-life situations.

It is hard to find someone who hasn’t experienced a “Close Talker” or a “Siedler” at some point in their lives. To this day I often find myself saying “Yada Yada,” “Serenity Now,” and “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” Seinfeld created an “inside joke” and a not so secret club for everyone in who has watched the show. Maybe it is just the people I find myself around, but it seems that everyone I know is in on it too.

A really great thing about the show is how timeless it is. Many years have passed, yet it is still something that my family, friends, and I mention almost daily. The situations are still so relevant to “real-life”—because they were inspired by real situations that happened to the writers on the set—even people who watch it for the first time in today’s decade will be able to relate to it.

Even if you think you know everything about Seinfeld, I suggest you listen to this book, you’ll undoubtedly learn more than you thought there was to know. Did you know that Joe Devola is a real person? Yeah, me neither. And that isn’t the only thing that you’ll discover. I can safely say I am more of an expert now that I was before listening to this book.

Shake, Stir. . .”Imbibe!”

By Kaleigh Lawson

Before it was trendy to use the word “crafted” in reference to our beer, wine, and cocktails, it was the only way drinks were made. When you wanted a drink you didn’t walk down the grocery store aisle and grab a plastic bottle of pre-made margarita or Bloody Mary mix— everything was made from scratch.

Yes, making a cocktail from scratch is more work. You will definitely need more ingredients, BUT with a little luck, skill, and patience you are likely to be sipping on a cocktail that tastes 10x times better than your quicker, artificial version.

I am guilty of taking the easy way out when it comes to my cocktails, but I have also sipped on a truly crafted cocktail. On one of my adventures, I found myself in a dimly lit speakeasy in the wild west of South Dakota imbibing on cocktails mixed with ice chipped and carved from a large block of ice. And while absinthe cotton candy dissolving atop a finely aged whiskey might seem more innovative than classic, it definitely made me a believer in taking the time to create an artistic beverage my taste buds will thank me for.

David Wondrich perfectly captures the vibrant history that surrounds the beginning of cocktails in America. In this book, you’ll find yourself being taken on a journey through the history of popular drinks Jerry Thomas made and how to make them, and a little bit about the life of mixologist, Thomas.  I paid close attention to the drink called the Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker is in my blood—not the drink, just yet—the actual New York Knickerbocker family.  Naturally, I was curious to learn more about the drink named for my ancestors. As it turns out, it was a popular drink all the way through the civil war, but the last record of it seems to be in the early 1880s.  This once popular cocktail is definitely one I’ve added to my “Must Try” list along with several others that caught my attention like the Champagne Cobbler, Apple Toddy and a Port Wine Sangaree.

As for the question of shaken or stirred? Well, that is up to you and the drink. You don’t always have to side with James Bond on this one. Some drinks require one versus the other, and in every other case, that depends on if you care if your drink is cloudy or clear.

Imbibe! has definitely stirred up some mixology excitement inside of me. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves start creating and, of course, sampling some of the classic cocktails that Thomas developed and Wondrich breathed life back into.


The Knickerbocker

( USE SMALL BAR-GLASS. )
½ A LIME OR LEMON, SQUEEZE OUT THE JUICE AND PUT RIND AND JUICE IN THE GLASS
2 TEA-SPOONFULS OF RASPBERRY SYRUP
1 WINE-GLASS [2 oz] SANTA CRUZ RUM
½ [1] TEASPOONFUL OF CURAÇOA
Cool with shaved ice; shake up well, and ornament with berries in
season. if this is not sweet enough, put in a little more raspberry
syrup.
SOURCE: JERRY THOMAS, 1862.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS: Choose the lime over the lemon. Some
find this recipe too tart. Rather than adding more raspberry syrup
(which can be purchased in larger organic markets or easily made by
macerating raspberries in rich simple syrup), I prefer to increase the
curaçao to 2 teaspoons. Raspberries, blackberries, orange pieces,
even pineapple can be part of the garnish. The only difference
between Thomas’s Knickerbocker and his White Lion is that the latter
replaces three- quarters of the raspberry syrup with pulverized
sugar. I’ll take the knee pants.
In his 1863 book, Thomas offers a “Knickerbocker Punch” that’s
half brandy and half port, with pieces of orange and pineapple in the
glass; delicious, but no Knickerbocker.

NOTES ON EXECUTION: This drink should be built and shaken in
the glass for authenticity. But if you don’t have a shaker small enough
to cover a 6‑ to 8‑ounce tumbler and would prefer not to pour it back
and forth between glasses, the floor, your shirt, and the boss’s wife,
g’ahead and cheat and make it in the big shaker. It really doesn’t
make a damn bit of difference to the final drink. Just don’t shake the
lime rind in with everything else; it can make the drink bitter.

The Three Faces of Mick Foley’s Tag Team Career

By Dan Totten

Every wrestling fan knows the Three Faces of Mick Foley; Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love.  Each character brings a unique personality and style to the ring.  Like Foley himself, each has made its mark in singles competition, but also in the tag team ranks.  Foley’s tag team legacy is often overlooked, but each character had success with many different partners.  The top combos for each character:

  1. Cactus Jack and Mikey Whipwreck (Extreme Championship Wrestling) – By the time Foley debuted in ECW in 1994, he was a 10 year veteran well-known for his hardcore, risk-taking, style. Mikey Whipwreck was a 21 year old rookie who had been trained by Foley.  The team came together when Whipwreck substituted for Foley’s regular partner, Terry Funk.  From there, the duo won the ECW Tag Team Championship.  At this point the team became a reluctant partnership, predicated on Foley taking Whipwreck under his wing and teaching him, and toughening him up to, the hardcore style of wrestling ECW was known for.  Foley as the slightly unhinged, but knowledgable, veteran and Whipwreck as the scared rookie really clicked and they would go on the have two reigns as ECW Tag Champs.

Continue reading The Three Faces of Mick Foley’s Tag Team Career