Tag Archives: Elizabeth Sylvia

Indie Titles to Read This Year

Happy New Year, everyone!

It’s a time for lofty goals and the sharing of aspirational (inspirational? conspiratorial?) memes on Instagram. And, of course, telling yourself that THIS is the year that you’re going to actually stick to that exercise plan, or take that awesome trip you’ve been fantasizing over for years. Speaking of which, this month I’m profiling a book written by a couple who quit their jobs to visit every American national park. Next up is the first in a series of ghost stories that feature scares mixed with some humor. Finally, in honor of the Superbowl, both for those of you who love football and those of you who only pretend to do so to eat delicious snacks at Superbowl party festivities, I’m also including a slow burn football romance. So, grab one of these excellent audiobooks for your New Year gym routine, or just sit back with it and relax – relaxing is a great New Year’s resolution too!


Matt and Karen Smith – Dear Bob and Sue (Travel memoir)

Matt and Karen Smith had spent 28 years working and raising children, and in 2010 decided to quit their jobs and visit every national park in the USA. On the way, they chronicled their journey in the form of letters sent to their friends, Bob and Sue, whose earlier trips to national parks had inspired the Smiths’ interest. The authors are upfront about the fact that this is not a guide to “how to visit all the national parks,” but rather a series of humorous and quirky observations of their experiences. Even so, many reviewers have noted that Dear Bob and Sue can act as an interesting and, at times, irreverent introduction to American National Parks. As a bonus, it also provides a helpful guide to finding good beer and pizza near each park! At its heart, one of the most charming aspects of this book is the relatable, and at time, hilarious, insight into the authors’ relationship. This audiobook will make an entertaining and inspiring listen as you plan your own dream vacation!


Wendy Wang – Haunting Charlie (Witches of Palmetto Point, book 1) (Suspense)

Wendy Wang is a flexible author who started out self-publishing in the fantasy genre but recently made the switch to paranormal mystery with her successful Witches of Palmetto Point series. In Haunting Charlie, we are introduced to Charlie Payne, who is recently divorced and working at a call center. She just wants to be normal and to be a good mom to her son. Unfortunately for her, she’s also a witch. And she sees dead people. When she meets Susan, who is trying to turn a run-down, ghost-infested mansion into a bed and breakfast, she agrees to help. Can she learn to harness her powers and triumph over the dangerous spirits haunting the house? Amy Melissa Bentley narrates this suspenseful paranormal mystery to great effect. Try all four audiobooks in this series!


Mariana Zapata – The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (Contemporary/Sports Romance)

Mariana Zapata is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who writes contemporary romance. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was chosen in 2016 as a Goodreads Choice Award nominee, a feat she repeated in 2017 with Wait For It. This football-themed sports romance follows Vanessa, a personal assistant to one of the biggest (both figuratively and literally) professional football players, Aiden Graves. It was always supposed to be a temporary gig, allowing her to get her finances in order so she could pursue her true dream of being a designer. When she finally quits, she thinks Aiden will barely notice, and she’ll move on with her life. Then he shows up at her door, asking her to do him a BIG (possibly illegal) favor.

This is a beautifully-written slow burn, read delightfully by Callie Dalton, with over 3,500 reviews on Audible. Listeners have loved the snarky humor, the complexity of the characters, and the realism of the romantic relationship as it develops. Check it out today!

Written by Elizabeth Sylvia

Indie Titles You’ll Love This Month

Ah, the holiday season. Twinkle lights glow from houses and shop windows, temperatures plummet, and the flavor of the month has FINALLY shifted from Pumpkin Spice to Gingerbread. For many of us, December is a month to stress about finding the perfect gifts for loved ones and friends and to fantasize about what we might want to receive in return. To save you from the zoo that is the shopping mall this time of year, or the Wild West of online shopping (how do you narrow down ANYTHING online when all you have to go on for your friend is that they “like nice things”?!), I have three suggestions for awesome audiobooks by self-published authors that would make excellent gifts. One is even holiday-themed. So, you can choose your favorite genre, AND feel good about yourself for supporting an independent author. Happy Holidays!


(Witchless in Seattle, book 5) (Holidays, Cozy Mystery)

Dakota Cassidy is an incredibly prolific and popular writer who specializes in paranormal cozy mysteries. While some of her over fifty books have been published through traditional houses, she has self-published many others, including How the Witch Stole Christmas. This is the fifth book in the Witchless in Seattle series, starring ex-witch and amateur sleuth Stevie Cartwright. Christmas is Stevie’s favorite time of year, and she goes all out to celebrate it – even entering a neighborhood decoration contest. Disaster strikes when she discovers her carefully-planned decorations have been tampered with, a dead body turns up nearby, and her familiar, Belfry, is missing. Can she solve the mystery and save herself from her arch-nemesis? This is a wonderful audiobook to curl up with in a comfy chair, alongside a mug of hot chocolate. With marshmallows, of course.

Listeners love the wacky humor of Cassidy’s Witchless in Seattle series. Reviewers have heaped praise on the wonderful narration of Hollie Jackson, particularly her ability to bring characters to life consistently throughout the series. If you love How the Witch Stole Christmas, be sure to check out the entire Witchless in Seattle series!

Martha D. Peterson – The Widow Spy: My CIA Journey from the Jungles of Laos to Prison in Moscow (Memoir)


When her children were teenagers, Martha Peterson sat them down and told them the unbelievable truth: their mother was a spy for the CIA. Over the course of a visit to the CIA headquarters, Peterson slowly revealed her story: that she had been married before she’d met the children’s father, and that her first husband had died serving the CIA. Peterson’s memoir begins with her life in Laos with this first husband and continues as she begins a 30-year career with the CIA after he dies. As the first female agent to be sent to Russia, she was the case handler of a CIA asset called TRIGON, with whom she communicated via a system of dead drops. Peterson’s story documents the danger she faced while working on Soviet soil for the American government, including her capture by the KGB and subsequent imprisonment and interrogation.

This fascinating listen provides an unfiltered view into CIA life at the height of the Cold War, chronicling the risks to a spy’s personal safety, the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated field, and the strain of leading a double life. Peterson’s story has been told in news articles, TV specials, and museum exhibits, and now you can hear it in her own words.

Deana Farrady – Unfriended (Romantic Comedy)

Deana Farrady (a pen name for an author who also writes under the name Karen Harley) is proud to be from the Middle of Nowhere, USA. She loves to write about hot, geeky heroes falling for smart heroines. Unfriended is her first book on audio and features witty, fast-paced banter between the romantic leads, combined with lots of geeky shout-outs and sly nods to the academic community. Asher is the guy with the golden touch – he’s acing college, has a successful business, and an awesome best friend, Charis. But below the surface, things are much more complicated than they seem. Asher has always carried a torch for his tomboyish best buddy, and when he learns Charis is getting married, he has to take drastic steps to convince her that maybe their relationship isn’t so platonic after all. Listeners have loved hearing the hilarious banter come to life, voiced by Alexander Cendese and Stephanie Wyles.

Indie Titles for November

When I was a kid, November seemed like one long waiting period after Halloween until I could turn the calendar page to December, at which point I could start counting the days until Santa came. Now, November can be marked by a number of interesting things. You might be valiantly growing a mustache for Movember us.movember.com (or tolerating a loved one doing so… with a whole host of variations on “It looks great, honey” at the ready). Or, you might be frantically trying to complete your unfinished experimental urban sci-fi mystery-thriller masterpiece, which will totally make you millions of dollars once it’s discovered, for National Novel Writing Month nanowrimo.org.  Perhaps both of those sounds like too much work for you, so you’re going to celebrate November as National Fun with Fondue Month, which is…apparently a thing? In any case, you can concentrate on your facial hair growing, get some inspiration for your writing, or get psyched for your fondue party, by having a listen to one of our amazing indie-authored audiobooks!



James E. Brown – Tail-End Charley: Stories from an American Fighter Pilot in World War II (History/Memoir)

In honor of Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day, for my fellow Canadians), I’d love to share with you a historical memoir written by a veteran of World War II. James E. Brown entered a teacher’s college in 1942 but soon left to become a fighter pilot serving in the American air force. He recounted his wartime experiences in a journal given to him by his mother. Despite misgivings about his ability or desire to keep a journal, he documented nearly a hundred missions flown in the European Theater. In many of these, he was the “Tail-End Charley,” the last one out.

Brown’s narrative is elegant, with style cultivated from 30 years of teaching English after the war. In this audiobook edition, it’s easy to imagine yourself as one of his students, listening raptly to his war-time stories and memories.



Dakota Krout – Dungeon Born (Science fiction / LitRPG)

To be completely fair, Dakota Krout isn’t entirely a self-published author anymore. He’s had such amazing success with his books that he started his own boutique publishing company, Mountaindale Press. He publishes his own books, as well as those of other up-and-coming authors, through this press. Today I’m highlighting his first book, Dungeon Born. It’s a fantasy novel in the LitRPG style, which, for those of you unfamiliar with this genre, stands for Literary Role Playing Game. It’s basically like reading a game – you get all the same game challenges, and often game stats like strength or damage. The story follows Cal, a soul forced against his will into a magic stone, who becomes a Dungeon Heart, a world-building being who must consume treasure-hunters to grow stronger and more powerful and to fend off a growing threat to his existence.

This is the first audiobook in the Divine Dungeon series, and fans have absolutely loved it, leaving over 8,000 ratings on Audible alone. If you count yourself among the many listeners who couldn’t get enough, look for the sequels Dungeon Madness and Dungeon Calamity, or try Krout’s other series, The Completionist Chronicles.



Thea Kelley – Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview (Business /Self-help)

Thea Kelley is a career services guru who brings over twenty years of experience to her practice. She owns her own business providing career marketing tools and job search strategies, and drew on this knowledge when crafting Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview. This audiobook is fairly short, but it packs a punch, guiding listeners through every step of the job application process. Kelley focuses on how to communicate a job-seeker’s unique strengths, explaining why employers ask certain interview questions and providing tips on how to answer them, and even addressing specialized or unusual interview formats such as video calls or behavioral interviews. She also goes beyond the interview, offering tips on following-up afterward, and the smart way to accept an offer.

This book was praised as “Excellent” by Forbes.com, and narrator Vanessa Daniels maintains the clear, concise nature of this book, making it an invaluable reference for job-seekers anywhere.

Written by Elizabeth Sylvia

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

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?




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!