The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)

The Akseli by Dianne Duvall, Kirsten Potter (Narrator)
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 4
Publisher: Self-Published, Tantor Audio (Publisher)
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Simone has hunted and slain psychotic vampires night after night for hundreds of years and desperately needs a change. When the leader of the Immortal Guardians offers her an opportunity to guard ten mortal women who are venturing to another planet, she dives right in and finds traveling into space and meeting amazing alien races just as exciting as she’d hoped… until an enemy attacks. Simone saves everyone she can before she’s thrust into an escape pod and the ship explodes. Alone, fearing some—if not all—of her friends have been killed, she vows to seek vengeance.

Despite his fierce reputation and propensity for violating the law, Janwar has formed a friendship with strait-laced Prince Taelon of Lasara. When the prince’s ship is destroyed, Janwar joins the massive Aldebarian Alliance-wide search and rescue mission and soon locates the Gathendien ship that launched the attack. An odd thing happens, however, as he and his crew stealthily approach it. The lifeforms inside begin to perish, two or three at a time in quick succession. Much to his surprise, someone else has reached the ship first: one of the very Earth women he hoped to rescue.

Fascinatingly fierce, Simone bands together with Janwar and his crew to search for her missing friends and wreak havoc upon those who wish to harm them. She also widens eyes, drops jaws, and sparks laughter and mischief as she banishes the warriors’ world-weariness and makes each day seem like a new adventure. The friendship that grows between Janwar and Simone swiftly deepens into love. But the enemy warriors they face are tenacious and boast more weapons in their arsenal than the alliance knows. Can Janwar, Simone, and such a small crew vanquish them?

Looking for an edge-of-your-seat, romantic suspense, sci-fi adventure that will knock your socks off? The Akseli is definitely the book to check out. There are space battles, sword fights, alien monsters, narrow escapes, action behind enemy lines on an ice planet, an A.I. program that can actually be considered a secondary character, and a romance that made my little heart go pitter-patter.

That list is only a tiny fraction of what made this story stand out as it amazed and enthralled me and had me listening to the audio version twice – some scenes, thrice. Lest a reader worry that it’s all flash-bang action, I assure you that there are tender moments, sweet moments, character dialogue that made me sniffle and my heart hurt for some of the guys in the scenes. Janwar’s crew each have their own story, and I will tell you, every single one needs their own HEA. You want tortured heroes? Men who’ve been hurt, scorned, made examples of and treated as pariahs by either their culture or their families? My heart broke for each of these brave men that Janwar now calls family. They all have good hearts, are actually noble and, even having chosen an unorthodox career in order to survive, have resisted becoming villains and instead kept their honor and are fiercely loyal to Janwar and to each other. How could the heroine NOT fall in love with Janwar and his ‘family’?

The Gathendiens are back being their dastardly, disgusting, vile, smelly selves – they are the perfect villains. They hate everyone and are bent on genocide towards any civilized planet that has something that they want. And they are not the only characters with defunct moral compasses – a reader finds out there are more deviant, greedy, power-hungry beings that will do anything for power and/or money. One of them reminds me of a character from the second set of Star Wars movies, and the other, is too close to a real-life villain. But I won’t go there. This novel is about a hero and heroine who defy and overcame incredible odds, all in order to rescue victims and friends from evil aliens. The story is about Janwar and Simone falling in love even while in the thick of things. It’s about a man who becomes better, stronger, more focused and more heroic all because of the love of a strong woman with a zest for life and adventure. It’s about acceptance, embracing differences and finding common goals. All of that is woven in throughout the novel with excellent storytelling skill.

If fans listen to the audio version, they are in for an experience of delight, entertainment, laughter and being 100% engaged and invested in every character’s wellbeing. The narrating talent of Ms. Potter is second to none. Each character has their own voice and Ms. Potter uses her voice skills flawlessly. I’ve yet to experience another narrator with her consistent range and ability to express emotions only through voice. Yes, the writing has to have it first, and it does, but the narration explodes the story into brilliant life. It’s one of the reasons that, when it comes to Ms. Duvall’s books, I purchase them in all three formats, audio, print and ebook. I’m always so satisfied, I find it well worth the investment.

The Akseli is a star-quality novel that gives readers a top-notch reading experience that thrills and entertains non-stop, all the way to the perfect and romantic happy ever after ending, with an irresistible hook for the next adventure in the series. Sign me up! I simply can’t get enough of this wonderful universe Ms. Duvall has created through the Aldebarian Alliance. It’s a book addiction worth having.

Cliff’s Descent by Dianne Duvall

Cliff’s Descent by Dianne Duvall (Author), Kirsten Potter (Narrator)
Immortal Guardians Series, Book 11
Publisher: Self-published, Audio publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Every mortal who works at network headquarters knows that vampires reside below them. They were the first to surrender to the powerful Immortal Guardians who hunt them. And they did so, hoping they can be saved, that the doctors and scientists the Immortal Guardians employ can halt the progressive brain damage that robs all vampires of their sanity. Though curious, Emma never thought she would meet any of the vampires who remain under heavy guard several stories beneath her office. Then mercenaries strike, bombarding the building with heavy artillery. The vampires are freed to join the fray… and Cliff saves her life.

From that moment on, she can’t stop thinking about him regardless of the restrictions placed on interactions with vampires. When Emma discovers a way to speak to Cliff at network headquarters, she becomes even more fascinated by him. He’s smart, charming, and honorable to his core despite the darkness that lies ahead. And he seems to crave her company as much as she does his. Aware of the eyes that watch them, they keep their encounters innocent, limiting them to those of mere acquaintances. Nevertheless, their attraction grows and she soon falls in love with him even as the madness begins to claim him.

Cliff realizes his future is dark. As one vampire friend after another succumbs to insanity, hope that network doctors will be able to find a cure in time to keep him from meeting the same fate begins to dwindle, leaving him little to look forward to… until he meets Emma. Just speaking to her brings him a happiness and contentment he hasn’t experienced since before his transformation. And when they finally find a way to be alone together, everything changes. Emma burrows her way right into his heart and quiets the voices. She sparks dreams of a future with her that strengthen his determination to beat back the madness. But as time passes, the voices grow louder and insanity begins to chip away at him until he fears it will eradicate every part of him she fell in love with.

Will the two of them find a way to defy the odds and find their happily-ever-after? Or will Cliff’s descent consume him?

I have the eBook but I listened to Cliff’s Descent in the audio version because I wanted the full effect. I have been waiting for a resolving of Cliff’s situation for good or sad for a very long time. Ms. Duvall has provided this reader with everything I could hope for, and a surprise too. I enjoyed the narration by Kirsten Potter because she has Ms. Duvall’s characters and personalities down pat, from their accents, quirks, and humor, to the oftentimes silly and fun razzing at Sheldon’s expense. The narrator’s vocal range is astounding and a strong plus for any reader who enjoys listening to books in addition to reading print. The character from the Bronx tickled my funny bone. It was the first time I’d heard it the series and I grinned every time he was on stage.

Even though it might be coming from the long side of the series, I truly believe that a reader jumping into the Immortal Guardian’s world could enjoy this story as a starter. I say that because it is told from Cliff’s side. He can only tell us what he heard or experienced from his point of view. Fans of the series will remember well where WE were when certain things happened so in my mind, I filled in the blanks. For a newbie reader, this might whet the appetite to investigate the earlier books and discover a banquet of excitement, thrills and romance. To be meeting Roland, Sarah, Marcus and Ami for the first time …? Wow. As it is, I get to be there when Cliff, Vincent and Joe first met the Immortal Guardians. That was an action packed time. It’s tough being a vampire that is doomed to go crazy violent with no hope of sanity sticking around. Yet, Cliff was the exception to most every vampire I met throughout the series. His sense of honor, stubbornness, strength of character and true grit in his determination to hold out as long as possible, to give Dr. Lipton the chance to find a breakthrough – was an inspiration. Cliff has tugged on my heartstrings for so long, I wanted him to have a future, I wanted Dr. Lipton to find a cure. The big question was, how? The virus didn’t originate from any natural source so it didn’t look good. Aaah, but that’s the best part about a romance story, the hope for a happy ever after.

My hope was realized when the story finally picked up from when I last saw Cliff coming out of the woods, after the big, explosive final showdown with Gershom in Death of Darkness. Cliff complained of feeling off and his ears felt weird. Well, I’ll tell you, it wasn’t what I thought it was. That was the huge surprise. I’m thrilled that Cliff gets his second chance but I am not going to tell you how or why because that’s the BEST part of the happy ever after. I was as surprised as Cliff, and almost just as happy. I say almost because his joy was doubled and tripled because of the woman who stole his heart. What a beautiful romantic ending.

Cliff’s Descent was worth the wait. The novel hit all my happy buttons, tied up a loose end that ached for completion and made the Immortal Guardian’s world that much better. It’s a keeper and one I’ll re-read and re-listen to, just like I have all the books in the series. Thank you, Ms. Duvall, for a much awaited happy ever after that was a sheer joy to read. I’m a delighted fan.