A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan and Iggy Toma (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I really enjoyed this audiobook.  No wait—let me rephrase that—I immensely enjoyed this outstanding audiobook performed by the incomparable Iggy Toma. He brings characters to life, making them real people I’d enjoy meeting—even those like Xander, who is antisocial.

Xander Fairchild is an Introvert with a capital I.  He really dislikes people and his only friend is sharp-tongued Zelda, a person who might, or might not, be friendly to him on any given day.  Zelda is one of several people who work with Xander at Benton College to create a manga serial.  Zelda’s forte is not art, however; that right belongs solely to Xander, who is highly talented and creative, though repressed socially and very self-deprecating. 

Skylar Stone was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and his every move has been planned by his very overbearing lawyer father. Skylar must score high on the LSAT test, and he must get into Yale and then, upon graduation, he must join his father’s law firm.  Period the end.  Per his father.  But Skylar takes one look at Xander’s art and falls head-over-heels in love with it.  And eventually, through a series of enlightenments about his own inner turmoil and life choices and new information about his feelings toward men and women and his own sexuality, he also falls in love with Xander. 

The journey Xander and Skylar take to love and acceptance is not typical.  The author gives us a totally different and unique perspective on love and sexuality.  Xander learns that he can express his love for Skylar through painting and his sexual connection can be expressed through touch and through use of his paint brushes.  Skylar learns what really makes Xander who he is and comes to love and accept him fully without attempting to change either his appearance or his personality. 

This is a very yaoi manga-slanted story and I loved the information passed to the reader through the characters in the delightful voices created by Iggy Toma.  I am an older woman who reads MM romance and LGBTQ lit for pleasure.  When I read, and certainly when I listen to an audiobook, I am looking for a real story to go along with whatever sex scenes an author may use to advance a plot. In other words, I’ve moved beyond choosing books because the sex scenes may be hot.  In this case, I’m pleased to say that I not only didn’t have to listen to gratuitous sex on page, but I was also gifted by a completely unique perspective on sexual pleasure and the simple enjoyment of connecting with one’s life partner. 

I can’t go heavy into details on the plot since I don’t have the book to refer back to for notes on character names, especially the Japanese character names affectionately given to Xander and Skylar and their friends.  That’s one of the few disadvantages of listening to an audiobook over actually reading an e-book version.  I will say, however, that the story was well-sprinkled with references to cherry blossoms and whether intended to be symbolic or not, I felt that watching Xander and Skylar come to a maturity and self-acceptance—each at his own pace and in his own way—was like watching a cherry blossom bloom. 

I highly recommend this audiobook!

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The very attractive cover depicts two young men drawn in manga-style but wearing clothing typical of each character in this book and, appropriately, cherry blossoms are sprinkled all over the page.   

Sales Links: Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 14 pages
Length: 13 hrs and 52 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Published August 21st 2017 by Heidi Cullinan (first published August 8th 2017)
Original Title Antisocial
ASINB074VCZXSD
Edition Language English

A BJ Audiobook Review: Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs #3) by Heidi Cullinan and Narrated by Iggy Toma

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Rating:   5 out of 5 stars

DirtyLaundry_AudiobookThe course of true love doesn’t always run clean. But sometimes getting dirty is half the fun.

Entomology grad student Adam Ellery meets Denver Rogers, a muscle-bound hunk of sexy, when Denver effortlessly dispatches the drunken frat boys harassing Adam at the Tucker Springs laundromat. Thanking him turns into flirting, and then, much to Adam’s delight, hot sex over the laundry table.

Though Denver’s job as a bouncer at a gay bar means he gets his pick of geek-sexy college twinks, he can’t get Adam out of his head. Adam seems to need the same rough play Denver does, and it’s damn hard to say no to such a perfect fit.

Trouble is, Adam isn’t just shy: he has obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical anxiety, conditions which have ruined past relationships. And while Denver might be able to bench-press a pile of grad students, he comes from a history of abuse and is terrified of getting his GED. Neither Denver nor Adam want to face their dirty laundry, but to stay together, they’re going to have to come clean.

This one grabbed me right from the first page, and by the end it was officially my favorite of the series… and this was my fifth of the series, I went a bit out of order having started at book five and skipped around.

What fun and likable characters! I thoroughly enjoyed both of these very different characters. They were well-drawn, nuanced, and much more than just their issues. I liked the way the BDSM element in this story came in, not as something that the guys had been out there specifically seeking, but as a way of relating that worked for them for very real and understandable reasons.

Chock full of angst, kink, and sprinkled liberally with sexy bits throughout starting off with an early on sizzling scene in the public laundromat. Denver and Adam just sparked and worked for me as a couple right from that first scene. Really enjoyed seeing a main character who was dealing with OCD and Denver, well… he’s dealing with his own issues which I won’t spoil by revealing. I loved how they accepted each other despite that there was no quick fix here, no true love cures all. And not only were they able to love despite their illnesses and issues and work together to learn to deal with them… but that their issues/quirks had actually been instrumental in drawing them to one another in the first place. I adored how this made me feel that hope that everyone is right for someone just the way they are.

The secondary characters were also very loveable and strong and added a richness and diversity to the story. There was Louisa, Adam’s trans friend; Brad, Adam’s annoying ex who really did seem to care for him despite being a clueless asshat most of the time; Tiny who see’s Denver’s potential and keeps at him to work for him at the gym; and of course characters from the prior stories like El and Jason.

This is the fifth of this series that I’ve read. Narrator Iggy Toma has done an exceptional job with all of the four that he has narrated. The voices for the characters across the series were unique and fit just right with how I’d perceive them. The emotions and quirkiness of these two in particular came through perfectly. I will definitely be on the look out for other audiobooks narrated by him.

The cover by L.C. Chase   does a nice job of establishing the personality and difference of the characters and ties in well with others in the series.

Sales Links:   Riptide PublishingAudible | Amazon | iTunes


Audiobook Details: 

Audible Audio, 8 pages, 7 hrs 34 mins
Published March 30th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 28th 2013)
Original TitleDirty Laundry
ASINB01DKVWQH0
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesTucker Springs #3 settingColorado (United States)

A BJ Audiobook Review: Second Hand (Tucker Springs #2) by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton Narrated by Iggy Toma

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Rating:    4.75 out of 5 stars

SecondHand-AudioCoverPaul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.

This is actually the third I’ve listened to in this series, and my favorite so far. A very sweet story with enjoyable characters, interesting families and a cute dog. Neither of the guys are gorgeous or have fancy careers, but are both ordinary guys that I could relate to. El owns a pawnshop which had been his grandfather’s and has a hoarder mother (loved the way that was handled), and Paul dreamed of being a vet but didn’t do so well in school and ended up working at a vet’s office as a receptionist. Paul’s denial and story read very real to me, perhaps because overall he didn’t come across as the smartest tool in the shed. No that he was dumb, but he was refreshingly simple. Thoroughly enjoyed Paul and also liked his mother, especially her reaction at the end.

El’s big family was well drawn and interesting, as was his big bouncer friend Denver who is the MC in the next story (which I’m now eager to read). And I loved El both for his role in his family, for taking over her grandfather’s store with hopes of helping his mother, and for his easy going and relatable personality. The way he dealt with his attraction to Paul and the little one item a day limit ploy that Paul never did figure out was great. I felt the chemistry between the guys, not scorching hot but a slow, realistic burn that had me unable to stop listening.

I could relate so well to Paul’s desire to be number one for someone at something as well as to his cluelessness about when folks were flirting with or interested in him. And El’s words about the unimportance of things, which tied up beautifully at the ending, really spoke to me. The secondary characters were also very relatable and individual.

The narrator, Iggy Toma, was perfect for this story. The voices were different for each character and sounded just right. The emotions and nuances of character came through well. Overall, I listened to this story in one single day.

The cover by L.C. Chase ties is very cute and fitting for the series.

Sales Links: Riptide PublishingAudible | Amazon | iTune


Book Details: Published January 22nd 2016 by Riptide Publishing

A BJ Audiobook Review: Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs #1) by L.A. Witt ~ Narrated by Iggy Toma

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Rating:     3.5 out of 5 stars

Where Nerves End audiobookJason Davis can handle a breakup. And an overwhelming mortgage. And a struggling business. And the excruciating pain that keeps him up at night thanks to a shoulder injury. But all of it at once? Not so much. When his shoulder finally pushes him to a breaking point, Jason takes a friend’s advice and gives acupuncture a try.

Acupuncturist Michael Whitman is a single dad struggling to make ends meet. When a mutual friend refers Jason as a patient, and Jason suggests a roommate arrangement to alleviate their respective financial strains, Michael jumps at the opportunity.

But Jason soon finds himself regretting it—he’s too damn attracted to Michael, and living with him is harder than he thought it’d be. In fact, the temptation to act on his feelings would almost be too much if not for the fact that Michael is straight. Or at least, that’s what their mutual friend claims.

This book began well for me. I liked Jason, felt for him and what he was going through, and was very eager to see him find the help he needed to get his life on track. When he met Michael and not only was he able to help him with his pain, but with his financial problems, that was working for me. I enjoyed Michael and his son for the healthy lifestyle and his caring. I felt the chemistry of Jason’s immediate attraction and his frustration at Michael being straight.  I also enjoyed all the stuff on the eastern medicine, acupuncture, cupping, etc. Very interesting.

Midway through I begin to not enjoy it quite as much. First the characters have a talk and Michael has the perfect opportunity to say something to Jason that he chooses not to reveal. The next thing we know, the whole story changed for me. I’m not a fan of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and of MC having sex with other people in my books. In this book, we get all three, I’m sad to say. And nope, I didn’t enjoy that part at all. Why did that have to happen? It left me pouting. Later, after he pursues Jason and they have an interlude, Michael does explain his reasoning, and it actually made sense a bit until the next thing he turns around and does is deny the whole thing and suddenly it makes no sense at all. Michael’s complete denial to everyone, even though he admitted he’d knew for years and years and even thought he’d grown up with a close gay friend who he never confided in bugged me as well.

So while I enjoyed how the story ultimately ended, the storyline itself lost its glow for me after that. However, Iggy Toma is a wonderful narrator and did a great job of keeping me engaged. He brought the characters to life and gave them dimension. I enjoyed the distinct voices he used, and the emotion he put into each scene. I’d give the narrator 4 stars and the story 3 stars for an average of 3.5.

The cover  by L.C. Chase ties in with the rest of the series and does an adequate job of representing the guys and the town although I didn’t find it sexy or particularly appealing.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible | Amazon | iTunes


Book Details:

Audible Audio, 7 pages, 6 hrs 55 mins
Published December 20th 2015 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 3rd 2012)
ASINB019NHFKC8
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesTucker Springs #1 settingTucker Springs, Colorado (United States

A BJ Audio Review: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5) by Marie Sexton, Narrated by Iggy Toma

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Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

NeverAHero_AudiobookEveryone deserves a hero.

Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.

Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.

Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.

Although this is book five of the series, it’s the first one that I read or listened to, and I can vouch that it works wonderfully as a standalone. It’s my third read by this author, and I enjoyed it as much as prior experiences. I really need to remember and read more from her in future.

Although there was some angst, this story wasn’t dark despite that both characters had issues to deal with. It was well-written and thoroughly enjoyable story with characters caught my interest right away and made me care.

With one exception at the very end, I adored and felt so intensely for Owen. While some may feel that Owen’s mother was too over the top negative to be real, trust me, she’s not. I have had similar people in my life, so I recognized the type immediately and wanted to hug Owen. At least he had his father, and although it would have been nice if he’d been more of a shield, I could mostly understand. Listening to the story of Owen slowly coming out of his shell and blossoming into the person he should have been was beautiful. His story spoke to me because it showed so clearly how it isn’t only abuse that can have lasting effects on our lives, but that the words said to us as a child can affect our confidences and how we perceive ourselves and our abilities for the rest of our lives. Another thing I know first hand and struggle with each day myself.

As for Nick, I loved because he’s a vet and fellow dog lover as well as how good he was for Owen. How he showed him acceptance and helped him to find out he was a worthwhile person with no reason to hide away. But being one who isn’t a fan of secrets, his keeping one did bother me, especially in how long he let it go on despite his obvious attraction to Owen. Yes, he should have shared sooner, but none of us are perfect, and so I forgave him.

The secondary characters were well done and have made me interested in reading more of this series to learn their stories. But when I realized that all of the books are narrated by Iggy Toma, who narrated this one, I’ve decided that it’s the audios format I want to experience. He definitely brought another level to the experience. His voice is extremely easy to listen to, and he did an exceptional job of creating the sense of the various characters as well as putting emotion into the words he read.

If there was one thing that kept it from being a full on five stars for me, it was the ending of the epilogue. It just seemed so out of character to me, and what I believe was supposed to be humor, fell flat for me.

Nice cover by L.C. Chase with subdued pleasant colors and enough of the story woven into it through the images while at the same time consistent to the style of the series.

Sales Links:  Riptide PublishingAudible | Amazon | iTunes


Book Details:  

Audiobook
Published April 29th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published May 13th 2013)
Original TitleNever a Hero
SeriesTucker Springs #5
CharactersOwen Meade, Nick Reynolds settingTucker Springs, Colorado (United States)

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review :Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan ~ Audiobook narrated by Iggy Toma

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★audiobook clipart bw

NowhereRanch-AudioCover smallerMonroe “Roe” Davis narrates this story of how he found his home— Nowhere Ranch in Nebraska. Representing Roe, and the balance of the cast of characters, narrator Iggy Toma did an outstanding job with this story.

Hired to tend the sheep on the farm of gentleman rancher Travis Loving, Roe works hard from sunrise to sundown. He learned sheep ranching during his childhood on his family farm in Iowa, a farm he hasn’t been back to in five years, not since his father made his opinion on Roe’s sexuality known. Wandering from place to place and never staying in any one location too long, he finds his way to Nowhere Ranch.

Roe never mixes business with pleasure though, and never cruises for men in his own back yard, so he travels several hours to hook up at a gay bar to satisfy his need to be dominated. Shocked when he runs into Travis there, he tries to wait him out so that he can find a hookup and get going. Forced into conversation, they find that their needs match. Dominant Travis would like nothing better than to hook up with a boy who will ask no questions and tell no tales. They determine that they can spend one night together, no strings attached, and Travis swears it will not affect how he treats Roe when they get back to the ranch.

The problem is, of course, that they are indeed suited to each other and neither can leave the other alone once they hook up again afterhours one night at the ranch. Slowly, Travis works his way through Roe’s defenses, using BDSM techniques to help Roe feel a measure of control over his life as he surrenders control to Travis.

One of my favorite quotes summarizes the plan they have to remain unaffected. As Travis tells Roe— “I don’t want a partner. I don’t want a husband. I want a boy. I want a little slut I can order what to do. I want you in boots and spurs and chaps and nothing else, sucking on my cock with a tail hanging out of your ass.”

And that plan suits both of them for a while, until their relationship begins to grow and both men realize they are developing feelings for each other. Eventually, Roe lets his best friend, Holly, in on his secrets, including the biggest secret of all— his family wants him back but they want him back so they can cure him of being a gay, perverted sinner. Not long after that, Roe realizes that his family of origin isn’t as important to him as the family he’s made at Nowhere Ranch with Travis and Holly.

Where the guys go, how Holly’s issues meld with theirs, how Roe’s family issues are resolved, or at least temporarily shelved, and what finally seals their relationship, all make for a highly complex, yet very enlightening, entertaining, and enriching reading experience.

I first read this story in early 2012 when I was new to M/M romance, and it may have even been one of the first BDSM stories I ever read. Though I appreciated it at the time, I have so much more respect now for the way the author introduced the men to the pleasures they would find together in BDSM, as well as for their emotional growth and the beauty of their relationship—from the stalwart, stoic Travis and the anxious, self-deprecating Roe—to the confident men who are secure in their love for each other and the family they have created together.

This story is not for those who want mild, simple romantic sex scenes. The sex is rough, with elements of BDSM including fisting, spanking, and pony play. But it’s done in a way that demonstrates the Dom’s respect for his sub, and the sub’s dependence on the solidity and safety of his Dom. I once heard this described as a classic among M/M BDSM novels, and I heartily agree.

The audio narration by Iggy Toma is outstanding and certainly added to my overall enjoyment of the story. I was able to appreciate every scene, every nuance of conversation, and stand back and enjoy the journey the men took together. Don’t hesitate to pick up the audiobook version of this one.

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The cover by Kanaxa on this 2015 version of Nowhere Ranch depicts a faded out photo of a cowboy in the foreground captured in a head-chest shot as he turns to the side, rope over his shoulder, one hand raised to the brim of his hat. This is superimposed over the silhouette of a lone cowboy standing with his back to the camera, overlooking a prairie. It’s very appealing and a nice depiction of the characters.

Audiosales Link:  Audible  |  iTunes

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition
Published March 3rd 2015 by Heidi Cullinan (first published February 15th 2011)
original titleNowhere Ranch
ISBN139780996120302
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.heidicullinan.com/books/nowhere-ranch
characters: Roe Davis, Travis Loving