5 Stars, Anna Butler, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Wilde City Press

Review: Heart Scarab by Anna Butler

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Amazon US

Title: Heart Scarab (Taking Shield: Book Two)

Author: Anna Butler

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 300 Pages

At a Glance: Fast-paced, thrilling sequel to the first book in the series.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: In Heart Scarab, set more than a year and a half after Gyrfalcon, Shield Captain Bennet’s company is on a planet in imminent danger of being overrun by the Maess. Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can. The enemy arrives before the evacuation is complete. Caught in a vicious fire fight, Bennet is left behind, presumed dead.

His family is grieving. Joss, his long-term partner, grieves with them; lost, unhappy, remorseful. First Lieutenant Flynn has no official ‘rights’ here. He isn’t family. He isn’t partner or lover.

All he is, is broken.

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Review: God, what a ride this book was. As a fan of the first book, I was thrilled to read this one. It gripped me from the beginning and took me for a ride until the very end. And I cannot wait for the third book.

After a failed attempt to evacuate the religious fanatics from Telnos before the Maess invade, Bennet is presumed dead; his signal is gone and Rosie has watched him fall after a strafing run. Left to pick up the pieces and move on are the people who loved him the most: his family, his lover Joss, his lieutenant Rosie, and Flynn.

Anna Butler is spectacular at characterization. While I had hated Joss in the first book, for the first half of this one I felt for him. She not only shows things from his perspective, but also switches to second person POV sometimes to show the depth of his thoughts and connect readers to Joss. The second half of the book I wanted to punch him. The same goes for Rosie. I felt for her and her unrequited love for Bennet, but I also hated how she couldn’t accept that he was in love with men. And Flynn. Oh, my poor Flynn. How can you not love him? The cocky flyboy who finds himself in love for the first time in his life only to discover his lover dead…and he’s unable to do anything about it.

While the first book deals a lot with the action part of science fiction, and the first half of this one does as well, the second half is more about the recovery process of loss, grief, and acceptance. How does one cope in a situation like this, where loved ones are gone for so long and placed in dangerous situations? I suppose it’s much like today’s military.

I highly recommend this book, though not without a few words of warning. First, you should definitely read the first book. The relationship between Bennet and Flynn is established in that book, and while T18 isn’t discussed much, it’s still integral to how their relationship began. And why would you want to miss out on Flynn finally falling in love? Second, though I do talk about romance, this book is not a romance. Yes, there are some romantic subplots, but as a whole, the book is science fiction and the relationships, while important, are not the main part of the book.

So, if you haven’t, go back and read the first book, and then come back for round two.

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You can buy Heart Scarab here:

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Anna Butler, Giveaways

Interview and Giveaway: The Heart Scarab Blog Tour with Anna Butler

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Today we’re please to welcome author Anna Butler to TNA on the Heart Scarab blog tour. Enjoy Anna’s interview and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of the following prizes:

*a copy of my novella, FlashWired (epub, mobi or pdf) on every stop to one random commenter

Chance to enter a Rafflecopter for:
*top prize of a $50 Amazon gift voucher 
*second prize, winner’s choice of a Heart Scarab iPad cover or Kindle cover
 *third prize, a Gyrfalcon iPad cover

Good luck!

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WP: Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Anna Butler,  author of Heart Scarab.

Hi Anna, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

AB: Hi! And thank you for hosting me today. I’m delighted to be here.

Heart Scarab is the second of the Taking Shield series, which charts the life and loves of Shield Captain Bennet. Taking Shield is both a sweeping sci-fi story (old school sci-fi with spaceships and lasers, aliens and handsome heroes) and an equally sweeping love story. I should warn you, though, that it isn’t a romance in the sense that it won’t be what most m/m romance readers would expect.

Thousands of years after an alternate-universe Earth went dark, the people of one of her colonies, Albion, are struggling in a war that’s probably unwinnable, against aliens called the Maess. Although humans have been fighting the aliens’ cyborg drones for over a century, they haven’t seen a real, organic Maess. Set against the war, is the love story between Bennet and Fleet Lieutenant Flynn. They meet in the first book, Gyrfalcon, but for various reasons theirs isn’t going to be an easy love. They meet and part several times before the end. In Heart Scarab, Bennet’s return after being declared missing in action, presumed dead, puts intolerable strain on his relationship with his long term partner, Joss, but paves the way for a reunion with Flynn.

As for me, I worked for the UK civil service for many years as a communications specialist, working on everything from marketing employment programmes to running an internal TV service. These days I’m concentrating on trying to make it as a writer, combining my love of old school science fiction and m/m themes. I live in London with my husband and our cockapoo, Molly. We’re currently house hunting, looking for a country retreat.

WP: Where do you find your inspiration?

AB: Telling you that Star Trek first whetted my appetite for science fiction probably gives my age away, but it’s true that the ground-breaking nature of Trek—the way it casually mixed the nations and races of Earth, for example—is a primary influence on me. I started watching and reading sci-fi avidly. Taking Shield is rooted in all the old school science fiction stories and series : Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG, Independence Day, Doctor Who. I grew up with those, with Heinlein’s and Clarke’s novels. So mostly I’m inspired by the idea of humanity coming up against an enemy they can’t fathom, and having to dig deep within themselves to find the skills and fortitude to survive.

But I think the series that influenced me most in terms of structuring the Taking Shield series is Babylon Five. I loved how so many small, seemingly random events and images came back, much later in the story arc, to show their significance. What B5 proved was that you don’t have to give everything away in the first book/episode/film. You can take time to build a world and its characters slowly and not hurry to wrap up everything neatly until the story itself is fully told. I’ve tried to use this method in the Shield series.

WP: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

AB: I can’t remember not being a storyteller, although writing them down came later. I’ve told/written stories since childhood, starting with the adventures of Jimpy, the soft-toy chimpanzee I took everywhere with me. I moved on to write fanfiction for many years, and although some people decry it, I found it a wonderful, safe place to hone the craft of writing.

I think I first considered myself a writer when I wrote my first long fanfiction that didn’t pander to the tropes and expectations of the fandom, and where I abandoned the usual hurt/comfort storyline for something that was more about exploring the characters and making them, and their motivations, the pivot for the plot. It was certainly a pivotal moment for me.

WP: Do your characters become like real people to you?

AB: Gosh, yes.

It starts early, when I’m first thinking about the character and who he is, where he came from and what he looked like. For the main characters I use a Character Analysis table, answering questions as diverse as how tall he is, what his favourite colour is, and how he deals with disappointment or setbacks—it takes time to complete, so I tend to use this only for the two main characters. By the end of that, the picture of the characters is pretty clear, and I supplement that on Pinterest by searching out images that match the picture in my head.

The important thing is to think about what the character’s faults are. I want them to be rounded human beings, not cardboard cutouts with a few personality traits attached to them. So Bennet, for example, doesn’t always realise how selfish he is, how much he expects things to go the way he’s decreed them to be, because he grew up with wealth and privilege and he doesn’t even think twice about being in command. Flynn’s selfish too, but he’s far more self aware about the devil-may-care attitude he has and how he uses it to keep people at a distance. Frankly, both of them can be jerks, even if the reason for it comes from different backgrounds and experiences.

By the time I start writing, I am usually be pretty clear about why he does (or doesn’t do) something. And I know a lot about them that won’t ever appear in the books, but are part of what’s made them who they are.

WP: If you weren’t a writer, what else would you like to have done?

AB: I’d have loved to have been an opera singer. I took singing lessons for years, but although I had a reasonable soprano voice, it had limited range and power. I’d never be able to hold the stage at Covent Garden! I still regret giving up lessons and concentrating on my career instead, but you can’t go back on things like that for a do-over. Unless you use your voice and practice constantly, it will fade away. Sadly, mine isn’t even the ghost of what it once was, so that door is closed for ever.

WP: What do you want your tombstone to say?

AB: “She had a lot of fun.”

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Heart ScarabBlurb: Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Shield Captain Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can—a task that leaves him lying on Telnos while the last cutter of evacuees escapes in the teeth of the Maess invasion.

Bennet is listed missing in action, believed dead on a planet now overrun by Maess drones. His family is grieving. His long-term partner, Joss, is both mourning and guilt-ridden.

And Fleet Lieutenant Flynn? Flynn is desolate. Flynn is heart-broken… no. Flynn is just broken.

Buy Links: Wilde City Press || Amazon US || Amazon UK || Amazon CA || Kobo

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Author BioAbout the author: Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.

Where to find the author: annabutlerfiction@gmail.com || Website and Blog || Facebook || The Butler’s Pantry (Facebook Group) || Pinterest || Twitter

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates & Stops: Wednesdays July 22 – November 4, 2015

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week!

Sneak Peek

Greetings from somewhere over the US, everyone! :) I’m flying home from San Diego right now—I’m sure GRL was a lot of laughs. Just a guess since I’m typing this before I’ve even left home, but let’s just go with it, shall we?

Thanks so much for dropping in to see what we have in store for you in the coming week. In keeping with my apparent ability to predict the future, it’s sure to be a good one, with lots of great guests, giveaways, and more reviews to come.

Here’s what’s on tap!

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Monday – Kicking off this week, we’ll first be bringing you the exclusive cover reveal for author Garrett Leigh’s upcoming novel Between Ghosts

To add to that, we’ll also have author Santino Hassell here to chat about his new novel Stygian from Dreamspinner Press

Brita Addams also joins us today to chat about her newest historical novel Beloved Unmasked

Tuesday – We get to bring you another cover reveal today, as we help authors Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Cade show off the pretty artwork for their new novel Prickly By Nature

We’ll also have author A.M. Arthur dropping by on the tour for her new novel The World as He Sees It, so stay tuned for that

Wednesday – Author Anna Butler will be our guest as she tours the internet to chat about her new novel Heart Scarab

Thursday – Today we’ll be bringing you an exclusive interview with author Amy Lane as we continue to celebrate Queer Romance Month

We’ll also welcome author Thianna Durston today as she drops by TNA on her Drakyl Ranch: Discovery tour

Friday – And finally, to help us close out the week, we’ll have author Ethan Stone with us on the tour for his new book Closing Ranks

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And that does it for the week ahead. Until next Sunday, happy reading!

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Steampunk

Review: The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler

Title: The Gilded Scarab

Author: Anna Butler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 314 Pages

At a Glance: When this novel gets a good head of steam going, it’s an adventurous and entertaining jaunt through an alternate reality London.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

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Review: With a good dose of creativity in its historical setting, Anna Butler’s The Gilded Scarab is a fun mix of danger, intrigue, and romance narrated by Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of her majesty’s royal aeroforce.

A complex structure of a House caste system, which lends its politics to the intrigue, coupled with the world building of Londinium, the author’s steampunk version of Victorian London, give this novel a bit of a slow start as we follow Rafe from the disastrous ending of his final flight as an aerofighter to his new career as barista and owner of a coffee shop. There’s much detail to lay out in order to ground readers in the setting, some of which I felt was filler that didn’t end up serving the greater plot, but once things hit their stride, the action and foul play builds to a brisk and exciting climax.

Rafe, as narrator of this novel, is an interesting mix of ego and charm, and leaves one wondering, at times, if he’s purposely obtuse or truly is as oblivious of himself and his emotions as it seems. Whichever it is, it adds a bit of cheek to his charm, and I found he’d grown on me in a rather stealthy way before I knew it. His relationship with his own House—or non-relationship, as the case may be—was an added strength to his character, allowing readers to appreciate his distancing himself from the politics of the system and living his life on his own terms. Although, the cutthroat worlds of coffee and Aegyptology did go a long way to complicate Rafe’s life on their own.

As for Rafe’s romantic entanglements, since the blurb is mostly vague on that count, I will be as well. As befits the setting of the novel, he frequents Londinium’s gentlemen’s clubs to find companionship, which he does—one encounter highlighting how unacquainted he is with his own feelings, another how unreceptive he is to the idea of falling in love. Both men end up complicating Rafe’s life in his own way, and for various reasons, but the end result is an added layer of intrigue to the storyline, and a sweet and satisfying ending for our hero.

As an added bonus, there are some wonderful side characters to root for in The Gilded Scarab, one of which is Sam Hawkins, loyal bodyguard; and Hugh Peters, faithful friend; along with various other friends and allies who help Rafe realize his happy ending. They band together as a league of heroes committed to never leaving a man behind, and the excitement builds at a great pace as they get closer to their target.

As steampunk romances go, when this novel gets a good head of its own steam going, it’s an adventurous and entertaining jaunt through an alternate reality London.






You can buy The Gilded Scarab here:

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5 Stars, Anna Butler, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Wilde City Press

Review: Gyrfalcon by Anna Butler

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Title: Gyrfalcon

Author:  Anna Butler

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 294 Pages

At a Glance: The start of an epic space-opera series with unforgettable characters that will leave you scrambling for the next book.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.

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Review: How do you review a book that kept you up all night, left you gasping for air as the characters struggled to breathe, and then left you a sobbing puddle with broken tear ducts at the end? I guess you just jump into it.

Gyrfalcon is the start of the proposed six book Taking Shield series. And what a start it is. The novel starts with a bang and throws readers right into the heart of the action with Bennet and his crew of the Hyperion. They are deep in enemy space, infiltrating a base to look for information on the Maess, the enemy of humanity. A war is raging, and they’re desperate for something to give them an edge in combat. The story goes from there, and the author weaves in little tidbits about the universe as the story unravels.

In this series, humans left Earth thousands of years ago. So long ago that many people don’t even think Earth existed at all. The planet, Albion, is their home, and seems to resemble Greece in some ways, Egypt in others. They have a pantheon of gods they believe in rather than one, though not everyone believes in the religions.

This book is not a light read. It’s heavy. There is a lot of military and scientific jargon because of the setting, but honestly, don’t let that throw you off. For me, it just sucked me into the story even more. I was thoroughly engrossed in the lives of the characters and enjoyed reading about the military operations as they unfolded. I loved reading about the various ships, from the tiny Mosquito to the massive dreadnought, and all their inner workings.

The characters, too, are richly detailed, from their home colonies to their importance on the ships. The two heroes, Bennet and Flynn, are spectacular. Both are expertly characterized and have their little differences and quirks that make them unique, from Bennet’s almost forgotten stutter–except when he gets too emotional–to Flynn’s unapologetic love of sex.

Bennet is the Shield Captain who finds himself aboard the Gyrfalcon rather than his own Hyperion for his mission. He is tough and dedicated to his job, but torn between it, his father, and his lover, Joss. His father is upset with his sexuality (that’s putting it lightly), and annoyed that he chose Shield over other positions he could have had. Joss loves Bennet but is angry every time he leaves for a mission, and the anger is putting a strain on their relationship.

Then there’s Flynn. He’s an excellent pilot, the best the Gyrfalcon has, but he gambles and leaves broken hearts in his wake, and has a service record as a result. Like Powell, Bennet, and myriad others, no reader will be impervious to his charms. I fell for him and he broke my heart. But in a good way. Mostly.

Reading about Bennet and Flynn actually put me in mind of one particular Star Trek: Voyager character, Tom Paris. The two men combined are so much like him I wondered if the author had been influenced by his character in some way. Tom has a high ranking father in Starfleet, and Bennet has the same trouble. Both men fail to please their father, and act out as a result. Tom is also a bit of a ladies man, trying to win over any beautiful woman he sees. Same for Flynn but with men. Both Flynn and Tom are charismatic and have their disastrous service records. They’re passionate men and expert pilots with unparalleled skills. So, if you’re a fan of Tom Paris, you absolutely must read this book.

Moving on.

Both men won their way into my heart, and the last two chapters of the book had me sobbing. This book is not a romance. It is not even pretending to be one. However, there are two wonderful male leads who meet and happen to tumble into bed together. If you’re looking for sex right off the bat, you’re not going to find it in this book. If you’re looking for head-over-heels romance, you’re not going to find that either. What you will find is two characters hopelessly and helplessly drawn to each other, even when they don’t really stand a chance to be together.

I don’t want to ruin the ending, but I will say that, while not a HEA, it is HFN, or as much as it can be for this universe. That still didn’t stop me from sobbing buckets of tears. And making ugly faces at my cat.

I look forward to the next book in this series. Anna Butler has found a new fan in me, and I’ll be rooting for Bennet and Flynn all the way. But until I can get that next book, I will happily purchase the paperback because this book belongs on my permanent bookshelf.

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You can buy Gyrfalcon here:

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Anna Butler, Dreamspinner Press

And Now, A Daily Dose Of Contact Sport by Anna Butler

Let’s make like a hockey player and get the puck out of here.” ― Alexander Gordon Smith, “Solitary”

Contact Sport is part of the Dreamspinner Press Daily Dose Collection for June. It is a very short story. Jamie Connor is a star ice hockey player at his college. He is handsome, talented and charming. He has been able to cruise through many a troublesome situation on those attributes alone. He is unashamedly bi-sexual. The only person who has ever said no to sex with him is his best friend and fellow hockey great, Noah.

In order to foster relations between the college and the nearby BWI, a mathematics college, the Dean makes the hockey team play a game against the BWI team. Jamie puts the odds of their winning against the nerds at fifteen to one. He and Noah expect a bunch of skinny acne prone nerds.

Before the game, the dean, the head of BWI and Alex Blaine meet with Jamie and Noah. Alex Blaine is the owner of a local very successful business, Blaine Enterprises. Many students, including Jamie, apply for coveted jobs within his organization. He is also the largest contributor to the college, enabling them to have state-of-the-art hockey training facilities.

While Jamie’s team is able to win the game, it does not go as expected. For one thing, Jamie is lined up across from “The Pretty One” to whom he feels an immediate and strong attraction. The only things Jamie knows about him is that he is beautiful, a much better hockey player than most of the others on his team and that he was talking to Mr. Blaine before the game.

After the win, Jamie hopes to meet up with “The Pretty One” for some personal fun. Mr. Blaine, however is rushing the young man out of the locker rooms. The Pretty One begs Blaine for just five minutes. He enters the locker room where Jamie is waiting and the two exchange quick hand jobs. Then The Pretty One introduces himself as Matt Blaine, Alex’s son.

When Matt’s father finds them, they have put themselves back together. While leaving with his father, Matt calls to Jamie that he’ll be in touch about a practice session. That is where the story ends.

I always try hard to find something to like in every story I read, and while I can’t say I hated this one, I can’t say I liked it either. The characters felt flat to me, the plot too thin, and though the author’s writing style is good, in my humble opinion, it could have been put to better use in a storyline and with characters that were fleshed-out a bit more.

Reviewed by: Tina

You can buy Contact Sport here:

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