Friday, February 25, 2022

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses by Jackie Higgins (Spotlight, excerpt, and review)

Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses


Jackie Higgins

Being sentient—is being aware of the world around us and conscious of our own place within it—is a marvel that science has yet to explain and that we take for granted because it seamlessly defines our every waking moment.


The 5 senses we grew up being taughtsight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste—conceived by Aristotle have become a nearly universally accepted belief system.  And yet it is a myth. Many neuroscientists say up to thirty-three distinct senses are served by dedicated receptors in our bodies.


In the vein of Oliver Sacks, Diane Ackerman, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sy Montgomery, author Jackie Higgins has a fascination with nature. She studied zoology under Richard Dawkins at Oxford and went on to become a leading writer and producer of documentary films about nature.  In SENTIENT: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses, Jackie Higgins explores the breadth of our capabilities as sentient beings through the lens of the animal kingdom. This book looks to animals to better understand the ways we sense and make sense of the world. Scientific research shows that there is more to unite, than divide us and that all creatures are built on the same foundationsa message of particular importance right now.  Through their eyes, ears, skin, tongues, noses and more, we can uncover what it means to be human and rediscover the extraordinary in the ordinary waking moment.

With stories of creatures from land, air, and sea that have the ability to sense the world in ways that boggle the mind. With its unique combination of armchair travel, scientific discovery, and a magnificent cast of animal characters, SENTIENT is a mind-boggling read unlike any other.  


"Sentient is a revelatory book. Exploring animals' beyond-human senses opens to us whole new realms of experience. Thank you, Jackie Higgins, for enlarging our understanding of what the world looks, feels, tastes, and smells like." —Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus

The book is narrated in an easily readable tone, and Caroline Church’s well-rendered illustrations are a bonus. An appealingly written, enlightening, and sometimes eerie journey into the extraordinary possibilities for the human senses.” — [starred] Kirkus Reviews






True to its various names, the peacock, painted, or harlequin mantis shrimp is one of the most colorful creatures on the Great Barrier Reef. Neither shrimp nor mantis, Odontodactylus scyllarus is more akin to a diminutive lobster with a kaleidoscopic carapace of indigos, electric blues, and bottle greens. Yet this captivating countenance belies a somewhat irascible temperament. One spring day in 1998, at the Sea Life center in the English seaside town of Great Yarmouth, a particularly pugilistic specimen named Tyson astounded onlookers by smashing through the thick glass wall of his aquarium. "He was clawing and snapping. Nobody dared touch him;' the manager told the national press. "All our visitors assume our sharks are the man-eating killers, but they are pussycats compared to Tyson. His power is incredible:' Tyson was not the first to attempt such a jailbreak; these marine crustaceans, known as stomatopods, have developed quite a reputation among aquarists and scientists. Indeed, research has shown that the peacock mantis shrimp uses its dub-like arms to pack a punch faster and more forceful than any heavyweight boxer.

One scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, made it her mission to understand the mantis shrimp strike, but only because she had run into problems with her original research plan. "I decided to take a break from trying to study their sound production and look instead at a behavior they perform regularly, without hesitation;' ex­ plained Sheila Patek. "It was a classic example of how failure can open up new and unexpected directions:' Her first challenge was to find a camera system fast enough. "Standard high-speed video cameras, that film at 1,000 frames per second, are too slow to capture the creature's strike. They only show a single frame of blur;' she said. An opportunity arose to team up with a BBC film crew and use the latest high-speed technology for low light conditions. "Low light is the critical issue when filming these animals;' because, "if it's too high, you fry them:' The experiment was simple to set up: a peacock mantis shrimp, a sacrificial snail loosely tethered to a stick-"they are aggressive animals, happy to strike whatever is placed in front of them"-and, sure enough, they soon had a recording of a shell-splitting impact. They had filmed the punch at 5,000 frames per second, and, playing it back, they slowed it down by a factor of three hundred. "It was still pretty darn fast;' Patek told me. "Even a back-of-the-envelope calculation for the speed and acceleration of the strike put them right at the outer limits of what people had ever seen:' The final calculation was more surprising still: it was the fastest strike ever recorded in the animal kingdom. "It is a glorious moment as a scientist to see something for the first time and recognize how special it is;' Patek added. The calcified club accelerated like a bullet in a gun, reaching its target in three- thousandths of a second, at velocities approaching 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. "But that was not the end of the story:'

Patek decided to film the behavior at even faster speeds. "At 20,000 frames per second, we saw an incredible flash of light where the limb hit the snail, that then spread over the shell;' she said. "I recognized it instantly:' She was looking at a potent phenomenon called cavitation, which occurs where areas of water moving at vastly different speeds meet and the pressure drops. "This results in the water literally vaporizing and when that vapor bubble collapses, it does so with such destructive force that it emits sound, heat, and light:' The experiments revealed that the force behind the peacock mantis shrimp's fist is so great that sparks really do fly. The knockout blow spells doom for aquarium walls and any snails unfortunate enough to be within reach. Patek's research enabled the Guinness World Records to claim it, relative to the animal's weight, as "the most powerful punch in the animal kingdom:' But the mantis shrimp shows prowess beyond the boxing ring.

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About the author:


Growing up in Cornwall by the sea - spending much of my childhood outdoors, on the beach, poking around in rock pools - fostered a fascination with nature. At Oxford University, I was taught evolution and animal behavior by Richard Dawkins, as well as epidemiology, ecology and conservation, eventually I graduated with an MA in Zoology.


I worked for Oxford Scientific Films making wildlife films for the BBC and National Geographic. My first day in the office involved stinging my boss with a bee – he showed me where on his arm the lens was focused so we could get a macro shot of a sting for a film we were making on bees in the Panamanian rainforest.  I filmed in many places around the world: bats pollinating saguaro cactuses in Arizona, warring woodpeckers in the peaceful Californian Carmel Valley, to seed dispersal in the rare Coco de Mer forests of the Seychelles.  OSF was world renowned for its expertise in unusual photographic techniques: cameras to play with time (e.g. hi-speed photography to show seed pods exploding, time-lapse to show flowers budding, locked shots to show landscapes changing through seasons) or lenses to play with size (e.g. macro lenses to show microscopic creatures or endoscopes to reveal unusual points of view). 


I next worked in the Science Department at the BBC making narrative documentaries across all scientific disciplines for the Horizon strand (sometimes co-produced with PBS Nova or The Discovery Channel): I covered the SARS epidemic from the WHO headquarters in Geneva and filmed quite a few people who have been in the news throughout this year.  I debunked Atlantis myths by exploring the origins of Egyptian and Mexican cultures, exposed the truth behind the Atkins diet, followed magic men in India to explain the science behind their trickery, a team of evolutionary biologists in Latvia studying fossils to understand how our distant ancestors first crawled out of the oceans and a team of anthropologists into the remote Indonesian forests of Flores in search of one of the most important ancient hominin fossils of the last century; she became known as 'the hobbit'.


It is therefore no surprise among my favorite books are The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks, A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman and Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape.


SENTIENT combines my deep fascination with the fragility and diversity of the human experience: what might it feel like not being able to see colour, to smell with the sensitivity of a bloodhound or to lose the sense of one’s body, to live disembodied? Ultimately, I intersect what we can learn about humanity from these wonderful creatures.





My review:


5 stars


Sentient: How Animals Illuminate the Wonder of Our Human Senses by Jackie Higgins is a thought-provoking and intriguing book that invites one to marvel at the creatures of the world around us. Even better, it challenges the reader to contemplate the wonders of the human body and the capabilities it has, far beyond the traditional five senses postulated by the ancients. Using a variety of animals who specialize in certain abilities, the author explores how form affects function, how the brain can be mapped to reflect the emphasis on a particular sense, and how knowledge of these capabilities can be utilized to understand certain disease conditions.


I’m astonished at the idea of having an additional receptor in the eyes that confers time sense, fascinated by the existence of abysses in the ocean that could swallow up Mount Everest, and love the creative descriptions such as that of the peacock mantis shrimp having “optical panache” as well as pugilistic expertise. I can’t help but be dismayed by the idea that a person could lose the ability to know where their body is in terms of spatial knowledge after a viral disruption of proprioception, or that the body’s innate clock can be disrupted by a head injury.


This is a densely packed volume of information. One can read it on several levels. Easiest is reading to just marvel at the amazing creatures. I’d never heard of most of these entities…except of course, the cheetah, which I’ve adored for years and admired for its ability to turn on a dime and to explode into action; the octopus, which I’ve learned that I should be even more wary of its escape abilities than I already was; and the vampire bat which exhibits far more compassion that I’d ever imagined. Then one can admire the lengths that scientists go to in order to analyze a hypothesis…whether it is being sense-deprived or tolerating the presence of giant cockroaches (ewwww) or counting the number of hair cells or rods and cones. And finally, there is the science itself. Personally, I wince at some of the implications of the investigations, as there were quite a few animals sacrificed in order to provide the information, but wow, the revelations that are provided are truly invaluable.


Whether you are a scientist, a philosopher, or just a curious student of life, this book will provide hours of fascinating material. I invite you to expand your mind and enjoy discovering that we have far more than the traditional five or six senses ascribed to us.


A copy of this book was provided for review

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Most Eligible Bride in London by Ella Quinn (VBB, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

The Lords of London series, Book 3


Ella Quinn 

Love conquers even the most unlikely lord in USA Today bestselling author Ella Quinn’s delightful Lords of London series, as a reformed rogue endeavors to prove himself worthy of his chosen bride . . .

Mistakes happen, to be sure. Rarely are those mistakes as unfortunate as the one made by Nathanael, Viscount Fotherby, when he abducted the now Lady Merton to save his friend from marriage. Nate has been trying to make amends ever since, leaving behind his self-centered ways to fulfill his duties—and that includes finding a wife of his own. One woman sparks his interest above all others—a lady he helped when she was rescuing a child. Alas, there is a devilish complication . . .

Miss Henrietta Stern, Lady Merton’s younger sister, is intrigued by the stranger who comes to her aid—until she learns his identity. Nate’s stunt could have ruined her sister’s reputation, and her family may never forgive him. With beauty, connections, and a sizeable dowry, Henrietta has plenty of admirers. Yet no other suitor quickens her pulse quite like Nate does. Her heart insists that the gentleman has changed for the better. But can a renowned scoundrel possibly prove himself to be the perfect husband?



His mother was sitting on a small sofa and a tea tray had been placed on the low table in front of it. “Fotherby, I thought you had work to do.”

“There was nothing pressing, but I realized that as soon as people know we are here, we will begin receiving invitations. And we have never discussed what I want in a wife.” He didn’t quite know how to bring up the lady he’d assisted. There was always the chance his mother knew her family. He might as well just say it. “Also, while I was at the workhouse, fetching Miss Odell and her baby, I discovered that there are charities that save children. That is something I would be interested in. Do you know any of them?”

“Please stop looming over me and have a cup of tea. We shall address the requirement of a wife first. Then I shall give some thought to the charities.” He selected a chintz-covered chair, and she handed him a cup. “What do you want in a wife?”

“I want her to be down-to-earth, intelligent, and”—he wanted to say “courageous,” but how to explain that?—“and be equal to me.” He’d seen that in the Odells and some other couples. “But not stuffy or too serious.” He wanted her to love him, not who he was. He’d heard Merton had found that and was happier for it.

“Well, that is an interesting combination.” She sipped her tea. “Do you want beauty and grace?”

A pair of light eyes—he wished he knew the color—under long, thick, black lashes passed through his mind. “Some beauty. I do like the combination of black hair and light eyes. I suppose most ladies are graceful.”

“Yes, most are.” His mother turned to her maid. “Bring me my pocketbook.” Once it was handed to her, she began making notes. “Is there anything else?”

He thought about the lady again. “Someone not in her first Season. I want someone who has maturity, if not in age, than in behavior.”

Mama drew her lips under as she wrote again. “Very well. I shall see who is here for the Season.” She put the pocketbook on a side table. “Do you know anyone who meets these criterion?”

Nate felt heat rise in his neck. “I did, in a loose meaning of the term, meet a lady.” He supposed he’d now have to tell his mother where. “When Mr. Odell was in speaking with Miss Bywater—although she is now Miss Odell—I saw a lady in need of assistance.”

His mother pursed her lips. “And you were able to render it?”

“Yes.” Damn, he never should have said anything.

“You are certain she is a lady?”

“Absolutely certain.”

Her brows rose. “And would this have anything to do with searching for a charity?”

“Er. Yes.” He downed his tea. “I believe she is working for a charity.”

“You do know that if she is working, she will not have a dowry.” Mama’s face was a mask, and he wished he knew what she was thinking. Still, he did not think she disapproved.

“That does not matter to me. What I want is a lady of character and compassion.” After all, he was the one who would have to live with her.

She met his gaze and seemed to study him for a long few moments. Finally she nodded. “Very well. I shall make inquiries. I hope for your sake that she is a lady.”

“She is a lady.” He almost growled the words. He did not have to hope at all. He, like everyone else, knew when a female was a lady. Nate rose. “I am well acquainted with the breed. I’ll see you in the drawing room.”

Buy Links:

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About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Ella Quinn’s studies and other jobs have always been on the serious side (political science professor and lawyer). Reading historical romances, especially Regencies, were her escape. Eventually her love of historical novels led her to start writing them.

She is married to her wonderful husband of almost fourty years. They have a son and two beautiful granddaughters, a Great Dane named Lilibet, and a cat named Winnie. After living in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe, she and her husband decided to make their dreams come true lived on sailboat for three years. After cruising the Caribbean and North America, she completed a transatlantic crossing from St. Martin to Southern Europe. She's currently living in Germany, happily writing while her husband is back at work, recovering from retirement. She expects to be back on the boat in 2022.

Ella loves when readers connect with her.

Author Contacts and Social Media:




The tour dates can be found here


Changeling by Lee Colgin (Release blitz, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GBP ADULT title



Outcast Mates series

ADULT title


Lee Colgin

Publisher: Colgin Enterprise

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date: February 10, 2022

Genre: MM Paranormal/Fantasy Romance

Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, found family, grumpy/sunshine, forced proximity

Themes: Finding yourself

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 65 000 words/ 260 pages

It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.



Dominus—an incubus who runs a brothel called The Twig & Berries—is bored with his life and customers alike.

Sebastian—a changeling faerie swapped at birth for a human infant—is reeling with the knowledge of his true heritage. Unsafe among humans, he travels north to meet others of his kind.

But danger lurks, and when Sebastian is forced to hunker down with Dominus for safe harbor, the tension between them flares hot.

Sebastian is the only person that’s piqued Dominus’s interest in ages, but he’s fae. And Dominus has reason to despise faeries.

Forced together as trespassers infiltrate the territory, will enemies become lovers or will a curse keep them apart forever?

Changeling is an MM Paranormal Fantasy Romance featuring enemies-to-lovers, forced proximity, a steamy love story, lamb on a stick, and surprise visitors from other novels. If you enjoyed Beneath the Opal Arc, this book's for you.

When a fae changeling on the run is forced to hunker down with a grumpy incubus, will enemies become lovers or is an ancient curse too much for them to bear? 


A creature strolls into the room so stunning I must blink to be sure he’s real.

Aside from the massive horns and gently swaying tail, he doesn’t look like any demon I’ve ever imagined. He’s gorgeous, with gray-dappled lavender skin, and he’s huge—taller than me even without considering the coiled horns that add another foot to his already astounding height.

His sapphire blue eyes, sparkling with an interest that rivals my own, catch my gaze. Silver brows—the same color as his long braided hair—arch to elegant crescents high on his forehead.

“What treasure has arrived at my door this morning?” A sly smile forms across lush pink lips. His skin is simply otherworldly, shining with an aromatic oil spread from neck to toes.

I inhale the fragrance of a bouquet of fresh spring blossoms plucked to gift a lover.

“Dominus, meet Sebastian, who finds himself in need of safe harbor.” Ivaz makes a sweeping gesture from him to me. “Sebastian, meet Dominus, who’s agreed to take you in.”

I let my gaze wander over the length of him. Practically naked, he wears only a sheer shift of shimmering fabric the color of ripe plums. It’s pulled tight over each hardened nipple, crossing just above his pierced belly button, then draping loosely around his lean waist and bulging thighs. Silver strappy sandals adorn his otherwise bare feet, the toenails painted purple to match the shift. Amethysts dangle from each ear.

Dominus is a glittering jewel of a man—of an incubus, I suppose. His attention brushes over me like a touch, grazing my skin and bristling the little hairs on my neck in its wake. We stare at each other until I remember my manners.

Clearing my throat, I extend my hand. “Thank you for offering me shelter.”

Dominus takes it within his larger one, his grip soft and warm. “My pleasure.” He brings my hand to his lips and presses a kiss to the backs of my fingers.

I’m baffled by the boldness of the gesture, wondering how he knows I prefer men. It’s usually a back-and-forth dance of daring mixed with self-preservation to determine whether another fellow might be like-minded, but Dominus doesn’t hesitate in the slightest.

To my chagrin, heat sears across my cheeks. Surely they’re pink as petals. I’m not often so taken by another person, but Dominus is a magnificent presence. His energy steals all the space in the room, spins it to his will, and returns it much improved upon for having been under his control.

My tongue is thick and heavy in my mouth, but I force it to work before I look like an idiot ogling him. “I’ve never met an incubus before.”

“And I’ve never met such a charming…” He studies me, eyes raking over my lean form.

I open my mouth to answer, my flush deepening under his scrutiny, but he shakes his head.

“No, let me guess. It’s more fun. Wood sprite?”

His guess brings a grin to my face. “There are wood sprites?”

“Ah, so not a wood sprite, then.” He leans in close to me and reaches for my hair. “May I?”

I bite my cheek and give a little nod. He takes a lock of my hair and curls it through his fingers. Then he sniffs.

“Hmm, not a shifter. At least not one I recognize.” His eyes sparkle with a new idea. “A jinn? But are you benevolent or malevolent?”

“I’m not that either. What’s a jinn?”

Dominus purses his lips, still twirling my hair. “Not a jinn. Hmm.”

Ivaz groans before Dominus can answer my question. “Glad to see the two of you hitting it off. Now where do we sleep?”

“Has our new guest worn you out already, old man?” Dominus says to Ivaz.

“Hardly,” Ivaz scoffs. “But I have a letter to write before dawn.”

“This way.” Dominus extends his elbow to me, and I take it. His muscles flex beneath my fingertips.

We head down a narrow hallway with decorated silk drapes hung crisscrossed over the ceiling and pass several doors on each side. Just how big this place, and how many people sleep within these rooms? In the quiet, I hear only the thumping of my heart and our soft steps muted by layers of thick rugs.

We stop by one of the doors. Dominus uses his free hand to push it open. He glances to Ivaz. “Here you are.”

“Thank you.” Ivaz steps over the threshold.

I gasp as Dominus’s tail circles my waist and tugs me closer to his side. It’s not unwelcome, but it’s quite surprising.

“Sorry,” he says, sounding anything but. “It has a mind of its own sometimes.”

Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link  |  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK


About the Author 

Lee Colgin has loved vampires since she read Dracula on a hot, sunny beach at 13 years old. She lives in North Carolina with lots of dogs and her husband. No, he's not a vampire, but she loves him anyway. Lee likes to workout so she can eat the maximum amount of cookies with her pizza. Ask her how much she can bench press.

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a $20 Amazon Gift Card and Direct-to-kindle copies of Mongrel and Changeling

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions


My review:

4 stars


Changeling by Lee Colgin is part of the ‘Outcast Mates’ series and features a fugitive who has had his world destroyed and ends up taking temporary refuge with a group of beings unlike any he’s ever known. When it comes time for him to continue his journey, he’s not sure he’s ready to leave, but more than his need to find his true nature compels him—there’s also the issue of the curse that comes between him and the male he’s come to care for.


This adult gay paranormal romance provides a touching perspective on the concept of changelings and what happens to the fae who is left in place of a human child. Of course, one gets a quick hint about the spice in the story when the fleeing Sebastian is escorted to a brothel known as the Twig and Berries and is introduced to the charismatic-but-hostile incubus named Dominus who runs it.

The unfolding of the relationship as these two work to get past the considerable obstacles that exist between their respective races is delightful to watch, and I enjoyed both the heat and the tenderness as the bonds of dominance and submission, not to mention the entertainment to be had with a prehensile tail, are explored.

The intriguing glimpses of various other paranormal beings, and the obvious concern and caring that they show for each other makes this a heartwarming tale for me, and I am definitely interested in reading other stories in this series, even though there is no trouble reading this as a stand-alone tale.

I love stories that give a little twist to the traditional premises of fantasy beings, and this author does an excellent job of providing that in an engaging story. Hopefully, there will be plenty more in this series, as many of the secondary characters are intriguing as well.



A copy of this story was provided for review

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Can't Think Straight by Isabel Scheck (VBT, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT



Can't Think Straight


Isabel Scheck




GENRE:   poetry/lgbtqia/romance






A collection of 35 poems in which a poet thinks about women a little too much... (Sapphic poetry)






Poem no. 7: Scary, Isn’t It?

I often think about how scary it is;

one minute you’re fine and the next

you’re yearning for a girl you’ve only just met. And the mere thought of her is enough to give you violent butterflies.

The more you get to know her

the more she becomes everything you think about.

The more you know her the funnier and prettier she becomes until the butterflies aren’t

only reserved for when she’s near;

they’re there forevermore.

I often think about how scary it is;

How is it that a singular person has that much of an effect on you?

It’s scary because you know that you’re giving her the power to break your heart if she so chooses.



Buy links:


Lulu link to Can’t Think Straight  




AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Isabel is a self-published author and artist who comes from England, but lives in Switzerland. She works with children, which she adores, but she also loves to write; especially in the genres of fantasy, poetry and romance. She uses experiences and images as inspiration to create words. Isabel also loves to express herself by drawing.

Instagram: Isabels_artwork

Tumblr: Hues-of-Purple

Twitter: IzzyS97


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The tour dates can be found here