Review: Kai’s Healing Smile by Vivi Anne Hunt

KAI’S HEALING SMILES by Vivi Anne Hunt

Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+, 201 Pages

3***.  Steamy heat level (5+)

BLURB: Silas is mourning the loss of his wife. Every day, he is going through the motions and barely managing to keep the excruciating pain from overtaking his life. There is precisely one ray of sunshine in his days — Kai — the smiley, awkward barista at Starbucks. For some reason, Silas finds comfort being around Kai and soaks up as much light as this sweet boy could give him. For the short time Kai has worked at Starbucks, he has secretly watched one man from afar, hoping that one day he would notice him back. He looks all mature, business-like, and always sad. One day Kai finally gets the chance to speak to him. And this is where their story begins. Will Silas be able to let go of the past and start fresh? And will Kai be able to heal the gloomy man with his smiles?
Tropes: age gap, hurt comfort, Daddy/boy kink
Content warnings: mature sexual content and language
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, grief

Thoughts: This was a very well-written story with great characters who came across as being real. The emotions pulled at you and the conflicts added to the overall feel of the story. 

What I liked: The characters. Kai Is sweet and a bit naïve. May is a hoot. Silas is broken, but on the mend and Wes is a good friend. They all blend together, along with others who come into their circle, to make an interesting blend—just like in real life. They are messy and broken and have problems and don’t always do the right thing at the right time, but so is everyone else in real life.

Silas’s grief over losing his wife is real. Then Kai comes into his life and he finally stars to heal. Their relationship starts off slow and builds in a realistic fashion that works.

What I didn’t like: The whole “daddy” thing was off-putting for me. And that’s a personal issue. I just didn’t care for that aspect of Silas and Kai’s relationship. 

Recommendation: If you are okay with the tropes and high heat level, then get this one. It’s a good story with a satisfying ending that will leave you smiling.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Spotlight: Andrew Grey



Title: Lost and Found 
Author: Andrew Grey
Series: Standalone
Genre:  M/M Contemporary Romance 
Publisher: DreamSpinner Press 
Release Date: Sept 6, 2022
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook 
Blurb/Synopsis
Rafe Carrera hasn’t seen his Uncle Mack since he was a kid, so when he inherits his ranch, it throws him like a bucking horse. He’s been on his own for a long time. Now suddenly everyone wants to be his friend… or at least get friendly enough to have a chance in buying the ranch.
Russell Banion’s family may own a mega-ranch in Telluride, but Russell made his own way developing software. He misses his friend Mack, and purchasing the ranch will help him preserve Mack’s legacy—and protect his own interests. It’s a win-win. Besides, spending time with Rafe, trying to soften him up, isn’t exactly a hardship. Soon Russell realizes he’ll be more upset if Rafe does decide to leave.
But Rafe isn’t sure he wants to sell. To others in the valley, his land is worth more than just dollars and cents, and they’ll do anything to get it. With Russell’s support, Rafe will have to decide if some things—like real friendship, neighborliness, and even love—mean more than money. Continue reading “Spotlight: Andrew Grey”

Review: Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King

ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES by Amy Sarig King

Fiction, YA, 272 pages

5************!!!!!

Blurb: Award-winning author Amy Sarig King takes on censorship and intolerance in a novel she was born to write. Everyone in town knows and fears Ms. Laura Samuel Sett. She is the town watchdog, always on the lookout for unsavory words and the unsavory people who use them. She is also Mac’s sixth-grade teacher. Mac and his friends are outraged when they discovered that their class copies of Jane Yolen’s THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC have certain works blacked out. Mac has been raised by his mom and grandad to call out things that are wrong, so he and his friends head to the principal’s office to protest the censorship. Her response isn’t reassuring — so the protest grows.

Thoughts: This was an amazing book that all adults should read. It’s aimed at YA readers (the main characters are in sixth grade), but I think kids “get it” while adults don’t. Especially those who are trying to get books censored or banned.

Mac and his friends are assigned Jane Yolen’s “The Devil’s Arithmetic” to read, but a lot of the words are blacked out In the books with black marker. They go to the library to find the “uncensored” book but can’t find It there so they head to an Independent bookstore where they find—and read—what is missing. And thus starts their fight. 

This is a book about censorship and book banning. It’s also about PTSD and family issues. It’s about life today. Censorship and banning of books is wrong. You hae the right to read what you want, as do I. But you do NOT have the right to tell me what I can read. Freedom of speech is a basic tenet of our constitution and as such, book banning and censorship is wrong. 

Recommendation: I sincerely wish every adult would read this book as well as kids. Unfortunately, the people who *should* read it, won’t. But please, do yourself a favor and realize what this book is about and fight against censorship.

Review: Peg and Rose Solve a Murder

PEG AND ROSE SOLVE A MURDER by Laurien Berenson

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, 304 pages

3***

Blurb: Murder, She Wrote meets The Golden Girls in the award-winning author’s brand-new series! Two cantankerous septuagenarians, opposites in every way, put aside their differences to stop a killer… if they don’t throttle each other first! Rose Donovan looks for the good in everyone. With her sister-in-law, Peg, that sometimes requires a lot of searching. Even a sixty-something former nun like Rose has her limits, and gruff Peg Turnbull sure knows how to push them. But after forty years of bickering, they’re attempting to start over, partnering up to join the local bridge club. Peg and Rose barely have a chance to celebrate their first win before one of the club’s most accomplished players is killed in his home. As the newest members, the sisters-in-law come under scrutiny and decide to start some digging of their own. Bridge is typically seen as a wholesome pastime, yet this group of senior citizens harbors a wealth of vices, including gambling, cheating, and adultery . . . By comparison, Peg and Rose’s fractious relationship is starting to feel almost functional. But as their suspect list narrows, they’re unaware that their logic has a dangerous flaw. And they’ll have to hope that their teamwork holds steady when they’re confronted by a killer who’s through with playing games.

Thoughts: If you love dogs, you’re going to love this story. Peg raises standard poodles (for show), and is now a judge. I learned more than I ever knew about being a judge. But even though her dogs (and any dog) are a big part of the story, the card game Bridge is even stronger. 

Which is kind of why the story didn’t work well for me. I am not a dog person (cats for me) and all the information about grooming and everything that goes into a dog show made the book read a little too slow for me. Plus, I know nothing about the card game Bridge. Pinochle, Poker, and other games, yes, but not Bridge. I honestly skimmed over a lot of this because it just did not interest me. 

But the murder mystery? And the conflict between Peg and her sister-in-law Rose? That was interesting. Peg and Rose worked with each other and fought each other and actually—eventually—almost got along with each other. And solved the mystery together. As characters, they were wonderful. They were older, stubborn, with their own ways of doing things that clashed with the other. Perfect conflict. And in the end, they actually grew as people and characters. Very well done.

Recommendation: This is a well-done cozy mystery with a satisfying ending involving two older women who don’t work well together—until they do. If you like dogs and Bridge, you’ll get even more out of this story than I did. A bit slow for me at times, but overall a decent story.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Review: Down in the Dumps (3 books)

Today, I’m reviewing three children’s books by Wes Hargis. They are disgustingly cute in a way that will appeal to young kids (as attested to by my 8 year old grandson).

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: THE MYSTERY BOX by Wes Hargis

(#1 in Down in the Dumps series)

Fiction, Children (ages 6-10), Fantasy, 96 pages

4****

Blurb: The Secret Life of Pets meets The Bad Guys in DOWN IN THE DUMPS, an all-new, highly illustrated early chapter book series about three unlikely friends—a rotten banana, a broken tea pot, and a crusty blob of gum—and their adventures together in the local town landfill. To Nana, there isn’t a better, more beautiful home for a mushy, moldy banana than the Westerfield Waste Transfer & Recycling Center! Nana loves living at the dump! She welcomes every new piece of trash with a hardy hug and happy hello. And in The Mystery Box, the first adventure in the Down in the Dumps series, when a Teddy Tedd Ted doll still perfectly wrapped in his gift box arrives, Nana realizes that not everyone is ready to be thrown away. Will Nana and her friends be able to navigate the many dangers of the dump to help Teddy Tedd Ted find his way home? The Mystery Box is the first book in the Down in the Dumps series from beloved author-illustrator Wes Hargis. It will have even the most reluctant readers taking out the trash for more adventures! HarperChapters build confident readers one chapter at a time! With short, fast-paced books, art on every page, and milestone markers at the end of every chapter, they’re the perfect next step for fans of I Can Read!

Thoughts: This is the first in a series of books about characters who live in a garbage dump. The stories are cute, but make ample use of the disgusting stuff kids love. They are a cross between a graphic novel and a regular chapter story with each page being more picture than writing. The end of each chapter shows your progress—encouraging young readers to continue—and the end of some chapters contain a cheer for the reader because they finished X chapters and X words. The end of the book continues this encouragement and adds “Super Stinky Games” like “Think”, “Feel”, and “Act” that have you doing things that relate to the story—math, writing, drawing, and other activities. 

In this first book, we are introduced to the main characters—Nana (a dried banana), Mrs. Kettle (a broken tea kettle), and Moreland (a grouchy blob). There are also a couple of cockroaches who are definitely not nice. Nana and her friends find an unopened gift box and when they do open it, they discover a talking teddy bear. They are determined to get him out of the dump and into the hands of someone who can appreciate him. What I find interesting is that everything they go through, including a slime pool, Teddy comes out still clean and good looking at the end. Not very realistic, but, then, this is a fantasy.

Drawbacks: Some of the vocabulary might be too advanced for younger children (wallop, unexpected, bienvenidos, conveyor belt) so these books are definitely “read with” stories for parents/older people to read with the child. Plus some of the activities may need guidance. The biggest drawback for me was that the pictures were grey(black) and white. Color would definitely increase the appeal – but also increase the costs. So it is a fine balancing act for the publisher. 

Recommendation: While I found some of the story appropriately disgusting, younger kids will love it. And the educational aspects are fun and tie into the stories. The congratulations at the end of chapters and the story will encourage reluctant readers to continue. Recommended. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: TRASH VS. TRUCSK by Wes Hargis

(#2 in Down in the Dumps series)

Fiction, Children (ages 6-10), Fantasy, 96 pages

4****

Blurb: The Secret Life of Pets meets The Bad Guys in DOWN IN THE DUMPS, an all-new, highly illustrated early chapter book series about three unlikely friends—a rotten banana, a broken tea pot, and a crusty blob of gum—and their adventures together in the local town landfill. Oh, no! In Trash vs. Trucks, the second book in the Down in the Dumps series, the trucks are planning to move Nana’s beautiful home at the Westerfield Waste Transfer and Recycling Center. And to a trash barge of all places, too! Nana isn’t about to give up her beloved dump without a fight, but she’ll need a plan first. Will Nana and her trash friends be able to save their home and stop the trucks from taking apart everything they’ve worked so hard to build. Trash vs. Trucks is the second book in the Down in the Dumps series from beloved author-illustrator Wes Hargis. It will have even the most reluctant readers taking out the trash for more adventures! HarperChapters build confident readers one chapter at a time! With short, fast-paced books, art on every page, and milestone markers at the end of every chapter, they’re the perfect next step for fans of I Can Read!

Thoughts: This is the second in a series of books about characters who live in a garbage dump. The stories are cute, but make ample use of the disgusting stuff kids love. They are a cross between a graphic novel and a regular chapter story with each page being more picture than writing. The end of each chapter shows your progress—encouraging young readers to continue—and the end of some chapters contain a cheer for the reader because they finished X chapters and X words. The end of the book continues this encouragement and adds “Super Stinky Games” like “Think”, “Feel”, and “Act” that have you doing things that relate to the story—math, writing, drawing, and other activities. 

In this book, Nana (a dried banana), Mrs. Kettle (a broken tea kettle), and Moreland (a grouchy blob) continue their adventures. The owners (portrayed as trucks) are planning to move the entire dump to a barge and pave over the area for a new parking lot. Nana doesn’t want to lose her home so she rallies all the trash in the area to come to her dump, thus increasing the size and making it too big for the trucks to move. 

Drawbacks: Some of the vocabulary might be too advanced for younger children so these books are definitely “read with” stories for parents/older people to read with the child. Plus some of the activities may need guidance. The biggest drawback for me was that the pictures were grey(black) and white. Color would definitely increase the appeal – but also increase the costs. So it is a fine balancing act for the publisher. 

Recommendation: While I found some of the story appropriately disgusting, younger kids will love it. And the educational aspects are fun and tie into the stories. The congratulations at the end of chapters and the story will encourage reluctant readers to continue. Recommended. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

DOWN IN THE DUMPS: A VERY TRASHY CHRISTMAS by Wes Hargis

(#3 in Down in the Dumps series)

Fiction, Children (ages 6-10), Fantasy, 96 pages

4****

Blurb: 

The Secret Life of Pets meets The Bad Guys in DOWN IN THE DUMPS, an all-new, highly illustrated early chapter book series about three unlikely friends—a rotten banana, a broken tea pot, and a crusty blob of gunk—and their adventures together in the local town landfill. Santa who? Nana has never heard about Christmas until the old toys of the Westerfield Waste Transfer and Recycling Center tell her about the most magical night of the year! In A Very Trashy Christmas, the third book in the Down in the Dumps series, Nana learns that Santa Claus delivers toys to all the good boys and girls and so she insists on writing him her own letter. But when Santa arrives with their gifts in tow, the Forklift of Doom mistakes Santa’s sleigh for rubbish. Can Nana and her trash friends band together to save Christmas before it’s too late! A Very Trashy Christmas is the third book in the Down in the Dumps series from beloved author-illustrator Wes Hargis. It will have even the most reluctant readers writing Santa for more adventures! HarperChapters build confident readers one chapter at a time! With short, fast-paced books, art on every page, and milestone markers at the end of every chapter, they’re the perfect next step for fans of I Can Read!

Thoughts: This is the third in a series of books about characters who live in a garbage dump. The stories are cute, but make ample use of the disgusting stuff kids love. They are a cross between a graphic novel and a regular chapter story with each page being more picture than writing. The end of each chapter shows your progress—encouraging young readers to continue—and the end of some chapters contain a cheer for the reader because they finished X chapters and X words. The end of the book continues this encouragement and adds “Super Stinky Games” like “Think”, “Feel”, and “Act” that have you doing things that relate to the story—math, writing, drawing, and other activities. 

In this book, Nana (a dried banana) and her friends discover a toy Santa Claus, only they’ve never heard of him. They find out from other broken toys living in the landfill who he is and that he delivers toys to good girls and boys one night of the year. They send him on his way and decide to write him a letter. This is a story, as are all of them, about helping others out and feeling good about it. It’s also a cute Christmas story about believing in Santa (which is supported in the end). 

Drawbacks: Some of the vocabulary might be too advanced for younger children so these books are definitely “read with” stories for parents/older people to read with the child. Plus some of the activities may need guidance. The biggest drawback for me was that the pictures were grey(black) and white. Color would definitely increase the appeal – but also increase the costs. So it is a fine balancing act for the publisher. 

Recommendation: While I found some of the story appropriately disgusting, younger kids will love it. And the educational aspects are fun and tie into the stories. The congratulations at the end of chapters and the story will encourage reluctant readers to continue. Recommended. 

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher for this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts for the Week Ahead

September 9

Birthdays: Leo Tolstoy (1828), Mary Hunter Austin (1868), James Hilton (1900)

Phyllis Whitney (1903), Leon Edel (1907), Paul Goodman (1911), Bernard Bailyn (1922), Pamela Des Barres (1948), Bob Shacochis (1951), Kimberly W. Holt (1960s), Aleksandar Hemon (1964)

Quote: When you meet powerful men or just read about them in the newspapers, you see that they don’t have a sense of boundaries.” – Bob Shacochis

“Some people are just afraid of what’s different. It doesn’t mean different is bad. It just means different is different. ”― Kimberly Willis Holt, My Louisiana Sky

“You decide which characters you want and then do the best you can to bring their humanity to the forefront in the context that you place them in – the crises in which you’ve placed them.” – Bob Shacochis

Tip: Avoid vague words like usually, pretty, very, just. (She was very pretty vs. She was beautiful vs. She was Aphrodite made flesh.)

Jumpstart: “It was worth a try,” he said as he shrugged.

September 10

Birthdays: Hannah Webster Foster (1758), Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880), Carl Van Doren (1885), Franz Werfel (1890), Cyril Connolly (1903), Charles Kuralt (1934), Mary Oliver (1935), Jared Diamond (1937), Stephen J. Gould (1941), Neale Donald Walsch (1943), Bill O’Reilly (1949), Andrei Makine (1957), Marian Keyes (1963)

Carl Van Doren won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Benjamin Franklin.

Charles Kuralt was a traveling journalist famous for his “On the Road” series on TV and in books.

Mary Oliver was an American poet who won both the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

Quote: “The story begins when things change. The adventure begins when things go wrong.” – Dennis McKiernan

Tip: On the first page, you should have the answers to three questions: Whose story is this? (main character) What’s happening? What’s at stake?

Jumpstart: You work at a pet shop and arrive in the morning to find cages opened and animals everywhere—including the snakes—what happens next?

September 11

Birthdays: O. Henry (1862), D.H. Lawrence (1885), Jessica Mitford (1917), William X. Kienzle (1928), Thomas K. McCraw (1940), James McBride (1957), Andre Dubus III (1959), Philip Ardagh (1961),

Thomas McCraw won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for History for “Prophets of Regulation”

O. Henry is most famous for his short story “The Gift of the Magi”.

Quote: “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I’ll give you the whole secret to short story writing. Here it is: Rule 1: Write stories that please yourself. There is no rule 2.” O. Henry

Tip: Hang in there and keep going. Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book And to Think that I saw it on Mulberry Street was rejected by twenty-seven publishers. The twenty-eighth—Vanguard Press—sold six million copies.

Jumpstart: Describe in detail a perfect day.

September 12

Birthdays: Charles Dudley Warner (1829), HL Mencken (1880), Marya Zaturenska (1902), Stanislaw Lem (1921), Kristin Hunter (1931), Michael Ondaatje (1943), Valerie Tripp (1951), James Frey (1969),

H.L. Mencken was known for writing “The American Language”, a study of vernacular American English

Marya Zaturenska won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Stanislaw Lem was best known for his novel “Solaris”, adapted into film three times.

Michael Ondaatje is best known for his novel “The English Patient”

Quote: “Most writers enjoy only two brief periods of happiness. First when what seems like a glorious idea comes flashing into mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you have not yet had time to consider how much better it all ought to have been.” – J.B. Priestly

Tip: Avoid empty adverbs: actually, totally, absolutely, completely, constantly, literally, really, etc. Replace them with stronger verbs. (I really want some chocolate vs. I crave some chocolate. Better yet: Her craving for chocolate overcame her willpower.)

Jumpstart: You’ve just been named ruler of the world. What do you do?

September 13

Birthdays: Daniel Defoe (1660), John J. Pershing (1860), Sherwood Anderson (1876), JB Priestley (1894), Roald Dahl (1916), Carol Kendall (1917), Else Holmelund Minarik (1920), Mildred Taylor (1943), Iyanla Vanzant (1952), E. Lockhart (1967),

John J. Pershing, an American General in WWI, won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for History for “My Experiences in the World War”

Roald Dahl was best known for his children’s books, but he also adapted two of Ian Flemin’gs works to screen: “You Only Live Twice” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”

Carol Kendall’s book “The Gammage Cup” was a Newbery Honor book

Mildred Taylor’s book “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” won the 1977 Newbery Medal

Quote: “If you spend your time saying ‘I’m never going to finish this book’, you probably won’t.” – Marylee Woods

Tip: Don’t modify things that shouldn’t be modified: very unique, slightly impossible, mostly alone, endlessly eternal. Unique, impossible, alone, eternal and other words like them are ultimate words. Nothing else is necessary to explain them. If someone is alone, there is no one else with him. If another joins him, he is no longer alone.

Jumpstart: Write about something you desperately wanted one time in your life and didn’t get. What would be different if you had?

September 14

Birthdays: Hamlin Garland (1860), William H. Armstrong (1914), Eric Bentley (1916), Larry Collins (1929), Anne Bernays (1930), Bernard MacLaverty (1942), Marc Reisner (1948), Elizabeth Winthrop (1948), Diane Goode (1949), John Steptoe (1950), Geraldine Brooks (1955), Henrietta Rose-Innes (1971),

William Armstrong is best known for his Newbery Medal winner “Sounder”

Geraldine Brooks on the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel “March”

Quote: “No writer was ever born published.” – J. Martin

“Provoke the reader. Astonish the reader. Writing that has no surprises is as bland as oatmeal. Surprise the reader with the unexpected verb or adjective. Use one startling adjective per page.” – Anne Bernays

Tip: Things to include on your author website: A books page (including buy links, reviews, etc.), a page for series; a bio page (about you), contact page, links.

Jumpstart: Write about a vacation you took where everything that could go wrong, did. What happened? What did you do?

September 15

Birthdays: Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1680), James Fenimore Cooper (1789), Agatha Christie (1890), Jean Renoir (1894), Merle Curti (1897), Betty Neels (1909), Robert McCloskey (1914), Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. (1918), Richard Gordon (1921), Tomie dePaola (1934), Normal Spinrad (1940), Jesse Andrews (1982)

Merle Curti won the 1944 Pulitzer Prize in History for “The Growth of American Thought”

Quote: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” – Agatha Christie

Tip: Beware of anyone who says “this is the only way to get published.” There are many ways, including self-publishing. No one way works for everyone. In fact, many authors use multiple ways. The thing to stay away from is “vanity publishing” – those places that make you pay thousands of dollars to “publish” your book and then don’t produce anything or it’s of such poor quality that it can’t be used. Do your homework. Check out who to work with.

Jumpstart: You have to evacuate your home. What do you take? Would it make a difference if you had an hour or two vs. a few minutes?

September 16

Birthdays: Alfred Noyes (1880), Frans Eemil Sillanpaa (1888), H.A. Rey (1898), John Knowles (1926), Jules Bass (1935), Breyten Breytenbach (1939), James Alan McPherson (1943),  Julia Donaldson (1948), William McKeen (1954), Wil McCarthy (1966), Elizabeth McCracken (1966), Walt Becker (1968), Justin Haythe (1973)

Frans Sillanpaa won the 1939 Nobel Prize for Literature – the first Finnish author to do so.

H.A. Rey is best known for his “Curious George” books (along with his wife)

James McPherson was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1978 for his short story collection “Elbow Room”

Alfred Noyes is best known for his poem “The Highwayman”

Quote: “I get ideas anywhere and everywhere: things that happen to my children; memories of my own childhood; things people say; places I go to; old folk tales and fairy stories. The hard part for me is not getting the idea, it is turning it into a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.” – Julia Donaldson

Tip: Write to your own strengths. You may love comedy or funny cozy mysteries, but not everyone can write funny. Or horror. Or romance. Figure out what you’re good at and go from there.

Review: Journey to New Salem

JOURNEY TO NEW SALEM (Witches of Vegas#2) by Mark Rosendorf

Fiction, YA Urban Fantasy

5*****

Blurb: A year has passed since The Witches of Vegas saved the city from the evil Wiccan vampire, Valeria. Since then, the show has hit an all-time high. So has the romance between teen witch Isis Rivera and teenage magician, Zack Galloway. Things couldn’t be any better for them until Isis develops seizures that cause her power to spiral out of control. Fires and earthquakes are just the beginning of the chaos caused by the misfired witchcraft. Unable to find a cure, Isis’ family journeys to New Salem, a fabled village of witches which may or may not even exist. Meanwhile, Zack ends up face to face with the only being who may have a cure…Valeria. But does he dare pay her price?

Thoughts: I actually enjoyed this one more than the first one, I believe because I knew the characters already and knew what was going on. Although it is a stand-alone, I strongly suggest you read “The Witches of Vegas” first so you understand what is happening better.

In this one, Isis is sick and nobody can figure out why. The family seeks out a fabled village of witches—New Salem—hidden in Europe somewhere. When they discover what is happening to Isis, they attempt to formulate a plan to save her before she dies. Unfortunately, their plans go awry when they come once again face-to-face with Valeria.

There is much anguish in this story, especially toward the end (I was crying – thanks a lot!), but that means the author grabbed me and pulled me. I cared about the characters. I cared what was happening. And the only way to do that is to write a good book. Which this is.

Recommendation: Read “The Witches of Vegas” first, then go on to this one. You won’t be sorry. But definitely read them both. They are worth the price and the time. Recommended.

 Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Goodreads

Review: The Witches of Vegas

THE WITCHES OF VEGAS by Mark Rosendorf

Fiction, YA Urban Fantasy, 202 pages

4****

Blurb: Where can Witches and their vampire mentor practice their powers without being discovered or persecuted? By using their magic, the Witches of Vegas become the number one act performing on the Las Vegas Strip—a great achievement for them, but not so much for the magicians—who can’t possibly keep pace. Isis Rivera is the adopted fifteen-year old daughter of The Witches of Vegas. Zack Galloway is the teenage nephew and assistant to the last magician left in the city. Although they should be rivals, when Valeria, a four-hundred-year-old witch with a long-seeded grudge against humanity arrives in Sin-City, both teens act to bring their families together to stop the evil hag in her tracks. But can the combined witches’ powers and the ingenuity of the magicians be enough to stop Valeria from taking over the city and possibly the world?

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book except for a couple spots. Overall, it’s well-written and the characters and settings very well done. So what didn’t I like? I’m getting tired of writers portraying foster parents and foster families as evil. There are good fosters out there. But…for the sake of this story, I understood why the author wrote what he did. Much as I hate to admit it, there are definitely people out there who would act exactly as Isis’s did. It’s hateful and ugly, but not outside the realm of possibility. But there are some amazing fosters out there too. I’d love to see some of them portrayed as such.

I think Isis was a good character. Yes, she could have been stronger… but for what she’d been through, her fear worked. And having Zack step up to help her (and they him) was perfect. Valeria is a fierce villain and her background shows where she comes from nicely.

I can almost believe in the set up of witches acting like magicians in order to hide what they are. Some of the magic acts I’ve seen could very well have been done by witches pretending to be magicians. Overall, a good story with lots of action, a little romance (clean and sweet), a good plot line and a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for those looking for a YA (older YA) with lots of action, vampires, witches, and more.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Goodreads

Changes coming!

I know people normally make changes when the new year begins, but I’m going with…now. Had an idea to change things up a little here. Hopefully you’ll like the new way I’m doing things.

So what’s going to be different? Rather than post a bunch of reviews on one day on individual pages, I’m going to post a single review here on the front page – kind of like a spotlight, but no author bios or links. Just the review and book cover and maybe one link–probably to Goodreads.

I will still do specific spotlights for authors. I’m all about helping my fellow authors out. And the reviews will still be posted on individual pages as well. I’m just going to feature them a little more on the front page too.

Oh, and when I don’t have a review or a spotlight, I will continue with the Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts. So something new every day.

And please check my ratings below. I’ve gotten complaints about not giving out many 5 Sparklers. This is a subjective enterprise and I call them as *I* see them. How well did the book work for me? And you may not agree with me. That’s fine. We don’t all like the same types of books. I will not post 1 Sparkler reviews. Instead, I will (when possible) contact the author and let them know why the book didn’t work for me. Most of the books I review fall into the 4 category. Why 4 and not 5? It’s that whole subjective thing again. For a 5, the book has to be one that really drew me in, hung onto me with claws, and when done, I wanted to read it again and again, and tell all my friends to read it too. There’s nothing wrong with a 4. That means it was a good book. Just not quite up to the 5 level for me.

1 Sparkler – We currently do not review any story with a 1 star rating. If we can’t finish it, we won’t review it.

2 Sparklers — Not wonderful, but tolerable. There may be some minor editing glitches but not enough to stop me reading. Not trash, but nothing I’d re-read. If I recommended it, I’d send them to the library, not the “buy me” button.

3 Sparklers — Okay. Mostly enjoyable. I made it through and didn’t consider it a waste of time or money. The story was strong enough or the conflict tight enough, so even when the book faltered, it was able to draw me back in . There’s a chance I’ll recommend it to a friend, but it wouldn’t go on my keeper shelf.

4 Sparklers — Very Good. I’m glad I was the one who got to review the book. I would probably buy it and would definitely recommend it to my friends. I liked the characters and the plot. The writing style was good and the editing clean.

5 Sparklers — Wow! I would definitely buy this book. I would definitely recommend it to my friends. I really loved the characters and the plot and would look for other books by this author. Definitely a keeper.

So that’s it. New month, new format.

Spotlight: Skye Warren





Skye Warren 
Series: Midnight Dynasty Book 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dangerous Press 
Release Date: Aug 16 2022
Edition/Formats: 1st Edition ~ eBook & Print
Blurb/Synopsis: 

Pregnant. Alone. And heartbroken. The only thing Eva Morelli knows for sure is that she wants this baby. She learned how to depend only on herself a long time ago.
The father, however? He made his position on marriage and children very clear.
Finn Hughes has fought his fate for years, but it’s finally catching up to him. Duty took away his choices. How can he hope for forever? He already knows how this ends.
There’s only one thing worse than having a family.
Losing them.
Welcome to the Midnight Dynasty… The warring Morelli and Constantine families have enough bad blood to fill an ocean, and their brand new stories will be told by your favorite dangerous romance authors.

WARNING: 
This book is intended for readers eighteen years old and over. It contains material that some readers could find disturbing. Enter at your own risk…


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