Book Showcase: A FORGERY OF ROSES by Jessica S. Olson

A FORGERY OF ROSES by Jessica S. Olson book coverA Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson
ISBN: 9781335418661 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780369705662 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488212956 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9798200712441 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B0958338P5 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B092MNDBVQ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance

 

Myra Whitlock has a gift. One many would kill for.

Myra has a gift many would kidnap, blackmail, and worse to control: she’s a portrait artist whose paintings alter people’s bodies. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

From Sing Me Forgotten author Jessica S. Olson comes a gothic fantasy murder mystery perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Erin A. Craig.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | AppleBooks | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Books-A-Million | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks.com | Google Play | !ndigo | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook 

Read an Excerpt:

When ladyroses burn, they bleed.

“A symbol of life,” Mother used to say when we would bend over the smoke together.

But now, as I hold flame to stem, as I watch hungry, glowing embers devour leaves and thorns, as floral perfume curdles to ribbons of soot in my nose, I know she was wrong. For when the fire reaches the petals, they shrivel, curling as though in pain. And then they melt. Great fat rubies dribbling over my fingers and smattering into my bowl like gore.

Mother called it beautiful. But now that she and Father have gone, all I see is death.

Gritting my teeth, I tear my gaze from the slow trickle of red and try to steady the quake of my movements as I drop the scorched ladyrose stems into the trash bin and blow out my candle. Crossing to a pot of water I’ve got heating over the fire in the corner, I tip the bowl of ladyrose drippings in.

As soon as it hits the water, the rose blood fans out, a spiderweb of shimmering scarlet veins crawling through the pot until the whole thing clouds like it’s full of sparkling garnet dust. I dip a spoon into the mixture and stir. It bubbles, smokes, and blackens.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in the sharp, cloying scent. Mother used to come home every day smelling like this—her clothes, her hair, her skin. With my head thick in a fog of exhaustion, it’s easy to allow myself to imagine she’s here next to me, chatting happily about how mixing burnt umber with ultramarine blue makes a far superior black than the tube of flat paint many artists purchase at the store. “It creates a more eye-catching hue,” I can almost hear her say. “Make the shadows breathe, Myra.”

From across the studio, the piercing laugh of my employer, portrait artist Elsie Moore, breaks through my thoughts, and I sigh as the echo of Mother’s voice fades from my mind.

How long will it be before I forget what that sounded like?

Forcing away thoughts of Mother, I continue stirring the contents of my pot. Another few minutes, and it should be ready to remove from the heat, cover, and set in a cool place to coagulate. Three days hence, the bubbling charcoal syrup will thicken into a clear jellylike substance that I’ll then transfer into tubes to stock alongside Elsie’s paints, solvents, and brushes. Ladyrose gel. A painting medium I both revere and fear.

I toss the spoon into the sink and wrap a towel around the pot. Then I hoist it to the counter beneath the window to cool and drape a cloth over its top. Satisfied, I turn to my next task of the morning: a bouquet of dirty brushes waiting to be cleaned. As I unscrew the cap from a bottle of turpentine, I let my gaze wander to where Elsie’s putting the finishing touches on a portrait of Mrs. Ramos across the room. Cadmium bright paints, eye-catching phthalo hues, and quinacridone details swirl together like smoke on Elsie’s canvas. She holds her brushes with a steady hand, chattering animatedly to Mrs. Ramos without a care in the world.

What would it be like to paint so freely? To wield a brush without the threat of magic commandeering the portrait? To give in to the high of pure creation?

Painting used to be like that for me, back before my powers sparked to life a few years ago. In those days, there was no greater ecstasy than the promise of a blank canvas and a palette full of colors. Before magic, painting was magic.

The memory of it is enough to make me weep.

I press the bristles of a filbert brush against the coil at the bottom of the jar of turpentine to loosen the oils, but when Elsie gasps, I glance back up.

“No!” She presses a dramatic hand to her heart. “Wilburt Jr.? What does he have?”

Mrs. Ramos, sitting daintily on a settee in a pale pink dress, nods, her mouth twisted in a frown. “The papers don’t say. I think it could be pneumonia, though. It’s been going around this year. Mrs. Potsworth down the street passed away from a nasty case of it not last week!”

I frown. The only Wilburt Jr. they can possibly be talking about is the governor’s son. A tall, strikingly handsome boy around my age whom I’ve only ever glimpsed at Lalverton city events.

Pursing my lips, I set aside the turpentine and dunk the brushes into the sink. Soap bubbles in my palm as I work it through the bristles, and I stare absently out the window at the snow swirling in the street and the passersby kicking through muddy slush on the sidewalk. I fall into a rhythm, imagining I’m back at the flat my family used to live in downtown. Mother is at my side in front of the kitchen sink, scrubbing burnt sienna out from underneath her fingernails. Father bustles in through the door, arms laden with bowls of leftover soups from his restaurant. My little sister, Lucy, rushes at him, asking if her pet frog can have the lobster bisque. You know it’s his favorite, Pa!

“Myra?” Elsie says behind me, and I jump, dropping the brushes, which hit the bottom of the basin with a faint series of plinks.

“Ms. Moore!” I say, looking back to where she was chatting with Mrs. Ramos earlier. I catch sight of the curly haired woman tugging a coat over her dress as she heads out the door. “You scared me.”

Elsie chuckles, thunking down another cupful of dirty brushes. “An ox could sneak up on you, dear. You spend too much time in your head.” She turns her back to me and gestures at the buttons down her spine. “Help me off with my smock, please.”

I obey. Sweat glistens on the back of her neck, dampening the gray curls that have escaped her tight bun.

“I know it’s not my place to ask questions,” the old woman continues, patting at her hair, “but…are you sleeping? How’s Lucy?”

I paste on a neutral expression and slide the smock from Elsie’s shoulders. “The same.”

She sighs. “I do wish I could help.”

The words are like a backhanded blow. I wonder what Mother would think if she heard them. Whether Father would scoff in that indignant way of his at the blatant lie.

I stare at my feet to keep from glancing at the fat amethysts drooping from Elsie’s soft white earlobes, the glitter of half a dozen gold chains around her neck, or the bulbous gems on her gnarled fingers. Any one of those sold to a jeweler would fetch the money Lucy and I need, but three months ago when I came begging Elsie for the help she claims she wishes she could give me, she balked at the idea. Said it would do me no favors to hand me a reward I didn’t earn.

I knew before I even asked her that she would say no. If there’s anything life has taught me, it’s that I can’t count on anyone but my sister. We’re all each other has. And, in the past, that would have been enough. But with Lucy’s illness having taken a turn for the worse and our funds being too meager to afford the medical care she needs, Elsie’s patronizing words about “wishing she could help” make me want to scream.

“How was Mrs. Ramos?” I ask a bit too brightly as I fold the smock into a tidy little square and set it on a pile of linens I plan to wash tomorrow.

Elsie draws the back of her hand across her brow. “She’s doing well, I think. Her son is visiting this week.”

“The senator?”

“Yes. He took her to see Governor Harris’s public address yesterday.” Her expression sours.

“And?” I ask, not sure if I want to hear any more.

“She said the governor went on for at least five minutes berating Lalverton citizens for buying paintings and thus making light of the Holy Artist’s divinity.” She huffs. “That man is never going to let it go, is he?”

I groan. “When is he going to remember he’s not a priest and that people’s worship is not actually his concern?”

“He also said allowing secular art to become such a thriving business is the reason so many painters have gone missing. He apparently thinks it’s a sign that the Artist is displeased.”

I hiss through my teeth.

Painters have been disappearing one by one over the past year, starting with my mother, and yet the governor—the man whose duty it is to protect Lalverton—has done nothing. No major investigations, no questions asked.

Because we are the scum of the earth to him. Worse, even.

It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. I used to be forced to stand by as pompous worshippers spit on my mother, accusing her of desecrating the Artist by painting for profit. I watched others cross the street when they passed Elsie’s studio, as though merely being in the presence of such heresy could taint their souls.

As the years have trickled by, though, the disdain seems to have eased up a bit. Only the most devout hold painters like Elsie and Mother in such contempt. The majority of people don’t seem to mind what we do, and in recent months, portraiture has become quite popular in Lalverton.

But anytime Governor Harris goes on one of his burn-all-the-studios-to-the-ground rampages, my heart sinks.

I want to be a painter, just like Mother was—is—but it seems that particular life will always come with a healthy measure of judgment and disgust.

Elsie drops her voice to a whisper. “My bet—and don’t you dare repeat this to a soul, dear—is that the governor is exterminating us one by one himself. Wiping us out like stink bugs under his boot.”

A jolt zaps through my body.

Elsie registers my expression. “I’m sorry,” she says quickly. “I should not have—”

“It’s fine,” I say, my voice a pitch too high as the image of my parents under Governor Harris’s boot, twitching like a pair of dead insects, makes my stomach churn.

“Besides—” Elsie flounders for words “—the fact that your father is among the missing is a testament to the fact that it’s not only painters, right?” She gives a nervous chuckle, as if such a statement should comfort me.

I stare at her.

The bell on the front door tinkles.

“Mr. Markleton!” Elsie almost shouts, diving across the room toward the short, balding merchant in the doorway in her hurry to get away from me. “Right on time, as usual!” Her voice fills the air with exaggerated cheeriness. “Come, come!” She weaves among easels stacked with paintings in varying stages of completion and directs Mr. Markleton to a cushy settee in front of one of the backdrops that line the far wall.

“Brought along this—I know how you love to keep up on the Lalverton gossip,” he says with a smile, offering Elsie a rolled-up newspaper.

“Oh, yes! I heard about Governor Harris’s son.” She nods at me to take the paper. “But I did want to read the story myself. Thank you for bringing it along.”

Mr. Markleton gives me a friendly wink as I carry the newspaper to the back table. Elsie’s careless words about the missing people, about my parents, echo ceaselessly in my head, and I try to catch my breath as a wave of nausea rolls through me.

Elsie means well, I know that. She’s always had a knack for speaking before she thinks.

And it’s not like I could ever forget my parents are missing anyway. My whole world unraveled when they vanished, and it’s only gotten harder the past few months as our bank accounts have emptied. We can scarcely afford food and rent, let alone the medical care Lucy needs now that her illness has worsened.

We had our whole lives planned out. I was to attend the Lalverton Conservatory for Music and the Arts when I turned eighteen next spring, just like Mother. I would graduate with highest marks, just like Mother. Then I would open my own studio, just like Mother did here with Elsie.

Lucy, who was only twelve when our parents disappeared, was already on track to be accepted into some of the most prestigious biology programs in the country. She planned to change the world with her discoveries. Improve the environment and save endangered animals.

But now, those plans are nothing more than dreams from another life. A memory of wishes that will never come true. I’ve spent the past several months painting portraits until dawn to build up a portfolio in hopes of securing one of the full-ride scholarships the conservatory offers, but…well. Thanks to my magic’s interference, my portfolio is meager at best. I have a better chance at winning a scholarship to the moon.

Maybe my dreams were foolish anyway. Keeping my power from being discovered in a place like the conservatory would have been difficult. I don’t know how Mother managed it.

Rubbing a fist over my aching eyes, I glance down at the newspaper in my hands. A black-and-white photograph of a square-jawed man smiles kindly back at me from the front page. Why do I recognize him?

I unfurl the paper and read the article.

The body of Frederick Bennett, who was reported missing eight years ago, was discovered in the cellar of Roderick Lowell’s home last week.

My fists tighten on the paper, crinkling it. Of course I know his face. Frederick Bennett’s somber eyes have stared out from missing-person posters all over the city since I was nine years old. Mother told me she knew him from the conservatory and always wondered if he was a Prodigy like her. When he disappeared, she said she hoped he hadn’t been kidnapped and coerced into using his magic for someone cruel and desperate.

With unease stinging in my gut, I read on.

Autopsy reports reveal that the cause of death was starvation, though many lacerations, bruises, and broken bones were observed. Extensive scarring on his back and arms was noted, as well.

Lowell, a prominent stockholder in Lalverton, has declined to respond to inquiries and is being held for questioning at the Lalverton Police Station.

A roaring fills my ears, and I stumble back several steps before sinking into Elsie’s chair.

The report doesn’t say the word “Prodigy,” but it doesn’t have to.

Prodigy magic, which flows through my body just as it did through Mother’s, gives an artist the ability to alter human and animal bodies with their paintings, and it is considered by the Church to be even more of an abomination than normal portrait work. According to scripture, my very existence is a defilement of the power of our god, the Great Artist. Prodigies like us have been persecuted by the pious and captured by the greedy since the dawn of time. My head is full of the stories Mother told from her history books, the ones in which entire nations banded together to force a Prodigy to do their bidding. Where the holy priests burned them at the stake to cleanse the world of what they believed to be sinful imitation of the Artist.

As centuries have passed, the number of Prodigies in the world has dwindled—though whether it’s because their genetic lines have been killed off or because the ones who have survived have kept their powers hidden like Mother, it’s hard to say. With men like Governor Harris in charge of regions across the world, men willing to falsify charges in order to get Prodigies locked up in the name of “purifying” their streets, there’s no telling how many of us are out there, hiding.

All I know is that someone found out what Mother was, and then she and Father vanished.

Just like Frederick Bennett.

A flicker of orange flashes in the corner of my eye from the front window, and I glance up from the paper. A small red-haired woman stands outside the studio entrance with a tiny white dog in a sparkling collar tucked under one arm. She nudges the door open, sending the bell above it tinkling once again. A swirl of snow twists into the room as she slips inside, and I stifle a gasp when I catch sight of her face.

Mrs. Adelia Harris, wife to the merciless governor set on destroying every art studio in town, meets my gaze with a cold, hard stare. I tighten my grip on the newspaper.

With her husband’s reelection campaign in full swing, her son in a sickbed, and her belief that portrait art is a sin of the vilest degree, what could she possibly want with us?

Elsie catches sight of her and leaps to her feet with a gasp, knocking over her stool, which clangs against the tile.

“Hello.” Mrs. Harris’s voice is quiet. Lethal. “I’d like to get a portrait done.”

Excerpt from A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson.
Copyright © 2022 by Jessica S. Olson
Published by arrangement with Inkyard Press/HarperCollins

Meet The Author

Author Jessica S. Olson photo by Breanna Olson
Jessica S. Olson photo by Breanna Olson

Jessica S. Olson claims New Hampshire as her home but has somehow found herself in Texas, where she spends most of her time singing praises to the inventor of the air conditioner. When she’s not hiding from the heat, she’s corralling her four wild—but adorable—children, dreaming up stories about kissing and murder and magic, and eating peanut butter by the spoonful straight from the jar. She earned a bachelor’s in English with minors in editing and French, which essentially means she spent all of her university time reading and eating French pastries. She is the author of Sing Me Forgotten (2021) and A Forgery of Roses (2022).

Connect with the Author:  Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This excerpt brought to you by Inkyard Press

Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 2

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

We’re getting close to the end of 2021. At times, this year has seemed to drag by, second-by-second, and at other times it flew. Okay, it seemed to drag whenever I was looking forward to the release of a new book or an in-person book event. (Time always seems to drag when you’re anticipating something or at least it does for me.) Although this was a moderately bad year for me migraine-wise, it was actually a good reading year. Part One of my “best of 2021” left off with general fiction reads. Today, I’d like to focus on my suspense, thriller, Afrojujuism, Young Adult, and Sci-Fi reads. I have very eclectic reading tastes and this year afforded me the opportunity to read a number of great books across a host of fiction genres.


I began reading P.J. Tracy with the Monkeewrench series (man, I miss that series; guess it’s time for a re-re-read). I was sad to hear of the passing of half of this mother-daughter writing duo, P.J. Lambrecht, in 2016 and thought that might be the end of books by this author. I was happily surprised when Traci Lambrecht continued the Monkeewrench series and released this psychological thriller earlier this year, the first in a new series.

DEEP INTO THE DARK by P.J. TracyDeep Into The Dark, Detective Margaret Nolan #1, by P. J. Tracy
ISBN: 9781250813831 (trade paperback – released 09/28/2021)
ISBN: 9781250754943 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250783578 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250790071 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B088ML1NXZ (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08BKL7N6K (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 12, 2021

 

Sam Easton—a true survivor—is home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.
 
But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.
 
Set in an LA where real people live and work—not the superficial LA of Beverly Hills or the gritty underbelly of the city—Deep into the Dark features two really engaging, dynamic main characters and explores the nature of obsession, revenge, and grief.
 
P. J. Tracy is known for her “fast, fresh, and funny” characters (Harlan Coben) and her “sizzling” plots (People); the Monkeewrench series was her first, set in Minneapolis and co-written with her mother. Now with Deep into the Dark she’s on her own—and it’s a home run.
 
 
 
Read an excerpt by clicking here.
 

I’ve read quite a number of titles by Nnedi Okorafor and this author does not disappoint. Most of her titles are classified as AfricanJujuism and they meld African folklore and legends with hints of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. This title was released early in the year and I enjoyed it so much I now have two different digital copies of the book (Kindle and EPUB formats). If you enjoy reading multicultural stories that blend Sci-Fi, Female Empowerment, Coming-of-Age, and good storytelling, I encourage you to grab a copy of this novella for yourself or a friend.

REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi OkoraforRemote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
ISBN: 9781250772800 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250772794 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250772961 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B087V5LZD2 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B0879FRJ9X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Novella | AfricanJujuism | Science-Fiction

 

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­—a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks—alone, except for her fox companion—searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

 

I was afforded the opportunity to read this Sci-Fi title shortly before its release. Sadly, this was during a severe migraine period so I was unable to write a review at that time. (It’s difficult to sit upright when dealing with severe vertigo. Photosensitivity issues and blurred vision make it impossible to look at a computer screen and type anything.) I enjoyed this book so much I recommended it to one of my local book clubs and then got to read it again and discuss it with the club. Happily, my club members seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. Several members strongly encouraged me to try the audiobook, still waiting for that pleasure. If you read The Martian or Artemis, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of Project Hail Mary to read. Don’t just take my word for it, Project Hail Mary won the Goodreads Choice Award for Science Fiction this year. Yes, millions of readers voted this book as the best Sci-Fi read for the year.

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy WeirProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
ISBN: 9780593135204 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593135211 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781713630296 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08GB58KD5 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FHBV4ZX (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: May 4, 2021

 

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

 

The title of this next book just grabbed me, so it was immediately placed on my personal TBR list. I’m not a big reader of Sci-Fi, although I do enjoy what I read in this genre, nor am I a big reader of Steampunk, but this Steampunk Sci-Fi read pulled me in and I’m glad I read it. A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark is the first book in the Dead Djinn Universe and it packed quite a punch. If you’re going to add this to your TBR list (and you should), then I also encourage you to add A Dead Djinn in Cairo, Dead Djinn Universe #0.1, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015, Dead Djinn Universe #0.3, to your list as well. I’m greatly looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

A MASTER OF DJINN by P. Djeli ClarkA Master of Djinn, Dead Djinn Universe #1, by P. Djeli Clark
ISBN: 9781250267689 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250267672 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250807731 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08JD2THTX (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08HKXS84X (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Tordotcom
Release Date: May 11, 2021

 

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…

 

The next book is another title from my personal TBR stash and list (versus the blog’s TBR list and yes, I actually have two separate TBR lists although there is often some crossover). I had previously read this author’s romantic suspense titles and was greatly anticipating the release of this suspense thriller, While Justice Sleeps. I enjoyed this one so much that I “lent” my hardcover copy to my 87-y.o. mother to read and she promptly lent it to one of my aunts to read after she finished it. I finally got my print copy back, but it made a few rounds in the family first. And yes, I do own a digital copy as well as a print copy of this book!

WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey AbramsWhile Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams
ISBN: 9780385546577 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385546584 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593413708 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9780593501764 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08L5KSV33 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KSRQ7L1 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 11, 2021

 

While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together–excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn—the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases—has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court–a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

 

The next book is a title I won in an online giveaway via BookishFirst, Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn. This author has deftly combined a coming-of-age story with female empowerment, colorism, family, community, abuse, emotional health issues, as well as social and racial equity. Yes, there is tragedy in this story, but there is also laughter, love, friendship, and more. I passed this title along to not only my 87-y.o. mother to read, but to one of my 14-y.o. diva twin nieces as well. I’m happy to report that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.

SUGAR TOWN QUEENS by Malla NunSugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn
ISBN: 9780525515609 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525515616 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593397886 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MV6KWH9 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08MQ3G34L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 3, 2021

 

 From LA Times Book Prize Award Winner and Edgar Award Nominee Malla Nunn comes a stunning portrait of a family divided and the bonds that knit our communities.

When Amandla wakes up on her fifteenth birthday she knows it’s going to be one of her mother’s difficult days. Her mother has had another vision. If Amandla wears a blue sheet her mother has loosely stitched as a dress and styles her normally braided hair in a halo around her head, Amandla’s father will come home. Amandla’s mother, Annalisa, always speaks of her father as if he was the prince of a fairytale, but in truth he’s been gone since before Amandla was born and even Annalisa’s memory of him is hazy. In fact many of Annalisa’s memories from before Amandla was born are hazy. It’s just one of the many reasons people in Sugar Town give Annalisa and Amandla strange looks—that and the fact her mother is white and Amandla is brown.

But when Amandla finds a mysterious address in the bottom of her mother’s handbag along with a large amount of cash, she decides it’s finally time to get answers about her mother’s life. But what she discovers will change the shape and size of her family forever.

 

The final book on this list is another Young Adult title and a Jane Eyre fantasy retelling. (Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite stories and I enjoy reading anything inspired by or listed as a retelling.) This title had been on my personal TBR list from the moment I heard about it (hey, Jane Eyre retelling folks!). However, due to a few parental health issues followed by multiple deaths in the family, I didn’t get around to reading this until recently. Let me sum up with “WOW, Great Read!”

WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS by Lauren BlackwoodWithin These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
ISBN: 9781250787101 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250787118 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250819833 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08SNSSJZG (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2L2BRD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: October 19, 2021

 

“Lauren Blackwood’s can’t-miss debut is a magical, Ethiopian-inspired remix of Jane Eyre.” – Harper’s Bazaar

Within These Wicked Walls is an indulgently Gothic fairy tale, comparable in mastery with Mexican Gothic and Jane Eyre. An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting.” – Jordan Ifueko, New York Times bestselling author of Raybearer

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. She would be hired, that is, if her mentor hadn’t thrown her out before she could earn her license. Now her only hope of steady work is to find a Patron—a rich, well-connected individual who will vouch for her abilities.

When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, she takes the job without question. Never mind that he’s rude and demanding and eccentric, that the contract comes with a number of outlandish rules… and that almost a dozen debtera had quit before her. If Andromeda wants to earn a living, she has no choice.

But she quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, the reason every debtera before her quit. But leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option because—heaven help her—she’s fallen for him.

Stunningly romantic, Lauren Blackwood’s heartstopping debut, Within These Wicked Walls, ushers in an exciting new fantasy voice.

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

 

Once again, I’m grateful to the authors, publishers, publicists, virtual book tour companies, book clubs, and libraries that have afforded me the opportunity to read so many wonderful titles. Part Three of my “Best of” list will focus on Historical Fiction. I hope you’ll return to read that one and stay tuned for Part Four focusing on Romance.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Book 349: CITY OF TIME AND MAGIC by Paula Brackston

City of Time and Magic, Found Things #4, by Paula Brackston
ISBN: 9781250260697 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250260703 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250818874 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08TZ38281 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R2HCFLR (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 23, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction | Historical Fiction | Fantasy | Time-Travel

Xanthe meets Brackston’s most famous heroine, Elizabeth Hawksmith from The Witch’s Daughter, in this crossover story with all the “historical detail, village charm, and twisty plotting” of the Found Things series (Publishers Weekly).

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Audiobooks.com | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository | Bookshop.org | Downpour Audiobook | eBooks | !ndigo Books | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook

Xanthe Westlake no longer only has Harley to rely upon when finding lost things that sing to her. She has confided her talents to step through time to her mother, Flora, and her boyfriend, Liam. The third book of this series, The Garden of Promises and Lies ended with Xanthe traveling back in time with Liam. Unfortunately, Liam was snatched from her when they attempted to return to their own time. Now Xanthe, Harley, and Flora are eager to find something that not only sings to Xanthe but will take her back to the right time to rescue Liam. Xanthe’s past travels haven’t been without danger, especially in the form Benedict Fairfax, another time spinner. But this time she has to deal with dangers that not affect those of that time period, but her loved ones as well. Is Liam safe? Where is he? How is he? What dangers, if any, are awaiting Xanthe back in time? And what would motivate another time spinner to snatch Liam in an effort to obtain Xanthe’s attention?

If you’ve been following me for any time now, you know beyond any reasonable doubt that I re-read the previous books in this series—Little Shop of Found Things, Secrets of the Chocolate House, and The Garden of Promises and Lies—to re-familiarize myself (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), before reading City of Time and Magic. Just as the third book in this series was a bit different from the first two, this book reintroduces us to Elizabeth (Hawksmith) Balmoral, originally introduced in The Witch’s Daughter, as well as Mistress Lydia Flyte, Erasmus Balmoral — a time stepper, former lover to Lydia Flyte and now married to Elizabeth Hawksmith, Dougal Harley — publican, neighbor to Flora and Xanthe, and Xanthe’s “advisor.” We’re also introduced to a host of other characters that play major and minor roles within the story, including more time spinners. This particular chapter of Xanthe’s ongoing saga, she must not only right a wrong from the past, but she also to choose the side of the righteous spinners. Her choice will have repercussions on her friends and acquaintances from the past as well as her contemporary loved ones. Does she have to battle evil again, well you’ll need to read the book to find out for yourself!

Reading City of Time and Magic took me a bit longer than normal, not because I found in uninteresting but because of a variety of family trials (elderly parental health issues and a death in the family). I was simply unable to focus my attention on reading for a few days because of these situations. However, once I began to re-read this book, I was enraptured and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. I enjoyed the interaction between Liam and Mistress Flyte, Liam and the Balmorals, as well as Harley with everyone else. Yes, Harley gets to travel back in time to assist Xanthe. Xanthe, Liam, and Harley make quite the team in this story and although I can’t tell you more about what happens, I sincerely hope that they will have more adventures in the future, especially with Elizabeth Hawksmith Balmoral! Can you tell I enjoyed this story? City of Time and Magic has hints of romance, intrigue, magic, betrayal, and more. I can’t say that this is the best book in the Found Series because I love them all. I can say that if you’ve read any of the previous books in this series then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of City of Time and Magic to read. This author provides the reader with fascinating glimpses of the past and usage of past items when compared to contemporary times. The juxtaposition of the timelines is just one of the many things that make this series so enjoyable, at least to this reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, contemporary fiction, bits of fantasy, or just plain good writing, then I encourage you to read this series, consider it a gift to yourself for the holiday season! Something tells me I’ll be getting all four books for my 87-y.o. mother to read.

Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Spotlight: HELLO, REST OF MY LIFE by Rick Lenz

Hello, Rest of My Life by Rick Lenz
ISBN: 9780984844265 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780984844289 (eBook)
ASIN: B09CVBZ1W7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Chromodroid Press
Release Date: September 21, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Time Travel | Fantasy

 
 A TIMELESS LOVE STORY

When Danny Maytree, an ambitious young 1970s film actor, met Samantha on a blind date and fell in love, he decided he no longer cared about Tinseltown stardom. He still acted sometimes, but he became a writer too.

Now married and in their seventies, they find a dog whose faded tag has the name “Tali” and a Beverly Hills phone prefix from fifty years earlier.

Writing a time travel novel in 2021, Danny gets a call from a mysterious, velvet-voiced acting agent. He has a meeting tomorrow in Beverly Hills. Tali, in one of their singular “conversations,” questions Danny’s motives.

Now, Danny is in Beverly Hills-not at the meeting, but in the elegant home where he lived in 1974, forty-seven years ago. He is twenty-seven again, bewildered, but with a second chance at his Hollywood dream.

He doesn’t want it, because Sam is not in this world.

Unhappy in his new “now,” he realizes his journey back to “Kansas” hinges on the magic of film. A sharkish agent helps him navigate Hollywood’s rocky shoals. A worldly-wise teen and a New Age fortune-teller offer spiritual advice. And a sexy wicked witch throws a monkey wrench in his path.

Advance Praise

“…Readers of time travel stories are in for a special treat, because Hello, Rest of My Life isn’t your usual saga of becoming stuck in the past and searching for the way home. Its special blend of philosophical and moral dilemmas, flavored with humor and a heavy dash of romance, sets it apart from other, more singular accounts. The events give readers plenty of thought-provoking moments as Danny reaches for truths in the past, that he never allowed himself to consider in his former life with Sam.” — Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review

“…his prose approaches poetry on nearly every page … So we now know that Rick Lenz can likely enter any realm of storytelling and succeed.” — San Francisco Review of Books

Hello, Rest of My Life is an emotionally gutting, beautifully written, passionate story of second chances with a twisty time-travel plot that will blow your mind while mending your heart.” — USA Today best-selling author, Pamela Crane

Meet The Author

Rick Lenz is a graduate of the University of Michigan, past member of the Actor’s Studio, and active member in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a veteran Broadway, television and film actor who first came to national attention when he repeated his Broadway role in Cactus Flower, in the film version—opposite Goldie Hawn, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Matthau. He went on to appear in a long list of television series and movies, and to act opposite many of the entertainment industry’s biggest stars—Peter Sellers, Jackie Gleason, Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne (in Wayne’s final film, The Shootist), and many more. He is also a playwright and author (The award-winning The Alexandrite and more recently, Impersonators Anonymous). His memoir, North of Hollywood has recently been published in its second edition. You can find out more about him and his journey to becoming a writer on his website https://www.RickLenz.com.

Connect with the Author: Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Website

This spotlight brought to you by Books Forward

 

Book Spotlight: MASTER OF POISONS by Andrea Hairston

Cover for MASTER OF POISONS by Andrea Hairston in yellow and gold tones in hexagonal blocks, much like a beehive; a faint picture of a bee is seen in the upper left-hand corner, centered on the page is a profile view of an African woman; one overly large hexagon block is blacked out and features the text: "Includes an extensive conversational interview between the author and Daniel Jose Older!"' quote on bottom of cover, above the author's name: "Sheer, undiluted brilliance. Epic, courageous, unapologetically fierce." Daniel Jose Older

Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston
ISBN-10: 1250260566 (trade paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781250260567 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781250260550 (ebook – released on 09/08/2020)
ISBN: 9781250772718 (Digital audiobook – released on 09/15/2020)
ASIN: B082RTK2XT (Kindle edition – released on 09/08/2020)
ASIN: B0876HRFHZ (Audible audiobook – released on 09/08/2020)
Release Date: August 31, 2021 for Trade Paperback
Publisher: Tordotcom
Genre: Fiction | Fantasy | Speculative Fiction

Named a Best of 2020 Pick for Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2020

NEW MATERIAL FOR A NEW EDITION!

This trade paperback includes an extensive, conversational interview between the author and Daniel José Older!.

The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.

Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.

Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts, and uncertain men.

Awash in the rhythms of folklore and storytelling and rich with Hairston’s characteristic lush prose, Master of Poisons is epic fantasy that will bleed your mind with its turns of phrase and leave you aching for the world it burns into being.

 

Praise for Master of Poisons

“This is a prayer hymn, a battle cry, a love song, a legendary call and response bonfire talisman tale. This is medicine for a broken world.” —Daniel José Older

“Hairston dazzles with this complex epic fantasy about people struggling to survive in the world they’ve helped destroy…this is an urgent, gorgeous work.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“This book’s lyrical language and unsparing vision make it a mind-expanding must-read.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Master of Poisons is a lush, literary fantasy novel full of folklore and magic.” —Buzzfeed

“Epic fantasy readers, you’re about to read your new favorite book. With its large cast of characters, stunning worldbuilding, gorgeous prose, and fascinating magic, Master of Poisons will shake you to your core. Andrea Hairston has done it again. All hall the queen.” —Tor.com

“You could practically smell the brine, hear the gulls by the sea, and taste the nut butter and sweet mango slices…This is a vast world that you are dropped in.” —Women of Color Read

Master of Poisons makes me laugh, gasp, and dream of the world we are so desperately holding onto and of a better world yet to come . . . I am so grateful Andrea hasn’t given up on us! May she keep gifting our world with her expansive imagination throughout the years!” —Sheree Renée Thomas

“Nobody does it better than Andrea Hairston, and if you doubt it, just open Master of Poisons and follow her into the light.” —Pearl Cleage

“Andrea Hairston’s writing is not to be missed. Her fantasy is rich with evocative detail, stunning and original, and her characters deeply humane and engaging. This is the kind of fantasy that expands your mind and warms your heart.” —Martha Wells

Meet The Author

Author - Andrea HairstonAndrea Hairston is a novelist, essayist, playwright, and the Artistic Director of Chrysalix Theatre. She is the author of Redwood and Wildfire, winner of the 2011 Tiptree Award and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award, and of Mindscape, shortlisted for the Phillip K. Dick and Otherwise Award, and winner of the Carl Brandon Parallax Award. In her spare time, Hairston is the Louise Wolff Kahn 1931 Professor of Theatre and Afro-American Studies at Smith College. She has received the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts Distinguished Scholarship Award for outstanding contributions to the criticism of the fantastic.

Book Spotlight: THE DREAMCATCHER CODES by Barbara Newman

THE DREAMCATCHER CODES - BNewmanThe Dreamcatcher Codes by Barbara Newman
ISBN-10: 1733653473 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781733653473 (paperback)
Release Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher: Green Writers Press
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Speculative Fiction

FOUR GIRLS. FOUR DIRECTIONS. ONE PURPOSE.

Powered by the elements earth, air, fire, and water, and secret messages from mystical dreamcatchers, four girls join forces on a quest to recover the stolen piece of the coveted Crystal Horseshoe. Snatched by a giant raven during a raging storm, this sacred talisman holds the Codes of Nature and is the very key to its survival. Maia from the North has been called by Sophia, Guardian of Mother Earth, to find and lead the Crystal Warriors on this daring path into the unknown. Falcon, Ava, and Yue complete the circle of four, and together, bravely face what lies ahead. But time is running out. The bees are dying. The oceans are filled with plastic. Humanity has lost its way. And the girls’ search is threatened by shapeshifters in the sky who want the crystal destroyed. Will this fierce cowgirl sisterhood, mythical horses by their side, overcome the destructive forces of greed and heal Mother Earth? Guided by the ancestors, wisdom from river and rock, symbols and stones, and the plant and animal kingdoms, each girl must rely on her own courageous spirit in order to protect the future of the planet she loves.

The Dreamcatcher Codes builds cultural bridges, unity, and hope, and illuminates two important issues of our time: climate change and girls claiming their voices and vital place in the world.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | BookDepository.com

Advance Praise

“Imagination, adventure and hope rests within these pages” —Great-grandmother Mary Lyons, Ojibwe Elder and Author

“The essence of the divine feminine is captured in the stories within The Dreamcatcher Codes. This compassionate and creative force touches the heart with visions of the natural world and of unity amongst earth’s diverse plant, animal and human nations. It is a call to action to heal humanity’s relationship with the planet.” —Alexis Estes, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

“This book is a work of art. It is also timely and necessary for it calls the inheritors of today’s world, home to the sacred connection with nature that is their birthright and their teacher if they can remember how to listen, or keep the connection alive. This book is a homecoming, it is medicine for the soul and it is frankly glorious. Savor it, share it, be touched deeply by it.” —Clare Dubois, Founder TreeSisters.org

“Now, more than ever, teenage girls need to step into the possibilities of who they are and have the potential to become. The Dreamcatcher Codes invites them to cultivate their imaginative power and explore how Mother Nature, along with the deep and nurturing bonds of sisterhood, can guide them to know themselves, and connect to their own strengths. At an age when girls are seeking to belong, this mythic and empowering story helps them discover how nature is a part of all of us. The author ingeniously interweaves messages of wisdom and insights from a culturally diverse array of ancient traditions that honor our common humanity as caretakers of our planet, and of each other.” —Ellen Feig Gray, M.A. Parent Coach, Developmental Psychologist, Author, TEDx Speaker

“Barbara Newman is a visionary. Using her pen like an artist uses a brush, she creates landscapes that take us out of ourselves and into worlds of wonder. I flew with the cowgirls through lush pink skies and over the stunning beauty of the open desert. And I didn’t want to stop.” —Jana Laiz, award-winning author of The Twelfth Stone

The Dreamcatcher Codes is a book stuffed to the brim with empowerment, artistry, adventure, and solidarity. It is one of those stories that sticks in your heart and reminds us of the ability to bring about change no matter how impossible it might seem. It is a reminder of hope to those in a generation that feels powerless against a catastrophe that looms, and a reminder that there are few things stronger than the true bonds of sisterhood and love, where friends suffer and triumph together. I believe that every young woman who goes on this journey with these four guardians will come out on the other side a little bit stronger, a little bit braver, and much more aware of her power to change the world.” —Cassandra Taylor, GWP Bennington College Field Work Term Intern

“Weaving magic and womanhood with love of our beautiful planet, the writer has brought a story to life I wish I’d been able to read as a young girl. The Dreamcatcher Codes will inspire you to speak up for what is right, to have hope and above all…be brave… just like a cowgirl.” —Adrian Brannan, singer/songwriter, author Dear Cowgirl

Meet The Author

Author - Barbara NewmanBarbara Newman always wanted to be a cowgirl. Growing up in New York didn’t stop her. She took that can-do spirit and became an award-winning global creative director, leaving an indelible mark on brand culture. After hearing an NPR story about the American cowgirl, she was so inspired, she left the ad world and found herself in Montana, Wyoming, and Texas filming a documentary about their lives. An advocate for empowering girls, Barbara facilitates girls’ leadership programs, and was part of the think tank that inspired the Fred Rogers Center for Children’s Media/Education. The Dream Catcher Codes is her first novel.

Connect with the the author via:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Giveaway

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway for one (1) print copy of The Dreamcatcher Codes by Barbara Newman courtesy of Saichek Publicity. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States. Any non-US entry will be disqualified. This giveaway is open from 12:01 AM ET on 07/27/2021 through 11:59 PM ET on 7/31/2021. The winner will be selected and announced by 10:00 AM ET on 08/01/2021. Please note that the book will be sent to the winner by Saichek Publicity. Void where prohibited by law.

Addendum 07/28/2021: Due to issues with my Twitter account (account was hacked/suspended/and is in the process of being reactivated), this giveaway has been amended. Sorry for any problems you might have had with this one in the past 24 hours, Vivian aka The Book Diva.

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This spotlight and giveaway brought to you by Saichek Publicity

2020 Book 427: THE AWAKENING by Nora Roberts

The Awakening, The Dragon Heart Legacy #1, by Nora Roberts 
ISBN: 9781250272614 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250272607 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781250770301 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781250770295 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B083LMBNFL  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082RS9D42  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 24, 2020 
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In the realm of Talamh, a teenage warrior named Keegan emerges from a lake holding a sword—representing both power and the terrifying responsibility to protect the Fey. In another realm known as Philadelphia, a young woman has just discovered she possesses a treasure of her own…


When Breen Kelly was a girl, her father would tell her stories of magical places. Now she’s an anxious twentysomething mired in student debt and working a job she hates. But one day she stumbles upon a shocking discovery: her mother has been hiding an investment account in her name. It has been funded by her long-lost father—and it’s worth nearly four million dollars.


This newfound fortune would be life-changing for anyone. But little does Breen know that when she uses some of the money to journey to Ireland, it will unlock mysteries she couldn’t have imagined. Here, she will begin to understand why she kept seeing that silver-haired, elusive man, why she imagined his voice in her head saying Come home, Breen Siobhan. It’s time you came home. Why she dreamed of dragons. And where her true destiny lies—through a portal in Galway that takes her to a land of faeries and mermaids, to a man named Keegan, and to the courage in her own heart that will guide her through a powerful, dangerous destiny…


Purchase Links #CommissionEarned:  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Audible  |  Barnes and Noble  |  B&N Audiobook on CD  |  B&N Nook Book  |  BookDepository  |  Downpour Audiobook  |  eBooks  |  !ndigo  |  Kobo Audiobook  |  Kobo eBook


Watch the book trailer 





Book Review

Breen Kelly is young, healthy, and employed, but she is not happy. She’s not happy with her full-time teaching job. She’s not happy with the amount of student loan debt she has. She’s not happy that she has had to work several part-time jobs just to help pay off her debts. In addition, she has a horrible relationship with her mother, Jennifer Wilcox. The only part of her life that she is happy with is her friendships with her roommate — Marco Olsen, one of Marco’s bosses and Breen’s surrogate mother, Salvador “Sally” Travino — drag queen extraordinaire and bar owner, as well as Derrick Lacross — Sally’s lover. So when Breen learns that her father hadn’t simply abandoned her, had been sending money all these years he’s been gone, and the account held close to four million dollars AND that her mother had never said a word to her about it, Breen blew up. She quickly took control of the account, quit her teaching job at the end of the current school year, and made arrangements to travel first class with Marco to Ireland. That would have been enough if it weren’t for the unusual dreams involving dragons, horses, a gorgeous man with a sword and staff, as well as an impending sense of evil and doom. Although Breen’s mother did everything she could to keep Breen “average and ordinary” she was something much, much more, born of the Fey, a demigod, and of the modern world. Breen has finally awakened to her gifts and the possibilities of being more. As she awakened to her Fey talents, she also discovered her talents for writing. With the push from Marco and others, she began to write a travel blog and then fiction She ultimately finds that she can make a living at something other than teaching when she not only finds a literary agent but sells not one but three books to a publisher. While in Ireland, Breen also discovers the reason why her father never returned for any visits, meets her paternal grandmother, and uncovers much more than she could ever imagine when she falls (literally) into the multiverse land of Talamh. Will Breen embrace the true legacy left by her father and his people and fight against evil in Talamh or turn her back on them and try to live her life quietly in the modern world?


If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed via my GoodReads feed that I’ve read and re-read quite a number of Nora Roberts books over the years. Okay, I’ve re-read quite a few in just the past few months. What can I say other than I enjoy reading Nora Roberts’ books! The Awakening is somewhat reminiscent of several of her previous fantasy trilogies, namely “The Cousins O’Dwyer” and “Chronicles of The One” series where someone is “awakened” and discovers their magical talents, and then must accept their duty that comes with their awakening, namely to fight against evil. The difference with The Awakening is that Breen must accept that if she doesn’t fight against evil, namely her paternal grandfather Odran, the land of Talamh, as well as her modern world might be lost. All her life, Breen has tried to be unobtrusive and fit in, and now she has to not only stand out and stand up but be exceptional and fight to protect all that she loves. I enjoyed the self-discovery portion of this story, as well as the friendship/found-family relationships between Breen, Marco, and Sally. I loved reading about Talamh and all of the Fey as well. Hey dragons, elves, witches, and trolls, what’s not to love?! I enjoyed the way Ms. Roberts melded the two halves of Breen’s life as Breen became more comfortable with the two worlds that she straddles. Of course, there are bad guys in the story, namely Breen’s paternal grandfather Odran and his followers, but there are also good guys and a romance interest guy, namely Keegan Byrne — the current taoiseach or leader of Talamh and the Fey. There are also old friendships renewed, new powers discovered as well as new talents uncovered. There’s a lot happening in The Awakening, but Ms. Roberts, as always, does an excellent job of creating the world of Talamh, introducing us to the evil that threatens that world and ours, as well as crafting the beginning of a fine romance. I can’t wait to see what happens next. If you enjoy reading about fantasy, magic, dragons, the fey, or a romance with a little something different, then I suggest you grab a copy of The Awakening to read. For now, I’ll be patiently waiting for the next installment in this series by re-reading a few more stories by Ms. Roberts.


Happy Reading, y’all!


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book 28: KODACHROME Review

Kodachrome by Jason Jahns
ISBN: 978-0984749102
Publisher: North Star Books

What Do You See?

Kodachrome is a novel about a global revolution that cuts across cultural, economic, and geographic divides; a conflict between the forces of rampant greed and demands for fairness and dignity.
The two main characters are extraordinary yet solitary – reluctant warriors who never meet. Miranda Carter is a cloistered graduate student dispatched to meet her estranged Mormon grandmother and examine a bizarre medical prognosis. Zhuli Cai is an unassuming young Chinese army officer willing to give everything to save the members of his unit. He holds a heavy secret.
Miranda and Zhuli are thrown headlong into technological and supernatural intrigue and deceit. They reckon with true impossibilities and face their own worst fears in a world of double-crosses, prophets, spies, presidential candidates, and Chinese revolutionaries.
On its way to a truly surprise ending, Kodachrome will beguile you with thriller-like tempo, the foresight of science fiction, deep social truths normally found only in historical novels, and a plot that you have never seen before – anywhere.


Miranda thought that she was without any family, alone in the world, until she is informed that her maternal grandmother is alive. Unfortunately there are ulterior motives as her superiors want to send her to Utah to not only meet her grandmother but have her examine her, ostensibly for medical research purposes. 

While Miranda goes off to Utah to discover her Mormon roots and meet her grandmother, there are strange happenings going on in China. Initially we are lead to believe that Zhuli is in the Chinese army as he works hard to protect his unit and provide a better environment for all. It isn’t until the reader is part of the way into the story that you realize that Zhuli is playing a computer simulation game. 

It is hard to imagine that a computer simulation game and an elderly Mormon woman in Utah have much in common. It is even harder to imagine that Zhuli, Miranda and her grandmother may hold the keys to a new world order. To say that there are twists in this story is a massive understatement. I initially had a very difficult time reading Kodachrome as it wasn’t clear how a Chinese gamer, an American researcher and Mormon history could have anything in common. The author does a credible job on combining the various plots and subplots into one cohesive story and just when you think you understand what’s going on there’s another twist. Kodachrome, for me, was part thriller and part fantasy. Both Zhuli and Miranda’s adventures could be classified as thriller but Miranda’s storyline was the more appealing of the two for me. Zhuli’s story was a little more fantastical and seemed to provide most of the plot twists. Even with all of the plot twists and more fantastical elements Kodachrome works and was an enjoyable read. I was a little disappointed with the ending and sincerely hope that there’s more for these characters in the future.

To read more about Kodachrome please visit: www.kodachromethebook.com


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Book 135: THE SKIN MAP Review

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Release date: May 31, 2011 (paperback)


C. Christopher “Kit” Livingstone is an average 20-something male. He is employed and has a girlfriend, and he isn’t happy with either one. Kit’s life changes when he meets his great-grandfather and is taught about ley lines that provide for inter-dimensional time travel — different times and alternate universes. Unfortunately he tries to impress his girlfriend, Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug with ley line travel. Mina gets taken to early 17th century Prague whereas Kit is taken to 17th century England. What follows is a wild adventure of discovery and intrigue. Mina finds her place by becoming a successful merchant as co-owner of a bakery and coffeehouse and even earns a royal warrant. Kit is still floundering while trying to understand the importance of ley lines, the “skin map” that depicts and decodes these ley lines, and his role in decoding the information. 


This story is told from multiple points of views, namely Kit, Mina, Lord Burleigh and Arthur Flinders-Petrie. The reader travels to Macau, ancient Egypt during the times of the pharaohs, early 20th century Egypt and the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by Henry Carter and Lord Carnarvon, and alternate 17th century European civilizations. The mystery lies in the ultimate purpose of the ley lines and the search for the Well of Souls, something that only Mr. Flinders-Petrie apparently knew and had coded into symbols tattooed onto his body. There are hints given to myths and mysteries but nothing is ever spelled out.


Although Kit’s role seems to be pivotal to this story I found all of the other characters much more interesting. Mina is determined to make the best of a bad situation and quickly adapts to living in the 16th century. Mr. Flinders-Petrie is the key and we’re allowed a glimpse of his life and travels in Macau and ancient Egypt. I enjoyed reading about the various adventures each person has and even learning about the theories behind the ley lines and their importance in the hypothetical omniverse. The Skin Map is well-written but it moved a little too slow for my tastes, not to mention leaving too many questions to be answered in, presumably, the remaining books. I enjoyed this book but I doubt if I’ll be reading any more in this series, it simply wasn’t that captivating.


Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not paid, required nor otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”