Book Review: Backyard Witchcraft by Cecilia Lattari

About the book, Backyard Witchcraft backyardwitchcraft-cover

• Publisher: Ixia Press (September 14, 2022)
• Paperback: 160 pages

Embark on an exploration of modern-day witchcraft, embracing the green path, which connects us to nature.

Herbalist Cecilia Lattari guides readers to reawaken their inner witch by tuning in to the magic and sacred energies of their everyday lives, using the hidden powers of nature to foster positive connections between mind, body, spirit, and living spaces. Filled with colorful, compelling illustrations, this handbook introduces green, hedge, and kitchen witches. Readers will learn how to create their own witch’s tool kits, purify their homes, work with the four natural elements, build magic laboratories, and discover the path that encourages a harmonious transformation.

  • The green witch is a manifestation of Mother Earth, who nurtures, cares, and observes. She practices with herbs, flowers, plants, and remedies, and surely has volumes upon volumes of plant books on her bookshelves.
  • For the kitchen witch food is a gift from Mother Earth. The kitchen is this witch’s sacred space, involving spells of tradition and creation. She works with ordinary tools and knows that cooking reveals our true nature. The kitchen witch understands the sacred aspects of everyday life as she prepares recipes for sacred foods.
  • The eclectic path of the hedge witch includes herbalism, healing, and shamanistic actions. Her focus is the home, and she knows the power of fables and preserves popular knowledge.
  • Take a guided tour of herbs, flowers, plants, poisonous plants, potions, oils, teas, tinctures, and remedies.
  • Learn the magical practices of purification using herbs, bells, candles, and incense.
  • Get in touch with nature by preparing a sacred outdoor space and centering yourself.
  • Learn to grow, harvest, and dry herbs and understand the difference between air, fire, land, and water plants.
  • Observe how the four elements of air, earth, fire, and wind carry messages from nature through various types of plants.

For the modern-day Wicca, backyard gardener, and naturalist, this indispensable guide offers an exploration of the intimate relationship between humans and Mother Earth.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Cecilia Lattari

Cecilia Lattari is a professional actress who graduated from the School of Theater in Bologna and has a degree in Herbalist Techniques. She works in the field of relationships, stimulating people to know the most authentic part of themselves using theatrical practices and sensorial experiences in the world of plants.


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

I have friends who identify as kitchen witches and hedge witches, but I’ve never really known the difference or how those terms apply in the contemporary world. This book, Backyard Witchcraft, is an easy but interesting read that explains the different terms and also introduces people to some of the traits that all witches have, even before they self-identify as such. “All witches have a garden,” is one of the things that really struck me, because while no one in my family practices Wicca, we all have gardens of some kind. Mine is mainly in pots, but apparently that counts. Even having a stash of seeds you intend to plant some day (hi, guilty) counts according to this book.

More than just quietly identifying latent witches, though, Backyard Witchcraft is part manual, part love letter to anyone who wants to get closer to the natural world. Understanding how the elements – fire, water, air, land –  work may seem like magic, but it’s really applied science and observation. Sun-loving plants have different needs from those which prefer shade, after all.

This is one of those books that you can read from cover to cover, but that may be more useful stashed among your cookbooks (especially if you’re a kitchen witch) or herbals (if you’re a green or hedge witch) for reference whenever you need it.

With beautiful pages and clear, concise prose, Backyard Witchcraft is a beautiful addition to anyone’s library, whether they’re a witch or not.

Goes well with: hot herbal tea laced with local honey.


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Book Review: Moral Code, by Lois & Ross Melbourne

About the book, Moral CodeMoral Code - cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nonlinear Publishing, LLC (September 15, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 380 pages

Dr. Keira Stetson has two passions: ethical artificial intelligence—AI with a conscience—and creating technology that improves children’s lives. Trapped in an earthquake-flattened building with a half-dozen panicked five-year-olds, she fears the worst. When billionaire Roy Brandt leverages his mysterious nanite technology to rescue them, she’s both grateful and intrigued.

Impressed by his prototype technology but alarmed at its potential for exploitation, Keira merges her company with Brandt’s. The merger gives Keira access to much-needed funds for the development of her own tech, and access to Brandt’s powerful minuscule robots. In turn, she and her AI assistant, Elly, embed Keira’s trademark Moral Operating System in Brandt’s nanite SmartDust to rein in its power.

But Brandt’s technology has been kept secret for a reason. Though he’s adamant about using the Dust to improve life, not destroy it, corporate raiders and the military have other ideas. They want to weaponize Brandt’s nanites. Suddenly, everything Keira has worked for is in jeopardy. Exposed to the worst humanity has to offer, she and Elly must fight to use this newfound tech for good and keep it out of the wrong hands…before it’s too late.

For fans of “Catfishing on CatNet” and the “Murderbot Diaries,” “Moral Code” eloquently and excitedly explores how artificial intelligence can not only set moral boundaries — but also how they can revolutionize the future.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads


About the authors, Lois & Ross Melbourne Lois and Ross Melbourne

Moral Code” is not the first collaboration for Lois and Ross Melbourne. Side-by-side, they grew their software business to a global award-winning organization, as CEO and Chief Technology Officer, respectively. Now Lois’ storytelling brings to life Ross’ deep understanding of the possibilities within artificial intelligence and robotics. Parenting and marriage have been the easy part of this equation.

Lois is now writing books, having published two children’s books about exploring careers. “Moral Code” is her first but not her last novel. You can learn more about Lois at www.loismelbourne.com. Ross’ current work includes artificial intelligence and robotics. You can learn more about him at www.rossmelbourne.com. And for more about them and the book, you can visit, www.MoralCodeTheBook.com.

Connect with Lois and Ross

Twitter (Lois) | Twitter (Ross) | Instagram (Lois)


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

I confess: I have a thing for Artificial Intelligence. Whether it’s  Lt. Commander Data in the Star Trek franchise, William, the emotional holographic representation of the ship’s interface in Another Life, Isaac in The Orville, or the robots in Asimov’s work, I’m there for their development, equally happy whether they grow closer to humanity or remain distinct from it. When I was given the chance to review Moral Code, then, you better believe I jumped that the chance. And wow, I’m glad I did!

Moral Code is a novel that celebrates both women in STEM fields and the possibilities that come as artificial intelligence continues to be developed. We first meet Elly, a character in her own right, who is Keira’s virtual assistant. From the beginning, Elly shows signs of being more than the sum of her programming, and it’s fascinating to watch the story unold and see her creep ever closer to consciousness, while still being beholden to the “moral code” of the title – which is sort of an ethical subroutine, but one that can grow and one that is situational.

Then come the nanites. Created by Roy Brandt, these are deployed in a rescue mission after Keira is trapped by an earthquake, and while they are also a form of AI, unlike Elly, they don’t really have a personality or a name. Elly is an assistant; the nanites are tools, at least for now.

The relationship between Keira and Roy is also interesting to watch. Keira is a strong, self-possessed woman who is both creative and extremely knowledgeable. Roy has the arrogance that comes with money and success, but while he’s an antagonist to Keira at times, he’s never a villain. If anything, the villain in this story is human greed and corruption.

Lois and Ross Melbourne have crafted a well-paced story that balances humanity and AI, and feels plausible, if not right now, than in our near-future. From the smallest child in the class Keira visits to the various engineers at Brandt’s company, the characters all feel dimensional and real. My husband works in tech, and I have encountered many of the personalities depicted in this story. What I truly appreciated, though, was that there was never too much technobabble, and when things did get extremely technical, they were accompanied with explanations that less tech-savvy readers will understand, and – even better – nothing ever felt like there was too much exposition.

Bottom line: if you love real science in your science fiction, if you’re fond of artificial intelligence, and if you really want to see more strong female characters in STEM fields, this book is for you.

Goes well with: Dr. Pepper and nacho cheese Doritos, the unofficial snack of geeks everywhere.


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Book Review and Giveaway: Cavern of the Veil Queen, by Michael Scott Clifton

BNR Cavern of the Veil Queen

 

About the book, Cavern of the Veil Queen

(Conquest of the Veil, Book 4)Cover Cavern of the Veil Hi Res

  • Fiction / Fantasy / Action / Sword & Sorcery
  • Publisher: Book Liftoff
  • Pages: 342 pages
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY

The Empire of Meredith has waged war against the Veil Queen for over a thousand years.

However, the struggle is unequal. Protected by the Veil, an impenetrable boundary of magic, the Veil Queen preys on the Empire’s citizens. The ceaseless raids have allowed her to build an enormous army of melds, monstrous creatures who are a fusion of humans and beasts.

Then a way is found through the magical partition. An invasion is launched to defeat the Dark Queen. But she’s had centuries to plot treachery. Is the open portal real or a misdirection, another of her evil schemes?

Alexandria’s new husband, Prince Tal, has wielded his formidable magic repeatedly in the struggle. But the key to victory may not lie with his power, but with Alex’s wild and unpredictable magic. If she can discover a way to control it, they have a chance to end the war and destroy the Veil. It requires only two things.

Find the Veil Queen…and kill her.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase Link | Goodreads


About the author, Michael Scott Clifton

Author Pic CliftonMulti award-winning author Michael Scott Clifton, a longtime public educator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, his books contain facets of all the genres he enjoys—action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance.

His fantasy novels, The Janus Witch, The Open Portal (Book I in the Conquest of the Veil series), and Escape from Wheel (Book II), all received 5-Star reviews from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews. The Open Portal has also been honored with a Feathered Quill Book Finalist Award. In addition, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator earned a 2021 Feathered Quill Book Award Bronze Medal in the Teen Readers category. Two of his short stories have won Gold Medals, with Edges of Gray winning the Texas Authors Contest, and The End Game winning the Northeast Texas Writer’s Organization Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education journal.

Connect with Michael:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub | Website

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My Thoughts

MissMelissI haven’t been reading a lot of fantasy lately – my reading goes in cycles, and for some reason this has been the summer of historicals – but I was happy to revisit Michael Scott Clifton’s work with this book, Cavern of the Veil Queen, especially since I loved another book from this author, The Janus Witch, which I reviewed in 2018. This novel completes the series begun with The Open Portal, and while I have not read the first two entries in this collection, I did read and enjoy book three, A Witch’s Brew. I did not find myself at a loss because I hadn’t read the whole series, and this book works quite well as a stand-alone novel, which, to me, is a sign of excellent storytelling.

While the magic system in this novel is certainly unique, I am typically more drawn to characters and story than setting. That said, world-building is an important component of any story that doesn’t take place on contemporary Earth, and Clifton has a deft hand in his construction. I felt like the Empire of Meredith was a real place that is just a bit sideways from my own world, and reading this book is very like a visit there. The world in the Conquest of the Veil novels is rich and vibrant, replete with interesting characters whether human, beast, or something in between.

My favorite part of the story, however, is the relationship between Alexandria (Alex) and her new husband Tal. Starting a relationship is easy; sustaining one, as any married person knows, takes patience, kindness, and hard work. All of those are in evidence in the way these characters and their relationship is depicted, and watching them work together to overcome their struggles, and help Alex learn to control her magic was something I really enjoyed. Alex and Tal are so authentic and interesting, that I’d love to be a guest at their table, or have them as guests at mine.

As the final book in a series, this book did not disappoint. The climax was brilliantly unexpected, and the aftermath was satisfying, but also left the door open a crack, just in case another visit to Meredith suits the author’s fancy in the future.

Bottom line: This is a great stand-alone read, though reading the three previous books would enhance the experience.

Goes well with:  a grouper reuben, hand-cut fries, and sweet tea.


Giveaway

FIVE WINNERS:

One Winner: Signed Paperback of Cavern of the Veil Queen and bookmark;

One Winner: Complete Conquest of the Veil Series eBooks;

Three Winners: eBook of Cavern of the Veil Queen.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, September 17, 2022.)

 

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Review: The Deep Translucent Pond, by James Shelley

Deep Translucent PondAbout the book, The Deep Translucent Pond

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Adelaide Books (February 5, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.

The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | BookSirens | Goodreads


James ShelleyAbout the author, James Shelley

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national media attention, including The Atlantic and NPR.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.

Connect with James:

Website | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads

 

 

 


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’m woefully late in posting this review, but it’s because my life has been chaotic lately. The Deep Translucent Pond is an engaging and interesting novel that explores the process of writing, but also shows us how writing helps us process change and growth as well. Three characters: The Black Magus (not his real name, obviously) is an aging recluse who was once a famous poem. Every year he takes on two students and in this year the lucky two are Jerome, an attorney, and Natalija, a nurse. The three meet initially at a local cafe, but subsequent meetings are at the Magus’s home, where they sit in the shape of a triangle.

When the Magus called attention to an image of The Last Supper, I was very concerned this novel would be an imitation of The DaVinci Code, but it was not. Instead, that image was used to show off the power of triangles and pyramids, which continues to be a theme throughout the story. “A pyramid cannot be pushed over,” the Magus states, and what is implied is that the three of them will, over the course of their work together, form a cohesive whole.

In addition to the physics and metaphysics of triangles and pyramids, this novel explores the concept of finding our purpose – our true calling – in life, and how engaging that purpose can change – or in this case enchant the world. Similarly, author James Shelley enchants his readers. His use of dialogue is specific and appropriate to each character, and he has also created the poems (dubbed writings) of each character as well. Shelley has also chosen different focal characters for each chapter, which gives us different perspectives on the other two. In a way, the setup is reminiscent of Sartre’s No Exit, except that this novel is set on contemporary earth, and these characters genuinely like each other. Perhaps, then, every such triangle – or Triangulum – will have such a superficial similarity.

Where this book shines most is with the exploration of the writer and their writings, and how each informs the other. It’s a worthy read for artists, writers, and anyone who appreciates both.

Goes well with: piping-hot mugs of hot tea, and anisette toast.

 

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Flower Engima by Charles Breakfield & Rox Burkey

BNR Flower Enigma

 

About the book, The Flower Enigma

Cover Flower EnigmaBook 5 of the Magnolia Bluff Crime Chronicles

  • Small Town Mystery / Suspense / Amateur Sleuths
  • Publisher: ICABOD Press
  • Pages: 198 pages
  • Publication Date: August 20, 2022
  • SCROLL DOWN FOR GIVEAWAY!

Imagine a romantic getaway in the Texas Hill Country

JJ, a cyber guru, whisks his girlfriend, Jo, away for a vacation. No paparazzi. Magnolia Bluff is the perfect destination. Flower B&B is prettier than the pictures on the website.

The evangelizing podcast creators are demanding answers about the town’s newest resident, Mateo Hernandez. The enormous wall he erected has convinced the ladies he’s hiding nefarious activities behind a dubious attorney. Local authorities don’t believe laws are broken and discount the women as meddling gossips.

When the couple checks into Flower, the podcast show-in-progress is interrupted by a cyberattack. JJ, the techno-geek, can’t resist helping. At each subsequent event in the series, he uncovers more serious issues than cyberwarfare.

JJ and Jo can’t avoid this roving series maelstrom. It gets personal when they’re attacked and warned to leave town. No one can conceive the depth of the crimes behind Mateo’s walls.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


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About the authors, Breakfield & Burkey

Breakfield and BurkeyBreakfield is a technology expert in security, networking, voice, and anything digital. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. Charles is a fan of wine tastings, winemaking, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Connect with  Breakfield

LinkedIn | Amazon

Burkey is an technology professional who excels at optimizing technology and business investments. She works with customers all over the world focusing on optimized customer experiences. Rox writes white papers and documentation, but found she has a marked preference for writing fiction.

Connect with Burkey:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn | Amazon

Together these Texas authors create award-winning stories that resonate with males and females, as well as young and experienced adults. They bring a fresh new view to technology possibilities today in exciting stories. Visit their website for more information and free stuff.

Connect with Breakfield and Burkey

The Enigma Series | Twitter | Facebook | Medium | Instagram


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Autographed copy of The Flower Enigma

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Review: The Crimson Thread, by Kate Forsyth

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About the book, The Crimson ThreadThe Crimson Thread

  • Publication Date: July 5, 2022
  • Blackstone Publishing
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

In Crete during World War II, Alenka, a young woman who fights with the resistance against the brutal Nazi occupation, finds herself caught between her traitor of a brother and the man she loves, an undercover agent working for the Allies.

May 1941. German paratroopers launch a blitzkrieg from the air against Crete. They are met with fierce defiance, the Greeks fighting back with daggers, pitchforks, and kitchen knives. During the bloody eleven-day battle, Alenka, a young Greek woman, saves the lives of two Australian soldiers.

Jack and Teddy are childhood friends who joined up together to see the world. Both men fall in love with Alenka. They are forced to retreat with the tattered remains of the Allied forces over the towering White Mountains. Both are among the seven thousand Allied soldiers left behind in the desperate evacuation from Crete’s storm-lashed southern coast. Alenka hides Jack and Teddy at great risk to herself. Her brother Axel is a Nazi sympathiser and collaborator and spies on her movements.

As Crete suffers under the Nazi jackboot, Alenka is drawn into an intense triangle of conflicting emotions with Jack and Teddy. Their friendship suffers under the strain of months of hiding and their rivalry for her love. Together, they join the resistance and fight to free the island, but all three will find themselves tested to their limits. Alenka must choose whom to trust and whom to love and, in the end, whom to save.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AMAZON | AUDIBLE | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND  | GOODREADS


About the author, Kate ForsythAuthor: Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling author of 40 books for both adults and children.

Her books for adults include ‘Beauty in Thorns’, the true love story behind a famous painting of ‘Sleeping Beauty’; ‘The Beast’s Garden’, a retelling of the Grimm version of ‘Beauty & the Beast’, set in the German underground resistance to Hitler in WWII; ‘The Wild Girl’, the love story of Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales; ‘Bitter Greens’, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale; and the bestselling fantasy series ‘Witches of Eileanan’ Her books for children include ‘The Impossible Quest’, ‘The Gypsy Crown’, ‘The Puzzle Ring’, and ‘The Starkin Crown’

Kate has a doctorate in fairytale studies, a Masters of Creative Writing, a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, and is an accredited master storyteller.

Connect with Kate:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS


My Thoughts

MissMelissI received this book just as I was moving into a new house, read it in between unpacking boxes, and then listened to the audio book version to refresh myself since it had been so many weeks. Both in print and in audio, The Crimson Thread is a compelling story, well crafted and well paced.

There’s something especially intriguing about World War II  stories, I think. On the one hand, even if the brutality of war is not in the foreground, it is ever present. On the other, perhaps because we know who wins, there’s an element of romance to them is rarely associated with other periods. This novel is the perfect example of this. Two of the lead characters are soldiers, one eventually joins the Resistance, and while the reality of war, of the German army invading the Greek islands, is the impetus for the story, the love triangle between Jack, Teddy, and Alenka is as gripping as any of the battle strategy or espionage that is also in this book.

To be fair, I was team Jack from the start. Teddy is the playboy while Jack is the steadfast soldier, and I doubt that they would have become friends – or friendly – under normal circumstances. Author Forsyth wrote both men equally vividly, but where Teddy is brash, Jack is thoughtful, and creative. As a an amateur cellist, I loved that the cello was part of his story, but I also loved the concept of poem codes – something I’ve never encountered before in my reading. (I want to know more about this!)

Alenka is also a dynamic character, soft at times, but also resolute, and even fierce. I could see how either man would fall for her – I almost fell for her myself. Her strained relationship with her Nazi-sympathizer younger brother – a mere child when we first meet him – added depth to her character and his.

The audio book, I felt, really captured the tone of each of these three leads, and I loved that there was a female narrator for the chapters that were primarily Alenka’s point of view. But even the print version made each of them feel like real, living beings.

Author Kate Forsyth had a deft hand when crafting this novel. The pacing was perfect. The dates at the beginning of each section, and the shifting perspectives made the story more intense, especially in the last third when the jeopardy to all the characters increased. Her use of dialogue is also excellent – I never felt like these people were out of time or out of place.

If you want a riveting romantic drama set against a part of World War II that is less familiar than the typical England or France, The Crimson Thread is for you.

Goes well with: charbroiled squid and a cold beer.


Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth! We have 10 copies up for grabs!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on July 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Crimson Thread

The Crimson Thread

Direct Link: https://gleam.io/OAUjk/the-crimson-thread


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Tuesday, June 28
Excerpt at Novels Alive

Wednesday, June 29
Review at Novels Alive
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books
Interview at Jathan & Heather

Thursday, June 30
Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, July 1
Review at Books In Their Natural Habitat

Monday, July 4
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss

Tuesday, July 5
Review at My Reading Getaway

Wednesday, July 6
Review at Books, Writings, and More

Thursday, July 7
Review at Girls Just Reading

Friday, July 8
Review at Dive Into a Good Book

Sunday, July 10
Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, July 11
Review at Jessica Belmont

Tuesday, July 12
Excerpt at Bonnie Reads and Writes

Wednesday, July 13
Review at The Page Ladies

Thursday, July 14
Review at Momma Doc Reads

Monday, July 18
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, July 19
Interview at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Wednesday, July 20
Review at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 21
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Friday, July 22
Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews

Saturday, July 23
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, July 25
Review at A Darn Good Read

Tuesday, July 26
Review at With a Book in Our Hands

Wednesday, July 27
Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Thursday, July 28
Review at Bibliotica

Friday, July 29
Review at Reading the Past

 

The Crimson Thread Blog Tour

Excerpt and Giveaway: Paper Targets by Patricia Watts

BNR Paper Targets

 

About the book, Paper TargetsCover Paper Targets 1

  • Suspense / Literary Fiction / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Atmosphere Press
  • Pages: 324 pages
  • Publication Date: May 3, 2022
  • Scroll down for a giveaway!

Everyone knew that Roanne never got angry­—until the night she killed her ex-husband and herself.

Roanne, a nice, suburban lady in her sixties who works at a Hallmark shop and volunteers at the Food Bank in Round Rock, Texas, calls her lifelong friend, Connie, confesses to murder, then puts the gun to her own head. Connie, spurred by Roanne’s last words about a lifetime of unspoken rage, sets aside her work as a cozy mystery writer and cupcake shop owner to confront the men who have stolen her dignity while she remained silent, including a bully brother, a rapist, and an ex-spouse. On a journey to reclaim her inner power and to make peace with the loss of her treasured friend, Connie’s mission is to avoid the same tragic path as Roanne, but she takes along a gun, just in case.

With pathos and humor, Paper Targets, by Patricia Watts, calls us to speak our own narratives, even when it is uncomfortable or risky, and shows us the magnificence of a friendship that transcends time.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Patricia WattsAuthor Photo Watts

Patricia Watts worked as a journalist for more than 20 years for newspapers in Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. Following her news career, she tried her skill as a paralegal and then spent ten years investigating discrimination cases for the Alaska Human Rights Commission. Her novels include: Ghost Light and The Big Empty, crime mysteries co-written with Alaska author Stan Jones; The Frayer, suspense noir; and Watchdogs, a steamy thriller. Her home base is San Diego. She earned her B.A. in journalism at Humboldt State in California. She is the mother of a son and daughter and has eight grandchildren.

Connect with Patricia:

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Read an excerpt from Paper Targets

February 2019

A slurp and a gulp. The knock of something solid against the surface next to the phone. Common noises on the other end of the line—she’s taking a drink, setting down a glass.

Then—the ear-splitting boom of a gunshot, the shallow thud of a weight hitting the floor.

I scream her name.

No noises now.

My best friend is dead.

 

XTRA IG 1At Roanne’s funeral reception, the eagerness for answers was thicker than the abundant short ribs set out next to the potato salad and baked beans. The guests had no appetite. They wanted to sink their teeth into why Roanne chose to die the way she did. And they were all looking to me, her closest friend for fifty years.

People had driven to Round Rock from other parts of Texas or from farther away to spend the morning at the church, midday at the cemetery, and the afternoon gathered at the home of Roanne’s sister, Darla.

They leaned out and asked, “Why, Connie?” as I walked through Darla’s living room, taking small, deliberate sips from a glass of iced tea, avoiding eye contact, unable to respond.

Roanne had called me that night, at three minutes after eleven. I’d hit the TV “off” button, was headed to bed; I had stayed up too late again, hooked on my latest Netflix binge. The words we had exchanged played back to me with every shiver and stab to my heart that I had felt then:

“I got the bastard,” she said. From the hollow sound of her voice, I knew her phone was on speaker. “Straight through the balls.” Her words shook.

“Ro? You’re scaring me, girl,” I said. “Got who?”

She was breathing hard, with a sharp, staccato, “Uh, uh …”

“Is someone with you?”

“Not anymore. Just me, myself, and I,” she said between a snicker and a sob.

“Are you at home? I’ll come get you.” My adrenalin was pumping. Something terrible had happened or was about to happen, but what? I could make the ninety-five-mile drive from San Antonio to Round Rock in an hour and ten. I switched my phone to speaker and pulled a pair of leggings on under my nightshirt.

“Don’t bother, I’ll be done soon.” She breathed in, a deep reverse sigh, like she was struggling to find the strength to get the words out. “The anger. You take it and take it, and one day you see there’s no way out. You’re trapped.”

“You’re angry? With whom?”

“With Johnny, with the whole goddamn male establishment, my daddy, the school bullies, the boss, the superintendent, the judge, the lovers, husband, ex-husband, the smartass at Home Depot, the whole lot of  ’em, every Tom, Dick, and Harry.”

Her words seemed silly and frightening. “That’s a bunch to take on by yourself. Why don’t we talk about it, regroup?” I needed to get between her and whatever it was that was galloping, like my heartbeat, toward her. Couldn’t you find someone’s location on a cell phone? But you had to set that up, and I had had no reason to before.

“Now what would Judd do?” she said.

I pulled the name from the past through my memory to the present. It didn’t fit in the moment. “Judd? Mr. Asher from senior social studies?”

“You know what I really liked about Mr. Asher?”

“He looked like David Cassidy?” Giggle, Roanne. Be okay, Roanne.

“Exactly, that too.” I pictured her smiling through the pain in her voice. “He seemed to have all the answers, didn’t he? Only he wanted us to figure things out on our own.”

I stepped into my running shoes, left the laces untied. “What does Mr. Asher have to do with—”

“Figure it out for yourself. Speak up, Con. Don’t let them have the final say.” Roanne’s words slurred and trailed off. “It’s too late for me, but—”

“Hang on, it’s never too late.” I could feel the bad ending like the anticipation of an icy finger about to touch the back of my neck, raising goose flesh. I picked up my keys and purse. I headed for the garage. Keep talking, Roanne, please keep talking. “Tell me where you are, sweetie.”

Another intake of air. A gap of silence. A gulp. The boom. “Roanne!”

 


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TWO WINNERS:

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Book Spotlight & Giveaway: A Shot in the 80% Dark, by Amber Royer

Banner: A Shot in the 80% Dark

 

About the book, A Shot in the 80% Dark

Cover A Shot in the 80 Percent Dark(Book 4 in the Bean to Bar series)

  • Cozy Mystery / Culinary Mystery /Woman Sleuth
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: July 15, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 285 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop is thriving. Despite everything she’s been through with the murders she’s helped solve, Felicity is ready to take on new challenges. So when a local museum offers her a contract to create a chocolate replica of a gigantic sailing ship sculpture for a gala celebrating Galveston’s history, she jumps at the chance to combine chocolate-crafting with art.

The project is fun – right up until there’s not just one but two dead artists on the scene, and Felicity has to change gears back to detective. Logan, Felicity’s business partner and previous bodyguard, and Arlo, Felicity’s ex who is now the cop investigating the case, are split on which victim they think was actually the intended one. Felicity may have to take some chances, both emotionally and in luring out a killer, to determine the truth.

Can she find out how Galveston’s history relates to the murders, unmask a killer, and prepare 2,000 chocolate desserts for the gala all at the same time?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the Author, Amber Royer

Author Pic Amber Royer

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach.

Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber:

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter   |  Amazon | Goodreads | Instagram | Youtube

 

Bean to Bar Series


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhether it’s the yellow and green parrot repeating “Allez vous-en, allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!” in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, or Renoir the cockatoo’s rather dire warning, “If you do that, I’ll kill you,” in this fourth installment of Amber Royer’s Bean to Bar mysteries, A Shot in the 80% Dark, talking birds never bode well.

Indeed, within a relatively few pages of her receipt of a copy of Treasure Island, Felicity Koerber, professional chocolatier and amateur detective, has stumbled into another murder.

This book takes place in Galveston, Texas, a touristy island community that Felicity calls home, and that has a rich maritime tradition. (It’s also, I recently learned, one of the major ports immigrants came through in the early twentieth century. But that’s just a random fact.)

As with the other books, this can easily be read as a standalone novel, though reading the earlier books does lend context. The key elements are chocolate (of course), maritime history, pirate lore, the local art scene, and how they merge when Felicity agrees to design and create a chocolate copy of a found-materials pirate ship sculpture for an event at the art museum. Only Amber Royer could take these disparate threads and weave them into a cohesive whole, and she does so with her usual deftness.

Mainly character driven, this story has a love triangle with Felicity, her first love Arlo, and her partner Logan, the latter two of whom have become friends. As well, there is an entire cast of art gallery staffers and artists each with their individual personalities and interpersonal conflicts that mix and match to create conflict, suspicion, and delightful drama.

In A Shot in the 80% Dark, Amber Royer has created a snappy, interesting read that remains unpredictable to the end.

In fact, the only flaw in this novel is that it doesn’t come with a supply of organic chocolate to nibble while reading.

Goes well with: an iced mocha made with unsweetened espresso chocolate.


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Review: The House on the Hill, by Chris Penhall

 

About the book, The House on the Hill The House on the Hill by Chris Penhall

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ruby Fiction (a Choc Lit imprint) (June 28, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 247 pages

The House on the Hill: A Summer in the Algarve

Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.
But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.
Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Click to Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Chris PenhallThe House on the Hill Author

Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published in August 2020. Both are available in paperback, e-book and audio and are part of the Portuguese Paradise series. Finding Summer Happiness, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales is available in e-book, audio and paperback, and The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve, the third novel in the Portuguese Paradise series, is published in e-book on 28th June 2022.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.

She also has her own podcast – The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcast in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it!

A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.

Connect with Chris:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissWhenever I acquire a new Chris Penhall title, I know I’m in for a great read. The third installment in her Portuguese Paradise series, The House on the Hill did not disappoint.

This multi-generational novel focuses on Layla and her Aunt Minnie who run a yoga retreat in Lagos. Each is competent, vivacious, dimensional, but neither has a love interest who will stick – at least when we meet them. But this isn’t a book just about romantic love. It’s about the love we have for our true passion, whether it’s health food (Layla), dance (Minnie) or yoga and general wellness (both). It’s also about the familial love that exists between aunt and niece, and the strong friendships each forms in their community.

Okay, yes, there’s also romance.

What I love about all of Penhall’s books is that they’re never too fluffy. Yes, they exist in a somewhat heightened version of reality where the bougainvillea flowers are a bit bigger, the limoncello is a bit stronger, and the sun shines a bit brighter, but overall the events in The House on the Hill, as with the author’s previous works, are plausible. And that makes the reading so much better, because you can be an armchair tourist in Layla’s (or Minnie’s) life, and never have to expend energy on willful suspension of disbelief.

What really sells this book is the way the author differentiates these characters of such disparate ages. Layla is more focused, and uses more contemporary language, while Minnie is slightly scattered and uses slightly “vintage” syntax. It’s subtle, but it really makes each woman truly breathe.

I should mention that the actual house is also a character in a way, as it plays host to the bulk of the story, and is really the heart of the family  – both blood and chosen – that Layla and Minnie have created in Portugal.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants a summer read that feels like a summer vacation. It’s well written, perfectly paced, and leaves the reader truly satisfied (but not so much so that a fourth book in this series wouldn’t be welcome).

Goes well with: a fruit plate that includes pinapples, passion fruit, and plums. Or a green smoothie.


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Review and Giveaway: Pictures of the Shark, by Thomas H. McNeely

BNR Pictures of the Shark

 

About the book, Pictures of the Shark

  • Short Stories / Southern Fiction / Coming of Age
  • Publisher: Texas Review Press
  • Date of Publication: July 12, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 205 pages
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Cover Pictures of the SharkA sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight séance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy’s pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by Houston native and Dobie Paisano award-winning author Thomas H. McNeely, traces a young man’s coming of age and falling apart. From the rough and tumble of Houston’s early seventies East End to the post-punk Texas bohemia of late eighties Austin, this novel in stories examines what happens when childhood trauma haunts adult lives.

PRAISE FOR PICTURES OF THE SHARK:

  •  “McNeely’s brilliant stories are filled with delicious menace and heartbreaking hope.” – Pamela Painter, author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and Fabrications: New and Selected Stories
  • “In these gorgeously crafted interlinked stories, Thomas McNeely demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to illuminate the darkest emotional corners of his characters with a vision that is as tender and compassionate as it is unflinching.” – Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs
  • “With masterful prose, McNeely draws you down into emotional depths where your ambivalence and confusion show you at your most profoundly human. These stories hook you quickly and deeply and keep you even after they end. – C.W. Smith, author of Steplings, Buffalo Nickel, and Understanding Women

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Thomas H. McNeely

Author Photo McNeelyThomas H. McNeely is an Eastside Houston native. He has published short stories and nonfiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South. His stories have been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.

Connect with Thomas:

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  TWITTER | AMAZON  | GOODREADS

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My Thoughts

MissMelissI love short stories. I mean, I love novels and biographies, but it takes a special kind of talent to tell a complete story in a relatively few words. In his eight-story collection, Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely shows that he has a great amount of talent, and is using it wisely.

To be honest, he had me at the word “scraggly,” used to describe someone’s beard. I use that word, but most people I know (and most people I read) do not, so when I saw that word in the opening story, “Snow, Houston, 1974,” I knew that I would love the language this author uses, and I was not wrong. His stories are somber, even dark, but his prose rises from the page, and grabs you by the wrists demanding that you pay attention.

I found myself shivering when six year old Buddy Turner experiences his first snow in 1974. Having lived through two extreme winter storms in Texas (Dallas county, in my case, but still rare) I was hit in the gut with the description of the aftermath:

“Now, the weatherman reported gas fires and burst water mains and houses whose roofs had caved in. Some neighborhoods, he said, were without electricity or telephones. Buddy began to worry about Grandma Liddy. Grandma Liddy and he made plans to buy a cassette recorder with cigarette coupons, to write President Nixon and ask him why he lied, to build a miniature city out of matchboxes and toilet paper rolls. They had already started the city, chalking streets on the threadbare carpet in his mother’s old room.”

It’s simple language, matter of fact, and almost Hemingway-esque at times, but it’s effective.

In addition to McNeely’s use of language, I also appreciated his ability to find and convey the emotional tone of every piece. The early stories in Buddy’s life (though not necessarily in the book, as it jumps around in time a little) have threads of hope running through them. The stories where Buddy is older and disillusioned feel darker and have a bitter quality. The pieces where we see Buddy as a young man are laden with sadness and wasted possibilities. And yet, not a single story was dull or made me want to skim it. Rather, I was riveted. “Hester,” especially, had me fascinated because it’s really the only story where we have another perspective, and see Buddy through another person’s eyes.

Speaking of people, Buddy, his mother (Margot) and his father (Jimmy) are the central characters, and each one is interesting on their own. Buddy, of course, is the boy whose family is unhappy, and who seems to know too much and not enough, afraid of becoming his father, but also so close to doing so. Everything I learned about Margot made we wish for a collection from her perspective – her youth and young womanhood. Jimmy is a perfect tragic figure, and some of the scenes, where he seems about to resort to violence, but doesn’t, had me flashing back to my own memories of an abusive partner my mother once had.

In fact, the only reason I didn’t read all eight of these stories in one sitting was that the emotions were so vivid and plausible that I had to step away.

In the beginning of his book, Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In Pictures of the Shark, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a visceral look at an extremely unhappy family, and shown us how that unhappiness echoes through all their lives. This is made most evident in the final entry in this collection, “Little Deaths:”

“I’d come to the University as a National Merit Scholar, but now lived off my mother’s credit card. I never visited my mother, because she reminded me both of my rotten childhood and my receding promise: my AP classes, my high school English honors, the expectation even by my family that I would become a writer.”

Buddy Turner may never have become a successful author (or maybe he did, that’s for another collection) but his creator, Thomas H. McNeely has given us a masterpiece in gray tones and grim feelings.

Goes well with: black coffee and anisette toast.


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2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark
2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark

+ editorial critique of an excerpt (up to 20 pages) from an unpublished short story or novel.
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7/7/22 Guest Post All the Ups and Downs
7/8/22 Review Bibliotica
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7/10/22 Playlist Forgotten Winds
7/11/22 Review Jennie Reads
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