Review: Where the Echo Calls by Steve N. Lee

Where the Echo CallsAbout the book, Where the Echo Calls (Books for Dog Lovers #3)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Blue Zoo (October 14, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 283 pages
  • Series: Books for Dog Lovers

He’d lost so much he wanted to die. But a stray dog changed everything.

Left for dead in the gutter, Rio struggles to his feet and lurches into the shadows for a place to hide. Life has always been brutal, thanks to a monster of an owner, but at least he’d had food, a bed, a place to call home. Now…?

Ben’s life ended when he lost his family. Drink no longer dulls the pain; therapy is a joke; friends have moved on. He’d had everything, yet now…?

But when the broken man meets the broken dog, they discover something neither had ever dreamed could exist… a reason to go on.

In a story as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, Where the Echo Calls explores how hope can be found in the most unexpected of places if only we have the courage to look for it.

Praise for the Books for Dog Lovers series:

  • “Emotional, heart-wrenching and heartwarming. I was lost in this story from the very beginning. It’s beautifully written and will stay with me for a long long time.” Curled Up With A Good Book (book blog)
  • “So Tear Jerkingly Beautiful” Janice Kujawa, Amazon
  • “A great story with a beautiful, heartwarming ending.” Tom Kiker, Amazon
  • “Thought provoking and well written. [I] loved it so much I’ve bought 2 paperbacks to give as Christmas presents! It’ll break your heart and rebuild it again.” C. Johnson, Amazon
  • “A story that is equal parts intense beauty and heart wrenching agony… I know I’ll still think of this story years down the road.” Insatiable Readers book blog
  • “A heartwarming, touching, and poignant novel about the love between a dog and a young girl.” Paula, Amazon
  • “A perfect book for dog lovers. It is a story of courage, determination and love.” Library Lady, Amazon
  • “I almost laughed myself into an asthma attack during certain scenes and cried at the end of this book, all the while wondering if this is how my own dog perceives me.” Kathy Banfield, Goodreads
  • “[I] highly recommend it especially if you like books like Marley and Me, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and similar stories.” Storeybook Reviews book blog

Purchase and discussion links for this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Steve LeeAbout the author, Steve N. Lee

Steve has three passions: anti-heroes, animals, and travel. To date, he’s visited 60 countries and has adopted five homeless cats, but he’s yet to prowl the streets in the dead of night to beat up bad guys (though he still daydreams about doing so, but who doesn’t?).

In pursuit of adventure, he’s cage-dived with great white sharks, sparred with a monk at a Shaolin temple, and explored exotic locales such as Machu Picchu, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China.

Fortunately, his passions fuel his fiction. He loves to pepper his action-packed thrillers with the exotic places he’s explored and the unusual encounters he’s experienced, while his dog stories glow with the love and companionship that will warm the heart of any animal lover.

More recently, while on his travels, Steve came across two true stories from the Holocaust which moved him so deeply, he has based two novels on them, both of which will be released in 2023.

He lives in the North of England with his partner, Ania, the great-granddaughter of the 1924 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and two stray black cats who visited their garden one day and liked it so much, they moved into the house. Luckily, they graciously allowed Steve and Ania to carry on living there, even allowing Steve to continue paying the mortgage to give him a sense of purpose.

If you love stories of four-legged heroes, tales from histories darkest hour, or books with pulse-pounding action, you’ll love Steve’s three series. He wrote them for book lovers just like you!

Connect with Steve:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissI’ve been a foster-mom to more than twenty-five dogs, and all the dogs I’ve ever kept have been rescues, so it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for a good dog story. Where the Echo Calls is not merely a good dog story, though; it’s a fantastic dog story that really puts you inside the head of the dog at the center of the book. Rio (nee  Razor) is a shepherd mix used as a fighting dog. When we meet him his owner is abandoning him on the streets. We travel with him through his confusion, heartbreak, and steadfast determination. We get to learn about the “messages” dogs leave in their p-mail. Hope finally comes when he’s brought to an animal shelter, only to have his first adopter betray him. Back at the shelter, Rio, like many dogs in similar situations – and I’ve seen this first-hand – Rio begins to shut down.

Finally Ben comes into the story and Rio is safe, but it’s not that simple. Like Rio, Ben has a tragic history. Not only does he have to learn to trust Rio, but Rio must learn to trust him.

I really loved seeing the inner workings of Rio’s brain. I’ve heard that well-trained, well-socialized dogs have an understanding of human vocabulary roughly equivalent to a human five-year-old, but we really never think about the fact that our pets are bilingual, in a sense, because their first language is one that combines scent, body language, and vocalizations (barks, growls, yips – my bigger dog is part Catahoula, and he sings.). They learn our language, and adapt to our lives. We don’t do the same.  But Steve Lee gets it. And he writes the path to doggy comprehension amazingly well. Rio learns that “pocket-meat” (bacon) is for treats, and then he learns how to get it.

While much of this novel deals with serious things – depression and loss for both man and dog – there are some fantastic light moments that not only break the tension, but also warm the heart. Rio loves chin-tickles but pretends to only “allow” them in order to protect his tough-dog persona, and the bit with him eschewing, then secretly using, his “princess” bed is just hilarious.

I should note that though this is the third novel in a series, and characters from previous stories have cameo appearances, it’s absolutely self-contained, and readers should not worry if they haven’t read the first two. (That said, go read the first two, as they’re equally wonderful.)

Overall, this is a totally plausible, thoroughly engaging story told (mostly) from the dog’s perspective, and a copy of this novel should appear on every dog-lover’s bookshelf or e-reader. I laughed and cried and had to stop reading more than once to cuddle my own dogs. You will, too.

Goes well with: Bacon! And cool drink of water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review and Giveaway: The Covey Jencks Mysteries Omnibus Audiobook by Shelton L. Williams

BNR Covey Jencks Audio Omnibus

 

About the book: The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas Cover Audio Love and Murder

  • Narrated by Stephen E. Lookadoo, Jr.
  • Mystery / Amateur Sleuths / West Texas
  • Listening Length: 17hrs, 44 minutes
  • Publication Date: July 27, 2022
  • Scroll down for giveaway!

Shelton Williams’s book The Covey Jencks Mysteries: Love and Murder Deep in the Heart of Texas is more than a collection of mysterious tales of murder and investigation. By bringing to life these characters, the author has highlighted the global issues of racism, drug abuse, political extremism, and women trafficking.

In the midst of it all is our protagonist, hell-bent on finding out what secrets he may find out if he stepped into the dark shadow of Odessa.

This omnibus edition of the Covey Jencks Mysteries includes newly edited versions of Covey Jencks, Covey and JayJay Get Educated, and The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts. It also includes a new preface from the author and foreword by Charles E. Morrison.

Buy, listen to and/or read, and discuss this book:

Audible | Amazon Audiobook | Amazon Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Author’s Website | Goodreads


About the author, Shelton L. Williams Author Pic Shelley Williams

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on 4 occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood, Summer of 66, and now the three books in the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.

Connect with Shelly:

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

 

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My Thoughts MissMeliss

Having read the original Covey Jencks novel, which I did not review, and the second, Covey and Jay Jay Get Educated, which I did, I was curious to hear the audiobook, with all three books narrated by the same person, and presented in one, neat, bundle. I was not disappointed. While I’m a rare audiobook-listener and generally only listen to books I’ve read in print, I’m falling more in love with the medium. As I had not read the third book in this collection, The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts, I was a bit concerned about following the plot, but these books are so perfectly paced and well plotted, and balance humor and more serious scenes so well, that I had no issues.

As a refresher, the first book introduces us to Covey Jencks and his partner in solving crime (among other things), JayJay Qualls and sees them solving a case in Jencks’s hometown of Odessa, Texas where he recently returned. It involved Mexican gangs and a Boston mobster, and set the tone for the sarcasm-laced, deeply respectful and affectionate relationship between the two leads. The second book sees Covey and JayJay  finding the truth behind the death of one of Covey’s friends as well as other mayhem on a college campus, and the third involves a trip to China to solve a murder that involves characters there and in the USA, including a group of Chinese gangsters.

What all three novels have in common, aside from Covey and JayJay, are the deft uses of language, and the way author Williams imbues his stories with social consciousness and uses them to discuss everything from immigration and racism to sexism and sex trafficking. He does this while never making the reader – or listener – feel hammered to death by a cause, or overdoing the darker aspect of these subjects, but wrapping them in mysteries laced with humor and wry turns of phrase that are completely engaging.

As audio books, each of these has been released on its own, albeit with diffrerent narrators. What makes this omnibus audiobook edition so special is that the same narrator is with us all the way through. A good narrator can make or break and audiobook. In this case, Stephen E. Lookadoo’s folksy warmth only enhances the source material. He sounds like someone Covey Jencks would know; he sounds like someone the author would know. He has that kind of familiar voice that makes you think you’ve heard him before – and maybe you have – but even when he’s playing a down-home hick he never seems uneducated. He also used just enough accent and pitch change to evoke the different characters without sounding forced or fake. A lot of male narrators turn female characters into caricatures; Lookadoo does not.

The combination of Williams’s vivd storytelling and Lookadoo’s narration gives the listener the perfect blend of substance and style. The vocal performance is perfectly matched to the relatively quick pace of these novels, and you never feel breathless from trying to keep up, or bored because things are too slow.

At nearly eighteen hours, this omnibus is a meaty undertaking. Personally, I prefer longer audiobooks because I can live with them for several evenings and really absorb the story. In this case, that time gives us three distinct, yet still connected, mysteries that were fantastic in print, an even better in this format.

Goes well with: cold beer – Shiner is good – and a plate of ribs, cole slaw and mac-n-cheese.


Giveaway

GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!

THREE WINNERS:

Each receives an audiobook edition of

THE COVEY JENCKS MYSTERIES:

LOVE AND MURDER DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 10/31/22.)

 

Giveaway Covey Jencks Audiobook

 

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Review: A Man of the World, by Gilbert M. Grosvenor with Mark Collins Jenkins

About the book, A Man of the WorldA Man of the World

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ National Geographic (September 13, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

The captivating inside story of the man who helmed National Geographic for six decades is a front-row seat to audacious feats of exploration, from the successful hunt for the Titanic to Jane Goodall’s field studies. Offering a rare portrait of one of the world’s most iconic media empires, this revealing autobiography makes an impassioned argument to know―and care for―our planet.

Though his career path had been paved by four generations of his family before him, Gilbert M. Grosvenor left his own mark on the National Geographic Society, founded in 1888 and recognized the world over by its ubiquitous yellow border. In an unflinchingly honest memoir as big as the world and all that is in it, Grosvenor shows us what it was like to “grow up Geographic” in a family home where explorers like Robert Peary, Louis Leakey, and Jane Goodall regularly crossed the threshold. As staff photographer, editor in chief and then president of the organization, Grosvenor oversaw the diversification into television, film, books, as well as its flagship magazine, which under his tenure reached a peak circulation of nearly 11 million. He also narrates the shift from a nonprofit, family-focused enterprise to the more corporate, bottom-line focused world of publishing today.

For Grosvenor, running National Geographic wasn’t just a job. It was a legacy, motivated by a passion not just to leave the world a better place, but to motivate others to do so, too. Filled with world travel, charismatic explorers, and the complexities of running a publishing empire, A MAN OF THE WORLD is the story of one man, a singular family business, and the changing face of American media.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Gilbert. M. Grosvenor

Gilbert Melville Grosvenor is the former president and chairman of the National Geographic Society, after having served as the editor of National Geographic magazine from 1970 to 1980. The great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell and the third Grosvenor to serve as editor-in-chief of the magazine, Grosvenor has received 14 honorary doctorates and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his leadership in geography education.


My Thoughts

MissMelissLike the author who, according to some biographies, “grew up Geographic,” the familiar yellow rectangle that represents the National Geographic magazine has been part of my entire life. Once, I was even on a plane to La Paz, BCS, Mexico when I realized most of the men on the plane were wearing black baseball caps with that logo. It took me a moment to realize they were all photographers on their way to meet the National Geographic Society’s boat for a photography excursion. My point in relating this is that reading about one of the men “behind the scenes” of one of my favorite institutions was a natural choice for me. I love biographies. I grew up on National Geographic magazine and the TV specials and I even had a subscription to National Geographic World, which was designed for kids, when I was ten. When something is imprinted with that yellow rectangle, you know you can trust it.

Gilbert M. Grosvenor is more than just a former president of the National Geographic Society. He’s a traveler, an explorer, a photographer, and educator, and a storyteller in the grandest sense of the word. In this book, with the help of the Society’s archivist Mark Jenkins, he tells his own story – how National Geographic literally runs in his veins, as his grandfather was a founding member and his father ran things before him. (He shares that he’s also a descendant of Alexander Graham Bell, but that’s really just a factoid thrown in to give context to his family history.)

Having read the book and listened to the audiobook, I feel like I’ve been steeped in Mr. Grosvenor’s story, but that’s not a bad thing. This book is well-paced and has a nice balance of adventures in the world (spending part of his army service as a photographer) and behind a desk (he was instrumental in creating that kids’ magazine, meant to be child-friendly without dumbing things down) . He shares anecdotes about meeting Jane Goodall and Robert Peary, but also  tells how they managed to get inside photos of the Apollo missions even though Life Magazine had an exclusive contract with the astronauts. His writerly voice is full of wonder when he talks about Robert Ballard’s discovery of the sunken Titanic, and full of poignance when he discusses Koko the Gorilla and her use of language. While this book is very much the story of the magazine as we know it today, it’s equally the story of the man, Gilbert M. Grovesnor, who was instrumental in making it into the entity we all know and love.

Reading A Man of the World is like having the author sitting in your living room regaling you with tales of his adventures and experiences, and while it was a satisfying read, I felt myself wanting more, just because I enjoyed it so much.

Goes well with: a juicy streak, a baked potato, a simple salad, and a glass or two of Shiraz.


Visit the Other Stops on This Tour TLC Book Tours

Thursday, September 29th: Books, Cooks, and Looks

Friday, September 30th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @kelly_hunsaker_reads

Tuesday, October 4th: Write – Read – Life

Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @jenniaahava

Thursday, October 6th: The Bookish Dilettante

Sunday, October 9th: Instagram: @megsbookclub

TBD: Instagram: @books_with_bethany

TBD: Instagram: @nurse_bookie

TBD: Instagram: @mariasbookshelves

TBD: Thursday, September 22nd: TikTok: @stephreadsalot

TBD: Tuesday, September 27th: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Thursday, September 29th: Bibliotica

Book Review: Big Bad, by Lily Anderson

About the book, Big BadBig Bad - Cover

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hyperion Avenue (September 27, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • Also available in audio and digital

Demondale, Callifornia, 1999…Like Sunnydale, but whole lot more evil.

Step into this alternate reality, where chaos reigns supreme. The Mayor’s sun-shade has created permanent darkness over Sunnydale, fully opening the Hellmouth once and for all. Now the newly christened Demondale has become a safe haven for vampires, beasts, and all types of ruffians. It’s never been better to be bad.

Aspiring supervillains (and super nerds) Jonathan and Andrew attempt to hold their own in a town full of monsters, while three-hundred-year-old vengeance demon Anya is just looking for something to give her life purpose again, spending her days working at an evil juice bar. But soon word gets out that there’s a new Big Bad on the scene, one more powerful and more destructive than anyone who has come before. She, of course, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she’s hell-bent on rooting out all of this reality’s evil by any means necessary.

Now Jonathan, Andrew, and Anya must recruit a team of Demondale’s most notorious villains—including Angelus, Spike, Drusilla, and even Ripper the malevolent magic shop owner—in order to save their world. But it’ll be no easy feat to put their pride and differences aside and stop the worst thing that has ever come to town: good.

Written by acclaimed author and Buffy super fan Lily Anderson, this novel brings together Buffy’s most devious and beloved villains from the Trio to the Whirlwind to Anya, Glory, and Vampire Willow. This is one apocalypse Buffy fans are not going to want to miss!

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Lily Anderson Author - Lily Anderson

Lily Anderson is the author of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU, NOT NOW NOT EVER, and UNDEAD GIRL GANG. A former school librarian, she is deeply devoted to Shakespeare, fairy tales, and podcasts. Somewhere in Northern California, she is having strong opinions on musical theater.

Connect with Lily:

Website


My ThoughtsMissMeliss

“I wish!”

They’re the words required to invoke the “genie rules” and as with most fairy tale lore, they’re loaded with more danger than the wisher ever expects.

They’re also the device that gives us this novel. A wrong wish, a misplaced word, and suddenly everything is… other.

It’s often said that every villain is the hero of their own story. In Lily Anderson’s new novel Big Bad, the villains aren’t only the protagonists of the story, they’ve got their own universe, and the “big bad” coming after them is none other than Buffy, the vampire slayer.

Set in an alternate version of the BuffyVerse where the Mayor completed his ascension, popped a sun-shade over the town, and renamed Sunnydale to Demondale, this novel is a romp through the universe we all love, but with a twist. In this town, the Hellmouth is completely open, vampires and demons roam freely, and “there’s never a line at Starbucks because almost everyone in town drinks blood.”  It’s a monster free-for-all, with the Evil Trio of Warren, Jonathon, and Andrew among the few remaining human residents, and even that was meant to change until a small blonde girl crashed their Ascension Day party and “makes” Jonathon aim his shrink ray at Warren.

Revenge, of course, must be had. And that’s where the fun begins.

It’s also where author Lily Anderson shows how much of a fan she really is, because not only does she offer details about the trio that feel official – they were Sunnydale High School’s inaugural Klingon club – but she nails the portrayal of every other character who shows up: Anya is blunt and loves money, Spike is jealous every time Drusilla focuses her attention, Angellus is a habitual flirt, Drusilla is still as a mad as birds, and Vamp!Willow is as badass and chillingly evil as she ever was in the television show. Even better, this motley crew works really well as a group, grudgingly united to protect their town – and themselves -from the Slayer. (It’s worth noting that Buffy, herself, is a bit off in this story, as she’s basically Quantum Leaping from Hellmouth to Hellmouth in a desperate quest to rid the multiverse of enough evil that she’ll be sent home.)

Aside from characterization, author Anderson excels at making this dark-mirror version of Sunnydale its own entity. In Demondale, the only birds left are owls, and the perpetual nighttime means the town is also over-populated with bugs. This is a world that is as rich with detail as it is with blood and danger.

Well-paced, with a good balance of nostalgic references and original concepts, Big Bad is a big treat for anyone who loves the BuffyVerse, and the perfect story for a crisp October evening.

Goes well with: red wine and an onion blossom.


Tour Stops

00-tlc-tour-hostCheck out the other great participants on this tour.

Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @meghan_readsbooks

Saturday, October 1st: Instagram: @thereadingchemist

Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @everlasting.bookworm

Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @biblio.jojo

Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @teasipsandpageflips

Monday, October 10th: TikTok: @jennthemoodyreader

Tuesday, October 11th: Instagram: @harlequinjunkie

Wednesday, October 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, October 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, October 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 17th: Write – Read – Life

Tuesday, October 18th: Instagram: @itsbibliotherapy

Thursday, October 20th: Instagram: @livingmybestbooklife

TBD: Wednesday, October 5th: TikTok: @secullabooktok

 

 

Review: Happy Endings at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett

Happy Endings at Mermaids Point

About the book, Happy Endings At Mermaids Point Happy endings (12)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (October 3, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 308 pages

Music sensation Aurora Storm finally has her career back on track, but then she’s caught up in a media storm. Desperate to distract from the story, she enlists the one man she trusts to pretend to be her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, in the small seaside village of Mermaids Point, Nick Morgan never expected to see Aurora again. When she calls out of the blue needing his help, he agrees at once. It feels like she’s back in his life for a reason, and he’s determined to make the most of it.

Aurora joins Nick and the rest of his family for their festive celebrations and, as the snow falls, Aurora finds herself caught up in the romance of Christmas. But having tasted worldwide fame, can she ever be content with village life?

Two weeks is all Nick has to prove to Aurora that there’s a happy ending for them both in Mermaids Point.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (USA)Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sarah Bennett Sarah Bennett Author Photo

Sarah Bennett is the bestselling author of several romantic fiction trilogies including those set in Butterfly Cove and Lavender Bay. Born and raised in a military family she is happily married to her own Officer and when not reading or writing enjoys sailing the high seas.

Connect with Sarah:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


MissMelissMy Thoughts

Having never read the four previous Mermaids Point novels, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the characters and situations in this novel, Happy Endings at Mermaids Point, but my fears were put to rest immediately. This book works perfectly well as a stand-alone story. And what a charming story it is. Early chapters include a lovely beach proposal for two of the older characters in this novel, and when we get far enough in that Aurora enters the story, we are ready for romance.

Aurora and Nick themselves are fantastic characters. She’s a singer working in an ensemble tour in Las Vegas, and reflecting on her earlier relationship with Nick. Nick, meanwhile, has just finished remodeling a warehouse into luxury apartments, and is searching for his next venture for when the last apartment sells. Naturally Aurora returns to Mermaids Point  – and Nick – when her world falls apart mid-tour, and we get to see what happens. Both characters are incredibly dynamic and very human, and author Sarah Bennett’s dialogue feels completely organic. I was rooting for these two, but I was also happy to follow wherever the story went.

The other characters in this novel were equally well drawn, and rounded out Nick’s family, and the only reason I’m not naming all of them is that I don’t want to get details wrong that might have been explained in earlier novels in this series. What I will add is that Mermaids Point is, itself, a sort of character in this novel. Having grown up in one beloved (American) seaside town, and having just moved to another, I know how close-knit such places can be, especially for the locals or townies who remain through the off-season. Author Bennett really made me feel as if I were reading her book while lying on the beach, and I’m pretty sure I can still smell the salt air.

As a side note, I downloaded the audio version of this novel as well as reading it and want to note that the narration is perfect, so if you prefer audiobooks, you can trust this title.

If you’re looking for a feel-good read that still feels plausible, Happy Endings at Mermaids Point is the book for you.

Goes well with: tuna salad sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper, and mostly-still-cold lemonade.


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Review: The Unlikely Spy by Sophie Schiller

About the book, The Unlikely Spy The-Unlikely-Spy_web

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (August 8, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 327 pages

Casablanca meets Notorious in a Hitchcock-style thriller of espionage, romance, adventure, and intrigue.

1917. Emma Christensen is a young widow who returns to the Danish West Indies to reclaim the life and the villa she left behind. When she discovers her husband has disinherited her in favor of his young heir—an illegitimate son—she turns to the one thing she knows, gambling, and soon finds herself deeply in debt.

Emma is approached by Cornelius Smith, a representative of an American shipping line, who offers an alternative: infiltrate the suspicious Hamburg-American Line and spy on its nefarious leader, Julius Luckner, to gain valuable business intelligence for his firm.

It doesn’t take long for Emma to realize that both Smith and Luckner are not as they seem. Close to the Allies but even closer to the enemy, Emma bravely engages in missions that could blow her cover at any moment. But with the Panama Canal at stake, how far will she go to help the Allies?

A gripping and suspenseful World War I spy thriller from an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Sophie Schiller 03_Sophie-Schiller_Author

Sophie Schiller is an author of historical fiction and spy thrillers. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews has called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.” Publishers Weekly called her novel, ISLAND ON FIRE, “a memorable romantic thriller”, her novel RACE TO TIBET, “a thrilling yarn,” and her TRANSFER DAY, “a page-turner with emotional resonance.” Kirkus Reviews called her latest novel, THE LOST DIARY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, “an engaging coming-of-age story of heartbreak, bravery, honor, and triumph.” Her latest novel is THE UNLIKELY SPY, a historical spy thriller set during WWI. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Connect with Sophie:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I love it when we get to see history from the point of view of underrepresented segments of the population, so this novel, The Unlikely Spy, with it’s vividly written lead character, Emma Christensen, Danish, disinherited, and deeply in debt, was right up my alley. I also enjoyed the World War I setting, which tends to be overlooked in favor of World War II stories.  (Incidentally, my grandfather was stationed in Panama during that later war, so a story involving earlier days of the canal was of special interest to me.)

I liked Emma. I liked that she didn’t whine overmuch about her change in circumstances, but took an opportunity when one was offered. I also liked that she was smart enough to realize that neither her boss (Smith) nor his competitor (Luckner) were true to the way they presented themselves in public, and it was her choices that kept me riveted throughout this well plotted story.

The blurb for this book references both Casablanca and Notorious, and those are apt comparisons both in tone and in the cinematic descriptions in this novel. I could easily see it as a PBS mega-production, or even a Merchant-Ivory film (are they even still around???). The story leaps off the page and embeds itself into your imagination, and is never disappointing.

Attention must also be paid to the amazing amount of research author Sophie Schiller obviously did on early twentieth-century shipping company and practices. The level of detail she incorporated gave this story another layer of versimilitude, and I appreciated it immensely.

Bottom line: This is an engaging, well-paced story with a strong female lead.

Goes well with: steamed mussels and a crisp white wine.


Visit the other Great Blogs on this tour

Monday, September 26
Review at Bibliotica

Tuesday, September 27
Review at Dive Into a Good Book

Thursday, September 29
Review at The Page Ladies

Friday, September 30
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 4
Review at Reading is My Remedy

Thursday, October 6
Review at Bookworlder

Sunday, October 9
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Monday, October 10
Review at Coffee & Ink
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Wednesday, October 12
Review at Novels Alive

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.


Visit the Other Great Stops on This Tour:

Wednesday, September 14th: Instagram: @drcreadsbooks

Tuesday, September 20th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, September 21st: TikTok: @jessbeyondthepages

Friday, September 23rd: Instagram: @oddandbookish

Monday, September 26th: Stranded in Chaos

Wednesday, September 28th: Instagram: @bookedwithheather

Thursday, September 29th: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 3rd: Instagram: @parksidereads

Tuesday, October 4th: Instagram: @webreakforbooks

Wednesday, October 5th: Instagram: @jypsylynn

Thursday, October 6th: Instagram: @just_another_mother_with_books

Friday, October 14th: Instagram: @books_bulldogs_booze

TBD: Stacy’s Books

TBD: Instagram: @a_bookish_dream

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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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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


Watch the Trailer for The Flower Enigma

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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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