Posted in reviews

Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery by Kristine Raymond Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A mysterious box with an even more mysterious secret code sends a young woman and a novelist on a dangerous quest to unravel its secrets in author Kristine Raymond’s “Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery”. 

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The Synopsis

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.

The Review

This was a perfect blend of quirky characters and suspense. The author does a fantastic job of creating a grand mystery set within a very self-contained community within this narrative. The pacing is incredible and the tone maintains that lightness yet suspense one expects from a cozy mystery. 

The star of the novel of course was the protagonist, Finn. Her journey sees her struggling with everything from her dog, her nosy mother, a high school crush returned to throw some unexpected romance into her life, and a dangerous individual and con man who will stop at nothing to get his prize. Yet her quirky demeanor is evenly matched by strength and determination that makes her interactions with family and everyone else fiery and entertaining. 

The Verdict

Memorable, engaging, and short yet enthralling all at once, author Kristine Raymond’s “Finn-agled: A Finn’s Finds Mystery” is the perfect winter cozy mystery. A heartwarming cast of characters that are both humorous and close-knit combine with a strong and resilient protagonist and an entertaining mystery that will keep readers invested until the book’s end, and leaves this reviewer hoping for more stories within this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing story today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kristine Raymond didn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up until later in life. You guessed it! It’s being an author. Since writing and publishing her first book in 2013, she’s gone on to complete two romance series – one historical western and one contemporary; a humorous non-fiction story; a collection of seasonally-themed short stories; and a contemporary erotic drama. She also hosts a podcast called Word Play with Kristine Raymond.

When not writing, she’s navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Book + Main, and BookBub. You can also visit her website at www.kristineraymond.com to keep up with her latest news.

Posted in reviews

Travelers (Nel Bently #1) by V.S. Holmes Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young archeologist must contend with angry militants in Chile, a dangerous benefactor to her dig and a growing mystery that could define her career and change history as we know it in author V.S. Holmes’ “Travelers”, the first in the Nel Bently series.

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The Synopsis

No One Fights Dirtier Than an Archaeologist

Archaeologist Nel Bently has her own crew, her own research, and a private patron to fund her passion for dirt. With her trowel barely into the dry earth of Chile’s coast, however, Nel learns she and her crew are being watched.

Los Pobladores, known to Nel only as vandals and looters, take issue with any archaeologist brave or stubborn enough to set boots on their land. Nel is both and far from willing to give up the site that will make her career. She must keep her crew, her friends, and her life’s work safe, but with a benefactor playing chess with their lives, and angry militants who may actually have a point, Nel is ready to fight dirty.

X-FILES meets LARA CROFT in this snarky sci-fi about where we came from, and where we’re going

The Review

A fantastic, short yet powerful sci-fi adventure, Travelers was an amazing start to this series. The author has crafted a beautiful tapestry of archeology and history, science-fiction drama and LGBTQ+ driven characters, and did so in a way that felt cohesive and engaging all at once. 

The story and characters did a great job of drawing the reader in immediately, from Nel’s relationship early on with her archeology friend Mikey to Nel’s journey as the site’s discoveries lead to some shocking twists and turns. What really stands out was the author’s way of incorporating real archeology techniques and methodology into the narrative, giving both the characters and their work within the novel a more realistic approach. 

Another thing that really was great to see was a strong, female-driven narrative and protagonist as well as a powerful LGBTQ+ sci-fi hero. Nel’s hold-no-bars approach to the challenges in this novel made her a true standout, and the emotional highs and lows she underwent helped to showcase just how much her character grew overall throughout the narrative, making this one of the more engaging sci-fi series with a LGBTQ+ protagonist. 

The Verdict

A memorable, entertaining and investing read, author V.S. Holmes’ “Travelers” is a must-read start to an incredible sci-fi saga. With emotional and action-packed twists and turns and an ending that leaves open some great story possibilities for future books, the author has crafted a masterful narrative and memorable characters that many readers will be able to identify with. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the REFORGED series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.

When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many books for such a small abode. As a disabled and queer human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds.

https://vsholmes.com/index.html

Posted in reviews

Gold Fever: Treasures of the Heart Book One by Lawna Mackie Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman from the big city must leave behind that life in order to find and save her brother in the wilderness, and in the process protect her heart from a rugged and handsome man who doesn’t believe in love in author Lawna Mackie’s “Gold Fever”, the first in the Treasures of the Heart romance series. 

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The Synopsis

Could it be true? The gold existed. A treasure map alluded to such a find, but for over a century it was rumored a fable, one told by an old crazy man—Samantha (Sam) Avery’s great-great-uncle.

One huge problem existed. Her brother Finn sent her the map and told her to run. Sam knew her big brother was in trouble and she had to help him.

In Dawson City, Yukon, Hunter Gray, outfitter and guide had been hired to do a job. At the airport, pick up a Sam Avery and take him to the old Charlie Avery cabin up the mighty river. What Hunter Gray hadn’t expected was for Sam to be a Samantha, who wore fashion designer shoes, had a sharp tongue and a goddess like appearance—the vast wilderness of the Yukon was no place for somebody like her.

Sam had to learn quickly. How hard could it be to ride a horse and live without running water and restaurants for a week? It didn’t matter, her brother needed her and Sam had to convince the ruggedly handsome man and his wolf… yes…wolf, that she was up to the adventure.

Spending night and day together, Samantha knows the attraction between them is growing quickly. Not only is Samantha determined to rescue her brother, but she must now save her heart from a man who doesn’t believe in love.

The Review

The author does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for the overarching mystery and lore this novel showcases as readers see how the hunt for treasure really began. From there the stakes are risen, as a savage criminal holds the brother of one of the novel’s protagonists captive, and brings the events to the forefront. 

The pacing and tone of this novel fit perfectly in the thriller and romance genres, with the action of the shady criminal dealings in the wilds of the Yukon blending with the steamy romance between the city girl and the rough and tumble outdoorsman. The author introduces some very adult romance scenes throughout this novel, so this is definitely not for younger audiences.

The core of this story definitely rests within the chemistry between the characters of this story. While Samantha and Hunter are fantastic romantic love interests and really add to the heart of this tale, Finn and Emma are two surprising and engaging characters that hold much more weight for the novel’s plot, especially Emma. Fans will love delving into these character’s stories and their interactions with one another.

The Verdict

A remarkable, engaging, and steamy romance, author Lawna Mackie’s “Gold Fever” is the perfect first book in the author’s “Treasures of the Heart” romance series. Full of passion, evenly paced, and expertly crafted character relationships make this a standout story that fans of both the thriller and romance genres will not be disappointed by. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Lawna Mackie was born in Jasper, Alberta. After finishing high school and post secondary she moved to Calgary, Alberta, married her husband and settled in the small town of Didsbury, Alberta.

Lawna would tell you that a lot of her creativity comes from her mother, who could design and build, just about anything. Her mother never lacked the talent for hand-making toys. “She always amazed me. My brother and I were never bored because she made us flutes, toy cars, and even parallel bars in the trees,” she explains.

Her other creative inspiration comes from her husband Jeff, and the many adventures they have had. It was on one particular trip to British Columbia, when she stopped at the Enchanted Forrest that the fairy tale world called to her to write a story.

Along with the love she has for her husband and family, is the deep admiration and compassion she has for animals. “They bring so much joy and inspiration to my life I don’t know how I would ever live without them,” she says. Alaskan Malamutes are near and dear to her heart. With one Malamute, one Bichon Shih Tzu, one farm cat and a Bengal, her house is never quiet.

Lawna writes contemporary romance and paranormals. One fan writes, “Lawna’s books are well-written and are impossibly good! The scenes are unexpected and very creative. I highly recommend her books!”

http://www.lawnamackie.ca/

Posted in reviews

Secret Sky (The Gift Legacy #1) by J.P. McLean Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman finds her life literally taking flight as she must contend with shocking abilities and a secret society that challenges her to question whose side they are on in author J.P. McLean’s fantasy romance novel, “Secret Sky”. 

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The Synopsis

An intrepid young woman. An incredible gift. A terrible price to pay.

Emelynn Taylor’s gift didn’t come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow, nor can it ever be returned. Now, it’s taken over her life. It strikes without warning, strips her of gravity and sends her airborne, unchecked.

Haunted by terrifying flights she can’t control, Emelynn vows to take command of her dangerous gift. She returns to the seaside cottage where it all began. Here, she discovers an underground society whose members share her hidden ability, and a man who sends her heart soaring.

But the deeper Emelynn gets pulled into this secret society, the more she questions their motives. Are they using the gift for good or for evil? Unravelling the truth will plunge Emelynn into a fight for her freedom—and her life.

The first book in The Gift Legacy series, Secret Sky is a thriller that skirts the edges of reality in a world within our own. Buckle up and escape the ordinary: take flight with Emelynn Taylor.

(Secret Sky was previously published as The Gift: Awakening)

The Review

One of the more unique fantasy-driven narratives I’ve read in a long time, this was a remarkable opening chapter in a new fantasy series. In the first of six books, the author introduces readers to quite a unique world, where the gift many people around the world have always said they’d want is a reality for a select few, but it isn’t always the “gift” people assume it would be. 

The core of this novel resides in the protagonist, Emelynn. Her journey hits instantly when readers find her being transported to a hospital, and only gets stranger and stronger as time goes on. The mysterious circumstances of how she got her power, her wild introduction to the Fliers, and the complex web of emotions as she is introduced to new friends, new romance, and freedom she never knew before make her an engaging protagonist.

It was an especially inspired choice to set this story within the real world, and not an original land or world like many fantasy stories like to do. It made the inclusion of thriller and suspense elements in the narrative feel more natural and dynamic. The action and shocking twists and turns as the final pages came made this one of the best reads in the fantasy genre in years. 

The Verdict

A powerful, character-driven narrative like no other, author J.P. McLean’s “Secret Sky” is a must-read. The suspense and thrills that this book produces are equally balanced with the more fantastic and romantic genres this book inhabits, while the mythology and protagonist the author crafted help not only draw the reader in but keep them invested throughout the entirety of the novel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this amazing read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

JP (Jo-Anne) McLean writes contemporary fantasy thrillers with a provocative edge. She is best known for The Gift Legacy series. The

first book of the series received Honorable Mention at the WhistlerIndependent Book Awards. Reviewers call the series addictive, smart and fun.

Her books include endorsements from Ethel Wilson fiction prize winner, Jennifer Manuel, and Globe and Mail bestselling author,Elinor Florence, among others. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated.

Jo-Anne neglects the gardens and housework to write full time from her home on Denman Island, off of Canada’s west coast. She writes best when she’s within sight and sound of water, even if it’s just a fountain, and hopes never to stop reading, writing or imagining the impossible.

Posted in reviews

13 Days of Terror (Brad Coulter #4) by Dwayne Clayden Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A deadly sniper taunts detective Brad Coulter and the city of Calgary as the killer leaves no clues, and stalks the streets of the Canadian city like a predator in author Dwayne Clayden’s “13 Days of Terror”, the fourth book in the Brad Coulter series.

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The Synopsis

Monday morning. A man drops dead in the parking lot of a car dealership in downtown Calgary. No one knows where the shot came from. No one knows why the victim was targeted. The shooter? Invisible.

An hour later, another body hits the ground. Random victim, random location.

A sniper is terrorizing Calgary.

Detective Brad Coulter has just returned to work after a long leave of absence. He is thrown directly into the fire and tasked with stopping what is rapidly becoming one of the city’s deadliest killers. The shooter leaves no evidence behind but taunts Brad with notes addressed directly to him. As the death count rises, city-wide panic ensues.

It is a race against time. But how can Brad hunt a ghost?

The Review

This was a fantastic and heart-pounding thriller. The author had a great way of bringing everything in this story to life, from the setting of Calgary to the bitterness and anger of the killer and the frustration and heartbreak of the protagonist. While I am a newcomer to the series, I found the characters engaging and the narrative easy to delve into as a newcomer, making this book accessible and entertaining for both newcomers and longtime fans alike.

This is the perfect read for fans of classic suspense thrillers, as the author does a great job of incorporating their own personal experiences in law enforcement into the narrative to make the plot a lot more realistic than the typical thriller. Yet the author adds just enough drama and creativity to elevate the action and character growth of these characters, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable read.

The Verdict

A memorable, action-driven and suspenseful read, author Dwayne Clayden’s “13 Days of Terror” is the perfect next chapter in the Brad Coulter series. The author masterfully weaves amazing character development for the protagonist and supporting cast with a plot that twists and turns with shocking developments, and by the book’s end leaves room for another exciting chapter in this growing series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab the perfect winter thriller read today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Author portraits for use on books and book proposals, as well as on LinkedIn, portfolio websites, and other online marketing tools. ©2015, Sean Phillips http://www.RiverwoodPhotography.com

DWAYNE combines his knowledge and experience as a police officer and paramedic to write realistic crime thrillers.

CRISIS POINT, Dwayne’s first novel, was a finalist for the 2015 Crime Writers of Canada, Arthur Ellis Awards.

OUTLAWMC is the second in the Brad Coulter Series.

WOLFMAN IS BACK, is the third in the Brad Coulter Series.

In his 40 year career, Dwayne has served as a police officer, paramedic, tactical paramedic, firefighter, emergency medical services (EMS) chief, educator, and academic chair.

Dwayne is a popular speaker at conferences and to writing groups presenting on realistic police, medical, and paramedic procedures.

The co-author of four paramedic textbooks, he has spoken internationally at EMS conferences for the past three decades.

DwayneClayden.com

Posted in reviews

The Fiddler In The Night by Christian Fennell Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young teen must navigate rural America and stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer in author Christian Fennell’s “The Fiddler In The Night”.

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The Synopsis

Christian Fennell’s, The Fiddler in the Night, is a return by the author to the raw, abstract, and visceral landscapes set forth in his critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Torrents of Our Time. In his debut novel, Fennell takes the reader on an orphaned teen’s journey through the darker recesses of rural America–horrifying, yet compelling–where he tries to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. A tragic love story unfolding against a background that is both real and imagined, making this novel as memorable for its language as for its non-stop and blistering storyline.

The Review

A haunting and beautiful story of love, loss, and the journey in between, author Christian Fennell has done an amazing job with his debut novel. His almost poetic way of telling the story really strikes at the heart of rural America, and the way the author writes allows enough room for the reader’s own imagination to go to work, bringing this story to life in their mind.

The cat-and-mouse storytelling is the perfect backdrop to the novel’s two core elements: beautiful imagery and depth-filled character growth. The story of a young teen in search of his missing mother after his sick father passes away set against a deadly killer stalking the darkness around him is a chilling scene, to begin with, and the journey these characters take is elevated by the in-depth look into the heart of rural America. 

The Verdict

A harmonic, artistic style of storytelling at its finest, author Christian Fennell’s “The Fiddler in the Night” is a must-read book for 2021. A thought-provoking narrative and awe-inspiring poetic storytelling are perfectly encapsulated by the author’s deep character development and emotional story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of the author’s debut novel today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Christian Fennell is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Torrents of Our Time, Firenze Books, October 6, 2020, and the novel, The Fiddler in the Night, Firenze Books, January 26, 2021. 

Christian’s essays and short stories have appeared in a number of international magazines, literary journals, and collected works, including: Chaleur MagazineLitro Magazine, XRAY Literary Magazine, Dreamers Magazine, Spark: A Creative Anthology, Kind Writers Anthology, Liars’ League London, Wilderness House Literary Review, and .Cent Magazine, among others. He was a columnist and the fiction editor at The Prague Review. Prior to this, Christian worked as a screenwriter and commercial director (DGC).

https://www.christianfennell.com/

https://www.instagram.com/christianfennell_/

Posted in reviews

West of Ireland (The Picaresque Narratives Book 1) by C.P. Hoff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A mother must fight to keep her child away from her sister-in-law, a nun in the church, after making a deal to give one of her children to the church years earlier, in author C.P. Hoff’s novel “West of Ireland”, the first in the Picaresque Narratives series. 

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The Synopsis

Set in 1914 New Brunswick, Canada, West of Ireland tells the story of the wealthy O’Brien family. As a newlywed, Mrs. O’Brien makes a vow to her older sister-in-law, the formidable Sister Mary-Frances, promising a child to the church. As the years pass and all her children perish, save one, Mary-Kate, Mrs. O’Brien tries to forget her pledge. Sister Mary-Frances doesn’t. When the nun comes to collect her charge, trouble ensues. The O’Briens do everything short of sacrilege, to keep Mary-Kate out of the clutches of the demanding nun.

The Review

This was a fantastic read. The author perfectly takes readers on a dramatic ride into the life of the O’Briens, who must contend with the outbreak of war, the church, and family drama all at once. The family dynamic in this book really does take center stage, as the author writes from multiple POVs in this narrative which includes the O’Briens. 

The tone really set the pace for the reader as they delved deeper and deeper into this read. The author’s ability to blend comedic moments and dialogue with some at times heavy and emotional moments really felt as if the novel could easily translate into another medium, such as a Netflix series. 

The Verdict

A passionately written, humorous, and engaging read, author C.P. Hoff’s “West of Ireland” is an incredible novel and great start to a drama and comedy series that takes readers to a unique period of time in North America in the 20th century. Entertaining, to say the least, readers won’t be able to put down this novel as the drama unfolds, and characters like Paddy really do steal the show as it were, making this a must-read hit! Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 9/10

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About the Author

C.P. Hoff lives in southern Alberta with her husband and children. She has written for the local paper, which might be impressive if she lived in New York, and if anyone read the local paper. Her first novel, A Town Called Forget, was longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal For Humour.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackCrowBooks

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Wonder Tales by Various Authors (Narrated by Elizabeth Klett) Review and Audiobook Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A fantastic narrator brings to life some of the worlds most iconic fairy tales in this enthralling audiobook, “Wonder Tales” by Various Authors and Narrated by Elizabeth Klett. 

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The Synopsis

This collection of 40 fairy tales contains well-known favorites from authors like the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Charles Perrault, Madame de Beaumont, and Joseph Jacobs. It also collects rare gems from folk-tale traditions around the world, from Germany to China, from Scandinavia to Arabia, from Russia to Japan, and from Italy to Canada. These beautiful, frightening, funny, romantic, and whimsical stories will introduce you to princesses in peril, beastly brides and grooms, adults and children behaving badly, daring and adventurous girls, and clever and devious tricksters. These wondrous tales will be enjoyed by listeners both young and old.

The Review

A beautiful collection of both iconic and popular fairy tales blended with phenomenal stories from various regions from around the world, “Wonder Tales” is a masterpiece of storytelling. The narrator does an amazing job of bringing these memorable stories to life, leaning into the various characters and their personalities with ease. 

What really stands out about this collection is truly the far range of stories that the book holds. From legendary tales such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella” to more obscure stories specific to regions around the world like the Japanese story of “Momotaro”, in which a young boy born of a peach and given to a childless couple by the gods must battle a horde of demons known as the Oni, this collection had a bit of everything. 

The only thing of note for modern readers would be that some of these classics from Hans Christen Andersen to the Brothers Grimm have definitely aged, and more modern tales would be preferable for many in regards to societal standards and ethical reasons. However, the heart of these stories and the narration make this a must-have collection overall.

The Verdict

An auditory and literary journey like no other, narrator Elizabeth Klett’s performance of “Wonder Tales” is as magical as the fairy tales themselves. While some of the stories could benefit from some modern day improvements, the heart and passion of these stories is still felt to this day, and the fans of fantasy-driven fairy tale stories and the classic, non-Hollywood style context of these classics will love the narrator’s perfect rendition of these iconic masterpieces. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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Author: Various

Narrator: Elizabeth Klett

Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Publisher: Spoken Realms

Released: Oct. 13, 2020

Genre: Classics

Continue reading “Wonder Tales by Various Authors (Narrated by Elizabeth Klett) Review and Audiobook Tour”
Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Find Me In Havana: A Novel by Serena Burdick Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman must navigate the shocking and mysterious death of her mother, who spent her adult life as a famous actress and singer, in author Serena Burdick’s historical fiction drama, “Find Me In Havana”. 

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The Synopsis 

Cuba, 1936: When Estelita Rodriguez sings in a hazy Havana nightclub for the very first time, she is nine years old. From then on, that spotlight of adoration—from Havana to New York’s Copacabana and then Hollywood—becomes the one true accomplishment no one can take from her. Not the 1933 Cuban Revolution that drove her family into poverty. Not the revolving door of husbands and the fickle world of film. Not even the tragic devastation of Castro’s revolution that rained down on her loved ones.

A new historical novel from Serena Burdick, the author of THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES, based on the true story of Estelita Rodriguez, a Cuban-born Hollywood actress and singer, as her daughter Nina traces her mother’s life from Cuba to Hollywood to understand her mysterious death, think NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA meets THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO.

Thirty years later, her young adult daughter, Nina Rodriguez, is blindsided by her mother’s mysterious, untimely death. Seeking answers no one else wants to hear, the grieving Nina navigates the troubling, opulent memories of their life together and discovers how much Estelita sacrificed to live the American dream on her own terms.

Based on true events and exclusive interviews with the real Nina Rodriguez, Find Me in Havana weaves two unforgettable voices into one extraordinary journey that explores the unbreakable bond between mother and child, and the ever-changing landscape of self-discovery.

The Review

A beautiful story of two women connected by family and fate, the novel expertly crafts a narrative of how the daughter of a renowned actress and singer must come to terms with the childhood she had and the life she’s led thus far after her mother’s passing. The shift in perspective between both Nina and her mother Estelita was an inspired choice, as readers are able to get a better sense of where each of them was coming from, and the tragic circumstances they each found themselves in. 

The backdrop of Cuba and the nation’s violent history of revolution and war did a great job of highlighting not only the nation’s history but the vast culture that the people of Cuba had as well. However the core of this story is undoubtedly the relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the daughters need to understand her mother’s life and how to let go of the past in order to move on with her own life. The novel is marred by tragic events to be sure, but the emotional journey is well worth the known outcome and makes this a truly intimate historical fiction read.

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, emotional, and heartfelt read of the relationship between a mother and her daughter, author Serena Burdick’s “Find Me In Havana” is a must-read historical fiction novel. The real-life people within this novel come to life in a memorable way, and the honest look into the lives of these two women will be something so many of us can connect with. If you haven’t yet, grab your copies today!

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About the Author

Serena Burdick graduated from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in California before moving to New York City to pursue a degree in English Literature at Brooklyn College. Author of the International Bestseller THE GIRLS WITH NO NAMES and GIRL IN THE AFTERNOON, she lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.serenaburdick.com/

Instagram: @serenaburdick

Twitter: @serenaburdick

BUY LINKS: 

Barnes & Noble

Bookshop.org

Amazon

Target

Kobo

Google Play

Libro Audio

Audible

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Excerpt From “Find Me In Havana”

One

Big Sur, 1966

CLIFFS

Mother,

In August, Big Sur crackles with drought. Grass dries to a crisp and turns gold as ember. Rattlers lay in wait. Fat insects purr, and banana slugs languish. The air is ripe with eucalyptus, their slender, green leaves blanketing the canyon paths. Poison oak claws the hillside. This is not the season of lemons trees or emerald hills or crisp sunshine. Summer on the coast is a season of bone-chilling fog.

Overlooking the Pacific, I stand on Nepenthe’s stone patio, the restaurant’s windows spilling light around me as I watch the gray mass of fog crawl and heave up the cliff. You would have liked it here, Mom, but we never drove up the coast together. We never had the chance. I close my eyes as the fog settles over me, damp and soft as a whisper. Below, the surf thunders against the rocks, and I feel the sway of the sea in my legs and picture myself stepping over the low stone wall and lifting my arms into the air. The ocean will catch me, release me, hollow out my body and wash it up on the shore like an empty shell.

I need a shell. Hard skin. A barrier against the world of missing you. 

How is there no you left? No Mom. No Wife. No Movie Actress. No Singer. There are photographs, and moving pictures where you swing your hips and make funny faces, but I cannot touch or smell or feel or speak to this two-dimensional version.

I want an explanation.

Memories root and twist inside me, blossom, grow thorns, beautiful and gnarled, but the truth remains hidden, and I am left with the image of the bathroom floor and the weight of you in my arms.

I do not want this to be our last memory.

Opening my eyes, I take a deep breath, let the cool wetness lie over my tongue. Next to me, a fire crackles in the open hearth warming one side of my leg. I think how outdoor fires do this, warm only one side of you while the other side freezes. I wear a short skirt without pantyhose, white tennis shoes and a tight, knit sweater. The guests have all gone, the movie stars and bohemian artists, the former donning glitter and fur, the latter beads and loose-folding fabric, each hoping to authenticate themselves in originality. Each failing.

“Nina?” I jump at the sound of my manager’s voice. He stands in the open patio doorway of the restaurant polishing a wineglass. “Your ride is here.”

He looks at me kindly, unconcerned. He doesn’t know anything about me. I feel the warmth of the fire on my backside and think how cold it will be in the hollowed-out redwood tree where I sleep.

“I’ll just wipe down the tables,” I say, stalling. I don’t want to face my ride any more than I want to face the cold night on the forest floor with the insects.

My manager is a slender, vigorous man who looks as if he’s been breathing ocean air since birth. “It’s late,” he smiles. “You go on home now. I’ll take care of the tables.”

Walking away from the restaurant, the stone path slick with moisture, I dig my doll from the bottom of my bag and tuck her under one arm. She has a cloth body and a plastic head with blue eyes that open and close when you tilt her. Her plastic head is dotted with dark holes where her carefully arranged hair used to be. On her stomach is a scar—held together with a safety pin—from the time I cut her open and pulled out the stuffing.

Bret waits in his mint-green Volvo with the engine running. He is smoking a joint and doesn’t open the door for me. I slide into the passenger seat and he leans over and gives me a sloppy kiss, his hand pressed to the back of my head as if this is something romantic. His tongue tastes of stale smoke and alcohol. “Hey, baby,” he breathes into my face and passes me the joint. I take it, inhale and try to stifle a cough as Bret maneuvers the car onto the dark road.

We met five months ago when I first arrived in Big Sur. My friend Delia and I had eaten a handful of mushrooms and were dancing around a bonfire at a beach party when Bret slipped into the wavy, illuminated light of my vision. His embroidered shirt rippled over his chest and I thought he was something supernatural. The next morning when I woke up beside him on the beach, he’d turned solid. He was nothing more than a thin-chested man with a tangled beard and skinny legs sticking out from his cutoff jean shorts.

Bret hooks the car around a sharp bend, and the wheels kick up gravel that makes a sound like thunder under our feet.

“You’re going too fast,” I say, pressing my hand flat against the passenger window.

He grins and steps on the gas, a man who likes to challenge a woman. This is familiar to me. I watched men challenge you your whole life, each one of your four husbands, in their own way, pushing you to the edge. Despite your effort to understand them, to please them, it was, in the end, your unwillingness to be controlled or possessed that got you killed.

The car takes another corner, and the cliff drops to my right at a precarious angle where sumac and sagebrush cling to the edge. People love Highway 1 for its beauty. They think it cuts a benevolent path along the ocean cliff for our pleasure. What I see is a snake luring us with its curvaceous body, a thing of nature waiting for us to step on it so it can strike and fling us off.

I squish my doll’s head in, making her face look like something in a distorting mirror. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” I say, watching the doll’s features slowly inflate and pop back into place.

Bret’s profile remains neutral, his eyes on the road as he reaches over and strokes my thigh. “Don’t be like that, baby. This is good.”

I’ve tried to break up with him before. I don’t know why he won’t let me go, or how he can feel anything for me when I feel nothing inside. After your death, they sedated me because I was angry and didn’t behave properly. Now, I do what I can to sedate myself.

“I mean it. I’m done.” I shove his hand away, and this makes him angry.

He puts both hands on the wheel, grips it with white knuckles, his eyes forward, his jaw clenched. “What the fuck, Nina?” he says.

The headlights strike the road. Yellow lines blink past like winking eyes.

His anger scares me. “I’m sorry,” I say. I’m not good at this. Charming men. Giving them what they want. Doing what I watched you do, for the good ones and the bad. You appeased the good men, hoping they’d stay with you; placated the bad ones, hoping they wouldn’t hurt you. With each husband you tried a little harder, stayed a little longer, so certain you’d get it right.

If Bret is any indication, I won’t get it right, either. Looking at him, his hard profile reflected in the dashboard lights, his scruffy beard and long hair curling at the base of his neck, he reminds me of the rebel soldiers in Cuba.

This is not a memory I want. “Bret, I really can’t do this. Please, pull over. I need to get out.”

“You don’t know what you need.”

The arrogance in his voice disgusts me, the anger I’d been tamping down with drugs is now rising in my throat. For all his meditating and chanting and seeking enlightenment, Bret is a prick. I am twenty years old, you are dead, and there’s no one to tell me what to do anymore. You are not here to laugh it away, or tell me to chin-up, to silence me or put me in a mental institution or stick me in a boarding school. “Fuck you, Bret!” I shout. “Pull over. I want to get out.”

“Fuck me?” He speeds up, swerves the car near the shoulder of the road, gravel and dirt hitting my window and ricocheting off the glass like buckshot.

I suck in my breath and grip the door handle. “Don’t do that!”

“Do what? This?” He swerves again, and all I see, for a moment, is empty, black space.

What I should do is calm him down, convince him I’m sorry and that I won’t break up with him. Stop the car, and we’ll talk about it, I should say, but a part of me wants him to do something drastic. To pull the trigger for me.

We are crossing Bixby Bridge. The fog has receded, and I can see all the way down to the dark strip of beach where the waves crash and foam like a giant frothing at the mouth. I know, in that split second right before Bret takes us over the edge, that he’s going to do it. It’s not the plunge into water I’d imagined on the patio at Nepenthe. I am not sailing peacefully off the cliff with my arms out but trapped in a metal box that jerks to the right so abruptly my head smacks the window. I expect free fall, silence, stillness, but the air is sharp and compact and splintered with glass.

And then you are in my arms, your face flushed, your dark hair limp on your wet forehead, vomit ringing the corners of your mouth. “Help me,” I plead, even though you are the one dying. “Don’t go,” I cry. “I need you,” but I have already hit bottom, and the world has gone quiet.

Excerpted from Find Me in Havana by Serena Burdick, Copyright © 2021 by Serena Burdick. Published by Park Row Books.