Category Archives: reviews

The Last Families by Carla Doria Review

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

The remnants of four powerful families who hold onto powerful abilities find themselves in a fight for survival and must contend with a dangerous new home, all while dealing with the same family fighting and odds they have held onto for so long in author Carla Doria’s “The Last Families”. 

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The Synopsis

Escaping their land’s destruction, the Kaptarish, Drontas, Verbaren and Ninfires have reached the island of Gambir. The last families with talents like mind-reading, extraordinary force, burning with their hands, and flying, hope to find refuge in this place.

Yarisha, the only mind-reader in the Verbaren family, will fall in love with Malakay, the most arrogant sibling in the Ninfire family. She knows the young man’s mother and the matriarch of the Ninfires, Mandely, will never consent to this relationship since she considers the Verbaren family inferior to them.

None of the members in the families expect to find a land full of secrets where those with the darkest looking-skin have better chances to survive and where the leader, Ian, is planning to take wives by force.

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The Review

This was a truly marvelous and engaging read. Immediately readers are hit with the urgency and anxiety that these characters are feeling, having lost their families and homes and seeking a safe haven after enduring so much loss. The balance the author found between the magic, power, and world-building that the fantasy genre brings with the desperation and fear that comes with a dystopian setting really elevated this narrative tenfold. 

Yet it was truly the world and character building and mythos the author crafted that allowed this story to shine. The author created such diverse and intricately detailed family dynamics both within each family and amongst the relationships between different families as well. The multiple POVs that this narrative had really did a great job of highlighting the differences amongst each family’s powers and perceptions of the world, and yet the same emotions and fears that resided within them all in this fight for survival they all shared.

The Verdict

An entertaining, thoughtful, and hauntingly thrilling dystopian fantasy read, author Carla Doria’s “The Last Families” is a must-read fantasy novel of 2021. The examination of what could happen if we tore our world apart so much that it was destroyed completely, and how inherent judgments and opinions can survive that destruction was so interesting to see, as was the need for survival that stripped those notions from some of these main characters enough to realize that those differences didn’t matter quite as much, making this a truly thought-provoking and emotionally investing read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Carla Doria was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia. where she currently resides. Graduated as an Industrial Engineer, she decided to acknowledge her lost love from childhood: writing. She spends her time working, blogging, writing, traveling, doing yoga, biking, running, and enjoying the good life in the city valley of Cochabamba.

The Last Families is her first fantasy novel.

Book’s website: https://thelastfamilies.com/

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LJV5J7B

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59067117-the-last-families 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cdoriam 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carlisdm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thelastfamilies/

Tumblr: https://thelastfamilies.tumblr.com/

12 Planets of the Intergalactic Map: Travelers From Schyllus by Derek Mailhiot Review

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

One of the 12 planets housing the children of “The Maker” discovers an ancient device that allows for instantaneous travel between the 12 worlds, including Earth, but after Travelers arrive on Earth from that other world, the fate of Earth comes into question as another entity begins its mission to destroy all life related to The Maker in author Derek Mailhiot’s “12 Planets of the Intergalactic Map: Travelers From Schyllus”. 

The Synopsis

What happens when 12 civilizations from different planets meet for the very first time? Will their common origin unite them into a mighty Intergalactic Empire? Or will they destroy each other?

The people of the planet Schyllus in the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy possess the “Intergalactic Map” which plots 12 planets in the Local Group of galaxies colonized by the children of the “Maker” called the “First Ones.” Schyllus is one of the planets. Earth is another. There are 10 more.

Scientists on Schyllus discover that the Maker has created a device in deep space—the Gryben Anomaly—that allows them to instantaneously travel between the 12 Planets.

The first planet they travel to is Earth. All they know is that Earth was colonized by the First Ones thousands of years ago—just like Schyllus was—but otherwise they know nothing about it.

What happens when 196,418 Travelers from Schyllus arrive on an unsuspecting and unprepared Earth? The Travelers are peaceful explorers, yet their arrival results in billions of human deaths from the chaos that ensues. Will their arrival on Earth be the demise of the human race?

Or will mankind join the Travelers in expeditions to the other planets—Thijar, Hyperios, Kikrit, Freytus, Acfarr, Vaagon, Minyos, Ozkozania, Dagomere, and Pluvikerr. These planets were all colonized by the First Ones thousands of years ago, but have evolved into vastly different civilizations.

And unbeknownst to the humanoids inhabiting the 12 Planets, a malevolent entity known as Torajii has vowed to exterminate all humanoids from the universe.

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The Review

The author did such a great job of finding the natural balance between sci-fi mythology and world-building and personal character growth. The exploration of mankind’s origins and our plan amongst the stars so to speak has been a goal of our civilization’s since we first landed on the moon, and yet the way the author reversed the concept on its head and instead explored how we would react if another, more advanced civilization arrived on our doorstep not as part of an invasion force, but as visitors on a mission of peace and exploration. 

The story is so grand and so deep-seated in mythos and world-building that the author’s ability to ground the narrative with relatable and engaging human characters early on in the novel was fantastic to see on display here. It was also fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the Travelers and humanity here, as good and “evil” could be found on both sides, and each side had its own roots in violent behavior, highlighting the theme of mankind’s capability of self-destruction and to wage war upon itself. Yet the ability of these select “few” from both sides to come together to find a means of bonding with each other and hoping to do so with other worlds was a hopeful message that through cooperation and trust, anything could be possible.

The Verdict

A memorable, entertaining, and thought-provoking sci-fi novel, author Derek Mailhiot’s “12 Planets of the Intergalactic Map: Travelers From Schyllus” is a must-read story! The world-building alone is so imaginative and creative to behold, and the character-driven and grand mythos of this universe the author has created will keep readers on the edge of their seats, eager for another chapter in this universe. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab our copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Derek lives on beautiful Vancouver Island with his two children, Hannah and Daniel. With one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, combined with breathtaking scenery, Vancouver Island truly is the quintessential place for an author to live and write.

Derek studied economics at the University of Victoria and religious studies at the University of British Columbia. He is very entrepreneurial, starting an Internet company called InterWeb Connections Inc in 1995 and a software development company called Wireheads Labs Inc in 2002.

In 2011, Derek invented an alternative energy device that is radically innovative and truly disruptive. He filed a Patent in 2011 and started a company to develop a prototype, in order to commercialize this exciting technology.

As an independent investigative journalist, Derek deeply investigates topics to discover the truth, and shine a light on stories that are not always told. As a devout evangelical Christian who holds a modern scientific worldview, many of his books are on topics that intersect science and religion, such as creation and evolution. Other books are on topics that have been plagued by pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and Fake News.

As a teenager, Derek read The High Frontier by Gerard K. O’Neill and has been fascinated by space colonies, and anything space related, ever since. Also a huge fan of science fiction movies and books, Derek has taken up writing a 7-book science fiction series called 12 Planets of the Intergalactic Map.

When he’s not writing (or reading), Derek can be found hiking on one of the many trails on Vancouver Island.

BRZRKR, Volume 1 (BRZRKR #1-4) by Keanu Reeves (Writer), Matt Kindt (Goodreads Author) (Writer), Ron Garney (Illustrator), Bill Crabtree (Colorist), Clem Robins (Letterer), Rafael Grampá (Cover)

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

An immortal man who has known nothing but war and death all of his existence seeks a means of making himself mortal, and goes on a journey to discover more of his past in author Matt Kindt and debut comic book writer and acclaimed actor Keanu Reeves’s “BRZRKR”, the first volume in the new action series from BOOM STUDIOS!

The Synopsis

Keanu Reeves makes his comic book writing debut alongside New York Times bestselling co-writer Matt Kindt and acclaimed artist Ron Garney in a brutally violent new series about one immortal warrior’s fight through the ages.

A WAR WITH NO END. The man known only as B. is half-mortal and half-God, cursed and compelled to violence…even at the sacrifice of his sanity. But after wandering the world for centuries, the Berzerker may have finally found a refuge – working for the U.S. government to fight the battles too violent and too dangerous for anyone else. In exchange, B. will be granted the one thing he desires – the truth about his endless blood-soaked existence…and how to end it.

Keanu Reeves makes his comic book writing debut alongside New York Times bestselling co-writer Matt Kindt (FolklordsGrass Kings) and legendary artist Ron Garney (Captain AmericaThe Amazing Spider-Man) in a brutally violent new series about one immortal warrior’s fight through the ages.

Collects: BRZRKR #1-4. 

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The Review

What a truly entertaining and mesmerizing graphic novel. The tone that the authors captured here felt like taking the biggest deep-dives into Marvel and DC’s biggest and grittiest action thriller series and ramping it up to ten notches. The balance found between the intensity of the action sequences and the in-depth character growth was so perfect in this story, and while the artwork (which was so visceral and amazing to see) was definitely raw and intense, the violence spoke to the themes of power corrupting those who wield it and the damage it does to the people or “living weapons” that are wielded by those in power.

The characters were the true driving force behind this narrative. The protagonist, known at the beginning of this story simply as B, was such an engaging character to discover. If someone were to blend Marvel’s Wolverine with DC Comic’s Vandal Savage and inject a hint of magic and action-movie style, they would get B. The interesting character study allows readers to see the brutality that he is born into and that which he causes, and yet the trauma that comes with being used time and time again as nothing more than a weapon, speaking to whether morality and choice are something we are born with or something that must be fought for.

The Verdict

A truly immersive, hauntingly entertaining, and gripping graphic novel, author Matt Kindt and Keanu Reeves’s “BRZRKR” is a must-read story in 2021. The perfect read for those who are looking to find comics outside of the mainstream studios and find a true action experience that fuses mythology, history, and chilling looks into the nature of war as a whole, this narrative ends on an interesting cliffhanger that will continue to draw readers into this universe. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Matt Kindt is a Harvey Award-winning and NYT Best-Selling writer and artist of comics and graphic novels. His work includes MIND MGMT, BRZRKR (with Keanu Reeves), Bang!, Eniac, Revolver, 3 Story, Super Spy, 2 Sisters, and Pistolwhip. He has been nominated for four Eisner Awards and three Harvey Awards (and won once). His work has been published in French, Spanish, Italian, and German. The author lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife and Dept H. collaborator, the colorist and artist Sharlene Kindt.

Matt has been making comics all his life and has been doing it full-time as a “real” job since 2003. Seriously…he has the best job ever.

You can follow Matt below where he stays active on all social media platforms.

Keanu Reeves: Actor, Director, Writer

Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy by Patricia Johns Review

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

A woman finds her ex-husband at the front door of her winter resort just as a winter storm hits the area, injured and suffering from amnesia. Soon old feelings and romance begins to bloom as she helps care for him, but will their past come hurtling back and upend what they are building together? Find out in author Patricia Johns’s novel, “Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy”. 

The Synopsis

A lost memory could mean a second chance! Mountain resort owner Angelina Cunningham has her hands full with a massive winter storm. Which is exactly when her ex-husband arrives, injured and suffering temporary amnesia. Ben King has always been her weakness. Though he doesn’t remember her, he’s still as charming and sweet as ever, and Angelina is falling for him all over again. But can their rekindled love outlast the storm and the return of their past mistakes?

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The Review

This was such an engaging and beautiful story. The author does a great job of exploring the depths that love can take us on. While the fairytale, love at first sight style stories are so fun and entertaining to read, getting a much more layered and in-depth exploration of romance between two people who were in love, lost that love, and then found it again was so much closer to reality and gave readers someone to identify within this novel. 

The character development was so rich and gripping to behold. The thing the author really zeroed in on during this read was the need for love to be worked on, not just taken for granted. Love can sadly be a fleeting thing if people don’t work together to hold onto it, and the characters and their journey really explored this to the fullest, showing that feelings can remain in our hearts and can be brought to the surface if people are willing to work on it.

The Verdict

A remarkable, honest, and emotional read, author Patricia Johns’s “Snowbound with Her Mountain Cowboy” is a must-read holiday romance novel. The honest and engaging way the author explored this relationship and the exploration of love and romance’s more complicated facets will keep readers engaged throughout the novel’s entirety. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Patricia Johns writes from Alberta, Canada where she lives with her husband and son. She has her Honors BA in English Literature and writes for both Harlequin and Kensington books. She loves prairie skies and time with her family. 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/Snowbound-Mountain-Cowboy-Patricia-Johns/dp/1335426507/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=SNOWBOUND+WITH+HER+MOUNTAIN+COWBOY+by+Patricia+Johns&qid=1637073870&sr=8-1 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/snowbound-with-her-mountain-cowboy-patricia-johns/1139136603?ean=9780369714497 

Harlequin.com:  https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335426505_snowbound-with-her-mountain-cowboy.html

Forever Home by Elysia Whisler Review

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

A retired Marine hoping to see her dreams of owning a motorcycle repair and sales garage finds her late father’s motorcycle stolen from her shop, and the detective who has found himself enamored with her goes to work to solve the crime in author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home”.

The Synopsis

If home is where the heart is, Dogwood County may have just what Delaney Monroe needs.

Newly retired from the Marine Corps, Delaney is looking for somewhere to start over. It’s not going to be easy, but when she finds the perfect place to open her dream motorcycle shop, she goes for it. What she doesn’t expect is an abandoned pit bull to come with the building. The shy pup is slow to trust, but Delaney is determined to win it over.

Detective Sean Callahan is smitten from the moment he sees Delaney, but her cool demeanor throws him off his game. When her late father’s vintage motorcycle is stolen from Delaney’s shop, Sean gets to turn up in his element: chasing the bad guy and showing his best self to a woman who’s gotten under his skin in a bad way.

Delaney isn’t used to lasting relationships, but letting love in – both human and canine – helps her see that she may have found a place she belongs, forever.

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The Review

This is such a well-balanced and engaging story. The way the author is able to weave themes of PTSD, how military service impacts those who come home, loss and opening ourselves up to the possibility of love into this narrative set against the backdrop of a crime mystery and a slow-burn romance was truly entertaining. The vibrant yet muted imagery of the story’s setting really felt cinematic in its delivery, making this such an incredible read.

What was so mesmerizing was the character’s arcs in this narrative. The heavy exploration of romance between the two protagonists felt so realistic to real life. I’ve always felt there is a time and place for both magical-inspired fairytale romances and real-world, gritty romances that take time to build, and that’s what makes this novel shine so brightly. The strength and courage these two find in one another, both in challenging each other and then in working together, was inspired to see, and how each helped the other overcome past pains were so fun to watch come together in this novel.

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and gripping romance, author Elysia Whisler’s “Forever Home” is such a unique and entertaining women’s fiction and contemporary romance read. A true one-of-a-kind read that shows romance in an entirely new setting and creates a love that feels very real and relatable all at once, this is one novel you will not want to miss. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Elysia Whisler was raised in Texas, Italy, Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, and Virginia, in true military fashion. If she’s not writing she’s probably working out, coaching, or massaging at her CrossFit gym. She lives in Virginia with her family, including her large brood of cat and dog rescues, who vastly outnumber the humans.

Buy Links: 

BookShop.org

Harlequin 

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Books-A-Million

Powell’s 

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @ElysiaWhisler

Facebook: @ElysiaWhisler

Instagram: @Elysiawhisler

Goodreads

Here is an Excerpt From Forever Home

ONE

Three Rebels Street.

Delaney should’ve known that this was where she’d end up. This was the kind of street a woman went down when all the big changes in her life were happening at once. You simply couldn’t hit a retirement ceremony, the road and a funeral all in one week and not end up on Three Rebels Street.

Small is not the right word. I prefer quaint.” The real estate agent, Ronnie, gazed around the studio apartment situated on Three Rebels Street, and nodded her head in approval. “You said it was just for you, right? Which means it’s the perfect size.”

Stop trying to sell me on the apartment. Ronnie had described it as an “alcove studio”—not just a studio—because even though the living room and kitchen were all in one large space, the bedroom was situated in a little nook, with its own door. Delaney didn’t care. The living quarters didn’t really matter. Right now the place was dumpy. Dust everywhere, the ceiling fan hanging crooked with exposed wires, and debris in the corners, like the previous tenants hadn’t taken care of the place and then left in a hurry.

“We didn’t have a chance to get this cleaned before your showing,” Ronnie said, following Delaney’s gaze. “Remember, I suggested waiting until Friday.”

But Delaney hadn’t been able to wait.

Ronnie lowered her voice to a near whisper. “They were evicted. But this place cleans up nice, I promise.”

“Can we go back down to the shop?” Delaney ran her hands through her hair, rubbing the weariness from her scalp. Ronnie had whisked them through the front bay door and up the stairs, like the apartment was the prize inside the cereal box. And Delaney supposed it was—small, an add-on, not really the point. For Delaney, the shop downstairs was the entire point.

“Of course.” Ronnie’s voice was bright, forced, like she didn’t give two shits. This was probably her last showing of the day and she wanted to get home, into a hot bath with a glass of red as soon as possible. She clacked down the stairs in her high heels.

Delaney followed, the earthy clunk of her motorcycle boots the bass drum in the cacophony of their feet.

“The shop.” Ronnie swept out her arm. “Look how much space.” There was no enthusiasm in her voice. Ronnie, who probably did mostly living spaces, had no idea how to sell the garage.

Didn’t matter. Delaney sized up the shop herself: concrete floor, perfect for working on bikes. It was kind of dinged up, but that was okay, she was already envisioning painting it beige with nonslip floor paint. Modern fluorescent lighting. Large bay door, wide-open to the cool air, excellent for ventilation. A countertop with a register. Empty shelves on one side for parts and motor clothes. Showroom space for custom bikes, and enough room for at least two workspaces out front. The rest, Delaney would provide. Hydraulic lifts. Workbench. Parts tank. Tools. Parts. Bikes.

She wanted to pinch herself, but chose a poker face. Ronnie stood in the center of the floor, like she was trying to avoid touching anything, to avoid getting any grease or oil on her smart red suit. The shop was in better condition than the apartment, but it still looked like the last occupants had left quickly—or, if they’d truly been evicted, perhaps reluctantly was a better word. Nothing important remained, but the place hadn’t been swept or washed or readied for sale in any manner.

“I’ll consider this.” Delaney rubbed her chin as she strode through the shop. “It’s a little small.” It was actually larger than she’d expected. “Light’s good, but might get a little cold in the winter.” It was winter now, technically. Mid-March. Delaney loved this time of year, when winter and spring intersected, like lovers making up after a nasty fight, the weather edgy and unpredictable.

“There’s a lot of interest in this space.” Ronnie clutched her clipboard to her chest as she looked around. She could be looking at the inside of a spaceship and hold that same expression.

Motorcycle shops were going out of business, all over the place, including the one that had recently vacated. After suddenly finding herself on Three Rebels Street last week, in front of a shop-apartment combo for sale, Delaney had done her research. The previous tenants, who she now knew had been evicted, were brothers who ran a shop by day and lived upstairs by night. They sold mostly new bikes and motorcycle gear. Repairs and maintenance were basic. Their website was still up, despite the fact that Dude’s Bikes had closed. Dude’s appeared to focus mostly on male riders, leaving Delaney to wonder if Dude’s was just about dudes or if one of the owners was, indeed, named Dude. 

“What’s the story on this place?”

Ronnie glanced at her clipboard. “The owner wants to sell. After the last renters’ lease ran out, they were given the option of buying or moving. I don’t think their shop was doing well, because they couldn’t afford to buy. They weren’t even paying their rent. And they weren’t quick about moving. The rest, as they say, is history.”

If the last motorcycle shop had failed, buying would be a gamble. But any business venture was a gamble.

Life was a gamble.

“There are a couple of people looking, after you.” Ronnie continued, “About five.”

Delaney could respect white lies in the sales biz but seriously? Five? Five or so people were waiting to check out the bike shop with an overhead apartment suitable for one small, low-maintenance tenant? She had no idea how two brothers had managed up there.

She strolled through the space, wanting a good feel. She needed to touch things, inhale the shop, draw its molecules into her lungs and taste its history before she could decide on the symbiosis of her dream space. Triple M Classics—short for Martin Monroe’s Motorcycles, named after her father—would own her as much as she would it, so this relationship was going to be deep and mutual. Through the front window, she could see the parkway that ran the length of the county. At just past eighteen-hundred hours, rush hour was a jam of red taillights in the waning daylight. No amount of time would erase Delaney’s memory of her last tour here, when she had to commute to work every day. Pure hell. It would be nice to go right upstairs to her cozy little apartment after closing, rather than having to sit in that mess.

Across the street was a row of shops, including a grocery story and an Italian restaurant. Food. Check. 

On the south side, the shop butted up to the woods, which had a downward slope of grass and weeds that led to the trees. Privacy. Double check. Plus, Delaney figured if there was a tornado, that slope could count as a ditch, and would probably be the safest place to run. She laughed at herself. This wasn’t Omaha. Virginia tornado season consisted of a few warnings that rarely panned out.

Delaney withdrew the listing, printed from the internet, from her back pocket, crammed together with a grocery receipt for extra firm tofu, Tater Tots and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. “This is the price, right?” She handed over the paper. Money would be tight, but Delaney should be able to manage for a little while until things got going.

That is, if she was going to do this.

Was she really going to do this?

All her adult life Delaney had moved around, from station to station. Forts, camps, bases. Not shops. Not homes. She’d never put down roots. Never had anything permanent other than her childhood home with Dad. Never owned a thing she couldn’t cram into a duffel bag.

Ronnie looked at the paper. “No.” She sniffed. “There’s a newer listing.” She flipped through her clipboard, laid it on the counter and pointed. “Here we go.”

Delaney looked at the asking price, choked a little bit, almost thanked Ronnie for her time and left. That would be the smart thing to do. Sometimes childhood dreams just needed to stay dreams.

She strode around once more, mentally saying goodbye to everything that she’d never even made hers. Even though all of this had been a panster move, it felt like all the blood in her veins had been replaced with disappointment. She stopped by the far wall, where a ratty piece of paper hung by a sliver 

of tape. Delaney smoothed out the curled edges and read the flyer.

Fiftieth Annual Classic Motorcycle Show.

Dogwood County Fairgrounds.

The event was in July. There was a contest, including prizes. The grand prize for the winning classic cycle was five grand plus a feature article in Ride magazine.

The disappointment started to drain away. Five grand wouldn’t pay all the bills, but exposure in a major motorcycle magazine would be a boon for business. Plus, there was something about that poster, just hanging there like that.

It seemed like a sign.

Excerpted from Forever Home by Elysia Whisler, Copyright © 2021 by Elysia Whisler. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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Q&A with Elysia Whisler

Q: This is the second book in a series? Do you have plans to write more books in this series?

A: Yes! “Becoming Family” is Book 3 in the Dogwood County series. It will be out in August of 2022. I have hopes for a couple more books in the series after that, too!

Q: What should the reader know if they have not read the first book in the series?

A: So far, the early readers think Forever Home does really well as a standalone if you have not read Book 1. The only thing I’d add, if you have not read Book 1, be prepared that I always have 3 points of view. Some traditional romance readers like to see the POV go between two love interests but I always have a third POV that typically sets up the next book. This third POV does not get as much space as the other two but just be prepared for it. I know it’s unusual but I’m okay with that. 

Q: Where do you get your story ideas from?

A: My stories usually start with a single scene or idea that I build around. With Rescue You I worked around the idea of how everyone (human or animal, male or female)  can be either the hero or the saved in life, depending on the situation. With Forever Home, I wanted a super strong female lead to match up for my detective character from Book 1. My teen daughter had just finished getting her motorcycle license and it hit me … my heroine was going to be a badass biker chick. We see so many guys on motorcycles in romance and the women are always on the back. I wanted a heroine who drove her own bike and a man strong enough to love that.

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing?

A: Mostly a pantster. I usually have a broad concept of the story, have a beginning and an end and usually a midpoint idea. Then I start writing and once I’ve got the opening (first 30-50) I’ll go back and outline a little more. Then write. Then outline. Etc.

Q: What is a fun fact about you?

A: I love to read horror, especially literary horror. I read everything — I don’t care about genre, only good storytelling and solid writing — but 75% of my TBR pile is horror/thriller/mystery. 

Q: You grew up in the military and moved around quite a bit. Did you enjoy this? How do you think it has affected the stories you write?

A: Moving around was a mixed bag. I loved getting to travel and go to new places. I actually adored the traveling part — by plane, train, car. I made up stories in my head about being a fugitive running off to new lands. I’d spend a lot of plane/car time writing by hand. The hard part was getting to the new places and having to establish all new friendships and schools. I barely ever got to see extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). I never had that community of people I grew up with. That said, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. I got to experience so many different lands, cultures, climates. Living in Alaska at a young age in particular instilled in me a great love for the natural world that I’m grateful for to this day. All of that informed my writing in a big way. There’s definitely something to be said for seeing the world, getting outside your bubble and having that experience. The best compliments I get are on my characters being complex and real and I credit that directly to all the moving around I did. When you’re always new you have to be quiet, pay attention, watch and understand. You learn a lot that way.

Meet Me In London by Georgia Toffolo Review

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

A hustle and bustle businessman hoping to convince his powerful parents that he isn’t alone asks a local bartender and working designer to pretend to be his girlfriend during the holidays, and soon sparks begin to fly in author Georgia Toffolo’s “Meet Me In London”, the first in the Meet Me series.

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The Synopsis

What do you do when your fake engagement starts to feel too real?

Aspiring clothes designer Victoria Scott spends her days working in a bar in Chelsea and her evenings designing vintage clothes, dreaming of one day opening her own boutique. But these aspirations are under threat from the new department store opening at the end of her road. She needs a Christmas miracle, but one is not forthcoming.

Oliver Russell’s Christmas is not looking very festive right now. His family’s new London department store opening is behind schedule, and on top of that his interfering, if well-meaning, mother is pressing him to bring his girlfriend home for a visit. A girlfriend who does not exist. He needs a diversion. Something to keep his mother from interfering while he focuses on the business.

When Oliver meets Victoria, he offers a proposition: pretend to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store and he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon becomes something more tempting, as the fake relationship starts to feel very real. But when secrets in Victoria’s past are exposed, will Oliver walk away, or will they both follow their hearts and find what neither knew they were looking for?

The Review

The author did such a great job of finding that perfect balance between slow-burn romance and in-depth character development. The theme of the class difference between the working class trying to keep their businesses afloat in the face of a massive launch of a megastore in the same neighborhood paired well with the wealthy businessman desperate to find a way to maintain his business and help out the local community all at once.

Yet it was the characters themselves that brought the romance aspect of this holiday read to life. The haunting past that Victoria is desperate to steer clear of and the struggle of Oliver to reconcile the man his family expects him to be with the man he wants to be is so fascinating to read, and the way this plays into their growing feelings for one another makes this such a heartwarming holiday romance.

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The Verdict

A heartwarming, engaging, and truly thoughtful read, author Georgia Toffolo’s “Meet Me in London” is the perfect first installment in this brilliant romance series. The harmonious way the holiday setting and the character growth came together in this story and the twists and turns this relationship takes the characters into, especially when neither was looking for a romance, to begin with, was so entertaining to read and readers will be eager for more entries in this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Georgia Toffolo is a broadcaster and TV personality. She has been a firm favourite with the public right from the start of her TV debut, Made in Chelsea, all the way to winning over the hearts of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2018.

Georgia turned her eye to fashion and has curated two sell out collections with fashion retailer Shein. An ambassador for many British brands, both large and small, Georgia has also collaborated with Dyson, Baileys, Emma Bridgewater, Great British Racing, Foreo and Malibu amongst many more.

Most recently, Georgia has dived into the world of fiction by publishing her debut novel Meet Me in London with publishing house Mills and Boon. This is the first of an original series of four books following a group of lifelong friends and bringing personal anecdotes to life with humour and charm.

Buy Links: 

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Social Links:

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Facebook: @ToffTalks

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TikTok: @georgiatoffolo

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Here is an Excerpt from “MEET ME IN LONDON”

1

OLIVER RUSSELL COULD wrangle a wayward balance sheet back into the black, take failing stores apart and breathe new life into them, make difficult calls on staffing and personnel issues, make his shareholders happy and very, very rich. But he had never managed to curb his mother’s meddling in his private life.

Some things were just impossible.

Earth to Oliver. This is your mother asking about your Christmas Day plans. Will I need to set an extra place at the dinner table? Hint, hint. Your mother xx

Sitting on a stool at the bar in the upmarket wine bar The Landing, Oliver groaned as he interpreted the “hint” as yet another badly veiled attempt to discover his relationship status. Great one, Mum. Way to put pressure on a guy.

Could this week get any worse? He threw his mobile phone onto the sticky, beer-stained counter, gripped the tumbler in front of him and took a sip of a much needed fifteen-year-old Scotch. As the honey-colored syrup oozed down his throat and hit his stomach with a warming buzz he silently counted all the ways things had gone wrong in such a short space of time.

First mistake: allowing his mother to believe he was finally settling down when in reality his love life could only be described as…nonexistent. And now having to think up all the ways he could appease his parents over the holidays without going quietly insane.

Whereas other families had jolly traditions of games and church on Christmas Day, his parents’ idea of fun was to corner him in the living room, pin him down with laser stares and interrogate him for signs of commitment, a potential wife and progeny. A grandchild, or preferably many grandchildren, to spoil and give meaning to their later years, someone to carry on the family name and also an heir to entrust the business to. As an only child Oliver was expected to do so, as his father had done before him.

Trouble was, after his last romantic failure, settling down was not on Oliver’s bucket list. At least, not for a very long time.

Second mistake: in the spirit of keeping the family business afloat he’d agreed to clean up the mess his cousin was making of the new build. Ollie should have let him fall on his sword, but that would have meant his parents suffering too and there was no way he was going to allow that. So, here he was in a rowdy bar in Chelsea at ridiculous o’clock at night—or was it early morning?—having only just finished work, with the prospect of another seventeen-hour day tomorrow and the next day, and the next…

He took another sip of whiskey but almost choked as someone bumped into his hip, jolted his arm and sloshed the Scotch, rich but burning, down his throat.

“Hey, gorgeous.” A woman old enough to be his mother—and even though deep down he loved his mum, Lord knew he didn’t need two of them—appeared at his shoulder and beamed at him. Her eyes were wine-glazed and the lipstick smudged over her mouth almost up to her nostrils made her look like a startled fish. “I’ve got mistletoe, you know what that means, right?”

“That it’s time I left?” Scraping his stool back he stood, steadying the woman as she swayed, and then handed her into the waiting arms of her friends who were all dressed as…well, he wasn’t entirely sure, but there were glitter wings and feathery haloes involved, so he imagined they were supposed to be Christmas angels. In November?

As if knowing all about his work stress and family dilemmas even the music in the bar seemed to mock him. Too loud and too cheery and all about being home and in love at Christmas. He shuddered. No thanks.

Which brought him to his third mistake: choosing the bar from hell to drown his sorrows in. It wasn’t even December and yet here they all were screeching Christmas carols at the top of their tone-deaf voices. Christmas was everywhere. In the glittery tinsel that hung in loopy garlands across the ceiling and the fake tree in the corner. The soundtrack to the evening. The clothes people were wearing. Christmas was hurtling fast towards him and he was running out of time. He had so much to do to fix his first mistake before the doors of the new Russell & Co. department store opened, way behind schedule, but in time for the busiest, and therefore most lucrative time of the year.

He just needed some kind of miracle to make it happen.

On the counter his phone vibrated. He picked up and grimaced at another text, knowing what was bound to be coming but also knowing if he ignored her it would only get worse: Oliver? It’s a simple question. Blink once for yes. Twice for no. Are we finally going to meet your new girlfriend? Your mother xx.

Uh-oh. She was dropping the veiled interest and taking a more direct approach. This was serious.

He flicked a text back:

When your message flashes onto my screen it identifies you as my mother. There is also a little photo of you smiling at me at the top of your texts. You don’t need to tell me who you are.

He added two kisses, because, well, she was his mother: Ollie xx.

A pause while he watched three gray dots dance on his screen and then:

Not a single blink. How do I interpret that? We just want to see you happy. Your mother xxx

By happy, she meant married. As if you couldn’t be otherwise. Although he knew just as many people who were married and miserable as married and happy.

How was he even meant to send a blink by text anyway? He rolled his eyes instead. Nothing confirmed as yet.

Before he could say “Bah Humbug” her reply flashed on his screen:

When will you know? Your mother xx

Oliver: I don’t know.

If he told her the delightful Clarissa had moved on to a more malleable boyfriend his mum would be trying to arrange dates for him.

As if on cue another text arrived:

Is there something you’re not telling us? Is it over? So soon? Again? Oh, Oliver.

He could feel the disappointment coming through the airwaves as her next text quickly followed:

Perhaps I should invite the Henleys over on Christmas Day. I heard Arabella’s back from her Indian ashram trip and SINGLE. And stop rolling your eyes at me. Your mother xx

He couldn’t help but laugh at that, despite his growing frustration. He tried to stay noncommittal. Apparently, according to his ex, noncommittal was a strength of his:

Do NOT set any more dates up for me. Nothing’s confirmed re Xmas. I’ll let you know when I know.

Mum: At the new store opening then?

Just a matter of weeks away. She clearly wasn’t giving up. She never gave up. She wouldn’t give up until she was holding his first child. Or maybe his second—his second set of triplets.

That was the problem; she wasn’t giving up. He just needed to appease her. Or ignore her. So, he chose the latter.

Realizing he hadn’t finished his drink and grateful that the bar staff were now shuffling the off-tune singers outside, he sat back down and resumed his contemplation of the whiskey in front of him. At some point the staff would shuffle him out too, but for now he craved this brief peace and quiet, save for his mother’s infuriating but well-meaning texts and a muted conversation between the servers coming from a little room off to the side of the bar.

He could hear Paul, the guy who’d served him earlier say, “Hey, Vicki, are you OK to close up tonight? I promised Amanda I’d get home early. It’s our anniversary.”

“Of course.” A soft voice filtered through. “You helped me out by taking the early shift so I could teach my class, so I’m more than happy to hang around here for the stragglers. Sara said she’d stay on and help me clear up.”

Stragglers? Was that what he was now? Ollie looked around the bar at the three other solo drinkers—all male, all staring hopelessly into glasses of alcohol. He laughed to himself. Yeah, damned right he fitted that description; moving slowly. He didn’t want to hurry because the sooner he went home, the sooner tomorrow would arrive bringing with it all his problems.

“So how did class go today?” he heard Paul ask the owner of the soft voice. “Any more visits from the local cops?”

Police? Interesting. Ollie leaned forward to hear the mystery woman’s answer.

“Oh, that was all just a misunderstanding. Her brother gave her the iPad, Jasmine didn’t know it was stolen.” A pause. “Um. By her brother.” A rumble of soft laughter that sounded so free and bright had Ollie straining to see who the voice belonged to. It wasn’t the other woman who worked here because she was now collecting glasses from empty tables and her accent was Cockney through and through. This Vicki woman was from somewhere else. Southwest maybe, a tiny hint of something he recognized from holidays down in Cornwall. Laughter threaded through her intonation. “We sorted it out. The police dropped the charges against her.”

“So, one of the kids you’re teaching is harboring stolen goods. Great. You really need to stay away from trouble like that, Vicki.” Paul came back into the bar and started to wipe down the counter with a dishcloth.

The woman followed. “If I stayed away there’d be even more trouble for her, I’m sure. She’s so talented. You should see her designs, they’re stunning. Really fresh ideas. She could go a long way with the right guidance. I’m pulling out all the stops.”

“You’re too good to those kids.” Paul frowned. “Instead of focusing on your own career you’re spending all your energy on a bunch of no-hope teenagers who probably have never even heard the word gratitude.”

The Vicki woman turned and put her hands on her hips, giving Ollie full view of her face. Wow.

She was wearing a dress that looked like it had come straight out of the nineteen fifties; all slash neck and cinched waist in a fabric of cream and scarlet flowers. Her glossy, dark hair was loosely tied into a ponytail that was pulled forward over one shoulder. She had bright red lipstick on full lips—not smudged in the slightest, and the most intense dark eyes he’d ever seen.

In stark contrast her skin was pale; he wasn’t sure whether it was makeup or natural and he didn’t care. Oliver Russell had known a lot of beautiful women in his time, but she was next level. Quite simply, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

That gorgeous red mouth curled into a smile, but a little frown appeared over her eyes. “Paul, honestly, they’re struggling in so many ways. They have so much hope and potential and no one else seems to care. If I don’t help them, then who will?”

“I’m just saying, be careful, that’s all. Your heart’s too soft, Vicki, you’re going to get hurt.”

“It’s a fashion design class for underprivileged kids, Paul. Not target practice in the ’hood. Trouble is, we’re fast running out of opportunities for them to showcase their work. All the design schools have organized shows already and we’re lagging behind. I’m going to have to be creative with my thinking.” Her eyes wandered over the bar and settled on Oliver, just for a moment.

Instinctively, he smiled. She gave him the faintest of smiles back and didn’t look away immediately. A look of surprise flickered behind her eyes. Even from here he could see the flush of her cheeks as their gazes met and, as if someone had flicked a switch, a rush of heat hit him too. Interest. The flicker of awareness. Brief. So brief he checked himself; maybe he’d imagined it?

Excerpted from Meet Me in London by Georgia Toffolo. Copyright © 2021 by Georgia Toffolo. First published in 2020 by Mills & Boon. This edition published in 2021 by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. 

Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins 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 dealing with the loss of her father runs into her childhood nanny, and hoping to reconnect with a lost parental figure, begins to build a friendship with the woman. Yet not all is as it seems, and soon the tale of the nanny takes this woman down some dark and twisting roads in author Flora Collins’s novel, “Nanny Dearest”.

The Synopsis

Compulsively readable domestic suspense, perfect for fans of THE TURN OF THE KEY and THE PERFECT NANNY, about a woman who takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father’s death, until she starts to uncover dark secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years.

Set in New York city and upstate New York, NANNY DEAREST is the story of twenty-five year-old Sue Keller, a young woman reeling from the recent death of her father, a particularly painful loss given that Sue’s mother died of cancer when she was only three. At just this moment of vulnerability comes Anneliese Whitaker, Sue’s former nanny from her childhood days in upstate New York.

Sue, craving connection and mothering, is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue begins to uncover the truth about Annie’s unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure – or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie’s care.

Told in alternating points of views, switching between Annie in the mid-90s and Sue in the present day, this is a taut novel of suspense with a shocking ending.

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The Review

What a shocking and engaging story! The author did such a great job of taking the time to build up these characters and their history together. The alternating chapters between the past as Annie settled into life as a nanny, to Suzy’s present-day struggles to find a connection to the parents she lost too soon, did an amazing job of peeling back the layers of this dark and haunting domestic drama, as secrets are revealed and relationships are changed forever.

What stood out to me was just how strongly the author covered parenthood, loss, and the grieving process. In particular, the focus on motherhood and the impact that things like loss can have on a mother’s relationship with their children and vice-versa was so fascinating to watch unfold. The exploration of loss really covered most of the main characters in this thriller and showed how that kind of pain could impact people in so many different ways, from internal struggles to chaotic and scary external experiences that impact everyone around them. 

The Verdict

A brilliant, thought-provoking, and highly entertaining thriller, author Flora Collins’s “Nanny Dearest” is a must-read novel of 2021. The haunting way the author explores the importance of relationships and bonds formed in childhood and the lengths some people will go to in order to regain something lost so long ago was eloquently written into the fabric of this narrative, and the shocking final pages will keep readers hanging on the author’s every word. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Flora Collins was born and raised in New York City and has never left, except for a four-year stint at Vassar College. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching reality shows that were canceled after one season or attempting to eat soft-serve ice cream in bed (sometimes simultaneously). Nanny Dearest is her first novel, and draws upon personal experiences from her own family history.

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/nanny-dearest/9780778311614 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778311614 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nanny-dearest-flora-collins/1138522927 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nanny-Dearest-Novel-Flora-Collins/dp/0778311619

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9780778311614?AID=10747236&PID=7310909&cjevent=3aaff079426711ec81b7ebac0a82b839

SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/flococo16?lang=en

Instagram: @floracollins_author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/56472992-nanny-dearest

Here is an Excerpt from “Nanny Dearest”

“I WOULD RECOGNIZE THOSE bangs anywhere,” she says, clutching her large faux-leather bag, pink nails pinching the synthetic hide. I can see the laugh lines beneath her glasses’ rims. I swallow, my tongue darting between my back molars, bracing myself. 

“They stuck, I guess.” I laugh lightly, a meek trickle that escapes from my lips before I can stop it. She smiles again, this time with teeth, and I see how her front two overlap, barely discernible. But she’s standing so close that it’s hard not to notice.

“You live around here now?” She stopped me in front of a church and behind us the congregation trickles out, chatting among themselves. A child wails for lunch. The sun beats down hard and yellow, speckling the sidewalk. I raise my hand like a visor, even though I feel the weight of my oversized sunglasses, heavy on the bridge of my nose.

“Yep. Moved down to Alphabet City after college,” I answer. She nods, pushing a wisp of red hair behind her ear. 

She is letting the sun in, the pupils of her green eyes shrinking with the effort.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” It’s a statement, not a question, one that she says confidently, as if it’s a sign of character that she is easily forgettable, that fading into my brain’s recesses is some kind of compliment.

The church group disperses and I step away to let a family by.

“I’m sorry. I don’t.” And then, even though she is secure in her stance, amused perhaps by my social transgression, I fumble for some excuse. “Forgive me. I-I’m not good with faces.”

She laughs, then—a long, exhilarating sound, like a wind chime. “I don’t blame you. I think you were about three feet tall the last time you saw me.” She reaches out a hand, dainty and freckled. “I’m Anneliese. Anneliese Whittaker. I was your nanny.” Her hand remains in the air for a moment, outstretched, like the bare limb of a winter tree, before I take it.

“Sue. Sue Keller.” But of course she knows who I am. She says she was my nanny.

“I used to babysit you when you lived upstate.” I flinch, unintentionally. She knew my mother. “How’s your dad? He always wanted to move back up there later in life.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, savoring the tenderized spot there, made bloody by my anxious jaw. “He passed last year. Car accident.”

Anneliese puts a hand to her mouth, her eyes widening behind the glasses. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. You must miss him a lot, don’t you? He was your whole world back when I knew you.”

I offer her a smile. “Yes, well, aren’t most little girls that way with their fathers?”

The child is still screaming for lunch. His mother is speaking to another woman, the three of them the only people left in front of the church.

“Yes, well, I guess that’s true. You and your dad had a special bond, though.” She gazes at me then, her face full of compassion, those green eyes penetrative.

And we’re silent, for a beat too long. So I find myself shuffling, moving around her. “I actually have to meet a friend.” I check my wrist though I’m not wearing a watch. “But it was funny running into you.” I give her what I hope is an apologetic smile, backing away from her, toward the curb.

She stops me, one of those tiny hands on my wrist, almost tugging at my sleeve like a child. “Wait. I’d love to see you again.” She digs around in her purse. I catch sight of a book, earbuds, some capped pens, a grimy-looking ChapStick. She takes out a receipt, uncaps a pen, and leans the paper against the church’s stone masonry, scrawling her number. The figures are dainty, like her hands.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Tell your friend a crazy lady stopped and demanded you spend time with her.” She laughs again, that wind chime chortle, and I pocket the receipt.

“Nice to see you again!” I call, making the traffic light just in time. When I cross the street and turn, she’s gone, consumed by the hordes, no sign of that red hair glinting in the sunlight.

“And you stopped? I would’ve kept on walking. No time for nutso people like that,” Beth says through the phone as I pace my studio, absentmindedly throwing trash away, smoothing out the creases in my bedspread, my phone nestled between my shoulder and ear. I set it down and put her on speaker. I have the urge, suddenly, to rearrange the furniture in this miniscule apartment. To move the bed to the other side of the room, away from the window, from the noise of the street.

“She knew my name, Beth. She called out ‘Sue.’ I wasn’t going to ignore that.” Outside, a siren wails and I pull down the shade.

“That’s why you always wear headphones. So you have an excuse not to deal with those kinds of people.” Beth smacks her gum, the noise ricocheting through the tinny speaker.

“So you really don’t remember if I had a nanny called Anneliese?” I crumple up the wax paper from my bagel, letting it drift to the floor. The old family photo albums from that period are in storage, buried deep inside the disorganized cardboard boxes I hired movers to collect when I cleaned out Dad’s apartment.

“Dude, we met when we were five. I don’t think I knew my own mom’s name back then. I certainly wouldn’t remember who your babysitter was.” I close my eyes and massage my temples, my usual insomnia-inflicted headache edging toward a dull throb. I don’t remember a long-term nanny. I never had any babysitters growing up, just my dad.

I hear Beth say something to her girlfriend, a bark, and I walk away from the phone for a minute with a twinge of annoyance that she’s not giving me her undivided attention.

I think of Anneliese’s face, those teeth, the green eyes. The hair. And.

And.

I am running in a field with her, in the yard behind the house upstate. The garden is giant. Huge sunflowers, hedges high enough to block the sun. Beneath me, the grass is lush, dewy, tickling my bare feet. And the sky is white, hot and blazing. And she is behind me, shrieking, her freckled arm outstretched, a paintbrush in her hand tinged blue.

And I feel its slick bristles on my back and I fall, stumble. But I am laughing. And she is, too, her orange hair like a halo, eclipsing the sun.

I open my eyes.

“Anyway, I’m having some people over next weekend. I know you hate parties these days but you’re so cooped up all the time in that apartment. I swear it’ll be fun…” Beth squawks on, her voice shrill through the speaker.

“I remember her.”

Beth pauses mid-ramble. “What?”

“I remember her. Anneliese. The woman who stopped me today. She’s not nuts. I remember her.”

There’s a heavy silence on the other end. “Are you sure? You just said you didn’t.” Beth’s voice has lowered an octave, as if she’s whispering. Which I know is for my benefit, so her girlfriend won’t hear.

I tighten my hand into a fist. “I’m serious. She was my nanny. We used to play this game with paint.”

Beth sighs. “Still weird to me. You’re not thinking about calling her or anything like that, right?” But I’m already reaching into the garbage bag I use as a hamper, sifting through it for the sweats I wore earlier today. I take out the receipt, smoothing it out against my knee. It’s for shampoo, coconut Herbal Essences, and I can smell it on her, as if it’s 1996 and I am on the floor of my blue-carpeted bedroom and she is swinging her princess hair to and fro as we play Candy Land, the smell even more enticing than how I imagined Queen Frostine’s scent.

Tears prick my eyelids.

“I want to see her.” It comes out sounding infantile, testy even. And I hear Beth breathing, willing herself not to lash out.

“Okay. Okay, Suzy. Just meet in public and bring some pepper spray. Remember, she stopped you in the street. She really could be anyone, even if she did babysit you a thousand years ago.” I hear her put another piece of gum in her mouth, the wrapper like static.

“I know. She’s just a nice middle-aged woman. And maybe she has some cool things to say about my parents.” I know that will get Beth off my back. Any mention of my parents gets anyone off my back.

I hear her breath as she blows a bubble, the snap of the gum sticking to her lip. “I’m just trying to be a good friend. Don’t fault me for it.” Her voice has lowered again. “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: you’ve been spending way too much time alone. It’s not like you and I can tell it’s getting to you. It would get to me.” But my finger is already hovering over the End Call button, eager to get Beth off the line.

“I appreciate it. But for real, now I have work to do. I’ll text you.” She spends one more minute reminding me to come to her party next weekend and I promise I will, even though we both know I won’t, and I hang up first, still fingering that crumpled receipt, studying the perfectly shaped eights in the handwritten phone number, each the same height, the same size.

Outside, a dog barks. And I bark back, loud and sharp, laughing at myself, my apartment easing into darkness as the sun sets.

Excerpted from Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins, Copyright © 2021 by Flora Collins. Published by MIRA Books.

Snowlands: A Blood Moon (Snowlands Book One) by Morr Meroz Review

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

Three unlikely allies come together as missing animals and the dangers of the Snowlands bring the trio to the trail of a magical being who can help bring answers to the trials facing the animals of the wilderness in author Morr Meroz’s “Snowlands: A Blood Moon”, the first in the Snowlands series.

The Synopsis

A brand-new, full-color graphic novel series for animal fantasy fans that delivers a daring adventure and a mysterious threat that has animals–prey and predator alike–disappearing.

An orphaned white wolf cub exiled from her pack.
A lone snow leopard searching for her missing cub.
A bumbling young Pallas’s cat who can’t hold a tune.

In the midst of a brutal winter in the unforgiving Snowlands the mountain sheep begin to go missing. Without their primary food source, the wolf pack faces starvation and blame falls on Feba, an orphaned wolf cub whose white fur the elders see as a bad omen.

When pack leaders vote to banish Feba, and perhaps worse, she runs off into the icy wilderness just as the other wolf cubs go missing. Lost in the treacherous mountains, Feba stumbles upon Usha, a snow leopard searching for her missing cub. While Usha wants nothing more than to continue her journey alone, she grudgingly allows Feba and a skittish young wild cat, Batu, to follow her. 

With a snowy trail full of deadly obstacles ahead, the unlikely trio sets out to find the Seeress, a magical being Usha hopes can find her missing son. Each step takes Usha, Feba, and Batu deeper into danger where they encounter other creatures–some helpful, some deceitful–and uncover a widespread peril in the mountains, the fate of the missing cubs, and what having a family truly means.

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The Review

What a truly breathtaking and beautiful graphic novel! The author and artist both found such a great harmonic balance between the harsh, cold, yet stunning visuals of the snowy mountains and the vast array of creatures, and the emotional depth of the storytelling overall. The theme of family and what truly defines family is so deeply felt in the characters and their arcs in this narrative, and the exploration of what isolation can do to us all and how others are always nearby if we allow ourselves to open up to the possibilities of not being alone just shined through the narrative perfectly.

The characters were so well done in this story. The artwork and focus on animals as main characters made this feel like it would be a story geared more towards children only, but there are some very mature and heartbreaking storylines that will appeal to older readers as well. The bonds these characters make with one another and the twist on the main opposing force behind the disappearances and deaths on this mountainside will really draw readers into this narrative wholeheartedly. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and entertaining winter read, author Morr Meroz’s “The Snowlands: A Blood Moon” is a must-read graphic novel of 2021. Such an incredibly moving and emotional story pairs so well with the cold yet strikingly beautiful artwork that brings this narrative to life, and readers will be eager to see what this author and creator come up with next. If you haven’t yet, be sure to preorder or grab your copy of this amazing read on December 7th, 2021!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Morr Meroz is the founder of Bloop Animation, one of the most popular animation training websites. He has written, directed, and animated three short films, including his thesis film at the School of Visual Arts, where he received a bachelor’s degree in computer arts. His screenplay for Snowlands has been produced as a graphic novel. He lives with his family in New York City.

https://www.facebook.com/thesnowlandscompany

Fly by Night by Tara O’Connor Review

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

A young girl must return to her old hometown after her twin sister goes missing, and while clues begin to point towards a supernatural entity being the culprit, a much more sinister threat looms in the shadows in author Tara O’Connor’s “Fly by Night”.

The Synopsis 

In this environmental-thriller graphic novel with a supernatural twist, Dee must find out what happened to her missing twin. An amazing mystery filled with strange creatures, high school drama, and family, this darkly illustrated book shows us that monsters are all around us.

There are monsters in the woods.

While out searching desperately for her missing sister, Dee discovers something isn’t quite right in the woods. She is soon in a battle to save the pinelands, and she is finding more questions than answers. 

As time goes on, the only thing Dee knows for sure is that there are monsters among us. But they aren’t who we should be afraid of…

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The Review

This was such a moving and entertaining read. Equal parts mythology and crime thriller, this graphic novel really did a great job of finding a natural balance between the supernatural elements of the story and the more emotional and heartbreaking realities of the disappearance of a loved one. As an avid fan and admirer of cryptozoology and cryptids overall, it was so interesting to see the author’s take on the Jersey Devil lore and to reshape it into showing the subtle nature of what “monsters” really are in this world.

The emotional character study that this graphic novel makes is so the core of the theme and narrative of this graphic novel. Dee’s struggles as she pursues answers to the disappearance of the twin sister she regrets not talking to more and delving into her struggles with her parent’s divorce, the environmental fight she takes on, and the grim reality of what happened to her sister overall, will immediately draw the reader in and what I think the author does so beautifully here is create a story that finds representation for so many different readers out there.

The Verdict

An original, engaging, and heartfelt read, author Tara O’Connor’s “Fly by Night” is a must-read graphic novel of 2021. The stark nature of the story’s narrative and the amazing artwork somehow drawing a fantastic contrast to the unknowable nature of the universe as a whole made this story shine brightly. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Tara is a cartoonist currently residing in the New Jersey wilderness. When she’s not drawing comics, she’s teaching them. She drinks way too much tea and coffee, and on any given day there’s a 90% chance that every meal she had was cereal. 

http://www.taraocomics.com/