Category Archives: reviews

Echo: The Curse of the Blackwood Witches by Yasmine Maher 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 discovers her dormant power as a witch and must use her gifts to stop a monstrous madman from unleashing the apocalypse on the world while trying to prevent her power from corrupting her soul in author Yasmine Maher’s “Echo: The Curse of the Blackwood Witches”.

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The Synopsis

Master forbidden magic, destroy an immortal enemy, and prevent the apocalypse—all before college finals.

Echo Blackwood has no idea she’s a witch, but after supernatural beasts attack her sister’s wedding, she discovers her long-dormant magic, and she’s quickly catapulted into an impossible war.

The novice witch is the only one who can stop the immortal Jivar—but her magic hides a sinister secret. The dark arts run through her veins, and using their power could cost her soul.

Desperate to control her magic and uncover the truth about herself, Echo and her newfound allies must race against time to defeat Jivar before he unleashes his fury and destroys the world.

Can Echo use the powers of evil to save the world? Or will fighting fire with fire only end in her ruin?

Imbued with all the thrilling action and marvelous magic, Echo: The Curse Of The Blackwood Witches is a riveting and unforgettable read that will sweep you up and refuse to let you go.

The Review

The author did such an incredible job of crafting a memorable and captivating fantasy and paranormal read. The book immediately grabs the reader’s attention, balancing great character development and hinting at a challenging backstory with the horrors and thrills of the supernatural threat facing the protagonist and her new allies. The backstory and history of the cast of characters were so intricately detailed and did an amazing job of keeping the reader invested in the narrative.

Yet it was the wealth of mythology and world-building the author did that kept me invested in this story overall. The way the author built up the family drama in Echo’s life and childhood and made it feel just as impactful as the apocalyptic nature of the threat they all faced was a great sign of the author’s creativity and focus on character-driven narrative. The journey that led Echo to discover her dark powers, her connection to the villainous Jivar, and the struggle to balance her hope to save the world with the destructive aspect of her gifts made this such an intriguing plot.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, entertaining, and action-packed, author Yasmine Maher’s “Echo: The Curse of the Blackwood Witches” is a must-read urban fantasy novel of 2022. The drama, adrenaline-fueled narrative, and shocking twists and turns in the story will have readers hanging off of 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

Yasmine Maher is a fantasy author, copywriter, and Director of Fables and Facts Publishing. As a passionate wordsmith and an active member of the Twitter writing community,

Yasmine loves to weave captivating tales that inspire her readers with whimsical adventures, magic, and larger-than-life characters. 

A Reservoir Man by L.J. Ambrosio Review

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

A man struggles to find his place in the world through trials and tribulations as he comes to terms with his own internal identity in author L.J. Ambrosio’s “A Reservoir Man”. 

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The Synopsis 

Everywhere Michael turns he sees a Reservoir Man. Michael’s endless trials of survival include sexual assault, The Vietnam War, an arrest in Spain, Hollywood scandal, the AIDS outbreak, 9/11 and beyond. If only Michael could find the one thing he values most, his freedom. Michael’s coming-of-age is tarnished by many but the courage to live his truth may just keep Michael one step ahead…or will he succumb to the embraces of a Reservoir Man? 

The Review

This was such a moving and powerful coming-of-age story. The heartbreak and tragedy the protagonist goes through balances out with the tone of hope and awareness the author infuses into the narrative. The way the author hones in more on deep character development and the emotional core of the narrative over world-building was refreshing to see, as it allowed readers to really connect to the story in a personal way.

The characters of this story were truly the heart of the narrative. Michael’s story is so heartbreaking and his experiences encompass so many people’s own experiences in life, and yet his never-ending pursuit of acceptance, hope, and identity is the push forward to overcome those tragedies that so many of us are constantly seeking and the way the history and events that he lived through became the tapestry for which his story rose was incredible to read.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, engaging, and thought-provoking, author L.J. Ambrosio’s “A Reservoir Man” is a must-read coming of age story of 2022. The themes that the author explores, from betrayal and family to secrets and identity, become the perfect backdrop to the protagonist’s story and make the twists and turns in the narrative even more impactful. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Louis J. Ambrosio ran one of the most nurturing bi-coastal talent agencies in Los Angeles and New York. He started his career as a theatrical producer, running two major regional theaters for eight seasons. He taught at over 20 universities in America. Ambrosio also distinguished himself as an award-winning film producer and novelist over the course of his impressive career.

Dropnauts (Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle Book One) by J Scott Coatsworth Review

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

The fate of mankind years after the Earth’s destruction rests in the hands of a select few as they venture back to the Earth’s surface and discover a hidden truth that can rock humanity to the core in author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Dropnauts”, the first book in the Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle series.

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The Synopsis

Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way to the Moon’s core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.

Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. After training for two and a half years, four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—are bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.

But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what’s left of humanity. 

The Review

This was such a brilliant and emotionally-driven sci-fi read. The author did such an amazing job of connecting readers to the larger narrative through dynamic character development. Not only was the emotional core of all four protagonists felt intensely as the story progressed, but the way their story intersected with the survivors on Earth was so great to read. The tensions and stakes that this created for the survivors both on Earth and the lunar colony of Redemption were amazing to read and watch unfold on the page. The inclusion of LGBTQ characters and relationships made the story feel more well-rounded, and the emphasis on AI-driven character developments was a great sci-fi element to include in this discussion.

The world-building and setting really became the heart of this narrative. So many sci-fi stories involve space exploration and focus on the colonies primarily, whether it be on the moon, Mars, or outside our solar system, but the whole concept of “Returning” to Earth to find a means of survival was a brilliant creative decision on the author’s part. The imagery and atmosphere this helped create really showed in the author’s writing style.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thrilling, author J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Dropnauts” is a must-read sci-fi novel and the perfect start to the author’s Liminal Sky: Redemption Cycle series. The vivid and detailed settings were perfectly paired with the gritty narrative that was being told and balanced out the heartfelt and emotional character beats that made readers fall in love with this cast of characters. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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J. Scott Coatsworth’s diverse hopepunk space opera Dropnauts Is out in audio, narrated by Kevin Earlywine. And there’s a giveaway!

Life after the Crash.

Over a century after the end of the Earth, life goes on in Redemption, the sole remaining Lunar colony, and possibly the last outpost of humankind in the Solar System. But with an existential threat burrowing its way into the Moon’s core, humanity must recolonize the homeworld.

Twenty brave dropnauts set off on a mission to explore the empty planet. Four of them—Rai, Hera, Ghost and Tien—have trained for two-and-a-half years for the Return. They’re bound for Martinez Base, just outside the Old Earth city of San Francisco.

But what awaits them there will turn their assumptions upside down—and in the process, either save or destroy what’s left of humanity.

Amazon Audio | Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47248/?


Excerpt

Dropnauts meme

Listen to chapter one:

We’re going home.

Rai sweated inside his suit, white-knuckling the arms of the retrofitted launch chair under his suit gloves. He watched the Zhenyi’slaunch countdown clock.

Sixty, fifty-nine, fifty-eight…

Outside he was calm, but inside he vibrated like an erhu string, his stomach doing acrobatics in his chest. I’m not ready.

Five teams of dropnauts had strapped themselves into their jumper ships, prepared for the ascent from Redemption on the lunar surface to Launchpad station. Outside his porthole, the blue-green marble of Earth beckoned.

Forty-five, forty-four…

Rai cast a nervous glance at his three teammates. Hera was doing her preflight check, her back to him, sweat dripping down the umber skin of her neck from her short-cropped, curly black hair.

Behind him on his right, Tien’s eyes were closed, and she was still as a golden statue. Zen.

He turned to find Ghost looking at him from behind. His ex grinned, running his hand through his lanky, dirty blond hair, his green eyes twinkling. His skin was as white as Rai’s own, but with a dusting of freckles over the bridge of his nose.

Rai managed a pale imitation of a smile back. –It’s totally safe.– Ghost’s voice pinged in his head, em to em.

Easy for you to say.- Ghost had never feared a thing in his life.

Rai sighed. If he had to, he could take the small ship apart and put it back together with his bare hands, a skill learned under Sam’s supervision—the mech was as harsh a taskmaster as any human Rai had ever worked for. Still, he felt like puking. The speeches and adulation of the farewell celebration were over, and now his doubts circled like vultures. I’m not ready.

Thirty-two, thirty-one…

-You’ll be ok.- Hera’s determined voice this time. She turned to squeeze his knee, and then fired up the Zhenyi’shydro-fuel engine. He flashed her a sheepish grin.

A hundred meters away, the Bristol’s takeoff shook the landing pad. Rai watched it rise, carrying Dax, Jess, Ola, and Xiu Ying, the London team, toward the bright stars above. The jumper’s expelled water froze almost instantly, falling as snow over the snaking lava tube that held the city of Redemption. A lunar blizzard whipped by them and shimmered into nothing.

Rai closed his eyes, remembering the night before. Jess, laughing and dancing with him at Heaven, the clear dome of the lunar sky sparkling above them, the heavy beat of the thromb club pulsing through his chest. Dancing like no one was watching.

He rubbed his jaw. It still ached from the fist he’d taken to the face. Wild party. And a wilder night with Ayvin, the jack he’d picked up at the club.

“Zhenyi, ready for liftoff in T-Minus ten seconds.” Sam’s voice, coming from Team Five’s ship, the Liánhuā, was cool and collected. Did the mech feel emotion, like the nausea that was boiling in Rai’s guts? His teammates were strong, smart, and prepared for anything. I can do this. Besides, it was too late to back out now.

“Affirmative.” Hera shifted in her seat, her biframes stretching her paralyzed legs for her.

“You’ll do okay, tiger.” Ghost elbowed him in the ribs.

“Six, five, four…” Hera swiped the glossy white control deck, and the launch controls appeared, floating over the white surface.

“Leave him alone.” Rai could hear the icy frown in Tien’s voice.

He closed his eyes, willing his stomach to calm. Here we go. Nothing he could do about it now.

“Three, two, one… hang on.” Hera fired the engines, and the craft lifted on a cloud of steam into the star-filled skies of Luna.

Rai squeezed his armrests again as G-force pushed him hard back in his seat. He was committed now. Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies… Reciting the flowers of the old San Francisco basin helped soothe his abraded nerves as the rumbling of the little craft rattled his bones.

He opened his eyes to see Redemption receding below them. The great lava tube was striped with sparkling bands of solar receptors that let sunlight into the city below. Rail lines snaked out from Redemption to the transit center like roping vines—to the seed launcher at Copernicus Crater, to Renewal colony, and beyond.

As the city shrank below them, his fear turned to sadness, a lump forming in his throat. He’d taken his home for granted, enthralled by the idea of joining humankind’s greatest adventure in a century. Now he might never see it again.

The hydro rocket thrust them up out of Luna’s gravity well into naked space, toward the bright blue skies of the empty Earth above. Rai stared at it, that enigmatic ball in space which no one had visited in over a century. What secrets are you hiding?

The roar cut off as quickly as it had begun, leaving the Zhenyi drifting upward in silence as they slipped out of Luna’s grasp.

Hera’s hands flew across the deck, swapping the launch controls for navigation, and nudged them onto a new course following the Bristol toward the Launchpad.

Rai let go, his breath coming out in a heavy sigh.

“See? That wasn’t so bad.” Ghost unbuckled his seatbelt and stretched, yawning as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

God, he’s beautiful. Pale as his namesake under his mop of dirty blond hair, the engineer’s thick arms were just a suggestion under the bulky suit, but Rai could still see them in his mind. Ghost’s well-toned muscles, the smell of his skin after—

“You okay, buddy?” Ghost was staring at him, one dark eyebrow raised in concern.

Rai bit his lip and looked away. “Just nervous. Wondering if we’ll ever make it back home”

“Hey, if things go well after the drop, maybe you and me could open the first Earthside bar since the Crash.” Ghost leaned over him from behind to stare at the Earth through the porthole, his cheek close to Rai’s

“That’s crazy.” But his spirits lifted. It was idiotic. And just the distraction he needed.

Ghost sank back into his own seat. “Every outpost needs a good bar where the colonists can blow off a little steam, right?”

Rai laughed in spite of himself, warming to the idea. “We could call it ‘The Frontier’.”

“Or ‘The Wild Hookup’.”

“Best beer this side of the planet.”

Only beer!”

Rai snorted. Just like old times. He hadn’t forgiven Ghost, though. Not yet. He looked down at his gloved hands, emblazoned with the leaf-and-orb of Redemption’s space service.

Things had ended badly between them—crash and burn bad. Still, they’d be too busy the next few weeks to think about anything but the drop. The survival of Redemption and the remnants of humanity depended on them.

He could let it go. I have to. He’d managed the launch, after all. I can do this too.

Ghost squeezed his shoulder and closed his eyes, touching his temple and bobbing his head to a song only he could hear.

Rai turned away.

You’re stronger than any of us. Hera had told him that the night before. Still, he didn’t feel strong.

He looked out of the porthole again at the Earth—the same view they’d had from Heaven. And yet somehow, it looked different. More real.

Poppies, Chinese Houses, Fiddlenecks, Baby Blue Eyes, Yellow Pansies, Star Lilies…

He touched his hand to the porthole. Even through the glove, it was cold. We’re going home.


Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/jscoatsworth

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jscottcoatsworth/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Liminal Fiction (LimFic.com): https://www.limfic.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Author BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/j-scott-coatsworth

Narrator Bio:

Kevin Earlywine

Kevin Earlywine is an actor, director, singer/songwriter, and audiobook narrator who hails from Rockford, Illinois! His debut album DANGER was released February 28th, 2017. Kevin started writing songs for the album in 2012, and finally in November, 2015, he started recording the songs!

Other Worlds Ink logo

Cover Me With My Izar by Nora Houri-Haim Review

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

Author Nora Houri-Haim takes readers on a journey exploring the history, culture, and modern story of Iraqi Jews through a multi-generational fictional novel in the book “Cover Me With My Izar”.

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The Synopsis

Through a series of stories that span several generations, ‘Cover Me with My Izar’, brings to vivid life the modern history of Iraqi Jews.

The stories are fascinating, humorous, filled with humanity, always captivating, and brimming with heart. Each story is told from the viewpoint of a different character across the generations.

From the tales of the vibrant Jewish community in Baghdad, through the terrors of the Farhud Pogrom to the mass immigration into Israel, a rich story of struggle and learning to adapt unfolds.

From the miracle that was visited upon the barren Latifa, to the disaster Ezra, the sword collector, brought on his own head; from Yvette, who decided to go and earn an education for herself against all odds, to the story of Itzik and Nava, children of the third generation born in Israel who wanted to be integrated into its newly forming society. These are just a handful of the rich tapestry of stories woven together to form the fabric of this book. A fabric as unforgettable and rich as that from which the traditional Izar gown, worn by the Jewish women of Iraq, is made. 

The Review

This was such a well-written and personal story. The author expertly found the balance between personal storytelling about family experiences and intimate looks into the culture and history surrounding the Jewish people of the Middle East over the last century. The way this story fell into an almost compilation of short stories that fell under a general story banner that connected to one another through the generations was such an inspired use of storytelling devices. The imagery and atmosphere were so vivid that the stories the author was bringing to life felt very real, allowing readers to feel quite connected to the narrative.

The blend of character development and culture really became the heart of this narrative. The exploration of several characters and their point of view over the course of an entire family’s history over the course of a century was an inspired creative choice and played well into the narrative choice to explore the Middle Eastern Jewish experience. It was original and allowed readers to fully feel immersed into an aspect and point of view of life that is rarely explored.

The Verdict

Brilliantly written, captivating, and engaging, author Nora Houri-Haim’s “Cover Me With My Izar” is a must-read family and multi-generational fiction novel of 2022. The unique setting and history the author explores in this narrative were so amazing to behold, and the rich cultural explorations were truly entertaining and emotionally driven, keeping readers invested throughout the narrative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Nora Houri-Haim was born in 1953 in the “new, old” city of Tel Aviv, to parents who’d made aliyah from Iraq. She spent her childhood surrounded by her huge extended family and grew up on the knees of her aunts and uncles, listening to stories from the “old country.” These stories were in sharp contrast to the reality around Nora. In the fledgling state of Israel, anything foreign, and especially anything connected to the Arab world, was frowned upon. This dissonance defined Nora’s childhood and inspired her writing as an adult. She finished her schooling in Tel Aviv, and then served in the Israeli military as an educational adviser. After completing her BA, Nora got married, had four kids and spent eight years teaching 6-8th graders. Nora completed her MA, with honors in Literature and Creative Writing from Ben Gurion University in the Negev. While there, she began writing her first novel, Cover Me with my Izar”. The novel was nominated by her publisher for the Sapir Prize for debut novels and was praised by the National Library during the year it was published.

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Galen’s Blade: A Starquest 4th Age Adventure Book Two by Richard Paolinelli Review

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

Two heroes emerge and must fight to save their corner of the Andromeda Galaxy as heroes Galen and Rhea fight to save her father, the King, from everyone from old enemies, lawless criminals, and emerging usurpers in author Richard Paolinelli’s “Galen’s Blade”, the second book in the A Starquest 4th Age Adventure series. 

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The Synopsis

The journey of Galen Dwyn continues in the second book of the Starquest 4th Age series.

While Dwyn lies in stasis, recovering from his injuries in his stand against Harmool’s fleet, Rhea has assumed the title of Regent of Salacia while leading the search for her missing father, King Iodocus. She is also helping repair the damage done to the Alliance in her Uncle’s and Mother’s mad quest to launch a new Empire. A shocking assassination attempt is thwarted at the last second by Dwyn, who seems to be a changed man now that he has exited stasis to save his love.

The King’s location is ascertained and a rescue mission mounted to retrieve him from the Wilds, a lawless area of space. An ambush splits their forces and Dwyn leads the ambushers away so that Rhea and her father can escape. Before Dwyn can find a way back to Alliance territory, an old enemy returns from the grave, and hold Rhea and the King hostage, while triggering a massive insurrection that overthrows the Alliance and installs a new Emperor.

Dwyn must now mount a second rescue while finding a way to rally a rebellion against this threat to peace in the Hominids’ corner of the Andromeda Galaxy.

The Review

This was yet another incredible sci-fi read. The depth of world-building and character development was so rich and amazing to behold. The intense action and layers of mythos that the author builds upon help elevate the narrative to the literary stratosphere. Readers will be invested instantly by the wild atmosphere and changing landscapes of the narrative’s setting, getting lost in the author’s world for hours. 

What stood out to me much like the first book in the series was the way in which the author utilized and developed these rich characters throughout the narrative. The evolution and journey both Rhea and Galen go on to save the King and protect one another in the process were equally balanced and allowed them to showcase the depth of the impact this journey has had on them individually and as a group overall. 

The Verdict

Gripping, entertaining, and thrilling, author Richard Paolinelli’s “Galen’s Blade” is the perfect sci-fi read this summer and a marvelous next chapter in the A Starquest 4TH Age Adventure Series. The overarching narrative and rich character growth very much felt like a blend of classic sci-fi series like Firefly and Star Wars put together, feeling like some elements of fantasy and mythology also came into play to make this a unique reading experience. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Richard Paolinelli began his writing career as a freelance writer in 1984 in Odessa, TX and gained his first fiction credit serving as the lead writer for the first two issues of the Elite Comics sci-fi/fantasy series, Seadragon. In 1991 Richard began his sports writing career at the Gallup Independent before moving on to work for the Modesto Bee, Turlock Journal, Merced Sun-Star, Tracy Press, San Mateo County Times and the San Francisco Examiner. He also served as an editor and photographer with some of the newspapers. He won the 2001 California Newspaper Publishers Association award for Best Sports Story while at the Turlock Journal.

In 2010, Richard retired as a sportswriter and decided to return to his fiction writing roots. He released two short stories – The Invited and Legacy of Death – as well as a full-length sci-fi novel, Maelstrom. In 2015, Richard completed nearly two years of research and interviews and published, From The Fields: A History of Prep Football in Turlock, California, chronicling 95 years of high school football in his hometown. One month later, the first book of the Jack Del Rio series, Reservations, was published by Oak Tree Press.

In 2016, Richard was one of a dozen authors selected to participate in, Beyond Watson, an anthology of original Sherlock Holmes stories and was one of 20 writers involved in a second Holmes Anthology, Holmes Away From Home, released in December. Perfection’s Arbiter, a biography of National League Umpire, Babe Pinelli, was released on October 8th. W & B Books acquired the Jack Del Rio series and released the second book, Betrayals, in November. The remaining two books in the Jack Del Rio series will follow in 2017 & 2018.

In January of 2017, Richard returned to his science fiction roots with the release of the novel, Escaping Infinity, and will release another sci-fi novel, When The Gods Fell, on September 4, 2018.

Makeup Tips from Auschwitz: How Vanity Saved My Mother’s Life by Tommy Schnurmacher Review

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

Author Tommy Schnurmacher takes readers on an emotional journey using wit, charm, and a warmth rarely seen in the darkness that was WWII and the Holocaust as he shares stories of his mother Olga as a survivor of the Concentration Camps and his own life growing up learning these of these stories in his book, “Makeup Tips from Auschwitz: How Vanity Saved My Mother’s Life”. 

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The Synopsis

Tommy Schnurmacher has written a book that could change your life. It changed his. As a writer, Montreal media icon Schnurmacher is an intense force of nature, a seismic swell of visceral empathy, laser-sharp wit and courageous self-analysis. Now meet Olga. Auschwitz prisoner A-25057, aka Mom, A fearless, dramatic and unpredictable maverick. An original. Exposing the souls of a family for all to see, Make-up Tips from Auschwitz is an addictive page-turner. Schnurmacher’s voice resonates with a lyrical cadence all his own and an unsettling candor reminiscent of humorist David Sedaris and essayist Augusten Burroughs. Like the Oscar-winning film, Life is Beautiful, Schnurmacher revisits the Holocaust with rays of light in the darkness. Sparkling with chutzpah and charm, this is a story of a family’s cultural collision and delightful dysfunction. With the growing pains of Shtisel, the earthiness of The Simpsons and the fierce family loyalty of The Sopranos, these newcomers from Hungary defy authority. They figured out early on that conventional values were not enough. It was their moxie that allowed them to succeed Schmooze with the passing parade that includes John Lennon, Elizabeth Taylor and Crystal Nacht. You will laugh out loud as you meet a cast of supporting characters who redefine eccentric: the 50-minute therapist, the psychic rabbi and a superstitious hypochondriac named Paris. Once you get to know these mutineers from the mainstream, you will want to organize an intervention. Or at least a Passover Seder. 

The Review

This was such a moving and captivating read. The author did an incredible job of bringing warmth and heart into this nonfiction memoir that blended reflections of his mother’s life experiences with his own. The honesty and charm with which the author shares these moments felt both humorous and emotional in their delivery. In one moment, we learn of how the author’s mother lived and survived Auschwitz and later how they all escaped the Hungarian Revolution, and in the next, the author shares a heartwarming bond the two shared over their love of Elizabeth Taylor. 

The way in which the author writes felt very witty and allowed the author to infuse some humor and heart into the memories and experiences that the author brought to the book. The writing also did a great job of making the experiences and memories very vivid and painted a sharp image in the reader’s mind, allowing readers to get a greater sense of the impact these experiences had on the author’s life. Add to that a level of history and culture that this narrative naturally brings to the forefront and this book was an instant hit in my book.

The Verdict

Brilliant, heartfelt, and engaging, author Tommy Schnurmacher’s “Makeup Tips from Auschwitz: How Vanity Saved My Mother’s Life” is a memorable and captivating nonfiction memoir. The inspiring and breathtaking way the author captures the childhood memories and the tales of his parents, in particular his mother, as she survived one of the world’s greatest horrors made this a stark balance of history and heartfelt family life that very few memoirs are able to fully capture themselves. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Born in Budapest, Tommy Schnurmacher is a child of Holocaust survivors. An award-winning political pundit and broadcaster, he was the host of a highly-rated daily radio talk show in Montreal for more than 20 years. He spent a week with John and Yoko at the famous Montreal Bed-In for Peace. He covered the Academy Awards no less than 13 times and is proud to say that Meryl Streep once stepped on his foot in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Tommy is the author of a new memoir, Makeup Tips from Auschwitz. How Vanity Saved My Mother’s Life.

What’s the book about? How his mom got two world-famous Nazis to save her life.

http://talkradiotommy.com/

Ice Islands (Rake Ozenna Thriller Book 4) by Humphrey Hawksley Review

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

What begins as an attempt to infiltrate a large Japanese crime organization turns into an international nightmare as one man must protect his target and prevent a deadly plot from unfolding in author Humphrey Hawksley’s “Ice Islands”, the fourth book in the Rake Ozenna Thriller series. 

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The Synopsis

Major Rake Ozenna faces dangerous choices and deadly consequences in this rip-roaring political thriller that takes you from the ice islands of Finland to the bustling streets of Tokyo via Russia and the White House . . . Buckle up, this is a thrilling ride!

Major Rake Ozenna’s mission is simple: gain access to the Kato family – Japan’s most dangerous crime empire – and stop the threat to America. But when the secret son of the Russian leader is executed and Rake’s target, Sara Kato, is implicated in the murder, a political crisis between Russia, Japan and the US is set in motion.

It’s a race to protect Sara and earn her trust whilst escaping the inhospitable terrain of the icy Aland island. Meanwhile, Russia wants revenge for the murder, a catastrophic move when it is revealed Japan have been stockpiling nuclear weapons.

As Rake learns the true extent of their deadly plans, he must draw on every ounce of his training to succeed. Because if he fails, it won’t just be his life that will be lost . . . the consequences will be global! 

The Review

This was such a cinematic and captivating international thriller! The author ramps up the narrative of this series greatly by honing in on a mixture of global high-stakes action and intimate and more personal character-driven mysteries. The globe-trotting settings really made this feel like a modern-day Netflix action thriller movie, while the tension and balance of politics with organized crime in the narrative added such depth to the story itself.

Yet it was the rich character growth that the author utilized in this narrative that really made the action and setting pop on the page. The mystery surrounding this Russian President’s son’s murder and the daughter of a Japanese criminal all felt both engaging and yet realistic to the current political and criminal climates our world is facing. However, it was the protagonist’s story that really drew me in as a reader, showcasing his heroism and yet also showing his struggle with learning more about his family’s past and trying to separate himself from any feelings involving his target, making this such a rich and dynamic story to read.

The Verdict

Entertaining, thrilling, and brilliantly written, author Humphrey Hawksley’s “Ice Islands” is a must-read novel and a great addition to the Rake Ozenna series. The mystery and suspense the narrative picks up and the rich character development create a narrative that plays out greatly in the reader’s imagination through imagery and tone that captivates the audience immediately. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Humphrey is an award-winning author and foreign correspondent whose assignments with the BBC have taken him to crises all over the world. His Rake Ozenna series originated when reporting from the US-Russian border during heightened tension

He has been guest lecturer at universities and think tanks such as the RAND Corporation, The Center for Strategic and International Studies and MENSA Cambridge. He moderates the monthly Democracy Forum debates on international issues and is a host on the weekly Goldster Book Club where he discusses books and talks to authors.

The third in Humphrey’s political espionage Rake Ozenna series MAN ON FIRE came out in July 2021. The fourth, ICE ISLANDS, will be published in August 2022.

Rake Ozenna, a native Alaskan from Little Diomede on the Russian border, is fast making his mark as a hard-driving unusual character in thriller Fiction. Tthe great NELSON DE MILLE described Rake as ‘smart and tough, and we’re glad to have him on our side”

In MAN ON FIRE, a tense firefight on the Russian-American border heralds the start of a terrifying high-stakes mission for special forces agent Major Rake Ozenna in this gripping espionage thriller. Instructed to guide in a speed boat crossing from Russia in the Bering Strait, special forces Major Rake Ozenna watches in horror as the operation culminates in a fatal firefight – and the loss of vital intelligence of a deadly new weapon. A weapon of unimaginable power. A weapon that, if it were unleashed, would cripple civilization as we know it. But who sabotaged the mission? Who possesses the weapon – and what is their ultimate goal?

Rake’s search takes him to the remote outpost of Uelen on the Russian coast – and the discovery that he is up against a formidable enemy from his past. As world leaders gather in Bonn for the signing of the new European security treaty, Rake enters a desperate race against time to prevent a catastrophe beyond imagining. This fast-paced, impeccably researched, highly topical thriller is perfect for rreaders of CLIVE CUSSLER, LEE CHILD and ROBERT

LUDLUM.

Humphrey’s Rake Ozenna thrillers have been widely praised.

Library Journal on MAN ON EDGE — ‘A hard-as-nails hero, an out-of-the-ordinary location, and oodles of high-action encounters – everything readers want in a political thriller’

Booklist on MAN ON ICE — ‘Knuckle-whitening suspense, bloody violence, dirty tricks, and plenty of surprising twists make this a gripping, can’t-put-it-down read’ –

‘Authentic settings, non-stop action’, Steve Berry on Man on Ice

An up-to-the-minute, page-turning spy thriller with the atmosphere of a Cold War classic’ – Charles Cumming on Man on Edge

https://www.humphreyhawksley.com/

Short Shorts on Family and Other Issues by Philippa C. Jabouin Review

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

Author Philippa C. Jabouin’s “Short Shorts on Family and Other Issues” helps readers take a journey into the everyday and seemingly mundane experiences that can reflect on the issues and problems that can arise in our everyday relationships.

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The Synopsis

In these thirty snippets of everyday life, Philippa c. jabouin offers vignettes of seemingly trivial moments of her characters’ interactions with themselves and others.

Through deep reflection, existential questions, misunderstandings and eloquent silences, the stories offer quick snapshots of the complexity of the human mind and its dynamics.

The Review

This was a profound and moving read. The author did an incredible job of layering these short little vignettes and stories with a healthy balance of theme and story-driven narrative. The way the author included pages adjacent to the stories for readers to write down their reflections on the lessons and themes they picked up on in the stories themselves was just incredible and made for a more personal and interactive reading experience.

What stood out to me and made the lessons stand out, even more, was the way the author framed each story’s “characters”. The obscurity of the characters allowed the reader to hone in on the messages and themes of the stories far more, allowing them to place themselves into the narrative in place of a more elevated “character”. The themes that focused on family, friends, romantic relationships, and so much more really brought an emotional depth and allowed the reader to connect to the stories themselves in a more personal manner.

The Verdict

Heartfelt, personal, and engaging, author Philippa C. Jabouin’s “Short Shorts on Family and Other Issues” is a must-read short story collection. The fast-paced read and brilliant storytelling will hook readers instantly, and the way the author writes will allow readers to able to see themselves in the narratives and connect on a much more personal level. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Philippa c. jabouin has authored many articles and short stories under her name and as a ghostwriter. As a recovering ex-lawyer, she now spends her time writing as a freelance journalist, editor, and consultant. This is her first published collection of short stories. She lives in the Ottawa/Gatineau region of Canada.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/short-shorts-on-family-and-other-issues-philippa-c-jabouin/1140828868

Lover’s Moon (Canadian Werewolf Book One) by Mark Leslie and Julie Strauss Review

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

As two people grieve the loss of a beloved individual in their lives, they recall the start of their passionate and intense relationship years earlier in authors Mark Leslie and Julie Strauss’s “Lover’s Moon”, the fifth book in the Canadian Werewolf series. 

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The Synopsis 

He’s an alpha wolf and a beta boyfriend.

She’s dated every monster in New York City.

It’s time for their Meat-Cute.

Michael Andrews, a Canadian living in New York, is learning to live with the side effects of lycanthropy. Other than waking up naked and bloody in Central Park once a month, he’s managing just fine. If only he could finish the book he’s supposed to be writing. If only he could find someone he trusted enough to tell the truth to.

Gail Sommers may not have her love life in order, but at least she’s smart about things that really matter. She runs the coolest occult shop in the city, and is a pre-eminent scholar of the occult. She’s made a vow of celibacy so that she can spend this year focusing on her work and her self-care. She’s even been hired to help out a very famous and very sexy horror author.

As a new era in the Canadian Werewolf saga begins, Lover’s Moon flashes back to the romantic and comedic story of how Michael and Gail met and fell in love back in the summer of 2011. Told through both Michael and Gail’s unique perspectives, it also explores Gail’s past, introduces new characters, and reveals some of the deeper secrets of both of their lives.

A special Canadian Werewolf tale co-authored by Mark Leslie and Julie Strauss.

The Review

This was such a fun surprise in a very heavily paranormal thriller and romance series. The authors did an amazing job taking readers deeper into the romance aspect of this narrative than ever before, with the story serving both as a prequel to the main story and evolution of these two characters in the modern day of the main series narrative. The passion and humor that is infused into this narrative is both a great tribute to the character development of novels in the series that came before and a great departure from the more action and paranormal-driven narratives fans have gotten used to over the years.

What really made this story unique was the character development between these two characters. The raw emotions and the way the authors gave each of the protagonists their own unique perspective on their relationships both past and present felt both relatable and heartfelt to the reader. The mixture of desire, passion, and heat with the secret lives that initially drives a wedge between them and the hurdles they have to overcome individually to finally find their way back to one another made this story such a compelling read.

The Verdict

Heartening, entertaining, and emotionally-driven, authors Mark Leslie and Julie Strauss’s “Lover’s Moon” is a must-read paranormal romance and a great addition to the Canadian Werewolf series. Both a departure and an intimate reading experience that feels both relatable and engaging, the authors have crafted a very personal dive into the Canadian Werewolf universe. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Mark is a writer, editor and bookseller who was born and grew up in Sudbury, spent many years in Ottawa and Hamilton and currently lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

When he is not writing, he tacks “Lefebvre” back onto his name and works as a book industry consultant, having been a bookseller since the 1992, the same year his first short story was published.

Apart from publishing novels and non-fiction paranormal explorations under the name Mark Leslie, having works occasionally appearing on his mother’s refrigerator door under the name Mark Lefebvre, and podcasting and consulting about the book industry under the name Mark Leslie Lefebvre for his Stark Publishing/Stark Reflections brand, Mark is a lover of craft beer.

When he’s not enjoying craft beer or playing around with his three given names, he can usually be found wandering, awestruck through bookstores or libraries. 

http://markleslie.ca/

Julie lives in Southern California with her husband and four kids. She homeschools them. “The kids, I mean,” Julie says. “Not the husband.”

She likes to eat dark chocolate and drink good wine and read lots of books and doesn’t usually bother with housework.

Julie warns anyone who might read her blog or her books: “You should know that I have a foul mouth and complain about the heat all the time. I speak in movie quotes, but they tend to be the obscure, random quotes that no one understands except me. I crack myself up. You’ll get used to it.”

Julie used to publish romance novels under the pen name Emma Foster. “But it turned out,” she admits, “I’m way too lazy to keep up two online profiles in addition to all the other personalities inside my head. So I dumped the pen name, and now you can find me at social media places as Julie Wrote A Book. I’d make a terrible spy. (Or maybe the Best Spy Ever. You’ll never know for sure.)”