Posted in reviews

Murdered for Nothing by Gary Westphalen Review

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

A gruesome series of murders in the late 80’s finds upstate New York in a frenzy in a fictionalized version of true events in author Gary Westphalen’s “Murdered for Nothing”.

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The Synopsis

On a cold and snowy night in Upstate New York, two men walked into a little neighborhood bar. When they walked out a few minutes later, the three people inside had their heads caved in, and the place was on fire. In less than 48 hours, two more people in Rochester would be savagely tortured and murdered, and their homes also set ablaze. The five died in robberies that netted less than a hundred dollars. And that real-life crime spree is just the beginning.Set in the late 1980’s, Murdered For Nothing follows the criminals, the cops looking for them, the lawyer aching to represent them, and the media covering it all through a gruesome and twisted drama that includes egos, lies, suspense, the occasional touch of humor, and even a courtroom brawl that occurred in front of a dual trial involving two juries. Best of all, it unravels right in front of my camera. You see, I was the first television news photographer allowed to record a trial in New York State.Set in the late 1980’s, Murdered For Nothing is a fictionalized version of those real-life events that I witnessed first-hand. They have been percolating in my head for decades, and have bubbled to the surface in this page-turner that you won’t be able to put down.

The Review

This was a truly engaging and chilling crime thriller. What set this story apart from others within this genre was the fact that the crimes themselves were not some glamorous, Hollywood-style event that saw some big shootout with police during a bank heist. Instead, the story focused on the brutal reality of most crimes, which is that murder is far too often not just heartbreaking and painful for those left behind, but pointless as well. The author perfectly captures the raw emotions and vicious nature of the small-town crime that often gets overshadowed by the media, while also balancing this out with fast-paced storytelling and haunting use of imagery within the writing itself to bring these crimes and the lives of those involved to life.

What really stands out of course is the amazing character development within this novel. The author not only hones in on the mindset and personalities of the criminals, the police, and those involved in the case but even brings to life the small-town of Rochester itself, showing the townspeople and how these brutal crimes affected them. Balancing out this story of brutality with crimes such as this was the media sensation that the case became, highlighting our own nature as a society to become invested in and fascinated with the criminal mind and their acts. 

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The Verdict

A brilliant, enthralling, and haunting read, author Gary Westphalen’s “Murder for Nothing” is a fantastic and must-read crime thriller for the summer. Not only does the story itself draw the reader in, but the fact it’s a fictionalized narrative based on true events makes the story much more engaging, and will have readers clamoring to learn more about this case. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Gary has spent a lifetime as a documentary film maker and journalist. His pursuit of telling the story of the human condition has taken him to dozens of countries all over the world. He has interviewed Presidents and Kings, the homeless and destitute, and everything in-between. His work has been seen on nearly every major television and cable network. It’s almost a guarantee that you have seen the results of his story-telling. He has now turned to a life filled with narrating audiobooks for other authors, and writing his own books as well. Learn much more at garywestphalen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gary.westphalen

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gary-westphalen-a37384126/

Posted in reviews

The Unknown Man by Natalie Hanson Review

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

An FBI agent with a gift for sensing lies finds herself searching for two kidnapped twins and a suspect with little to no information in a race against time in author Natalie Hanson’s novel, “The Unknown Man”.

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The Synopsis

It took just a tiny bit more matter than antimatter for the big bang to produce the entire universe. Born with an abnormality that manifests through her body, imbalance is something Zalla Bennbett understands. Her ability to sense out lies gives her an advantage on FBI investigations, but sixteen years in, both her marriage and career are on the rocks.

Zalla is assigned to work the kidnapping of an FBI informant’s young twins. With no evidence or leads, her suspect is deemed ‘The Unknown Man’. She’ll have to fight against her instincts to find the girls before time runs out.

The Review

A chilling and gripping tale, author Natalie Hanson has delivered a masterpiece thriller like no other. The author does a fantastic job of delivering suspense and drama on every page through perfect pacing and shocking narrative developments. The complex web of deceit and the twists and turns the author showcases in the narrative help bring out the terror that helps define the horror/thriller genre. 

The novel is the perfect balance of character development and pacing, taking the time to introduce readers to this narrative’s characters and establish a bond between the reader and the characters. The revelations that are made throughout the novel and the identity of the villain who has brought a level of complexity and drama to the narrative make this story a real stand-out amongst the other new releases in this genre.

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The Verdict

A memorable, engaging, and chilling novel of twisted games and haunting memories, author Natalie Hanson’s “The Unknown Man” is the perfect first entry into a brand new series of thrillers following a complicated and unique new protagonist. The shocking revelations the narrative unveils really make this novel inviting and nail-biting, making for the perfect summer thriller. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Natalie Hanson is an author and screenplay writer born and raised in Seattle, WA.

‘The Unknown Man’ is the first of five novels chronicling the hunt for serial killers and criminals by FBI agent Zalla Bennbett. This dark series examines the worst criminals humanity has to offer through the eyes of a jaded agent, struggling to keep optimism alive and fight for the voiceless.

Book two in the series, ‘The Butcher’, is an upcoming release.

Her novel ‘Every Moment and Not a Second More’ was published on Amazon in 2018.

Currently she is collaborating on a horror genre comic series based on her screenplay “Dociles.” It tells the story of a teen runaway, kidnapped by a medical examiner who turns the dead into zombies. It’s a fight to not end up as one of the herd!

https://nataliehardy9.wixsite.com/author/books

Posted in reviews

Cenotaphs by Rich Marcello Review

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

A tale of platonic love and redemption take center stage when two people meet in a small Vermont town in author Rich Marcello’s “Cenotaphs”. 

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The Synopsis

AFTER A CHANCE MEETING, AN OLD MAN AND A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN CHART AN UNCONVENTIONAL PATH FORWARD.

When Ben Sanna, a contemplative retiree with a penchant for helping people, and Samantha Beckett, a secretive New York City hedge fund manager, meet by chance in a small Vermont town, they enter into a tenuous relationship. Over several weeks, Samantha and Ben open their pasts inch by inch, sift through their futures consciously, and come to terms with the strength and depth of their bond. A meditation on redemption told in alternating chapters of musings and scenes, Cenotaphs is about platonic love; the ways we close ourselves off in reaction to pain and what happens when we open ourselves up again; and the deep, painful legacy of loss.

The Review

What a truly remarkable and memorable read. The author does a fantastic job of balancing atmosphere and pacing within this narrative, establishing the needful search for serenity and peace within both of the protagonists of this narrative while also peeling back the layers of their backstories little by little. I absolutely loved the setting of this narrative as well, capturing the haunting beauty of the northeastern portion of the United States, in particular the crisp atmosphere of Vermont, in a truly memorable way.

The character development of this novel was the cornerstone of the entire story. The complexity and emotional depths the author took these characters were gripping as a reader. Both characters proved to be flawed yet steadfast in their need for understanding, and their platonic connection showcased the importance of having someone to love and care for us all, even if that doesn’t translate into romance. 

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The Verdict

A heartfelt, engaging, and breathtaking story of connection, growth, and speaking our truths in order to find love, author Rich Marcello’s “Cenotaphs” is a must-read novel. The perfect story that reads like an Oscar-worthy, character-driven film that would compel any audience, the novel’s story is truly inviting and memorable. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rich is the author of five novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, The Beauty of the Fall, The Latecomers, and Cenotaphs, and the poetry collection, The Long Body That Connects Us All. He also teaches creative writing at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, self-discovery and forgiveness. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet. For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts with his wife and Newfoundland Shaman. He is currently working on his sixth and seventh novels, The Means of Keeping and In the Seat of the Eddas, a follow-on to The Latecomers.

http://www.richmarcello.com/

Posted in reviews

The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy: How to Turn Your Etsy Shop Side Hustle into a Business by Noelle Ihli and Jeanne Allen Review

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

Authors Noelle Ihli and Jeanne Allen take readers on a journey to turn their dreams of being an Etsy shop owner and become a full-fledged business in their book, “The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy”.

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The Synopsis

Hey, Etsy sellers! SKIP the “secrets” and “tricks.”

“The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy” teaches you proven, easy-to-follow strategies to get more sales on Etsy and turn your side-hustle hobby into a sustainable business.

So many Etsy sellers with incredible products and potential are completely buried by the competition with weak or low-converting keywords, counterproductive titles, the wrong listing structure, etc. That’s the bad news. The good news is that these problems aren’t hard to fix—if you know what you’re doing!

“The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy,” fully updated for 2021, is your one-stop resource for all things Etsy. And no, you won’t get a fire-hydrant of business lingo and milquetoast advice. “The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy” is a down-to-earth, no-BS, complete guide to help real Etsy sellers–written by REAL top-1% Etsy sellers. Learn simple ways to dramatically improve your Etsy shop ranking, your five-star reviews, your conversion rate, your shop views and traffic. And most importantly, learn how to stop getting buried by your competitors—and start making sales and real income.

You won’t find any “secrets” or snake-oil in this book. Just replicable strategies that we KNOW work because we used them ourselves to turn a brand-new shop with a single listing in 2013 into a top-1% ranking shop with 22k+ sales, a five-star rating, and 6-figure income.

In “The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy” we share the EXACT same strategies we used to grow our Etsy shop. So skip the guesswork, the “secrets,” and the snake oil. Whether you’re just starting out on Etsy or have been putting a lot of work into your Etsy shop without much success, don’t give up. Instead, get this book. Because our success on Etsy wasn’t an accident, or “good luck.” It was the result of meticulous testing, research, and doing more of what worked (and less of what didn’t!). It’s replicable. Which means that you can do it in your shop too.

Noelle and Jeanne (that’s us!) are passionate about helping other Etsy sellers succeed through our coaching. We love what we do, and we LOVE sending the elevator back down to help other women (and men) build and grow their small business on Etsy. The coaching arena for Etsy sellers is a wee bit crowded with mediocre advice from shop owners who rely on guesswork and outdated tactics. We’re here to change that. In “The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy” we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to succeed and grow on Etsy. We’ll share our mistakes (we made a number of them in the beginning), our success, and what WORKS. You’ll learn:

– How to properly set up your shop for success (and common pitfalls!)

– Down-to-earth, real advice and strategies for keywords that bring in sales

– Real-talk and strategies about Etsy’s algorithm and how it ranks your shop and listings

– How to price your products (most sellers get this one wrong)

– The best (and most cost-effective) opportunities for paid advertising

– Little-known opportunities for free advertising that actually work

– Etsy-specific customer service guide for earning 50% more 5-star reviews

– In-depth guide for how to market your shop within and beyond Etsy

– Practical guide to studio space, packaging, and shipping strategies that save you time and money.

– Advice for growing, scaling, hiring freelancers and virtual assistants

– Creating GORGEOUS listing photos (without expensive equipment or Photoshop skills!)

– Much, much more. When we say “The Ultimate Guide,” we mean it.

You can do this. And we’ll show you how. Etsy is an incredible platform with a LOT of potential. Now, get out there and ETSY!

The Review

A truly well-written, extensively researched, and memorable read, this book does a fantastic job of breaking down the setup and successes on Etsy. Online shops are growing rapidly, and have taken a life all their own over recent years. Etsy has quickly become one of the internet’s best sites to establish a business and pursue one’s dreams, but not everyone is able to grow their business into something full-time. The experience and knowledge the authors bring to this subject are incredible to read in this book.

The book itself covers a wide variety of topics, and the layout of the sections of this book is great. Starting with the basics of setting up your Etsy shop and determining what kind of shop you want to have, the book delves into everything from crafting a shop name that reflects your shop’s purpose in a succinct manner, to the proper photography tools and settings to get the best photos of your products and even marketing strategies. 

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The Verdict 

A memorable, educational, and thought-provoking read, authors Noelle Ihli and Jeanne Allen’s “The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy” is a must-read for all aspiring entrepreneurs and Etsy shop owners. The perfect blend of how-to and inspirational, this book covers a wide variety of topics and makes for a truly engaging book with readers hoping to improve or even begin their journey onto Etsy. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Etsy is an incredible platform. And if you know what works, you can be successful. We know because we did it. Our Etsy shop started with a single listing in 2013. We’re proud to say that it ranks in the top 1% and brings in 6 figures.

If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering if you have what it takes to be successful on Etsy. If your product is good enough. And even if you’ve seen some success, you may still think of your Etsy shop as your “little hobby.” And we want you to knock that off right now. We’ve found that the people who run Etsy shops are some of the most creative, tenacious people we know. And we have no doubt that you are one of them. You can do this. You DO have what it takes.

And that’s why we wrote this book. Because we’ve figured out what actually works, and we love helping other women (and the occasional awesome dude) take their fledgling Etsy shop, and make it into something that gives back to them what they’re putting into it.

About Us:

Noelle is a boy mom to Luke and Max, and a cat mom to Michelle. When she’s willing to wear pants (which is less often than she aspires to wear them), she can be found in mom jeans. Her husband Nate is the best person she knows. The two things she loves most (in addition to Etsy and the aforementioned children and husband) are murder and horses. (Separately, never together.)

Jeanne is also a mom—to Kaylee, Eileen, and Tober. (Yes, Tober. The short story is that she let Kaylee name her baby brother when she was five. She swears she would have stepped in if Kaylee had added too many Xs or Zs, but luckily, she hadn’t learned those letters yet). Her husband Bryan is, like Noelle’s Nate, pretty dang awesome and supportive. Especially when she decided to veer off a more standard career in technical editing and jumped headfirst into the world of Etsy selling.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/758496595078762

https://www.etsy.com/shop/fourthwaveapparel/

Posted in reviews

Guest Blog Post: Preferences of Single vs Series Works

From the beginning of the Mystic Rampage project, I knew I wanted it to be at least a two-part series. It seemed like the best way to combine the fantasy and science fiction elements. In the first novel the Genie’s powers have some principles in biochemistry or physics, but they are mostly considered magic. In the second book I introduced a deeper scientific explanation for their abilities. I was unsure about writing a third installment. I killed off a few characters at the end of book 2 and wasn’t sure I had enough material for another full-length novel. I’ve been working on it almost a year now and I’m still not sure I have enough.

Part of the reason I decided to attempt a third novel was due to Soleil’s uncertain fate at the end of Public Display of Aggression, although it’s probably unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with leaving readers with a mystery; it’s why fan theorists exist. The main reason I’m working on another is that three books just feels natural. I’m aware that duologies exist but I can’t recall any off the top of my head. For some reason when authors decide to make a series they are expected to write at least three. I don’t know when it became the norm, but now that I’m conforming to it I find three novels gets boring. It’s too long for me to follow the same characters. Flarence was always my favorite character in this series to write, but even he’s become dull. I’m getting sick of finding reasons for him to get into fights. I’m also running out of clever ways for the Genies to use their magic. I have a lot of respect for authors who produce series that consist of five books, or ten, or even more. I have even greater respect for people involved in comic books. Some superheroes have been around for more than 70 years, and they still fly off shelves. I can’t imagine keeping a story going that long. Mystic Rampage is going to be my last series, at least for a while. From now on, it’s one-and-done for me.

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Book Summary:

Soleil and Flarence are immortal Genies who can bend the fundamental forces of the universe through willpower alone. For centuries, they have considered themselves the most formidable beings in the world, but some newcomers just might give them a run for their money.

Magic has always been limited to living things. Throughout his life, Soleil has never come across an object with supernatural capabilities. Now, a human has somehow constructed guns with the ability to fire spells. Genies are normally resistant to offensive magic, but Soleil knows from experience that the enchanted revolvers harm all creatures equally.

Resurrection is one of the few limitations to a Genie’s abilities. Not even magic should be able to bring a person back from death. Recently, though, Flarence saw a corpse not only rise but also fight. Endowed with incredible speed and strength, the revived man seeks revenge on his murderers.

To make matters worse, Darren (the third member of the Genie “family”) is still missing. He’s been lying low, biding his time, but hasn’t forgotten about Officer Tymbir, and has every intention of settling their score.

Darren, the revived corpse, and the man with the magic guns have a list of people to kill, and are eager to spill blood. With the help of Mohinaux and Claire, Soleil and Flarence rush to locate them, uncover the sources of their powers, and find a way to stop them.

This book is perfect for adults who want to get in touch with their inner child!

Purchase Public Display of Aggression on AmazonOrganic BooksPage One Books and Barnes and Noble. Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

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About the Author Hugh Fritz: 

Hugh Fritz is a fan of monsters, mad scientists, sorcerers, and anything that involves beings with incredible powers beating each other senseless. After years of writing research papers, he decided it was time to give reality a rest and let his imagination run wild.

Find out more at:

website:  http://www.hughfritz.com 

Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/Stories-by-Hugh-Fritz-397896477228957

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  — Blog Tour Calendar

June14th  @ The Muffin

Join us as we celebrate the launch of this incredible tale. Find out more about the author, Hugh Fritz, and enter to win a copy of Public Display of Aggression for yourself.  

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

June 15th @ A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden

Deirdra Eden shares the spotlight today – and in today’s spotlight it is none other than Hugh Fritz with Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series: Public Display of Aggression! Readers won’t want to miss an opportunity to dig into the magic of this incredible story!

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

June 16th @ Create Write Now with Mari McCarthy

There’s a guest author at Mari McCarthy’s Create Write Now and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Using Bacteria and Fungus in Food”. Join readers at Create Write Now to learn more!

https://www.createwritenow.com/

June 17th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles

Nicole Pyles shares her thoughts as she reviews Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers at World of My Imagination will put their imagination into overdrive with this fast-paced story involving plenty of magic. This is Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series but reads just as well as a stand-alone. Don’t miss today’s review by Nicole!

https://worldofmyimagination.com/

June 18th @ Bibliophile with Diti Shah

Diti Shah shares her book review with her Insta followers – find out what she thinks of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz! This is Book #2 of the Mystic Rampage Series that has delighted readers and left them wanting more!

https://www.instagram.com/she_a_bibliophile/

June 21st @  A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden

There’s a guest author at A Storybook World and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Illustrations in Fantasy Novels”. This will be great for writers and readers alike.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

June 22nd @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Lisa Haselton interviews Hugh Fritz about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2 Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this insider opportunity to hear from the author himself – the man behind all the imagination and fun!

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

June 23rd @ One Writer’s Journey with Sue Bradford Edwards

Fellow author Sue Bradford Edwards offers her review of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers won’t want to miss her thoughts!

https://suebe.wordpress.com/

June 24th @ Knotty Needle with Judy Hudgins

Judy Hudgins keeps readers on the edge of their seat at the knotty needle blog as she reviews Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series . Readers will want to grab their own copy of Hugh Fritz’s Public Display of Aggression so they won’t miss a beat of this imaginative story!

http://www.knottyneedle.blogspot.com

June 30th @ Bookish Trischa

The spotlight is bright at Bookish Trischa and today it shines on Hugh Fritz and his latest creation Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the book everyone is talking about!

http://bookishtrisha.com

July 1st @ Book Santa Fe with Crystal Otto

Crystal Otto reads a lot and she loves a fast-paced imaginative story. Public Display of Aggression is 5 Stars and she can’t wait to tell readers more about it at Book Santa Fe today! This is the 2nd book in the Mystic Rampage series, but she says it reads great as a standalone. Read Crystal’s full review today!

http://www.booksantafe.info/booksantafeblog

July 7th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith

Readers of Varsha’s blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today in a post about “Fan Fiction” as he takes a break from promoting his latest book Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this guest post and opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and the man behind all the excitement!

sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com

July 9th @ Bring on Lemons with Carmen Otto

Carmen is an avid reader and soon to be high schooler – she loved Book #1 in the Mystic Rampage series and she joins us today to share her 5 Star Review of Book #2 – Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Don’t miss her youthful insight!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

July 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today as he pens a guest post titled “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. This post will delight authors and readers alike – so don’t miss it! This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2, Public Display of Aggression.

July 12th  @ Bookish Trischa

Today is the day – Trischa reviews Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about and hear from Trischa herself as she shares her insight into the writings of Hugh Fritz.

http://bookishtrisha.com

July 13th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith

Today it’s Varsha’s opportunity to share her review of Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about the fast-paced writing of Hugh Fritz and Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage series!

sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com

July 14th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

A few days ago, readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog heard from Hugh Fritz in a guest post: “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. Now it’s review time – hear what Anthony has to say in his review of Public Display of Aggression, Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series by Hugh Fritz!

Posted in reviews

QWYRK (QWYRK Tales #1) by Tim Rayborn Review

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

A member of the Shadow folk must help a young girl who witnesses a terrifying supernatural event, and soon finds herself joining the girl and a band of misfits in order to confront ancient magic and a web of villainy in author Tim Rayborn’s “QWYRK”, the first in a brand new fantasy series.

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The Synopsis

Qwyrk is having a bad day; several, in fact. One of the Shadow folk tasked with keeping an eye on humanity, she’s ready for a well-earned break in Yorkshire, but now she’s (literally) run into a girl, Jilly, who just saw something quite supernatural and truly awful happen in her town. As Qwyrk tries to unravel the mystery, layers of villainy are exposed, and she’s stuck with an assortment of unlikely folk that she’d rather not have helping her. Together, they confront ancient magic, medieval conspiracies, and the possible end of the world (that again?). It’s not the holiday Qwyrk was hoping for!

QWYRK is the first in a series of four novels about the adventures of a group of misfits at the edge of reality in modern northern England, a world of shadows, Nighttime Nasties, sorcery, intergalactic councils, tacky nightclub attire, Monty Pythonesque humor, and even elves… though they are a bit silly.

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The Review

This was a truly well-developed first entry into a brand new fantasy series. The author doesn’t waste time delving into this supernatural world, where the creatures of myth and legend live hidden in the shadows of our own world. The balance of mythology that the author has crafted and brought to life through the characters of this narrative and the unique humor that helps define the relationships between these characters was exciting to read.

The action of this novel was perfect. Jilly was a great character, as she served to bring humanity into the larger-than-life supernatural mischief that the protagonists faced along this journey. Personally, it was the author’s setting that really had me hooked. While I am a huge fan of YA Fantasy and LGBTQ-driven narratives, as well as mythology, I am an even bigger fan of the UK and loved seeing the interactions and the way the setting impacted the character’s personalities as well. 

The Verdict

A beautifully written, engaging, and mesmerizing YA Fantasy and LGBTQ-Supernatural tale, author Tim Rayborn’s “QWYRK” is a must-read first entry into a brand new, modern-day fairy tale series. The action and mythology really helped to bring this narrative to life, and the characters kept the reader invested as the villain and hero rose to light. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of this incredible read today!

Rating: 10/10

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Qwyrk - Tim Rayborn

Tim Rayborn has a new bi urban fantasy book out, book one of the Qwyrk Tales: Qwyrk. And there’s a giveaway!

Qwyrk is having a bad day; several, in fact. One of the Shadow folk tasked with keeping an eye on humanity, she’s ready for a well-earned break in Yorkshire, but now she’s (literally) run into a girl, Jilly, who just saw something quite supernatural and truly awful happen in her town.

As Qwyrk tries to unravel the mystery, layers of villainy are exposed, and she’s stuck with an assortment of unlikely folk that she’d rather not have “helping” her.

Together, they confront ancient magic, medieval conspiracies, and the possible end of the world (that again?). It’s not the holiday Qwyrk was hoping for!

Aboyt the Series: Qwyrk is the first in a series of four novels about the adventures of a group of misfits at the edge of reality in modern northern England, a world of shadows, Nighttime Nasties, sorcery, intergalactic councils, tacky nightclub attire, an abundance of sarcasm, and even elves…though they are a bit silly.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Booksamillion | Blackwells | Liminal Fiction | Goodreads


Giveaway

Tim is giving away an Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47191/?


Excerpt

Qwyrk Meme

Qwyrk and her friends sat on the slanted rooftop of the Ecklesons’ large old home a little later on, quite annoyed. Now they were just trying to avoid all of the clatter and the obnoxious human adults stomping around below. Jimmy’s second outburst had no doubt earned him a grounding for the next month. Mr. Eckleson had let out a few stern words that were decidedly inappropriate for young Jimmy’s ears.

So Qwyrk, and her mates Qwypp and Qwykk, sat and surveyed the scene. It was a nice detached Edwardian home, with a lovely yard. Well, it would have been lovely except that it needed more tending than the Ecklesons were prepared to give it.

An old rosebush had grown to quite a size, such that its thorny branches often grabbed people as they walked by, often to gasps of surprise that then turned to annoyance as new victims found themselves unable to walk any farther until they became untangled. Those that ventured forward to smell the roses risked never being seen again.

At least twice a month, Mr. Eckleson threatened to hack the whole thing down, but somehow, he always got distracted by other weekend activities, such as football on television. And secretly, he harbored a slight fear of the thing, as if it were watching him. He worried that if he cut it down, a mob of rosebushes might return one night to enact a brutal vengeance. Mr. Eckleson needed a bit more fresh air.

Yes, it could have been a charming entryway to an old house, even with the disagreeable rosebush. But the plastic pink flamingos that Mrs. Eckleson had brought back from their Florida holiday and displayed with pride out front ensured that “charming” was not a word on the lips of guests. So did the bright blue ceramic garden gnome.

So, the trio looked down on the yard now: gnomes, flamingos, petulant rosebushes, and all. Humans could only see them as shadows with glowing red eyes, but up here, all alone, they saw each other on their natural form, which was basically like humans, except for their pointed ears. Humans would probably be disappointed by that. The occasional human—like a witch, a druid, a shaman, or some such—who could see them in their true form called them elves or fairies, which the Shadows resented. Elves were pretty silly, after all.

“So… what are we looking at?” Qwypp asked. Her bright red bob haircut clashed with her blue overalls and purple Doc Marten boots in a noticeable way.

“The rosebush,” Qwyrk sighed, as she ran her hands through her short but oh-so-stylish blonde hair.

“The rosebush,” Qwypp repeated. “And we’re looking at this rosebush because…”

“Shhh! Did you see that?” Qwyrk interrupted.

“What?” asked Qwykk, curling a strand of her long, wavy brown hair around her finger, and smoothing out wrinkles in her new designer exercise outfit. She obviously prided herself on being the glamorous one of the three.

“One of the branches moved.”

“Oh. My. Goddess!” Qwypp exclaimed. “You mean they have… wind up here in the north? We got here just in time!”

Qwykk stifled a giggle.

Qwyrk shot both of them an angry look. “It bent a little, like an elbow, you idiots! The rosebush is taking on anthropomorphic qualities. I’m sure I just saw it.”

“Anthro-what?” Qwykk asked.

“It means it’s becoming animated, moving like a bipedal being,” Qwypp answered, looking quite proud of herself, and smiling a smug smile.

“I don’t care what its sexual orientation is! That’s its own private business,” Qwykk answered in an equally snooty voice, clearly trying to sound impressive.

Qwyrk sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look, let’s just focus on it for a while, all right? It may do something else. We have to find out.”

“I wonder how that would work?” Qwykk mused after another minute of the three of them watching in silence.

“How what would work?” Qwyrk knew she’d regret asking.

“I mean, if you was a rosebush, how would you know who you fancied? Like, what if you had a knob with thorns? That wouldn’t be very pleasant! And even if you did know, what could you do about it? I mean… suppose you liked the rosebush on the other side of the street, how would you know if it fancied you back? And even if you knew it did, how would you actually get over there to get a snog? It’s not like you could move or anything. And how would you actually snog? Like, with what? Rosebuds on your branches? And suppose you actually fancied the oak tree next door instead, well, that opens up a whole new set of problems!”

Qwyrk almost put her face in her palms. Almost.

“Why can’t we just go downstairs and do some yoga?” Qwypp interjected, and for once, Qwyrk was glad for her whining.

“I told you…” Qwyrk started.

“You didn’t, though!” Qwypp said, annoyed. “Just that you’ve got a job up here to do, because of some funny reports.”

“Yeah, Qwyrk, what’s up? You dragged us all the way up here from London, when we were going clubbing this weekend, and we have a right to know why.”

Qwyrk assumed a mock pleasant voice. “Look, here it is again, in small words, so you’ll understand: that big rosebush has been doing some strange things over the last couple of weeks. It’s been moving like a human, and people have also been seeing things like ghosts, goblins, strange lights, and apparitions in the neighborhood; there was even a little earthquake a few days ago. When a plant starts moving by itself, it’s usually not a good thing, and if there’re ghosts and goblins involved, and the earth starts rumbling, it doesn’t usually lead to snogs and chocolate. All clear now?”

“But what are we supposed to do about it?” pouted Qwykk. “Now I can’t use my VIP pass to London’s ‘Club Nitro Ibiza Hedonistic Fun Dome’ this weekend.”

“The council wants us to keep an eye on it for a bit, to watch over everything. Our mate Jimmy down there is making that a bit difficult and making me question the wisdom of that order. I’ve a good mind to gag him tomorrow night.”

“The fact that we’re the ones that scare the bejeesus out of most kids who see us is somehow lost on the council, eh?” snarked Qwypp. “I don’t make the rules,” Qwyrk answered. “I just follow them.”

Qwyrk did ponder the irony of it all. “Well, what can I say? Sometimes kids are up far past their bedtimes and spot us. Then they get more scared of us than of the dangers we’re supposed to be watching for.”

It’s time for a change in policy.


Author Bio

Tim Rayborn

Tim Rayborn is a writer and internationally acclaimed musician. He plays dozens of unusual instruments that many people of have never heard of and often can’t pronounce, including medieval instrument reconstructions and folk instruments from Northern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East.

He has appeared on over forty recordings, and his wanderings and tours have taken him across the US, all over Europe, to Canada and Australia, and to such romantic locations as Marrakech, Istanbul, Renaissance chateaux, medieval churches, and high school gymnasiums.

On the writing side of things, Tim lived in England for nearly seven years and has a PhD from the University of Leeds, which he likes to pretend means that he knows what he’s talking about. He has written several books and magazine articles about music, the arts, history, and business, and undoubtedly will write more (whether anyone likes it or not).

He currently resides in Northern California amid many books, antique music reproduction devices (i.e., CDs), instruments, and with a sometimes-demanding cat. He’s also rather enthusiastic about good wines, single-malt Scotch, and cooking excellent food.

Author Website: https://timrayborn.com/

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

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

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tim_Rayborn

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rayborn.esoterica

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3160656.Tim_Rayborn

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B00DWY5J8E

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Posted in reviews

Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted Review

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

Author Gail Ward Olmsted tells the riveting story of a widow who marries her brother-in-law, and fights to earn the affections of her new husband as she helps inspire him to become the father of American Landscape Architecture and find her own place in the world in the biographical and historical fiction novel, “Landscape of a Marriage”.

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The Synopsis

A marriage of convenience leads to a life of passion and purpose. A shared vision transforms the American landscape forever.

New York, 1858: Mary, a young widow with three children, agrees to marry her brother-in-law Frederick Law Olmsted, who is acting on his late brother’s deathbed plea to “not let Mary suffer”. But she craves more than a marriage of convenience and sets out to win her husband’s love. Beginning with Central Park in New York City, Mary joins Fred on his quest to create a ‘beating green heart’ in the center of every urban space.

Over the next 40 years, Fred is inspired to create dozens of city parks, private estates and public spaces with Mary at his side. Based upon real people and true events, this is the story of Mary’s journey and personal growth and the challenges inherent in loving a brilliant and ambitious man.

The Review

A truly original and yet historical read, the author has done a masterful job of bringing protagonist and real-life historical figure Mary Olmsted, wife of legendary landscape architect Frederick Olmsted. The unique perspective of Mary makes the history feel alive and within reach, highlighting the struggles and changes many women faced back in the day, from gender bias to finding balance within marriage and even bringing love and romance into a marriage, which flew in the face of so many’s belief that status and wealth were the keys to a successful marriage. 

The balance between history, professionalism, and family is felt early on in this narrative. The evolving relationship between Frederick and Mary is engaging, taking a tragedy and leading to a marriage-turned-romance situation. The bond between them and the growth of their relationship as the world around them changed was fascinating to see unfold. Yet it was Mary herself that made this narrative so inspired and heartfelt, exploring her commitment to her marriage, fighting against societal expectations for her marriage and family, and how she processed the emotional impacts in her life made this story feel not only investing but real. 

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The Verdict

Historically driven, entertaining, and heartfelt, author Gail Ward Olmsted’s “Landscape of a Marriage” was a must-read novel! Fantastic character development and a beautifully rich history to draw upon lead to a marvelously engaging narrative that readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Gail Ward Olmsted was a marketing executive and a college professor before she began writing fiction on a fulltime basis. A trip to Sedona, AZ inspired her first novel Jeep Tour. Three more novels followed before she began Landscape of a Marriage, a biographical work of fiction featuring landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, an ancestor of her husband’s, and his wife Mary. For more information, please visit her on Facebook and at GailOlmsted.com

https://www.instagram.com/gwolmsted/

https://www.bookbub.com/books/landscape-of-a-marriage-central-park-was-only-the-beginning-by-gail-ward-olmsted

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The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chishti Review

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

Three very different women use their voices to improve the society they find themselves in, hoping to change things for the better for their granddaughters in author Shaheen Chishti’s “The Granddaughter Project”.

The Synopsis

A deeply emotional and raw story, “The Granddaughter Project” is the shared experience of three, very different women, who collectively use their voices, wanting to improve societal attitudes for their granddaughters. The men around these women put them into desperate situations: young and alone, they fought to overcome their experiences. 

Helga is a holocaust survivor, who grew up as the cherub of her family until the Anschluss of Austria. Separated from her family in Auschwitz, she survived the

horrors alone and tried to begin a new life in Israel. In complete contrast, Kamla was born as a poor peasant girl and grew up during the Bengali Famine. With an alcoholic father, who abuses her mother, the family find themselves homeless and hungry. She survives and finds work in a women’s shelter, eventually marrying Rajeev, who abandons her and their young daughter. Lynette leaves the Caribbean shores with her mother Pam, arriving in 1950s London. Living in appalling conditions, the pair struggle to make ends meet and contend with constant discrimination. When her mother dies,

Lynette is left alone and at the mercy of the people around her. During the Notting Hill riots, she is beaten and left for dead but she still survives.

These warrior women tell their stories for the first time to their granddaughters, hoping that they can succeed where they failed and that they feel empowered, inspired and supported to do what is best for themselves.

The Review

Such a lovely and heartfelt story of strong women overcoming great obstacles to give their children a better life, this is the perfect balance of women’s fiction and family drama. The characters were the perfect balance of strength and vulnerability, highlighting the individual struggles they overcame and showing the incredible spirit of these women that perfectly captures the feminine driven narrative.

What really helped showcase this women’s fiction novel was the back and forth between character growth and culture that was incorporated into the narrative. From the very first page the author blends modern day protagonist Maya into the life of her late grandmother, from life struggling to survive in her village to her connection to the goddess Durga, and as the story progresses the narrative seems to take on aspects of the historical fiction and mythology genres as well, making the story feel well rounded.

The Verdict

Majestic, emotional, and heartfelt in its delivery, author Shaheen Chishti’s “The Granddaughter Project” is a must read novel. Full of heart and powerful family storytelling, the author showcases an overall theme of love and strength that encompasses the strong female characters that drive this narrative forward. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Shaheen Chishti is an Indian-British author, world peace advocate and thought leader. Shaheen is a member of the London Literary Society and Muslim-Jewish Forum in London. He is also the founder of the Jewish Islamic International Peace Society. Shaheen’s writings – fiction and non-fiction – primarily focus on the upliftment of women and the emancipation of Muslim women in particular. He believes that the “empowerment of women is at the root of Muslin teaching”. An ardent believer in the Sufi philosophy of “Love towards all, malice towards none”, Shaheen endeavours to promote the message of peace and solidarity of the Chishti Order of Sufism. Shaheen was born into the Syed Chishti family in India which traces its ancestry directly to Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Holy Prophet.

http://shaheenchishti.in/

https://www.amazon.com/Granddaughter-Project-Shaheen-Chishti/dp/1608882381

https://twitter.com/chishtishaheen?s=21

Posted in reviews

Cold Hearted (Villains #8) by Serena Valentino Review

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

The true origin of one of the most notorious evil stepmothers is revealed in author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted”, the eight book in the VILLAINS series.

The Synopsis

It’s a familiar tale: A kind and beautiful young girl, reeling from loss. A doting father, frantic to bring a mother’s love back into his daughter’s life. And the selfish, cruel woman who insinuates herself into that family―a woman so unfeeling, so cold hearted, that when her new husband dies, she makes the girl a servant in her own home.

But who is that evil stepmother, that icy lady of the house? How did she become so closed off that, in the face of a child’s grief, she thought only to seek wealth and power for herself and her abhorrent daughters? Before that fateful ball, before the glass slipper and the prince, there was another story―a story of love and grief, of hope and of dreams dashed. It is the story of Lady Tremaine.

Even the coldest of villains are sometimes wives and mothers, women who loved and lost and hoped for

something grander for their lives . . . once upon a dream.

The latest novel in Serena Valentino’s deliciously devious Villains series introduces the most famed and hated wicked stepmother of them all―but turns everything you know about her on its head.

The Review

A truly haunting and engaging story, the author has masterfully brought to life the story of Cinderella in a whole new light. Seeing the story through Lady Tremaine’s eyes was amazing, not only showcasing who she was before her marriage to Cinderella’s father, but showcasing how all the girls of the household became victims of his cruel nature. Even Cinderella, beloved by her father, found herself a pawn in his game of control. The pacing of the novel really helped draw readers in, while the setting changes from London to the Many Kingdoms highlighted the change in magic and it’s effect on those not of that world.

The character growth was definitely the highlight of the narrative. The story helped balance the original characters and gave them more dimension. From Cinderella inadvertently giving her father the means to push Lady Tremaine over the edge to the inclusion of the Fairies and their dark counterparts, The Odd Sisters, and even the tumultuous path that put the step sisters in the path of villainy, readers won’t be able to help feeling sympathetic towards the women.

The Verdict

A brilliant, entertaining, and chilling take on a classic fairy tale, author Serena Valentino’s “Cold Hearted” is a must read YA novel of the summer. Capturing the essence of classic fairy tales and elevating the narrative to include much more well rounded characters, the book is one readers won’t be able to put down. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Serena Valentino has been weaving tales that combine mythos and guile for the past decade. She has earned critical acclaim in both the comic and horror domains, where she is known for her unique style of storytelling, bringing her readers into exquisitely frightening worlds filled with terror, beauty, and extraordinary protagonists. The books in her best-selling Villains series are best enjoyed when read in the following order: Fairest of All, The Beast Within, Poor Unfortunate Soul, Mistress of All Evil, Mother Knows Best, Odd Sisters, Evil Thing, and Cold Hearted.

https://www.serenavalentino.com/

https://www.twitter.com/SerenaValentino

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