Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Passiflora by Kathy Davis Review

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

Author and Poet Kathy Davis shares a collection of poetry that highlights life’s everyday struggles and some of life’s toughest battles in her poetry collection, “Passiflora”.

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The Synopsis

Passiflora is a collection of poems about our day-to-day struggles with loss, raising children, relationships, aging and creating art, and how the nature that surrounds us informs how we view these challenges and sometimes serves as a source of solace.

The Review

A beautifully written and emotional narrative unfolds across this amazing collection. The author has a wonderful way of marrying the imagery of nature with the emotional core of life and the events that often define us. From the book’s very first poems, readers are treated to a unique perspective on life in general, comparing the care for a garden to the care one must show for ourselves physically and mentally, not leaving grief or sorrow to fester or grow on its own in the poem HOW TO GROW WILD.

The author manages to pack a lot of heart and soul into a short read. Readers can truly feel the passion radiating off of the page, exploring the simplest to the most complex and emotionally-driven events life has to offer us all. The author’s words are layered and do a great job of getting the reader to read and re-read the book over and over again to gain new insight into what each poem is bringing forth to the reader’s mind.

The Verdict

A masterful, artful, and mesmerizing book of poetry, author and Poet Kathy Davis’s “Passiflora” is a must-read. A truly heartfelt and emotional journey that readers won’t want to put down, be sure to grab your copies today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

Posted in Guest Post

STRESS: AN EXCERPT FROM THE UPCOMING BOOK “THE JOY OF LIVING: HOW TO SLAY STRESS AND BE HAPPY” BY AUTHOR BARRY SHORE

I am so proud to share with you all this amazing excerpt and article from author Barry Shore, from his upcoming book THE JOY OF LIVING: HOW TO SLAY STRESS AND BE HAPPY. I will be reviewing this book tomorrow, but in anticipating for the May 11th release date I wanted to share this excerpt. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for anyone who knows me, you know that mental health awareness is a cause near and dear to my heart. Please take the time to read this book and share this post, and look for my review of Barry’s book tomorrow. Now, enjoy this exclusive excerpt. 


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An Excerpt From

“The JOY of LIVING: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy”

By Barry Shore the “Ambassador of Joy”

______________________________________________________________________

The Problem: STRESS…Kills!

Not directly. More like death by a thousand sighs.

It’s insidious. Invidious, invasive, and, if continuous and not stopped, will ruin Your physical, mental, and spiritual being.

Stress is a common occurrence. While You can’t remove every stressor from Your life, it’s possible to manage and reduce stress and maintain your health. This is important because chronic stress can cause mental fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness, obesity, skin ailments, heart issues, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.

Yes, that list of symptoms observed across the population tells You that You’re not alone in this battle.

But even when You know the physical and mental effects of stress, You may be unaware of the different stages of stress, known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS). When You understand the different stages of stress and how the body responds in these stages, it’s easier to identify signs of chronic stress in Yourself.

I’m writing this in the year 2020. The world is beset with panic, disease, and economic and societal ruin.

Right now, the most searched word in the world after Covid (and its related causes/cures) is STRESS. It’s affecting everyone.

STRESS is an acronym that I use to describe how to deal with the effects of untoward circumstances. Essentially there are three factors that cause STRESS.

These are and have always been:

• Money

• Work

• Home

Yes, these are universal and constant. Even in the best of times.

There are however two divergent ways to deal with STRESS, both revealed in my insights.

STRESS can stand for: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Sabotage.

There is little need to go into depth regarding each of the three stressors above. It is self-evident that money issues can and do cause tremendous pressures. The same for work. And, certainly, for home/family. Often in times of recession and disaster, these factors are intertwined and exacerbate one another. They truly cause a stomach-turning reality.

STRESS can also mean: Stomach-Turning Reality…Enabling Self-Success.

Same exact situation/s dealt with in a different way/s. Your response to the stomach-turning reality makes all the difference. Struggling is the continual and real test of life. And it’s something we all face every single day.

How You deal with the reality of these issues determines how Your physical and mental wellbeing will be affected. Certainly, You can’t be cavalier. Yet You can utilize practices, tips, and tools to enable You to direct Your mind and guide Your body to avoid falling prey to a pity party which can lead to the use/abuse of medications, alcohol, or to other aberrant behavior.

Mind is the master. Once You grasp this fundamental fact and leverage this powerful tool, You can and will achieve success under all circumstances and vicissitudes.

How do You maintain inner strength during stressful periods?

Consider a submarine. As the ship goes down, the pressure (strength) inside needs to increase to counterbalance the pressure outside. Likewise, when we are in stressful situations, we must make sure our internal strength is adequate to offset the external forces pushing against us.

Anger also produces stress. Have You ever known people whose lives seemed to have a thin veneer of civility and calm, yet once the surface was scratched, anger bubbled up like a volcano? Stress and anger go hand-in-glove.

We also know that there are two types of stress: vertical and horizontal. The vertical is healthy because it pulls You up. Think of a flower on a stem. Without turgor pressure, the stem droops. Without the fluids pushing through the cells, the flower dies. We can grow limp as well. A useful example of the sort of pressure that pulls us up is the sense of awe or reverence of God.

Horizontal stresses pull us apart and create damage. Designing our lives to meet others’ demands and standards is horizontal. All the current talk about self-image leads to horizontal stress. I do not mean that we should have no concept of self-worth. But we want to have a clear definition of self-worth that comes from knowing we were brought into this world for a purpose. That knowledge is a settled knowledge and doesn’t change just because of what others think or say.

In our competitive society there is another prevailing stress—the fear of losing. The specter of losing by our choosing stresses us. When we make one decision, we give up other options. These are the “Y” points. Marriage and career are two of the biggest examples. One of the pitfalls of our current day is buyer’s remorse. “If I choose the left fork and it grows dull, I opt out and choose another road.” This is a mistake. The stress of always looking around for the better option steals the joy of commitment.

The true test of life is never in what happens to us.

It is always in how we choose to respond to situations.

As we’ll learn later in the 11 Strategies, the six most important words You can learn and internalize are:

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

Repeat this. Often. Think about it. Internalize and utilize.

Choice, not chance, determines Your destiny.

“The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy” by Barry Shore is available on Amazon and Apple Books. For more information, check out Barry’s website and follow him @barryeshore on Facebook, or Instagram.

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About the Book

“The Joy of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy” is your passport to being healthier, wealthier, and happier in a time of unease and misgiving. 

Part journal, part memoir, part activity book, it’s a timely guide to slay stress, beat burnout, and cope with life, post-pandemic. Author Barry Shore reveals 11 strategies that you can use to slay stress and be happy….no matter the circumstance. Imagine standing up in the morning fully healthy and in the hospital, that evening completely paralyzed; and not from a car accident or a spinal injury, but from a rare disease. You’ll join the journey as Barry moves from paralysis to now swimming 2 miles per day, 6 days a week. All with a SMILE.

  • RELEASE DATE: May 11, 2021
  • GENRE: Healthy Living, Emotions and Mental Health, Journal/Workbook, Memoir, Motivational Self-Help, Nonfiction, Self-Improvement.
  • PUBLISHER: Joy of Living Institute Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1-930376-15-1 
  • PURCHASING INFO: Available for Pre-order on Amazon or on Apple Books or by visiting https://www.barryshore.com/book 

About the Author

Known as the “Ambassador of JOY,” Barry Shore is a mental health activist, philanthropist, multi-patent holding entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, and former quadriplegic. After a rare disease paralyzed Shore from the neck down, he created the JOY of LIVING Institute™ (a platform that teaches people to live in joy, no matter the situation), Keep Smiling (a movement that has reached multiple celebrities and distributed millions of “Keep Smiling” cards worldwide), and Changebowl (a philanthropic platform featured in Oprah Magazine.) Barry’s podcast, The JOY of LIVING, is heard globally by hundreds of thousands and has over two million downloads. 

Barry’s latest book, “The JOY of Living: How to Slay Stress and Be Happy” is available on Amazon and Apple Books. For more information, check out Barry’s website and follow him @barryeshore on Facebook, or Instagram.

Posted in reviews

Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates Review

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

Three sisters are brought together by tragedy, and must learn to not only come together as a family but confront their pasts as well in author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From The Quilting Circle”. 

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The Synopsis

The Ashwood women don’t have much in common…except their ability to keep secrets.

When Lark Ashwood’s beloved grandmother dies, she and her sisters discover an unfinished quilt. Finishing it could be the reason Lark’s been looking for to stop running from the past, but is she ever going to be brave enough to share her biggest secret with the people she ought to be closest to?

Hannah can’t believe she’s back in Bear Creek, the tiny town she sacrificed everything to escape from. The plan? Help her sisters renovate her grandmother’s house and leave as fast as humanly possible. Until she comes face-to-face with a man from her past. But getting close to him again might mean confessing what really drove her away…

Stay-at-home mom Avery has built a perfect life, but at a cost. She’ll need all her family around her, and all her strength, to decide if the price of perfection is one she can afford to keep paying.

This summer, the Ashwood women must lean on each other like never before, if they are to stitch their family back together, one truth at a time…

The Review

This was a powerful women’s fiction read. The author beautifully sets up a dramatic and emotional family dynamic between the three sisters and their mother in the face of losing their beloved grandmother. The rift between the sisters is felt early on, showing the complex balance of tension and emotion between them all. 

Character growth was essential in this read. The author not only does a great job of showcasing each sister’s individual struggles and how they feel in this tension-filled dynamic with the other two sisters, but the author also fills out the narrative with backstory as diary entries from two different women from different eras give insight into the family’s history as a whole. The author showcases a wide range of talent in this writing, as the author’s normal romance-style narratives shift easily into the women’s fiction genre, highlighting the strong bonds between family and in this instance, sisterhood. 

The Verdict

A memorable, emotional, and engaging read, author Maisey Yates’s “Confessions From the Quilting Circle” is a must-read women’s fiction narrative. The book flows smoothly and engages the reader on multiple levels. The gripping tale of these sisters will resonate with so many of us out there, and in a story about leaving things unfinished in our lives and feeling a piece of ourselves missing, the author found a wonderful way to explore the journey to making ourselves whole again. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

New York Times Bestselling author Maisey Yates lives in rural Oregon with her three children and her husband, whose chiseled jaw and arresting features continue to make her swoon. She feels the epic trek she takes several times a day from her office to her coffee maker is a true example of her pioneer spirit. 

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @maiseyyates

Facebook:@MaiseyYates.Author 

Instagram: @maiseyyates

Goodreads

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An Excerpt From CONFESSIONS FROM THE QUILTING CIRCLE

1

March 4th, 1944

The dress is perfect. Candlelight satin and antique lace. I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle toward you. If only we could set a date. If only we had some idea of when the war will be over.

Love, Dot

Present day—Lark

Unfinished.

The word whispered through the room like a ghost. Over the faded, floral wallpaper, down to the scarred wooden floor. And to the precariously stacked boxes and bins of fabrics, yarn skeins, canvases and other artistic miscellany.

Lark Ashwood had to wonder if her grandmother had left them this way on purpose. Unfinished business here on earth, in the form of quilts, sweaters and paintings, to keep her spirit hanging around after she was gone.

It would be like her. Adeline Dowell did everything with just a little extra.

From her glossy red hair—which stayed that color till the day she died—to her matching cherry glasses and lipstick. She always had an armful of bangles, a beer in her hand and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She never smelled like smoke. She smelled like spearmint gum, Aqua Net and Avon perfume.

She had taught Lark that it was okay to be a little bit of extra.

A smile curved Lark’s lips as she looked around the attic space again. “Oh, Gram…this is really a mess.”

She had the sense that was intentional too. In death, as in life, her grandmother wouldn’t simply fade away.

Neat attics, well-ordered affairs and pre-death estate sales designed to decrease the clutter a family would have to go through later were for other women. Quieter women who didn’t want to be a bother.

Adeline Dowell lived to be a bother. To expand to fill a space, not shrinking down to accommodate anyone.

Lark might not consistently achieve the level of excess Gram had, but she considered it a goal.

“Lark? Are you up there?”

She heard her mom’s voice carrying up the staircase. “Yes!” She shouted back down. “I’m…trying to make sense of this.”

She heard footsteps behind her and saw her mom standing there, gray hair neat, arms folded in. “You don’t have to. We can get someone to come in and sort it out.” 

“And what? Take it all to a thrift store?” Lark asked.

Her mom’s expression shifted slightly, just enough to convey about six emotions with no wasted effort. Emotional economy was Mary Ashwood’s forte. As contained and practical as Addie had been excessive. “Honey, I think most of this would be bound for the dump.”

“Mom, this is great stuff.”

“I don’t have room in my house for sentiment.”

“It’s not about sentiment. It’s usable stuff.”

“I’m not artsy, you know that. I don’t really…get all this.” The unspoken words in the air settled over Lark like a cloud.

Mary wasn’t artsy because her mother hadn’t been around to teach her to sew. To knit. To paint. To quilt.

Addie had taught her granddaughters. Not her own daughter.

She’d breezed on back into town in a candy apple Corvette when Lark’s oldest sister, Avery, was born, after spending Mary’s entire childhood off on some adventure or another, while Lark’s grandfather had done the raising of the kids.

Grandkids had settled her. And Mary had never withheld her children from Adeline. Whatever Mary thought about her mom was difficult to say. But then, Lark could never really read her mom’s emotions. When she’d been a kid, she hadn’t noticed that. Lark had gone around feeling whatever she did and assuming everyone was tracking right along with her because she’d been an innately self focused kid. Or maybe that was just kids.

Either way, back then badgering her mom into tea parties and talking her ear off without noticing Mary didn’t do much of her own talking had been easy.

It was only when she’d had big things to share with her mom that she’d realized…she couldn’t.

“It’s easy, Mom,” Lark said. “I’ll teach you. No one is asking you to make a living with art, art can be about enjoying the process.”

“I don’t enjoy doing things I’m bad at.”

“Well I don’t want Gram’s stuff going to a thrift store, okay?”

Another shift in Mary’s expression. A single crease on one side of her mouth conveying irritation, reluctance and exhaustion. But when she spoke she was measured. “If that’s what you want. This is as much yours as mine.”

It was a four-way split. The Dowell House and all its contents, and The Miner’s House, formerly her grandmother’s candy shop, to Mary Ashwood, and her three daughters. They’d discovered that at the will reading two months earlier.

It hadn’t caused any issues in the family. They just weren’t like that.

Lark’s uncle Bill had just shaken his head. “She feels guilty.”

And that had been the end of any discussion, before any had really started. They were all like their father that way. Quiet. Reserved. Opinionated and expert at conveying it without saying much.

Big loud shouting matches didn’t have a place in the Dowell family.

But Addie had been there for her boys. They were quite a bit older than Lark’s mother. She’d left when the oldest had been eighteen. The youngest boy sixteen.

Mary had been four.

Lark knew her mom felt more at home in the middle of a group of men than she did with women. She’d been raised in a house of men. With burned dinners and repressed emotions.

Lark had always felt like her mother had never really known what to make of the overwhelmingly female household she’d ended up with.

“It’s what I want. When is Hannah getting in tonight?” 

Hannah, the middle child, had moved to Boston right after college, getting a position in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She had the summer off of concerts and had decided to come to Bear Creek to finalize the plans for their inherited properties before going back home.

Once Hannah had found out when she could get time away from the symphony, Lark had set her own plans for moving into motion. She wanted to be here the whole time Hannah was here, since for Hannah, this wouldn’t be permanent.

But Lark wasn’t going back home. If her family agreed to her plan, she was staying here.

Which was not something she’d ever imagined she’d do.

Lark had gone to college across the country, in New York, at eighteen and had spent years living everywhere but here. Finding new versions of herself in new towns, new cities, whenever the urge took her.

Unfinished.

“Sometime around five-ish? She said she’d get a car out here from the airport. I reminded her that isn’t the easiest thing to do in this part of the world. She said something about it being in apps now. I didn’t laugh at her.”

Lark laughed, though. “She can rent a car.”

Lark hadn’t lived in Bear Creek since she was eighteen, but she hadn’t been under the impression there was a surplus of ride services around the small, rural community. If you were flying to get to Bear Creek, you had to fly into Medford, which was about eighteen miles from the smaller town. Even if you could find a car, she doubted the driver would want to haul anyone out of town.

But her sister wouldn’t be told anything. Hannah made her own way, something Lark could relate to. But while she imagined herself drifting along like a tumbleweed, she imagined Hannah slicing through the water like a shark. With intent, purpose, and no small amount of sharpness.

“Maybe I should arrange something.”

“Mom. She’s a professional symphony musician who’s been living on her own for fourteen years. I’m pretty sure she can cope.”

“Isn’t the point of coming home not having to cope for a while? Shouldn’t your mom handle things?” Mary was a doer. She had never been the one to sit and chat. She’d loved for Lark to come out to the garden with her and work alongside her in the flower beds, or bake together. “You’re not in New Mexico anymore. I can make you cookies without worrying they’ll get eaten by rats in the mail.”

Lark snorted. “I don’t think there are rats in the mail.”

“It doesn’t have to be real for me to worry about it.”

And there was something Lark had inherited directly from her mother. “That’s true.”

That and her love of chocolate chip cookies, which her mom made the very best. She could remember long afternoons at home with her mom when she’d been little, and her sisters had been in school. They’d made cookies and had iced tea, just the two of them.

Cooking had been a self-taught skill her mother had always been proud of. Her recipes were hers. And after growing up eating “chicken with blood” and beanie weenies cooked by her dad, she’d been pretty determined her kids would eat better than that.

Something Lark had been grateful for.

And Mom hadn’t minded if she’d turned the music up loud and danced in some “dress up clothes”—an oversized prom dress from the ’80s and a pair of high heels that were far too big, purchased from a thrift store. Which Hannah and Avery both declared “annoying” when they were home. 

Her mom hadn’t understood her, Lark knew that. But Lark had felt close to her back then in spite of it.

The sound of the door opening and closing came from downstairs. “Homework is done, dinner is in the Crock-Pot. I think even David can manage that.”

The sound of her oldest sister Avery’s voice was clear, even from a distance. Lark owed that to Avery’s years of motherhood, coupled with the fact that she—by choice—fulfilled the role of parent liaison at her kids’ exclusive private school, and often wrangled children in large groups. Again, by choice.

Lark looked around the room one last time and walked over to the stack of crafts. There was an old journal on top of several boxes that look like they might be overflowing with fabric, along with some old Christmas tree ornaments, and a sewing kit. She grabbed hold of them all before walking to the stairs, turning the ornaments over and letting the silver stars catch the light that filtered in through the stained glass window.

Her mother was already ahead of her, halfway down the stairs by the time Lark got to the top of them. She hadn’t seen Avery yet since she’d arrived. She loved her older sister. She loved her niece and nephew. She liked her brother-in-law, who did his best not to be dismissive of the fact that she made a living drawing pictures. Okay, he kind of annoyed her. But still, he was fine. Just… A doctor. A surgeon, in fact, and bearing all of the arrogance that stereotypically implied.

One of the saddest things about living away for as long as she had was that she’d missed her niece’s and nephew’s childhoods. She saw them at least once a year, but it never felt like enough. And now they were teenagers, and a lot less cute.

And then there was Avery, who had always been somewhat untouchable. Four years older than Lark, Avery was a classic oldest child. A people pleasing perfectionist. She was organized and she was always neat and orderly.  And even though the gap between thirty-four and thirty-eight was a lot narrower than twelve and sixteen, sometimes Lark still felt like the gawky adolescent to Avery’s sweet sixteen.

But maybe if they shared in a little bit of each other’s day-to-day it would close some of that gap she felt between them.

Excerpted from Confessions From the Quilting Circle by Maisey Yates, Copyright © 2021 by Maisey Yates. Published by HQN Books.

Posted in reviews

The Girl Who Died: A Novel by Ragnar Jónasson 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 looking to find work as a teacher in 1980’s Iceland finds herself in an isolated fishing village and surrounded by darkness, nightmares of young girls in white dresses and a shocking secret that keeps her isolated from the few locals inhabiting the area in author Ragnar Jónasson’s “The Girl Who Died”.  

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The Synopsis

Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World

Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.

But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to less than a dozen people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.

As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space – the site of a local legendary haunting – drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.

The Review

A truly incredible blend of rich culture and history within Iceland with the chilling suspense that readers have come to expect from the author with a brilliant supernatural twist, THE GIRL WHO DIED is a fantastic nail-bitter of a thriller. The author does a fantastic job of making the setting of the novel such an integral part of the narrative that it feels like the small community feels like a character all its own, hiding its own secrets and becoming just as mysterious as the people living within it.

What stands out to this reader especially is just how incredibly written the narrative is. The mystery of this local legend and the level of secrecy the townspeople have are powerful motivators for the protagonist’s search for the truth. Yet it is the cast of characters that really make this thriller a standout, as the setting is such a small community with only a handful of citizens adds importance to the narrative and the pacing of the story, making their involvement in the overall plot super important.

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and gripping thriller, author Ragnar Jónasson’s “The Girl Who Died” is a must-read novel. The twists and turns of the story will keep readers glued to the edge of their seats, while the final pages will be remembered forever by the readers who delve into this novel. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France.

Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.

Snowblind was called a “classically crafted whodunit” by THE NEW YORK TIMES, and it was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK.

Rights to the Dark Iceland series have been sold to UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Armenia and Iceland.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine.

He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.

http://www.ragnarjonasson.com/

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Events, reviews

Anything That Happens by Cheryl Wilder Review

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

Author and Poet Cheryl Wilder shares an intimate and personal look into a time of tragedy and pain and showcases the path towards a second chance at life in the book, “Anything That Happens”.

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The Synopsis

At the age of twenty, Cheryl Wilder got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive. She emerged from the car physically whole. Her passenger, a close friend, woke up from a coma four months later with a life-changing brain injury. Anything That Happens follows her journey from a young adult consumed by shame and self-hatred to a woman she can live with… and even respect. Along the way, Wilder marries, has a son, divorces, and cares for her dying mother. Anything That Happens examines what it takes to reconcile a past marked by a grave mistake, a present as caregiver to many, and a future that stretches into one long second chance.

The Review

A truly emotional and deep read, author and poet Cheryl Wilder does a fantastic job of conveying the raw emotions that swirled around her in those painful moments during and after the fateful car crash that changed her and her friend’s lives forever. The author’s words cut deep, exploring the light and darkness of her life and in essence the light and dark that we all face at one point or another in our own lives. 

Slipped I, II, and III were definitely the most gut-punching and visceral poems of the collection, highlighting the traumatic experience the car accident took on the two friends that night. The author also explores the present and the future in this collection, from her years taking care of her dying mother to the rise and fall of her own family and looking ahead, and finding peace and redemption in life. 

The jumble of pain, memories, and yearning in the face of great loss is not only felt in the author’s powerful writing but resonates with so many, including this author, who watched his own mother have to say goodbye to his grandmother in much the same way just two short years ago. Great writing such as this does a great job of connecting readers with the author’s emotions, and this book does just that.

The Verdict

A heartbreaking walk into the past and written in a beautiful symphony of emotions and memories, author Cheryl Wilder’s “Anything That Happens” is a must-read poetry book. A truly honest and memorable collection of poetry that touches the soul and tugs at the heartstrings as readers feel the author’s raw feelings pour out onto the page, readers will not want to miss this incredible journey for themselves. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens, a Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection (Press 53, 2021), a collection that examines how to reconcile a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press, 2017), explores the frailty and necessity of human connection. 

A founder and editor of Waterwheel Review, Cheryl earned her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Posted in reviews

The Devil’s Shadow by BJ Edwards Review

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

After a powerful and deadly creature is unleashed, the group of government agents must team up together to stop the monster as lawlessness and beastial behavior runs rampant in the world in the action-packed and visceral novel “The Devil’s Shadow” by BJ Edwards.

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The Synopsis

In a vault beneath the Mediterranean Sea, a creature from myth and folklore sleeps. Government agents David Coswell and Hannah Martin join forces to find and study the creature with the hopes of harnessing its power for their country’s good. Accidentally, they release the creature and London is plunged into chaos. Lawlessness and hedonism spread as Lord of the Flies regains his strength and uses violence and fear to build his new kingdom.

David Coswell, along with his ‘handler’ Sentinel Nutbeam, retired soldier Nigel Carter, and Spanish matriarch Maria Perez help the Prime Minister confront the beast and take back control of a fractured country.

The Devil’s Shadow is a fast-paced supernatural thriller. Sometimes scary, sometimes sexy and always exciting, it is an absorbing tale of friendship, loyalty, faith and belief.

The Review

A shocking and engaging story, author BJ Edwards does an amazing job of drawing the reader in with a unique blend of secret spy work and sexual buildup with terrifying horror themes and haunting writing that conjures up powerful imagery in its delivery. The author does an excellent job of throwing twists and turns in the narrative that changes the direction of many of the story’s protagonists throughout the narrative. Readers will be shocked at the major character growths that occur, in particular for Hannah, as she and others find themselves forced to become something they never thought possible in the face of great evil.

This is definitely a very adult novel, with powerful imagery that explores chilling moments between the creature and his new acolytes, as well as action-packed scenes that keep the adrenaline pumping and readers on the edge of their seats as the final remnants of humanity’s heroes come together to face an unstoppable threat. Aside from a few spelling and grammatical errors here and there, the story flowed really well and did a great job of pacing the major plot points also. 

The Verdict

A memorable, twisted and haunting and well-written novel, “The Devil’s Shadow” by BJ Edwards is a must-read horror thriller like no other. An emotional rollercoaster for many of the characters of this narrative, the lengths humanity are willing to go to in order to do what’s right, as well as the depths humanity will plunge itself out of either fear of power, makes this a brilliantly devilish read that fans of the genre won’t soon forget. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 8/10

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About the Author

BJ Edwards was born in Wolverhampton in the winter of 1975, and grew up in Middlesex and Worcester. BJ has always been fascinated by anthropology, theology, archaeology and prehistory. His degree is in English literature and he taught English before taking up writing full time.

As well as writing historical novels, BJ also writes short stories, plays and poems. Allied to this, he writes articles and regularly “tweets.”

BJ is passionate about sport and exercise – he holds belts in Kung-Fu and Judo, he rows at his local rowing club, trains regularly and enjoys the outdoors, films, music and books.

http://bjedwards.co.uk/

Posted in reviews

Guest Blog Post: Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities by Poet Kathy Davis

I am proud to share this amazing guest blog post from author and poet Kathy Davis for her upcoming blog tour for her book, “Passiflora”, which I will be reviewing on May 10th. Please enjoy this wonderful post the poet shared with us all.


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Inspiration and the Cabinet of Curiosities

Imagine a stash of foreign objects that people inhaled or swallowed—by accident or on purpose—and had to have surgically removed from their throat, esophagus or lungs. Buttons, hatpins, bones, nuts, nails, screws, a doll’s eye, dentures, a Christmas ornament, keys, opera glasses, a crucifix and more. You can spend hours exploring a collection of 2,374 of them in the Chevalier Jackson Collection at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, many neatly displayed in drawers whose contents you are welcome to examine. 

Jackson was an otolaryngologist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who developed methods for removing obstructions from airways and food passages. He saved and cataloged everything he removed (and the stories behind them)—a quirky obsession (his middle name after all was Quixote). But don’t writers do something similar? I have an equally weird collection of oddities stored in my journals—unusual objects, places or stories I was drawn to record, some of which emerge in my writing, including a few of the poems in Passiflora.

My father inherited a shoebox of photographs taken at a family graveside funeral during the Roaring Twenties, picture after picture of people lined up behind a casket mounded with flowers. But someone had snipped off the top half of each one so that the family and friends gathered were only shown from the waist down and couldn’t be identified. Who was it that the scissor-wielder was trying to hide? Years later, I described the photos in a piece for a fiction-writing class. “That’s so creative!” the instructor said. “Who would take pictures at a funeral?!” I was too embarrassed to say that, well, actually my family did, and tucked the idea away out of shame until a variation of it emerged in the poem “Starlings”: Her own mother careful/to cut faces from the photographs.

“Ruins, Trophies, Palms” was inspired by a warning a friend received from her neighbor that a wolf had been seen just off their country road. “Don’t go outside,” the neighbor said. “It’s too dangerous!” A practical, yet intrepid, person, my friend was skeptical. We don’t have wolves in Virginia. Venturing out, she did find a wolf, but one that a hunter had preserved through taxidermy and was using for target practice. It was full of bullet holes—an image just itching to find its way into a poem.

Not looking where I was going, I collided with a stranger one evening in the French Quarter in New Orleans. When I turned to apologize, I was startled to see a woman who had painted her hair and body white and was naked except for two white ceramic fig leaves glued over her breasts and a white drape from the waist down. She frowned and quickly moved on while I gaped. Later, I saw her posing as a Greek statue in Jackson Square, dollar bills collecting in her cardboard box. Her image emerged in “At the Boundary of Desire.”

The Gospel Chicken House in “Revelations” operated for over 35 years in the county where I live. The owners equipped the long low structure of an old poultry barn with the sound equipment, seating and concession stands needed to hold a Saturday night music ministry for several hundred attendees, most of whom considered it their church. I visited once before it closed to listen to that night’s band and enjoy a hotdog and some pie. Much of the evening’s experience made it into the poem: Welcome to Saturday night live/at the chicken house. Yep, that’s how they opened the show.

There are other little oddities from my “collection” scattered about in Passiflora. The number on the ambulance I followed in “Battle City” was, as described, the unlucky 13. (Who thought that was a good idea?) And Sarah Cannon in “Mrs. Cannon Passes the Parthenon on Her Way Home from Work” truly was a hillbilly comedian on stage and an elegant pillar of Nashville society in real life, a duality that still fascinates me. I don’t have my curiosities stored tidily in drawers like Jackson—they’re jotted down haphazardly in a mismatched assortment of notebooks—but I value them no less. And they help make writing fun. 

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Author Bio


Kathy Davis is a poet and nonfiction writer who received her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth
University. Her poetry manuscript, Passiflora, won the 2019 Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in February 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Holding for the Farrier(Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Diode, The Hudson Review, Nashville Review, Oxford American, The Southern Review, story South and other journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for Best of the Net and the Conger Beasley Jr. Award for Nonfiction. After raising their two boys, she and her husband moved to an old farmhouse outside of Richmond, Va., where she tends a wildflower meadow when not writing.

https://kathydaviswrites.com/

Posted in Interviews

Interview with Author Robert McEvilla

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing? 

I started writing late in life. I don’t golf, play tennis, or bowl. Never cared for fishing. I always felt sorry for the bait. And I don’t hunt. Any interest I may have had with guns, I lost it while serving in the army. So, to keep active, I did my best to learn how to write fiction. What compelled me mostly was to write a novel based on my experience during the U.S. intervention in the Dominican Civil War of 1965. As far as I know, there has never been a novel about this footnote in American history depicting the role of American soldiers; an operation that cost the lives of 44 American servicemen, although it is mentioned in a novel by Elmore Leonard. So to my surprise, my book, The Goats of Santo Domingo, was published in 2013 by Wild Child Publishing of Culver City, California.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

I received my inspiration for Fender Head, from a minor character in The Goats of Santo Domingo. I decided to flesh this character out and make him the main protagonist in Fender Head.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The message I tried to convey in Fender Head, is that people often think they’re getting away with their foolish actions. But those actions are cumulative, and they set themselves up for the eventuality that one small thing could cause their undoing.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I don’t think I started out writing the book with any particular genre in mind. It just developed while I wrote.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

If I ever get the chance to talk to the protagonist in Fender Head over a beer, I’d ask him if he ever had to do it all over again, what would he have done differently? If his answer wasn’t what I thought it would be, then I’d have to write a sequel.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I’m just beginning to use Face Book as a tool to promote my work.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If I had to do it all over again, I’d would’ve started writing at an early age. So, my advise to anyone who wants to write would be to start at an early age and watch yourself grow as a writer.

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About the Author

Author, Robert McEvilla, is a retired stationary engineer who lives in the backwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In his first novel which is based on his  experiences with the 82nd Airborne in the Dominican Republic.  His second novel is a detective mystery.

His short stories have been published in the literary magazine, Down State Story.  Other stories have been published in CWW Publications of Carmel, California; Twin Rivers Press of Ellerton, Florida; and Toxic Evolution Press of Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. The short story, Horseradish, received honorable mention in a Glimmer Train short fiction contest and was published in Story Teller Magazine. Also a short memoir of Robert McEvilla appeared in the October issue of The Good Old 

Days Magazine.

https://authorrobertmcevilla.com/

Posted in reviews

Villainous by Stonie Williams 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 looking to become the newest recruit into a group of superheroes discovers a dark and sinister secret, and discovers that sometimes the only way to become a true hero is to be the villain in author Stonie Williams graphic novel, “Villainous”.

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The Synopsis

Tilly, one of the newest super-powered people to join the Coalition of Heroes, is doing her best to navigate the dizzying world of superheroes. Working with her idols should be a dream come true, but when she learns the truth, Tilly’s dream quickly becomes a nightmare. Now, Tilly has to make a choice – Get in line and stand with her heroes, or take a stand and risk becoming something more… Villainous

The Review

Wow. Such a fun and engaging graphic novel, the author finds the perfect balance in the tone of the narrative immediately, settling somewhere in-between a more mild version of the Boys meet Marvel’s X-Factor and DC Comics Suicide Squad. The author does a great job of building the world early on as well as the mythos of the world of Villainous. 

The theme of the line between hero and villain is blurred or gray has been around for a long time, but the author brings a fresh voice and the illustrators bring a dynamic artwork to the pages that make this story feel fresh and original. The characters pop off the page, from the meathead hero Showdown to the hopeful hero turned forced “villain” and protagonist Tilly and even the world itself, which allows the shadowy figures behind the scenes to perpetuate the lies of the “heroes” are telling. 

The Verdict

A memorable, visually stunning, and entertaining read, author Stonie Williams and Mad Cave Studios “Villainous” is a fantastic work of comic book and graphic novel magic. The action is fast-paced and the characters are multi-layered and complex, and by the first volume’s end, the story takes a dramatic turn that sets the pace for the rest of the series. Be sure to grab your copy on May 4th, 2021!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Stonie grew up in the back of a comic book shop in Tulsa and played guitar as a teenager. Both comics and music nurtured a passion for storytelling. Now he looks to create his own stories

instagram.com/baldbeardedbard/

https://campsite.bio/baldbeardedbard

https://www.youtube.com/c/madcavestudios/featured