Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat
Published by riverrun on the 12th November 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of Brother, I'm Dying, a collection of vividly imagined stories about community, family, and love.

Rich with hard-won wisdom and humanity, set in locales from Miami and Port-au-Prince to a small unnamed country in the Caribbean and beyond, Everything Inside is at once wide in scope and intimate, as it explores the forces that pull us together, or drive us apart, sometimes in the same searing instant.

In these eight powerful, emotionally absorbing stories, a romance unexpectedly sparks between two wounded friends; a marriage ends for what seem like noble reasons, but with irreparable consequences; a young woman holds on to an impossible dream even as she fights for her survival; two lovers reunite after unimaginable tragedy, both for their country and in their lives; a baby's christening brings three generations of a family to a precarious dance between old and new; a man falls to his death in slow motion, reliving the defining moments of the life he is about to lose. This is the indelible work of a keen observer of the human heart--a master.

Everything Inside is a collection of eight short stories, each one centred on members of the Haitian diaspora in the USA and Haiti itself. Perhaps unsurprisingly most are tales of misfortune, but they explore more than specifically Haitian issues so one story shows the aftermath of marital infidelity and another is about how a grandmother's dementia colours her experience of her grandson's christening. A powerful thread of the importance of community and friendship runs through the whole collection providing a positive note to counter the sad circumstances in which our protagonists find themselves. My favourite stories were Dosas, Sunrise Sunset, and Without Inspection, all of which I felt had particularly memorable narratives and characters. Without Inspection even nearly had me tears. I would have liked a stronger sense of place in some of the tales, but Danticat has a deep understanding of her characters and what drives them. I loved spotting and translating the phonetically written Haitian-French. This is a strong collection which has left me keen to read Danticat's longer works on the strength of the talent she shows in Everything Inside.

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Books by Edwidge Danticat / Short stories / Books from Haiti

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Ruinsong by Julia Ember + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Julia Ember
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication date: November 24th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence must choose between the two. For years, she has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

Goodreads / / Amazon UK / Hive UK

Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

The Book Depository / Waterstones



I allow Lacerde to dress me without turning to examine myself in the mirror. I don’t want to see how I look, how they’ve fashioned me. In my mind, I already see stains of blood on the muslin fabric of my skirt, dotting the white leather of my gloves. Lacerde adjusts my skirt and smooths my hair. Then, with a grunt, she bends down and buffs my new shoes to a gleam.

She opens the door for me so I don’t get my gloves dirty and leads me down the dark corridor. My dressing room is the only one in use. All the others are boarded up, so that no one will use them to hide.

I imagine what the Opera Hall must have been like years ago, when so many singers performed here together for more willing audiences. The corridors would have been filled with the sounds of laughter, rustling taffeta costumes, and a chorus of warm-up scales. Above, the audience would be straining to get inside the house, clinking glasses together at the theatre bar, speculating on the wonders to come.

If I strain my ear, I can still hear the echo of their merriment in the walls, obscured by the more recent cacophony of despair and pain. The smell of thousands of spellsongs, layered atop one another for centuries, lingers in the musty air. It’s been eight years since this place functioned as a real theatre, but the Opera Hall remembers.

We climb the stairs up onto the stage. Elene and Lord Durand, her newly elevated pet footman, stand together on the edge, shouting instructions down to the conductor in the orchestra pit.

Elene glances up and nods to Lacerde, who positions me at center stage without releasing me. It’s as if they think I will run, even though there is no where to go.

No one has dimmed the gas lamps that line the theatre’s aisles yet, so I have a full view. The theatre is much grander than our replica at the academy. The ceiling bears a centuries-old mural of Adela gifting the first mage with magic. The singer kneels beside the sacred pool, and the goddess rises from the water, her mouth open with song and her arms spread wide. Musical notes surround them, each flecked with real gold leaf.

Portraits of the three other goddesses border the mural. Odetta, the goddess of spring and renewal, wearing a silver mask that covers her eyes and cheeks, and holding a sparrow’s skeleton in her cupped hands. Karina, goddess of justice and winter, thin and draped in a linen sheath, with her arms wide. Marena, the autumn goddess of war, chin lifted proudly, staring down with her hypnotic purple eyes, bejeweled with human teeth.

Beneath, row upon row of tightly packed red velvet seats stretch back to the imposing black doors at the rear of the theatre. They’re made from mageglass, a material designed by the elementals: sand spun, dyed and hardened so that not even diamond bullets could shatter it. Hundreds of people will fill the house tonight. Dame Ava, the queen’s former principal, told me that sometimes there are so many that folk have to stand along the walls.

My knees start to shake at the sight. My mouth goes dry.

All these seats. All these people. My unshed tears blur the rows of red seats together, like a smear of blood.

Author Bio:

Julia Ember is the author of The Seafarer's Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, forthcoming from Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020. She lives with her wife and two fluffy cats in the Pacific Northwest.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Monday, 23 November 2020

Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers

Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers
Published in the UK by Head Of Zeus on the 5th October 2020.

Found Them On Twitter challenge read.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth - but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm. 

As Jennifer's search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life - but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

This is a gripping, addictive thriller for fans of Angela Clarke, Mel Sherratt and Rachel Lynch, that will make you question everything, including the flaws of forensics. Could we all be framed for a murder we didn’t commit? 

I was delighted to be offered a review opportunity for Julienne Brouwers new Dutch thriller, Double Deceit. This novel starts with a brilliantly tense scene as a toddler, Jennifer's son Tim, goes temporarily missing during a family holiday. The episode brings marital disharmony to a head resulting in Jennifer's husband, Oliver, storming off. When his body is finally located, Jennifer struggles to cope with bereavement, the stresses of caring for young Tim, and with the realisation that her marriage was even more flawed than she thought. I am always intrigued by unreliable narrator stories and particularly appreciated how Brouwers handles this aspect of Double Deceit. Jennifer can clearly see her perceived truth and her convictions seem perfectly plausible to readers, but when Brouwers has Jennifer explain her findings to outsiders, I began to wonder if she really was the person I should believe.

Double Deceit is a slow-burn thriller. I appreciated Brouwers taking time to develop utterly believable characters and her detailed portrayals of Amsterdam allowed me to clearly picture more of this city than just the touristy centre with which I am familiar. Jennifer herself is a fascinating woman. Out of her depth for most of the story, she just about manages to keep up with her everyday responsibilities, but her mental fragility is always obvious. The thriller narrative itself is well paced with new information gradually being added as Jennifer refuses to stop her investigation. I loved how the atmosphere slowly darkens in reflection of her increasing paranoia. Double Deceit kept me guessing right up to the end and I very much enjoyed this compelling read.

About the Author

Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years.

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Books by Julienne Brouwers / Crime fiction / Books from the Netherlands

Sunday, 22 November 2020

The Snow Song by Sally Gardner

The Snow Song by Sally Gardner
Published in the UK by HQ on the 12th November 2020.

More Than One challenge read.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Women imprisoned by superstition, chained by guilt.
Perched on a mountain in a land of ancient forests is a village, rife with secrets. Cut off from the outside world it is run by the elders, men to whom tradition is all.

Edith lives alone with her alcoholic father who is forcing her to marry the village butcher. But she is in love with a shepherd who promised to return to her.

As the village becomes isolated in a sea of snow, Edith loses her power of speech. And it is this enchantment that will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Edith but for the whole village.

The Snow Song is a beautifully wintry story which would be perfect, I think, for readers who also enjoyed books like Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I noticed, in the isolated village location and feminist fairytale style, parallels with Wondrous Journeys In Strange Lands by Sonia Nimr which I will be reviewing next month.

I loved Gardner's portrayal of this entrenched community and the stunning mountain location surrounding them. The Snow Song is a fairytale so characters do fall into stereotypical roles, but there is also a greater emotional depth and complexity than I had expected to each of them. Gardner deftly captures the people's fear and shows how easily this is used to manipulate them. She also understands how people, particularly certain of the women here, use and enforce repressive traditions to protect their own social standings. They would rather see themselves at the top of the second class echelon than fight for true equality and risk being only one among many.

Edith's daily life is constrained by her village's traditions - a series of edicts designed by the male elders in order to keep 'their' women within the village and to ensure all strangers stay away. When Edith flouts these rules by chatting to an itinerant shepherd, she sets in course a battle of wills that results in her not only being figuratively silenced, but literally so. Edith's narrative is very much a coming of age story as she matures from idealistic lovestruck girl to self-determined woman. She isn't actually a princess, but this story is firmly in the 'princess saves herself' genre and is a fine example! I highly recommend The Snow Song to young adult and adult fairytale readers.

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Books by Sally Gardner / Fairytales / Books from England

Saturday, 21 November 2020

X Marks The Pedwalk by Fritz Leiber + #FreeBook

X Marks The Pedwalk by Fritz Leiber
Published in Worlds Of Tomorrow magazine in America in April 1963

X for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook free from Project Gutenberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Based in material in Ch. 7--"First Clashes of the Wheeled and Footed Sects"--of Vol. 3 of Burger's monumental History of Traffic, published by the Foundation for Twenty-Second Century Studies.

I discovered this deliciously grim short story during my now-annual Project Gutenberg hunt for a book title starting with X to complete my Alphabet Soup reading challenge. (Last year I picked out Xingu by Edith Wharton.) Leiber's tale is set in a futuristic American city where people are no longer divided by political affiliation, but by whether they get around on foot or by wheel. The animosity has grown so intense between the two groups and violent aggression so frequent that mowing down little old ladies on pedestrian crossings is now only illegal if one fails to honk one's horn beforehand! X Marks The Pedwalk is outrageously shocking, even more so perhaps because of its brevity. It's a chilling snapshot of an intolerant society with disturbing parallels in the present day situation.

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Books by Fritz Leiber / Science fiction / Books from America

Friday, 20 November 2020

Mages Unbound by Laura Engelhardt + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from Nov 18 to Dec 22, 2018!

Book Details:

Book Title: Mages Unbound: Book 2 of the Fifth Mage War Series by Laura Engelhardt
Series:  Fifth Mage War Series

Category:  Adult fiction (18+), 480 pages
Genre Paranormal Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Laura Engelhardt
Release date:  Nov 2020
Content Rating: PG-13 + M for battle sequences, bad language including F-words, and adult-themes mildly referenced. Euphemisms are used in lieu of graphic descriptions of sex/violence. There is NO sexual violence or child abuse.

Book Description:

It’s ironic to find out your whole life has been a lie when you’re married to a truth-teller.
If only Mary could find some humor in it. She’s drowning her sorrow in vodka and song when a surprise visit from her youngest sister jolts her into accepting the magical reality hidden from her for fifty years.  
Mary’s epiphany can’t come soon enough because her fresh start may be the only thing that can save her siblings and the world from an utter melt-down.
As the two Bant sisters grapple with sirens, faeries and the FBI in America, their brother is trapped in a high-stakes game of mage politics in Australia. Meanwhile, middle-sister Amy’s malfunctioning mage-sight forces her to seek help from the very same mages who tricked her once before.

Can Mary pull herself together in time to rescue her family from the coming war?
Mages Unbound is a paranormal women's fiction novel, told from the perspective of the Bant family members. This is Book 2 in the Fifth Mage War Series, a magical epic about sirens, fae, and family ties.

Buy the Book: / Amazon UK

You May Also Want to Read: 

Book Details:

Book Title: Sirens Unbound: Book 1 of the Fifth Mage War Series by Laura Engelhardt
Series:  Fifth Mage War Series

Category:  Adult fiction (18+), 548 pages
Genre Paranormal Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Laura Engelhardt
Release date:  July 29, 2019
Content Rating: PG-13 + M for battle sequences, bad language including F-words, and adult-themes mildly referenced. Euphemisms are used in lieu of graphic descriptions of sex/violence. There is NO sexual violence or child abuse.

"Loved it! Members of the Bant family become entwined in an upcoming mage war in this epic urban fantasy novel about sirens, fae, and family ties." -- Michelle Hogmire, Reedsy Discovery

"a unique take and meshing of different established ideas... Sirens that feed and aid? Fae trapped in England as a prisoner camp? Mage's getting optical surgery for magick sight? I really loved the combination of ideas and I thought they all worked together surprisingly well ... I found myself immersed in watching the fae emerge and interested in Amy's work. I appreciated not being talked down to on either side, as a reader. Some writers over-explain or use too much jargon. This was just the right mix for me. And the descriptions placed me in each scene. I'd definitely buy this." -- Mel Candea, Ink & Insights



Book Description:

Amy’s day starts with three things: Coffee, breakfast, then brains. In that order.
Relax, it’s not what you think. She’s just your everyday neurosurgeon who can fix everyone’s brain but her own. It doesn’t matter if she has fifty years of life experience and regularly works with mages—she’s still a mundane.

She’s turning fifty, and her last achievement was what, ten years ago? She’s not sure if anyone even remembers it.

Determined not to be a one-hit-wonder, Amy jumps head-first into a new opportunity. Literally.
Some people have affairs to deal with a midlife crisis—Amy has brain surgery.

The results are even bigger than her career ambitions, and Dr. Amy Bant will need the help of her siblings to survive what comes next. Cordelia, an agoraphobic underwater photographer, Thomas, a playboy with a Brazilian tourism business, and Mary, a choir director with a truth-teller husband are all keys to unlocking secrets a whole lot closer to home than any of them could have realized. 

Turning fifty doesn’t have to be mundane—not when you’re in the Bant family!
Sirens Unbound is a paranormal women’s fiction novel told from each member of the Bant family. This is Book 1 in the Fifth Mage War Series, a magical epic about sirens, fae, and family ties.

Meet the Author:

An avid sf/fantasy reader, Laura Engelhardt writes the kind of book she likes to read: fantasy with intricate worlds and complex characters facing moral dilemmas. She started writing plays in college, then moved to Germany, where she continued to write while teaching ESL to executives. After moving back to the U.S., she supported her playwriting by teaching ballroom dance and working retail. Deciding that living in her parents' attic wasn't for her, Laura went to law school and then spent the next seventeen years as a lawyer and compliance officer in New York City. In 2017, she quit Wall Street and began helping people resolve disputes as a mediator and arbitrator. She now lives in New Jersey with her family.

connect with author: website ~ facebook ~ goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Nov 18 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author Blog – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 18 - Book Corner News and Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 19 Stephanie Jane – book spotlight
Nov 19 - Splashes of Joy – book spotlight / guest post / author interview / giveaway
Nov 20 - Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 20 - I'm Into Books – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 23 –Sadie's Spotlight - book spotlight
Nov 24 – – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / author interview / giveaway
Nov 25 – The Momma Spot – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND
Nov 26 –The Review Crew – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / author interview / giveaway
Nov 30 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Nov 30 - Pine Enshrined Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Dec 1 – eBook Addicts – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
Dec 2 – – book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 3 - Amy's Booket List - book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 4 – Lamon Reviews – book spotlight / author interview
Dec 4 - Locks Hooks and Books – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 8 –Amy's Booket List - book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 9 – The Momma Spot – book review of MAGES UNBOUND
Dec 10 – Cheryl's Book Nook – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 10 - Gwendalyn’s Books  - book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 11 – The Review Crew – book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 11 – Cheryl's Book Nook – book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 11 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Dec 15 – Locks Hooks and Books – book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 15 - Gwendalyn’s Books  - book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 16 – Westveil Publishing – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND
Dec 17 – Westveil Publishing – book review of MAGES UNBOUND
Dec 21 – Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review of SIRENS UNBOUND / giveaway
Dec 22 - Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review of MAGES UNBOUND / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:
Win a $20 Target gift card.
Open internationally until the 22nd December. 

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Books by Laura Engelhardt / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 19 November 2020

I Will Always Love You by Ashley Lee London + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from Nov 16 to Dec 11, 2020!

Book Details:

Book Title:  I Will Always Love You by Ashley Lee London
CategoryAdult Fiction (18 yrs +),  287 pages
Genre: Romance
PublisherAshley Lee London
Release date:   June 2020
Content Rating:  PG. No F Words, I can think of several swear words and one very mild sex scene after its conclusion.

Book Description:

Grace Parrish made two mistakes when she fell in love. She forgot her mother’s stories of segregation. “Don’t love a white man, Grace. It’s too hard and he’ll break your heart.” Even worse, she fell in love with her best friend’s husband, Peter. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU is a poignant story about the foundation of marriage: love, honor, and fidelity—and the heartache of unrequited love. The must-read story shows how the power of love can overcome adversity, the pain of loss, and rejection because of racial heritage. Grace honors her best friend Lori’s marriage and refuses to pursue an affair, yet her heart will not allow her to love another. The bond of Peter’s love continues after Lori’s passing. During a chance meeting between Peter and Grace, much to their surprise, a spark ignites that causes them each to wonder, “Could it be that we’ve been given a second chance to fall in love?” 

Buy the Book: ~ Amazon UK

I Will Always Love You is a gently meandering multi-generational family saga that initially focuses on Lori's mother, Lorraine, and her escape from her religious zealot parents before Lori herself takes the central role. I found it strange and a little disappointing that the romance alluded to in the synopsis, which is what drew me to read the novel in the first place, doesn't actually happen until close to the end of the story and the events leading up to it take a long time to unfold. I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. I liked the overall concept, but struggled to stay engaged.

Meet the Author:

America's new romance author.

connect with the author: twitter ~ facebook ~ goodreads

Tour Schedule:

Nov 16 – Corinne Rodrigues – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 16 - Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Nov 17 – Splashes of Joy – book review / guest post / author interview / giveaway
Nov 18 – I'm Into Books – books spotlight / giveaway
Nov 19 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Nov 20 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Nov 24 – Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
Nov 25 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Nov 27 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book review / giveaway
Nov 30 –  - book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 1 – The Review Crew – book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 2 – Instagram: All Booked Up Reviews – book review / giveaway
Dec 3 –Cheryl's Book Nook - book review / giveaway
Dec 4 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Dec 7 – Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
Dec 7 - Novels N Latte Review - book review / giveaway
Dec 9 –Gina Rae Mitchell - book review / giveaway
Dec 10 – Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review / giveaway
Dec 11 -  Adventurous Jessy – book review / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:

Win 1 of 3 ebooks of I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU (3 winners) (Open internationally until Dec 18)

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Books by Ashley Lee London / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Back to the Burgh and Beyond by C.S. McDonald + #Giveaway


Join us for this review tour from Nov 9 to 20, 2020!

Book Details:

Book Title:  Back to the Burgh and Beyond (The Owl's Nest Mysteries) 
Author:  C.S. McDonald
Category:  Adult Fiction, 208 pages
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  McWriter Books
Release date:  Sep 10, 2020
Content Rating:  G. C.S. McDonald's books are appropriate for YA readers as well as adults--no bad language or sexual content.

Book Description:
Meet Alexa Owl. She's returned home to Pittsburgh after a divorce to start a new life and a new business, The Owl’s Nest Couturier Shoppe. Much to her surprise, she's getting more than she ever bargained for: Detective Bobby Starr, and he's no ordinary sleuth. Bobby is an angel who's returned to Earth in hopes of earning his way into the Guardian Angel Squad. He's been sent by none other than Saint Pete to acquire Alexa’s help to solve three cold case murders he left behind. Except, here’s the catch: he’s only been allotted four days to solve the first case! How in heaven’s name is she supposed to do that? Alexa is a professional seamstress—not a detective. Bobby insists the only way to solve the first case is to return to 1953, and Alexa’s not in love with that idea at all!

Buy the Book: ~ Amazon UK ~ B&N

The Book Depository

Back To The Burgh And Beyond was an absolute delight to read! This first novel in C S McDonald's new Owl's Nest Mysteries series begins with amicably divorced Alexa Owl returning to her Pittsburgh hometown and almost immediately being confronted by two ghosts from the past, one feline and one angelic. These aren't metaphorical ghosts from Alexa's past either, but are strongly connected to the old Pittsburgh pub in which Alexa is soon to open her glamorous couturier business. After she gets often the shock of having purchased a haunted building, Alexa resolves to do her utmost to help resolve the cold case murder that will, hopefully, banish her ghosts.

Alexa is such a fun heroine to spend time with. She is forthright and determined, but also prone to endearing clumsiness and romantic embarrassment. Abetted by her perpetually tipsy new friend, Winnie, I was highly entertained by Alexa's dual life predicament. I'm usually more of a classic crime fan than a cosy crime one, but here I got the best of both. McDonald has a wonderful talent for evoking historic Pittsburgh so I was trasported back to the 1953 city probably more easily than Alexa was - certainly more comfortably anyway! I loved seeing how the same settings had changed after sixty years and was impressed with how authentic details added such depth and atmosphere to this well plotted story. This firm grounding enabled the more fanciful time travel aspect to feel perfectly natural. Back To The Burgh And Beyond is a clever blend of intriguing crime, convincing historical and whimsical fantasy concepts that I felt worked beautifully together. This is a great start to the series and I look forward to discovering what the future - and the past - holds for Alexa in her next adventure.

Meet the Author: 

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time, she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series that everyone, including teens and tweens, can read and enjoy. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries nine books with a tenth slated for 2021. The books are also available on audio, narrated by Maren Swenson Waxenberg. Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The female protagonist, Alexa Owl, is much different from Fiona Quinn. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy! Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook
Tour Schedule:
Nov 9 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book review / giveaway
Nov 9 - Instagram:. All Booked Up Reviews – book review
Nov 9 - Working Mommy Journal – book review / giveaway
Nov 9 - Splashes of Joy – book review / giveaway
Nov 10 – mowgliwithabook – book review
Nov 11 – StoreyBook Reviews – book review / giveaway
Nov 12 – Rajiv's Reviews – book review / giveaway
Nov 13 – Books and Zebras @jypsylynn – book review / giveaway
Nov 16 – Lisa-Queen of Random – book review / giveaway
Nov 17 – Hall Ways Blog – book review / giveaway
Nov 18 – Literary Flits – book review / giveaway
Nov 19 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Nov 20 - I'm Into Books – book review / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway: 

Win an Autographed copy of BACK TO THE BURGH AND BEYOND ( Open to the USA only) (ends Nov 27)

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Books by C S McDonald / Crime fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Bones Of The Redeemed by Kari Bovee + #Giveaway

Join us for this tour from Nov 9 to Dec 4, 2020!
Book Details:

Book Title: Bones of the Redeemed (A Southwestern Mystery) by Kari Bovee
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 + yrs), 298 pages
Genre:  Historical Mystery (1952)
PublisherBosque Publishing
Release date:  November 2020
Content Rating:  R for abuse, does contain the f-word a few times,

Book Description:

A pit of corpses. An ancient cult. A quest for redemption that could leave her dead… New Mexico, 1952. Archaeology grad student Ruby Delgado is plagued by guilt after losing her son. So when her latest excavation drops her down a sinkhole filled with suspiciously mutilated bodies, she’s driven to bring the murderer to justice. But when digging deeper brings her dangerously close to a sinister religious sect, she could be their next sacrifice… Discovering some of the victims were crucified, Ruby pushes hard to give the evidence to the authorities. But when her trail crosses the path of a beaten man left for dead in the desert, she realizes she may be the only person who can save the community. Can Ruby stop the sacrifices and slay her inner demons, or will hers be the next body laid to rest? Bones of the Redeemed is a hair-raising standalone Southwestern mystery. If you like complex heroines, cult conflict, and hard-won redemption, then you’ll love Kari Bovee’s grisly tale.

Buy the Book: / Amazon UK

Bones Of The Redeemed is a fast-paced action thriller which begins when Ruby Delgado walks out of the desert onto the site of a New Mexico archaeological dig, her unreliable car having packed up some three miles earlier. Ruby is impetuous and has a dangerous habit of leaping into situations without properly checking them out first so it's not long before she has not only upset her prickly supervisor, but also landed in a pile of decomposing human corpses! Ruby's perpetual lack of care was quite irritating especially as she is meant to be a martial arts expert so I would have expected that discipline to have taught her an element of patience, however her recklessness means the narrative itself is propelled along at a breathtaking pace. 

I would have liked more depth to the characters in order to really understand why they chose certain paths and behaved as they did. I did feel this was sacrificed for the sake of excitement, but understand that other readers might prefer the action approach. The blossoming romance was a surprise as I hadn't noticed chemistry between the two people concerned!

I felt Bovee had a genuine love of the beautifully bleak New Mexico landscapes and I loved reading her scene setting paragraphs, especially the ones that captured dawn or dusk. She also manages to give the small Los Montanas town an authentic sense of having been left behind by the rest of America. The novel itself is set in 1952, but I could imagine this isolated community remaining pretty much unchanged for generations. Bovee gives the place a menacing atmosphere and as we learn about more what is really going on, I changed my mind about wanting to visit! There are some chillingly violent scenes so squeamish readers might want to be forewarned.

Meet the Author:

When she’s not on a horse, or walking along the beautiful cottonwood-laden acequias of Corrales, New Mexico; or basking on white sand beaches under the Big Island Hawaiian sun, Kari Bovee is escaping into the past—scheming murder and mayhem for her characters both real and imagined, and helping them to find order in the chaos of her action-packed novels. Empowered women in history, horses, unconventional characters, and real-life historical events fill the pages of Kari Bovée’s articles and historical mystery musings and manuscripts.

An award-winning author, Bovée was honored with the 2019 NM/AZ Book Awards Hillerman Award for Southwestern Fiction for her novel Girl with a Gun. The novel also received First Place in the 2019 NM/AZ Book Awards in the Mystery/Crime category, and is a Finalist in the 2019 International Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Awards and the International Chanticleer Goethe Awards, as well as the Next Generation Indie Awards. Her novel Grace in the Wings is a Finalist for the 2019 International Chanticleer Chatelaine Awards and the International Chanticleer Goethe Awards. Her novel Peccadillo at the Palace is a Finalist in the 2019 International Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Awards and the 2019 International Goethe Awards, as well as a Finalist in the 2019 Best Book Awards Historical Fiction category.

Bovée has worked as a technical writer for a Fortune 500 Company, has written non-fiction for magazines and newsletters, and has worked in the education field as a teacher and educational consultant. She and her husband, Kevin, spend their time between their horse property in the beautiful Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, and their condo on the sunny shores of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Connect with the author:  Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram
~ Pinterest

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Monday, 16 November 2020

The Stories Stars Tell by C.L. Walters + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Stories Stars Tell
C.L. Walters
Publication date: October 13th 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Ever felt like the sum total of your choices have fixed your story in the stars?

For Emma Matthews, she feels like all of her choices are rooted in the fear of letting down her parents… God…of never being good enough.

For Tanner James, he’s wearing an identity he has created with his friends and their pact—Bro Code—fixed in sex, alcohol and bad choices.

Both are longing for a new story they look to one another to help them write.

Follow Emma and Tanner as they rewrite stories they thought had already been written into something new. To discover sometimes painful truths about love and identity.

About the ways that love can help us lose ourselves… or find ourselves.

How love can break us… or heal us.

Goodreads / Amazon.comAmazon UKKobo

Barnes & Noble / iBooks / The Book Depository



[…]I stood. “I’m going,” I told Griff, who had a girl sitting on his lap I didn’t know. 

He smiled over her shoulder at me and presented his knuckles. The girl whispered something in his ear, and Griff laughed. She was attractive. Dark haired. 

My mind drifted to Emma Matthews (which was strange since we weren’t friends). I’d seen her the day before with her friend, Liam, hanging a poster for some club or function in the hall after school, heads together about something. Under usual circumstances, I wouldn’t have noticed, but in this case, I had because I’d noticed Emma and how cute she was. I had noticed her for a while, but she was out of my league.

Emma wouldn’t be partying like this. She definitely wouldn’t be sitting in Griff’s lap, and if she were, it would piss me off, but I didn’t consider why. She was probably at home, doing something productive, like homework, or a group study session. Perhaps she was doing something fun and wholesome, like a movie with her friends. I wondered if she went to the movies. Though I wasn’t exactly sure why I wondered, because I wasn’t a big movie goer (too boring to sit in one spot for too long). 

Why was I even thinking of Emma at all?

It wasn’t like we talked. Sometimes, I thought she might be looking at me in the cafeteria at school or in the hallway as we passed one another. Her pretty eyes always slid away, but they made me curious. What color were they? Was she just glancing at me, or was she looking? I used to think about her. A lot. That started in the eighth grade when she yelled at Cole Butler in science during a lab. She’d been so fiery and funny. The memory still made me smile. We hadn’t had many classes together — one or two, maybe — because she actually tried at school. 

I shook my head to get my errant thoughts about Emma out of my mind. Leaving Griff and Wannabe Emma behind, I walked through the living room.  

Deb stopped me with a hand on my chest. “Hey, Tanner. Want to dance?” An invitation.

The message was clear: I could have stayed there with her and gotten laid, but it made me tired. Instead I said, “I’m looking for Penelope,” and even as I said it, I was hoping she’d already left.

Deb shrugged, because that was as much as I meant to her. “Upstairs,” she told me and returned to grinding to the music with her group of friends. 

I moved through the crush of people toward the stairs, even though I wasn’t sure why I was going through these motions. A different choice seemed an impossibility, though I couldn’t articulate why that was so. Josh and Danny were sitting in a group smoking weed, and they offered me a head nod as I passed. I gave them an eyebrow raise in return and started up the stairs. 

Near the top, I almost tripped on someone sitting on the steps. “Whoa.” It was a girl folded over on herself, and because I’m not a complete douchebag, despite what I know has been said about me, I leaned down and asked her, “You okay?” 

The girl tipped her head up to look at me, and suddenly, I was looking into the face of… 

“Emma Matthews?”

She smiled, and it lit up her eyes — dark blue with swirls of gray — like stars in a dark sky. “Tanner James.”  

“Are you drunk?” I asked. I was too, but not enough to help me forget that Emma was the object of my secret fantasies, along with the fact I’d just been thinking about her. I shook my head to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. There wasn’t anything in our experiences that should have contributed to our paths crossing, and yet, there she was, as if I’d conjured her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m feeling really good.” She smiled again, and I remembered feeling that smile in my stomach like a lead weight had melted into molten liquid.

“Why are you sitting here on the stairs?”


“For what?”

“You.” She giggled.

That made no sense. First, why would Emma Matthews be at this party? Second, why would she be drunk? And third, why would she say she was waiting for me? I wondered if someone was playing a joke on me and even looked around, but it was just the two of us in the hallway. I slid down the wall and sat next to her. “You’re definitely drunk if you’re waiting for me.” 

“Did I say that?” 


“Oh. That’s a secret.” She pressed a finger to my lips, and that touch dove all the way from the top of my neck to the base of my spine like I’d been zapped with electricity. “I’m supposed to find Liam.” Then she moved her finger from my lips to hers, her dark blue eyes — flecks of green and aqua too — never leaving my mouth. “Shh.”

My heart pounded in my chest, excited by the form her lips took against her finger. “Damn, Emma. I didn’t know you drank.”

“Me either.”

I attempted an inconspicuous adjustment of my pants, because I started feeling that tingle in my crotch and needed to calm that shit down. I chuckled, amused, because I hadn’t caught wood from just a look and a touch since I was, like, fourteen. I decided the honorable thing to do was help her find her friend, which led to the decision to dump looking for Penelope. I hadn’t really wanted to be with Penelope outside of sex anyway, and that left me feeling dirty. “Shall we go look for Liam?”

Her eyes roved over every inch of my face. She reached up and touched my lips with her fingertips again; it was tender. “You have a nice mouth, Tanner James.” 

My stomach tightened. I tried to remember that reaction. It was a hungry craving, the anticipation of the satiation of a voracious appetite, but it was also so distant. I hadn’t been aware I’d been missing it until it resurfaced inside of me. 

“You want to hear a secret?” she asked and leaned closer to me, though I had the impression she thought she was whispering. “I’ve wanted to try and kiss it.”

Her admission made me smile, and my heart thumped a little more. I realized that while I’d been fantasizing about her, perhaps she’d thought about me too. Knowing that made me feel buoyant. “You have? Well, I could remedy that for you, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t remember it. I would want you to.” It was a truth. I wanted Emma to remember me.

“I would,” she said, wide-eyed, and nodded. “I promise.”

I stood up, needing the distance, because I was afraid I might kiss her. As I did, she held my arm, and I almost toppled onto her. I self-corrected and took her hand to help her up. Once upright, she stumbled against me, and I caught her waist with my hands while her other arm wrapped around my neck. My heart was now knocking against the wall of my ribs. She was so close, so pretty, so pressed against me. I looked at her mouth, heart-shaped pink. She licked her lips, and my belly buzzed. I wanted to kiss her so badly, but I chickened out, which was part of why I didn’t; it also felt wrong on some level. I could take advantage, but I didn’t want to. On the other hand, I wanted to extend my time with her, so when I said, “Come on. Let’s go look for Liam.” I took her deeper into the house instead of down the stairs, which was probably the more likely place to look. I wasn’t being altruistic.

She put her hand in mine. 

I noticed how soft her skin was, and I wondered about the rest of her. 

“I don’t want to find Liam,” she insisted as we walked down the hall. “I want to wait for Tanner.” 

“I’m right here.” I looked over my shoulder at her.

Her eyes brightened again, the outside corners scrunching with joy. “Oh! It is you.” 

“How much did you have to drink, Em?” I asked.

She held up four fingers. “Two.”

“We should get you some water. Let’s find a place for you to sit.”

I started testing doors in the hallway. Honestly, on one level, I knew what I was doing. I wanted to be alone with her, even if I didn’t want to cheapen the moment. I think I justified it to myself. I needed to find her a place to sober up. Deep down, though, it was a lingering understanding of a latent wish buried in the darkness of my fantasies attached to what she’d said: Waiting. For you. You have a nice mouth. I’ve wanted to try and kiss it.

Emma Matthews was waiting for me.

The knowledge made my heart swell even if I couldn’t believe it. Even if I didn’t — couldn’t — trust it. I wanted to keep the idea close, to remember it, to hold it tight. I knew the moment this was over, it would slip away.

“Em?” I asked as I tested another door. 

She made a moaning noise to indicate she’d heard me. 

“Why were you waiting for me?”

“I like Tanner. I want to be brave.”

My brain wasn’t quick enough, because it was slugging through the marsh of alcohol. I understood what she was saying, but I didn’t quite comprehend it. “You like me?”

She nodded emphatically. “I saw him.”

“What did you see?” I asked her as I tested another door.

“He helped Connor. At lunch. I saw him. I see him. Everyday. He helps Connor.”

Lunch time. Connor Festner, a kid I help with his tray. Griff gives me shit for it, but Connor is pretty badass and probably beats Griff’s butt playing Duty online. Connor’s given me tons of gaming pointers.

She had been watching me at lunch. I’d known it. My expanded heart compressed, constricted in my chest with a pressure that somehow made me feel like I might be floating off into space without oxygen.   

I tested another door. This one opened. The bedroom was empty, and I took a deep breath. Relief. “Here.” I helped her sit on the bed. “Let me have your cup, and I’ll fill it with water.”

She handed me her red cup, and I took it into the bathroom. I rinsed it out and put in water. Before I walked back into the room, I glanced at myself in the mirror. I stared into my own eyes and whispered to my reflection: “It’s Emma. Don’t be a dick.” 

When I returned to the room, she was curled up on the bed, eyes closed. “Here, Em.”

She turned her head, looked at me and smiled as if it was the first time she’d seen me that night. “Tanner!” She reached for me, and I had the impression she wanted me to stretch out next to her. 

Don’t be a dick, I reminded myself and helped her to sit back up. “Drink some water.”

She took a sip. “Liam says I’m dumb.”

“That isn’t nice of him.” Her statement annoyed me. I sat down next to her, suddenly absolved we weren’t looking for him.

She shook her head. “No. Not like that.” She stopped and took another sip. “Because I wanted to come to find you.”


“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“Of everything.” She took another sip and then leaned her head against my shoulder. 

I could smell her — a nice scent that was clean and slightly sweet, like vanilla or cotton candy. I resisted the impulse to press my nose into her neck to find out for sure, or to run my tongue across her skin to taste it. Instead, we sat like that for a long time — her head on my shoulder, my hands in my lap and my brain chastising me for smelling her like a freak.

The doorknob wiggled several times as people tested the door; I was smart enough to lock it. Habit. I tried to tell myself it was because I was trying to protect Emma from my reputation, but it was also the temptation to maybe just get to kiss her once. I didn’t make a move though, and that was unfamiliar — and kind of exciting — territory for me.

“Tell me what you’re afraid of,” I said eventually, ending the silence, and also because I wanted to know if she’d fallen asleep. I needed to keep my mind occupied with other things besides thoughts about kissing her. I was beginning to feel more coherent and sober.

“I told you. Everything.” Her hands flailed out, and when they settled, one landed on my thigh. My skin tingled under her touch, and heat spread like radiant light from a lightbulb to illuminate all the dark parts of me.

I swallowed and closed my eyes to focus on her words. The words. “Well, name me one thing.” 


“Everyone’s afraid of that.” I looked down at her hand. Casually rested. On my thigh. Emma’s hand. Her fingernails were painted a bright green and matched her hoop earrings.

“Disappointing my parents,” she said. “Disappointing God.”

I looked at her then, the candor of her statement running through me almost as hot as her touch. It wasn’t practiced. It wasn’t her act of being flirty or a ploy to seduce me. It was just an honest statement. Maybe I couldn’t relate to either of those, even if I wanted to. My parents were so blind to me outside of the tug-of-war they played, using me against one another. And God? Never experienced that in my life, unless having an orgasm counted as prayer. “And?”

She moved her head from my shoulder and turned to look at me. “Never kissing Tanner James.”

My stomach did another of those nose dives into my body, toward my groin. The heat of her hand still warmed my leg. I noticed her eyes, fringed in thick lashes, rove over my face. They came to rest on my mouth. Under different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have cared and would have provided what she wanted. I wanted it — bad — but I’d found some weird sense of honor I hadn’t been aware I had. “I can’t, Em. You’re drunk.” These were those different circumstances. Emma represented a different kind of life I didn’t think I deserved. 

“You don’t like me.” She moved back, slumped a little, her shoulders rounding, and folded her hands in her lap. “It’s okay.”

I missed the weight of her hand on my leg. “It isn’t that.” I leaned forward to try and meet her gaze. “I do like you.”

She sat up quickly, her eyes big and bright. “I got it! I will kiss you. Then you don’t have to kiss me. I’ll do the kissing.” 

This made me laugh, because I thought it was one of the cutest things I’d ever heard. And she was so excited by the prospect, as if she’d discovered something new. I couldn’t remember having more fun on a Saturday night. 

“Unless, you think I’m — ugly.” Her eyebrows arched over her wide eyes, but now she couldn’t look at me.

I shook my head. “Nope, Emma. I don’t think that. At all.”

Her eyes met mine again, and she said with a slight frown, “The easiness is wearing off. We better do this fast, before I come back.”

I scrunched up my face. “What?”

“If I come back–” she tapped her head– “I’ll be too scared. My head will get in the way. My bravery will melt off.”

“Liquid courage.” I tapped her cup.

She nodded. “I made a plan. I was waiting for you.”


“I, maybe, drank a little too much. Miscalculated.”

I smiled. “And you were waiting for me. Why?”

“To kiss you.” She laid her hand on my arm. 

I took a deep breath, as if her touch returned a missing piece of my soul, and I needed to breathe it in. Her admission had me unbalanced, however. My usual practiced lyrics receded from the surprise. I’ve had girls try and lure me with their sexuality, but this? This was totally new. “Why again, Em?”

“Because I saw you. You helped Connor. That’s nice, Tanner. And I think it’s sexy. And I don’t want Keven Bennett to be my only kiss.”

I glanced at her mouth, thought about her kissing Keven Bennett, and was annoyed by it. Then I looked at my hands in my lap. She saw me not because of how I looked. It was because I helped Connor that made me sexy to her. It wasn’t partying or being drunk. It wasn’t a rumor that I knew how to have sex. It wasn’t being smart at school. It was because I’d done something unselfish. “Keven Bennett, huh?”

She wrinkled her nose. “He has a lizard tongue.”

I chuckle. “That’s not good.”

She adjusted her body. “So, is it okay if I kiss you?”

“Who would you be kissing? Just for clarification.” I was testing the truth, not believing it.

“Tanner James. You.” She faced me, drawing her knees up between us, where they pressed against the outside of my thigh. “I see you. I’m not that drunk anymore.”

Her words were enough for me to nod, to give myself permission to cross the line, and indulge my curiosity. “Yes. Okay.”

“You have to turn.” She directed me with her hands on my arms, turning me toward her but with her knees between us.

I watched her working out the problem, completely satisfied in the moment, enjoying her and her cute pout. Her dark, curly hair fell around her heart-shaped face as she looked down at our legs.

“This won’t do.” 

“It does seem rather awkward.”

She stood. “Stand up.” She remained steady, the alcohol wearing off, and held her hands out to me.

I took them and stood. When I looked down at her, my heartbeat quickened. The movement of her eyes caressed my face, and for the first time, I understood what it felt like to be seen — really seen. For me, Tanner.  Not because of some rumor about what I could do, or because there was enough alcohol in my system to lower my inhibitions. 

“Tanner?” She reached up and put her hands on my face.

“Yes, Em?”

“Can you bend down? Just a little bit?” She drew me closer.

I leaned forward, cataloguing all of her attributes. My heart went bat-shit crazy inside my chest. I noticed the width of her blue eyes, the fullness of her dark eyebrows, the way her bottom lip was a tiny bit fuller than the top, the way her pert nose was slightly upturned and kissed with tiny freckles that reached out across her cheeks. 

I couldn’t believe she didn’t have a boyfriend. Did I want to be a boyfriend? Why was I thinking about that? I wasn’t boyfriend material.

Her gaze flicked to my lips — her tongue darted out to wet her own — then her eyes slipped up to my eyes before sliding shut as she pressed her lips to mine. 

It was a gentle kiss, soft. Her mouth was warm and pliable against mine. My heart tripped into a more intense speed. Then her lips parted, and she used her tongue to coax me to be an active participant. As much as I tried to not be a dick, that was the last straw of my self-control. I answered the tease of her tongue with my own. Suddenly, where the kiss started as one-sided and tentative, it exploded, because my whole body was an exposed nerve ending. Every sensation — her hands in my hair, her mouth, her tongue, the whisper of her clothing when she moved, the soft noise she emitted because I became involved —was enough to light me on fire. 

I’d dreamed of Emma.

I lifted her.

She wrapped her legs around my waist and hugged me closer with her arms around my neck.

Our tongues moved together, and it all felt like a first time. It was. With her. Exciting. Novel.  

She moaned into my mouth.

I stumbled forward until her back was pressed against the wall and then my hands wandered, molded, massaged. I forgot myself. Just let go […]

Author Bio:

As a kid, CL Walters, world revolved around two things: stories and make believe. She's built a real life around those two things: a teacher of stories and a writer of make believe.

With four books now published, she's looking forward to her fifth release October 13, 2020, a YA Contemporary Romance called The Stories Stars Tell.

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