Sunday, 31 July 2022

The Vegan Cat-Lover 2 by Wendy A M Prosser

The Vegan Cat-Lover 2 by Wendy A M Prosser
Self published in 2012.

A Book with A Vegan and included on my vegan book blog, HirlGrend.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Smashwords

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Smashwords (free)

Is it wrong to like animals better than humans? Too cute, too ugly: two ways to avoid being eaten. What’s the issue with single-issue campaigns? What’s wrong with being sentimental? More musings on veganism, speciesism and feline friends.

Wendy Prosser's second collection of musings, The Vegan Cat-Lover 2, comprises five short essays on the vegan-related themes listed in its synopsis. I didn't think that the subject choices were as potentially provocative as in The first Vegan Cat-Lover Collection, but there is still plenty to mull over especially, I think, for new vegans or those who haven't quite taken the vegan pledge yet. Wendy's anecdotes about the pair of rescued Giant African Land Snails who share her home were eye-opening as I admit I've never considered snails as having personalities before. The whole book is a quick read so a perfect diversion from a dull commute or, as in my case, a stupendously hot afternoon. I love to discover other vegans' opinions about topics that interest us all so appreciated this opportunity to read Prosser's thoughts.

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Saturday, 30 July 2022

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Published by Granta on the 3rd September 2015.

One of my WorldReads from Nigeria
This book was my first review for the 2015 Sophie And Suze's NetGalley Challenge and the book also counted as my 2010s read for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspired by Nigeria's folktales and its war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.

Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child and they, star-crossed, fall in love. They are from different ethnic communities. They are also both girls. When their love is discovered, Ijeoma learns that she will have to hide this part of herself. But there is a cost to living inside a lie.       

As Edwidge Danticat has made personal the legacy of Haiti's political coming of age, Okparanta's Under the Udala Trees uses one woman's lifetime to examine the ways in which Nigerians continue to struggle toward selfhood. Even as their nation contends with and recovers from the effects of war and division, Nigerian lives are also wrecked and lost from taboo and prejudice. This story offers a glimmer of hope -- a future where a woman might just be able to shape her life around truth and love. 

Under The Udala Trees is set in Nigeria and opens at the beginning of the Biafran War when Ijeoma is a young girl in a comfortably off middle class household. After her father, Uzo, is killed in a bombing raid, her family status crashes and her grieving mother, Adaora, sends Ijeoma to live as a housegirl in a neighbouring town. Alone and isolated, Ijeoma makes friends with an orphan, Amina, and begins to learn about the restrictive conservative lifestyle insisted upon within her country. It is seen as almost unthinkable that an Igbo girl could be friends with a Hausa girl. When their friendship deepens into love and they are discovered, the two are swiftly torn apart.

Ijeoma's mother has embraced fervent religion as a way to cope with her grief. Her insistence on homosexuality being 'an abomination' leads to one of the most interesting sections of Under The Udala Trees as Ijeoma reviews and interprets relevant Bible passages for herself. Her confusion and despair are movingly portrayed. Bullied into submission and eventually coerced into a traditional marriage, we see through her eyes the dangerous life lesbian and gay people are forced to endure in such a repressive society, as well as the innate chauvinism to which even her once-open-minded husband stoops when their child is Not A Boy. I was reminded often of events in A Thousand Splendid Suns as the same closed mindsets prevail even though the religions differ.

The novel is delicately enough written to be suitable for a new adult or even young adult readership. Ultimately it does strike a hopeful note despite the current draconian laws against homosexuality in Nigeria.

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Friday, 29 July 2022

It Started with a Dance by Tinia Montford + Giveaway + Excerpt

It Started with a Dance
Tinia Montford
(Pacific Grove University, #2)
Publication date: July 28th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, New Adult, Romance


It’s double time for Cami Clinton…  

Dance is in Cami’s blood, but a bombshell diagnosis puts her on the sidelines. Now returning for her senior year of college, she’s determined to prove she is the dancer she once was. Each year, at the end of the semester, the campus hosts a dance festival. Cami knows this is her shot at redemption, but while at a party, things go horribly wrong and Cami suddenly has a new boyfriend: Marsh Lincoln.

Marsh Lincoln has two left feet… 

He doesn’t dance. A nasty accident haunts Marsh and he’s just ready to graduate. Until he’s told he’s missing credits. The only class left to fill his missing credits? Ballroom dancing. To make matters worse, his girlfriend breaks-up with him in front of everyone at a party, leaving him with a new girlfriend he’s never met before…

It takes two to tango… 

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy when you’ve just met. When the lines between what’s real and pretend blurs, they have to ask themselves: Can you catch feelings for something that’s all pretend?

Goodreads / / Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


Girl, don’t do it; it’s not worth it. Don’t do it… Don’t do it, Cami. Last time was supposed to be it! Don’t…

Paper crinkled under Cami as she shifted on the exam table, facing the cabinet on the wall. It held a box of gloves, a thermometer, an otoscope, and the little disposable thingies that went with it. She exhaled shakily and squeezed her eyes shut. I swear I’m just thinking about stealing the doctor’s glove; I’m not gonna do it. Last time was it… They are good for cleaning. It would be awful if Devin had to bail me out of jail for stealing gloves in a doctor’s office. I’ll get expelled from school and be forced onto the mean streets of the Tenderloin. I’ll have to fight cats for chicken bones and steal cough syrup to stay high.

Cami’s karma was shot to hell based on her last six months of existence. She didn’t want the big man upstairs to send a bolt of lightning down to obliterate her.

She would be good…

Pushing herself up, she strained to hear any footsteps in the hall. The doctor wouldn’t notice a few missing gloves, would she?

Her phone dinged twice with a text message. It was her best friend, Deja. Saved by the bell.

Where are you?? I thought we were getting lunch? Winter and I are in the restaurant.

Cami slapped her forehead. How could she forget? It was their annual back-to-school tradition. Lunch in Japantown and mochi ice cream afterward. A staple in their friendship since freshmen year and even more important since last semester.

I had to meet with my adviser. Let’s meet for dinner?

Deja’s reply was instant.

Fine. Take a sneak pic of your adviser. Clark is foine.

Cami hung her head. Why did I lie? Deja and Winter, her best friends, knew about her hospital stint. They visited her every day until they had to go home for summer break, right before she finally received her diagnosis. Cami still couldn’t utter the words chronic disease…

She told herself she would confess to them, but when the moment came, she found herself saying viral infection instead. Each time after that, the lie flowed easier and it became harder and harder for her to backpedal. She told herself lying was for a good reason. Cami was tired of being the one people needed to look after. She was reinventing herself after this setback, presenting herself as independent and poised. Even if it was a façade.

Anxiety churned in her stomach, and she hoped her doctor would come back with the results she wanted. A glance at her phone let her know the time.

12:04 PM.

How long had she been sitting here? Twenty or thirty minutes? It was the first day of the semester, and Cami wasn’t letting it slip through her fingers. It was late August and freezing in San Francisco because of the coastal fog and wind. She tugged at the pink chunky sweater she’d paired with a skirt and combat boots. She pulled her knotless braids over her shoulder, biting her lip with a glance at the door before she pushed herself off the exam table.

“I’m just gonna take one. I’ve been through a lot,” she muttered, justifying the petty theft.

Cami plucked a glove from the box and held her breath as if alarms would sound. Once the coast was clear, she took another. Then another. Her hands were full as someone knocked at the door. She squealed, dropping some contraband as she darted across the room and shoved the gloves into her book bag, and plopped her butt back on the exam table, winded from that simple yet covert act.


She tried placing a neutral expression on her face, hoping it didn’t reveal how fast her heart was beating, or her fear that a minor sprint consumed most of her energy.

The door opened, and her doctor’s head appeared. “Camille?”

“Dr. Aguilar.”

The last time Cami was in a hospital, besides her own illness, she found out her father had died. Of course, she didn’t remember this. She had been a toddler; her mother and brother recounted the story solemnly to her years later. It was a good enough excuse to avoid hospitals ever since.

Dr. Aguilar almost changed her mind about hospitals. The older woman’s aura of calmness and matronly appearance never failed to put her at ease. Bracelets adorning both arms and rings on all fingers. Plump. Graying hair. She smiled and her eyes went to the blue glove lying on the floor.

“The gloves fell out of the box…” That was a lame excuse.

Author Bio:

Tinia (TUH-NIA) Montford is a Pisces who’s a sap for romance, especially when there’s (tons of) kissing. Loves eighties sitcoms and will consume anything with chocolate. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in English and Graphic Design.

She is a world traveler having climbed a volcano in Nicaragua, scaled Angkor Wat in the blistering sun, and roamed the Acropolis of Athens. Oh, she also dabbles in short stories occasionally.

If you can’t catch her writing, you can bet she’s overindulging on poke bowls, listening to the same four songs, or chilling with her adorbs doggie. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest


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Thursday, 28 July 2022

Violins and Vampires by Cee Bee + Giveaway + Excerpt

Violins and Vampires
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: June 26th 2022
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Lexa Uznetsov is trapped
To save my sister, I take on my father’s massive debt to Konstantin the Rus, leader of the New York Bratva. My life becomes a never-ending (and incredibly illegal) stakeout for the mob. There’s barely time to sleep, let alone find love. In desperation, I approach Caelin MacGregor, the handsome Scotsman who runs Empire Investments. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Caelin MacGregor is a lost king
Ages ago, I ruled a clan of Bloodkin vampires. My people are born to wield magic, drain humans, and live forever. That’s all over now. I’ve been alone for a thousand years. Today, I no longer care about the sunrise, let alone truly desire a woman. Then, I look upon Lexa. My world turns upside down…

Vampires of the Daemonverse Series
1. Violins and Vampires
2. Veils and Vampires
3. Vixens and Vampires
4. Valor and Vampires

Goodreads / / Amazon UK



Another Saturday night, another stakeout.

This time, I’m in the Big Apple Café, watching the apartment of Dr Khatun. It’s a lot of nursing the same cup of java while staring out a window.

Suddenly, a man pauses on the sidewalk outside. This isn’t just any guy, mind you, but Caelin MacGregor, the so-called King of Empire Investments. Rumors are, Vass is a ruthless in business and a bastard in general. I believe those tales. Then there are other whispers. Folks say Caelin is a vampire with mind control powers. I have a different opinion on that.

What a load of B-S.

Caelin pauses, giving me a chance to inspect him more closely. To say that Caelin is just handsome is like declaring that the Mona Lisa is simply a painting.

The slightest shiver rolls across Caelin’s shoulders. Inch by inch, he turns toward me. My pulse skyrockets. Our gazes meet.

Everything goes haywire.

Lights flash in the coffee shop. Street lamps pulse and crackle. A breeze strikes up out of nowhere. Mist pours across the floor. An electric shock of worry moves through my limbs.

This can’t be good.

Everything in the coffee shop goes dark, except for a few beams of moonlight. Moments pass as my eyes adjust. Once I can see clearly again, I can’t believe what’s around me. The cafe is empty. The street outside is deserted as well. The entire city appears dark and abandoned.

And I’ve changed, too. Now I’m sitting on the tabletop with my skirt up and legs parted. A man towers before me.

It’s Caelin.

Maybe I should scream now or run for the exit, but I don’t. Instead, my entire being seems frozen in shock… Except for my ability to soak in more details of Caelin. Up close, this so-called king even more magnetic. A gentle scruff lines his chin. His face is framed with strong bone structure. His full lips appear ripe for a kiss. The gentle scent of musk and leather assaults me. It isn’t fair for this man to be gorgeous and smell good as well.

All this time, Caelin has been staring at me with a look that can only be described as worshipful hunger. Don’t get me wrong. I make side money in bikini contests. Getting ogled is nothing new. But I’ve never been visually devoured in the way that’s happening right now. The sheer intensity makes my core twist with desire. With every cell in my body, I want to touch the curl of hair at the base of Caelin’ neck. Some part of me screams that this whole situation is impossible.

More of me doesn’t care.

Author Bio:

CEE BEE writes stories that blend epic fantasy, steamy romance, and lots of sass. If you want immersive tales that transport you to fresh worlds (and new book boyfriends) then you’ve come to the right author. To learn more about CEE BEE, please visit Her new book, VIOLINS AND VAMPIRES, is available on Kindle Unlimited:

CEE BEE also writes young adult fare under the name Christina Bauer. Check out Christina’s books at There’s a literal sh*t ton of them.

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Vlog


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Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Semper Fi Brothers by A.C. Turner + Giveaway

Join us for this tour from July 18 to August 5, 2022!

Book Details:

​Book TitleSemper Fi Brothers: A Hero's Dangerous Journey for Redemption by A.C. Turner
Category:  Adult Fiction (18+),  150 pages
GenreLiterary Fiction / Military Action Fiction
Publisher:  Write My Wrongs LLC
Release date:  March 16, 2022
Content RatingPG-13 (some f-words, violence, non-explicit sex scenes)  
Book Description:

Yarmuck, Syria is under attack. ISIS goons under the command of ruthless Commander Abu, have infiltrated the village and are determined to purge it of its Yazidi heritage... by any means necessary.

Meanwhile, half a world away in California, tormented Shamus "Gunny" O'Malley-retired Marine and Vietnam Vet who's done nothing but drink his way through civilian life as a TV personality and bar owner-learns his young Yazidi bartender, Quassam, fears for the lives of the family left behind in Yarmuck.

When Quassam, "Q" to his friends, announces his plan to save his mother and sister from the ISIS goons, Gunny's hapless best friend (and best customer), Buzz, decides he's going to aid young Q on his journey, and does everything he can to convince Gunny to come along for the ride.

​With time running out and ISIS tightening its grip, Gunny has a decision to make. As the son of a white father and black mother, O'Malley knows from his time in the Marines that race can never break the bonds between semper fi brothers. Will he stay brash and boozy in sunny California, or will he take a leap of faith and journey to hellish, war-torn Syria to help his brothers and slay his-and Yarmuck's-demons?


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Semper Fi Brothers is an action-packed war novel which begins with a young man going off to fight in the Vietnam War. The story began life as a screenplay which was later adapted into prose. This genesis shows in its snappy scene changes and dialogue-led narrative and I think this writing style could make Semper Fi Brothers a good book choice for readers who don't like getting bogged down in descriptive detail. There are emotional moments earlier on in some historical scenes, but the main thrust of O'Malley's experiences are violent wartime encounters with lots of guns blazing and gung-ho machismo.

I wasn't convinced by the plausibility of aging, drunk O'Malley being as physically capable a soldier in Syria as he had been in Vietnam so this idea did require some suspension of disbelief, but of course the Yazidi village men were grateful for the American intervention and the story progresses as a war movie should! Although I realised quite early on that I wasn't the ideal audience for Semper Fi Brothers, I did enjoy reading this story overall. I'd recommend it for fans of energetic action-adventure novels, and New Adult readers.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
First published in German as Der Steppenwolf by S Fischer Verlag A G in Germany in 1927. English language translation by Basil Creighton published by Martin Secker in 1929.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a book exchange

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harry Haller is a melancholy and lonely character, a solitary thinker who has no joy in life. He tries to reconcile his inner wild, primal wolf and intellectual man without succumbing to the bourgeois values he despises. His life is turned upside down when he meets Hermine, a careless and mysterious lady who is the polar opposite of him.
Steppenwolf, Hesse' best-known and most autobiographical work, first published in English in 1929, continues to speak to our souls as a masterpiece of modern literature, with its blend of Eastern mysticism and Western civilization.

Before starting to read Steppenwolf I did wonder if I had left this novel too late in my life to fully appreciate it - as I felt I had with Demian. So many other Steppenwolf reviews seem to be by readers who identified with Harry in their late teens or early twenties, a time when we strive to discover our true personalities and often feel alienated from society at large. I soon discovered, however, that I am actually within a very few months of Harry's age as Steppenwolf begins and, through reading Hesse's own brief introduction, that he was exploring ideas of change experienced in middle age - Steppenwolf is a midlife crisis novel!

I soon realised too that I could all too well empathise with Harry's misanthropy and his desire to avoid the outside world by submerging himself in books. I loved the descriptions of his rented room with its chaotic piles of books everywhere, and especially how this is contrasted with his idea of a peaceful temple being a neighbour's clean landing simply adorned with two neat potted plants. In Steppenwolf, Hesse frequently uses such diametrically opposed contrasts to make his points. I imagine the yin and yang concept to have been his inspiration. One particular sentence that leapt out to me was, "Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours." There is a lot of such philosophising throughout Steppenwolf and I frequently found myself pausing simply to appreciate a beautifully structured sentence which concisely expressed ideas I had struggled to clearly express myself.

It felt strange that a ninety-five year old novel could still be so completely relevant both on a personal level for myself and also on a national one. Discussions of emergent 'nationalist jingoism' eerily reflected conversations I have had in Brexit Britain. 2020s England appears uncomfortably similar to Hesse's 1920s Germany. Another sentence I loved, in relation to a newspaper article Harry had written, illustrates this, "no good could come to the country so long as such persons and such ideas were tolerated and the minds of the young turned to sentimental ideas of humanity instead of to revenge by arms on the hereditary foe". 

I'm going to keep my copy of Steppenwolf and plan to read it again, and probably again after that too. While the basic narrative of a man getting himself out of a midlife rut by going out with a young, vivacious woman isn't particularly unique, Hesse' treatment of the subject felt particularly profound. I enjoyed spending time with Hermine and appreciated her ability to voice her own ideas and opinions. In many ways she is the equal (and opposite) of Harry and Hesse recognises this. I feel that Steppenwolf is a book that will reveal more and different facets and ideas with each reading and it is just too deeply philosophical a novel to fully engage with on the first time around.

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Monday, 25 July 2022

Peace Dreamer / Heart Dreamer by Cheryl Melody Baskin + Giveaway + Guest Post

Join us for this tour from July 18 to August 5, 2022!

Book Details:

​Book TitlePeace Dreamer: A Journey of Hope in Bad Times and Good by Cheryl Melody Baskin
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18+),  220 pages
Genre: Motivational/Spiritual
Publisher:  Cheryl Melody Baskin , LLC
Release date:  March 2021
Content Rating:  G  
“Cheryl Melody Baskin is one of the most evolved souls in our world and her loving way of relating to the reader will bathe you with endless possibilities and nourish your soul.” - Barbara Gaughen-Muller, President - United Nations Association, Santa Barbara, California; Co-founder/President - Rotary eClub of World Peace.

Book Description:

Discovering yourself is part of life's journey and honors the saying, “peace begins with me.” Peace Dreamer offers inspiring wisdom, life coaching, healing techniques, self-discovery tools and soul searching meaning. It helps you answer, “Who am I? What are my dreams for myself? What are my dreams for the world?”

Feed your inner spirit with hope, happiness, love, dreams, idealism and optimism even as you struggle with everyday challenges.

Peace Dreamer encourages you to never give up on yourself or the world, no matter how messy life becomes. True activism begins in our core. Our soul of souls. It begins from inside-out.

Let it begin now for you.

Buy the Book:

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Book Details:

​Book Title:  Heart-Dreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams-No Matter What (SECOND EDITION) by Cheryl Melody Baskin
Category:  Adult Non-Fiction (18+),  267 pages
Genre: Motivational/Spiritual
Publisher:  Cheryl Melody Baskin , LLC
Release date:  Sept 7 2021 2nd Ed. (Original Nov. 2019)
Content Rating:  G 
Dr. Bernie Siegel, New York Times bestselling author, says: “Cheryl Melody Baskin knows the secret to a life of wellness – living in your heart. I highly recommend this gem of a book from the heart and to the heart.”
Book Description:

Nurture your body, mind and spirit and gain insight about your unlimited potential.

User-friendly and inspirational, it is designed for anyone who has always been a dreamer, forgot their dreams along the way, or never knew how to dream. It is also dedicated to readers who want to heal and grow from inside-out and live life with more lightness, balance and joy.

By sharing my struggles and vulnerabilities, you will see that you’re not alone with your own doubts, fears and insecurities … and the abundance of self-healing and self-discovery activities sprinkled throughout each chapter will serve to guide and transform your personal journey.

Heart-Dreamer also contains the voices of wisdom from people all over the world who share their life lessons with you in one inspiring community of love.
Buy the Book: ~ Amazon UK
Guest Post: How to Believe in a World of Loving Consciousness Even in Difficult Times by Cheryl Melody Baskin

The desire to be a spiritual catalyst for love and peace is not for the faint-hearted. It takes unwavering focus, self-belief, faith, trust, persistence and courage. There are moments when my heart breaks as I witness a world heavy with the negative energy of violence, discrimination, political polarization, complicit silence, inhumanity, inequality, and a general lack of human decency.

I find myself thinking, “Wait a minute. Loving consciousness? Peace? I wonder if peace is even possible.” If you have moments of doubt, please know in your heart that even optimists, idealists and changemakers become discouraged. It’s normal. We’re human.

Acknowledge your feelings, shake them off, take long, slow and deep breaths, order the voice of self-doubt to fly far away, and give yourself an inspirational pep talk. Continue to work tirelessly towards a world in which we can all be proud. Never give up. Stay the course. Focus on core values that elevate and uplift the human soul and embody the essence of love.

When I think of all the millions of people around the globe who believe in peace, diversity celebration and love, I am inspired beyond all adequate words. They are ordinary people who are also extraordinary. They embody what it means to be a peace dreamer, and most of all, they remind me that I am not alone in my own dream for a world of peace.

Think of all the peace dreamers in history who have inspired you with their courage, vision and actions. Think of all the peace dreamers who are actively working towards a humanity of loving consciousness.

Who are your mentors and role models? Breathe in their energy, passion, hope, determined actions and courage and let them inspire you.

Let’s celebrate the diversity of all our global citizens and see everyone through the heart of love. Commit to spreading love wherever you go, and until the last breath, become unstoppable towards this quest.

Join me in being the love, compassion and kindness our one humanity needs. Join me in being a light that shines towards peace. Never give up on our collective dream. Step by step, resolve to do the inner work needed to heal yourself, and breath by breath, visualize a world of loving consciousness that stands tall for peace.

As you read the poem, My Dream for Peace, what you would put into your own poem for peace? Here is how I envision a new story for our one precious planet, and I’d love to hear your visions, too.

Meet the Author:

Cheryl Melody Baskin is an award-winning author. Her motivational self-help books include "Peace Dreamer: A Journey of Hope in Bad Times and Good," "Heart-Dreamer: Stepping into Life, Love, Creativity and Dreams - No Matter What" (an International Silver Medal Winner from Readers Favorite), and "Shift of Heart: Paths to Healing and Love." She is also a recording artist, performing artist, spirituality and peace educator, sound healer, intuitive life coach, and facilitator and founder of the FB community, Shift of Heart. She recently received a Life Achievement Award from The Visioneers International Network.

connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ bookbub ~ goodreads

Tour Schedule:

​July 18 – Cover Lover Book Review – books spotlight / author interview / giveaway
July 18 - Rockin' Book Reviews – book review of PEACE DREAMER / guest post / giveaway
July 19 - Splashes of Joy – books spotlight / guest post / giveaway
July 20 – Paws.Read.Repeat – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
July 21 - Jayme_reads – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
July 22 - Rockin' Book Reviews – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
July 22 – Paws.Read.Repeat – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
July 22 – Kam's Place – book review of PEACE DREAMER
July 25 - Literary Flits – books spotlight / guest post / giveaway
​July 25 –
Kam's Place – book review of HEART-DREAMER
July 25 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
July 26 – A Mama's Corner of the World – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
July 27 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
July 28 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
July 29 – Novels Alive – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
Aug 1 - Jayme_reads – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
Aug 3 – Olio by Marilyn – books spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Aug 3 –Olio by Marilyn – book review of PEACE DREAMER / giveaway
Aug 4 – Olio by Marilyn – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
Aug 4 –
Novels Alive – book review of HEART-DREAMER / giveaway
Aug 5 – Books for Books – books spotlight
Aug 5 - Jazzy Book Reviews – books spotlight / author interview / giveaway
Enter the Giveaway:
Win 1 of 2 $25 Starbucks gift cards courtesy of author Cheryl Melody Baskins. Open to the USA only until the 12th August.



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Sunday, 24 July 2022

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
First published by Harper in America in 2012.

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins is a gorgeous, glamorous novel set in 1960s Italy and a modern Hollywood studio.

The story begins in 1962. Somewhere on a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and views an apparition: a beautiful woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an American starlet, he soon learns, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away in Hollywood, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot searching for the woman he last saw at his hotel fifty years before.
Gloriously inventive, funny, tender and constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a novel full of fabulous and yet very flawed people, all of them striving towards another sort of life, a future that is both delightful and yet, tantalizingly, seems just out of reach.

Beautiful Ruins is a sprawling saga of a novel which takes places across two timelines, mostly in present-day Hollywood and 1960s southern Italy. While billed as a 'very, very funny' 'monument to love', I found it to be a rather over-played and self-indulgent story - albeit with fabulous cover art by Kelly Anna. It is amusing in parts and kept me entertained throughout a day so hot that I little enthusiasm to do anything but read, but I was dismayed at the gap between the high praise this book has received - along with numerous reprints - and the reality of actually reading it. Perhaps I need to be more of a Hollywood fan to appreciate it as satire?

I did like the idea of exploring so many 'what if' scenarios and missed opportunities. Characters talk about time passing them by while they wait for the 'movie of their lives to begin' and that is a particular theme of the book. Unfortunately most of the characters aren't particularly likeable. The Italian people are idealised so much as to practically be caricatures and there's a strange, long section following the antics of a drunken Richard Burton. In fact, Beautiful Ruins is padded out a number of times with strange additions that did nothing to further the central story - one chapter from a character's unwritten novel, another from a second character's autobiography, a play script recapping what we had already learned in detail about a third character. I wasn't sure why we needed these diversions as they slowed down the novel considerably.

All in all, I'm not really sure what to make of Beautiful Ruins. Some scenes are inspired, others just read as filler, and Walter's attempts to get as many tear-jerking happy-ever-afters into the ending quickly became nauseating! I think I'll chalk this novel up to 'worth a try, but not my style' and pass on any more of his novels.

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Saturday, 23 July 2022

Dark Hearts by M O'Keefe + Giveaway + Excerpt

Dark Hearts
M. O’Keefe
Publication date: July 19th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

“No man ever made me so curious. Or reckless.”

Poppy lives a charmed life. From the outside she’s the wife of a wealthy senator, wearing jewels and designer clothes. Other people don’t know she lives in the dark. Her husband is a monster in a bespoke suit.

Then Ronan Byrne shows up on their marble doorstep, armed and dangerous. He sees through her calm, cultured facade to the fear underneath.

He’s determined to help her, whether she wants it or not.

“M. O’Keefe brings her A-game in this sexy, complicated romance where you’re left questioning if everything you thought was true!” – New York Times bestselling author K. Bromberg

DARK HEARTS is a boxed set that contains three full-length novels: Ruined, Broken, and Untamed by bestselling and award-winning author M. O’Keefe.

Welcome to the Midnight Dynasty… The warring Morelli and Constantine families have enough bad blood to fill an ocean, and their brand new stories will be told by your favorite dangerous romance authors.

WARNING: This book is intended for readers eighteen years old and over. It contains material that some readers could find disturbing. Enter at your own risk…

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You want to know what the rich and powerful do? They go to parties like this one. And on little plates they carry food around that they don’t actually eat. In heavy crystal glasses they drink champagne and scotch. Rivers of it. They laugh and whisper and watch each other out of the corners of their eyes.

But really what they do is pretend. That’s all. They play pretend in their four-thousand-dollar tuxes and ten-thousand-dollar dresses.

They pretend to care what the person they’re talking to is actually saying. They pretend to give a shit about whatever cause to which they’re donating money. Or in the case of tonight’s party—the marriage of a 20-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man.

They pretend that it’s not gross.

My sister Zilla and I played a version of this exact same game that hot summer under the willow tree at the back of our estate. Wearing our mother’s nightgowns with thin little straps and lace that fell past our little girl knees, Zilla would hold out a leaf with a worm on it.

“It’s a delicacy where I come from,” she’d say in a ridiculous accent.

“After you,” I’d say, trying to sound like the Queen of England but getting tangled up somewhere in the deep south. And then, because she was fearless, Zilla would pick up that worm, bite it in half, and swallow it down.

“Show me,” I’d say, and she’d open her mouth to reveal nothing but her molars poking through the tender pink of her gums. And then she’d dab the corners of her mouth with the leaf, and we’d tip our heads back and fake laugh.

But the fake laughs always turned to real ones. Ones that shook our bellies and made us collapse onto the ground.

That was not going to happen at this party.

“Are you all right?” asked Mrs. . . . oh, god, what was her name? She was important, I’d been told that earlier. I’d been told not to forget that this woman in the vast sea of important women at this party, was important.

“I’m fine,” I said, but there was sweat pooling between my breasts. The sweat had nothing to do with the heat of summer in Upstate New York and everything to do with my life ending while people ate shrimp cocktail.

The harpist in the corner struck up what sounded like the exact same song she’d been playing for the last hour. It was. It was the same song. The harpist was playing a joke on all the assholes at this party.

Oh god, the thought just occurred to me—she thinks I am one of the assholes.

“As I was saying,” the important woman said. The diamonds in her ears were the size of pea gravel and could keep Zilla in Belhaven for a month. “The senator has done excellent work for the state in Washington. Everyone here fully supports his tax relief bill.”

“I’m sure he appreciates that.”

“Tell him, won’t you?” she asked, leaning in closer. “I have a nephew graduating Harvard and he’s hoping to intern with the senator next year.”

Little did Important Woman know, I had no power. Everything about me—from the dress I was wearing to the seven million thread count pillowcase I would lay my head upon tonight—was a loan I was in the process of paying back.

“Sure,” I said.

“You must be so excited,” Important Woman said. “How that man has managed to stay single is a mystery to me.”

“I think I just need to get a breath of fresh air,” I said and then rudely, really rudely, just walked away from that important woman.


I was really starting to unravel. Despite being in this house roughly a million times, I couldn’t seem to find a door leading to a room I wanted to be in.

There was like . . . a hysterical giggle in my chest. Or a scream? Maybe it was a scream. Or a sob.

All three?

Was that even possible?

I’d wished a million times since all this started that I was more like my sister. Tougher. Stronger. Angrier.

Strong was never a word anyone had applied to me.

I had to get out of the Constantine compound. Now. Three seconds ago.

The champagne glass in my hand was empty, and I handed it to a waiter, not waiting to answer his polite question about having more of the expensive bubbly. If I opened my mouth too wide I was afraid, well, not afraid as much as I was sure, absolutely sure that I would ruin not just this night. But everything—the whole spider web keeping my sister and me safe would be torn apart. So I kept my mouth shut as I pushed past Tinsley Constantine.

“Are you all right, Poppy?” Tinsley asked. We weren’t close, me and Tinsley. The Constantine children breathed rarified air, and when I was around them, I felt all the arrows of my circumstances. We’d been raised as cousins of a sort, but we all knew that was a lie. Now, since leaving college, I was staying in their pool house. And they never intentionally made me feel bad, but I could tell they didn’t like how much their mother cared about me.

And they really didn’t love me staying in the pool house.

“I’m fine,” I said with what I hoped was a smile. I could see across the room Winston and Perry, Caroline’s sons, tracking this conversation. And more eyes were not what I needed. “I just need some air.”

They were one hundred percent pitying me and barely hiding it.

I was one hundred percent freaking out and barely hiding it.

The front doors were still open, people walking in and out, and the big veranda would be just as crowded as this ballroom, so I followed a server out the door and through a wood-panelled study full of men in tuxedos.

I didn’t look at their faces. In this world, this place, they all looked the same. White, slightly saggy, watery-eyes behind glasses that assessed my worth as I went running past.

In my desperation, I got turned around inside the sprawling mansion and found myself in the small sitting room being used as a bar for the catering staff. The same room where Caroline had changed my life forever—god, was that . . . Christmas? How had my life changed so dramatically in a few months?

“You have to listen to me,” Caroline said, sitting next to me on the little settee facing the icy window. The white twinkle lights reflected in her eyes. “This is serious. And this is hard. But you’re not a little girl anymore.”

“I know,” I said. I’d turned 20 in the spring. And now that Dad was dead, I was Zilla’s legal guardian. Frankly, I hadn’t been a little girl since Mom died. I wasn’t sure I’d ever felt like a little girl.

“Your father . . .” Caroline took a deep breath. “There’s no money, Poppy.”

“For what?” I asked.

“There’s no money for you. For school. For Zilla. You need to sell the house to pay off what he owed.”

“Okay,” I felt the ground shifting under my feet. “The life insurance—”

“He cashed it out a year ago.”

“My college fund?”

“Gone. The money from your mother’s estate. All gone. There’s nothing, Poppy.”

“How will I pay for Zilla—”

“You’re going to need to drop out of school, and we need to figure something out.”

“You all right, miss?” a server asked while trying to get by me with a tray of empty glasses from the kitchen.

“Bad place to stop,” a guy said, lifting his tray of full glasses over my head as he went by.

“I just need . . . fresh air.”

“The front—”

“And privacy.”

The server nodded once, her no-nonsense ponytail swishing over her dark vest. “Follow me,” she said.

Maybe I could get a job as a server with this catering company. She probably made good money. I didn’t have any experience serving appetizers on trays, and probably way too much experience eating them. But I could learn. Probably.

We were through the kitchen and down another hall, and finally she pushed open a door to a small brick patio with a few chairs around what looked like a fire pit. I could see the swimming pool beyond. The pool house where I’d been staying since Christmas like some very unwanted guest. The gazebo. Tennis courts. The manicured lawns slipped down over the hills to the shadowed tree line. Fresh air abounded. The sounds of the party were muffled.

I could almost pretend I was far away from it all.

“You should be okay out here,” the server said in her neat vest and bow tie. I loved bow ties. Honestly, I was made to be a catering server.

“Thank you so much!” I said, showing way too much enthusiasm for the kindness she’d shown me, but there’d been a real lack of kindness—big or small, in my life in the last year so I always got a little messy around it.

“It’s just where the servers smoke, nothing to get excited about,” she said with lots of side eye.

The server vanished through the open doorway, and I walked out into the grass, past the edge of the light thrown from the lantern fixture over the door. In the distance was the thick tree line that separated the Constantine land from my parent’s old house. When Zilla found out what Dad had done, she burned the house down. That’s when we knew the medication wasn’t enough. That’s when Belhaven happened. When everything changed. What was left of the house after the fire and the willow tree had been bulldozed, the pond filled, the land sold to the Constantine’s.

I could run around to the front of the house and get a key from the valet. Any key. Any car. And I could drive away.

Except, you idiot, you don’t know how to drive.

I could run. Just . . . run. Even as I thought it, I was slipping out of my shoes. The grass cold and damp and real beneath my feet. That was how bad I wanted to escape—my body was committed to action before I’d fully finished the thought. God. I wanted to RUN.

Run and do what? Go where? What about Zilla?

The thoughts were chains erupting out of the grass and wrapping around my feet.

Hands in fists, tears in my eyes, I opened my mouth ready to scream. Ready to let all the poison out, no matter who heard me. Let all of them hear me—Important Woman with the earrings, the Constantine children, the server who in another life might be my best friend—I’d go back in there in a minute and smile and thank them. Show them the stupid rock on my finger and blush and laugh, but now, let them stand in those rooms and know they were robbing me. Killing me. Let them—

“Jesus Christ, you okay?” a thick Irish accent asked from the darkness in the corner of the patio, and instead of screaming I kind of squeaked.

Which, honestly, was about right.

Author Bio:

M. O'Keefe is the darker, more dangerous pen name of bestselling author Molly O'Keefe. She is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Everything I Left Unsaid series and the upcoming Stolen Hearts. To find out more visit

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Win 2x print copies of Dark Hearts or 1x ebook copy of Dark Hearts. Open internationally until the 28th July.

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Friday, 22 July 2022

The Seraphim's Song (F.I.G. Mysteries #5) by Barbara Casey + Giveaway

Join us for this tour from July 5 to July 25, 2022!

Series Details:

Book TitleTHE SERAPHIM'S SONG - Book 5, The F.I.G. Mysteries by Barbara Casey
Category:  YA Fiction (Ages 13-17), 213 pages
Genre:  Mystery, Fantasy
Publisher:  Gauthier Publications (Hungry Goat Press)
Release date:   April 2022
Content Rating:  G. THE SERAPHIM'S SONG is suitable for all readers - adult and young adult.
Book Description:

Many changes have taken place at Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women while Carolina and Larry were on their honeymoon in Frascati, Italy, on the Granchelli farm. The newlyweds have been given a larger bungalow; Ms. Alcott, niece of the founder of Wood Rose, and Mrs. Ball, assistant to the headmaster, have moved into a bungalow together; and Jimmy Bob, caretaker and night watchman at Wood Rose has moved from his family home down the road a bit into a small bungalow on the orphanage property with his hound dog Tick, as well as his new cat and her litter of kittens.

Summer is coming to an end and the F.I.G.s will soon return to the universities to complete their special projects. They are starting to feel anxious, and the coping mechanisms they have used their entire lives are starting to work overtime. Dara’s thoughts turn to an unknown language, possibly from another world; Mackenzie focuses on the relationship of math to music; and Jennifer keeps hearing the note of B flat minor and is drawing dark swirls on her canvas board.

Buy the Book: ~ Amazon UK
B&N ~ Books-A-Million
The Book Depository ~ Waterstones

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Meet the Author:
Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels and book-length works of nonfiction for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Several of her books have been optioned for major films and television series.

In addition to her own writing, Barbara is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency. Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan.

In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas.

Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with three cats who adopted her: Homer, a Southern coon cat; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

Connect with the author:  Barbara Casey Author ~ Barbara Casey Agency ~ Goodreads

Tour Schedule:

​July 5 –
Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
July 5 - Cover Lover Book Review – book spotlight / giveaway
July 6 – Kam's Place – book review
July 7 – The Momma Spot – book review / giveaway
July 8 – Lisa's Reading – book spotlight / giveaway
July 11 –Splashes of Joy – book review / giveaway
July 12 – Bound 4 Escape – book review / giveaway
July 13 – Pick a Good Book – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
July 14 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
July 15 – Books for Books – book review
July 18 – Laura McHale Holland, Author, Dreamer, Storyteller – book review
July 19 – Mystery Review Crew – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
July 20 – Sadie's Spotlight – book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
July 20 - 
Book Corner News and Reviews - book review / giveaway
July 21 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
July 22 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
July 25 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:

Win a signed copy of THE SERAPHIM'S SONG (Book 5 - THE F.I.G Mysteries) (one winner/USA only) (ends Aug 1)

THE SERAPHIM'S SONG Book Tour Giveaway



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