Wednesday, March 30, 2022

It Began in Brooklyn by Vito Altavilla

Today, author Vito Altavilla is going to share with us his journey to becoming a writer. He also shares with us an excerpt from his new book It Began in Brooklyn. Follow the tour for even more! And best of luck entering the great giveaway.

Joey has a fork stuck in his side! I'll never use that pail and shovel ever again. I didn't know an ashtray could hold so much... What do you mean she doesn't have a penis? The great meatball Controversy of 1952, courtesy of 'Fat Mama' An industrial research chemist who participated in several technological breakthroughs and has a number of national and international patents in concert with his business partner to his credit has a much lighter side to his life. During the course of his life time he was often the cause or in the middle of a number of humorous and unique events that he focused this book on. I am sure that the reader will often smile and sometimes laugh out loud at his very original and unique stories. When was the last time you read a book that made you laugh or at the very least smile? This book will definitely do that. Read and enjoy.

Read an excerpt:
All the children were gathered in the living room ready to celebrate Selma’s eleventh birthday party when her mom entered the room and told them all to follow her to their newly finished decorated basement. This was the time when neighbors were all trying to outdo each other. I believe the expression was keeping up with Joneses.

SONNY was at the end of the line holding the birthday gift his mom had bought. As he passed through the living room, he noticed a fruit bowl in the middle of the dining room table. He had never seen such beautiful ripe fruit like this. He didn’t know what possessed him, but he only knew he had to take a bite out of one of those apples. He figured if he took one bite only, he could the put it facedown and no one would notice.

He had to be quick, so he grabbed an apple and bit down hard. It was wax! It was stuck in his mouth up to his gums! He couldn’t dislodge it and his mouth was starting to hurt. He finally squeezed a finger on either side of the apple and with a yank dislodged it. There was still a big piece missing which was still in his mouth. He put the missing piece in his pocket returned the apple face down in the fruit bowl. The missing piece was invisible. However, SONNY had another problem. He could feel a waxy residue on his teeth and as he walked toward the basement he noticed a mirror, smiled then got very nervous. His teeth were red. The wax coating was now on his teeth. He tried to scrape it off but to no avail. His only solution was to eat birthday cake and ice cream with the slightest mouth opening he could muster. It seemed to work. No one said anything, although they did look at him strangely when he was singing happy birthday since he sang, “Abby birthday oo oo and Abby birdday oo oo, etc.” They just never thought that SONNY had a speech impediment.

The party was over and SONNY said goodbye with his lips only slightly open and his head down.

The following week Selma came up to SONNY and asked him if he saw anyone bite her mom’s wax apple. She was upset since it was expensive. SONNY said, “No, he hadn’t seen anyone bite her apple, but if he had he would have told her.

SONNY didn’t feel that he was lying. After all, for him to have seen someone he would have had to be looking in the mirror when he bit it.

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Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.

IMy journeys as a writer actually started because of Friday breakfast meetings with friends. Every Friday morning, we older guys would get together and commiserate about the past week's events but more often sat highlights of our lives. One of my friends commented that since I always seem to have more stories than anyone else I should write a book. Since I was now somewhat retired from a normal schedule (i.e.9-5) I thought I’d give it a try.

I decided I would start at the beginning of my life since I still had some faint memories of. However, as I started to write about my early past, memories came flooding back. It was like someone had pushed a replay button. The memories have become more comprehensive as I’ve continued to write. I never thought that remembering events from my life would lead to writing a book. Sometimes it’s like watching an old favorite movie.

Vito Altavilla has extensive experience as an industrial researcher and has participated in many technological breakthroughs. He also has his own podcast called, "The Year Was: A Podcast About Life, Love, And The Pursuit Of A Good Time." Now retired, he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to all of that he is currently finishing a screenplay based on the novel, as well.


Vito Altavilla will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review of Friends--and Then Some by Debbie Macomber


One of acclaimed author Debbie Macomber’s classic novels, this is a tender story of two people daring to be more than “just friends.”

Lily Morrissey knows exactly what she wants in a husband: a big bank account. Not that she’s greedy or shallow; she just needs the security for herself and her beloved grandmother. But husband-hunting is harder than she expected, especially with her best friend Jake in the way. In fact, Jake—who would be perfect for her if he weren’t so committed to everything money can’t buy—is becoming downright distracting, with those jade eyes and that disarming grin.

All Jake wants is the freedom to sail his boat, write his stories, and live life on his own terms. Then his best friend tells him she’s going groom shopping. But Jake can’t imagine life without Lily or bear the thought of her in another man’s arms. How can a rootless guy living a no-strings existence and a woman looking for someone she can count on both get what they need? By letting their hearts choose love.

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**My thoughts**
This is probably the first Debbie Macomber book that I haven't absolutely adored. Granted, it is one of the "Debbie Macomber Classics" titles, so an older work.

Lisa and Jake have been best friends since they met a year ago. Lisa is rather stuck up and comes off as shallow. She's a talented piano player whose sole goal in life is to land a rich man who will take care of all of her financial worries. Jake leads a simple life after his time in the Iraq War, penning short stories and driving a cab white staying rather reticent about his life. They seem like an oddball couple, yet are completely devoted to each other.

The problem with those kinds of friendships is one always ends up falling for the other. Jake can see past Lisa's shallow surface, but also thinks he isn't right for her. He is so kind and giving, but also has an awful jealous streak where Lisa is concerned. He also plays a hot and cold game that is absolutely maddening. I think I never really warm up to him because he reminds me too much of my ex-boyfriend.

Lisa probably has the most growth in this story as she starts to realize that these rich suitors really are not what she wants. She doesn't seem to understand that someone like Jake could actually be enough.

The two of them definitely have the best friend and bickering things down pat. Those two things usually guarantee a smoking relationship. But this one fell flat. I almost felt like the author wasn't quite sure what to do with them, either, and had to wrap up the story to make a deadline.

All of that being said, though, I still read the whole thing in one afternoon.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Review of Men or Paws by Rich Amooi

Watch a dog for three weeks, get fifteen thousand dollars. Piece of cake, right?


First, I have to stay in my client’s guesthouse while he’s in the main house working on an important project. That may not sound so bad, but HE is Hollywood’s Bad Boy, Rocco Romano, voted “Sexiest Man Alive.”

The guy could charm the pants off a mannequin.

Luckily he’s not my type.


A rich, sexy, generous man? Pass. Ten-pack abs? Whatever.

My heart palpitations are obviously caused by something else.

As for the dog, he’s sweet and adorable, but he’s named Houdini for a reason.

Then I accidentally kiss him.

Rocco, not the dog.

Then he escapes.

The dog, not Rocco.

Things can’t get any worse, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Men or Paws is a hilarious, enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy with sizzling chemistry.

Author Note: Ten percent of all proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to SPCA International. Your purchase contributes towards the safety and well-being of animals around the world. Thank you!

Goodreads * Amazon

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**My thoughts**

Rich Amooi is back with another winner in Men or Paws. Bonus: 10% of proceeds go to help animals via the SPCA International.

It's another one that would play out well as a movie.

Beth has a chip on her shoulder where Rocco is concerned. (And rightfully so!) But she needs the money to foot her new business, so she agrees to dogsit his aptly named pooch, Houdini.

Their first encounter is one of those cringeworthy comical moments that make you fall for them both and want to see them fall in love.

And I also wanted them both to become my friends, which is another sign of a fun story. Plus they aren't as stereotypical as you may expect.

The playful banter and bickering between the two just demonstrates their chemistry. Quirky extra characters add to the fun. I needed the smiles that this book delivered! 4.5*s!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Review of Merry Me (A Holiday Romance Novel Book 1) by Amanda Siegrist


From USA Today bestselling author Amanda Siegrist comes a heartwarming holiday series that will fill you with the Christmas spirit and lots of love.

He never knew a simple gift left on his porch step would mend his wounded heart.

Hiding his dislike for the holidays isn’t easy, especially when Chief Elliot Duncan meets a woman who captures his attention with one sweet smile. Lynn Carpenter is beautiful, strong-willed, and hardworking, and he doesn’t know how to return her gift that was left on his porch by mistake. As Christmas approaches, it doesn’t take much for the holiday spirit to seep in, not when Lynn makes it so effortless with her excitement. The only thing he wants for Christmas this year is her heart. But between his meddling father and the need to take care of her, something she passionately resists, he knows it won’t be that simple. He’s up for the challenge, because losing Lynn is unacceptable.

The entire Holiday Romance series: (Each book can be read as a standalone.)
Merry Me (Book 1): Elliot & Lynn
Mistletoe Magic (Book 2): Aiden & Theresa
Christmas Wish (Book 3): Bentley & Emma
Snowed in Love (Book 4): James & Erin
Snowflakes and Shots (Book 5): Stu & Chasity
Holiday Hope (Book 6): Mase & Hope

(affiliate links included in post)

**My thoughts**
Elliott hates the holiday season because it brings back the pain of losing his mother. So he tries to avoid it at all costs. And then fate steps in and introduces him to Lynn, a struggling single mom who still tries to give as much as she can. An accidental gift turns into the greatest gift of all for these two people who have given up on love.

I found this story to be quite heartwarming, which I especially love around the Christmas season. And their relationship seems a lot longer than it actually is. Bonus points for the wonderful characters of Gabriel, Elliot's father, and Lynn's lovely daughter Laura. 

For those concerned about love scenes, there is a little open door action, but not really a big deal.

Overall, this is a sweet story where dreams come true. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Review of Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber


Curl up on a cozy winter night with this classic uplifting holiday story from New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber. Also a Hallmark Channel original movie.

This Christmas, Emily Merkle (just call her Mrs. Miracle) is working in the toy department of Finley’s, the last family-owned department store in New York City. And her boss is none other than Jake Finley, the owner’s son.

For Jake, holiday memories of brightly wrapped gifts, decorated trees and family gatherings were destroyed in a Christmas Eve tragedy years before. Now Christmas means only one thing to him—and to his father. Profit. Because they need a Christmas miracle to keep the business afloat.

Holly Larson needs a miracle, too. She wants to give her eight-year-old nephew, Gabe, the holiday he deserves. Holly’s widowed brother is in the army and won’t be home for Christmas, but at least she can get Gabe that toy robot from Finley’s, the one gift he desperately wants. If she can figure out how to pay for it…

Fortunately, it’s Mrs. Miracle to the rescue. Next to making children happy, she likes nothing better than helping others—and that includes a bit of matchmaking!

This Christmas will be different. For all of them.

Originally published in 2010

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**My thoughts**
I often say that Debbie Macomber books should be made into movies because they would play out well on the screen. This one has already been turned into a Hallmark movie, and it is no surprise.

You have the woman who has given up on love and is now caring for her nephew whom she doesn't know well while her brother is stationed overseas. You have the good-looking rich man who has written off Christmas because of a family tragedy. They have their meet-cute and are clearly destined to be together, but have some minor hiccups along the way. Then there are the other crotchety people in their lives.

To make everything better, there is the angel on earth, conveniently nicknamed Mrs. Miracle.

It's everything you need for one of those sappy inspirational love stories taht we love so much.

A bonus in the book is each chapter includes an inspirational quotation, many from Mrs. Miracle herself. Even better, Debbie Macomber has included some of her favorite recipes that are mentioned throughout.

And I will say that while I am glad this was made into a movie, I can promise you that some of the Mrs. Miracle insights are best delivered in book format.

And I promise the last couple of pages will put you in tears.

Review of Thanks for the Friendship (Thankful Series #3)


Sassy and successful, Lila Barlow has done everything to live her best life. Yet even as her real estate career booms and men fall at her feet, something's missing. Her roommates have found bliss with their new loves, but Lila can't seem to find her Prince Charming. Perhaps a break from men and relationships is the answer. Unfortunately, unexpected changes are around the corner when her parents give her some life-changing news and when her boss makes a surprising announcement.

In a shocking turn of events Lila's path crosses with someone she thought was out of her life forever. The spark is still there, the only problem is he’s spoken for—by Lila's new friend. Now Lila has to figure out how to navigate change, love, and friendship. What lessons will she learn on her quest for happily ever after?

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**My thoughts**
This is the third and final book in the Thankful trilogy by Melissa Baldwin. We're finally getting a story from Lila's point of view. 

Lila was harder to get to know in the first two books because she tends to keep her emotions closed off. Yet her friends adore her. I enjoyed getting to know her better. In some ways, she may have grown the most.

We finally get to see her vulnerable side when she is faced with a trifecta of trials. Her parents finally want to sell her childhood home that she lives in. Major changes are on the horizon at work. And she is faced with her ex-boyfriend and first true love making a return ot her life.

And of course, as Lila is confronted with all of these changes, she learns how to really look within herself and rediscovers the true meaning of friendship.

I admit it isn't my favorite book in the series, but this series as a whole remains my favorite of Melissa Baldwin's series. I think you'll even find yourself reflecting on your own personal friendships and relationships when you read it.

Thank you to the author for a requested review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur by Charlene Bell Dietz


Just the title alone for this book makes it sound intriguing. Let me tempt you some more with this excerpt. Download your own copy and let me know what you think. And you can also see some more excerpts and thoughts as you follow the tour. Best of luck in the giveaway!

A workaholic bio-medical scientist, Beth Armstrong, is torn between saving her sabotaged ground-breaking multiple sclerosis research or honoring an obligation to care for her chain-smoking, Cuba Libre drinking, ex-flapper aunt. Nursemaid ranks just above catching the plague on Beth’s scale, yet her ex-flapper aunt would prefer anything deadly to losing her independence under the hands of her obsessive compulsive niece. While a murderous culprit runs loose in the science institute, the raucous aunt entertains Beth’s neglected husband with nightly cocktails and stories form the Roaring twenties. The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur intertwines a corporate espionage mystery with a generational battle-of-wills story between a dedicated professional intent on fighting chaos to restore order and a free-spirited aunt who needs her niece to live in the moment.

Read an excerpt:

Beth parked and turned off her lights.

Someone drove to a rear door, got out, and went in. Beth started to turn the key in her ignition then stopped. The man came out and passed under the security light by a side door.


A few seconds later, he disappeared around the corner. She slowly drove to the front of the building.

There were clusters of cars in the lot. Did he drive away? What type of car? Did he go inside?

She parked, slipped out, and squeezed between two sedans. One of the car doors opened, blocking her path. Borstell popped out.

She jumped back.

"Are you stalking me?" Borstell said.

"Excuse me?"

He stood a few feet away. Her hand slid into her purse.

"You drove around that building, spying."

"Isn’t it rather late for you to be at work?" she said.

Borstell slammed his door and strode toward her, his jaw clenched.

"You’re a first-class bitch?"

"Back off." She whipped the pepper spray can out of her purse, held her arm straight out and aimed at his face. Her finger hovered over the button.

Borstell’s eyes widened, then his gaze shifted to something behind her.

"I left the van behind the building," he said. "Put the keys in your box."

“Old trick.” She scoffed.

"Heard something." this came from an unfamiliar voice. "Everything okay?"

She glanced over her shoulder. Wearing a rumpled uniform and a large shiny badge, the security guard’s hand rested on his holster.

Buy on Amazon

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Just $0.99!

Charlene Bell Dietz writes science and historical-suspense, award-winning mystery novels and short stories. Her award-winning short stories have been published in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2016 Anthology and SouthWest Writers 2019 Anthology. The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur combines family saga with corporate espionage. The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker propels readers back into 1923 frenetic Chicago during the Roaring Twenties. Both these novels were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2018, and each won the coveted Kirkus Starred Review. Her latest novel, The Scientist, the Psychic, and the Nut, gives readers a frightening Caribbean vacation. Her current work in progress, a biographical historical novel, starts in England in 1638 and ends in precolonial Maryland. Charlene, a retired educator, traveled the United States as a consultant for Houghton Mifflin Publishers after a career of teaching little ones, older ones, and college graduates. Surrounded by forests and meadows, she currently lives in the foothills of the mountains in central NM several miles from the small village of Torreon. Charlene is the current president of Croak & Dagger, New Mexico Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She belongs to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers, Mystery Writers of America, and SouthWest Writers. Connect with Charlene on Facebook
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Charlene Bell Dietz will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review of The Nantucket Beachfront Inn by Ainsley Keaton


Ah, the power of friendship and second chances and a quaint island. All of these things make for a lovely women's fiction read. Learn more about The Nantucket Beachfront Inn, the first in a new series by Ainsley Keaton, as well as a bit about the author in this interview. Follow the tour for more. Best of luck in the giveaway!

She's 54, broken-hearted, and starting over....

High-powered New York attorney Ava Flynn finds herself without a job or a future. Unemployable at her age, and broken-hearted by a husband who left her in the lurch, she desperately needs a Plan B. Her prayers are answered when a wealthy benefactor wills her a large house in the 'Sconset Beach area of Nantucket. She heads out to the picturesque New England island with her two best friends, Quinn and Hallie, going along for the ride.

Hallie is at her own crossroads. She has a dead marriage, a daughter who won't speak to her because she smothers her, and no life to speak of. She has a drinking issue and an unhappiness issue as well. She's also dealing with menopause symptoms that are literally keeping her awake. She feels that her life is over for her, but the island, and a beautiful young psychic named Willow, show her that her life is just beginning.

Sarah, Ava's long-lost sister, is heading out to the island as well. Sarah was the beautiful golden girl who's always had a charmed life. She was the cheerleader and homecoming queen in high school, the gorgeous cool kid that Ava never was. She was the paramour of a globe-trotting billionaire who never had to lift a finger to do much of anything. But looks are deceiving. At the moment, Ava hasn't spoken to Sarah in over 20 years.

Nobody can break your heart like your sister, because nobody knows you better. Can Ava and Sarah make amends after so much hurt and heartbreak between the two?

Ava busies herself with fixing up her beautiful new beach home, so that she can open up the bed and breakfast. Contractor Deacon Cromwell, whom Ava hires to do the renovation, is the man who might thaw Ava's cold heart, if only she'll let him. However, he's almost 20 years her junior and, Ava believes, out of her league. Can Ava overcome her insecurities and allow herself to love again?

In this feel-good beach read with a touch of magic, Ava and her friends and family will become your best friends. Come and share their joys and heartbreaks, their tragedies and triumphs. For fans of Susan Mallery, Jude Devereaux Nantucket Bride series and Elin Hilderbrand!

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**My thoughts**
I need a Nantucket Island in my life! I love these stories of women of a certain age finding the strength to start over when life deals them a bad hand. It gives me hope for when I'm their age in another decade or so! Granted, the chances of someone bequeathing me a house on an island are nil, but a girl can dream, right?

It's a story about friendship, sisterhood, mother-daughter relationships, finding your inner strength in the face of adversity, starting over, and the pursuit of true love. There's a lot going on here, but relationships are always complicated. And not everything is going to perfectly work out with all loose ends neatly tied up. The ladies come a long way, but still have a few things to work out. 

Ava is the center of this wheel and her friends and family members are the spokes radiating out from her. She is the reason that all of their lives are so intertwined. The different characters and generations have some similar issues and I think are learning from each other as they work through their problems with each other. It's hard to get specific without giving away too much of the plot.

Watching them grow and evolve and learn was actually rather inspirational and I may have to take a page out of some of their books. I can feel that there is a lot more to come in their stories and am happy to see that a whole series is planned for them. I look forward to them.

I received a requested review copy from Goddess Fish and the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interview with Ainsley Keaton

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

To be invisible. I would love to sneak around and spy on people, see how things are behind closed doors.

What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

That I am ¼ Filipino. I have natural red hair, pale skin and freckles, but my mother looked like she was full-blooded Filipino. All my aunts, uncles and cousins on my mom’s side have brown skin, so I always felt like an odd-ball.

When writing descriptions of your hero/ine, what feature do you start with?

I don’t really write a description out, because I’m a pantser and I don’t really know what the characters are going to be like until I’m writing them. But I start with hair color.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Finally, an easy question to answer! I’m definitely a pantser. I couldn’t do an outline to save my life, and, every time I sit down to write, I have no clue on what the book is going to be about in the end. I come up with plot twists on the fly, characters take shape on the page and not before, and I never know the ending.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? If so, what?

Yes, I learned about wine. Varietals, processing, what goes well with what food, things like that. One of my characters is a sommelier, so I needed to learn about that. Also, I have a white witch in my books, so I had to learn about spells and witch holidays and goddesses and gods and altars and ceremonies, etc.

Ainsley Keaton lives in Southern California with her husband and two fur-babies, Bella and Annie. When she’s not binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Downton Abbey and Succession, she’s reading historical and women’s fiction or scouring the beach for sea glass and sand dollars.

One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/ gift card during the tour.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Crafting the world of Vindictive by Ryan Lawrence


"The best revenge is revenge. Getting it is all that matters." And thus begins the blurb for Ryan Lawrence's Vindictive. I love that line. Today I'm bringing you an excerpt from this thriller and the author tells us about crafting his fictional world. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour and best of luck in the giveaway!

The best revenge is revenge. Getting it is all that matters.

Jules Cartell has it all: wealth; beauty; a handsome, loving husband; a partnership in her father's law firm; and the top executive position at one of Canada's leading corporations, Cartell Worldwide. Aside from her secret, problematic desire for the married owner of the internationally renowned Château Bergé, Jules believes she and her life are pretty perfect. But the discovery of an unforgivable crime perpetrated against her family by her husband, Phillip, years before the two met sets Jules down the path of revenge. There is no option for forgiveness. Phillip has to pay. An eye for an eye.

It is said that when seeking revenge, you should dig two graves. Someone from Jules's past, someone aggrieved by her actions, seeks vengeance for themselves. This is an enemy without compassion, without morality, without mercy. An enemy who will accept no restitution short of Jules's death.

In the city of Fairporte, ON, secrets, lies, and betrayal can be found everywhere. As adversaries close in, will Jules get revenge before her past catches up with her? Unexpected allies may be instrumental to her success. They may also be the key to her very survival.

Read an excerpt:
“You’ve grown sloppy and let your instincts, your muscle memory, become soft, flabby. Your responses should be instinctual. Even our sparring last night was—meh.”

What! Jules almost ran her car off the road. Her anger towards Amanda’s castigating words and unexpected lack of empathy towards her plight ran hot and potent, and it nearly got the best of her. She visualized Amanda’s admonishing finger waving furiously in the air at her over her phone.

Pointed criticisms due to failings and mistakes took Jules back to her early training sessions with the woman. Amanda had been relentless and unforgiving in her attempt to mould Jules into a version of herself.

Thankfully, Jules managed to keep her head clear, her eyes focused dead ahead, and she remained on the road. She wanted to get to her midtown condo as fast as possible without killing herself in the process. She was almost there, and this was not the time to get in an accident. Jules took a deep breath before countering the unwanted chastisement.

But countering it with what? Anger? Curses? Resentment? She would not be fooling anyone with her self-righteous indignation, least of all herself. Amanda was completely and unequivocally correct in her observations.

Jules realized something significant. Having been so preoccupied for so long with Phillip’s destruction, she absolutely had a lax attitude toward her physical training to keep her skills sharp. She had even put her sessions in Toronto with Master Hiroki on hold. What disrespectful behaviour. His time was priceless. His knowledge? Invaluable! Jules felt terrible regret and shame.

Also, she was shocked by how much she had forgotten about Amanda, about how astute and perceptive she was. Why am I surprised? It’s why I knew she could help with William. This is her life, always prepared, focused—apparently, even more than I am. Dammit, Jules, get it together.

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Crafting the Canadian World of Vindictive

It is often said to write what you know. Sometimes, there is a strong desire to write about where you know.

From the beginning, before laying a finger on my keyboard, I knew my novel, Vindictive, would take place in Canada. While I absolutely planned to set scenes in several well-known Canadian locales, my primary objective was to create a totally original city to position the bulk of the story in.

The desire was present, the innovative passion robust, but truthfully, the idea to create this city did not burst from my noggin like Athena from Zeus’s head, dynamic and unexpected. Instead, it was inspired by Mark Frost and David Lynch’s quirky, totally original town of Twin Peaks. The notion that I could craft a place wholly from my imagination and fill it with sexy, crazy, and dramatic—okay, melodramatic characters greatly appealed to me.

Growing up in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, I read many books set in non-Canadian cities, from Charles Dickens’s London to James Baldwin’s Paris to Anne Rice’s New Orleans to countless books set in New York. Rarely did I get taken to a Canadian landscape; if I did, these novels usually took place in the rural prairies, small-town Northern Ontario or the bucolic countryside and fishing villages of the Maritimes.

While these stories were entertaining, their settings authentic to many Canadian voices and experiences, I wanted something to reflect a landscape nearer to my personal urban upbringing. I yearned to read stories where a location I was more familiar with was brought to the forefront. And while Hugh Garner’s Toronto-set Cabbagetown was a high-school requirement, its depression-era backdrop did little to resonate with my relationship/familiarity with contemporary urban life in Canada.

In University, during my early twenties, I complained to anyone who would listen, professors and fellow students alike, that I was desperate to read something modern set in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. Something with nary a cliff or prairie thistle to be found.

Thanks to the suggestions of amazing people, I discovered Tanya Huff and Brad Fraser, two Canadian writers who set their work in Toronto, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta, respectively.

The use of modern locales, familiar cultural settings, and trendy establishments in Huff’s Blood Books series and Fraser’s play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love blew my mind with how contemporary and urban they felt. It was a different Canadian flavour, a welcome change, and one that wholly resonated with me. This was the engaging fiction I was looking for.

When the time came for me to breathe life into Vindictive, I knew I wanted my readers to feel that same kind of connection to contemporary urban Canada as I had felt reading Huff and Fraser’s work. Crafting a Canadian setting for Vindictive was not only important to me as a Canadian writer, born and bred, but it was pivotal to the authenticity of the book. The reader had to know unequivocally that this book possessed a modern but still accessible Canadian self-identity.

Vindictive takes place primarily in the fictional city of Fairporte, Ontario, Canada. Like I write in the novel, Fairporte is “a city very much like Montreal, but one drenched in its own unique blend of French and English culture.” While writing Vindictive, it was important to me as a Canadian to acknowledge the unique duality of our French and English culture, which is why the novel’s text encompasses both English and Quebecois dialogue (with English translation following). If anything aside from Poutine, Nanaimo bars, and Jimbo the Drag Queen reflects the uniqueness of the Canadian identity, it is our official bilingualism.

Vindictive takes the reader on a journey across Canada. From the snowy landscape of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley to the student hub of downtown Montreal. From Toronto’s upscale residential neighbourhood “The Bridle Path” to the LGBTQ-oriented corner of Church and Wellesley. Danger, adventure, and romance flow in abundance across this diverse Canadian terrain, converging at the nucleus that is the enigmatic city of Fairporte.

Vindictive states that: “No form of revenge is petty; all revenge is reasonable.” Setting a novel entirely in Canada is also reasonable—and quite entertaining!

Ryan Lawrence was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. He is a 2000 graduate of The University of Guelph in English. Ryan has worn many hats professionally, including working over 12 years as a custom art framer. While writing has always been a part of his life, it was only after leaving this profession that Ryan seriously took his education and passion for writing by the horns and began the journey towards Vindictive, his first novel.

Since 2002, Ryan has lived in London, Ontario, with his husband, Todd, together since 1997, their cat Dora, and his massive comic book collection that once fell on Todd. He’s okay.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

One Helluva Gig by Kevin R. Doyle


Today I bring to you an excerpt from Kevin R. Doyle's romance, One Helluva Gig. Be sure to check out the rest of the blurb blitz tour for even more. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

Rob Jeffers has it all: fame, money, and the life of a rock and roll star. Frank Peters is a regular guy, a newspaper reporter who just happens to have a passing acquaintance with the Great Jeffers. As Jeffers's career shoots up, Peters's fortunes follows in his wake.

And when Jeffers passes away at the height of his fame, Peters’s life begins a steady unravelling. Until a chance encounter on a minor story gives him a new outlook on the celebrity lifestyle, and new hope for his own future.

Read an excerpt:

Off to my right, a slight, average-sized guy came running along. He was wearing the pants and vest of a denim leisure suit, a garish, flowered polyester/Hawaiian shirt with the first five buttons opened up and sandals. Skidding to a stop in front of me, he looked about as confused as I felt at the moment.

“’Scuse me,” he said, “is this the place for the concert?”

I looked around at all the people flocking in our direction, listened to the squealing of the collection of cuties on the other side of the door.

“Yeah,” I said, “but good luck getting in. The place is packed.”

“Really? Cool!” He took off his mirrored sunglasses, and for the first time, I saw the eyes that, in years to come, would stare out from a billion or so album covers.

“Hey,” he said, “you a student here?”

“Yeah, but…”

“You think you can show me how to get in? Like there’s a service entrance or something, isn’t there? I’m with the band, and I’m running late.”

I clenched up. One of the oldest con lines in the world is “I’m with the band.” But something in the man’s look told me to take a chance.

“I think I can get you in, but I need something in return.”

“Yeah?” Now the “guy with the band” seemed uneasy. “What’s that?”

“Well, you see,” I said, “I’m with the student paper…”

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More from Kevin R. Doyle on ABR:

A high-school teacher, former college instructor and fiction writer, Kevin R. Doyle is the author of numerous short horror stories. He’s also written three crime thrillers, The Group, When You Have to Go There, and And the Devil Walks Away and one horror novel, The Litter. Recently, he’s begun working on the Sam Quinton private eye series. The first Quinton book, Squatter’s Rights, was nominated for the 2021 Shamus award as Best First PI Novel. The second book, Heel Turn, was released in March of 2021, while the third in the series, Double Frame, is due out March of 2022.


Kevin R. Doyle will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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Saturday, March 19, 2022

Review of The Pet Doctor of Emerson Pass (Emerson Pass Contemporaries #3) by Tess Thompason

He’s a small-town veterinarian with a love for animals and naps. Haunted by a childhood trauma, she’s terrified of men. Can the truth about her past bring them closer together or tear them apart forever?

Breck Stokes is back where he belongs. After years at university, he’s returned to Emerson Pass and taken over his mother’s veterinarian practice. He loves the small ski community, spending time with his buddies and healing big and small animals. The moment he meets lovely but reserved Tiffany Birt, he’s drawn to her in ways he can’t explain. Can he break through her walls to win her heart?

Tiffany Birt is Emerson Pass’s favorite wedding planner. She’s accepted she’ll never be a bride herself but loves helping couples plan their perfect small-town wedding. In addition, she has good friends and her precious dog, Muffy. However, her well-ordered exterior hides a painful past. One she must keep hidden or risk being pulled back into the cult she ran from as a teenager.

When her past explodes onto the national news, she’s forced to confront her demons and accept help from Breck and her two best friends. Will she at last be free or will the dangerous men she ran from ruin all chances for happiness and love?

This gripping and heart wrenching third installment in the Emerson Pass Contemporaries is a friends-to-lovers tale that will tug at your heartstrings. Pre-order this clean and wholesome romance today!

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**My thoughts**
First and foremost, I LOVE THIS COVER. It is adorable.

This is the third installment of Tess Thompson's Emerson Pass Contemporaries series. The characters we meet in this one are the descendants of those in the Emerson Pass Historicals with new people who have come to this charming small town. And while each installment works quite well as a standalone, you will maximize your enjoyment by reading the two series in their alternating release order.

In this one, we have Breck, who is descended from the town's first female vet, Poppy. He continues to embody the kindness and charm that is so innate with the original Barnes family and their closest friends.

And then we have Tiffany, who has escaped a wretched life akin to what you see in A Handmaid's Tale

(Something I have been noticing lately in Tess's books are subtle nods to familiar classics - whether intentional or not. I like it.)

Understandably, Tiffany is skittish about trusting people, especially men. But this just makes Breck an even better match for her, due to his gentle nature.

Tiffany's past comes back in a horrible way, though possibly a little predictable if you're as familiar with Tess's works as I am. True to small town life, her friends rally around her to help - with that sweet bit of romance thrown in as well.

Overall, it's another enjoyable book in this series, perfect to curl up with for a cozy evening. I will say that I don't feel quite as much heart in the contemporary branch as I do in the historical branch. That's funny for me because I am not usually a fan of historical fiction. But I do continue to love this town and watching the Barnes family legacy unfold over the generations. I'm already looking forward to Huck and Stormi's story.

I received a request review copy from the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Read my reviews from the Emerson Pass Historical series

Read my reviews from the Emerson Pass Contemporary series

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Read an exclusive excerpt from She's the One Who Can't Keep Quiet by S.R. Cronin


It's another one of the books from the War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters series by S.R. Cronin! Today you get to read an exclusive excerpt from She's the One Who Can't Keep Quiet. Be sure to download your copy and then check out the rest of the tour. Best of luck entering the giveaway!

Do you know what your problem is?

Celestine, the fifth of seven sisters, is tired of hearing about hers. Father thinks she’s frivolous because she likes pretty clothes and caters to the crowds in the taverns who adore her music. Mother thinks that because she’s the most social daughter in the family, she can’t keep quiet about anything.

They’re both wrong. Celestine hides a secret she has kept for most of her life.

As the family beauty and a talented musician with a lyrical voice, she has the best prospects for marriage to a prince. When such a liaison never happens, people assume Celestine is too choosy. But even in somewhat tolerant Ilari, a daughter hates to disappoint her family. How can she tell them she’s in love with a princess instead?

Lucky for Celestine, all her sisters are obsessed with an invading army headed to their realm. Celestine would rather ignore the threat and enjoy the freedom their lack of attention gives her. But, her voice can unlock a power that may help save Ilari. And the woman she loves is determined to fight these invaders. And her family, for all their talents, seems clueless about how to motivate the masses.

Celestine knows she can inspire the citizens of Ilari to do what needs to be done. Is it time to put her inhibitions aside and use her voice to save those she cares about?

Read an exclusive excerpt:
“Astronomy? Why are you wasting your time on that?” Zamarran demanded to know.

Only anks ago he and I had decided to start a performing group that would continue past our study time in Pilk. Neither of us had found the requisite mate while in school and in three eights of a year we’d be done. Then I would probably go wait tables in a tavern somewhere, under the pretense of looking for a husband while I sang and played the psaltery on the side. Fate had dealt Zamarran a more difficult hand. Everyone would expect him to have a respectable profession while he sought a wife. Playing in an ensemble barely qualified, but it was better than being a lone performer.

No attraction existed between us, and we both knew it with such certainty that we barely needed to speak of it. It made us ideal business partners. But two people did not constitute an ensemble, especially not when one of them was primarily a drummer, albeit an unusually talented one. We had to have a third and better yet a fourth performer to get the respect we needed. I understood Zamarran’s urgency.

However, the mysterious young teacher Firuza fascinated me. I’d find time to take her class.

“We need new sorts of friends,” I told Zamarran. “Other musicians do nothing but promote themselves. Maybe I can get some of our realm’s future scientists to demand local taverns hire us. Huh?”

He grunted his agreement, his large frame turned away from me as he made adjustments to one of his many drums. He’d already figured out I’d do what I wanted to anyway, as would he. Part of our pact was that neither of us was in charge.

Available on Amazon
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Sherrie Cronin writes stories about people achieving the astonishing by developing abilities they barely knew they had. She’s made a lot of stops along the way to telling these tells — living in seven cities, visiting forty-six countries, and working as a waitress, technical writer, and geophysicist. She’s lost too many beloved cats to mention, but has acquired a husband and three children who are all doing fine, despite how odd she is.

Today she lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she writes, answers a hotline, and occasionally checks her phone for a message from Captain Picard. She still hopes to get the chance to pursue her remaining dream in life and become Chief Science Officer on the Starship Enterprise.

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S. R. Cronin will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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