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A Place Called The Way

A Place Called the Way by Corrine Ardoin is set in the fictitious Pine Valley in the early 20th century. It’s a sweeping drama that follows the births, lives, and deaths of the inhabitants of a small rural town known as ‘The Way.’ 

This novel is the third in Ardoin’s Pine Valley series. The main protagonist is Jim Hart, a man who was physically abused by his uncle as a child in the event that left both physical and emotional scars. As a result of his trauma, his life is blighted by depression and a self-harming habit. As a result, he tries to commit suicide, lets the only woman he ever really loved slip through his fingers, and even loses the right to call his son, ‘son’. The Way is a haven and a blessing for some residents; it seems to offer only a curse for others. Yet, ultimately, it offers hope.

At the beginning of the book, Ardoin helpfully provides a detailed description of the connections from one character to the next. The reader will need these signposts if they want to keep track of the story and the complicated relationships between all the individuals. The characters’ relationships ebb and flow through the novel as they face their own personal challenges and heal from their past experiences.

As the book is named for the town, it’s a nice touch that it’s presented almost as another character, with deep flashbacks interspersed throughout that examine its history. The town’s mysterious healing powers and history give it its own personality adding to the reader’s experience that the town is its own character and just as important as the people residing in it. At one point, I mistakenly thought the main story was just background to a plot twist that never came. However, the strong personal story of the characters and their experience with the town made this novel enchanting.

A Place Called the Way is a coming-of-age novel set in a small rural town with a long tradition of helping the inhabitants heal from their past. Fans of soft-focus historical drama will enjoy it for its sense of community and the complexity of its interpersonal relationships.

Pages: 208 | ASIN : B09WZYQPNS

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The Walshes

April is a wife, mother, and writer struggling to make ends meet. In order to provide for her family in times of economic crisis, she agrees to take on a potentially risky assignment. Tasked with writing an article that considers the case for the legalization of sex work, April’s traditional values clash with her work — yet she is determined to do what she needs to. In order to get close to the women whose stories she intends to tell, April has no alternative but to experience the lifestyle she wants to write about. But her husband, Joe, is far from approving, and April is left to grapple with the question: how far is too far?

Joe Clark’s The Walshes: The Coming of Eve is a domestic drama with adult themes. It follows April’s exploration into the world of sex workers and explicit entertainment, discovering more about herself as she does so. This novel effectively portrays a comfortable family life thrown into jeopardy, raising questions of sexual empowerment and liberation — such as whether sex work truly is the last resort for most women or whether there is sometimes power in upsetting the status quo. In addition, Clark displays how engagement with this taboo lifestyle — in terms of what is deemed acceptable — often varies between men and women; husband Joe is outraged at his wife’s attempts at erotic dancing when he himself frequented strip clubs while they were engaged.

Though social concerns are explored to some extent, the text can sometimes feel uncomfortably voyeuristic. April’s foray into stripping involves graphic descriptions which seem aimed at titillating the reader rather than a wholehearted attempt to deconstruct the expectations for married women. This adds a disconcerting element to the sense of liberation April is reported to feel. Nevertheless, Clark successfully shows how for April, what started out as a way to support her household in troubled times gradually undermines the family unit.

The Walshes: The Coming of Eve is a new take on urban fiction combined with a romantic thriller. Through examining the world of sex work, the author has brought to light the complex dance women face between being a dutiful wife and an alluring sexual being and knowing when and where each role should be presented. This novel showcases the double standards between men and women while providing a strong female protagonist who still battles social judgments despite her strengths.

Pages: 426 | ASIN : B07ZL6B556

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When We Return

When We Return by Eliana Tobias is a heartfelt and satisfying historical novel that seamlessly follows two different countries and timelines. We follow Jerry, who uncovers a shocking secret that his father has been keeping. Unable to ask his father the truth because he passed away, Jerry begins to question if he really knew who his father was.

The story shifts to Otilia, who, after being separated from her son for 20yrs due to a civil war, she is now awaiting a hearing for compensation from the government. The story’s direction shifts to Salvador, Otilia’s son, as he is on a mission to understand what happened to his parents after they were separated. Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s storylines combine into one story where they team together to overcome several obstacles and uncover hidden truths. They try their best to help one another leave the past behind through love and friendship.

Author Eliana Tobias has written a historical and cultural masterpiece filled with drama and tension, making this one read that you must finish. The author expertly transitions from one character to the next without confusing the reader. I enjoyed that the author starts out by giving the reader a little bit of Jerry, Otilia, and Salvador’s background allowing the reader to get to know them.

From the turn of the first page, drama ensues, and you are immediately invested in their lives. You don’t expect each of the characters to cross paths until they actually do, and you realize that the author has intertwined their stories smoothly and seamlessly. The story is filled with a rich history that adds context to the story and the character’s motives. I enjoyed reading about all the characters, and it was hard not to like and sympathize with them. We learn of a man named Milan and later find that his backstory relates to Jerry. This just shows how powerful of a writer Eliana is. The story’s pace moved smoothly, and I was never lost or confused about what was going on.

When We Return is an excellent read for those who are history buffs but also for those who like heartwarming stories. I look forward to reading more from this author!

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B09ZBN14ML

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The Magical Tarot Deck

The Magical Tarot Deck by Marieke Lexmond is a fascinating fantasy novel that transports the reader into a magical world filled with fairies, tarot cards, and witches. Book 2 of the Madigan Chronicles follows the Madigans once more as we pick up where book one left off.

This time the Madigans learn that Seamus, Tara’s husband created magical tarot cards to hide the Dagger in. Within these magical tarot cards made up of each member in the family and if anyone uses the card, you will get pulled from real life until they fulfill the question of the person who pulled the card. The cards are stolen by a mysterious man and now the Madigans, fearful that the stranger may be using the cards against them set out to find who stole the Tarot Cards. Can they find out who took the deck before it’s too late and each family member starts to disappear one by one?

Author Lexmond has done it again with her creative writing skills and free-flowing imagination she immerses the reader into the family drama with a dash of magic. The author seamlessly provides a brief recap of book one and then moves into the plot of book two without disorienting the reader. This shows the author’s expert craft at showing rather than telling. The characters that you either love or hate in book one are back in book two along with their emotions and personalities. It was great to see Bridget maturing and being the voice of reason for her family and seeing her come to terms with her witch side. The pace of the story is a smooth one as the reader gets a recap of what the family has gone through, what they are going through now up to their current issue which is the tarot deck disappearing.

I highly recommend The Magical Tarot Deck to those who are looking for a refreshing magical read that will transport them into a different world filled with fantasy and mystery.

Pages: 286 | ASIN : B096G6B5SD

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The Land, The Land

The Land, The Land by Robin Hawdon is about Roger Oldfield, a farmer that enjoys being one and doesn’t see himself doing anything else. He loves every inch of his land and would do anything to protect it. Things have been going decently for Roger, his lovely wife Annie, can’t-be-tamed daughter, Lily, and autistic son, Danny.

It’s not long before Roger finds two strangers on his land. He questions who they are and why are they there. He finds out soon enough they were sent there by a Mr. Collins. It turns out this businessman is interested in talking to Roger about his land. These discussions set the stage for the drama that unfolds in this story, the fight for Roger’s precious land.

As you read the story, it becomes apparent how much Roger loves his beautiful, majestic land. Roger is someone you don’t meet every day. He’s old school because he’s not interested in worldly things. He enjoys spending time with his family and days working on the farm. Those are the things that matter to him most. He also possesses a dark streak that comes out as the story progresses. His willingness to do whatever it takes to keep his families land knows no bounds. Passion for family, traditions and his land are what drive Roger.

Roger loves his wife, and he never forgets what she gave up for him. Readers will find his children lovable and relatable. Tough Lily and sweet Danny are given strong characteristics that make them stand out and become memorable. Danny especially, you come to know more about through his diary entries which can be read at the entrance of each chapter.

The fight for Roger’s land attracts the media’s attention and a group of activists. This adds additional drama to the story as it becomes a public interest, family farms vs. big corporations. As the battle continues to play out, readers will be left wondering what will happen next.

The Land, The Land is an emotionally charged psychological thriller that combines family and political drama. The characters are fresh and original, the setting lush and the story is wonderfully written. The story is beautiful, heart-warming, and shows if you are strong and determined enough, you can achieve great things.

Pages: 229 | ASIN : B09WKTC7RC

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The Dagger

In The Dagger: The Madigan Chronicles, written by Marieke Lexmond, Bridget tries her best to keep her witch side shut off and out of her life. However, she doesn’t know that she can ever truly shut her witch side off as she finds herself seeing a recent murder. She is thrust into a flashback and finds out who and why they murdered this witch. Bridget can’t believe her eyes. This discovery leads to her reconnecting with her family, which she has kept more than an arm’s length away. Unfortunately, Reconnecting brings up more secrets that her grandmother has hidden for decades. Bridget has many decisions to make, and she must reconnect with her witch side. But is she up for it?

The Dagger is an absolutely marvelous book. Many readers will find this book relatable in some ways. There is a lot of family drama in this exciting story; the Madigan family has many secrets hidden away. All the characters have unique backstories and well-formed personalities. Each unique individual that the author has created brings an essential element into the storyline, giving readers clues to the family’s secrets locked away for so long.

The grandmother, Tara, is a character full of depth; with secrets and desires to protect her family. She plays a vital role in Bridget’s life, and this is shown in interesting ways as the story advances. However, Tara is holding a secret from the family, which impacts how she interacts and how she is perceived by them and readers.

This intriguing book has an excellent pace for the start of a series. The worldbuilding and character development were integrated well into this first book’s plotline, giving readers enough information but not slowing down the action. The author used multiple characters’ points of view for this novel, so readers could see situations from different vantage points to paint a complete picture of things.

The Dagger is the first book in the paranormal series The Madigan Chronicles. Fantasy readers will be taken in by the unique characters and the dynamic plot. This is a fantastic start to the series, and readers will be anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Pages: 271 | ASIN : B08NF9HYY9

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Non-human Species Deserve To Live Their Lives Free of Exploit

Chuck Augello Author Interview

A Better Heart follows a filmmaker that reconnects with his father in an unusual way and causes him to question what matters in life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I’ve had an interest in animal rights for most of my adult life and wanted to write about it in an engaging way that would entertain readers, but also inform them and perhaps challenge them to explore their own beliefs.  After my first novel, The Revolving Heart, was published, I started writing the opening chapters of a new novel, with an animal rights theme, that was nothing at all like A Better Heart.  After three chapters that novel stalled, and I put it aside for several months.  I then began hearing the first-person voice of Kevin, the novel’s narrator, and a character took shape.  I didn’t know that Henry, the capuchin monkey, and Kevin’s estranged father Brian would be critical characters until they literally walked into the opening scene.  Once that happened, the story fell into place, and I wrote the first draft in ten months, which for me is quite fast.   

Kevin thought his life was going great till he encounters Henry and reconnects with his father, causing him to rethink his personal values. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?  

Kevin feels responsible for the death of his mother and that guilt drives him toward a feeling of responsibility for Henry.  He’s someone who has always been self-focused.  As a filmmaker, he’s constantly drawing in his friends to help him with his projects.  He’s never really thought about the world beyond movies and his own ambitions, but as he learns about Henry’s experiences, he knows that he has a choice to help Henry reach freedom or to let him return to what can only be described as a primate prison.  

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Primarily, the idea that non-human species deserve to live their lives free of exploitation and pain. The way that most animals are treated is unforgivable, and a stain on the human character.   Another theme is one of forgiveness.  Kevin struggles to forgive his father for what he perceives as abandonment, and he struggles to forgive himself for his unintended role in his mother’s death.   

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently under contract for a book about the author Kurt Vonnegut.  It’s a mix of essays and interviews that I’ve done over the years with scholars and artists about their Vonnegut-themed works.  That should be available in 2023.  I’m also working on a novel set in the Bicentennial year of 1976.  The main characters are a college student and her uncle, who has returned home after living in Canada for ten years to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.   

Author Links: Twitter | Website

For aspiring indie filmmaker Kevin Stacey, it’s another day on the set of his first film, but when his estranged father, a failed Hollywood actor, arrives unexpectedly with a bundle of cash, a gun, and a stolen capuchin monkey, he’s propelled toward the journey that will change his life.
The monkey, Henry, has been liberated from a research lab by animal rights activists. Inspired by his friend Veronica to reevaluate his relationship with other species, Kevin learns about the pain and suffering inflicted on lab animals as he forges a bond with the capuchin. When father and son embark on a road trip with Henry, Kevin is caught between the egocentric father who abandoned him and the temperamental monkey whose fate is in his hands. With both the FBI and his mother’s ghost watching, will Kevin risk his career and his father’s freedom to bring the stolen monkey to safety? Meanwhile, Veronica’s encounter with an eccentric Catholic priest triggers her own journey toward change.
A heartbreaking yet comic family drama, A Better Heart examines the human-animal bond and the bonds between fathers and sons, challenging readers to explore their beliefs about the treatment of non-human species.

A Better Heart

A Better Heart by Chuck Augello follows Kevin Stacey, who is trying to make it in the film industry. His friend and coworker, Veronica, is with him when his actor father, George Gringo suddenly steps back into his life. One day in the middle of a shoot, George shows up with a mysteriously disheveled capuchin monkey, a bundle of cash, and a gun. Henry, the capuchin monkey, has been stolen from a research laboratory by animal rights activists and is supposed to be dropped off at a sanctuary. But, before that can happen, the authorities catch onto the plan. From there, a fateful journey begins where during a road trip, Kevin faces several moral dilemmas. He is torn between helping Henry and risking his father’s freedom or helping arrest the activists. During all this, Veronica finds herself in the ethical crossroads as well, between wanting to make a difference in the fight against animal cruelty and the indifference towards animals she grew up with.

This humorous story follows the bond between a father and son, the rebuilding of personal ethical philosophies in a young woman, and a question into how much an animal’s life is worth compared to a human one. The author uses a slow-burn style to start the novel in order to introduce all the characters and their backstories. The background information allows readers to really understand how the characters got to where they are and why the tension builds so strongly between them.

Chuck Augello’s writing is incredibly creative; his writing style is realistic and engaging. The characters come alive with his ability to capture their captivating personalities, humor, and self-reflective thoughts. The characters are the type of people that most readers will identify someone like them in their own lives, making the story more relatable and personal.

A Better Heart is a riveting comedy based around moral decisions and a family drama. Building relationships and discovering personal values are mixed with humor as people come together to save Henry, the rescued lab monkey.

Pages: 257 | ASIN : B09C2S6P78

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