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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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Missed Calls

In Missed Calls by author Zachary Ryan, Cheyenne and Vanessa have been friends for nearly their entire lives. Although life’s circumstances have taken them in different directions, their friendship remains. While both friends appear to have it perfect on the outside, Cheyenne and Vanessa envy what the other has. Cheyenne longs for a family and stability, while Vanessa feels as if she had settled when she gave up her dreams of becoming a dancer. Full of emotion and heartache, Vanessa and Cheyenne have to learn that everybody comes with their own baggage, and sometimes the person who seems to have it all just needs a friend to lean on.

Author Zachary Ryan has done an excellent job of expressing the emotions of his characters. As a reader, I could empathize with Cheyenne and what he was going through in life, feeling as if he’s never been enough in his relationships. He really did keep getting one raw deal after another, although he did bring some of it on himself. Still, although he was full of drama, he was very likable.

Cheyenne and Vanessa’s relationship was one that I feel many people can relate to. They’ve been friends since childhood, high school, and adulthood. So, the ups and downs they face are realistic, as is the lingering question of whether they are still really that close or holding on to the nostalgia they once shared. 

I had mixed feelings about Skylar’s character. At first glance, she appears to be a villain and is rather dislikable. However, upon further inspection, I can sympathize with her in a way. How many of us can honestly say that we’ve never acted irrationally out of fear of losing somebody important to us? Skylar was just reacting the best way she knew how, even if it came off in a negative light.

One aspect that I enjoyed was the flashbacks that Vanessa and Cheyenne had. It shed light on each of their backstories and why they are the way they are. Both had suffered their own traumas along the way but felt they were alone in dealing with them. Part of their problems stemmed from just not being completely honest about their past. Readers will enjoy seeing the characters grow and learn along the way.

Missed Calls is a heartwarming family life fiction novel that focuses on friendship and the struggles that can build over time. This is the kind of lighthearted story you want to take with you on vacation and just relax as you follow the characters through their own self-discovery.

Pages: 268 | ASIN : B09SM2Y6TJ

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Random Summer Storms: Book Three – Family – Book Trailer

Life can sometimes be a collection of random storms that we must weather, like ships at sea. Families maneuver these storms throughout their lives.

Ian and Dee Conner share the storms their family members experience in this third book of a series. The Conners are a close-knit family of five who live in a beach community, enjoying surfing, biking, and doing what most families do. Together they weather some tumultuous storms.

The couple tried to run from a big storm they created in California, moving to the east coast of Florida to start over and raise their family. They shut away the skeletons of their past, never telling anyone their secrets.

Other skeletons appear on both sides of Ian and Dee’s family trees, but often these skeletons (storms) are what bring families together.

Eventually, Ian and Dee realize that nothing can stop a raging storm: They must face the past to have a future. Their family and children must chart their own course in life. It may not always be what they hoped, but one day the storm will end, and the waters will calm. That is, until the next Random Summer Storms.

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.

The College Shrink

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Author William Haylon’s The College Shrink is a stunning piece of literary fiction. The story follows Emily Metcalf, an on-campus college psychologist, as she is navigating life post-divorce. We hear the stories of how she came to be who she is today, particularly how her former husband’s actions affected her. We also dive into the lives of her clients. It’s a true exploration of real-life issues through a beautifully artistic writing style. You will find yourself and others you know in the pages of The College Shrink.

This book starts off with a slow-burn writing style giving readers a chance to know Emily. The detailed and methodical style fits her personality and allows the reader to step into her shoes. Haylon’s writing provides a realistic sense of Emily’s mood and feeling toward her life.

The story-building further proves this when we find out what Emily’s former husband did. She is a woman mourning the life she thought she had and realizing that it wasn’t ever what it seemed. Her story shatters the middle-class American dream illusion. You can see the amount of thought Haylon put into this story strewn across the pages. He carefully chose each word and the sequence in which he told us the events. Everything has a purpose in this story.

I appreciated that the author shows that psychologists do not always have it all together. We often assume the people who are paid to handle the emotions of another human don’t have many of their own. That they are somehow immune from the problems that life often brings. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, and Haylon does an excellent job displaying that fact. Haylon also did well portraying the lives and issues of Emily’s college-aged clients. Writers above the age of twenty can often miss the mark when attempting to realistically portray people under a certain age. I’ve personally encountered young women like Jelly and have heard real-life stories of people in Mana’s situation.

The College Shrink is a beautifully written literary fiction novel with realistic characters that readers can identify with. Dealing with topics of romance, friendship, relationships, and family, there is something in this story for everyone.

Pages: 262

Coming Soon

Hill House Divided

Hill House Divided by S. Lee Fisher is the third in her series, The Women of Campbell County. This one is set in the early 1950s and focuses on Olive Westchester’s youngest daughter, Harriet, and her husband, Eddy, who is stationed in Italy during the Korean war. Like her mother before her, Harriet is clever and ambitious, but she has advantages that her mother never had. For one thing, with Eddy far away in Italy, she is free to concentrate on her own life, making it what she desires without having to be the dotting wife.

As frustrating as it was to see Olive lose all her chances in the first book of this series, it’s gratifying to see Harriet grab hers with both hands. Readers will be happy to see her succeed, especially as her feckless husband is following his own path without giving a thought to his wife missing him back home. When he returns, you just want her to slam the door in his face and turn to his more loyal brother.

As with the second book, Fisher recounts each scene while giving readers a high-level overview of what is going on. I feel there is not a lot of insight into the characters’ motivation or their inner world. While there isn’t a lot of action in the book, I think this is because this is more of a story about Harriett’s efforts to be her own woman and build a life she can be happy in. This dramatic historical fiction story gives readers a look at the challenges a woman faces when her husband is away at war in the 1950s.

I found Eddy’s story in Italy to be particularly interesting. Unfortunately, I suspect that this part of the story will come back to haunt Harriet in the next installment. As for Olive, she is as objectionable as ever until near the end, when readers will wonder what is causing her change of heart, leaving them anxious for the next installment in this series.

Hill House Divided: The Women of Campbell County is a cozy family saga about life as a woman in the 1950s. The historical fiction element will give readers an intriguing view of life at the time and the struggles people faced in society.

Pages: 329 | ASIN : B09Q1KC29Y

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His Father’s Pervasive Shadow

Joe Pace Author Interview

Moss follows the son of a famous writer as he tries to live up to his father’s reputation, and discovers all is not as it appeared. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The original manuscript began with the character of Isaiah Moss, an aging literary legend trying to create one more masterpiece. As much as I enjoyed writing that character, I felt it needed a more unique lens to tell his story. I thought about my relationship with my own father (a much, much, better father than Isaiah!) and how he was (and is) such a big man. People I met would tell me stories about him and his outsized persona. From there, Oscar’s sense of his father’s pervasive shadow began to develop as a frame for Isaiah’s story.

Oscar goes through a lot of changes in this novel. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Oscar is an arrested adolescent in many ways. It’s not uncommon among my generational cohort. With Boomers refusing to yield up their political or cultural or economic authority, men of my age have been relegated to this extended childhood. In some ways, it’s great – superhero movies, right? But I think many of us feel this sense that we’re not living up to our own potential, that our scribbled notebooks are in the basement. This novel isn’t an allegorical treatment of generational conflict, at least not expressly. But Oscar needs to both embrace and escape his father’s legacy, and the only way for him to do that is to grow up and start accepting responsibility for who he is and what he can bring to the world. Moss is, among other things, a coming-of-age tale for a mid-life man.

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

The tale grew in the telling, as they say. The overt themes include the lasting price of war, the cost of art and celebrity, and the inherent tension of fathers and sons. But it’s also about the courage required to chase our dreams. Another theme that is a little more subtle has to do with Oscar’s treatment of women. From his students, lovers, and mother to all the other women he encounters. One conceit of the novel is that virtually all of Oscar’s encounters in the book are with women. The only men that appear are in the form of written artifacts. Part of what Oscar realizes through his relationship with May is that his father’s approach to intimacy and male-female relationships is just one flaw in the man’s dated world view.

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

I’m currently working on a novel that will explore the mid-life death of a spouse, the impact on the family, and how moving on from the love of your life can even be possible. I’m hoping to have it available before the end of 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Isaiah Moss was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. His illegitimate son Oscar Kendall wasn’t. Living in Isaiah’s inescapable shadow, Oscar has become an inveterate quitter who hides his own literary work from the world rather than suffer the pain of failure or rejection.When Isaiah suddenly dies, Oscar inherits the old man’s lakefront writing cabin in New Hampshire. There he finds his father’s typewriter, a full liquor cabinet, and an unpublished manuscript of such genius that it could launch Oscar’s career if he claims it as his own.
But as Oscar wrestles with his own twisted inspirations, he meets the women in Isaiah’s life and begins to learn the depths of his father’s secrets…and the costs that come with unresolved trauma and romantic delusion.

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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