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Skull’s Vengeance

This historical fantasy story is set in the first century AD, where Brittania is at constant war with Gaul. The protagonist, Catrin, is a Celtic warrior who has a difficult romantic decision to make when her secret Roman lover, Marcellus, refuses to join her as her king in Brittania. She can either live without him in her homeland or live with him in Rome as his scorned foreign mistress.

I enjoyed the depth of Catrin’s character and how her bravery manifests throughout the story. She is a strong female protagonist that reminds me of Lagertha’s character in the TV show Vikings. Catrin has a wicked half-brother, Marrock, who is a powerful sorcerer who will stop at nothing to destroy her. I reveled in Marrock’s character probably just as much as Catrin’s character. I enjoy a good villain and I think that it’s the villain that really sells a fantasy story, to me anyway. Catrin has no option but to join forces with former enemies. The dramatic turn of events throughout the novel is unpredictable and makes it difficult to choose when to put the book down. I was always interested in seeing how Catrin was going to handle the next twist.

As the fourth book in a series, the action relies on the considerable backstory to make sense of the plot. Tanner does make an effort to fill in the details to get the reader up to speed. I think this book is better as a continuation of an epic rather than as a standalone story, but if you don’t mind missing a few details you’ll still find plenty to enjoy in this novel. The best part of this book, for me, is the way the action is set amongst real-life history and well-known legends. The story fits within the lore of King Arthur and mystical Druids, giving this novel an authenticity that many fantasy stories lack.

Skull’s Vengeance is an evocative and gripping fantasy adventure that long time fans of the series will heartily enjoy. This is a fast-paced read that will appeal to fans of epic fantasy that are looking for a bit of history infused in their fantasy lore. Skull’s Vengeance has well-defined characters, a deep backstory and a well-drawn plot. I think it’s best suited to adult readers who don’t mind some graphic violence and sex scenes.

Pages: 402 | ASIN: B0BC2GCFGG

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Building High Trust CommUNITY

In Building High Trust CommUNITY: Lessons Learned from the Past and the Year 2020, authors Pamela Shockley – Zalabak and Sherwyn Morreale bring forth issues affecting society, how the past has influenced current events, the status quo, building communities, and living in harmony. The authors passionately write about a myriad of topics that affect the average citizen, as they offer solutions to some societal problems. This insightful book is profound and will encourage readers to develop a stronger value for all life and instill a sense of unity in themselves. The authors write using simple language, phrases, and words that are easy to comprehend as they hope to reach readers of all ages.

There is plenty of history discussed in this book. The history aspect is my favorite part of the book as the authors point out past historical events’ impact on shaping our future. Pamela Shockley – Zalabak & Sherwyn Morreale write about the tragedy that was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the civil war, the great depression, and the January 6 Insurrection, among many other events. I enjoyed going through the analysis by the authors as it provided me a different perspective than I had previously seen. The authors are not just great at narration but also great at explaining even the most complex subjects in a manner that the average reader can grasp.

Building trust takes work. The authors discuss why most people do not understand the magnitude of trust in communities despite them thinking they are trustworthy. I love that the authors take their time in explaining trust as a virtue and how a dependable community is appealing. Chapter two has everything one needs to understand trust and why it matters. The explanations they give are short but deep enough to make one identify with the discussion.

I appreciate the authors for talking about their first-hand experiences when discussing certain subjects. Through their eyes, I understood why inequality is still a significant issue in the world and why vices like racism, nepotism, and prejudice are still rampant. In addition, the lack of access to basic needs like healthcare and education is still a crisis even in the world’s biggest democracy is something to be concerned about.

What I enjoyed most about the authors’ writing is their ability to direct the reader tword reflection on their daily experiences. In addition, I appreciate the author preaching about love, kindness, and compassion even amidst the pandemic and the chaos witnessed.

Building High Trust CommUnNTY is an educational book about politics, economic conditions, and these things’ impact on US citizens. Readers learn how to build trust, be organized, and practice self-reflection, among other things, in the most demonstrative approach.

Pages: 192 | ASIN : B0BDFPQJ77

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Peyton’s Promise

When Peyton arrived at Calumet Castle for a summer job, she had only a vague idea of what to expect. She knew of her wealthy employers and that her progressive ideas and choice of career made her a target for the social circles but little else. It came as a huge shock to find herself working alongside her childhood best friend, Patrick, and in turn, they were both shocked at how much their three-year absence from each other had changed them. Rekindling her relationship with Patrick, navigating new feelings for him, rediscovering her faith, trying not to anger the staunchly old-fashioned housekeeper of the castle, and doing her actual job give Peyton a busy and conflicted summer to contend with.

Peyton’s Promise is the third novel by Susan Mathis in her Thousand Island Gilded Age Series. Set in the Thousand Islands, on the St. Lawrence river, these stories take the setting and make it a palpable part of the story being told. Peyton’s Promise is no exception, describing the sights and homes of the area with beautiful depth and recreating what it might have been like in the early years of the 20th century when the area was a popular destination for many of the wealthy elite in society.

Mathis is adept at weaving historical figures into her fiction and has done so in this story with the Emerys. Calumet Castle’s owners function as the mostly absent champions of Peyton’s work, an upholsterer beyond her apprenticeship. Mathis always includes a brief note to explain the real history she has included, with details about the families, their homes, and more about the area.

Peyton’s Promise has a similar feeling to the other Thousand Island stories. Readers will find enjoyment and take comfort in returning to the beloved landscape and having the experience of revisiting a favorite vacation location. The storyline moves quickly with an internally conflicted heroine, a love interest that seems too much at odds to ever succeed, and a rival antagonist that seems on the cusp of bringing disaster more than once. This book is truly wonderful and difficult to put down! The pacing has readers engaged from start to finish. Additionally, the amount of detail included about the Islands is just enough to encourage some further research. They are perfect for a light read for those that love a Christian historical romance novel.

Pages: 291 | ASIN : B09N6J5X6M

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Squash The Boorish Louts

Don Shearer Author Interview

The Ballpark Buster follows a boy who grows to be over seven feet tall and takes the baseball world by storm with his impressive skill and strength. What inspired the setup to your story?

I had been reading about a young man known as the Alton Giant — Robert Wadlow of Alton, IL. Robert had a pituitary disorder that caused him to grow at an unprecedented rate. In fact, he was more than 8 feet 11 inches tall when he died at the young age of 22 in 1940. Somewhere around the time of that research, I accidentally rediscovered a set of captivating baseball park cartoons done by artist Gene Mack for the Sporting News in the mid-1940s. I liked these cartoons as a kid, and as I revisited the panels after all these years I started thinking about what would happen if a super-large kid (one who benefited from a surgery that Robert Wadlow did not get) landed in historic baseball settings of the past. It took a lot of fitting together of plot puzzle pieces and baseball chronology in order to make this “new” history possible, but my big kid Buster made his way and knocked down quite a few barriers. 

Buster Logan is a charming character. What were some driving ideals behind his character’s development?

I wanted to keep Buster pretty down-to-earth throughout the book. Although he has obvious physical gifts, I didn’t want him to try and intimidate anyone as he competed in professional sports and lived his life. He did not draw attention to himself. He was a quiet boy with a lively sense of humor. He never veered away from the simple values of loving one’s family and being accepting of others along the way. 

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Buster’s great size often positioned him as an outsider, and I didn’t minimize the struggles he had as a young person who sometimes took abuse from competitors, unruly fans and insensitive strangers. In the book, Buster rubs shoulders with others who are outside the norm in one way or another — players like Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth and Ted Kluszewski. Buster both provides and receives encouragement from them. He interacts with a number of vicious people (including one major league manager) and, with great effort, learns to conduct himself with restraint even though he’s tempted to squash the boorish louts.

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

This isn’t anything traditional, but these days I’m writing and assembling a large compendium of comedic wordplay puns paired with images. (You could even say they’re memey.) I’m likely to release them as a collection in early 2023.

Author Links: Facebook | Website

Every once in a while, a miracle of nature occurs in our midst. This is a story about Buster Logan, who was born a normal Pennsylvania boy but soon begins growing much bigger than those around him. It turns out he has a medical condition that causes him to grow to the point of a near-giant. Although modern medicine is able to intervene and slow his growth, Buster has already become a very large person at over seven feet tall. He’s also extremely powerful, as he takes up weightlifting after his recovery from surgery. Bringing great size and strength to the realm of sports, he becomes a true force on the field. Eventually making it to the major leagues in his late teens, Buster takes many of the classic ballparks of the 1940s and ‘50s by storm, hitting astonishing home runs in baseball cathedrals like Forbes Field, Ebbets Field, Sportsman’s Park, the Polo Grounds, old Yankee Stadium, Crosley Field, Braves Field (Boston) and Shibe Park. Travel alongside our good-natured baseball giant as he conquers these hallowed ballparks with jaw-dropping blasts.

Adventures Through Reading

Katie Marie Author Interview

T-Rex and Tuck Explore the Zoo follows a little boy as he uses his imagination to embark on an educational adventure at the zoo. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The inspiration for the T-Rex and Tuck Explore series in general is my son, Tucker. He loves to go on “adventures” and has quite an imagination. He has a stuffed dinosaur that he takes along with him all over the house and this relationship was the inspiration for the “best friend” character concept. I have always enjoyed writing, but becoming a mom was the inspiration I needed to come up with the story setup and run with it. This first book, T-Rex and Tuck Explore the Zoo, came to me after our own family visit to the zoo and how much he enjoys books about animals. The next book in the series will be T-Rex and Tuck Explore Outer Space which the illustrator is currently working on.

The art in this picture book is very cute. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Jessie Johnson?

I absolutely adore the art in this picture book! Jessie Johnson, the illustrator, is very talented and was able to capture the vision for the characters exactly the way I had envisioned them. I had posted a job on the site Up Work and feel so fortunate that she applied. I had narrowed it down to a few artists and had them illustrate a character concept. She blew me away with her initial design. She is a college student in North Carolina and I am in the Kansas City area so the communication has consisted of zoom calls and emails, but I think we work well together and we are excited to continue our working relationship for the entire series! She has a bright future ahead of her.

What were some ideas that were important for you to include in this children’s book?

One of the ideas that was important to me for this children’s book was the focus on imaginative play. I love the idea that kids can go on adventures through reading and I think this story does a great job of that. I wanted the book to be engaging as far as being able to make animal noises with your kids while reading it and acting out different movements. My kids favorite books are the ones that can be interactive. I also wanted to incorporate some educational information about the animals while still making it fun to read.

When and where will this book be available?

This book is currently available on my website http://www.authorkatiemarie.com as well as Book Baby’s Book Shop https://store.bookbaby.com/book/t-rex-and-tuck-explore-the-zoo

Author Links: Facebook | Website | Instagram

IN THE FIRST INSTALLMENT FROM THE T-REX AND TUCK EXPLORE SERIES, TUCK USES HIS IMAGINATION TO TRANSPORT HIMSELF AND HIS BEST FRIEND, T-REX, TO THE ZOO. IN THIS WONDEROUS ESCAPE FROM THE RAINY DAY INSIDE TUCK’S ROOM, THEY LEARN INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT DIFFERENT ZOO ANIMALS AND GET TO HAVE A LITTLE FUN ALONG THE WAY.

Where the Magic Lies

Where the Magic Lies is the beginning of an imaginative fairytale series following Amethyst Quartz, who collects logs with her mother in the forest. When they discover one of the logs is an important artifact that belongs to a king from another world, their lives change forever. In this world of fairies, Amethyst’s acquiring this special artifact is forbidden and punishable by death, and her mother, as the adult responsible for retrieving the item, faces this fatal end unless there is a way to save her.

To save her mother from certain death, Amethyst agrees to follow the fairies in Portia, the name of their kingdom, and marry their prince, who is eagerly searching for a bride. Facing the frightening challenges of this new life, homesickness, brutal assassinations, and a new romance, Amethyst must decide how to navigate this strange world and find herself.

The author brings a refreshing vibrance to the classic fairytale narrative, with solid character development, intriguing magic, and the abrupt changes that a person must face in life without warning. Amethyst must think and act quickly if she wants to escape, as her position of isolation and scrutiny is a form of imprisonment. She learns who she cannot trust and how every decision she makes has a ripple effect on her life and the outcome of the situation.

I enjoyed the visual writing in this book and the author’s talent for detailed storytelling that painted a vivid image of the world and its inhabitants. I recommend Where the Magic Lies for its overall great story development, the heroine’s triumphant nature, and her commitment to survival and fighting for love. It’s an artistic fantasy novel with a meaningful storyline that combines elements of traditional fantasy themes and nostalgia with realistic characters.

Pages: 245 | ASIN: B0B9M7HNBY

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Ellie Visits the Dentist

Ellie loves everything sweet, from ice cream to cookies. Her mother tries her best to have her eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables and go easy on the sweets. Ellie goes to the dentist for a routine cleaning and discovers that she has two cavities. Scared that she has to come back to the dentist to fix the sugar bugs, Ellie starts to get nervous. After an amazing visit with the dentist to fix her cavities Ellie realizes that even though her experience wasn’t scary, she must eat a balanced diet and go easy on the sweets to avoid getting cavities.

Ellie Visits the Dentist is a captivating children’s book that will help young readers feel better about going to the dentist. Author Katie Specht teaches children that it is okay to eat sweets, but in moderation. I appreciated that she is honest with her audience but approaches this experience in a sensitive and inviting manner. Going to the dentist can be a daunting experience even for adults, but after reading about Ellie’s experience even I wanted to go to the dentist!

The illustrations throughout this educational kids book are colorful and vivid and offers readers plenty of eye-candy to look at while their parents read the story to them. Each character is expressive and their emotions are easy to identify, making this a perfect book to read to young children who are still learning to identify emotions. This is also a great book for elementary students who are starting to read on their own as the language used throughout the book is easy to understand.

With the support of Ellie’s mother and the dentist, Ellie had a wonderful experience. Ellie Visits the Dentist will inspire children to eat their fruits and vegetables to avoid getting cavities.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B0B5M8FDVQ

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Transgression

Transgression: Hitler, Mirka, Mireille and Me by Ben Stoltzfus is an captivating autofiction written in first person narrative. In this fascinating story, the author presents his journey from the city of Sofia to America. The Nazi rule and the conditions of German-occupied places have been described in vivid detail by the author. The story is continuously moving from one place to another while the author explores the conundrum of youthful wishes and religious preaching’s.

This is a thought-provoking book that is very descriptive. The author has described everything around himself in detail. It is autofiction, which means it is a mixture of two different genres, i.e., autobiography and fiction. While reading this book, I also felt like I was reading a candid memoir. The protagonist of the book is the author himself. Readers have a limited point of view, and through this point of view we see the intriguing development of the author’s mind.

This book explores romance and youthful pleasures in Nazi Germany. Through subtle hints and indirect narration the author explains the political, economic, and social conditions of the world at that time. There was a constant battle between good and evil in the author’s mind and this gives readers an interesting peek into the author’s thinking. This book is much more than just an autobiography; it has a huge part of history infused in it. The author has done a brilliant job in relaying small details and facts in subtle ways throughout the book that make the story feel authentic.

This is an eloquent portrayal of the people living and leaving Germany during Nazi-occupation. The instances of hiding and bombings are excruciatingly realistic. The fear of survival yet the normalcy of buying food items from the market, studying, and thoughts of settling in the future shows readers the stark contrast of that time.

I recommend Transgression to readers looking for an intellectually invigorating yet emotionally-resonant historical fiction novel that provides a look at humanity during a monumentally difficult time in history.

Pages: 290 | ISBN: 163988517X

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