Saturday, January 30, 2021

Lola the Buhund and the Empty Sky

 



Alright y'all, this is another ebook that I got through @Booktasters on Bookstagram. This is classified as a children's book, but I think this is more of a middle grade read. It is a short read, but there is a lot that happens that I don't think kids under the age of 10 or 11 would like. There are a couple dark moments, since it is an adventure story, and it does work out in the end. However, I am pretty sure that my 4 year old would definitely be scared, and my 7 year old would not want to finish the book because of these moments. I did let my 10 year old read it, and she seemed okay. She didn't love the story, but she said she still enjoyed it. It did take me a couple days to read this simply because I kept forgetting to put my tablet on the charger at night. Okay now some positive notes. There are certainly some enjoyable aspects to the story. It's an magical adventure of good versus evil, and there are talking animals. The main characters are cute, a little sassy, and definitely make you want to cheer them on. The ultimate goal of bringing back the sun and stars and moon definitely give it a kind of superhero feel to it, but without the powers. Overall I liked the story as a reader, but as a mom I definitely will be cautious about my younger ones reading it right now personally. Thanks Booktasters!

SYNOPSIS

What if the Sun, Moon, and Stars vanished from the sky?

Fifteen years ago that's exactly what happened in the dying world of Lumea. Daily life in the surviving country of Prithvi is harsh and unforgiving for a reclusive carpenter and his farm dog, Lola. Born into darkness, Lola has never known anything else. But when she encounters three strangers in need, she's pushed into an irrevocable quest for the truth—to uncover the world's light, never having witnessed its existence herself. Joined by her human, a musician, and a rooster, the journey is filled with evil spirits, monsters, and the soldiers of a cruel and selfish monarch.

Will her hope and perseverance be enough to face these obstacles? Lola's fate—and the world's—depends on it.


If you want to add this book to your personal library or to the library of a middle grader in your life, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Book of Uriel (R&R Book Tours Blitz Post)

TheBookofUriel

Congratulations to author Elyse Hoffman on the release of this absolutely stunning novel, The Book of Uriel! "The Book of Uriel is a heartbreaking blend of historical fiction and Jewish folklore that will enthrall fans of The Book Thief and The World That We Knew." Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

book of uriel cover ebook

The Book of Uriel Expected Publication Date: January 26, 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction/ Jewish Fiction/ Jewish Folklore/ Holocaust Fiction Publisher: Project 613 Publishing In the fires of World War II, a child must save his people from darkness… Ten-year-old Uriel has always been an outcast. Born mute in a Jewish village known for its choir, he escapes into old stories of his people, stories of angels and monsters. But when the fires of the Holocaust consume his village, he learns that the stories he writes in his golden notebook are terrifyingly real. In the aftermath of the attack, Uriel is taken in by Uwe, a kind-hearted linguist forced to work for the commander of the local Nazi Police, the affably brutal Major Brandt. Uwe wants to keep Uriel safe, but Uriel can’t stay hidden. The angels of his tales have come to him with a dire message: Michael, guardian angel of the Jewish people, is missing. Without their angel, the Jewish people are doomed, and Michael’s angelic brethren cannot search for him in the lands corrupted by Nazi evil. With the lives of millions at stake, Uriel must find Michael and free him from the clutches of the Angel of Death...even if that means putting Uwe in mortal danger. Add to Goodreads

book of uriel 3d

Excerpt

Uriel wished he could scream.

Normally, he could. A scream was one of the few noises that ever emerged from the boy’s lips. No words ever escaped, but he could summon a scream.

Yet his lungs couldn’t gather enough air to produce a cry. They struggled to supply enough oxygen to keep the child awake. Smoke invaded his throat and clawed at his lungs. Although screams pierced the air from every angle, he couldn’t add his own to the din.

He still felt the pressure of mother’s fingers locked around his hand, even though she was gone. Uriel’s golden eyes darted to and fro, searching for her face. His fingers twitched as her warmth faded. He strained his ears, trying to hear her call to him, but her voice did not rise above the ruckus.

Mama! Uriel thought, his tears allying with the smoke and assaulting his eyes. He wanted to cry out for her. Perhaps if she heard him, she would find him, and they could get to safety. But his voice had never worked before, and though he opened his mouth to call out, all he could do was pant and cough.

Gunshots rang out. The fleeing villagers clung to their families and their few precious possessions, shoving one another out of the way as they tried to escape the flames enveloping the little town and the murderous mob cutting down the Jews. Young and old, women and men, little children and babies were thrown to the ground, beaten with clubs, shot, stabbed, and slaughtered. Their blood mingled with the warm ash coating the cobblestones.

Uriel stood in the midst of the mayhem, still as a statue, alone. His right hand yearned for his mother, while his left clutched the one possession he had snatched before fleeing his house. His little golden notebook. Small enough to fit in his pocket and filled with stories he couldn’t leave to burn.

Although the villagers would normally never leave a small child alone in the street, concern for their own lives and the lives of their families caused them to stampede. Uriel was pushed against a brick wall, and his golden notebook flew from his hand. He gasped, inhaling an army of ash. The boy desperately tried to crawl to his notebook. Boots and shoes stomped on the cherished book, but Uriel reached it. He grabbed the notebook and held it to his chest, shielding it with his body.

The child was trampled and kicked. His lungs began losing to the smoke and ash entering through his nostrils and silent lips. He felt as though his insides were on fire, as though every bone in his body was about to shatter. When darkness finally took him, all he felt was gratitude.

Available on Amazon! About the Author Author-picture-1-1 Elyse Hoffman can write a lot of things, but finds her own story dull and difficult. She has been interested in the Holocaust and Nazi Germany since she was thirteen. Her somewhat morbid fascination is purely intellectual and emotional. She advises you to be careful when signing contracts. You never know where or when you may end up.

Project 613 Publishing | Facebook | Twitter | BookBub | Goodreads

For a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card, enter the giveaway below! a Rafflecopter giveaway Book Tour Organized By: R&RButton350x350 R&R Book Tours

Thursday, January 28, 2021

But You're Still So Young

 


Alright y'all, I was lucky enough to have early access to this nonfiction beauty thanks to Dutton Books and Netgalley. While I am not in my 30s just yet, I was able to connect with what Kayleen Schaefer was saying. This book is definitely a must read for people about to be 30 or are in their 30s, especially since she made sure to include the chaos that COVID-19 has brought to our world. This book is broken down into five categories that we all are told to focus on once we reach adulthood: college, living on your own, marriage, finances, and children. I know growing up I was told that all of these things had to be achieved before I could honestly say I was an adult. However, Kayleen thankfully reminds us all that this is no longer true in today's world. I did not complete my Bachelor's degree, but have the debt to say otherwise. I live on my own with my husband and our three kids. We are financially stable enough that I get to be a SAHM. HOWEVER, if I was going off what I was told during my teenage years, I would have failed at being an adult because I do not have a degree and I do not make my own money. This book is a fantastic reminder that I am my own version of an adult, and I am happy with that version. I hope that everyone picks this book up, because it is time to change how we define adulthood and what is expected of us as individuals. Thanks Dutton Books for letting read this before pub day through Netgalley!

SYNOPSIS

On Kayleen Schaefer’s birthday she went dancing with friends, they broke a table, and she turned thirty standing on the sidewalk outside a club she got kicked out of.
 
Sociologists have identified the five markers of adulthood as: finishing school, leaving home, marriage, gaining financial independence, and having kids. But the signifiers of being in our thirties today are not the same—repeated economic upheaval, rising debt, decreasing marriage rates, fertility treatments, and a more open-minded society have all led to a shifting timeline. Americans are taking major life steps later, switching careers with unprecedented frequency, and exercising increased freedom and creativity in their decisions about how to shape their lives. So why are we measuring "adulthood" by the same metrics that were relied upon fifty years ago?
 
BUT YOU'RE STILL SO YOUNG is cleverly structured around these five major life events. For each milestone, the book highlights men and women from various backgrounds, from around the country, and delves into their experiences navigating an ever-changing financial landscape and evolving societal expectations. The thirtysomethings in this book envisioned their thirties differently than how they are actually living them. He thought he would be done with his degree, she thought she’d be married, they thought they’d be famous comedians, and everyone thought they would have more money. 
 
Kayleen uses her smart narrative framing, research skills, and relatable voice and her own story to show how the thirties have changed from the cultural stereotypes around them, and how they are a radically different experience for Americans now than it was for any other generation. And as she and her sources show, not being able to do everything isn’t a sign of a life gone wrong. Being open to going sideways or upside down or backward, means it has gone right: you found meaning and value in many different ways of living.

To go ahead and pre-order this necessary nonfiction book, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Rise: A Collection of Inspiration Poems, Prose, and Affirmations


Alright y'all, I got this inspirational beauty from the author herself, Shana Danielle. She reached out to me on Bookstagram about reviewing her book, and I of course said yes. I went into this book with an open mind, and I loved almost every page. There were a few pages that were tough to read, but absolutely necessary. I must give the warning that there are the following triggers in the book: drug use, domestic abuse, violence, racism, and society beauty standards. Inside this book are personal experiences from Shana, poems to help get her advice across, and then affirmations that we can all repeat to ourselves daily. This was definitely the read I needed after a rough week with the kids, dogs, neighbors, and outside family. There are a few pages that I have marked with the companion bookmark, welcome card, and Christmas card that I received from Shana. I will be revisiting these pages when I need the reminder that I am more than just a wife, a mother, and a book blogger. I am a woman who is capable of anything I put my mind to. I have to give Shana a big thank you for allowing me the privilege of being one of her reviewers, and for giving me a book that I needed. 

SYNOPSIS

Shana Danielle is a remarkable inspirational speaker, spoken word artist, and author who is on a mission to inspire people to become their best hope-filled, unashamed, and unapologetic version of themselves. Recently, Shana has authored a new Self-Help book named ‘Rise – A Collection of Inspirational Poetry, Prose, and Affirmations’ to help her readers build a meaningful and happier life.

Rise is written to help people learn how to set themselves free from trauma, failures, and disappointments to live a life full of hope and love!

Inside this book

  • Shana urges her readers to confront their wounds and provides them with the necessary tools to heal.
  • Readers will walk away with the courage and mental fortitude to Rise above their fears and will no longer be concerned with judgment from the critics.
  • Receive inspirational quotes to replace stress and anxiety with understanding and patience.
  • The book is full of wisdom and guides the readers to find answers to tough topics and arm themselves with hope and love to overcome any sort of adversity.


To add this inspirational beauty to your personal library, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Removed

 


Alright y'all, I bought this Native beauty through BOTM, and I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn't completely sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to read a book with some Cherokee story to it. I also loved the fact that Brandon Hobson is Cherokee himself, because I found out a couple years ago that I am 1/8 Cherokee. I enjoyed learning a little bit about "Tawodi" and some of the mythology while reading about this family's suspense in grief. I must be honest and say that there are the following triggers in this book: some racists comments, drug abuse, violence, suicide, and teen death. Despite all of this though, the multiple POVs, folklore, and story had me pulled in fully when I was able to sit down and read uninterrupted. I am so glad that BOTM included this one in January's picks.


SYNOPSIS

In the fifteen years since their teenage son Ray-Ray was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer's in her husband's Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their remaining son, Edgar,  fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.

With the family's annual bonfire approaching--an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray's death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory--Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distance once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems almost miraculously to keep Ernest's mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite--or perhaps because of--his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and to lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.


To add this beauty to your personal collection, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Monday, January 25, 2021

Author Interview with Audrey Stevens

 



Alright y'all, I was able to connect with this lovely Indie author through our mutual friend, Heather. I am so grateful that she agreed to do this interview, especially with a stranger lol. She is a Dystopian author, and her first book in her series was The Parlor (which is in stock on Amazon!). After reaching out to her, I looked into her books, and you can best believe they are going on my TBR! Especially since she brings a new type of Dystopian novels to the public. So let's dive into this Dystopian mind shall we?


Q: What is your name and where do you live? 
A: My name is Audrey Stevens and I live in Indianapolis, Indiana

Q: Are you an Indie Author or do you work with a publishing company? 
A: I am an Indie Author.

Q: What genre(s) do you write? 
A: So far, I have written only one series. It falls into these genres: fiction, dystopian, speculative, young adult, sci-fi, and romance. 

Q: What made you want to become a writer in the first place? 
A: My daughter was born 13 weeks early. We spent 4 months in the hospital and to pass the many hours that I spent sitting next to her incubator, I wrote. By the time we brought her home, it had become a calming hobby of mine. I have continued to write throughout her childhood. 

Q: Do you work a regular job in between books? 
A: I have two part time jobs. I help a friend at her father’s warehouse a few days a week and I manage the social media pages for a realty group. 

Q: How many books have you published? 
A: I have published two books so far. I am finishing up the third now and will have it done by the spring. I am also working on an anthology with other authors that will be available this summer. 

Q: How many books do you have in the works right now? 
A: Three books are in the works. The two I mentioned above along with a sci-fi, drama, stand alone novel.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write so far? 
A: I struggle writing transition scenes. I have to stop myself from just writing the “fun and exciting” scenes, because if I do that, the book will never get finished cause all that will be left is the “filler.”

Q: How many books do you have that are not being currently worked on, but are half-written or complete but unpublished? 
A: N/A. I have never started a book and not finished (knock on wood).

Q: Do you have a series developing?
A: My first series, which will be completed this spring.

Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? 
A: Since I am so young, I hope to have multiple types of books in many different genres. I’m assuming some will connect and others won’t. 

Q: What is your next book that is set to be published and when is the release day? 
A: The next book will be the finale in my first series called The Hub. It will be released this spring, but a specific date hasn’t been set.

Q: How long did it take you to write it? 
A: It takes me about a year per novel. Between two part time jobs and being a stay at home mom, I can’t write as fast as I would like.

Q: What did you do when your characters stop talking (writer’s block) to you during the process? 
A: I give myself a break. I don’t like to “push” myself. Whenever I do that, it ends up being just plain bad and I end up deleting it anyways. I only write when the characters speak to me.

Q: What routine do you have when you sit down to write a book?
A: I try to write an hour a day. I can typically get a little over 1k words done in that time. Some days with my three year old, I don’t get to write at all. When I do write, it’s typically during nap time or after bed when all the dishes and laundry are done. I can’t write if my to-do-list isn’t done. 

Q: Do you write it all out in long sittings or short ones (sprints)? 
A: Typically it is in one long one hour session. Again, I don’t like to rush it or push myself. I can keep myself “in the zone” for about an hour before I burn out and need to stop. Although, I am typically always writing in my head during the day.

Q: Do you get exhausted or energized during writing sessions? 
A: It depends on when I write. If I get to write during nap time, I will feel more energized. Since I’m not a night person, if I have to write at night, I typically will feel exhausted after my hour.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books? 
A: Random places. Sometimes someone will make a silly comment or even tell me about an odd dream. I write it down and think on it, slowly developing a story around it until it makes sense to begin a full novel.


Q: Is there another author you look up to or strive to be as successful as? 
A: Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite authors! I hope I can be as well known as her some day!

Q: Are you a reader yourself? 
A: YES! I love to read!

Q: If so, are you a beta or ARC reader for anyone else? (You don’t have to name for who if you do not wish to.) 
A: I am actually a part of a FB group that seeks beta & ARC readers. If I find a book that seems interesting to me, I’ll sign up for it. The last one I did was called Crimson Hearts by Nicole Reeves. It just came out!

Q: Do you like to read the same genre(s) you write? 
A: I do prefer books in the young adult and dystopian genres :) It helps me write more to market as well. 

Q: Do you have a favorite book or a book that stands out the most? 
A: I really enjoyed The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler.

Q: Have you ever cried, laughed, or had a real emotional response to a book? 
A: All the time! I am a very imaginative person so it really is like TV in my head! 

Q: What kind of social media do you have? 
A: I have a website, a FB page, an Instagram, and a TikTok.

Q: Do you like to connect with your readers using your chosen platforms? 
A: I love connecting with readers! The whole reason I write is to share it with others! Plus, since I am a reader too, I like getting and giving recommendations. 

Q: Do you have any author friends that have helped you with your writing process or just been there for support? 
A: YES! I am a part of a FB group called Dystopian Inkers and all the authors on there have been so supportive and encouraging. I would consider author Heather Carson to be my main mentor. She has been doing the “indie thing” for longer than me and graciously shares her knowledge. (I am also part of this group now, but I am more of a wallflower.) 

Q: What was the best money ever spent as a writer? 
A: On an editor. I was never good at English in school. Grammar and spelling have never come easy to me. Without an editor, no one would or probably even could read my books. 

Q: How does your family feel about your writing? 
A: My family is very encouraging of my writing! In fact, my grandmother and my sister always get to read my books before anyone else so that they can give me their thoughts before I publish. They were the only ones who even knew about my first book because I was a little embarrassed. Now that my work is out there, everyone knows what I am working on and when it will be available. (AWW!! Yay for grandma and sister for reading and being honest!) 

Q: Is there anything about you that your readers don’t know that you would like them to know? 
A: I have weird allergies and enjoy traveling and crafting. I think my quirkiness is an asset for my writing. 

Website:
https://audreymegan14.wixsite.com/parlor

Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/audreymstevens/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/audrey.crane.98/


Alright y'all, there you have it! Audrey Stevens may already be a published Indie author who writes a different type of Dystopian is just a quirky as the rest of us! I am so glad that she took time out of her busy schedule to do this interview, and have both her books on my wishlist. Be sure to check out her books and her social media pages!

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Yoga Bones

 


Alright y'all, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this yoga beauty from HachetteGo, and I am beyond grateful. Not only did I get an interesting book, but I got a book that has actually helped my life! I tried out all the poses in the book, and read every page multiple times over the past month. I have knee issues from a severe sprain, back issues from having three kids, and weak wrists and ankles. Laura Staton has done an amazing job of putting together many simple and easy poses for different parts of our bodies that actually help ease the pain. I can definitely tell the difference, and the main ones I do only require about 30 minutes of my time. No fancy equipment, and no extra money needed to be spent! This book is perfect for everyone experiencing orthopedic pain that don't want to keep taking meds or spend a crap ton of money on doctors' visits! I am in love with this book, and am so grateful that HachetteGo sent me a copy! I have included a few pages as well with permission from HachetteGo. Scroll down to see!

SYNOPSIS

Create a personalized, therapeutic, yoga-based plan to heal bodily pain and get you back to living the life you deserve.

If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from an orthopedic condition, you understand the impact on your daily life. From neck pain to knee replacement and everything in between, Laura Staton uses yoga as a roadmap to restore function and life balance. This invaluable guide helps you explore your mind-body connection to manage your discomfort and find long-term healing, increase strength, and decrease pain.

Expertly organized by orthopedic conditions including herniated disks in the back or neck, shoulder syndromes, hip replacements, and more, each chapter includes a curated menu of therapeutic poses with descriptions, photographs, and illustrations. Yoga Bones is accessible to all ages and abilities, with yoga that is easily adaptable to different levels of fitness and function. With a holistic and gentle approach, Staton provides a bridge between mainstream medical practices and mindful healing. You don't have to suffer through pain or learn endure it; you can find ways to strengthen your body and your overall health.


I have included three of the poses that I have started doing daily that have made a world of difference for me. There are lots in the book with focus on different areas, but these are the ones that gave me personally the most relief.





To add this yoga beauty to your personal library or to gift to someone you think would benefit a lot from it, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Shame of it All (R&R Book Tours Blitz Post)

Shame of it All

Welcome to the blog tour for new Psychological Thriller, Shame of It All by K.T. Grant! Today I have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win 1 of 3 digital copies of the book!

55850991._SY475_Shame of It All

Publication Date: December 6th, 2020

Genre: Psychological Thriller

*Trigger Warning : Violence/ Sexual Assault

Revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mercy Pryce her revenge will scald one’s soul and leave behind a burnt-out husk if she has her way.

Mercy has returned to her hometown of Cartleigh, New York after twenty years. The lakeside community is the perfect location for Yakim Zeldovich, her Russian billionaire employer’s state of the art manufacturing facility. Acting as a consultant for Zeldovich, she’s on an undercover mission, not as an angel of mercy, but one of mischief, deceit and torture. Her ultimate goal is to ruin Cartleigh because of a horrible trauma she suffered in high school. The one responsible for her wrath is Colton Hahn, Cartleigh’s beloved mayor, and the object of her retaliation. The town’s golden boy, who she once adored as an impressionable teenager, brutally raped her and left her for dead at seventeen.

Consumed by years of grief and growing rage, she has targeted Colton, who may also be responsible for the death of her best friend, Marina, his fiancé. She will avenge Marina and finally take down the monster who tried to ruin her life.

Her success may come at a horrible price. But it will all be worth it if she can take away everything Colton holds dear, including him surrendering his heart and soul to her in the process.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

The Grand Oaks was a well-known venue for sophisticated affairs. Valet parking was a given, which Ari didn’t complain about, although he acted a bit embarrassed by his eight-year-old sedan. I didn’t mind because the make and model didn’t prove the worth of the individual driving it. Most of those who drove luxury cars were trying to make up for something they lacked. Yakim had many cars at his disposal, but he always stuck to his Lincoln Navigator, since the car reminded him of his grandfather. His father had the same fondness for that type of car but mainly used chauffeurs to get around.

“You’re probably used to all this glitz and glamour,” Ari said as we walked up the short flight of stairs into the foyer.

“I’ve attended my share of swanky parties and balls but they can be exhausting. Unless you want to, we don’t have to stay until it ends. We could always have a nightcap at one of our houses.”

“We’ll see how the night goes.” He twined our fingers together as we moved toward the banquet hall. “The only type of event I’ve been to that compares to this was my sister’s wedding, and there were a hundred guests, give or take.”

I laughed and rubbed his arm, wishing if only for the next few hours, we were an actual couple. But I wasn’t here to engage in that fantasy for either one of us. I had to find my mark and entice him in more than just conversation.

Most of the men wore tuxedos like Ari’s. The women showed off their attributes with their dresses and hair, much like I had done. The room swelled with so many people, it made me wonder if it was a safety hazard even though the majority of the guests remained at the bars on each side or surrounded servers passing trays of food. A few occupied the small dance floor near the bandstand. Based on attendance, I would say the event was a success. Yakim would be pleased because not everything would be fake when he pulled out of the negotiations. I would be long gone when the deal collapsed and those in this room realizing they had been conned.

“Are your feet hurting? Want to sit down, and I’ll get us some drinks?” Aril led me to a table and pulled out a chair.

“That would be nice.” I accepted the seat and glanced around while he did, finding Karine and her husband nearby, along with Agnes. Not surprising, Colt was next to them. They had formed their own intimate circle near the corner of the bar. I leaned into Ari so I could stare at the group over his shoulder.

“Get me a cabernet.” I kissed his cheek and hugged him at the exact moment Colt turned his face toward me. He stiffened.

“You got it.” He kissed me back and walked to the bar where Colt stood. Ari stopped near two men who shook hands with him. Since he might spend some time talking, I decided to disappear for a few minutes. But before I did, I posed for Colt’s benefit. He moved in my direction, and I backed away and left the room.

I strolled down to the lower level where a sign on the wall pointed me in the direction of another set of restrooms. I glanced behind to see Colt stopped by some people. I kept moving because the only reason anyone would venture here was to use the toilets. He would eventually find me.

I entered the restroom consisting of a small sitting area that led to three stalls and a sink. The light automatically came on when I entered, but it could also be turned off manually. I sat on a love seat and waited all of three minutes before the door opened and Colt entered, shutting it behind him.

He blocked the door but didn’t lock it. I wasn’t worried because for him to attack me again would be monumentally stupid on his part. The camera in the hallway had recorded him entering after me. I could bring it up as an extra layer of protection but only if necessary. Plus, I would be taking control of this situation, not him.

“Nice dress. It suits you.” He leaned on the door with his hands in his coat pocket.

He was dressed in an almost-identical tuxedo to most of the men here. Other than his good looks, nothing would make him stand out in this crowd. But I would be nice and play along with the compliments.

“You look good in a tuxedo, but you already know it.” I stood, laying my clutch on the seat next to me.

“In my line of work, wearing a tux or a suit is a given.” His sad sort of smile didn’t move me in any way.

“Why did you follow me here?” The answer would be obvious, but I wanted to hear him say it.

“You wanted me to.”

The lack of accusation in his voice annoyed me. He was stating a fact, but his words had a huge underlying meaning because of our past. A man accusing a woman of wanting something from him was beyond insulting. Because it was Colt, I assumed it would be sexual in nature. What I would give freely, he would take.

“You assume I want many things from you. Have you thought I just want you to notice me and nothing else? You used to do the same in high school, before and during our hidden affair.” I used air quotes around the word affair and approached him.

“Did you ever tell Ari about us?” He took his hands out of his pocket and lowered his arms to his sides.

“Why would he care about something twenty years ago that doesn’t concern him?” I folded my arms behind back.

“He doesn’t know anything?” He shifted closer.

“What is the anything you’re worried I’ll tell him about?” I tapped my chin with a lacquered nail. “Perhaps the same anything you didn’t share with your dead fiancée?”

He grabbed me by the arms and spun around, shoving me into the door. He breathed heavily, and his grip tightened to the point he might leave marks.

“Have I triggered you without saying the actual words? What if I say them?” I wanted to snarl and hit him but remained impassive, as if he wasn’t manhandling me.

He closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose, ending with a short rattle. “I can’t do this with you. It’s…shit.”

I should be impressed I had such power to affect him in such a way he was torn up inside. If only I had the same power when we were teenagers. It was going to be easier than I thought. I relaxed into the door. “You want me.”

He opened his eyes and mouth but didn’t make a sound until he groaned and knelt in front of me and clutched my hips. He pressed his face in my stomach, making me spread my legs open so I wouldn’t join him on the floor.

If he expected me to rub his head and hold him while he was wracked with guilt, he would be horribly disappointed. Any sympathy would be a mockery. Any intimacy acted upon was a means to an end for me. This time, I would have all the power.

“You want me to forgive you for raping me?” Finally saying to him directly what he did to me should have been cathartic, but I wanted to be cruel. I tugged on his hair, making him stare up at me as vindication swept through my body. For the first time since Marina died, I felt so alive.

“I don’t know.” He fell back on his heels. “What I did was wrong but it was so long ago, so if you’re thinking of—”

“Hush.” I tapped his nose and stepped around him to sit on the love seat. “You can make it up to me, and no, I’m not going to blackmail you.” Yet. “What I want from you will be enjoyable for us both.”

I wanted to cackle, not that I had ever done anything like it, but the astonishment on Colt’s face was beyond comedic. He must think I was crazy since it was beyond comprehension his victim would proposition him for some type of sexual act after he violated her violently years ago.

If he had dropped to the floor in shock, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But he remained standing, just staring like one would do if they saw a car accident.

“What do you want from me?” His voice cracked, but the front of his pants tented with his penis.

“You owe me gratification because you took it away from me so long ago.” I hiked up my skirt to my thighs and then checked my watch. “You have less than eight minutes to make me come. I’ve been in here long enough, and Ari will start to worry.”

Either mentioning the time restraint or Ari’s name forced Colt to act. He took a huge step toward me, bent down, and braced his hands behind me. It was the closest we had been to each other since that night at the lake. Back then, I was terrified. Now, I was calm and collected because I held all the power. He couldn’t hurt me even if he wanted to because he was transfixed, under my spell.

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About the Author

KT Grant Bio Picture

KT Grant is a self-proclaimed eccentric redhead who not only loves to read a wide variety of romances, but also loves writing it. As a former book blogger and entertainment columnist with a bad coffee and Twitter addiction, she still doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinion. A proud native of New Jersey, KT is multi-published and writes Gay, Lesbian and Straight romance. KT has also been a top ten best-selling author at Amazon. KT loves to hear from readers. You can drop KT an email at ktgrnt@gmail.com.

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Shame of it All

Blog Tour Schedule

January 18th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

@BrendaJeanCombs (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight) https://www.darkwhimsicalart.com/blogs/news

January 19th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

January 20th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Review) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

@geauxgetlit (Review) https://www.instagram.com/geauxgetlit/

@the.b00kreader (Review) https://www.instagram.com/the.b00kreader

January 21st

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://tsarinapress.com/blog/

Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/

January 22nd

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Books, Ramblings, and Tea (Review) https://booksramblingsandtea.com/

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Redlined (R&R Book Tours Blitz Post)

RedLine

Welcome to the blog tour for Redlined: A Novel of Boston by Richard W. Wise. Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win an audiobook edition of the book!

Redlined Front CoverRedlined

Publication Date: June 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mystery/ Thriller

The year is 1974. Boston’s Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood under siege, a community skating along the razor’s edge of decline. The banks have REDLINED Jamaica Plain, causing the housing market to crash, wiping out local homeowner’s lifetime investments and opening the neighborhood to blockbusters and slumlords. Now, someone has begun systematically torching those abandoned buildings and the charred body of Sandy Morgan, a dedicated young neighborhood organizer, has been found among the ashes. Why? Who stands to gain?

Community organizer and Marine combat veteran, Jedidiah Flynt and Alex Jordan, his beautiful Harvard educated researcher together with a group of local property owners are determined to stop the redlining and and bring the arsonists responsible for Sandy Morgan’s death to justice. Their search will lead them through a labyrinth of corrupt politicians, Asian gangsters and bent churchmen.

Two interwoven plots work their way through the narrative, one is absolutely true, the other never happened, but very well might have.

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Excerpt

“Any word from the district fire chief ’s office?”

“So far can’t get anyone from the district to return my calls,” he said with a thin smile. “Better make up a Freedom of Information request, get one of your leaders to sign it. They know they have to respond to that. Talked to one of the fact checkers over at Little City Hall. She claims all fires are ‘thoroughly investigated, Mr. Flynt.’”

He raised his hands and dropped them in a gesture of helplessness.

She made a face. “Guess I better write a letter. So, what’s the point? Insurance?”

“Doesn’t seem to be a reason. Fire insurance on Green Street? Good luck getting any insurance company to write a new policy in your neighborhood or anywhere else in central J. P. The whole area is redlined.”

“Redlined? You’ve mentioned that before, but I really can’t say that I understand it all that well?”

Flynt hesitated and gazed at her for a moment to make sure that she wasn’t pulling his chain. Sandy, he knew, typically came on like she knew it all even when she didn’t.

“It’s complicated. The Northwest Community Organization in Chicago was the first people’s organization to get a handle on it. Got an organizer from N.P.A. —that’s National People’s Action—fellow by the name of Trapp coming in to run a staff training session. Basically, redlining happens when the banks or the insurance companies or all of the above get together and draw a big red circle on a map around parts of the city that they consider too risky to do business with.”

“So they write off the whole neighborhood?”

“You got it and once that happens, kiss the central neighborhood goodbye. Ninety-five percent of all residential housing sales are sold subject to a mortgage, and to get a mortgage you must have insurance. So, Catch 22, you can’t get one, you don’t get the other. If mortgage or the insurance money is choked off, the housing market collapses—which sets the stage for slumlords buying cheap for cash, racial steering and housing abandonment.”

“Redlining is the underlying economic cause of most of the shit we have been organizing around. So, basically all the properties in central J.P. are worthless?”

“Yeah, well there it is,” he said rocking back in his chair. She noted the stubble on his cheeks and the dark smudges under his smoke-gray eyes.

“You ever read the novel Gone with the Wind”? he asked.

“Yeah, when I was like about twelve, why?”

“Well, there is this scene where Melanie is questioning Rhett Butler about how he made all his money. You recall he was a smuggler, dodging the Yankee blockade to bring supplies into southern ports during the Civil War?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Okay, so, Melanie finally overcomes her proper Southern manners and asks the question, and he says, ‘There is more money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization than from the building of one.’”

Sandy rolled her eyes, “Yeah right, okay. I get it.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay, but what’s with the corridor anyhow? I mean whose bright idea was that?”

“Happened before my time. Bunch of community groups got together to stop I-95 running right through the middle of the neighborhood. Finally got the governor to stop it but not until the whole thing was demo’d in from Route 128 to Roxbury. What you see is what’s left, a partially demolished six-lane cancer eating out the guts of the neighborhood,” Flynt said.

She stood up. “Yeah, looks like Berlin after the blitz and only a couple of blocks down from my abandoned house.

Okay, I’ll get set up as soon as I leave here. But what do I do if I see anybody?”

“Stay out of sight! Hide in an alley between the buildings. Or just stay in the shadows. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, try for a description or a license plate. Then get the fuck outta there, call the cops, the fire department and then call me.”

“And if it’s late and you’re home asleep?”

“I’m serious, Morgan. Don’t take any chances. People who torch houses are not the kind of fuckers you want to screw around with. Call me if you see anything suspicious, no matter what time, day or night, just call me, okay?”

“Aye, aye, sir!” she said, and she tossed off a mock salute.

“Sandy!”

“Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll call!”

Available on Amazon

About the Author

Vault

Richard Wise is the author of three books. His latest novel, REDLINED, A Novel of Boston is a mystery thriller set in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. PublishersWeekly raves: “Fans of suspense fiction with a social conscience will be pleased.” Midwest Book Review describes REDLINED as a “An original and simply riveting novel.” REDLINED was nominated for the National Book Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award in fiction.

The author’s first book: SECRETS OF THE GEM TRADE, THE CONNOISSEUR’S GUIDE TO PRECIOUS GEMSTONES was originally published in 2001. The book was serialized in two magazines and became a critically acclaimed best seller. The second edition appeared in 2016. Extensively revised and rewritten, the 2nd edition has added 127 pages, 11 new chapters, 5 new introductory essays and 161 additional photographs.

Mr. Wise’s second book,THE FRENCH BLUE, a historical novel published in 2010 was the winner of a 2011 International Book Award in Historical Fiction. The novel is set in the 17th Century gem trade. Called “a fine piece of historical fiction” in a 5 star review by Midwest Book Review, THE FRENCH BLUE tells the back story of the Hope Diamond and the true life adventures of 17th Century gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Richard Wise has enjoyed a diverse career. He is a veteran of the U. S. Coast Guard. After receiving his B.A., teaching and doing graduate work at the University of Rhode Island, he spent most of the decade of the 70s as a professional community organizer. Wise headed organizing projects in Massachusetts and Rhode island. In the late 1970s he left organizing and apprenticed as a goldsmith. He studied gemology at the Gemological Institute of American and received his Graduate Gemologist diploma in 1985. He founded his retail company R. W. Wise, Goldsmiths, Inc. in the early 1980s and began traveling internationally, buying gems and writing about them in 1986.

Mr. Wise’s articles have appeared in Gems & Gemology, Lapidary Journal, JQ and Colored Stone. He is a former Gemology Columnist for National Jeweler and Contributing Editor at Gem Market News. The author retired from retail in 2012 to pursue his writing. Currently, he writes a book review column for Gemmology Today Magazine. He lives with his wife and two cats in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Richard W. Wise

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Finlay Donovan is Killing It

 



Alright y'all, I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this funny but twisty beauty from Minotaur Books, and oh my! This was definitely a different kind of mystery book that is the start of a possibly new favorite series for me. Elle Cosimano does an amazing job of pulling you into this world where a single mom who is trying to make it big as an author accidentally stumbles onto a hired hit job. Finlay Donovan is your typical woman who is just trying to navigate life with her two young kids, an ex-husband who is an absolute asshole, the new fiance who is also a member of the neighborhood HOA. She is working on her next novel, well more like trying to start it, when she meets her agent for lunch at Panera. What should have just been a meeting to buy more time to write turns into a woman mistaking Finlay's book plot for a description of past kills. Now she has to figure out a way to kill a man in real life instead of in her romance suspense novel without getting caught. Finlay's life gets turned upside down a couple times, but it all turns out pretty well. That is until another woman reaches out to her. I laughed, said WTF and OMG a few times, and could NOT put the book down! I finished it in two days, and cannot wait for the next book to figure out what is next for Finlay and Vero, her nanny/partner in crime. Thank you so much Minotaur Books!!

SYNOPSIS

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.


To go ahead and Pre-Order this funny mystery novel for yourself or someone you think will love this, be sure to check out my page:
https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/p/where-to-buy.html

Monday, January 18, 2021

Author Interview with Daniele Kasper

 


Alright y'all, I met this lovely pictured above through Bookstagram. I was looking over my schedule for the rest of 2020 when she messaged me about open spots. I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to be doing interviews coming into the new year, but thanks to Daniele Kasper I am able to for a little bit anyways. I will admit that I haven't read her book (which hit Amazon on January 11th), but there is always hope for the future right? (That is if my TBR ever shrinks lol.) However, I am still super excited that she agreed to do the interview despite the fact that I hadn't read her book. Let's dive in shall we?


Q: What is your name and where do you live? 
A: I’m Daniele Kasper and I live on Earth !!!

Q: Are you an Indie Author or do you work with a publishing company? 
A: I am being published through Solstice Publishing.

Q: If you do work with a publishing company, which one and for how long?
A: I have been with them for about 6 months at the time of this interview. 

Q: What genre(s) do you write?
A: I write mostly science fiction and fantasy but dabble into realistic YA fiction.

Q: What made you want to become a writer in the first place?
A: I think I was born this way! I have been weaving stories since I was a kid and I just had to get them on paper. I have been writing for years, but being an author is a whole different ball game. I was terrified to publish because it can be such a tough industry.

Q: Do you work a regular job in between books?
A: Yes! Two actually. One of them is pretty fun. I run a horse farm with my husband who is a horse trainer. 

Q: How many books have you published?
A: This is my debut novel !!!

Q: How many books do you have in the works right now?
A: Several! My biggest problem is I get ¾ done with a book and then move onto something new. But, I have a sequel to my debut novel and a YA fantasy nearly complete.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write so far?
A: Let’s be honest here. Sex scenes are the worst. Awkward!!!! Nothing ever sounds good when you read it aloud. Also, fight scenes are difficult. It’s easy to picture them but hard to explain in words. 

Q: How many books do you have that are not being currently worked on, but are half-written or complete but unpublished?
A: Too many !!! I have outlines and partially done stories for probably 60+ novels. 

Q: Do you have a series developing?
A: Yes, this novel is the first, with at least a sequel if not destined to become a trilogy. 

Q: Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A: The sequel is definitely tied into the first novel. It’s more of a continuation, a part two you could say. 

Q: What is your next book that is set to be published and when is the release day?
A: Cut Her Out In Little Stars is my upcoming novel but we have not set an official release date yet. It will be coming out sometime in early 2021. Keep an eye on my Instagram page @danielekasperauthor for all the updates. (It is available on Amazon right now!!!)

Q: How long did it take you to write it?
A: Nearly 13 years !!!!!! I started this back in college and then life got in the way. I went to grad school, moved several times and started working. Life got busy and writing got put on the back burner. About three years ago I decided it was time to finally finish it and publish it. 

Q: What did you do when your characters stop talking (writer’s block) to you during the process?
A: Well, my characters stopped talking for nearly a decade so I don’t think I am the best person to give advice. In all honesty, just keep writing. Even if it’s terrible, you can always go back and change it. My plot points changed several times because I didn’t like them later on. Even if it’s just filler, get something down on paper and sometimes that is enough to spark creativity and you’ll find the words begin to flow again. 

Q: What routine do you have when you sit down to write a book?
A: I have no routine at all. I write whenever I can find the time !!! Even if it’s for five or ten minutes. Sometimes I write in notebooks if it’s all I have access too and then type it up later. 

Q: Do you write it all out in long sittings or short ones (sprints)?
A: Lots of short sprints followed by the occasional long sitting. My life can be very busy so sometimes I can only write for a short burst before I have something else to do. 

Q: Do you get exhausted or energized during writing sessions?
A: I wouldn’t say I get exhausted but I don’t get energized either. Is relieved a better word to use? Sometimes I get stuck thinking about my book and my head will not be quiet until I write it down. 

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books?
A: I get all my best ideas in the shower!!! It’s weird but random things will spark an idea, whether it’s driving down a highway and seeing a particular sign or some random item, or even as a play on a dream I had. Inspiration comes in all forms. 

Q: Is there another author you look up to or strive to be as successful as?
A: Well, I think everyone wants to be the next J.K. Rowling simply due to her success, but I would love to be like Sarah J. Maas or the next Terry Goodkind. 

Q: Are you a reader yourself? 
A: Yes. I think if you want to be a good writer you have to be a reader first.  

Q: If so, are you a beta or ARC reader for anyone else? (You don’t have to name for who if you do not wish to.)
A: I am not but I wish I was. I try to always leave reviews for books I read. Reviews are an author’s lifeline. I just can’t squeeze it in between writing, work and the barn. 

Q: Do you like to read the same genre(s) you write?
A: Yes. I love science fiction and fantasy ! I always say that you have to write books that you want to read. If there is a book you wish existed then write it yourself. That was the conception of my new book. I wished there was a science fiction book with that plot line and so I decided to write it for myself. 

Q: Do you have a favorite book or a book that stands out the most?
A: Outlander and Wizard’s First Rule are hands down my favorites and I read them all the time. They never get old. 

Q: Have you ever cried, laughed, or had a real emotional response to a book?
A: Yes! I love books that make me chuckle or smile as I read. I don’t think I have ever cried from a book, but definitely from a movie adaptation of a book. 

Q: What kind of social media do you have? 
A: I have Instagram @danielekasperauthor, and a Faceook page under Daniele Kasper. I also have a website danielekasper.com and an email hello@danielekasper.com

Q: Do you like to connect with your readers using your chosen platforms?
A: I love Instagram and Facebook! Please say hi ! I love hearing from you. 

Q: Do you have any author friends that have helped you with your writing process or just been there for support?
A: My husband has put up with my nonsense for years so brownie points go to him for not questioning the voices I hear in my head. I also have a few friends and family members who have read my book for me in the editing process and given me advice. (Always love the spouses/significant others that support something bookish!)

Q: What was the best money ever spent as a writer?
A: I’ll let you know when I make some !!!!

Q: How does your family feel about your writing?
A: They are excited about it. For many years they didn’t know. They had no idea because I kept it really private and secret and told no one, not even friends and boyfriends. I was worried people would laugh at me or make fun of me or think I am weird. Which, I am, don’t get me wrong. Just too weird to be friends with. So when I told them I was getting published it came out of left field for them and really shocked them. But they are all really supportive. 

Q: Is there anything about you that your readers don’t know that you would like them to know?
A: I got chased by a grizzly bear in Alaska once. It was the scariest experience of my life. I have a very healthy respect for them ever since them and keep my distance from any states that might have them. Fun times. (That sounds absolutely terrifying!)


Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/danielekasperauthor/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/danielekasperauthor

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/DanieleKasper


Well there you have it folks! This sci-fi fantasy debut author has her own style that I am sure many people will love. I really appreciate her taking the time to do this interview, especially since it was leading up to her pub day. I really hope that you guys check out her social media pages as well as her first book, Cut Her Out in Little Stars. I know I will definitely be adding it to my TBR as soon as my book buying ban is over.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Bird That Sang in Color (R&R Book Tours Blitz Post)

TheBirdThatSang copy

Congratulations to author Grace Mattioli on the release of her novel The Bird that Sang in Color!

Today I have an excerpt for you to read and a chance to win a copy of the book!

BirdColour 1The Bird that Sang in Color

Publication Date: January 17, 2021 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure to ensure his happiness until she discovers a book of sketches he made of his life, which allows her to see his internal joy and prompts her own journey of living authentically.

Thought-provoking, humorous, and filled with unforgettable characters, this book invites readers to ponder what pictures they will have of themselves by the end of their lives.

“Beautifully rendered, hugely moving, brilliant,” Lidia Yucknavitch.

“a refreshing family portrait about interpersonal evolution…presented with affection, humor, and insight…an inspiring slice of life blend of philosophy, psychology, and transformation that draws readers into a warm story and examines the wellsprings of creative force and future legacies…evocative, uplifting,” Midwest Book Review.

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Excerpt

the golden garden bird of peace were the words painted on the wall in Vincent’s room. I thought Dad would have painted over them because he couldn’t stand all that “hippie crap.” Beside the words hung a bunch of paintings he made. He painted trees, mountains, rivers, flowers, and people with real-life expressions that made them more than just pictures. They were alive, and they told stories.

Some of his paintings were abstract, my favorite being one that looked like a kaleidoscope with no beginning and no end and colors that bounced off the canvas like a beautiful neon sign sparkling against a black sky. I could stare at it all day. I went between staring at it and the album cover before me—Let It Be by the Beatles. Vincent sat by the record player, dressed in his usual Levi’s, T-shirt, and Converse high-tops, bent towards the revolving album, listening intently, his head of black curly hair moving back and forth, his right foot tapping the hardwood floor, keeping rhythm to the Fab Four.

Finally, he turned his head away from the stereo and said to me, “I can’t believe this is it.” His face was serious and gloomy, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I pretended that I did because I’d never let my cool down around Vincent. It was because of him that I knew so much about rock and roll, which made me pretty sure that I was the coolest eighth-grade girl in the whole town and possibly in the whole state of New Jersey.

“I know,” I said seriously.

“I mean, I just never thought the Beatles would break up.” He shook his head with disappointment.

“So, this is their last album, then?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, like I should have known better.

“Hey, check this out, Donna.” With the speed of a light switch flicking on, he turned into an entirely different person, no longer sad and gloomy but light and happy. He showed me a drawing he made of an old lady sitting on a chair with half of her body missing, and it looked as if the missing half was on the other side of an invisible door. She wore a mysterious smile as if she knew some extraordinary truth.

“Where’s the other half of her body?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said, grinning. “You tell me.”

“Wow.” I sat there, trying to wrap my head around this while listening to the song playing. Just as I was about to figure something out about the picture, and just as I was really getting into the song, he took the needle off, turned the album over, and put the needle on the first song on the other side, a tendency he had that bothered the hell out of our brother, Carmen.

He scratched his head and looked up, his eyes penetrating the ceiling, deep in thought. He resembled Mom with his olive skin, Roman nose, and black curls, and was the only one of us who got her curly hair. The rest of us had straight hair. Mine was super long—to the bottom of my back—and I wore it parted in the middle and was certain that I was wearing it that way long before it was the style.

Vincent was also taller than the rest of us at over six feet. Dad said he took after his own dad in stature. I never knew Grandpa Tucci because he died before I was born, but I was told he was called Lanky because he was tall and skinny. I was pretty thin myself and had a bottomless pit. People would say that all my eating would catch up with me one day, but that never stopped me from eating ice cream every day after school. Breyers butter almond was my favorite.

Vincent listened to the music with pure attention, like there was nothing else in the world as George sang I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine. He was probably trying to figure out what the song was about or how he could play it on his guitar. His acoustic guitar sat in the corner of his room. He had the smallest room in the house, but it seemed like the biggest because it was its own self-contained universe. I felt like I could be on the other side of the world without ever leaving his room.

His paintings and drawings covered the walls. A bunch of leather-bound cases of albums colored red and black and bone sat on the floor between a stereo and a wooden desk with piles of books and sketchbooks on top. Comic books, pens, and paintbrushes were scattered on the floor like seashells on the sand.

I shared a room with my younger sister, Nancy, and she insisted on having the room be as pink as possible. She was the youngest, so she always got her way. On top of making our room a sickening pink paradise, she had a doll collection with faces that really creeped me out, and she started pushing over my beloved books on our shelves to make room for her dolls. A doll named Lucinda with blond hair and a blue satin dress was shoved up against two of my favorites—Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Check this out, Donna,” Vincent said, emerging from his music-listening trance. He took a skinny metal whistle out of a plastic case. “Got it at the music store in town.”

“Neat. Some kind of flute?” I said.

“A pennywhistle.” He had a big smile that stretched from one side of his face to the other. “Or sometimes called a tin whistle.”

“I wish I could play an instrument,” I said. “Just one.” I was the only one in our family that didn’t play an instrument. Mom wanted me to learn ballet instead because she said I had a dancer’s body. I liked it all right and stayed with it until my teacher put me on toe, and the wooden shoes imprisoned my feet and made them ache hours after class ended.

“Have it.”

“Really?!”

“Sure.” He started fishing in one of his desk drawers for something.

“Thanks Vincent.” No response. He just kept on with his searching. I looked at the tin instrument wondering how I’d learn to play it, when he poked his head up and gave me an instructional songbook for it. I went through it seeing musical notation for simple songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was all new territory for me, but I knew I could learn it and thought I could go anywhere from there. I saw myself playing with Vincent as he strummed the guitar, playing on the street for money, playing in a small orchestra of other penny whistlers. Just then, Mom called out from the kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready!” I didn’t care that my fantasy was interrupted because I was starving. Vincent was always up for eating and was the biggest eater I knew. He seemed especially hungry because he was walking to the kitchen really fast. Even when he walked fast, he looked cool. He walked with a bounce in his step, his head bobbing back and forth like he was keeping beat to a song that only he could hear. I tried to walk like him once, but I ended up looking like some kind of uncoordinated monkey. I walked like Dad who moved fast and forward-leaning, like he was continually running late for something.

The kitchen smelled of garlic and fish. It was Friday, and Mom always cooked fish on Fridays. A big flat bowl with hand-painted flowers was filled with spaghetti, calamari and gravy, which was what we called tomato sauce in our house. My older sister, Gloria was setting the large wooden table that sat in the center of the kitchen. She wore her hair tucked neatly behind her ears and a black-and-tan argyle vest that fit snug on her shapely body. Her face had the usual serious, troubled look on it like something was wrong. Anthony—the oldest in the family—was away at college, and Nancy was at a sleepover, so the table was set for only six.

Mom was at the sink, getting a salad together. Above the sink was a long window that looked out onto our backyard, its ledge covered with little ladybug statues, which Mom loved because they meant good luck. She wore a red-and-white apron over a straight skirt and boots and took long, swift strides around the kitchen. Watching her get dinner together was like watching a performance. She’d put on her apron instead of a costume. The music played: the chopping of vegetables, the clanging of metal spoons against pots and the sweet sound of pouring. She’d dance around, gathering ingredients, sautéing, stirring, occasionally turning towards us—the audience—to say something or laugh with us so that we’d feel a part of the show. She presented her perfect meals like works of art, displaying them on the table, and we’d applaud by eating—grabbing, twirling, chewing—until we couldn’t fit anymore in.

Dad was opening up one of his bottles of homemade wine. I had a sip once, and it went down my throat like an angry snake. He leaned on the table like he needed it to support him with his eyes half-shut and his black-and-gray hair falling forward in his face. In his tiredness, he didn’t speak, but even when he was quiet, he was loud, and whenever he walked into a room, everybody knew it, even if he didn’t say a word.

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About the Author

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Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy. She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie!

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

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Author Interview with J Lynn Hicks

Alright y'all, this is another amazing author that I met through the FB Group Dystopian Ink. I haven't read her books yet, but I did...