Book Spotlight: Midnight Temptations

Congratulations to Shari Nichols on the release of her latest Ravens Hollow Coven novel, Midnight Temptation! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

MT DIGITAL COVER2Midnight Temptations (Ravens Hollow Coven)

Publication Date: June 30th, 2020

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: City Owl Press

What are the stakes for falling in love?

When tarot card reader Gillian Howe hosts a supernatural speed dating event, she ponders the stakes of falling in love. Making the perfect match is her passion, too bad she can’t find one for herself. After a chance encounter with a wealthy vampire, she finds herself plunged into a secret society of trancing, blood bonds and human escort rings. But when Garrett Mulroney shows up at the scene, the vampire detective is the last person she wants…even if he is scorching hot.

Garrett has been down this brutal road before and it didn’t end well. His sire tried to force him into a life of debauchery, but he chose to uphold the law instead. Now the one woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind or out of his lust-filled dreams is at the center of his investigation. It’s a good thing she hates his guts, because it helps douse his growing desire for her and focus on the case. But when Gillian’s cousin is kidnapped into the Du Sang Brotherhood, she becomes the prime witness. Now they’re forced to put their differences aside by pretending to be a couple. The more time Garrett spends with Gillian, the more he wants her in his life—and in his bed. Dark forces from his past threaten to resurface…even her love might not be enough to save him from the Brotherhood.

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Excerpt

Suddenly, all the hairs on the back of Gillian’s neck stood on end. Her whole body tensed. The chatter and music became muffled. Her eyes flickered across the lobby in search of who, or what, had caught her attention.

Then she saw him.

Six-feet-three inches of tall, dark, and brooding stood at the front desk. Detective Garrett Mulroney? What the hell was he doing here? Seeing him again after all these months sent a jolt of shock rippling through her.

His gaze locked with hers, and for a moment, she forgot to breathe. They both stood there, staring at each other. It was as though he could see beneath her armor, the kind she wore under the little black dress.

The word handsome didn’t even begin to describe him. Mythological titans like Adonis and Poseidon came to mind, males so stunning, they couldn’t possibly be real. But then she thought of other words too, like arrogant, brash…controlling…she could go on.

Mulroney crossed the lobby with a confidant gait, his long legs eating up the distance between them in a few easy strides. Her heart hammered in her chest with every step.

Every female head turned to catch a glimpse of the vampire. The closer he got, the more her body became hyperaware of his presence. He kept his thick head of dark hair short on the sides and longer in the front. The cut showed off the angles and hard lines of his face. Sexy stubble darkened a square jaw, and he looked every bit as dangerous as she remembered. Long, and lean, Gillian could make out the ripple of sinewy muscle beneath the jacket of his grey suit. In the past, she’d always been attracted to the artistic types. So, there was no good reason why she was drawn to this rough-hewn alpha.

But Goddess help her, he was magnificent.

Laughter drifted from the bar, and that’s when she realized she was still standing on a chair, gawking at him like some lovesick schoolgirl. She went to step down and her foot slipped out from one of her strappy sandals. Before she could fall sideways onto the marble, two strong arms wrapped around her waist and caught her in midair.

When she looked up and into Mulroney’s ice-blue eyes, her heart gave a little flutter. Apparently, the legends about vampires having preternatural speed and strength were real. But then, as his gaze filled with a kind of raw, primal desire, she had no doubt the steamy ones about them possessing a certain sexual allure also rang true.

            “You’re lucky you didn’t break your neck,” Mulroney whispered close to her ear and set her on her feet. “What are you doing here tonight, Miss Howe?” The deep rumble of his voice did funny things to her insides.

“I could ask you the same question.” Gillian grabbed the scissors and scotch tape off the table, then shoved them in her black beaded bag. “If you must know, I’m working,” Gillian snapped. Ever since the prickly detective had been assigned to investigate the robbery of one of her clients, a local antique dealer, their paths had collided on more than one occasion.

Mulroney’s eyes did a slow sweep of her from the tips of her three-inch heels to the top of her head. Goosebumps instantly spread across her flesh. Gillian wanted to squirm from the flagrant perusal, but remained still, refusing to give him the satisfaction. Why would she? After all, he had tried to ruin her life. “Interesting work attire,” he murmured.

Her hands clenched at her sides, fighting the urge to tug on her dress again. “I’m sure you didn’t walk over here to comment on my choice of clothing. To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure?” she asked with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

“Trust me, this wasn’t planned,” he said in a gruff voice, refusing to look her in the eye.

Gillian couldn’t help remembering the day he and his partner had showed up at the coven. Peppering her with questions and unwarranted accusations, they’d invaded her safe space, conjuring that too familiar lash of shame, and reminding her of the days when the neighbors used to call the cops to keep her parents from an all-out war.

He kept his hands stuffed in his pockets, his stance casual, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. There was no mistaking the predatory way he kept checking out the people strolling by as only a cop would. She followed his gaze as it took in every detail, restless with intensity, before finally landing on their banner. “Is this a private fundraiser?”

She nodded, not in the mood to elaborate. “Are you here in an official capacity? What’s the matter, no real criminals on the streets tonight?” Or maybe this was personal and he was meeting someone. He’d worked with Alex on several cases, and according to Willow, he was a confirmed bachelor, not that she had inquired or anything.

 “A quick word, please, Miss Howe. We need to talk.” The object of her unhealthy obsession ignored her questions and reached for her elbow, pulling her off to the side. His touch seared through the thin material of her dress, leaving a hot flush along her skin. At five-foot-seven, she wasn’t exactly short, but even in her heels, he towered over her.

“Hold on. I’m kind of busy right now. What’s this about?” Gillian demanded, catching a whiff of his masculine scent, a blend of sandalwood and clean laundry. She fought the urge to sigh and glared at him instead.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Mulroney glanced over at the couple’s tables scattered with rose petals, floating candles, bowls of heart-shaped chocolates, and the Lawrence Charity placards. He turned back to face her and scowled. “I want you to leave. Now.”

“Excuse me?” His words knocked Gillian off-center and before she could process them, an attractive female vampire with dark hair pulled in a tight ponytail walked up to Mulroney and placed a hand on his arm.

 “It’s time. We need to go.” A surge of irrational jealousy coursed through Gillian’s veins like battery acid.

For a split second he hesitated, his gaze still fixed on Gillian, and she sensed some kind of inner battle raging inside him. Then he gave her a curt nod and walked away. Her heart sank.

Brooke approached and crossed her arms over her chest. “What was that all about?”

Not sure what to make of their twisted interaction, or of Mulroney’s ominous words for that matter, Gillian sucked in a quivering breath and let it out. “No idea.”

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About the Author

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Shari Nichols grew up in a small town in Connecticut where haunted houses, ghosts and Ouija boards were common place, spurring her fascination with all things paranormal. Ever since she read her first Barbara Cartland novel, her life-long dream has been to write sexy, romantic stories. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, going to the gym, or hanging out with family and friends.

Shari’s a member of Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers, Liberty States Fiction Writers and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers. Shari’s new series,  Ravens’ Hollow Coven, is an urban fantasy with City Owl Press.

Awards:  Beverley Award, Golden Leaf Finalist, Best Book Finalist by a New Jersey Author, HOLT Medallion Finalist, Literary Titan Silver Medal Winner

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Book Spotlight: The Memories We Bury

Today I am thrilled to share with you all, H.A. Leuschel’s latest novel, The Memories We Bury, “An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.”

From June 29th to July 5th, you can purchase her book for ONLY $0.99 on Amazon! You can also try to win a digital copy of The Memories We Bury by entering the giveaway below!

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The Memories We Bury

Publication Date: April 17th, 2020

Genre: Contemporary/ Psychological Suspense

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

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Excerpt

Chapter 2

I have never sent the letter but have unfolded it so many times it has frayed at the edges. Each time I read the lines and try anew to understand them, they swim away like fish in a lake trying to escape my feet as I trudge through the water.

I curse myself for keeping the damned letter after all this time because it is a constant reminder of the past, but I can’t make myself throw it in the bin. Will I ever make peace with it? Lizzie and Jamie have both left me, hence another reason to get up in the morning has long gone. I shake my head, still trying to comprehend the loss, even though it is now almost two and half years since Lizzie discarded me and moved away.

My own sister has ceased to show any sympathy about my distress and hence is of no help either. She’s made of tougher material than me, I guess. After a long and successful career in the police force, she took early retirement and dedicates her time to growing organic fruit and vegetables on a smallholding in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh. Lorna does at least stand by me though, as she knows about the strong bond I had with Lizzie and Jamie and that I’ve done everything for them. However, does she understand the loss I’ve had to endure? Lorna has never been a mother and no doubt a life in the police has lessened her ability to empathise over matters such as these.

‘Morag, what do you expect? Bad things happened; you know that,’ my sister said the last time we spoke over the phone.

‘You don’t understand, Lorna. Lizzie and Jamie were like family to me. It’s been over two years and… it’s still devastating.’

‘Yes, I can see that, Morag. May I remind you that you should know why that is by now. You need to focus on trying to patch things up with your own kids.’ Her voice sounded frustrated as it did at the end of every phone call.

‘I guess you’re right. There is not much else I can do than hope she comes to her senses.’ I could feel the exasperation at the other end of the line because it seemed like my sister had left or stopped breathing. It was a silence that meant disapproval about my last comment.

‘Morag, I must go, I have lots to do in the garden. Just try to get them out of your mind once and for all and…’ my sister said, stopping mid-sentence. I assumed that she didn’t want to go over the same story yet again. She needed to end the call before it got unbearable for both of us. ‘You’re lucky, Morag, that you still have me,’ she added and hung up, leaving me with my hand frozen with a surge of anger, the phone still pressed to my ear. Lucky? Nothing could be further from the truth.

I can’t forget the adorable squeals the wee chap used to emit when I stood in the kitchen feeding him his mixed vegetables, or played Peekaboo with him. Babies and toddlers are easy to please. Young children don’t judge anyone, being an open receptacle for anything and anyone, and with Jamie, my life had felt filled up with his. I’d jumped over my own life when my children were born. It had come naturally, and again with Jamie, I did not hesitate for a second either.

Life is empty without him.

I stand and walk over to the windows to pull the curtain aside for what seems the umpteenth time today, dismay replacing hope at the realisation that my two best friends and neighbours are here no more. Even after all this time, I still have bad days, and this is one of them. Tears prick at the corner of my eyes and I wipe my wet cheeks with my fingers before I can find a tissue, and sob until my whole body aches and exhaustion replaces the sadness. I must spend some time in the bathroom later today to fix my face if I still want to look decent for my afternoon tea with Caitlin, my dear loyal friend.

Assuming the role of a mother to Lizzie and a grandmother to Jamie was what had fuelled every single cell of my body.

I stand up and turn to the coffee machine, wearily lifting a capsule of the strongest kind from the small metal rack. I picture Jamie in my mind, who’d marvelled at the capsules display stand. One day we’d invented a game of pass the capsule, and his eyes lit up as I pretended to make them disappear under a dish towel or into the centre of my hand. His eyes would focus and his face would turn serious at the realisation that the item had gone missing, and then he would break into a smile when I made the capsule appear in front of him again. He’d grab for it with such clumsy and innocent delight that I never tired of repeating the game, just to see his face light up. The power I held to focus his attention was addictive. We had that special connection, like a magnet drawn to another.

But all is in the past now. History. I have to admit to that bitter fact. My sister Lorna is right. What did I expect? That they would appear in front of me, throwing themselves into my open arms? I don’t believe in miracles, so that is one more option erased from my list.

I settle at the kitchen table with a small blueberry muffin and stir some milk into the cup of coffee steaming next to it. The comfort of food is something I shared with Lizzie. We understood each other there, and I loved sharing my culinary skills with her. We’d talk pie and cake recipes for hours, discuss ways of adding flavour to a simple tomato sauce for pasta dishes or how to make sure Jamie would never turn his nose up at vegetables because we’d prepared them with aromatic fresh herbs and olive oil.

Lizzie had never reached my level of expertise, but her eagerness had been endearing, and she never stopped showing her admiration for me. She even mentioned once that I could be a contestant on the Great British Bake Off. I toyed with the idea for a short time, and then shrugged my shoulders, despite the tempting image coming into my head of what it may feel like being crowned the best British baker. The second-best feeling, I answered with a smile, the best being a mother and grandmother.

My thoughts have calmed me, and the tasty muffin has added to my improved mood. I settle down in the living room and leaf through one of the oldest albums I’ve kept since my parents died. They contain family pictures taken during some of the few holiday trips abroad and photos taken of my sister and me in school uniform.

My eyes linger on a photo depicting my parents in stunning Christmas attire. My mother had picked her finest black dress, set with small sparkling crystals, which exposed her neck and revealed an ample chest. She’d tied up her blonde hair in a high bun, with one wavy strand escaping above her left ear. The diamond studs in her earlobes, a delicate silver chain around her neck, and subtle make-up and pink lipstick gave her appearance a perfect finish. Next to her, my father looked haughty but I had to give it to him he was the most elegant man I’d ever set eyes on. He had a physique that accommodated most styles. His shirts were always original and in fashion, and his regular visits to the hairdresser meant that he’d always look the part. It would be hard to judge which one of the two was the better looking.

I turn the page and spot a picture of Lorna at the age of four. She seems confident and proud to be holding an infant in her arms. She is my senior by eighteen months. Back then I’d looked up to my sister as if she’d been my mother. She gave me warmth and security and even now, as ladies in our sixties, the roles have changed little.

We grew up in a family where all the members competed for energy. Our parents reprimanded us with harsh words and severity we did not deserve most of the time. To the outside world, my parents were sparkling individuals, admired like you’d admire a vintage Bordeaux wine. I know this is a strange comparison but it conveys the idea that they wanted to stand out, for their special attributes and, to some extent, I get that. Appearances can blind you.

Our garden was impeccable, the house tidy to an inch of its life – even in our early years as toddlers, a visitor would never know that two little girls had entered my parents’ lives because they’d made sure that every room was as neat as a pin and that we could come in at specific times only, when there were guests. I can still hear the whistling slaps coming my way if I couldn’t answer the times tables fast enough, and worse, stumbling over my answers and even worse still, not knowing them. Little did my sister know that one day she’d be joining the police force, and claim that our harsh upbringing had been the best preparation for passing the tough entrance exams. I never beat the eternal optimist in Lorna out of her. Whether nature or nurture were at work to shape her, remains an open question but I am sure she carried a strong gene of positivity.

However, I still have to scoff when I recall Lorna’s thanks given to our parents. It was ludicrous. She turned out okay, she’d add, and whether that was despite of or because of our education, no one would ever know.

We all make ourselves believe what we want to believe. Challenging the only person who ever stood up for me as a child would be cruel, so I bit my tongue then and always will. My sister’s right. I am lucky she is still by my side but that does not change the fact that every morning looking out of the window towards the neighbour’s house, I am reminded that Lizzie and Jamie have left, and that even after all of this time, I still can’t deal with their absence.

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About the Author

Photo - Helene edited

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

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TheMemories

Blog Tour Schedule

June 29th

Cocktails & Fairytales (Spotlight) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales

The Purple Shelf Club (Review) https://www.purpleshelfclub.com/

Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

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

June 30th

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

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

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

Libroum in Sepiternum (Review) http://libroruminsempiternumhome.wordpress.com

July 1st

Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

My Comic Relief (Review) https://mycomicrelief.wordpress.com/

Stine Writing (Review) https://christinebialczak.com/

July 2nd

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

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

52 Weeks with Books (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/52weekswithbooks/

July 3rd

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

Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com

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

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So at the beginning of the month, Markus chose my TBR. This time, I am choosing his TBR for the month of July. Let me know what you think of my book picks for him! Check out the video below:

Book Review: Steel Crow Saga

I read a book called the Last Call At The Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger a while back and really liked it! It was the first book that I can say I picked up because someone spoke so highly of it on booktube. This time, I read the new book Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger and it just didn’t hit as hard.

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Synopsis: Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.

A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic… and her own flesh and blood.

A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption—or his downfall.

A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery—but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.

A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime—and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward—she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.

This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives—and begin to change the world.

I thought I was going to really like this book and was really looking forward to it since it was being coined as “Pokemon mixed with Avatar”. I do understand where the pokemon and Avatar aspects come into the book and agree that they were pretty cool but I just had a hard time engaging with this one.

It may be due to the vast amount of knowledge you are learning at the beginning (the world building) that made me feel this way because I was having a hard time keeping up with all the information being thrown at me. There were a bunch of different nations and some had alliances while some were mortal enemies but I kept losing track of which was which. This could have 100% been a me problem and I think that a lot of others would really enjoy the book.

I did really like some of the characters. They all had their own temperments to them and were quirky and relatable.  I think that the relationships formed were well done and absolutely loved the LGBTQ+ rep in this book.

The book was very heavy on the descriptions and dialogue but it brought it all together for an interesting read and I would definitely read more by this author. I still like the Last Call at the Nightshade Louge more but that is probably because that concept was just really cool to me (get superpowers by ingesting alcohol) and I liked how the book had drink recipes as you went along.

I would suggest picking this book up if you like fantasy books with lots of development on the world and the characters.

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to. I was in no way compensated for my honest review.



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I finally traveled home to visit my family after being away for 6 months. Then I thought to make a video where I had them (and some friends) recommend their favorite books! Check out the video below:

Book Review: The Dragon Heir

It is the finale of a series and I finally read it! This series was my first foray ino urban fantasy and I thought it was well done. This one was called The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima.

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Synopsis: The covenant that was meant to keep the wizard wars at bay has been stolen, and the sanctuary of Trinity must prepare for attack. Seph monitors the Weirwalls, while Jack and Ellen train their army of ghosts to face an onslaught of wizards. Even Anaweir Will and Fitch are setting traps around the town’s perimeter. To Jason Haley, it feels as though everyone but him has a role to play. Then he finds a powerful talisman – a huge opal called the Dragonheart – buried in a cave. When its power washes over him, he knows he’s destined for a greater purpose than anyone ever imagined.

Madison Moss can hears the seductive call of the Dragonheart also, but she has other things on her mind. Maddie’s been leaking dark magic ever since absorbing the blow that was meant to kill her boyfriend, Seph. If anyone finds out, she’ll be banished from the sanctuary – and Seph – forever. Meanwhile, Trinity’s enemies mean to win the war with the help of the Dragonheart, and they know that Madison Moss is the only one who can get it for them.

Moral compasses spin out of control as a final battle storms through a town that was meant to be a refuge. With so much to lose, what will Jason and Maddie be willing to fight for – and what will they sacrifice? It’s everyone for himself in this thrilling conclusion to the Heir trilogy.

I think that this was a good conclusion to the series. It brought just as much magic and high intensity as the other two and gave you a lot more of each of the characters. I also enjoy the fact that it keeps it realistic with the people and all the things they are going through amidst battles between mages (that being personal and relationship struggles).

It could get dark at times but not too dark that it is bordering on a thriller or horror. Just dark in the sense that the plot is becoming a little more PG-13 rated and less PG.

It’s hard to talk a lot about a final book in a trilogy because there is not much you can say without giving away anything. So I will keep this review short and sweet by saying that I think you should read this series if you want to dip your toes into the urban fantasy genre.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to. I was in no way compensated for my review.



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Book Review: Fangirl

I finally read more Rainbow Rowell and….it was just as cute and sappy as the first time. I rather enjoyed it! This time I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

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Synopsis: Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

The first time I ever read Rainbow Rowell’s work was Eleanor & Park which I adored because it was about being a misfit in high school and hey, that was me. So this time, I was excited to find out how this one was about a young woman going to college for the first time and having all these new experiences, especially since she is a huge introvert (until it comes to her writing and her fictional characters).

I related to Cath in so many ways and got nostalgic reading this book because I could remember the feeling of being away from home for the first time and wanting to fit in with new people at college while still not losing yourself and who you are as a person. And I really enjoyed that she was a writer (even if it was fanfic) because it made this book have many levels to it (stories within a story).

The relationships she builds are strong and there are many adorable parts in this book. I would say to read it if you just want to feel happy and cuddly. Or read it for the LGBTQ+ Simon Snow (pretty much Harry Potter) fanfic that Cath writes because it is just as good.

This makes me look forward to reading more by Rainbow Rowell. I am more a fan of her YA stuff and I am looking forward to picking up Carry On off the shelf and giving that one a go.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to. I was in no way compensated for this review.



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Book Spotlight: Return Addresses

Welcome to the blog tour for Return Addresses by Michael A. McLellan! This book is getting loads of 5 star reviews! Find out why! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!

New Final FINAL 4Return Addresses

Publication Date: April 13, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Mountain Press

“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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Excerpt

“Listen, what I told you before…you know, about my parents? It wasn’t true. My parents are the most wonderful people you’d ever want to meet. I’m the problem, not them. I’ve always been the problem. I met someone at the beginning of my junior year. She came from a bad family—drugs. I started drinking with her. Then I started using with her. Meth, mostly, but I ended up taking pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I failed my junior year and never went back to high school. Anyway, my parents tried to help me—a lot. I put them through hell but they just kept trying. Finally they sent me to this really expensive rehab. I only made it three days before I ran away and used. My dad ended up finding me and he talked me into going back. I did better the second time. I completed the six months, graduated, and went back to live with my mom and dad. Everything was cool for awhile. I got a job at a thrift store and enrolled in Adult Ed to get my high school equivalency. After awhile—a couple of months—I started using again. I think I always knew I would. It was like, in my mind I was just taking a break, and only because it was what my parents wanted.”

“Are you ever going to go home?”

 “I think about it now and then. Mostly I don’t—think about it I mean. Not until I met you, anyway. I feel even more guilty now, seeing what you’ve had to go through. You lost both of your parents, by no fault of yours…and I just left mine behind.”

“Why did you tell me they were…mean.”

“Because the truth makes me look like a bad person. I am a bad person.”

“I don’t think so.” He paused, absently fiddling with sandwich wrapper. “Does it bother you…when people…say stuff to you?”

“You mean like those idiots who yelled at me from their cars?”

“Yeah.”

She took a long pull from her bottle of beer. “I don’t know. I try not to think about it. I guess it does, sometimes. When I was growing up I would’ve looked at someone like me the same way people always look at me. It’s all a matter of perspective. Now I try not to judge.” She smiled ruefully and drank more. “I try not to judge even when I’m being judged.”

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About the Author

Mike Author 1

Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.

Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.

Michael McLellan | GoodreadsTwitter



Blog Tour Schedule

June 15th

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

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

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

Read, Rant, Rock and Roll (Review) https://readrantrockandroll.com/

The Cozy Pages (Spotlight) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/

June 16th

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

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

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

June 17th

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

I’m All About Books (Spotlight) https://imallaboutbooks.com/

Books, Teacup n’ Review (Spotlight) https://booksteacupnreviews.wordpress.com/

Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

Stine Writing (Review) https://christinebialczak.com/

June 18th

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

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

Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com

June 19th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

Inked and Blonde (Review) https://inkedandblonde.blogspot.com/

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Book Review: Red Hood

Can I get a woof woof? Can I get a woof woof? Oh, dog jokes lol. Anyways, this next book I read was called Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold.

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Synopsis: Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

So first off, this book was unique to me because it was the first book that I have read where it is told in 2nd person perspective. Which I now realize is a perspective that drives me nuts. I can honestly say that I am not a fan of this perspective in a book because I find that the word “you” is used way too much and it just bothered me.

That being said, the book and its plot overall was pretty decent. It was kind of a more modern retelling of litte red riding hood except in this one, you get badass female characters who are strong and independent. I am always down for a retelling so I did rather enjoy the book (if only the perspective it was told in didn’t keep throwing me off).

It dealt with family struggles and some physical abuse as well as rape. These could be triggering to some but I felt it was a good plot device for this book and added more to it because it showed how far someone can come after dealing with these types of things. It also showed women coming together to fight back against wrongful behaviour and serving some sweet justice.

I will say that it is rated YA and I do believe that some parts of this were not necessarily YA in my opinion but that is just a minor issue. Also, the main character’s name was Bisou and I found this to be a very pretty name.

If you want a book that can take pure Little Red Riding Hood and make her into her own powerful protector, then check this one out!

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon or find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in an ARC physical copy by Harper Collins to read and give an honest review.



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I caved and bought more books because its a quarantine and I need more OK! My trigger finger got a little excited on the checkout cart button alright. If you are interested in seeing what I bought, check out the video below:

Book Review: The Young Elites

This was my first introduction to Marie Lu and I can say that it was bloody fantastic! I read The Young Elites by Marie Lu and am now excited to read more books by her.

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Synopsis: Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

I have experienced some morally gray characters here and there in books but Adelina was by far the most morally gray character I have encountered….and I loved it. She was a character that did all the bad stuff you wanted her to do. For example, a bad guy hurts someone close to her or taunts her in any way, instead of being moral and doing the right thing, she just kills the guy (this is an example, not a spoiler or anything). She has a lot of internal struggles and the book goes on and a lot of the time, I found myself agreeing with her (does that make me a dark person? :P).

The setting was also gorgeous (at least how I pictured it in my mind). If you have ever played the Assassin’s Creed series, this is how I envisioned the atmosphere of this book. Renaissance style with beautiful architecture set in european style villas and cities.

The powers aspect of the book was really cool and I enjoyed finding out about the different abilities each of the misfits had. It reminded me of a Robin Hood style book with a band that worked together to bring down the rich.

I would recommend trying this book out if you want a quick read (I finished it in a weekend) with great characters and a well thought out plot.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book because I wanted to and reviewed it honestly. I was in no way compensated for my review.



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

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I caved and bought more books because its a quarantine and I need more OK! My trigger finger got a little excited on the checkout cart button alright. If you are interested in seeing what I bought, check out the video below:

Book Review: Mr. Wizard

Do you have good and bad reading weeks? We do too. But luckily for us, this week has been a good reading week. Our external reviewer Chris has a new review of Mr. Wizard by Jeff Wallach for us to read.

Mr. Wizard book cover

Synopsis: Two days before her death, Jenny Elliot suggests to her fifty-year-old son Phillip that, being half Irish, he should be more careful about his drinking. Phillip, along with his brother Spencer, has grown up believing they were the fully Jewish-American offspring of Jenny and her late husband who died in the Vietnam War. Was his mother uttering some dementia-inspired fantasy, or was her true character shining through in her last moments to leave the brothers a clue to their real heritage? After her death, Phillip decides to take a DNA test.

The brothers set off on a genetic treasure hunt in search of who they really are—and what that might mean. Are they purely products of their genetics; or were they formed more completely by their social interactions and upbringing? Are they merely victims of randomness; or are they some combination of those factors? And who, exactly, is Mr. Wizard?

Jeff Wallach is a gifted writer. He brings his characters to life with sparse broad strokes similar to the way a painter can create a recognizable negative space portrait using a wide brush for painting houses.

negative space potrait

In any field, when someone can make the difficult appear easy then you know you’re dealing with an artist. Wallach makes creating real characters look effortless. We’re brought inside the family with inside jokes so when the brothers quip one-liners the readers know the story behind the one-liner, thus making them feel as if they’re also in on the inside joke. For example, when one of the brothers says over the phone to the other brother (paraphrased so as to avoid spoilers) “now she really is a liar”, and the other ones says, “She’s dead then”, you understand the backstory, the inside joke, and how he knows she’s dead. So much information conveyed with such simple sentences, a bit like Tamarian language in Star Trek. Anyone wishing to be an author should study how Wallach makes his characters real to the readers, how he can describe characters without actually describing them. I thoroughly admired this aspect of his writing.

Aside from admiring and liking his technical mastery Wallach has written a lovely book, one of the best that I’ve read this year. After Phillip and Spencer’s mom dies—which she does in one sentence that grabs the reader with its sparseness—they begin to wonder about their father because of their mother’s last cryptic statement. Was he really killed in action, where did he come from, where was his family, is he really their father, why was their mother so cryptic about his past and her past? I was pulled right into the detective work.

The pacing slows about 2/3rds of the way through. The detective work seems to have found the answers and the book switches from unraveling mysteries to dealing with the implications of what these discoveries mean for the brothers. Are brother’s brothers and family’s families because of genetics? What role does nurture and shared lifestyle play in families, or does genetics rule all? Are you any less of a family when you find out you’re not who you thought you were?

For me, this was the least interesting part of the book because long ago I arrived at decisions that satisfy me. Other people though may find the discussions—woven throughout with the typical brothers’ one-liners and humor that make the book so engaging—equally as interesting.

Not all mysteries were answered. The mystery surrounding Mr. Wizard and another person who had an eerily similar fate as Mr. Wizard were not answered. Was it coincidence or something more? But, perhaps this is as it should be—life isn’t always wrapped up like a neat package; there are often loose ends, unanswered questions, questions that may require half a lifetime to answer, and another half a lifetime to accept. However, I had thought there’d be more of a focus on the Mr. Wizard aspect given that’s the title of the book.

Then again, that fits the quirky book chapter names. Chapters are named after people or things that are mentioned just once and that have no real relevance to the story itself. E.g., the chapter named Mick Jagger is based on an irrelevant joke. Other parts of that chapter deal with more seminal issues that are central to the characters and the story itself, such as the story of the mulligan (which would be a good chapter name except then Wallach would break the pattern of naming chapters after non-incidents). Incidentally, I thought the mulligan story, which gives insight into the character of Spencer and the golf pro, was done well. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

I highly recommend this book. Enjoyable, witty, with likable relatable characters as they seek to discover their mother’s secrets and deal with answers they receive. And it has a touching ending. Who doesn’t like a touching ending?

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: The author sent this book to us in an ebook format to read and give an honest review.



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

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Book Review: The Final Weekend

Book review! Read all about it! That’s right. I have another one for you. This one was called The Final Weekend: A Stoned Tale by Neal Cassidy.

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Synopsis: In the last days before the real world, six college friends prepare to take a bow in epic fashion.

After Sunday there’s just Harry, the future business owner; Justin, the medical intern; Trent, the hapless wanderer; and Clarence, soon to don the badge and blues. But now they have years of memories to honor, all packed into one weekend. Will they grow into their new adult roles? Will they go out in style with the girls? Will the four of them even survive the sheer level of debauchery?

Living in an apartment paid for by the Grandma, an ex-hooker turned millionaire, Courtney and Ling-Ling couldn’t be more opposite, yet are completely inseparable. Courtney and Harry have been hooking up for years, neither able to commit, but their imminent separation is about to test that arrangement, and Ling-Ling’s never-ending reciprocated crush on Justin just might become more than that.

Their lives intersect with that of Professor Goodkat, their idolized instructor who never quite “left” college himself. In Goodkat, we find the consequence of getting to live out a hedonist fantasy, and the possibility for change in anyone.

This book was a unique one. I say that because, for the most part, it was a pretty average read….until I got to the end. Then it took a shocking turn that I was never expecting in a million years. Which leaves me at a point where I don’t know what to rate it.

It had a lot of characters so there were a lot of perspectives to follow and they each had their own quirks to them which was fun. It centered a lot on the use of marijuana which is something I have only dabbled in a bit and am not that familiar with so I couldn’t really relate to a lot of what the book was about in that aspect.

I could, however, relate to the ending of school and moving on into your adult life after graduation. So that was alright. I remember being scared for so much change to happen at once and wondering how my bonds with my friends would either flourish or diminish and a lot of the characters shared those same struggles.

I found that I was a bit bored during parts of the book because they just went over the basic day to day things that they did without any real plot devices in there. I will say that it makes sense now that I have completed the book because all this “non build-up” was just the reason why I was caught so off guard by that ending. I turned to my significant other and was speechless when I finished the book because I was trying to process what had just happened.

Overall, I am rating this book right in the middle. The ending is what gave it that rating  (otherwise it probably would have been lower) and you will rethink the whole book once you have finished it. I would suggest trying it out just for that factor alone!

Book Rating: 3/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in physical format by the author to read and give my honest review.



Thank you to our Patreon Supporters:

Get your name/blog added to our blog posts and Youtube videos by supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/breakevenbooks

I did the Breakfast Booktag! Listen to me talk about breakfast foods and pair books with them. Check out the video below: