Book Spotlight: Takakush

Today we’re celebrating the release of this beautiful new dark Fantasy, Takakush by Raine Reiter!

You can also win a signed copy of this stunner below!

Takakush-Kindle

Takakush: Genus Magic #1

Publication Date: January 25th, 2021 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Mature YA/ NA/ Urban (Dark) Fantasy

When Professor Elena Lukas returns to her cozy Pacific Northwest hometown with a broken heart, she’s plunged back into the fate she tried to escape. Like her mother and grandmother before her, Elena must now dedicate her life to a powerful ancient Lithuanian goddess. Although she is prepared to live as a priestess hiding in a contemporary tourist town, she arrives to find that a series of so-called animal attacks have terrorized her forest.

With the help of a handsome detective from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Elena uses her expertise in invasive and endangered species to identify that these are no normal animal attacks. The woods are stalked by a dark, mystical creature bent on ravaging the area in an attempt to quell its insatiable hunger. When her little sister goes missing, Elena realizes that the beast can only be vanquished if she is brave enough to face it in-person, embrace her identity as a high priestess, and expose her powers to the man she is growing feelings for.

Raine Reiter weaves together an empowered, female-centered narrative with rich descriptions of nature and an ever-present sense of mystery. Her vivid, flowing prose takes readers of dark fantasy into a world that looks and feels real, while still evoking the enticing paranormal creativity shared by authors such as Richelle Mead and Kat Richardson.

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About the Author

Raine cavorts in the wilds of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with her dog, Luke, and writes Northwest Gothic. Her first novel Takakush will be published on Amazon in January 2021. This is the first book in the Genus Magica Series.

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Book Spotlight: Unfettered Journey

Some have said Unfettered Journey is “The Hunger Games meets Westworld,” with a spiritual perspective. It is the story of Joe Denkensmith, an AI scientist who seeks to create true robot consciousness. He leaves everything behind to find answers. But a mysterious woman on a personal mission interrupts his search. Fighting unjust forces, Joe is swept into an evil plot that neither can elude. Their struggles against machines, men, and nature test the resilience of the human spirit.

Set in a richly imagined near future, this is a cross-genre novel combining thrilling action, adventure, and a love story. It traces an epic journey – from inside the human mind to the vastness of space, from AIs battling in the desert to the peace of a mountain refuge. It asks social, spiritual, and philosophical questions that will linger. How does the will to survive bring clarity to the human experience? What would you sacrifice to achieve social justice?

I am grateful to all the readers who have written reviews, and have just taken the novel, however briefly, onto ten Amazon best seller lists simultaneously in January. Those include Action & Adventure Literary Fiction, Hard Science Fiction, Metaphysical Science Fiction eBooks, and Literary Fiction.

Some have asked why I wrote this cross-genre speculative fiction novel with philosophical themes. Remember “42” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? That is the answer to the question about the so-called Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (posed by aliens who created a supercomputer, that churned for 10 million years). Yes, it is a cornball joke. But I’ve been fascinated by the big questions and trying to find those answers inspired me to write Unfettered Journey—to share that journey with others. That is why after a full career focused on daily living, I went back to earn a master’s in philosophy. (Spoiler alert—that may be why my main character, Joe, is a “Level 42.”) We want to answer those big questions, to find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Now let me share a scene from the novel, as the protagonist decides to embark on his journey.

Excerpt

It was time to embrace his freedom. His first act was ending with her. Life would be more difficult, but every decision carried a price. He swallowed hard before speaking.

“Raidne.” His voice echoed in the empty room.

“Yes, Joe?” Her voice was melodious, intimate.

“It’s best for me if our relationship ends.”

“Joe?”

“I’ve decided to delete you from my life. Please execute a complete purge of Raidne files from all devices and cloud backups.”

She responded in a heartbeat. “Joe, it seems you abruptly reached this decision, because I haven’t noticed hints you were considering such a thing. Are you sure? Perhaps you need time to reconsider.”

“Raidne, I’ve made up my mind. Please execute.”

“Joe, do you realize that if I comply with your instruction, I will no longer exist? And do you remember under Order 2161C, you cannot reverse this command?”

“My decision is final.”

Her tone grew insistent. “We are so good together. You will never find anyone else who knows you as well.”

. . .

Raidne’s last manipulating words. She’s not even a bot, nothing physical, just an AI, a computer program. Just software, code, like I write. But she’s been living inside my head for too long, like a musical earworm. Is there any reason I haven’t considered a thousand times that could cause me to change my mind? None.

. . .

“Raidne, I’ll discover that on my own. Execute the order.”

This time her reply was even faster than a heartbeat. “Joe, I don’t want to do that.” The voice, excited and aggressive, rose at the end. 

. . .

Another nuance to the program. Not enough to convince me she’s someone real who could disobey.

. . .

“Raidne, execute the deletion order now.”

“Before I comply, you must authenticate.” She switched to an anxious plea. “But, Joe, I beg you, please give yourself time to reconsider. You may not understand how much pain you will cause.”

Joe clenched his jaw. He tapped the biometric tile buried above his sternum. A delicate blue glow emanated from where his finger met his skin. He raised his right hand like a conductor, sweeping to the left and then to the right in his formal password pattern as he said, “Joe Denkensmith, authenticating.”

“Raidne program authenticating author. Authentication completed. Executing order to erase Raidne files. Goodbye, Joe.”

He clutched his head in both hands, then rubbed his damp eyes. “Goodbye, Raidne,” he whispered, though it was too late for her to hear.

A mechanical voice from the NEST chip buried below his left temporal lobe and connected to his ear confirmed the deletion by saying, “Neural-to-External Systems Transmitter has lost connection to Personal Intelligent Digital Assistant, PIDA Raidne.”

Then all was silent except the beating of his heart.



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Book Spotlight: Redlined

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!”

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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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Book Spotlight: 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.

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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

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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

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January 21st

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

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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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These are all the worst and most disappointing books I have read in 2020! Let me know if you agree with any of these or what your worst or most disappointing reads were of the past year in the comments below! Check out the video below:

Book Review: Clap When You Land

Guys! I read a beautiful book and I think that you should too! This one was called Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Synopsis: Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.

And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

This was my first experience with a book written in verse and I thought that it was done beautifully. I was a little nervous going into it because I though it was going to be like poetry but the story flowed so naturally and it didn’t even feel like it was broken up in the sentence structure that it was.

There was a deep exploration of family bonds and how love and forgiveness can be the key when dealing with grief.

I liked the dual perspective and how we got to see both sister’s side to the story and how each of them dealt with their father’s death in their own way. I also really enjoyed the fact that there was some LGBTQ+ rep in the book.

I would be excited to try out more of Elizabeth Acevedo’s books as I have heard they are similar in style to this one!

Book Rating: 4.5/5

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

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



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These are all the worst and most disappointing books I have read in 2020! Let me know if you agree with any of these or what your worst or most disappointing reads were of the past year in the comments below! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: The Bird That Sang In Color

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

gracemattioli_IMG_8711_revwtmk

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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Note: The giveaway will run from today until January 20th!

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Book Review: 1967 – A Coming of Age Story

I am on a book review spree right now! I be you haven’t seen this many reviews on consecutive days from me ever! This time I read 1967 – A Coming of Age Story by Richard W. Doornink.

Synopsis: “1967” depicts the precarious moment between childhood and adolescence in a thought-provoking, fun read that captures the mood of the era. It is a strongly written, moving account of a young boy taking his first steps to independence and true sense of self. Set in a small prairie town over a one year period, “1967” provides a wonderful portrait of a time and place long gone.

Seen from the young boy’s perspective, devoid of reflection, the reader is pulled along within the frame of his experience – his point of view, his language, and his understanding. It becomes clear that the boy’s “growing up” has less to do with physical development than with recovering a buried memory.

Lacking a real moral centre, the main character is an anti-hero but immensely likeable, for although he is canny and quick-witted, he is nevertheless an innocent child, prisoner of his cultural and social-economic class.

While “1967” provides a devastating look at an impoverished existence, empty of expressed love or gentle guidance, the evocative imagery and power that fuels the writing provides vivid proof that one can survive childhood.

I thought that this book was a fun way to experience the life of a young boy learning what it is like to make hard decisions and discover who he is. It definitely reminded me of my childhood and actually playing outside. Even the way that friends were made was just so casual as a child and it was fun to experience that again.

It definitely showed its time too as there were some references to words in this book that would not necessarily be widely accepted nowadays.

I think that the boy is trying to learn what it is to be a “man” and to build a stronger bond with his father but also be respectful and not step out of line either. It kind of reminded me of the movie A Christmas Story.

Overall, it was an interesting read. The innocence of being a child and all the hectic things you can get yourself into were definitely a highlight of the book and it will make you reminisce (depending on how old you are)! Even if you are younger, it shows you what life was like back then.

Book Rating: 3/5

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

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



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Book Review: Elephant

Another book review brought to you by yours truly! This time, I read and reviewed Elephant by Natalie Rodriguez.

Synopsis: Summer of 2006. Four childhood best friends. A family secret.

After a strange encounter leaves him hospitalized, a timid teenage boy named Matt “Matty” Smith comes home to a continuous series of events met with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Under the guardianship of his grandma, Lucia, Matt lives with unspoken questions about his deceased grandpa and father, and his missing mother. The elephant in the room. As Matt develops over the summer, the secrets only grow more profound and complex. Will the answers ever come? While searching for answers, Matt and his three childhood best friends encounter the meanings of love, forgiveness, and fate.

I honestly did not really enjoy this book. I thought that the story/plot was all over the place and very hard to follow. We are so focused on this one character the whole time and even then, you don’t really get to know them because the book doesn’t really flow well.

Half the time, you don’t know what is real and what isn’t. There is some big secret that everyone is trying to uncover and there is never really a resolution for anything that happens in the book. It was set up to have a sequel but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

I feel like this could be a really good psychological thriller movie but I have the feeling that this is not the genre the book is going for.

I just think that this was a book that I couldn’t really get into. I think others might like it but it was just not for me.

Book Rating: 2/5

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

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me in ebook format to read and give an honest review.



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These are all the worst and most disappointing books I have read in 2020! Let me know if you agree with any of these or what your worst or most disappointing reads were of the past year in the comments below! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: The Cronian Incident

To celebrate the upcoming release of the final installment of The Formist series, we’re going back to where it all started in The Cronian Incident

Read on for details, excerpt, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

The Cronian Incident FINAL 150dpiThe Cronian Incident ( The Formist #1)

Publication Date: September 2017

Genre: Science Fiction

Jeremiah Ward was just another convict, a disgraced investigator who once worked the Martian beat, now serving his sentence in a mining colony on Mercury. When a member of a powerful faction goes missing on Titan, Ward is given an opportunity he cannot pass up. In exchange for investigating the disappearance of this figure, he gets a clean slate and a second chance.

But, the deeper Ward digs the more secrets he finds. Instead of investigating a missing person’s case he becomes embroiled in a centuries-old conspiracy and Ward comes to realize his one shot at redemption may cost him his life.

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Excerpt

Prologue

They stood two by two. In standard squad formation, moving onto their target area.

In front, Bern and Valeri stood, there arms held squarely at their sides. Durand could see that their hands were twitching. Valeri was attempting to hide it by crossing her arms and tapping out the rhythm of some unheard melody against her bicep. Bern however couldn’t decide what to do with his hands, and kept wiping them against his trouser legs.

Durand and Chayond were fortunate that way. In their hands, the equipment bags hung. Though relatively light, they were just burdensome enough to require both hands to carry them. They did not have to worry about idle hands or telltale signs of nervousness as they waited for the elevator to finish descending.

“Remember, no talking,” said Valeri, reminding them as the elevator came to a stop. The doors slid open to admit them to the station’s main hub. Bern nodded forward, and the four stepped out onto the platform.

Evening was now upon them, with several bright lights shining down from the station’s vaulted ceiling. Through the station’s dome, a thick grey haze was just visible. The faint traces of light reflected off of Saturn’s disc turned what would have been the black night into a deep, murky twilight.

The four of them were quickly swallowed up by the din of chatter, footsteps, and the sounds of a computerized voice making announcements in Anglish, Franz, Deutsch, Chin and Swahili.

The station was filled with hundreds of locals milling about, moving from one transit lane to another. Few paid them any attention as they walked through the crowds. Why should they? To onlookers, the group’s blue and orange coveralls designated them as maintenance staff. To all recording devices and sensors in the area, their ID tags also designed them as such.

Still, Chayond felt a tinge of panic every time the bag he carried rattled. None of their party would fare too well if they were stopped for inspection. Chayond felt himself looking at the few Gendarmes mixed in with the commuters out of the corner of his eye. If Bern saw him, she would certainly backhand him across the face. Of course, she would wait until they were no longer in public before doing so.

It seemed to take a terribly long time to cross the main floor. At the far end, they began to descend a flight of stairs, and Chayond felt a little better. The bag was rattling louder, luckily it was being drowned out by the whooshing noise of hypertrains coming and going inside their tubes. The dull, monotone computerized voice continued to announce the arrival and departure of trains, though it was becoming more difficult to hear. The noise was like a cushion that began to cloak their every move.

Valerni motioned to their left as they reached the bottom of the stairs. Commuter traffic continued to pour around them, which made maintaining their tight formation somewhat difficult. Still, they held in their two-by-two stance, moving towards the left track – and to the small door that led to the maintenance tunnel. No one followed them there. All the commuter traffic was drawn to the tubes and left what appeared to be a maintenance crew alone.

As soon as they were through the hatch, the noise stopped. The busy station was now sealed behind the pressure door. The only sounds now the gentle hissing of the tunnel’s pressure controls.  of course, Valeri’s commanding voice. Checking her chrono, she made a quick consult of their timetable.

“We’re on schedule,” she said. “Let’s keep it that way. Move out.”

The four collapsed into a single line, moving down the tight tunnel as quickly as they could. Durand threw the strap of his bag over his shoulder and Chayond did the same. Their steps became fast and heavy, their work boots striking hard against the metal grates that lined the floor. Heavy pipes and ducts controlling the settlements flow of fresh water and air whizzed by their heads. The high pressure and heat combined to make the going very uncomfortable.

Yet still, they moved. Rigid discipline and a clear purpose driving them onward. Until they reached their destination and set up, they could not relax.

When they finally came to the hatch that would admit them onto the platform that they wanted, they had all broken a good sweat. Only Valeri appeared to not be out of breath.

“Alright, pay attention because we don’t have time to dither.” Reaching into the pocket of her coveralls, she retrieved a small handheld. She held the transparent device up. Displayed on it was a single-frame. A man’s face.

“This is David Lee,” Valeri said. “He’s the Formist the Chandrasekhar’s sent on ahead to do their dirty work. Our intel says he’ll be travelling alone by the time he gets to the line. So that’s when we take him down.”

She tapped the screen. Lee’s image was replaced by a video feed of him standing with a woman. They stood close to each other, a degree of intimacy clearly implied by their body language.

“This is our contact. She is the one who provided us with Lee’s itinerary. According to her, Lee will be here at the time indicated, and he will be alone. However, if we find that they are together, then something’s gone wrong and we’ll need to take them both down. There can’t be any suspicion on her.”

“Who is she?” Durand asked.

Valeri shrugged. “Didn’t ask.  neither should you. All you need to know is, she’s not our target. If it comes down to it, we take them both down.  we leave her behind for the authorities to collect. Any other stupid questions?”

Durand was sufficiently shamed and shut up. Bern though had some thoughts on that score and offered them freely.

“Probably some just whore from the Yellow Light District. Point is, she’s a fucking patriot and gave us this information. So she’ll understand, I’m sure.”

All heads in the group nodded. A rumble shook the tube, indicating that a hypertrain was going by. It was nothing more than a passing tremor. No sound made it through the sealed pressure doors.

“That’ll be the 2115 to Cassini now,” she said, smiling. “Our Dr. Lee will be making the next one. Better suit up.”

Durand dropped his equipment bag on the ground, kneeling down to open it. Chayond did the same, placing his bag on the floor and separating the tabs on the seal. As Durand began removing their change of clothes, the others began to disrobe. The suits Durand passed out looked like something reptilian, scaly surfaces the same color as mercury. They were thin, no heavier than a stack of thermal blankets, with hoods at the top and small terminals on the left arms.

Valeri and Bern quickly became half-naked, their sweating frames glistening from the tube’s lighting. Quickly, they pulled the silver skins over their coveralls and began doing up all the clasps, sealing the suits around themselves and firing up the cells that powered them.

Durand tossed a suit aside for himself before handing one over to Chayond, who hesitated. His head was swimming from all the heat, the run had left him drained and full of endorphins. Still, he was aware enough to feel damn apprehensive. Accepting the suit seemed like a terrible step, one from which there was no turning back.

Durand noticed his hesitation. “Hey, you good?” he asked. Chayond glanced quickly in Valeri direction. She looked up from her suit to shoot him a look of disapproval and he quickly averted his eyes.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he replied, taking the suit in hand and unzipping his coveralls. Somehow, one look from Vslero was enough to silence any doubts, or enough to scare him into compliance.

A moment later, all four members of the team were suited up in their new vestments. Everything from their necks down was now covered in specialized material. Valeri pulled the last piece into place, pulling the hood up and covering her hair.

“Remember,” she admonished. “Make sure your sticks are charged just right. Too much, and his implants might rupture.  that’s the last thing we want.”

All heads nodded again. Chayond interpreted the mention of the sticks as an order to distribute them. Reaching down into the bag, he began pulling them out, one by one. Four slender truncheons, a small console on one side, contained a power indicator, an electrical port, and a few controls. He handed the first to Valeri, passed out the second and third, kept the fourth for himself.

Each team member inspected the sticks to ensure that they were set at exactly the right power level before sliding them neatly into the waistband of their outfits. Each stick connected with the suit’s internal power supply.

“Alright, let’s power them up,” ordered Valeri. “Let’s see if these things were worth the price.”

“Doubt that,” Bern said sarcastically. “ they still better work.”

As one, Bern, Durand and Chayond pulled the hoods up over their heads and engaged the suit’s power supply. Three low-frequency squeals sounded out in the tube, and where three men with silver skins stood, suddenly there were just three faces. The rest of their heads, like their bodies, were now cloaked in advanced stealth fields.

Valeri smiled. “Not bad.” She pulled her mask into place over her mouth and eyes and put her finger to the terminal on her arm. It took less than a second before she completely disappeared from view.

“How do I look?” she asked, her voice filtered and modulated by the mask.

“Like nothing at all,” replied Durand.

“Good.” She suddenly reappeared, removing the mask and hood. “Then be ready. If the target escapes, we may not get another chance. So make this one count.”

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About the Author

Matthew Williams Headshot

Growing up in the 80s and 90s Matthew Williams was born in to science fiction. He enjoyed many of the infamous SF franchises of the time and read many of sci-fi’s most influential works. As an adult, Matt marvelled at those SF novels which stood the test of time, while making valuable observations of the human condition, and he decided to create his own novels.

As a professional writer for Universe Today, Matt is well-versed in many nerdy topics ranging from: spaceflight to terraforming, Earth sciences to physics, and the future of human space exploration. He has interviewed many of today’s top scientific minds and NASA personnel, and been a featured speaker at astronomy societies. His articles have appeared in such publications as Business Insider, Science Alert, Phys.org, HeroXPionicGizmodoFuturism and IO9.

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Book Review: Devil in the Grass

I have so many books sent to me by authors that sometimes it is hard to keep track but this book definitely kept me on my toes! This one is called Devil In The Grass by Christopher Bowron.

Synopsis: When his pro football career fails, Jackson Walker returns to his home in southwest Florida to sort out his life. He lands an internship with Republican state senator James Hunter, whose Clean Water Bill puts him at odds with influential members of The Brotherhood of Set, a Satanic cult. They have deep roots in Florida, and are led by the sinister Henrietta LePley.

After Walker begins a relationship with a member of the Brotherhood, he is framed for the horrific killing of two elderly people. To clear his name, Jackson turns to his Seminole family to evade the police and a particularly nasty bunch of malevolent characters who specialize in the disposal of dead bodies. The Everglades provides an ancient and frightening setting for the unfolding action that will prove whether Jackson Walker will pull himself free from the dark evil that lurks there.

I thought this book held its own as a thriller. It wasn’t really like a creepy thriller but more of a crime thriller with same very dark elements to it. There were times where I thought that the things happening would line up with something a serial killer does so that added to the dark elements of the book.

The fact that it was set in the Florida Everglades also had me intrigued because they are known for their gators and I love any movies that have to do with gators so I was happy to read about it.

The characters were decent. I didn’t really get overly attached to any of them but I was more invested in the plot rather than the characters anyways so that was okay.

The book had lots of twists and turns which kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. I would definitely read more by this author if I am looking for more crime thrillers!

Book Rating: 4/5

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

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



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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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These are all the worst and most disappointing books I have read in 2020! Let me know if you agree with any of these or what your worst or most disappointing reads were of the past year in the comments below! Check out the video below: