June 2022 Issue of InD'tale Magazine

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Table of Contents

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10 Years of InD’tale! A Conversation With Some of the Authors Who Have Made It Possible

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Creating Your Unique Style: Tamara Cribley

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A New Way To Read? Peggy Jaeger

22 Anniversaries: Paul Stans eld

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Kindle Vella,

Child’s Play: S.L. Carpenter


June 2022

35 Mark Coker & Kris Austin: The Merge Of Two Industry Giants!

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Victory’s Secret: Finale! Rachael Tamayo & Cynthia Austin

62 Me & Adam Levine: Tammy Grant

66 Announcing the 2022 RONE Finalists!

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Reviews Historical:

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Contemporary:

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Paranormal Fantasy/Urban Fantasy:

88 90

Young Adult:

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Inspirational:

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Time Travel:

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Science Fiction:

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Suspense/Thriller:

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Mystery:

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Audiobooks:

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Other:

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Our Staff: Publisher: Editor-in-Chief TJ MacKay

RONE Awards Coordinator: Amanda Hupe

Executive Editor: Katy Nielsen

Technical Editors: Gabriella Sawyer

Copy Editors: Julie York, Marc Joseph, Penny Baker

Reviewers*

Special Publications Editors: Sarah McEachron, Ryan Jo Summers Social Media: Laura Trujillo, Amanda Hupe, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick Columnists: S.L. Carpenter, Andy Peloquin,Tamara Cribley, Rachael Tamayo and Cynthia Austin Transcription: Ralph Conley Graphics: Elle J. Rossi, Rachel Rossano

Amanda Hupe, Chelsea Anderson, Belinda Wilson, Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick, Tricia Hill, Viola Robbins, Emerson Matthews, Sarah E. McEachron, Roslynn Ernst, Carey Sullivan, Victoria Zumbrum, Shailyn Rogers, Marie Sanderson, Austen Grace, Joan Lai, Cara Cieslak, N.E. Kelley, Jennifer Shepherd, Sadie Wilson, Annalee Stilove, Piper Valentine, Ruth Lynn Ritter, Moira Wolf *Please note, ALL InD’tale staff are required at times to read and review books. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. All books and material reviewed by InD’tale have been read by the stated

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Editor’s Note reader/writer conference for indie and small published authors and readers alike. Whew! That’s a lot even for a decade! And, it hasn’t been without struggles and more work than we ever would have imagined. Still, there hasn’t been one single moment that it hasn’t been worth it. I have loved every single day I get to sit down in the InD’tale offices. Seriously, who wouldn’t? I get to read, talk to famous authors, work with incredible people who love books AND create a magazine. It’s a dream job, I tell ya! (Okay, okay… I’m still struggling with the dread marketing and bills/business chores but…) And, NONE of this would be possible if not for YOU, the amazing readers and authors who have contributed, supported, and read InD’tale through the years. Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts!

Can you believe it has been 10 whole years since we launched this little engine that hoped Here’s to the future - better than ever and it could?! It’s hard to believe that one small bursting with promise! idea to help the authors who didn’t have the backing of mega-publishing houses gain the attention and audiences they deserve would grow into the worldwide phenomena it has! Not only is the magazine the most sought after in the indie and small publishing world but it has spawned the most prestigious and comprehensive awards in the industry today. Plus - until the dread COVID years - it also hosted the largest (and most fun, if we do say so)

Smiles,

TJ Macka y

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Contributors

Tammy Grant Tammy hails from the Great White North and believe it or not, she doesn't play hockey! A voracious reader since discovering Dr. Seuss, Tammy can usually be found behind the hot pink cover of her Kindle. Reading is an escape from her busy life as a Court Of cial, wife and mom to two voracious readers in training. Historical romances are her passion but she’s been known to drop everything for a thriller, a police procedural or anything else shiny that catches her eye.

Rachael Tamayo Rachael Tamayo is a former 911 emergency operator and police dispatcher. After twelve years in those dark depths, she’s gained a unique insight into mental illness, human behavior, and the general darkness of humanity that she likes to weave into her books. A formerly exclusive romance author tried her hand at thrillers and loved it so much that she decided not to turn back. Born and raised in Texas, Rachael lives in the Houston area with her husband of almost fteen years, and their two small children.

Paul Stansfield New Jersey born and raised, Paul Stans eld spent decades as a eld archaeologist for his day job. Surprisingly, even though he professionally disturbed hundreds of graves, he has yet to suffer a haunting or zombie attack. He’s had over 20 stories published by magazines, including such publications as Bibliophilos, Morbid Curiosity, The Literary Hatchet, and Horror Bites. He has stories available in 10 anthologies, and the upcoming “Death’s Garden Revisited” (October 2022). He’s an Af liate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

S.L. Carpenter A lifetime Californian, Scott Carpenter lives the ordinary life of a husband and father, with the addition of three dogs and a couple of cats. Humor has always played a large role in his life, and he enjoys making people smile. His stories range from the outright absurd to the deeply poignant, and his mastery of the short story format is undeniable. If asked, he'll describe himself as just another guy. His many fans will tell you that his writing paints quite a different picture.

Peggy Jaeger Peggy is a contemporary romance writer who writes RomComs about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. Family and food play huge roles in her stories as she bring all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to nd their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents Peggy longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she’s created those families

Tamara Cribley Tamara Cribley is a self-professed formatting junkie who believes beautiful books don't happen by chance. Having worked as a Commercial Photographer, Graphic Artist, and Art Director, Tamara’s unique skills enable her to put together classy and professional books that keep the reader focused on the story. She resides in Colorado where she gives back to her community by being an active Search and Rescue volunteer, and in her free time enjoys reading, gardening, and exploring with the dog.

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10 years

Of Enjoyment With The Most Successful Authors In Publishing!

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Can you believe all the incredible authors we have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past ten years? And the pictures you see are just a few! There were so many we couldn’t even it them all on these two pages! The variety is vast but the common thread is that each and every one has made an indelible mark on our lives and we love and appreciate them dearly. Although it would take an entire magazine to catch up individually with each author (and we hope you do take time to get to know each one by picking up our past issues on the website), a few were kind enough to write and let us know their thoughts on the past decade and what they look forward to in the coming years of publishing. We so hope you enjoy this nostalgic look back as we set our sights for even more in the future! *Can you name every author who is pictured? Start from left to right on each page and see how many you know! Then, send your results to tjmackay@indtale.com You may just win a whole basket of books!

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What changes have you seen and experienced in the publishing industry since you irst published? The biggest changes have been threefold: the advent of eBooks, the rise of social media, and the start of self-publishing as we know it now. EBooks did exist at the time when I was irst published, but they were nowhere near mainstream. The only person I knew who had an eReader—a very early model—was part of Romance Writers of NZ and had brought it along to show us. We were all fascinated! These changes have forever altered the landscape of publishing, and in general, they've been great changes. Social media means readers can directly recommend books to each other, and books/authors don't necessarily need to have a big marketing budget to become bestsellers, that can now happen because of sheer reader love for a book. I think that's incredible. Self-publishing means more people are able to publish these days, which equals more story choices for readers, and more options for authors who might not have been picked up by a publishing house but have important stories to tell. Of course, nothing is perfect, and self-publishing has (at present) evolved to where it's no longer as egalitarian as it once was; many authors are inding themselves in a "pay to play" space with advertising. As for eBooks, I think they're fantastic. I still love to read in print, but I also love the ease and accessibility of having multiple books (and audiobooks) on my phone! Now that I've brought up the subject, audiobooks, too, have changed majorly in the years since I began publishing.

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Nalini Singh One more especially wonderful thing to witness has been the rise in diversity in terms of both the authors who are publishing and the books that are available to buy. We're far from being done there, but it's wonderful to see the growth compared to what was available two decades ago. What I hope for in the future for publishing. I hope that book-related social media continues to lourish, and that we ind a stable equilibrium across the entire publishing ecosystem. I love working with my publishers and I also love having the option to self-publish. I want both sides of the industry to thrive. That's good for everyone, because it gives authors more choices in how to publish, and it gives readers more options for stories and how those stories are told, because I have a feeling technology is going to continue to evolve. Perhaps one day, we can download an eBook directly into a chip in our eye, and just lie back and read. Imagine! There are so many amazing people working in publishing overall. These are book people regardless of whether they're a publicist at a publishing house or an advertising specialist who helps Indies, and book people are wonderful people. I want them all to be part of a thriving industry that offers them brilliant careers. And by the time I'm a little old lady, sitting in my rocking chair, I want diversity to have become such an ordinary part of the landscape that no one comments on it anymore. Wouldn't that be wonderful? All kinds of books by all kinds of authors, so much choice for everyone we no longer have to highlight books for representation.


Eloisa James The rise of independent publishing has been a huge vector that changed everything, in the polishing world, in tandem with the rise of Amazon and eBooks. As for the future, I am in the middle of a really fascinating experiment with Amazon Vella— serialized stories. I honestly think serialization is going to be a very important part of the publishing

marketplace, whether on Vella, Substack, or other distributors. My story, “The Seduction”, came out three times a week, for over a month. I experimented with the form, and read a lot about Dickens’ process, and ended up loving not just the way it changed my writing, but the interaction with readers that it allowed. My Facebook Group, Lindow Castle, had a great time discussing each episode.

Brenda Novak I've seen almost everything change in publishing since I started. First came the digital age, when we no longer had to submit a print copy of our manuscript, with an envelope and enough postage for the prospective publishing house to return it. (Now, we even go through the editing process digitally.) Then came the Indie author revolution, where the invention and proliferation of eBooks (thanks mostly to Amazon) enabled authors a whole new avenue he or she could pursue when publishing. I'm not sure what's next, but I've also seen many

publishing houses merge into just a few, Borders and B. Dalton going out of business (bummer!) and, more positively, the resurgence of the Indie bookstore (yay!). While I love eBooks and audiobooks too, I hope print books and Indie bookstores will continue to make a resurgence so we don't lose the hand selling that goes along with these smaller, community-based stores, and I hope that we will buck the current trend and have more publishers to work with in the future instead of fewer.

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Mimi Matthews So much has changed! One of the changes that has impacted me more directly as an author is the fact that publishers are beginning to broaden their de initions of what a Romance is. When I was starting out, I was told, many times, that a Historical Romance must have sex scenes and that it must feature a titled hero. No one really believed there could be a market for non-Inspirational, closed-door Romances.

Romances (like mine) even feature untitled heroes and heroines! I hope publishers can continue to be more inclusive. And I hope there will be better pay for authors, editors, and other publishing professionals, many of whom are juggling multiple jobs and struggling to make ends meet. It’s hard to see so many talented people leaving the business because they aren’t being compensated fairly.

Now, however, I’m pleased that many publishers have started to include closed-door Romances among their other offerings. And some of those

Carly Phillips The publishing landscape has changed immensely since I irst published (1999) and even since I left traditional publishing for Indie publishing (2013). When I started, the only way to publish was either submit and deal with the publisher directly for the Romance lines like Harlequin, Silhouette, Loveswept, etc. or via an agent.

etc. It opens the door for everyone who wants to publish to be able to. That said, it also makes for a glutted market and it’s very hard to start new and make a name for yourself. With persistence, studying the market, the trends, etc. I believe you can do it. It’s a very exciting time.

When I left, and today, Romance is thriving in the Indie publishing world. I love being selfpublished, having control of my covers, prices,

I hope Indie publishing continues to thrive, with a fair market for everyone who wants to dive in.

What I hope for the future of publishing:

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Kendra Elliot The biggest change I've seen since I started publishing in 2012 is the explosion of eBooks. This was underway before I published, but eBooks had a reputation of being poor quality and not "real books". Now, they are viewed as another normal format, like print and audio... 99% of the books I buy now are eBooks because I don't wish to store them. Amazon makes it too easy to

one-click and the book is magically in my hand. What I hope for in the future for publishing is more wonderful stories and more authors taking the leap to publish their books, whether that's through Indie publishing or traditional. I hope accessibility continues to grow through digital and audio, and more authors are able to make a living from their art.

Jennifer Probst When my book, "The Marriage Bargain", exploded in 2012, I never would have imagined how many changes were in store for our industry. The market has had many ups and downs, with some authors having to go back to a day job in order to make ends meet. Traditional publishing constricted and now it’s down to four major publishers. Indie stores buckled under the weight of Amazon, but many hung in and are now lourishing. Reader apps exploded along with audio, and COVID pushed a lot of authors into burnout/depression. What never stops is the writing. There will always be major changes in all industries, but as creatives, we somehow need to go back to the core of our job— back to the writing, the stories we tell, and have belief there’s a purpose and need for our books.

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I thrive on hope for the future! There have been so many changes for the good. There are markets for authors available everywhere now—from apps, licensing, Kickstarter, ilm, audio, foreign translations, etc. There’s a demand for work in all formats, including print and hardcover, and the Romance market is robust. Endless opportunities await if authors do their research and follow their own unique path to what makes them happy. COVID has leveled out, and the demand for books is still growing. BookTok has pushed many backlist books back to the bestseller list. Social media still remains a solid place to reach an audience. I think the most important thing for an author is to expect change—from the market, to the new hot app, or social media outlet, and always focus on the writing. Content is king!


Elise Kova One of the largest changes I’ve seen is a shift in overall perception toward independent publishing in a very positive way. When I irst began publishing in 2015, there were many reviewers, bloggers, and in luencers who outright refused to consider independent titles for review. “Self-published” was synonymous with “poor quality” to many. Being an independent author had this air of you couldn’t “hack it” as a “real author” who got a traditional deal. There was almost an air of shame around independent publishing for many. But, I think that continually evolving technology has really helped lessen this perceived gap in a number of ways. The quality of print on demand has improved, online shopping is ever more popular, and more readers have adopted digital formats, resulting in it becoming more and more dif icult to tell a traditionally published book from an independent one. Additionally, independent authors have continually upped their game, continuing to produce better and better work. All of this has resulted in more and more people judging a book solely on the quality of its contents, rather than the publisher’s name on the spine, which is a beautiful thing, I think. Moreover, there is a sense of pride I see within the Indie community. I see some readers proudly declaring they only read Indie books. More and more people are taking the chance on independent publishing as a viable publishing path. Smaller publishing houses are emerging and creating really fascinating, new opportunities within the space.

new paths opening up for more stories to be told and readers being accepting of this. As for my hopes for the future, honestly, more of the same of what I’ve already been seeing. I want more and more people to feel they can take a chance on publishing, that there is a path forward to follow their dreams, regardless of what those dreams are. Of course, I could be hyper speci ic on my personal ideal “wish list” of things I hope happen. For example: I’d love to see some print on demand foiling options. Or more printers who will do small print runs of 50-100 books with cool specs. Or maybe, just maybe, Kindle Unlimited without exclusivity requirements. (Hey, I said it was a wish list.) But the core of what I hope for in the future of publishing continues to be more options. More options for ways for authors to get their books to readers, more options for how those books look and feel. I’m excited by things like Kickstarter, Patreon, Etsy, drop shippers, new book formatting software, and by many other things that will likely date me in two years’ time, as the industry takes a turn no one could foresee. But no matter what happens, I hope more stories get told and that the people who tell them are supported in their hard, but rewarding journey.

It’s not that traditional publishing is, will, or should go away. I certainly don’t want it to! But I think it’s really thrilling to see authors having more options, not less, when it comes to their stories. I love seeing

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Kristen Ashley Wow! I’d need to publish a book to get into all the changes in the 14 years since I’ve been publishing! The whiplash of different social media platforms and their power to help you market a book is a biggie (I still focus where I’ve built rapport with my readers: Facebook and Instagram). However, I think the biggest one was the massive take up of audiobooks. They were always relatively popular, but it seems that popularity has grown incredibly from year to year, including multiplatform users (folks who read books/eBooks and listen to audio, switching within the same book). At the time—and I still think it’s true—one of the most important things I did was have my books narrated. First, it’s a joy to work with narrators. That collaborative process can be very ful illing. Also, I believe my readership has expanded. And more, having audiobooks allows my readers inclusivity, giving them the choice of how they want to consume my books.

Inclusivity is very important. It’s never good for someone to hear your name, go to ind you, and discover you don’t offer in their preferred platform. And I just love that more people can consume books in ways that it their lives. I’m always for that! What you hope for in the future for publishing? It’d be nice to see more independently published books in brick-and-mortar stores. I know this is dif icult, considering how Indie books are printed, but there are a great many talented storytellers out there who aren’t able to reach print audiences because their books aren’t available to browse in stores. This is likely a pipe dream. It’d take a massive shift in how things are done to make this feasible for printers and Indie authors, but I’d love to see it happen.

Rhys Bowen The big change since I was irst published is the advent of eBooks and audio. They have helped me grow a wide audience who don’t need to visit a bookshop. Fortunately, enough readers still enjoy a book in their hands, too!

On the negative side, I’ve watched publishing houses swallowed into giant conglomerates so that instead of 10 or 15 houses a writer could submit to, there are now ive major ones. But, new small houses are emerging, which is hopeful.

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"Karma Girl", my irst published book, came out in 2007, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in the publishing industry. Sometimes, it feels like two or three lifetimes since I was irst published, in terms of how drastically the industry has changed. Probably the two biggest changes for me have been social media and Indie publishing. Back in 2007, those things didn’t really exist. But now, just about every author has some form of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – and many authors do Indie publishing. It really has been fascinating to see all the changes and how so many authors are building their own publishing

empires, whether they are Indie, or traditionally published, or do a combination of both. I would love to see genre iction authors—Romance, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, etc.— inally get the respect and kudos they deserve for their amazing stories, worlds, and characters. I would also love to see more movie and TV adaptations of Romance, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi books, like the "Bridgerton" series on Net lix, instead of more remakes/reboots of old franchises. Basically, I just hope that authors continue to write great stories for everyone to enjoy, and I’m excited to see what innovations happen next in publishing.

Darynda Jones First, the rise of self/Indie publishing has set the literary world on ire in the past 10 years!! I love how it is no longer thought of as "less than" and how many authors are taking control of their careers. I inally went hybrid after years of talking about it, and although I still prefer traditional, I love that I've been able to experience both worlds, and I will continue to do so. Second, diversity has inally taken a seat at the big table. There are so many amazing stories out there that would never have made it into print, even 10

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Jennifer Estep

years ago. At last, publishers are pushing diverse authors and characters with points of view that go against the industry standard. It's taken a long time for change to come about and I'm so proud of the writers who have stood their ground and changed the literary world as we know it. I hope that publishing contributes to normalizing so many things that should never have been considered "abnormal" in the irst place. Especially concerning the LGBTQ community and the norms of cultures that are not our own.


Grace Draven I've seen a lot of changes since I irst professionally published in 2005. I started out with a small digitalonly publishing group called Amber Quill Press. At the time, traditional publishing was king, Kindle Direct Publishing didn't exist, self-publishing was limited to just vanity publishers, and eBooks weren't considered real books by many readers, agents, and publishers. I'd even heard of instances where digital authors at book signings with traditionally published authors were outright snubbed by the traditionally published authors. I'm still puzzled by that particular thought process. How words in digital format were once considered less legitimate than those printed on processed trees, remains a mystery. Did people have this same reaction when the Guttenberg press took over the job once held by monks laboring over manuscripts by candlelight? Anyway, I digress. The arrival of Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in 2007 was a game-changer. The threshold for publishing your work became far more accessible, and while the stigma associated with self-publishing and digital publishing in general remained for several years after that, it was only a matter of time before those stigmas began to fade, especially as readers discovered the perks of carrying around portable libraries on their devices and trying out new authors and new stories that might have been rejected by traditional publishers as being outside of mainstream fare or wasn't considered popular or marketable at the time.

I think one of the most striking changes I've seen in publishing is how both self and traditional publishing occupy their particular spaces, but can and do bene it each other. When I irst got started, the traditional publishing contract was the Holy Grail. Selfpublishing was seen as a step toward that goal. Later, some authors who found success in the selfpublishing arena also extended their reach into traditional publishing, becoming "hybrid" authors with a foot in both worlds. (I'm a hybrid author.) As self-publishing became more and more acceptable, as well as lucrative, some authors in the traditional arena chose to self-publish, a true circling back to the beginning kind of thing. What do you hope for in the future for publishing? I hope publishing continues to expand, to include authors of every stripe with a good story to tell and a desire to share it. I hope we never go back to the days when the power to publish something was consolidated to a select few who decided what the public would get to read. I totally get the idea of curation, but I'm an intelligent reader and more than happy to take on the responsibility of deciding what I like and don't like, and what I want and don't want to read. I ind joy in exploring all the books offered out there now via both self-publishing and traditional publishing. It's like a treasure hunt. You inevitably dig through a lot of rubble, but when you ind the gem, it makes the effort so worth it.

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Lorraine Heath I irst published in 1994, so I’ve seen and experienced the evolution of electronic books as well as audiobooks. Independent publishing has emerged as a viable path for some authors and has provided an avenue for books that appeal to a niche market. More recently, we’ve recognized an awareness that the industry needs to be more inclusive, not only in types of characters represented, but also in the authors who write them. This has resulted in a

broadening of reading choices and voices that I ind very exciting. What do you hope for in the future for publishing? I hope books and authors continue to be more diverse. I hope that the current climate of banning books is short-lived.

Marie Force I was irst published in 2008, so, of course, the explosion of Indie publishing onto the scene has really been the game-changer during my author tenure. I’ve greatly bene ited from being able to control my own career and release schedule. I love being an Indie! I’d like to see Indie authors and smaller publishers get the respect they deserve for their enormous accomplishments. When an author is #1 on USA

Today (more than once) and is left off the New York Times list, which doesn’t recognize Indie authors or small-press publishers, that’s just wrong. I’d like to see more successful Indie books being carried in brick-and-mortar bookstores and for Indie publishing to become even more “mainstream” as it evolves past the irst disruptive decade.

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Kerrelyn Sparks

Congratulations on 10 years!! Where does the time go?! I’m so happy you have continued to lourish.

sort of book can be self-published and ind an audience that is hoping and searching for that sort of book.

As for your questions, I doubt I have any new insight into publishing as it is now. It’s a strange situation where the pro and the con are the same thing Publishing has expanded so tremendously that any

But… Publishing has expanded so tremendously that it is hard to ind that special book and author you may be looking for.

Jennifer Ashley Wow. A lot! I irst published 20 years ago! And at that time there was very little choice for authors. We went with traditional publishers, or very small press, both of which published only in print. If you self-published, you were buying print runs and selling books out of the back of your car. Publishers wanted a fairly narrow window of romances—basically what they knew would sell. The tried and true. Occasionally, something special would slip through, and then *that* would become the tried and true. Ten years later, the entire scene had shifted. In that ten years, e-book publishers had risen (and fallen), and erotic romance had a huge surge in popularity. Superhot is still very popular, particularly on the reading apps. Self-publishing was a huge game-changer. Now an author who wants to publish in a “niche” subgenre doesn’t have to hope that the traditional publishers will want that niche someday, which might never come. Yes, authors have to pay out of pocket for editing and covers (unless they are a cover genius, and even then, images cost money), but they control what is on the covers and what editors they hire. Self-publishing certainly changed my life. I feel free to publish series I love and not worry whether a publisher will consider it marketable. I’ve had terri ic success

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with series that were reverted to me and with series I started on my own. While I still traditionally publish, I am so glad I talked myself into trying self-publishing! What I hope for the future is authors having even more control. We currently have to follow the sometimes rigid rules of platforms where we publish, and we have to work hard for visibility. I’d love to be with a vendor where I don’t have to plead for promotion, or where I’m barred from promo because the platform considers the books too erotic (even when they’re not erotic at all). Terri ic books get buried, and I’d love to see more equatable promotion. A writer shouldn’t already have to be a star to get promo, especially when we foot the bill for much of that promo. I hope it will be easier to self-publish, with more transparency from vendors, and more help from them as well. Some are great at customer service; others don’t know what that term means. Also I hope traditional publishing will be a little more open to trying new types of stories, new voices, and new ideas, instead of looding the market only with what they believe sells. I think we’ve learned a lot in the past ten years about publishing, and authors are savvier than ever. I’d like to see that continue.


Quinn Loftus There's been a ton of changes in the past 11 years. When I published my irst book in 2011, there wasn't a whole lot of information on how to self-publish. I remember searching on Google for any questions I had, for hours. It was so hard to ind someone to do cover artwork and it cost a fortune. The same was true of inding a good editor. Over the years, self-published books have gone from having a stigma of being poorly edited to having the same quality as a book published by a traditional publishing company. There's so much information on how to publish now. The steps to take to launch a new book, and all the things you should do BEFORE you put out your irst book, like having a website, Instagram, and all the other social media platforms so people can ind you, especially if they enjoy your book and want to follow you. There is also a TON more competition. The publishing world has exploded, but I think that with the eBook industry, it also means there are more readers. Now it is de initely a job that you cannot simply write a book and publish it. You have to market, you have to build relationships with other authors to cross-promote, you have to learn how to use paid ads correctly... 10-11 years ago, this wasn't necessary. Bloggers were a huge way to get your book seen. I didn't do any paid promotions for the irst eight years

of my writing career, and was able to make a living on it. I still live completely off the pro its of my books, but I have to do a lot of paid promotions now. I still love what I do, but without the help of my husband, and working with other authors to collaborate on promoting each other, it would be very dif icult to break into the industry. Not saying it can't be done, but it will take time and patience. What do you hope for in the future for publishing? I hope that there will be more ways for self-published authors to sell their eBooks through their own platforms without only using places like Amazon, iBooks, etc. We rely heavily on those businesses for our sales. Facebook, TikTok, Instagram etc, massively affect our sales. It would be nice to be able to utilize them to sell our eBooks directly from us and cut out the middle man. I hope that authors will continue to work together and not feel like they are competitors because we are all just trying to survive in this massive industry, and that promoters like InD'tale Magazine will continue to help us get our books seen by new readers. I am honored and humbled to get to do what I love as a career, and always want my readers to know how thankful I am that they took a chance on my books. Thank you to InD'tale Magazine for promoting my books and working with me. It has been a very big blessing!

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InD’tale is celebrating its anniversary—it’s 10 years old. Yay! Hope there are many more. While I was thinking about this magazine's anniversary, I got to musing about yearly celebrations.

I recalled how wedding anniversaries have certain gift themes, based on the number of years the couple has been married. I went ahead and checked these, and was kind of amused.

anyone, aside from Emily Post’s family, actually follow these? In case you were wondering, the record for the longest marriage was 90 years for Karam and Kartari Chand of Bradford, England.

First off, the one year gift is paper. Not surprisingly, they get nicer and more expensive with advancing years: three is leather, eight is bronze, 15 is crystal, 25 is silver, 50 is gold, and 60 and 75 are diamonds. (If you’re curious, most sources list a theme gift for years 1-15, and every ive years thereafter.)

K. Phillipose Thomas and his wife Susanna of India were a close second, at 88 years. Some dispute these, and credit Herbert Fisher and his wife Zelmyra as being the oldest, at 86 years of matrimony.

I was struck by the datedness (and non-PCness) of 14, though—it’s ivory. So if you’re a stickler for tradition and want to buy your friends something new, you might have to break international laws. Also, once past 75, the list reverses course and gets cheaper again, 80 is oak (!), and 85 is wine. I realize that some wines are expensive, but still, probably cheaper than gold, platinum, and diamonds, right? But, I guess that’s okay, as according to my research, only eight couples have been con irmed as reaching 85 years together or more. More to the point, does

One inal anecdote—a friend of mine celebrated his 2nd anniversary by giving his wife a .45 Magnum, which she loved. We teased them by saying that the appropriate 2nd anniversary gift is a crossbow, not a irearm. ** We were kidding, it’s actually cotton, but that’s not as funny, or dangerous. ** When the number of years for an anniversary gets really large (like for companies or countries), the names can get unwieldy. Sure, centennial and bicentennial roll right off the tongue, but some of the others are obscure and awkward to say, for instance, like 175 years—dodransbicentennial, or 350—

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Moving on. For another type of anniversary/ birthday tradition, I must admit I ind the recent tradition of celebrating halfbirthdays kind of dumb. Where does that end? Quarter birthdays? 1/12 birthdays? 1/365.25th birthdays? Also, to technically be a half-birthday it’s not simply adding six months to the day, since months are different lengths. To be accurate a person should add 182.5 (or 183 in a leap year) to their actual birth date. Speaking of leap years, it must be awkward in cases when birthdays or anniversaries fall on February 29th. Sure, you can celebrate on February 28th, or March 1st, but it must be a little frustrating to actually have the of icial day only come once every four years, your personal version of the Olympics. I looked it up to see if there were any really famous events on a Leap Day, and there weren’t too many of worldwide importance. Similarly, there are not many huge historical igures or “A” list celebrities who were born then. Here’s a partial list of some notable Leap Year day birthdays: 1468—Pope Paul III 1896—Morarji Desai, prime minister of India

1944—Dennis Farina, actor

labels (for ones that existed prior to 1920, clearly). It’s always something like, “Brewing up the best beer since 1890” or whatever, not mentioning that from 1920-33, if they were still in business, they were producing ice cream, soda, near-beer, chemical dyes, etc. instead. (Or breaking the law by still brewing.)

1948—Ken Foree, actor, “Peter” from “Dawn of the Dead”

Admittedly, this would make for a strange and lengthy label, but the historic purist in me is bugged by this.

1956—Aileen Wuornos, female serial killer

One more bit of birthday trivia—the oldest authenticated person, ever, was a French woman named Jeanne Calment, who reached the age of 122 years, 164 days (1875-1997).

1916—Dinah Shore 1928—Vance Haynes, archaeologist

Harvard University did a study a few years back iguring out which days are the most common, and most rare birthdays: most common is September 16th; least is Leap Day, obviously; the second least is December 25th. A pet peeve of mine, as a beer a icionado, is U.S. breweries’ failure to acknowledge Prohibition on their

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sequarcentennial, and my new favorite, obvious, but funny—600 years is sexcentennial.

Hopefully InD’tale will challenge Ms. Calment’s lifespan.


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Creating Your Unique Style Book design is one of the last steps you’ll take before publishing. It’s where your manuscript begins to look like a book. Last month, we covered the foundational design concepts for achieving readability through typesetting and formatting. Making readability your priority ensures that the stylistic choices you make don’t undermine the ultimate goal, keeping your reader focused on your writing. Aesthetic is the focus here. There are two major considerations when we talk about aesthetics. First, what is appropriate for the genre or subject? Second, how your author brand is represented. Regardless of genre or brand, each decision you make should support meeting reader expectations. Stylistic aesthetic can be subtle or overt, but both can create a mood or ambiance to complement your writing and the subject. Subtle choices might be the difference between using serif or san-serif fonts, title fonts, or the location of page numbers, whereas graphics and ornate fonts have obvious visual impact. To begin, we’ll review how genre and brand impact your stylistic choices. Then we’ll talk about where your creative aesthetic can be re lected without hindering readability.

As readers, we have expectations. If you pick up a book with a thriller-style cover, you expect to read a thriller and not a period romance. It’s obvious when a cover doesn’t re lect a book. The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words,” doesn’t apply to your book’s interior. The style re lected in your interior can be on the subtle side—an ambiance —or it can be obvious—a whole experience. Even when styling is subtle, it should enhance the experience and not become a distraction. It should be congruent By:

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with the experience that your reader expects. Genre and subject often inform style. The visual aesthetic that you utilize may re lect the period, location, mood, culture, or subject, among other traits. For example, if your book is set in ancient Greece, you could use fonts that are angular and re lect the Greek alphabet. You might include a igure inspired by ancient pottery as a section break or a key pattern under your chapter titles. In noniction, the subject is usually the inspiration, but style can also re lect the audience. Self-


As readers, we have expectations. If you pick up a book with a thrillerstyle cover, you expect to read a thriller and not a period romance. It’s obvious when a cover doesn’t re ect a book.

Minimalistic

Elegant

Bright

Dark

Inviting

Understated

Muted

Bold

Clean

Friendly

Simple

Modern

Classic

Trendy

Vintage / Retro

Photo-heavy

Serious

Conservative

Masculine

Feminine

Tech-centric

Futuristic

Fun

Rustic / Distressed

As you make design choices, weigh them against your list to ensure that they are consistent with your stylistic intention. Brand can be more challenging to re lect your book’s interior. While author brand is very important in your marketing, your book’s styling should re lect the experience you want for your reader. Because we want to keep the reader engaged, any design elements that con lict with that experience should be avoided. Some subtle ways to maintain your brand across multiple books is with the elements on your page: Where will you place headers, footers, and page numbers? How far down on a page will your chapters start? How are scene breaks re lected? How do you use graphics, if at all? Do you use chapter numbers, names, or both? Brand can also relate to a series. Maintaining a core style across all books in a series is a smart practice. It provides a consistency that allows the reader to continue seamlessly into the next book. If using graphics in your series, you may change the graphics from book to book. The key here is to use graphics that look like a collection. If you use abstract line art in the irst book, don’t switch to a photograph for the second book.

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improvement books, for example, can bene it from creating an ambiance that focuses on the intended reader. A book about healthy eating for young mothers will probably look very different than one for bodybuilders. When you begin to think about aesthetics, a fantastic exercise is to create a list of words that re lect your style. Here are some stylistic characteristic options that I share with my clients:


We’re inally to the fun part. Creating your own style. The most impactful and forgiving place to add style is through your title fonts. Body (main) text should always be clean and readable, but title fonts can be fun and creative. You can get away with using bold and unique fonts in chapter titles. It’s still important that they are readable, but they can have a lot of

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Before we jump into places to add your own creative lair, I want to address a couple of common challenges that authors often face. First, your personal style may not be appropriate for your audience. My personal style is clean and eclectic. A little mid-mod, mixed with barnwood vintage. You’ll rarely, if ever, see that re lected in the books that I design. Flowy and ornate don’t occupy my space, but you’ll often see it in my clients’ historical romance books. I have a handful of fonts that I am dying to use but haven’t had the right book to use them in. If you’re questioning whether the design choice you made is right for your audience, re lect on the list you created and do a reality check. Do your choices satisfy the stylistic characteristics you de ined? The second challenge is getting hung up on the small stuff. While style can add to the reading experience, the truth is that unless you make some bold and obvious choices, most readers aren’t going to pay a great deal of attention to the details. Very few will care if your page numbers are centered on the bottom of each page or at the top of the page, aligned to the outside edge. If your stylistic choices aren’t creating major distractions, you’re on a good path. Don’t let style keep you from getting your book published and into the hands of the readers. If in doubt, clean and simple are always appropriate.

personality. Play with style, size, and even alignment and placement on the page. A good rule of thumb is to use fonts that re lect the typography on your cover. Design a cohesive experience from cover to cover, including everything in-between. Scene breaks are another great opportunity to add personality. They function as a visual reference of change for your reader. While we want to create a visual indication, it should be benign enough to not draw attention to itself. You can keep it on the subtle side and use a series of bullets or asterisks, or you can use something with a bit more panache. Use a basic black and white illustration or graphic that has relevance to the story or use a graphic lourish. I recommend staying away from detailed drawings, scenes, or photos, as they tend to draw more attention than we want for our readers. A break graphic should be a quick visual reference. Another acceptable convention for breaks is to simply add space. While functional, I tend to avoid this practice as the text doesn’t always low in a way that makes breaks obvious to readers, which can lead to confusion. A break that falls at the beginning or end of a page won’t show the extra space that has been added. This is a bigger problem in eBooks where text is re lowable and we don’t have any control over where breaks fall for readers, and they can change with local reader settings. Page headers and footers can take all forms and be aligned in a variety of ways. In iction, page footers typically only contain page numbers. In non- iction, there are many possibilities, including the book name


Graphics are the most obvious element which can add depth and style to your design. They can also be distracting and cause challenges for your text layout. Using graphics on the irst page of a chapter is a common practice. You might use a simple line beneath the title, a half-page illustration, or something in-between. Because a chapter is a more de initive break than a scene break, you can get away with a more detailed graphic. If your ideal reader experience is to have readers consume your book in blocks, then a graphic that inspires a moment of inspection can be a useful tool. If instead, you prefer your readers to keep moving along, simplicity will be your ally. In the Indie publishing world, I sometimes see graphics included at the end of each chapter. While this practice can add personality, it’s a nonfunctional element. It’s not necessary to indicate the end of a chapter and it can cause grief when laying out your text. A graphic generally needs more space than text. When the end of a chapter falls neatly at or near the end of a page, a graphic may not it in that space and will be pushed to the next page where it no longer relates to the text. To ensure that your graphic doesn’t stand alone, you’ll need to adjust your text to create space or push enough text to the next page to make sense to the reader. That can create awkward spacing and result in reader distraction. A inal area to add style is the ‘ irst paragraph’. The irst paragraph of a chapter or section should not be

indented. It’s an additional visual indication for your reader. Drop Caps are frequently used in the irst paragraph of each chapter. This is the large irst letter that descends into the next few lines of text. Another stylistic treatment that you may see is applied to the irst several words of the paragraph or the irst complete line. They may be in ‘All Caps’ or ‘Small Caps’. Some words of caution: Drop caps can be challenging for readers with dyslexia and other reading impairments. It is also inconsistently supported in different eBook apps and devices. Small Caps, when not using a font speci ically designed for the purpose, can display poorly, with inconsistent stroke weights. This function is also inconsistently supported in eBooks. When considering your book interior’s style, do some market research. What conventions are books (top sellers) in your same genre or subject using? If you’re breaking the mold and doing something out of the ordinary, do you have a good reason for it? Will your readers get it? Do your stylistic choices satisfy the stylistic characteristics you de ined? You now have the foundational principles necessary to format and design a beautiful book interior, designed around your ideal reader experience. The Professional Indie Publishing Roundtable will be taking a break for the next few months as I explore ways to make the group accessible to more writers. In the meantime, I invite you to reach out to me directly (tamara@deliberatepage.com) if you have questions or need support along your indie publishing journey. Visit www.DeliberatePage.com/Roundtable to sign up for information about upcoming changes.

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and chapter. While it’s important that your headers and footers still use a very readable font, you can use a stylized font that compliments your chapter title font. Often your cover art will use a secondary font for a subtitle or author name. Using the same font (or similar) can be an ideal option for your headers and footers.


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Mark Coker/Kris Austin

Two Industry Giants Merge to Create One Incredible Company! First: Their Backstories InD: Okay, before we get started we need to get a little bit of background. Let’s start with you, Mark. What was the inspiration for you to originally create Smashwords? MC: My wife and I wrote a novel titled "Boob Tube”. It’s a satire of the daytime soap opera industry. My wife is a former reporter for Soap Opera Weekly magazine. We were repped by a top literary agency for two years, yet our agent received nothing but rejections. Publishers were reluctant to take a chance on it since prior novels targeting soap opera fans had not sold well. The experience opened my eyes to the struggles of hundreds of thousands of unpublished authors around the world just like us who faced the same

challenge. I thought, “This is wrong. Books are more valuable than money. You can't measure a book’s value to readers on its perceived commercial potential.” Publishers don't even know which books are going to sell well. They make their best guess and throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. Readers decide what sells. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there was some service or publisher who could say, “Yes, I will take a chance on you – I will publish you.” to every author in the world. And then I decided I could start that company. That was the genesis for Smashwords. We launched Smashwords in 2008 as a free ebook self-publishing platform. You had to upload the book

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as a Microsoft Word document, then we would convert it into multiple ebook formats and the readers could buy them from the Smashwords Store. In that irst year, our books were not selling very well. No one knew what the Smashwords Store was. It just wasn’t a recognized name. In 2009, we decided to start distributing our ebooks to the large ebook stores. At the time, there was no distributor who could serve self-published authors. The big retailers didn’t have a way to accommodate those authors individually, but they did know how to work with distributors. We were the irst to open Barnes & Noble, the Sony ebook store, and various library platforms, such as Overdrive, to self-published ebooks. In the early years, we were all about banging down doors and opening up distribution. We negotiated the same favorable terms as had traditional publishers. We wanted to level the playing ield. InD: And it did in a huge way! Okay Kris, what was your inspiration for Draft2Digital? How did it come about? KA: Well, that came about because a friend of mine, who is an author, tried the traditional route, very similar to Mark's story, and we came upon

Smashwords as a self-publishing option, but we felt the technical challenges were very steep. A mutual friend, who I went to school with, is a developer who wrote some software to streamline aspects in creating an ebook, and he felt his software was much easier to use than anything else out there. So, we thought we would be able to package that software as self-serve and make it easier for any author in the world to get their books into a digital format and distributed. My background is all in IT stuff. I’m a computer guy all the way around, so he asked me if I was interested in starting a business with him. We spent about 6 to 8 months with the three of us working in the evening trying to get something created. We all had full-time jobs and kids, wives, so ultimately nothing much was getting done. But by 2012, we had saved up enough money to build out the web interface with all the business processes, then created a relationship with retailers and built all of that around the formatting software that really turns a Word document into an ebook, something that Mark and his team had shown was possible, we just took a different approach than they did. MC: They made what we had created, easier.

So What Prompted This Huge Merger? InD: So, were you two competitors? KA: We were. We were direct competitors. InD: So Mark, you started it, and Kris, you saw where Mark wasn't doing quite as well as you thought it could be, and tried to make it better, which resulted with both of you in the same situation, competing with each other? KA: I think that is a fair characterization. InD: What did Mark have that you don't have, that inspired you to want to merge? KA: That is a great question. In addition to their 150,000 authors and 600,000 books, they have a solid retail storefront where the readers were already going

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to buy books. It’s an author-friendly store. D2D didn't have that and I never really wanted to make our own storefront because that’s a different business model. InD: Mark, what about you? What did Kris have that you wanted? Because it sounds like he has the same thing you do. MC: That is a really big question. There were multiple things. Let’s backup a little bit… We started as a self-publishing platform and store. After we entered the ebook distribution business in 2009, we put our store on the back burner. Most of our heavy research and development went into the distribution side of our business. Even as other


retailers started shrinking, our store kept growing. Now after nearly 15 years, the Smashwords Store has international brand awareness with ebook readers. Many authors use the store as their personal bookstore since it pays the highest royalties. So, the store grew organically as word got out about its author-friendly and reader-friendly features. Now, in answer to your question about what I saw in Draft2Digital, I have always been impressed by the people of Draft2Digital. They treat their authors with the same respect and service attitude as we treat our authors. Our two companies are more the same than we are different. We both chose an author-friendly business model that is the most dif icult to survive with. We don't sell services or marketing packages. We are very much like a traditional publisher in the sense that the money only lows one way. We take the chances and we make the investments to help authors publish and distribute their books at no cost to the author. We only make money when the author makes money. From the very beginning, I thought this business model was the most ethical, fairest way to build a business. The model aligns all of our corporate objectives with the best interests of the author. So fast forward to when Kris contacted me last November.

We had been competitors for the same authors, the same publishers, the same readers the entire time. I have been contacted before by other potential acquirers and investors, but none ever matched the commitment D2D has for authors. In Kris’s email, he said, “I continue to regularly think about how Smashwords and Draft2Digital can join forces in ways to further improve the lives of authors.” That was what I wanted to hear. Later in the email he said something that was a big shock to me. To demonstrate his good faith and trust, he shared D2D’s revenues with me. Now, private companies don't share their revenues with anyone, especially their competitors. That is the most private, secret information, so when he shared those numbers with me, I instantly understood where they were in the marketplace and how well they had performed and executed. I already had respect, but I didn't realize how well their company was performing for its authors. I did know that this is a cutthroat, dif icult market to survive in. Many of the companies that tried to copy Smashwords went out of business. But D2D’s numbers told me that, for a company that was four years younger than Smashwords, and a company that was publishing fewer titles than Smashwords, their sales were basically twice ours. The numbers

made it clear to me that Kris and his team were doing a better job for their authors than I was. I have always believed you hire people who are smarter than you, and if someone comes along who can do the job better than you, you step aside and let them do it. My number one duty is to serve our authors and grow their publishing businesses. After getting to know Kris, how he thought, how he approached problem solving, and his commitment to authors, I knew he could help me take Smashwords and the indie author community to the next level. There are a lot of examples out there of publishing companies that exploit authors. They won’t last over the long term. I’ve always believed there’s a better way. I’ve always believed that forpro it businesses can change the world in a good way. Like we did with Smashwords, Kris built a successful business by running his company with the same commitment to ethics, honesty, and author service. There is the concept in business called second mover advantage. Often, the irst one in the market is not the ultimate leader because the irst is full of big ideas, but they are the irst to make mistakes. And with technology, you put all of your eggs into the company you want to build. You build that technology infrastructure and once that technology infrastructure is in place, it is really dif icult to change it. D2D found success by solving the same problems we were solving, but solving them differently. So, as Kris and I started talking, we found that we can do more for authors and readers by working together than working as competitors. All our energies spent working apart, we could

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put together and free up resources and capital to invest in new tools for authors. It didn’t take many conversations with Kris for me to realize our companies together could do more for authors. We belonged together. InD: I have known Mark for a number of years. He has written articles for us looking at the future in publishing and nine times out of ten he has been spot on! So, when Mark says he cannot see either of you going forward and being really, truly successful without combining, that hit me. It's really genius that you combined, you can do so much more together than separate. So Kris, how did you get the cojones to send that irst email? KA: Well, it is a part of who I am. I really do care about the mission of what we are trying to accomplish. We want to improve authors' lives and we want them to realize the dreams they have, so I am always trying to see what we can do better. When I look at the broader publishing market, which is really large, I see the Indie author has a long way to go, and I would much rather us work together to help Indie authors tackle the wider publishing world than waste our time competing with each other and wasting time making the exact same tools. And, the authors are switching back and forth between the two of us, when they don't really need to. I think there is so much more we can do with our knowledge together and we have two highly experienced teams in the realm of Indie authors, and the wider publishing world, so when you put all of this brainpower together, we can serve better. It seemed really obvious to me. I igured, “Now, all I have to do is convince Mark Coker!” I didn’t know him very well, but we had

talked on the phone about 10 years ago when D2D was this really tiny company. Even then, I felt that we could do something together. But, understandably, back then, he assumed we were not going to make it because, like he said, it is a hard business. MC: And, I think at one point, I asked if your team would relocate to California. KA: Yeah, and I was like, “No.” InD: Kris, I think you were the prophet there! [all laughing]. MC: I think it is a good thing that we didn’t combine years ago because all of the business decisions would've been more on my shoulders than they were Kris’s. Both of us have made different business decisions and have different perspectives of what is important and you can tell from our sales growth that Kris’s perspective worked better than mine. InD: But, Kris did not have the insight to have a store like you did. KA: It was not our main focus. It seems inevitable you would eventually build your own store, but that was not what we wanted to focus on. I think Smashwords had to deal with that the whole time but we only had to deal with one thing. I think Mark makes a good point about the leadership would've been all on him, had we done this merger sooner. Now, it is all a team effort. MC: Kris and his team are really good at user interfaces and

design, and that is not my strength. My strength has always been imagining the function of what the tool can do. I have always been, “So what if it looks ugly? Just look at what it can do!” There are a lot of authors who want to do stuff, but they also want it to be attractive and easy and more accessible. InD: That is very true. MC: In real-life, I am no fashion icon. [everyone chuckling] That just doesn't matter to me, but I have come to appreciate that the way something looks is more important than I imagined. It took me 56 years to learn this, but we are always learning and adapting and I am trying to learn something new every day. And I agree with what Kris is saying. Between the two of us, we have an awesome team that probably has more experience in self-publishing and serving selfpublished authors than anyone else. Also, we know how to serve them right. Just look at our business model, where we only make money if the authors make money. This gives us a tremendous advantage in the market place because it is dif icult to copycat all that is Draft2Digital today, not to mention what we will become in the future. KA: No one is going to be able to do what we did again, because we exist, and all of the big, new team of Draft2Digital and Smashwords together bring more and better tools. I think we are in a good position to serve authors better than ever before. InD: I believe that to be true and I totally agree. It would be

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We bring two cultures which are focused on innovation and we are not resting on our laurels. We want to do more.

very dif icult to beat you guys because you have got so much combined strength and knowledge. MC: We also bring two cultures which are focused on innovation and we are not resting on our laurels. We want to do more. InD: Okay, let's talk about publishing for a moment, you both have a lot experience and understanding, as you look back on the last 10 to 14 years, what have been some of the surprises that you did not foresee happening? MC: Well, I just mentioned one important thing, the importance of an attractive design. InD: What about you, Kris? KA: The things I didn't foresee… honestly I have been very surprised that Amazon has kept their exclusive program as long as they have. I would say that is the biggest surprise to me. The second would be that I thought subscription books would be a larger thing than they are. InD: That ties into both of them because Amazon has KDP, which is basically a subscription service, so why did it surprise you that they lasted so long, when your next thought was that subscriptions would be bigger? KA: I think the answer is a bit complicated, but you are right, they are tied together but only because Amazon has tied it together and just scooped up its

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authors in their exclusive program, making it harder for other retailers to compete with them in that particular space. They basically swallowed up a lot of content. That makes it not as appealing to other retailers to have subscription programs. InD: Okay, I understand. They control the market on it. KA: Yes, the size that Amazon currently is makes it so they can choke out competition. It is just the nature of the beast. But, even in the broader industry as a whole, traditional publishing contracts have gotten worse over the last 10 years, not better, which really surprises me. I thought the contracts with traditional publishers would've gotten more friendly, but they have become less so. InD: That is surprising because I thought traditional would have to be more accommodating, but they tightened their grip. KA: And we saw a lot slip through their ingers when they did that. We can name a lot of mid-list and even higher level authors who are taking off on their own. It is interesting the choices that traditional publishers are making in this space. InD: What about you, Mark? What do you see, as far as traditional publishing? MC: I have been surprised that they have not adapted to accommodate more authors. They

have basically kept the same number of titles they are acquiring. Their advances are declining and their businesses are suffering under the thumb of Amazon, at a time when they should be embracing and saying yes to all authors, instead of fewer. But, that creates more opportunity for us. Still, I would like to see traditional thrive, as well. InD: Why do you think they're doing that? MC: One thing that has surprised me is self-published ebook authors have been around 14 years. The industry has had plenty of time to get to know and respect Indie authors. I'm surprised that the industry still has so little respect for those authors. Our shared view with Draft2Digital is that authors should be at the center of the publishing universe. They should have total control of all aspects of their career and of their books, in pricing, distribution and all of that control. We are the service provider to authors. Publishers are service providers to authors, but I don't know that traditional publishers see themselves that way. I think they see authors as a service provider to them, and this a backward philosophy. Even when people say they love indie authors and are selling and making money off of them, I still get the feeling there really isn’t any respect there. Few retailers brag about their


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massive catalogs of self-published books. Your philosophy shapes your actions. InD: That does surprise me, this far into this "new" publishing world, that there still isn't the respect that should be given to Indie authors, when by and large, successful Indie authors make a whole lot more money than traditional authors... with some exceptions like Nora Roberts and a few other established icons. MC: It is really easy for them to pay lip service and yes, they love the money they're making, but do they show respect? If you are a company that exploits authors and makes all your money by selling overpriced, low quality services, then you don't respect authors. If you’re a company that leverages your market leadership to dictate pricing, promotions, and distribution decisions for authors, then you don’t respect authors. You see authors as something to exploit. InD: Is it not odd that the bottom line is, the author is the one producing the work and therefore making the money? MC: Yes, the entire industry depends on what the author has created. KA: We look at ourselves as partners developing the tools to help authors get closer to readers. InD: So, what have been the biggest challenges in merging the two companies? KA: In the early stages, it was all the accounting and legal aspects. It takes a lot of work with two companies that have been around for so long! Now, our teams are learning to work well together. So far, that part has gone super well. InD: Are you still in Oklahoma, Kris? KA: Yes, we are working remotely. We have 34 people who are spread out all over the US and Canada, someone even in Guatemala. We are using Zoom and Slack, building a culture as we work together and get to know each other. That is the fun part, getting to know all these new people and see how they interact and solve problems. It has only been a few weeks, so

the real challenges of seeing how we actually execute everything is yet to come. InD: So, Mark what has been a challenge for you? MC: I agree with Kris, the challenges after we decided to bring our companies together was to actually bring the companies together. [both chuckling] That was a laborious, very dif icult process, working with lawyers and accountants in setting up legal structure and doing all the due diligence. There are always complicated steps you have to go through to bring two large companies together, and that was just a lot of work. KA: So much work! InD: The average onlooker, like me, doesn’t really think about it. We think, “Wow, this is going to be really awesome!” Not realizing how much work is really going into it. You hear all the time about titans of big companies merging but when you look at Kris and Mark, as two guys trying to actually merge their companies, it really hits. That would have to be a lot to igure out! MC: Luckily, Kris and I were on the same page from the beginning. We wanted to do this merger right and that meant listening to our lawyers and going through all of those hoops. It took months, doing all of that back and forth, while we were just itching to get to work together. That inally started on March 1st and it has been great. The hard work still lies ahead but right now we have two companies that need to merge together from a technical standpoint. The Smashwords Store will remain as a standalone retail destination, and our publishing and distribution services will move into Draft2Digital. There are a lot of technical challenges of merging the data, accounts, books, and libraries of millions of accounts into a uni ied Draft2Digital system. And, we want to get all of the Draft2Digital books into the Smashwords Store. InD: Once you have fully merged, what is the fun part? KA: The fun part is we will have a development team that is quite large and has the ability to work on a lot of different projects at the same time. To me, that is the fun part. Sitting down and deciding what we want to do with the developers and what can we improve irst, then actually making it happen. Execution of the idea is super exciting to me and creating the tools is the end. Then, using them to help people's lives, help sell their books and help readers ind more and exciting authors they have never heard of before, because of the new storefront executing really well. So, those are the parts that are exciting for me. InD: Mark? MC: I would second that and add that Kris is really good at execution. I am pretty good at coming up with


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single retailer dictates what they pay authors. They, alone, determine how much to pay authors and what their royalty rates are. Another concern of mine is how Amazon is becoming pay to play, to the detriment of authors and readers alike. Let's say I'm a fan of Kristen Ashley, so I type in her name on Amazon. The irst ive search results are for other authors’ books – authors who paid to advertise – and the rest of her search results are also littered with imposters. Amazon constructed their advertising program so that not only must authors pay for visibility, they earn visibility by trampling upon the brands and readers of other authors. InD: That's right. I can't imagine that not driving the authors crazy! I deal with it every single month as I'm downloading the buy links for the hundreds of books we review each month, plus all of the books that are being advertised. Every single time, I type in a name to search, I have to scroll through all of Amazon’s advertisements to get to the one I typed in. It drives me crazy! I can only imagine how it must drive authors crazy. MC: You see how that is hurtful to the author and reader? KA: And that is a concern of mine as well, but I think it is important to say that we understand why the authors are making those choices, and it is a totally rational choice for them to make. I don't begrudge people making these choices, and they are hard choices to make, but it may damage the long term future for all of publishing. Amazon has built a system that puts authors in that dif icult position. So, what we have to do as a broader industry is create a compelling solution to have an alternative for the author, so they don't feel the need to go to Amazon. InD: With Draft2Digital, you have the ideas, so you can do that? KA: Absolutely. An alternate storefront is the starting point, and we have other plans in the works for discoverability tools. We are looking at different tools for authors to go wide and stay wide.

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ideas for the future, visualizing where the company should be ive, 10 years from now, predicting trends and seeing how those trends affect the market. So, that is one of the things I am excited about. I think Kris is somebody who can realize my dreams better than I can myself. I feel like a painter who does not have hands. I can visualize the picture in my mind, but I can't paint it. I am not a programmer. I have so much love and respect for people who can program because they are the magicians that bring my ideas to life. So, looking at our two teams and looking at Kris and myself, it is really about bringing our talents together so we can achieve more and do more, so that both dreams are realized. We each have skills that one or the other doesn't have. It is not just Kris and myself, but our entire teams. There are so many great minds to bring together to solve really big problems. Both of our companies have a great culture. Where other companies might say, “That's too dif icult or not possible.” our shared culture is, “If it’s dif icult, that’s a reason to do it!” We know we have the smarts to igure it out, and solve it for authors. Since we make our tools available for free to the authors, our solutions become more accessible and help more people realize their dreams. InD: Which means I get more, and better material to read! KA: Exactly. That is what we want. We want more people reading more great books. InD: What are your hopes for the future of publishing? KA: My hopes for the future are that authors will take their place at the center of the publishing universe and they will be able to do what they dream of as a career and not as a side project. I have always wanted people to be able to do what they love and to get paid well doing it. So, more authors succeeding by writing books and connecting with the readers. MC: Amen to what Kris just said. We are on the same page. We want to put authors at the center of the universe and we want to be the connective tissue between those authors and the readers. InD: What are your concerns going forward for publishing as a whole? MC: I’m concerned when I see authors making decisions that are counterproductive to their longterm future. For instance, KDP Select. When authors join that platform exclusively, that is a vote to put other ebook retailers out of business. And when you put other ebook retailers out of business, then there's only one retailer left to serve authors. Then Amazon no longer needs to compete for the honor of selling that author’s books, which means a


InD: I think the Indie world needs that so desperately, and if that was your mission statement alone, it would be enough. KA: I think that now, being such a large company, with so many titles and authors, our reach is only going to igure better and I think that will give authors the ability to realize there's more out there. InD: I think that is amazing and wonderful. I was looking back to our irst interview, in our very irst magazine with Mark, and I got a kick out of your answer when I asked you what your hopes were for publishing and for Smashwords in the next 10 years. You said that you hoped to become a global company in ive years and to have your books available in any language. You wanted to be the world's largest distributor and to have 1 million books on Smashwords. So, let's take those hopes as you combine with D2D, how does it look? MC: Well, we already are a global company, in terms of selling books and serving authors and readers from around the world. With our two companies combined, we are publishing 900,000 books for

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250,000 authors, so we are going to attain that goal of 1 million. KA: From over 60 countries. The books are sold in literally every country. MC: Both of our companies have been instrumental in opening up distribution opportunities internationally, as well. InD: So, with you combined, are you the world's largest distributor? MC: Of Indie ebooks, yes. KA: Absolutely. InD: You qualify it with Indie ebooks, is there somewhere else you can go with that? MC: Yes, going way back, we started with a focus on Indie authors, even before they were called Indie authors, but we also have the tools and capabilities to serve independent publishers. InD: So, you two together can grow into the largest

distributor, publishing house, everything? MC: Yes, there is opportunity for us to expand the business with Indie authors and also serve independent publishers, because they have the same challenges as authors. When you're talking about small independent presses, there is a really wide spectrum— from annual sales of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. And, the opportunity for us to expand into the larger area is also there. We’re not just talking about owning a bigger piece of the Indie pie, but to grow the pie for everyone in the entire industry. InD: So, Kris where do you see yourself ive or 10 years from today? KA: Well, we are already the biggest supplier of Indie ebooks, so we will be the biggest distributor of print books of Indie authors. In 10 years, that's my prediction. InD: What are some other goals that you have? KA: To have Smashwords be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, online retailer of ebooks and all books, that is what I want. A global name.


MC: TJ, let me just add a little color around that. If we can achieve what we think we can achieve with print on demand, that is going to have a major impact on a lot of companies out there right now that are exploiting authors. It is going to have a negative impact on them. Which means a positive impact on so many new authors who currently fall into the jaws of the predatory companies. KA: That is one of the things I constantly tell my team, we want authors to ind out about us before they ind the predatory companies. InD: I really like that. That is a very worthy goal, to ind you before they ind somebody who will take advantage of them. Is there anything else you two would like to say to authors and readers, that we haven't covered? MC: We want to work with every indie author! Every author in the world should be working with D2D, no matter

what their strategy is. There is a place for D2D in their author toolbox. Even for traditionally published authors who have content that their traditional publisher won't publish. Come to D2D and explore how we can help you. InD: I think that is wonderful. It is an awesome thing that you provide. So, even though an author who is stuck in traditional can use short stories or novellas or back-list, and other stories traditional publishers won’t take. There is an alternative where they can publish. KA: Yes, come to us. If you already have a readership, those readers are probably already looking for you to have more books out, even if they are short stories. You already have an audience who are ready to see the books, any book you have written. We offer free tools that can help you connect with your audience! InD: I think that is something

that will be very bene icial to everyone. MC: Yes. Our opportunity is to continually innovate and improve all of our tools and make self-publishing success more accessible to more authors. For authors who already have years of experience, we’ll help build their self-publishing business, and for the authors who are not yet self-publishing, we help them get started with tools that will evolve to support their publishing journey for decades to come. From beginners to international bestsellers. InD: Thank you! It was a joy to visit with both of you.

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Kindle Vella:

A New Way To Read? If you’re an author and you reside on planet Earth, you recognize the powerhouse names of Amazon and Kindle. As authors, we know many of our sales are probably through Amazon’s book and Kindle platforms, covering print and digital device readers worldwide.

But, did you know Amazon has another way for writers to publish their work and make money? Kindle Vella is Amazon’s new author/reader platform that exempli ies the short read concept. Through reams of reader research and all those fancy retail algorithms Amazon is famous for, the ‘Zon powersthat-be determined that readers enjoy reading short, action-packed stories they can devour on their phones or tablets. Busy lives make reading a commodity, and quick, satisfying snippets are preferable when time is short, but the desire to be entertained is strong. Launched in July 2021, the digital program gained

The reason you may not have heard of Vella is because Amazon hasn’t thrown a great deal of advertising dollars Vella’s way, instead depending on the authors who use it to promote their stories through their own marketing efforts. Vella is also, at present, only available to American authors and readers. Plans to go global are part of the future business model, though.

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quick momentum among unpublished and published authors alike, myself included, but many authors and By:

readers still haven’t heard of it. It’s not an app you can buy on iTunes, and you don’t read it on a normal Kindle e-reader. It’s a platform through Amazon. You can access it by searching for "Kindle Vella". You download and read Vella episodes on your phone, your computer, your tablet, or any device where you can open a web browser.


In lay terms, Vella’s publishing module is based on the concept of serialized iction for the masses. This brand of publishing isn’t new; newspapers used it for decades. It’s how authors like Charles Dickens came to fame. Chapters from his books were featured in the London papers once a week for years, until the storyline ended. The public clamored for the weekly literary additions to his latest novel, and he was paid handsomely for each word he gave them… which may explain why his novels are so long. Vella works along this same model. Publish a chapter at a time (or episode, as Amazon calls it), grow your audience by assigning the story to speci ic categories and tags, and engage your readers in the plot and writing process. One important note: in order for writers to use the platform, they must have a Kindle Direct Publishing account, something most independent authors are familiar with. If you’re exclusively a traditionally published author, you’ll need to establish a KDP account in order to take advantage of the Vella platform. The overwhelming majority of Vella stories are iction based. Amazon states it intends to garner more non- iction storytellers in the future, but for now, it is primarily iction, and covers every genre and sub-genre. A quick tour of the main page will show you the categories of the stories featured throughout the platform.

For the Romance genre, the tags you can assign a story run the gamut from adventure, steamy, or sweet, paranormal, contemporary, historical, even erotica. There are over 100 descriptions/tags to choose from. Think of them like the keywords readers search under when they want to discover a new book in the genre they love to read. Each episode of a Vella story is between 600 and 5000 words, roughly what a chapter would be in a novel. Episodes can be uploaded as often as the author wants, or as fast as they can be written. The main premise is that they are short, well-written, and engaging enough that the reader will want to read the next episode when it is launched. And speaking of engaging the reader, Vella has several avenues for readers to show their interest and love for the episodes they’re enjoying. The stories can be followed, given a thumbs up (similar to a "like" on Facebook), and once a week, a reader can nominate an episode for a Fan Favorite crown. Those crowns are pictured on the Vella main page as badges of honor for the authors, and believe me, when an author receives one, it’s like winning the reader lottery. There’s also a way for the author to connect and engage with the reader. At the end of every episode, the author has an opportunity to write Author Notes. Here, you can tell a short anecdote about the episode, give some insight into one of the characters, or discuss anything related to the story. The author can ask a question of the readers as well. This breaks the wall between writer and reader, and establishes a one-on-one connection not found

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The concept for Vella is simple. Authors write and upload parts of a continuing story onto the platform and then hit publish, releasing it into the reading world. In fact, Vella’s tagline is: Serial stories to read, one short episode at a time.


When I’d irst thought to update and release the books on my own, I thought of doing so under a pseudonym. Conventional publishing wisdom has always dictated that if an author is switching genres, it makes sense to switch names along with it so as not to anger loyal fans who, when they see your name attached to a project, have certain pre-set expectations about what they will be reading. You don’t want those fans annoyed with you when what they thought they were getting wasn’t what you routinely offered them. Vella makes it easy to switch genres without having to use a pen name. Incidentally, I didn’t adopt a Vella pseudonym and haven’t seen my book sales plummet in the least. The opposite has occurred. Since I started releasing on Vella, I’ve noted an uptick, across the board, in my Romance novels. anywhere else. Once again, Amazon’s crack research teams have determined readers really like to interact with their favorite authors. For those of us who attend book signings, we know this to be true. Readers adore knowing how characters came into existence, if they are patterned after anyone speci ically, where our story ideas come from. The Author Notes help foster this author/reader relationship. I started using the Vella platform because I had several older novels and stories sitting on my laptop that had never found a publishing home. In my 20s and 30s, I was obsessed with serial killers and crimes involving murder. I grew up in the Jeffrey Dahmer, Son of Sam, and Ted Bundy era, and every night there was a new breaking news story about a fresh serial killer terrorizing the world. So, because of that obsession, I wrote novels with murder as the theme. I’d been toying with the idea of updating those works and then releasing them independently, but never found the time to do so. When Vella came along, it gave me the perfect opportunity. I started with one murder mystery I’d penned, and inagled the irst chapter into three Vella episodes, updating and editing as I went along. After that, I released one new episode twice a week, until the book was completed. Then I went on to the next novel, and the next. Currently, I have four stories on the platform, three completed, and one still ongoing, at the time this piece is being penned. Along the way, I garnered a whole new community of readers who’d never heard of me and didn’t know I primarily wrote Romantic iction. My Vella readers are, for the most part, Mystery and Suspense lovers.

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Coincidence? Maybe, but I like to think my readers like more than just Romantic iction and are open to reading across all genres if they like the author’s style, the same as I do. The bene its of Vella to the author are vast. You learn to write tight and hone your self-editing skills, something all of us writers should be doing. You get to explore new genres and experiment with different writing styles, if you so desire. You can publish on your own timeline, and you have total control in the content you release. Plus, stories which never found a publishing home before, can now do so. You can connect and interact with readers on a more personal level and really foster that reader relationship, too. You also get paid. And depending how you utilize the platform, you get paid a lot. Next month, I’ll explain Kindle Vella’s royalty structure. For now, take a stroll through the Vella site and see if it’s something that could bene it your own writing career.


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Child’s Play I remember when my kids were little, and I’d read to them almost every night before bed. There were always a few favorites they requested from our Dr. Seuss collection of stories, lled with tongue twisters and oddly wonderful imagery.

It encouraged their imagination because hearing me read aloud, while looking at the illustrations, helped them see the stories in their own way. My son wasn’t always interested in pre-made characters, and often demanded I make up stories just for him. Since I had a heavy work schedule at that time, which didn’t leave me with much in the way of brain juice to keep my mind working ef iciently, I made up a Pokemon character based on my son and created tales around him. It had the same result as reading to my girls... it made him tap into his imagination and play his own mental movie about what was happening. He knew his

character was going to become a Master in this saga, but how it happened would depend on Dad not nodding off and rambling incoherently before he got there. These are the joys of an active and abundant imagination. Both of us were making up things as we went along. It wasn’t a pre-designed story from a much-loved children’s book, but the end result was the same. This probably explains why I write stories. Of course, I’d rather my grown-up kids not read what I write, because… well, you know, my stories can be, racy... and, it’s Dad. Eww.

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“ If you look online, you’ll ind a lot of great books out there for kids—and, of course, adults—to enjoy. There are plenty in the Children's sections in your local library too, and if you can ind a brick and mortar bookstore, they usually have a whole wing devoted to literature for children. You can pick up old favorites like “Goodnight, Moon” for the youngest, or add Bunnicula’s adventures, for young vampire rabbit fans, and there’s always (and hopefully always will be) our best bear friend, Winnie the Pooh. Brian Jacques’ "Redwall" series is also long enough to take youngsters through into their own reading years. The Young Adult genre has grown so much, including adventures, romance, angst, and complex tales that have come a long way since "Twilight" burst out on the scene and made it plain that Young Adult iction was, and still is, huge. There were many more before it, but it went BOOM the loudest, and caught everyone’s attention. My daughter can sit and ramble off the titles of a million other YA books, but she’s an admitted book nerd and loves them. My point here is that I really hope parents and the media start encouraging young people to read again.

We look around now and with the internet, gaming systems, binge watching shows, and everything else that’s out there distracting our kids, reading a book seems almost like the stone age to them.

To close their email programs, ignore the chiming of their social media, and just Read A Book. Once they understand that such a thing isn’t going to make them look stupid, or that they’ve missed out on something earth-shattering in the world of pop stars, then they might ind that it’s been fun sharing a wild adventure with a brave girl and her bow and arrows. Remember... each and every one of you browsing this magazine right now are reading. The reason I brought this up is because my wife and I were reminiscing the other day about the kids and how much they enjoyed reading as children. We look around now and with the internet, gaming systems, binge watching shows, and everything else that’s out there distracting our kids, reading a book seems almost like the stone age to them. You can hand a kid a book and they will stare at it like they were handed some kind of ancient fossil. I can almost hear what’s going through their minds... “Back in the old days when the world was in, like, black and white, they had these things called paperback books. They were made out of wood and stuff and marked up with ink and people would, like,

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buy them and put them on shelves and other places. That was before the invention of wide screen televisions, smart phones, and computers. You know, the old Stone age stuff...” I’m overreacting, a bit, but I have kids working in libraries, and yes, I was blessed to have children who love reading. They understood the joy of books at an early age, and were thrilled to hold them in their hands. While my girls discovered Jane Austen, my son was a fan of the more adventurous stories from Tolkien. All of them dove into Harry Potter without hesitation. They had an appetite for stories and their imaginations ran wild with the wizards of Hogwarts. Many a day, I joined other parents and stood in line for the latest in the series. I had such fun seeing the other kids in their "house" scarves, waving their wands and arguing which house was their favorite. I prefer Gryf indor, just FYI. Sadly, these days we’re hearing more and more about banning books, many of which we ourselves have enjoyed. We are being told what to read and what not to, by those who apparently know us and our families better than we do. I guess when I was growing up, I was blessed with the ability to access, and enjoy, the classics of our country,

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our history, and beyond, without censorship. I have to hope that parents are still reading to their kids, and encouraging a new generation to relish the freedom offered by libraries. Books are treasures, in my opinion. They relate our past, inspire visions for our future, and for kids... they open the door to their imaginations. I’m getting a little preachy here, and I don’t mean to, but this is something I feel strongly about. Making sure the youth of today are inspired to read, instead of endlessly scrolling down a feed or streaming the movie, and not reading the book. There are so many talented authors writing about growing up, struggling to belong, and itting in. Their stories are relevant for any kid, just as the ones I read to mine are still going strong today. I’m a believer in the power of creativity and imagination. We all have it, we just need to start using it.


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Finale! Liam I pull out of the driveway, unsure of which direction to point my vehicle. My computer has tracking - meaning with one simple phone call I could have it turned on and know just where it - and William - are. But that would mean bringing the Council in on this, and that is something I need to avoid right now. Maybe it’s simple. Maybe I’m making this too hard. Maybe he took my computer to draw me in. I use voice command and tell my phone to dial his number. It rings one time. “I was wondering how long you would take to call me. How was your trip?” I decide to pull the truck over into the parking lot of a service station. Taking the phone off speaker, I press it to my ear and demand, “What’s all this about?” “I won’t talk on the phone. Meet me at the Confederate Monument. When can you get there?” He’s in Texarkana, which means he’s been following us. I’m not surprised. “Give me twenty minutes.” He hangs up without reply. I toss the phone aside, pissed he knows where I am. Does he know where I put Victory? How is he tracking me? He must have help. It can only be The Brotherhood.

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I turn the truck around and head to our designated meeting ground. The monument is in the middle of town and offers no real cover. It’s public. And safe. I park my truck across the square and bend down, checking the weapon on my ankle. It’s secure, hidden. I exit my vehicle and scan my surroundings. It’s quiet and the sky is clear. My shoes crunch on the concrete and gravel as I cross the road toward the towering statue. Two igures step out from behind the monument; William on one side, Dante on the other. I lose my footing for the briefest moment. Both men notice. “Hello, Liam,” William greets me. “I believe you know my father.”


“Dante?” My voice trembles with this betrayal. I’ve known Dante my entire life, and never once had he mentioned a son. In fact, after my parents’ death, he took over parental duties and treated me like the son he never had. “I know,” the old man says, “this is quite a surprise, but what would the Council be if we didn’t hold on to our secrets? You never know when they might come in handy.”

would have lost focus and so many women would have died. The Brotherhood has to remain in the dark, and for that to happen, we had to proceed with business as usual.” Dante and William exchange an unde ined look. “Your sister holds the key to, well… everything.” I wrinkle my forehead. A car passes by, and an elderly woman eyes us as they cruise past.

“They certainly bene ited you here.”

“No. You’re wrong. My sister’s dead. She was killed by one of my father’s men. One of your men.”

“I wouldn’t have needed to use him had you not lied to me.”

Dante ignores my accusation. “Your sister is missing. She’s not dead.”

The irritation in his voice tells me everything I need to know. He knows everything. The women, the safe houses, Victory…

The words don’t compute. I remember my mother telling me she was dead. I remember my father’s shame. I was young, but I knew. I knew... what my father chose to tell me.

“How long have you known?” “Since before your parents’ deaths. You’re way out of your element, Liam. Do you think your father set up these safehouses alone? I helped him. Who do you think protected you all of these years? Approved your choice of wife? It was me. I’m the one who asked them to allow me to train you. When I give my word, I keep it. I promised to raise you right, to teach you everything you’d need to know to survive this miserable world.”

“I don’t understand. How could you not protect her?” I had questioned. “We’re members of The Brotherhood! How could this happen? How could she

“I ache to touch the pistol hidden in my boot, unsure of what to believe. Instead, I crack my knuckles. “

“Promised who? The Brotherhood.” “No, you idiot. Your father,” William says. “We were protecting you all along because we needed you... to get to her.” I ache to touch the pistol hidden in my boot, unsure of what to believe. Instead, I crack my knuckles. “Get to who?” “Liberty.” It’s William that utters her name. I feel heat lush my face and I clench my ist. Memories ill my mind of Liberty and I on Christmas morning opening presents; lashes of my mother’s tears when the doctor whispered truths that I’m forbidden to know. The screaming when her name turned up on my father’s list. “Don’t you dare utter my sister’s name, you sonofabitch,” I growl. “How can I get to someone who’s dead? Stop all this cloak and dagger bullshit and tell me what it is you really want.” “She’s not dead, Liam. She’s in hiding.” The words rock my world and send me off-kilter. Is it true? “We’ve been looking for her for years. We needed you to move through the list undistracted so that we might ind her. If we had told you, if you’d known, you

be gone?” My mother held a handkerchief over her face, sobbing and jerking away from the touch my father attempted to comfort her with. “No one is exempt from their laws.” She wept openly into her hands, the words muf led with her grief. He turned to me. “I can’t explain it without risking both your lives.” I shake the memory from my head. We had buried her. My parents died only a few months later and were buried with her. I had been at all their funerals. “And one more thing,” Dante adds, his tone catching my attention. “She isn’t exactly your sister.” He continues before I can protest. “Liberty isn’t your sister. She was placed in your home for protection, just as her fraternal twin sister has recently been placed in your care.”

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The blood drains from my face as I violently shake my head. “No. No, it can’t be!”

“He betrayed them,” I mutter and glance up as I remember they’re watching me with curious eyes.

“Twins, Liam. Liberty and Victory. We must ind her and bring her to her sister. They must be brought together again.”

“Who?”

“This doesn’t make sense. How can—who—”

“Now he’s catching on.” Dante crosses his arms. “When he was captured he surrendered his records, hoping to save his own life. He discovered something in the girls that he wasn’t meant to ever ind. He ultimately signed their death warrants when he turned those records in.”

“You ask too many questions,” William says as he steps forward. “We don’t care about the halfway houses. We don’t care that you’ve been lying. Don’t you see?” he whispers, looking around. “We’ve been protecting them for years, hoping eventually she’d turn up in one and we could put the two halves together at last.” The pieces start to fall into place. Dante said Liberty was placed in my parent’s care to protect her. Liberty was barren. Her twin sister is also infertile. The only protection they would need would be against… “You don’t work for The Brotherhood, do you?”

“The doctor. He must have known something, and The Brotherhood killed him for it.”

I carefully eye the men in front of me. “Who are you?” “For now, all you need to know is that we’re here to protect these women at all costs. The twins must be found. They are the key to the end of this...” Dante waves his arms, “...madness created by mad men.” “How do I know I can trust you?” I look from one man to the other, hoping for an answer I know I won’t

Two halves? Two halves of what? They glance at each other, and my head is spinning. “What are you? Plants? Spies?” I run a hand over my face, unsure of what to believe. “You’re working from the inside,” I whisper to no one in an attempt to unravel the information thrown at me. “How is this possible? Victory has never mentioned a sister or being adopted.” “Victory has no idea who she is. Her parents have lied to her all her life, under threat of execution. They don’t know about her sister, either.”

“For now, all you need to know is that we’re here to protect these women at all costs. The twins must be found. They are the key to the end of this...“

“What do you mean, the two halves?” I narrow my eyes. “We need you to protect Victory and ind Liberty. We have to get them together again. It’s imperative for our goals.” “What goals?” “The same as yours: to end this, the lies, the tyranny… to be free once again.” Dante and William look to one another, and William steps closer. “Our wife... your wife… she’s not infertile.” I frown. “But I’ve seen her ile, I know her history. She had surgery, a hysterectomy.” Dante laughs. “You are foolish, especially considering your position. Dr. Matka wasn’t who you were led to believe he was.” My brain furiously tries to work out the puzzle I don’t seem to have all the pieces for. She was barren, I know she was. That doctor was killed for his black-market surgeries as punishment by the Council. If he wasn’t saving young women’s lives, then what was he doing? He must have lied. The surgery must have been for other reasons.

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receive. “How do I know this is the truth?” Dante is the one that steps forward. “You recognize this?” He pulls up his sleeve to reveal the white ink tattoo. It’s the brand of the resistance. Only members of The Brotherhood know this army exists. If the civilians knew, it would give them hope. I nod. “This is how. You must trust us, or she will die. They will ind out, and all hope will be lost.” The desperation in his eyes, despite the tone of voice, is enough to remind me of the man I knew as a child, of the Dante my father called his friend, of the man that I once trusted. “We must save them, or The Brotherhood will kill us all. No one will be spared.” I leave my truck at the monument and get into the backseat of the Lincoln Towncar. Dante drives toward the safehouse. I don’t know what I’m going to tell Victory. Surprise! Turns out William’s not the bad guy… maybe… and you're not infertile. Oh, and by the way,


you have a twin sister. She is infertile but don’t worry, we’re going to ight The Brotherhood and save her life, and together, you two will save the entire nation. There’s no right way of unloading this onto her. I pull my cell phone from my pocket, but William spins around, snatching the phone from me. “You know they’re tracking your phone. I wouldn’t.” He hands the phone back to me. “Is this how you found me?” He nods. “Yes. We’re working from the inside.” I knew this. I look down at the phone in my hand and consider tossing it out into the ield, but I decide against it. It might give the whole operation away if they suddenly can’t ind me. Then I remember Victory and the phone I gave her. I resist the urge to dial her number.

My dog, Duke, comes running to me from a distance. I have no idea where he came from. I whistle at him, tears blurring my eyes. “Come here, boy.” My voice shakes. Emotions lood me for my wife, for the women, for my lost sister. I’m not sure which. “You said they were protected.” William’s voice holds accusation as he yells at his father. Dante watches me step toward my dog. “I thought they were protected. Everything I saw, everything we did said they were. Maybe this isn’t the Council’s work.” I look up from Duke, who’s running circles around me, barking. “There is no one else. They are the only ones. It has to be them.” Duke whines, pawing at the ground. “Shut up, will you?” I mutter at him. I turn to William. “You have to tell me more. I need the full story here.”

“What am I supposed to do for a phone?” “We have connections, we’ll get you a clean one.” “I gave Victory a phone, but I don’t think she brought it when we left.” Dante looks at me into the mirror. “You gave her a phone?” “I did.” The two men exchange a look. “Did she bring it with her?”

“I watch the lames lick and char the house, the roof caving in just as I pull away, ready to punch the man that tries to stop me this time. “

“I don’t know. We left in a hurry.” A bad feeling washes over me. I lean forward. “Hurry.” As we turn the corner, the smell of smoke hits my nose. It’s faint at irst, but the strong, unmistakable scent of burning wood increases as we get closer to the safehouse. The haze of white smoke is in the air, as thick as fog. I lean forward in my seat as if it might bring us there faster. “Hurry, something is wrong,” I insist again. Dante steps on the gas, and moments later, my breath leaves my body. We are greeted by an inferno. I rush from the car, only to be held back by the two men. I watch the lames lick and char the house, the roof caving in just as I pull away, ready to punch the man that tries to stop me this time. “Victory!” I intend for her name to come out as a scream, but instead, it loats out of my throat in a hoarse whisper. I thrust my hands into my hair, watching helplessly. “The women! Damn it, who could have done this?” I turn to Dante and William, their two faces as slackjawed and pale as mine must be. “Who would have done this? Why would they do this?” William runs a hand over his face. “It must be them. But these women are nothing to them; it doesn’t make sense.”

Dante opens his mouth to reply but I’m distracted when Duke barks at me and tears off toward the house, the direction of the ire. I mutter a swear under my breath just before calling his name. When he doesn’t return, I’m forced to chase him. The heat coming off the burning structure is terrible as I make a wide pass, following the path I saw my dog take. I see his shape just inside the woods, howling. “What in the hell?” I make my way to where he stands. He wags his tail as if proud of what he’s done. As I reach for his collar ready to scold him, I see it. There, in the leaves, as if it was covered in a rush. It’s a handle. Bending, I brush away leaves and dirt to expose what looks like a heavy metal door hidden near the tree line. My heart starts to beat quickly and out of rhythm as I wrap my hand around the metal and rise, pulling the door open. It opens with a soft groan, revealing only darkness and a set of stairs. I glance at the wiggling dog, scratching him on the head. I’m afraid to call out, not knowing who

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The steps protest under my weight, and as I descend, I realize they are terribly steep and narrow, forcing me to reach for the wall with my free hand. I ind myself wishing I had a lashlight as I step further into darkness. Finally, I reach what feels like concrete under my feet. I scan the room, barely lit from above, and that light doesn’t reach into the shadows. I swallow and take the safety off my weapon. “Is anyone there?” I call. Cellars in Texas are rare, but the metal and concrete have the feel of a storm shelter or a bunker of some sort. Either it was here the whole time and Elizabeth found it, or she had it installed.

“I scan the room, barely lit from above, and that light doesn’t reach into the shadows. I swallow and take the safety off my weapon. “

“Liam, is that you?” I hear the soft, trembling voice from the shadows. “Victory!” I suddenly want to cry. “Are you alone?” I hear her steps as I search the black for her shape, only seeing her when she steps into the dim light. “Yes, I’m alone.” With relief, I holster my weapon. I pull her into my arms and crush her against my body. “I thought I’d lost you. I thought you were dead.” I whisper. “Why?” I pull back, searching her face. Her cheeks are tear streaked, her hair has cobwebs and dust in it. “The ire, the house. The women are gone.” How could she not know? Her eyes go wide. “What ire? Where are the women?” “I was going to ask you the same thing. Look, we have to get out of here, and then you can tell me what happened.”

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or what might be inside. I retrieve my weapon and head down. I’d rather risk it alone than call Dante and William. There are still too many questions, and so much I don’t know. Nothing makes sense.

I pull her up the stairs, where Duke greets her with excitement. “Good dog.” I will have to reward him later when there is more time. “We have to get out of here.” She starts for the tree line but I grab her. “No, not that way.” Confusion controls her face. “What? Why?” I pull her deeper into the forest. “I don’t know if I can trust them. We have to go before they come looking for me.” “Who?” “Dante and William. Come on.” I hush her questions with a inger to my lips, and the two of us head into the woods with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our dog at our heels, and more questions than answers in our heads. Half an hour passes before either of us speak again. “Tell me how you ended up in that storm shelter,” I inally break the painful silence as we move through the forest in the direction that I know will take us across the state line. Victory doesn’t answer until we cross the border. “The phone rang and Elizabeth answered it. I don’t know who it was; she took the call in another room. She came back with panic all over her face. She said some sort of code word and they all scattered like roaches. She grabbed me and dragged me out the back. I asked her what was happening, but she didn’t say anything until she reached that door. She told me to get in and stay in until someone came for me. Next thing I knew, you were calling my name.” Victory takes my hand. “I was terri ied and confused, Liam. What’s going on? Why did they leave?” I stop walking and turn to her. I see the fear on her face, the unasked questions in her eyes. “And William, how did he—” I silence her with a kiss, just because I need to touch her to calm the turmoil in my soul. I rest my forehead on hers and close my eyes. “Victory, there is so much I need to tell you.” I take a deep, cleansing breath. “But for now, let me just say I love you.” She reaches up and touches my face, which startles me since my eyes are closed. I lean into her gentle ingers. “And I think I love you. Lead the way, and tell me everything.”

The End Series to be continued in: The Shadowman (The Shadowman Chronicles Book 2)


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Adam Levine”

So, picture this: I'm 10 rows up from ice level in a stadium that sits over 20,000. All of us are there for one thing and one thing only. After suffering through two opening acts and standing in endless lineups for overpriced alcohol, the house lights dim, the screaming starts and the opening lines of the irst song surround me. "I'm at a payphone trying to call home, all of my change I spent on you..." That's right ladies, it's Adam Levine's distinctive falsetto that is illing my ears and overloading my senses. My girlfriend Becky and I join the frenzied masses, dancing, singing, and screaming along with Maroon 5 for the next hour and a half. No one was sitting during the show. I had to take my 4-inch heels off for a couple of songs to rest my aching tootsies! The energy of the crowd was unbelievable. The band was wellrehearsed, Adam looked gorgeous, and the crowd ate him up. He danced, he sang, he played guitar, he took a camera and ilmed the band for the big screens behind them, then ilmed the crowd. No profanity (other than in the lyrics) and the band thanked everyone there for waiting for them, as it had been so long between tours. By: f

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My ears were ringing; I'd lost my voice, and had the time of my life. It was worth all the effort to get tickets—the show sold out in a matter of minutes so we had to buy aftermarket—and the time to drive to the show, 5 1/2 hours from home. It was awesome!

seemed. He didn't like the music, the show, the audience, or the opening acts.

I was curious about the review of the concert, so when I got home, I looked it up. After the fabulous time Becky and I had, and the smiles and excitement on the faces of virtually everyone else I saw at the stadium, you can imagine my surprise when I read a headline in the Calgary Herald that said: "Maroon 5 show big, empty, and calculated."

A couple of days later, I was discussing the concert with friends and said, "Why would you go to a concert you know you're going to hate just so you can write a review saying how much you hated it?"

I'm thinking he's more of a classic rock kind of guy... or perhaps Leonard Cohen. De initely not Top 40, at any rate.

Huh. Then it hit me.

HUH? I read on in disbelief as the reviewer described the show as vapid, the band as nondescript, and Levine as having "karaoke-d his way through the forgettable schlock that Maroon 5 have made a rising-and-falling career of." He referred to the rest of the band as "Maroon Others" and said they were the musical equivalent of canned laughter, there simply to focus all of the audience love towards the "star of this particular reality sitcom." Wow, I thought. This guy HATES Adam Levine. Oh, but wait. He doesn't think very much of us either. Here's what he said about the fans: "Levine never once attempted to connect with the predominantly female audience, who, that said, were just as happy to accept his scripted, muscular shtick as if they were at home on the couch in their snuggles and not in a setting where they paid to see something that only those in the room should be afforded." Then he slammed both opening acts and called them "the musical equivalent of lard, or sawdust. Or whatever else they put in hot dogs that's neither lips nor anus." Yikes! I've read reviews of concerts before when the person sent by the paper liked neither the show nor the band, but I've never read one that contained that much vitriol. First, I was ticked off—especially at my husband, when he read the review and thought it was hilarious. (For the record, he can't stand Maroon 5.) Then, I thought, if I lived in that city, I wouldn't believe anything that reviewer said. He'd lost all of his credibility with me based on that one review. It was far from objective. It wasn't a bad review based on the sound quality, technical ability, or because the lead singer was drunk and fell off the stage. That guy just plain detested Adam Levine, personally, it

That's exactly what's been happening on reading/ social sites in the past few years or so. A popular member reads a book they know they're going to hate, in a genre they usually don't like, then they write a scathing review, detailing how much they hated Every. Single. Word. Now, if this is done in a funny way, it can be very entertaining. Some of the best reviews are from people who didn't like a particular book, especially if they express it in a reasoned, objective way. I'm guilty of doing both of those, actually. The reviews where you didn't like the book are easier to write than the reviews of a book you loved. I mean, how many ways can you say, "It was freaking awesome, I loved it!"?

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The big problem comes after you've written a couple of "I hated this" reviews, and discovered how much fun it can be. It really can almost make reading the book worthwhile. Soon, if you're not careful, you intentionally seek out similar books so you can discuss how much you didn't like them, also.

pass by. If you stay too snarky for too long, the entertainment factor wears thin; vitriol and plain meanness just aren't funny. After all, how many times will someone want to read about why you hated a book?

On re lection, I wonder if a better title for the Maroon 5 review in the paper should have been like this: "I detest Adam Levine. Here's what I thought of the show." At least that would give a reader some perspective.

I haven't even mentioned the

And on Goodreads, if I'm writing

other fans of the books, and how upset they sometimes get with scathing reviews. Remember how annoyed I was with my hubby for agreeing with the concert reviewer? Multiply that by 1000, and you have the internet version. A negative review to some people is a big poster board that says. "Them's ightin' words!" and they have no problem engaging the reviewer.

about a book, like "Beautiful Disaster", which I had no interest in reading, didn't like the genre, couldn't stand the hype, and only read it because a friend dared me to, perhaps I should state that up front. Just to give the reader some perspective.

Then, it's only a matter of time before the reviews get mean. If you keep on reading books you know you don't like, it's inevitable. By this, I mean that you can only slam a type of book so many times before you start to slam the person who wrote the type of book that ticks you off so much. And then, you slam the fans, because you can't believe people actually like this stuff. Before you know it, the snarkmonster is out of control. It has snuck right up on you, grabbed you by the neck, and thrown you to the ground and you haven't even noticed. There are tons of problems with this, not the least of which is that you lose your credibility. Anyone looking for an entertaining bash of the book will most likely check out your review, strictly for entertainment purposes. Readers looking for a thoughtful, objective recap of why a book didn't work for you will

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2022

RONE Awards Finalists! Audiobooks Journey to New Salem by Mark Rosendorf, narrated by Jeffery Lynn Hutchins

Anthology Heirs of Falcon Point by Traci Hunter Abramson, Sian Ann Bessey, Paige Edwards, AL Sowards Storm and Shelter by Bluestocking Belles Christmas on Scandal Lane by Lauren Smith, Tabetha Waite, Anna St. Claire, Nadine Millard, and Dawn Brower

Doubting Thomas by Elizabeth Rose, narrated by Kevin E. Green A Rogue to Remember by Chasity Bowlin, narrated by Alexander Ralph Out of Poland by Break eld and Burkey, narrated by Derek Shoales Clover by Nicole Kilpatrick, narrated by Cassandra Alling Fire Maidens: Greece by Anna Lowe narrated by Kelsey Osborne

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Contemporary: Cops, Jocks, Cowboys Chute Boss by Sophia Summers Distracting the Deputy by Shanna Hat eld

Historical Regency

Rugged Thirst by Sheri Fredricks

My Lord Protector by Cheryl Bolen

Broken Cowboy by Jamie Schulz

The Debutante and the Duke by Collette Cameron

Contemporary: Steamy The Wonder of You by Claire Marti

Once Upon a Devilishly Enchanting Kiss by Bree Wolf

A Reckless Heart by Jennifer Wilck

A Dangerous Pursuit by Laura Beers

Read Me by Lauren Connolly

Always the Second Choice by Emily EK Murdoch

What We Deserve by Lizzie Stanley Balance by Peggy Jaeger

Exiled Duke by K.J. Jackson Heart in the Highlands by Heidi Kimball

Contemporary: Sweet Oranges for Miranda by Annette Bower Hometown by Wendy Rich Stetson The Christmas Pact by Meg Easton The Casserole Dish by Amey Zeigler

Historical: American The Earl of Excess by Anna St. Claire Grace - Brides of New Hope by Jo-Ann Roberts The Truth of the Matter by Leigh Fleming

Fantasy The Witch Collector by Charissa Weaks Garden of Angels by Meara Platt Wings of Fire by Stephanie Mirro

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Historical: Ancient

Mystery

The Dark Spawn by Kathryn Le Veque

Danger on the Loch by Paige Edwards

The Ghost by Maeve Greyson

The Fog Ladies: In the Soup by Susan McCormick

Snowdrop Cookie Wishes by Laura Strickland

Historical: Victorian-20th Century A Proper Scoundrel by Esther Hatch Earls Just Wanna Have Fun by Merry Farmer Entranced by the Earl by Jillian Eaton The Price of Glory by Caroline War eld Mysterious Lover by Mary Lancaster

An Embarrassment of Itches by M.K. Dean Lost Creek Cabin by Susan ClaytonGoldner Shopping Can Be Deadly by Charlotte Stuart

Paranormal: Long Eternally Yours by Harper A. Brooks & Olivia Boothe Bloodscourge by Sydney Winward The Warrior King by Abigail Owen

LGBTQIA+

The Untouched by Piper Sheldon

A Bargain of Blood and Gold by Kristin Jacques

Craved: A Vampire Syndicate Romance by Rebecca Rivard

Cinders of Yesterday by Jen Karner

The Girl Who Belonged to the Sea by Katherine Quinn

Blood Pact by Courtney Maguire

Pints and Potions by T.M. Cromer

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Paranormal: Short Enchanted Magic by T.M. Cromer Moonlight Becomes You by Robert Herold Fire Maidens: Venice by Anna Lowe Rorik by Mary Morgan Dance to a Wylder Beat by Marilyn Barr Auras, Heirs, & Witchy Affairs by Sabrina A. Fish It's a Wonderful Lie by Wren Michaels

Suspense/Thriller: Steamy The Woman He Used to Know by Helen Starbuck Mind Trap by Matt Cost A Pride of Brothers: Aiden by Peggy Jaeger Serve 'N' Protect by Tee O’Fallon

Science Fiction/Time Travel Thorn Bearer: Thornraven, Volume 3 by E.G. Manetti Alien's Captive by Tina Moss Return of the Raven by Judith Sterling The 7th Lie by Tamara Grantham

Young Adult Seventeen Butter ies by Anna Katmore Departures by E.J. Wenstrom Journey to New Salem by Mark Rosendorf Gravebriar by Casey L. Bond

Suspense/Thriller Third Man on the Left by Roni Hall Second Chance by Julie Coulter Bellon Exposed: Tip of the Spear Series, Book 4 by Belle Ami Fall to Pieces by Becky Flade Winter Storm by Ellie Gray

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Guide to Our Reviews and Ratings: Our rating system is the standard 5 star rating system:

5 = 4 = 3 = 2 = 1 = CNF

exceptional excellent good fair poor = If the problems

in a book are such that a reviewer is unable to finish it, the book will be given to another reviewer to read. If both reviewers are unable to finish the book, it will receive the rating of “CNF” or “Could Not Finish”

We also rate the "Steam" or sex factor so readers can enjoy whatever level they are most comfortable with. The criteria is as follows:

1 Steam Kettle = 2 Steam Kettles = 3 Steam Kettles = 4 Steam Kettles = description 5 Steam Kettles = graphic description

Nothing but kisses Passionate kissing, Sex but the door is closed Slightly steamy sex with some Steamy sex with somewhat

Those books receiving a 4.5 or a 5 star review will also be awarded the "Crowned Heart" for excellence. This symbol will be seen beside the review in the magazine.

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Sarah E Bradley

Mischief, Mayhem, and Marriage (Supposed Scandal series) Rebecca Connolly

Lady Alexandrina Lawson has no interest in Society. A widow, her disaster of a marriage has made her wary of Society events and the marriage mart. Unfortunately, when an encounter with a drunk draws the Earl of Harwood to her rescue in a manner that could prove ruinous, her choices become few, allowing him to save her or give up all chance of reuniting with her son. Taft Debenham, has little interest in the cold Lady Lawson, but an impulse leads him to marry the woman and save her reputation with his own. To his great surprise, his new wife proves to be much more than she appears, and warmer than he could ever imagine. Which leaves him with a single goal: to claim her heart. A sweet stand-alone tale of a society widow and a wealthy English aristocrat, this slow burn romance combines a mix of witty mischief and light lirtation to make a perfect relaxing read. The addition of an adorable child and some supportive friends encourages this match and pushes the story along, with most of the plot exploring Lady Alexandrina’s feelings and past which gives little

The Duke’s De iant Angel (Dukes Gone Dirty Book 1) Bella Moxie

William “Raff” Cooper, Duke of Ruf ian, a con irmed bachelor, attends Dalton’s ball and decides to wed. At the ball, Raff sees Evangeline “Angie” Dalton. The attraction is instantaneous. Raff dubs her his Angel and wants her as his wife. Angel is painfully shy yet holds a secret: she is in love with someone else. But she is forced to marry William due to her family’s failing inances. As Angie adjusts to her new life, she opens up to William physically and emotionally. The more time she spends with William, the more Angie realizes that she really adores him. Unfortunately, Angie’s irst crush, Albert, also wants her. William isn’t going to give Angel up without a ight. Albert does have devious intentions to destroy Evangeline unless William can stop him

without losing his heart to his angel.

An interesting, spicy novella that de initely isn’t your run of the mill historical! This plot feels quite staid though, and there is little new besides all the bed sport that readers will ind exciting. The plot jumps around a bit which is pretty jarring, and makes the story not low smoothly. The quiet, mousy Evangeline is initially in love with someone else which is what makes the tale unique. Sure, Evangeline eventually falls for William, even though he does nothing to charm her. When he assumes he knows what is best for Angel and gives her commands, refusing to take no for an answer, is a bit grating. Flaws aside, Ms. Moxie has de initely written a very steamy Regency that is an entertaining read! Roslynn Ernst

Divine Vintage Sandra L. Young

Tess Burton loves heirlooms, prompting her to have her own store, Divine Vintage, in Michigan City, Indiana. When Tess gets invited by Carver House’s proprietor to model clothing from Phoebe, an ancestor and the young,

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more complexity to the story. Lovers of historical romance will ind this tale checks most of the boxes, and although the story lacks unique twists or thoughtprovoking depth, fans will ind a solid pace and delightful happily ever after worth the read.


doomed bride of Edward Carver, Tess jumps at the chance. In doing so, Tess meets Trey Dunmore, cousin of the owner, who is modeling clothing of Edward. The house has a tragic past. Supposedly, Edward strangled Phoebe to death and committed suicide after killing her. Tess shows up to the mansion to wear the clothes and faints due to past visions of murder. As Tess and Trey discover more about the mystery surrounding Edward and Phoebe’s demise, the love they hold for each other is tested especially when the past threatens to destroy the relationship. What an amazingly transcendent historical romance that is beautifully written and so remarkably authentically different! The story, the secretilled mansion, the dazzling clothing, and the historical town of Michigan City instantly transport readers to the early twentieth century quite easily! The mystery of the past murdersuicide pulls the reader along with horror-stricken fear yet gleeful anticipation, making the novel quite a page turner! The book has not only wonderfully captivating characters but simply oozes originality and charm! The intrepid, bohemian heroine Tess adores antiques, and her store sounds like a great place to shop! Even the stoic, cynical Trey is a sublime hero and just the perfect book boyfriend. Sandra Young has written a phenomenal tale that is truly a delight! Roslynn Ernst

A Love for All Time (Men of Valor, book 1) Laura Landon

As a second son, Colonel Quinn Beckham is quite satis ied with his career as an English secret agent. Taking dangerous chances for the Crown suits him just ine. Then he suddenly inherits his late brother’s title as Earl of Rosemont, a rundown estate, crumbling under its debts, and what’s more troubling, two young nieces. How is he supposed to raise them, repair the estate, and pay the debts, while continuing his dangerous work for the Crown? Lady Cassandra Worth never intended to marry, but her elderly widowed Grandmother decides to play matchmaker before she passes. To protect Cassie, she offers Quinn a wealth of money and Cassie’s hand in marriage. Suddenly Cassie inds herself married, and Lady of Rosemont, in charge of a neglected estate and two young girls. Regency historical fans rejoice! Ms. Landon dishes up a creative tale beginning a new series focusing on men of valor. To judge

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by this irst book, the series is off to a good start! A few subtle issues distract from what is otherwise a solid story. More showing instead of telling and a greater variety of vocabulary— fewer repeated words within paragraphs and a few more rounds of editing would create a more enjoyable reading experience. More detailed descriptions of characters and their surroundings and a clearer sense of time throughout would further enhance the story. However, these are minor laws and only minimally distract from a pleasant book. Cassie and Quinn lay the foundation of a great new series for regency readers! Emerson Matthews

Once Upon an Accidentally Bewitching Kiss (The Whickertons in Love – Book 6) Bree Wolf

A second-chance romance between Troy Beaumont, the heir of the Earl of Whickerton, and Lady Leonora, a widow whose husband was of less-than-stellar character. Troy and Nora were once attracted to one another, before Leonora married another man and broke Troy’s heart. He has no desire to marry but


“Once Upon an Accidentally Bewitching Kiss” is the sixth book in the series and brings back a number of the characters from the previous stories. While all the supporting characters add to the story, the star is Grandma Edie and her ability to nudge Fate in the right direction. Unfortunately, the main characters aren’t nearly as exciting. There is quite a bit of redundancy as seen through both Troy’s and Nora’s internal thoughts. At times, the redundancy feels more like iller than any actual attempt to move the story forward. It is nice to see Troy be accepting of Nora, even when they believe they’d be childless. The love scenes are tastefully done and romantic. The last third of the book picks up, and the inal couple of chapters delightfully bring the story to a happy conclusion—thanks, of course, to Grandma Edie. Fans of Regency romance will enjoy the familiar nuances of the book, as well as the touch of whimsy added by Edie’s efforts to aid in her family’s happiness. N.E. Kelley

A Springtime Scandal (A Lord for All Seasons – Book 1) Nadine Millard

personality and humor to the story that would have otherwise been plain. The fact that they rein in their personalities long enough to help their sister escape scandal shows that everyone, even these spoiled debutants, have big hearts. The story moves a bit slowly at irst, but then picks up once Christian discovers her hiding in his carriage. As with most Regencies, it takes Christian a bit too long to realize he is in love, but then he eventually comes around. Fans of Regency romance will surely enjoy this story. N.E. Kelley

Elodie Templeworth is the perfect daughter. However, being the only responsible one in her family is dif icult, especially when she meets the very cavalier and handsome Christian, Viscount Brentford. Although intrigued with the lovely Elodie, Christian inds her boring and far too prim and proper—until he gets to know her better. When Elodie stows away in his carriage to escape her needy family, the two are forced to spend more time together than either of them planned. Will the close proximity prove to be a problem? Or will it only be the beginning of a love neither can deny? “A Springtime Scandal” is a textbook Regency romance with all the expected scandals, uncompromising rules, and stiff personalities. What makes this story stand out is its use of family to add both character and humor to the story. Unlike most Regency era mothers who either hover or nurture, Elodie’s mother does neither. She’s just there a somewhat boring igure in the background. Elodie’s sisters, on the other hand, are anything but boring. They add a lot of

His One and Only Lady (Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies) Book 4 Collette Cameron

Purity May ield never knew her parents and was raised at Haven House, an Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women. She made a lot of friends during that time and learned what she needed to survive. She loves her job as a governess and enjoys taking care of children. Purity accepts her place in society and knows she will never get married or ind a man who wants her. She notices a little girl being mistreated by her caregiver and she steps in to stop it. Theran Rutland lost the love of

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realizes he must as it’s his duty to produce an heir. Nora still has feelings for Troy as well but believes they cannot marry because she cannot have children. Or so she thinks.


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“His One and Only Lady” is a sweet historical romance that will leave the reader believing in love at irst sight. One will enjoy the irst meeting between Purity and Theran as she stands up for his beloved daughter and puts the sister-in-law in her place, and then watching them connect on a deeper level and fall in love. There is so much chemistry between them the sparks fairly ly off the pages. Purity, through her love of Theran and his daughter, opened his heart again to the possibility of another love. “His One and Only Lady” is Book 4 in the Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies) Series and can be read as a standalone but would be more enjoyable if the series is read in order. An absolutely delightful tale to curl up with! Victoria Zumbrum

A Governess of Wise Years (The Governess Bureau Book 6) Emily EK Murdoch

to bringing Vivienne down low and he never seems to rise to hero material. As a result, just about every interaction and conversation for the irst half of the book is antagonistic. Numerous internal monologues also slow the pace of the story. However, the climax picks things up and the heartwarming conclusion satis ies. Fans of The Governess Bureau series will enjoy this inal installment in which a governess of wise years discovers love, happiness, and the joy of family with her one true love! Tricia Hill

Fifteen years ago, Miss Vivienne Clarke turned down a marriage proposal in order to get her Governess Bureau off the ground. Over the years she built it into the premier agency from which the aristocracy and even royalty procured their governesses. Now it has come crashing down around her due to the marriages of several of her governesses to their employers. The papers are full of the scandal. Vivienne has only one client left on her books-- the man she left ifteen years ago--and there's only one governess left, herself. Edwin, Viscount Bysshe has never forgotten Vivienne nor forgiven her. But he has a daughter to care for, a daughter he does not understand. Can these two lonesome people bridge the chasm between them to ind a future of love? "A Governess of Wise Years" offers an emotional journey that brings two lonely hearts together for a second chance at love! Vivienne's identity is clearly wrapped up in the Governess Bureau she built, but we never understand why that mattered more than marriage given the time period and mores. Edwin, for his part, looks forward

Edward and Amelia Karen Thornell

Edward Drayton, Earl of Norwich, has gained an unfortunate reputation as a rake in Society. Unfortunate, because now he plans to ind a wife, and the lady he inds only knows his reputation. Amelia Kennington would like nothing more than to return to the country, but as the youngest daughter of a duke, her opinion is not required. When an ill-timed walk results in a scandalous encounter with the Earl, both Edward and Amelia ind themselves in a marriage neither of them expected. Despite the

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his life and is not looking for a new wife. He is raising his daughter on his own and his sister-in-law has been assisting him. When Purity and Theran meet the irst time, sparks ly, and he offers her a job as a governess for his daughter.


gossip, Edward is determined to win over his wife. But from jealousy to rumors threatening their new relationship, they will ind that while their marriage might be unconventional, it will take an equally unconventional love to match. A rare gem in a slew of historical romances! “Edward and Amelia” is a witty, slow burn romance that plays up certain realities of marrying to preserve and in spite of one’s reputation. Both Edward and Amelia are well leshed characters that complement one another. They struggle with their perceptions of one another and yet the reader will ind themselves equally entertained as they fall for the person, they each really are. The con lict in the story is well done and while it has some common tropes and the basics of the romance are predictable, they are excellently played here so that the heroine is able to meet her challenges realistically without love triangles or overly lat antagonists. Additionally, the pace is steady, and the story is superbly written. Overall, readers who enjoy Regency and Victorian type romances will ind this book to be a delight and well worth the read! Sarah E Bradley

The Touch of a Storme (The Storme Brothers Book 5)

any manner. Often acting like a child, Isobel demands what she wants and doesn’t seem to consider or even care how her actions affect others which makes it hard to connect or even like her. She is willing to cause scandal on a whim just to see what happens. The undeniable ire between them allows the reader to understand just why they keep getting pulled toward each other. Overall, this book is a whirlwind of a storm worth picking up.

Sandra Sookoo

Marie Sanderson

Always on the search for just the right amount of scandal, Lady Isobel Storme despises everything to do with the ton and their suffocating rules. With her mother on death’s doorstep, Isobel knows that change is going to happen soon and she is not looking forward to it. Set on having fun before she must submit to the mourning period, Isobel seeks and sets her eyes on a certain doctor to have a tryst with. Doctor Royce Marsden has made a name for himself in town helping wounded vets recover. With the weight of becoming an earl in the nearfuture, Royce inds himself engulfed in a steamy affair with Isobel with excitement bursting in every encounter. With responsibilities looming overhead for both of them, Isobel and Royce must learn to let go or weather the Stormes together. The strong characters portrayed in this story are well-developed and entertaining. Royce is a lovely character who struggles to ind balance in his life between what his heart wants and what his namesake demands. Isobel, on the other hand, is a character who does not seem to act her age in

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The Moments Between Dreams Judith F Brenner

Carol falls for Joe Wozniak hard, believing in the power of love, blind to the subtle symptoms of his controlling nature. After all, that’s how it was for women in the 1940s. A wife was expected to respect the unwritten societal rules, surrendering her will entirely to her husband. Add to that a world war—but these are not the only worries for Carol. When their daughter contracts polio and ends up paralyzed, she discovers just how alone she really is—whether Joe is home on leave or not. Dedicated to her children, focused on empowering her daughter and protecting her


An incredibly strong woman surviving the most horrifying situation, Carol exempli ies the epitome of bravery. Seeds of Joe’s abusive nature are planted on the irst page… “I had acquiesced my independence to Joe at nineteen.” But it is, in fact, the rapid- ire pace of this irst chapter that risks overwhelming the reader, where a new house, Ellie’s polio diagnosis, a lashback to her and Joe’s irst meeting, Joe’s initial incidence of abuse, then his getting drafted— all occur in one chapter. Everything happens so fast, it’s dif icult to feel the emotions, or to truly experience the development of the characters. The story does then move on to a more leisurely pace and is effective at drawing us forward. Well-researched, this historical is timely, re lective of the present-day fears of a pandemic, and shines a spotlight on domestic abuse—another hot topic in today’s world. Overall, an enjoyable tale! FS Brown

Lady Scot (Always a Scot Book 2)

her issues are eventually discovered, they feel lacking in depth and inconsequential. Mairi and Connall’s story rarely seems to be the main focus but instead shares the breadth of the book with all the other characters and their problems. Connall’s unending devotion to Mairi is delectable, causing one to wonder why Mairi would ever turn away from him in the irst place. A sweet tale of two hearts destined to ind their way to each other.

Jade Lee

Marie Sanderson

Eyes irmly set on marrying a Sassenach, Mairi MacAdaidh takes off in the middle of the night, her sights set on London. With the promise of a sponsorship through the London season, Mairi is sure she can ind an English husband even if being Scottish may hurt her prospects. When Connall Aberbeag, who has loved Mairi his entire life, shows up on the Dowager’s doorstep battered, sick, and in the company of two other young women, the Countess decides she will take them in and marry them all off before the end of the season. With Connall trying to win her over every step of the way, Mairi wants nothing to do with him or his Scottish ways and she makes it perfectly clear. But just when Connall thinks he’s ready to give up, Mairi opens her heart a bit reigniting the ire he holds. A book with multiple storylines built in, the story of Mairi, Connall, Sadie, and Iseabail will keep readers entertained and delighted. Strong-minded and quick-witted Mairi is a mystery at times, often having moments that seem unusually out of character for a girl with very little relationship experience. When

Forgetting the Earl (The Arrogant Earls Book 1) Kathleen Ayers

Honora Drevenport is not a typical debutante. She is overweight with a bad complexion and corrects people. She corrects Lord Tarrington, and he retaliates by making a wager. Gideon, Earl of Southwell is to dance with the ugliest girl of the ball and Tarrington chooses Honora. Gideon inds her to be interesting and talks to her following the dance. Tarrington reveals it was just a wager. Gideon refuses the money and leaves the ball. He leaves London two days later. Honora is left in humiliation. She thought Gideon liked her, but it was a farce. Honora is forced to

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son despite her own powerlessness, Carol carries on until Joe steps over the line.


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marry someone she hates. Six years later, she is a widow. She is lithe with a beautiful complexion and the most sought after widow in London. Gideon returns to London a changed man. He is crippled but wants to make things right between him and Honora. “Forgetting the Earl” begins with the heartbreaking trope of the “ugly duckling” but Honora metamorphoses into a lovely swan. Chemistry is obvious between Gideon and Honora from their irst dance. He admires her intelligence and does not see her shortcomings. There needs to be more character development and Gideon needs to be a more mature character with more faith in Honora. The climax of the story is resolved within two sentences. It feels like a gaping hole in the plot. The grudge Honora has against her mother-in-law leads to hilarity within the tale. It is refreshing both hero and heroine are imperfect characters. A twisting plotline keeps readers wondering what will happen next. An enjoyable read, this is a stable foundation for a new series. Belinda Wilson

Ella: Prairie Roses Collection – Book 12

There is no description of the characters and little of the journey they are taking. All of the secondary characters are onedimensional. Ella and Tucker need some leshing out as the main characters. Although they end up together, there is no real chemistry between them. An enjoyable story, it is a stand-alone novel in the Prairie Roses collection. This is a story which will delight those passionate about American historicals.

Nancy Fraser

Belinda Wilson

When the town learns Peter Winslow is a liar, cheat, and murderer, they won’t leave his widow, Ella and her children alone. They look at her with pity, but they share nasty gossip behind her back. Things in the schoolyard are horrible for her children. Her brother, Conner, assures her it will blow over, but she doubts him. She has inherited land and a house in Washington from her father, and she is determined to join a wagon train and move there from Missouri. Tucker McAlister is a deputy marshal in Missouri who has just lost his job. His new job is to ride security with the next wagon train to Washington where he will be sworn in as a marshal in Tacoma. It is during his time with the wagon train that he takes a liking to Ella and her children, but Ella has vowed never to depend upon men again. “Ella” is a sweet romance between an endearing marshal and a determined woman set on starting over on her own. The journey feels realistic, encompassing real obstacles. Most of the description in this story is about Ella’s incredible Conestoga wagon, Miller’s Folly.

The Duke of Disorder (The Rakes of Mayhem Book Three) Anna St. Claire

Lucas Pemberton is the Duke of Dorman. He and his friends made a promise to never marry and live their lives as notorious rakes. Well, as time has passed Lucas is the only one not married and now his friends believe he should just take the plunge. There is no one in his life until he stops a runaway horse and saves the woman who is riding. He knows this woman, he was in love with her once but then her father married her off to someone else. Lady Harriet Dudley is a widow and is ready to return home and escape the house of pain that her late

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Historical husband put her through. She has sworn off marriage forever, but then she is reunited with her irst love. They both have matters that threaten to separate them again, but maybe they actually need each other to overcome the obstacles. Calling all second chance love trope fans, this book is for you! There are a few trigger warnings. Harriet is betrayed by her father and later abused by her irst husband and there are some descriptions of the abuse that occurred. Lucas and Harriet do have great chemistry but the pace meanders. There are moments where the plot feels lost. The writing leaves a lot to be desired, for instance, “meow, said the cat is mentioned more than once. There are also several repetitive scenes with Lucas and his friends with horses, which really slows down the pace. However, there is so much to love about the two wards who come into Lucas’s life! They bring such a heartwarming atmosphere leaving readers wanting more! Amanda Hupe

Debating With the Duke (Second Sons of London, Book 2) Alexa Aston

Heather McCoubrey

As a second son of a duke, Major Everett Wayland is irmly entrenched in the military way of life. His expectations have revolved around ighting the King’s wars for his entire adult life. When his brother is murdered, Ev suddenly inds himself thrust into a life he knows nothing about. Knowing marriage is his irst priority and securing an heir his second, he enlists the help of socialite Lady Adalyn Goulding, a self-professed matchmaker. Adalyn proposes they make a list so she can ind him the proper duchess-to-be. The only problem is that Adalyn wants to be his duchess, and she is the very opposite of what the Duke of Camden is looking for. Readers will no doubt love this book! It has everything one wants in a Regency historical romance: drama, intrigue, ‘the Season’… and plenty of swoon-worthy moments. Delightful descriptions take readers from the middle of brutal battle ields to the English countryside, and then right into the middle of glittering ballrooms. The escalating tension between Ev and Addie will have readers

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turning pages as fast as they can read them. The premise of this book (and the series) is interesting, but one hopes that the way these second sons attain their new lives isn’t always with similar ends for their older brothers. Readers will enjoy the close-knit brotherhood of these second sons, their childhood stories, and shared trauma that creates a bond which is heartwarming and enduring. Best of all, the love story between Ev and Addie, who never expected to marry for love, will stay with readers for days after they’re inished reading.

Clarity (Diamonds of the First Water Book 1) Sydney Jane Baily

Clarity Diamond and Alex Hollidge are friends as children famous for the pranks they pull, much to the chagrin of both sets of parents and Alex’s Aunt Elizabeth. After the Hollidge’s last visit, they are killed in a carriage accident, Alex the survivor. His morose aunt becomes his guardian. Now grown and pessimistic, Alex is at his irst ball searching for a wife. Clarity has loved Alex since they were children. Every time he sees Clarity, she is in disarray but


Historical enjoying herself. Alex sees this as immaturity and thus unsuitable for a wife. He inally meets Emmeline Brambury who is as stodgy as he, and he thinks would be the perfect helpmate. But he still inds himself attracted to Clarity and can’t help but ardently kiss her every time they are alone. “Clarity” is a playful story with the girl’s names re lecting the qualities of diamonds – Clarity, Purity, Radiance, and Brilliance. Clarity is a true gem and her emotions and thoughts are completely transparent. Alex as a hero is dif icult to like. He is harsh and judgmental, and one wonders what Clarity sees in him. He is such a weak hero, doing whatever his cruel aunt bids him to do. Aunt Elizabeth almost ruins the story

with her manipulations. The only thing which brings her joy is in bringing misery to others. Emotion is intense in this story and has as many highs as it does lows. The characters are vividly described as they go through their many adventures. This story is the beginning of what appears to be a dazzling series. Belinda Wilson

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Contemporary With a vaguely YA or NA style to the writing, the story relies on telling most of the plot with some predictable con licts thrown in. While it could be smoother and show more, fans looking for a quick contemporary read will enjoy the connection between Ava and Kruz which is foregone from the beginning and ends on a high note!

Custom Made for You (Coulee Bluff series Book 1)

Sarah E Bradley

Ginger Ring

Fleeing the fallout of her father’s cheating scandal, Ava Wellington accepts a nanny job for the summer in her mother’s hometown of Coulee Bluff. Being a nanny is a far cry from the fancy marketing job she’s done in her father’s company, but it might just give her room to ind herself again away from her father’s disapproval and plummeting reputation. Falling for the father of her charge never factored into her plans. Kruz Tanner knows all about plans falling through. The sudden appearance of his young daughter in his life is only one example. But one look at Ava and he inds himself making plans to take her ishing and convince her to stay for more than just the summer. Dating someone from out of town is usually asking for heartbreak, but just this once, he’s hoping his luck has taken a turn for the better. A light and quick contemporary romance with a determined redheaded politician’s daughter, and a hot tattooed biker, this book is full of sizzling potential. The romance between Ava and Kruz begins on the irst page and pushes quickly through with only a couple of hiccups at the end.

Wild at Heart Stacy Gold

cynical. Twelve failed romances have a tendency to make anyone cynical and likely to take a vow of celibacy for at least a year. Evan, the hero, is a somewhat nerdy hunk who probably shouldn’t be allowed in the woods alone. However, it’s his ineptness and Jule’s skill that give the beginning of this book all it’s charm and humor. Unfortunately, the middle of the book drags. Once they return to the real world, in separate locations, the story becomes redundant. The heroine’s character gets no further development until the very end. Evan’s character makes far great strides in becoming his own man and taking the reins of his future. While there are some great naughty bits, the steam rating is more for language than actual sexual chemistry. Given how long it takes to get to the happily-ever-after for these two characters, the ending feels rushed, concluding within only a few pages. Readers who enjoy adventure romances are sure to enjoy a good portion of the book! N.E. Kelley

The wildness of Washington State’s parks, including interference from Mother Nature, leads overworked and relationship-exhausted Jules Martinez and investment analyst, Evan Davenport, on an adventure neither is going to forget. With Jules and Evan thrown together in a number of comical situations, it doesn’t take long for their attraction to become obvious. Can two people who only wanted solitude igure out how to conavigate their hiking vacation and discover something neither expected to ind? “Wild at Heart” has a wonderful premise, especially for those who love their romance with a touch of outdoorsy adventure. The heroine is strong and feisty, if somewhat

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Nicolas’ true identity is everything a curious reader would want to indulge in. How Meg Easton manages to pull all of Europe together in one enticing scene is exquisite. The ending leaves quite a chunk of the plot out the bandwagon. However, who wouldn’t love to watch the universe play cupid in one of the most wonderful love stories? JM Lareen

It Started with a Note Meg Easton

Picture this: A boy comes to stay at a farm for nine months and must do chores just like all the other children, and later one discovers what the boy must have had to endure to do even basic chores. Avery Parks got to know Nicolas Servais during a foreign academic exchange program when he stayed with her family at the Parks Family farm in South Dakota. When he left, he extended an offer to Avery that if she ever wanted to visit Belgium, he would offer her his grandfather’s lat during her visit. Ten years pass and now Avery, working for Lake Baldwin State University, needs to add some lavor to her rather normal way of life. Belgium calls. Will she heed the call? It’s not just Avery’s family who are rooting for her to make that leap… readers will also be fully invested in her making this bold move. The author’s wonderful ability to create fun and lively characters comes into play here. The reader is nothing but a willing captive of the alluring storyline as it unfolds its wings and lies into the picturesque world of two swoonworthy characters who grow to love each other in an amazing manner. The unearthing of

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It’s not just Avery’s family who are rooting for her to make that leap… readers will also be fully invested in her making this bold move. The author’s wonderful ability to create fun and lively characters comes into play here. The reader is nothing but a willing captive of the alluring storyline as it unfolds its wings and lies into the picturesque world of two swoonworthy characters who grow to love each other in an amazing manner. The unearthing of Nicolas’ true identity is everything a curious reader would want to indulge in. How Meg Easton manages to pull all of Europe together in one enticing scene is exquisite. The ending leaves quite a chunk of the plot out the bandwagon. However, who wouldn’t love to watch the universe play cupid in one of the most wonderful love stories? JM Lareen

It Started with a Note Meg Easton

Picture this: A boy comes to stay at a farm for nine months and must do chores just like all the other children, and later one discovers what the boy must have had to endure to do even basic chores. Avery Parks got to know Nicolas Servais during a foreign academic exchange program when he stayed with her family at the Parks Family farm in South Dakota. When he left, he extended an offer to Avery that if she ever wanted to visit Belgium, he would offer her his grandfather’s lat during her visit. Ten years pass and now Avery, working for Lake Baldwin State University, needs to add some lavor to her rather normal way of life. Belgium calls. Will she heed the call?

Bonds We Break - Blood and Bone, Book 3 Paula Dombrowiak

Mia Stone is a young woman with a complicated life even she can't make sense of! Being in love with two men who just happen to be best friends and bandmates is a sure ire recipe for disaster, and she's cooking with gas! A dark


Contemporary consuming love for Jack causes pain and destruction. A bright comforting love for Cash gives her strength and joy. So when the band breaks up, it leaves her life in limbo. Will the bonds of matrimony with Cash bend enough to hold up to her betrayal? Will the bonds of her love be strong enough to withstand Jack’s addiction? Will she be able to come to grips with the strong feelings she has for both men, make the right choice, and deal with the consequences? Powerfully poetic and realistically raw, "Bonds We Break" is a gripping love triangle that pulls readers in for a rollercoaster ride of emotions! Many different types of bonds are tested in Mia’s life story. Readers will be immediately captivated by the intensity of how she goes through life. Her passionate drive and abundant creativity leaps from the pages giving readers an intimate look at how Mia ticks. The men in her life are strong forces who push and pull her in a rushing river of intensive feelings she has a rough time navigating. Although this installment doesn't dive deeply into the music world inhabited by Mia and friends, there is enough description of how the songwriting process works that will provide an inkling of an artist's mind set. Ms. Dombrowiak manages to deliver a rock star saga illed with strongly relatable characters dealing with love, life, and the fallout from the bonds we break. Readers will be begging for more of her engrossing storytelling about the adventures and love lives of the band members of MOGO. Tonya Mathenia

Bet You Still Think of Me Zoe Forward

NOVELLA: What is the cost of a second chance with your one true love? Colton Reed is the popular lead singer for the rock band, Summertown. The past two years have seen him rocket to fame with his fantastic repertoire of songs and gorgeous looks. His fans love him, especially the female ones. The trouble is the wife he has kept hidden. Kate Thomas is his irst love, and a very talented composer and songwriter. She and Colton co-wrote all the songs that have won him his Grammys and platinum albums. But no one knew about her. Colton’s neglect, drinking, and drug use eventually drove her completely out of his life. She wanted a divorce, but he never signed the papers. Now, Colton has conspired to ask Kate for another chance. Will dinner and a chat be enough to win her back? Second chance romances are often burdened by the issues that caused the romance to go sideways. In this case, Zoe Forward has combined elements of contrition, chemistry, and humour to steer Colton and Kate’s relationship back on course. Kate gets to voice her hurt. Colton acknowledges his past regrets.

However, possibly due to the shortness of the six chapters, the plot arc feels quite rushed. A funny accident involving a priceless guitar and a sensitive part of Colton is used as an excuse to break the tension. Then, the steam is turned up and up to reheat the frosty union. The result is a short snack for any romance reader eager to quickly get to a reunion and happy ending! Joan Lai

Strong Enough (The Masonville Series, Book 4) Jana Richards

Damon Greyson has been in love with Charlotte Saunders since he was fourteen years old. She was a bright, happy, energetic girl that Damon just couldn’t forget. Now adults, they ind themselves back in Masonville. Having experienced childhood sexual abuse, Damon wants to help others who have suffered trauma. Charlotte, who has a terrible secret she can’t share, tries to ill her life with things that make her happy. When Damon’s building project keeps suffering delays and problems, Charlotte tries to help but is faced with the very trauma she’s tried to hide from for ten years. Together,

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Contemporary they’ll need to face their painful pasts in order to heal and begin their life together. Readers will love this very welldone story about two people who have so much to offer but hide their hearts because of their painful pasts. This book does have triggering moments, so please keep that in mind. Readers will love Charlotte’s drive and passion for the dogs she needs to rescue and her ierce independent streak. Damon’s purpose to help veterans with mental health issues is something to admire too. Watching them fall in love is something pure and sweet. Readers will enjoy the secondary characters in this story, and if they’ve read the other three books in the series, it’ll be like visiting

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old friends. One can’t help but cheer when Damon’s mother gets her just desserts. When Charlotte’s mother takes Damon and his siblings under her wings it is a tissue-worthy moment. One can imagine these characters going on to live long and happy lives. This is the perfect ending to a lovely series. Heather McCoubrey


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The Forgery Furore (The Ladies of Almack’s, Book 1) Marissa Doyle

HISTORICAL: Widow Annabel Chalfont, otherwise known as Lady Fellbridge to highbrow society, is one of six Lady Patronesses of Almack’s. All have special supernatural abilities that help them to ight crime and solve mysteries around England. When the newest mystery lands in their lap, it has Annabel written all over it, in the form of her signature on Almack’s vouchers that are being sold all over town to people who wouldn’t normally be allowed in. With Annabel’s unnatural ability to shadow-shift, she struggles to uncover who has been forging vouchers using her signature all while keeping her reputation intact. With society knowing of her late husband’s past debts, it makes it all too easy to point the inger at Annabel as the culprit. But who and why would someone want to forge the vouchers in the irst place? A quick and entertaining read with a most unusual storyline! Annabel is a quick-witted character with a side of spunk.

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Enjoyable overall, readers will be disappointed that the story isn’t quite leshed out with more detail about Annabel, her boys, her magic, or the Lady Patronesses. A gift of a lifetime in the form of magical abilities carried by the Lady Patronesses and the story barely scrapes the surface of what some can do. Connecting to the characters is dif icult as one barely has time to hear of them before moving on. The magic of each character is fascinating and truly makes for a fun read trying to igure out just who the mystery forger is. A light-hearted read sure to make one pick up the second book in the series! Marie Sanderson

Moon Madness: A Dirigo Pack Novel (Dirigo Pack Series Book 2) Sabrina Silvers

Sloane Wyman has had a lot to deal with in her past. But nothing will stop her from protecting her pack and keeping them safe. Benedict MacKinnon keeps a low pro ile, he lost everything when his beast broke free, and he won’t let that happen again. However, when trouble inds his brother, he’s determined to help no matter what it takes. Finding a murderer isn’t going to be easy, especially with the weight of his brother and

mate being accused. As Sloan and Benedict ight their way through to ind the truth, their attraction for one another grows and soon becomes impossible to ignore. Will they be able to discover the truth and ind happiness with one another? Or will their enemies succeed in not only tearing them apart, but taking down the ones they love too? Fans of paranormal romance, strong characters and a gripping storyline will love “Moon Madness.” There is a mystery along with a will/they or won’t/ they tug-o-war between Sloane and Benedict. The tension between them is so electric readers will have to use their ereaders as fans to cool off from the searing hot love scenes that radiate heat off the page. The plot moves at a brisk pace, and the characters are varied and well written. Some more descriptions could have added a little more depth to the story, but this lack doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the book. “Moon Madness” is an exciting story that fans of the genre—especially those who enjoy ierce and sexy werewolves —will love. Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick


Paranormal/Fantasy

Possession: A Memphis Magic Novel Andrea Hagan

and turns throughout. The banter between Aubry and Damion is just the right amount of steamy and hilarious. They obviously annoy each other to no end but are simultaneously obsessed with one another. They are de initely in close quarters, making it dif icult for them to not fall head over heels for each other. Overall, the character development is well done. The side characters, however, are a bit tough to differentiate. Nevertheless, “Possession” is a sinfully sweet page turner that readers are sure to enjoy. Jennifer Shepherd

Aubry Brooks, a witch who doesn’t practice her magic very much, helps her aunt and grandmother run Memphis Magic, a quaint shop that provides an assortment of services, such as therapy, past life regressions, and more. Aubry typically runs the business side of Memphis Magic. That is until one day a mother comes in asking for assistance in locating her missing daughter. Aubry inds herself stuck between a rock and a hard place. With no one to help this poor woman, Aubry uncomfortably agrees to perform a s ance. This botched s ance results in Aubry becoming possessed by a demon known as Damion Blackmon. While they both attempt to exorcise him in numerous ways, he also agrees to help Aubry ind out who killed her best friend, Maddie. It’s the least he could do for her, right? While “Possession” is a paranormal romance, the mystery of who killed Aubry’s best friend will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Ms. Hagan does a good job of propelling the story forward and keeping the momentum going with the twists

help her achieve just that, but Gemma doesn’t believe in magic, until she gets sucked into a TV show with a super-hot vampire. Skarde is determined to stay away from her, but fate has other plans. Grab some popcorn and some water to prepare for this late night paranormal romance. The way in which Skarde shows Gemma he has feelings for her while still trying to keep her at arm’s length to protect her is beautifully written and sure to draw readers in. While Gemma is a feisty character, the way in which she accepts magic so quickly, and offers herself sexually to Skarde almost right away is a little off putting. With that said, the prophecy aspect adds a hint of mystery and is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats. The love that grows between Skarde and Gemma is swoon worthy. With a little more attention to character development, this story will be one that’s hard to forget. Annalee Stilove

The Nightslayer Zoe Forward

Skarde is a vampire for hire, willing to ight other supernatural creatures. However, he is cursed with one of the worst fates he can think of. His destiny states that the one he turns will cause his soul to burn and doom his people. Sadly, the one he is drawn to more than any other woman in the world, and the woman he instantly falls for, tempts him to bite her like no other. Gemma is a nurse who feels like she picks all the wrong men. Deep down she wants a soul shattering love, and her witch friend thinks she can

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Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Edenhart's Rivalry (Kingdom of the Faeries Book 1)

slow, which means it will take a while for readers to become immersed in the tale. However, the action increases rapidly in the middle and keeps the reader engaged until the end. The main character acts a bit young for her intended age, but her bravery and courage do develop wonderfully in the end. Get ready to fall in love with this plotline, because it will grab readers’ heartstrings and tug on them all the way until the end. Austen Grace

J.N. Tomczak

Aurora, the princess of Edenhart, is in for an unfortunate turn of events as everything she’d ever known is about to fall at her feet. As she’s left the last heir on the throne, she’s forced to reign over her kingdom sooner than she wanted. However, to make matters worse, she and her trusted Flight Captain, Percy, discover a prophecy that threatens her world. Not only does Aurora have to worry about the war just on the horizon, but she also has traitors hiding amongst her trusted court, forcing the faerie to put up mental defenses to protect herself. The question that remains is how will Aurora save her home from destruction? Readers must forget everything they thought they knew about fantasy plots because this author will insert one into a world that’s unbeatable to other faerie worlds! Ms. Tomczak’s beautiful world building skills will shock all readers to their cores. The incredibly passionate slow-burn between the protagonists will also keep readers on the edge of their seats in anticipation. The plot, unfortunately, does start off a bit

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It Had to be You Mike Owens

Phil Claussen is ex-military and a respected teacher in his hometown. He is a model citizen until a feud with his neighbor causes him to make a series of choices that land him in the county jail. Disgraced and ashamed, he decides his only course of action is to leave his wife and daughter and head out of town in a new RV. On the road, Phil meets a mystery woman, Dani, who seems to come out of nowhere. The more time Phil spends with this woman the deeper in love he falls. But he begins to ind himself questioning if his

actions are even choices anymore, or if he is just a puppet following a storyline. Phil decides he needs to take control before he has no choices left at all. But if he has a destiny, is there any way to change it, and does he really want to? The unique storyline promises a steamy, mysterious love story, but the problems with the story crop up early and don’t stop coming. Phil’s feud with his neighbor is believable and relatable, but it is farfetched for this law-abiding citizen to land in jail for ighting with a woman. Phil skipping town and leaving his wife and daughter behind seems completely out of character. One of many issues with the plot and timeline is when he meets his mystery woman and doesn’t know her name, however, he learns her name two different times. The romance seems forced and completely based on physical attraction. If Dani and Phil were able to get to know one another and build a relationship, maybe the chemistry would have been there. With a little tweaking, this story could really shine!


Fantasy/Urban Fantasy for Emmett, Bianca and Scarlett can’t trust the other brothers. They will soon discover that they are in so much more danger than they realized. They will need the help of the animagus brothers if they are able to survive and discover why they are being hunted.

Curse of the Huntsman’s Jewel Kirsten S. Blacketer I

In a fairytale land, there are two sisters named Bianca and Rose who lived with their grandmother, parents and their cousin, Scarlett. One night their parents are summoned by the Queen, returning without their mother, their father forces them to lee in the middle of the night. Years later, their father and grandmother are killed and now they live together trying to survive. They have become huntresses, avoiding the Queen. They soon meet three brothers. While Rose falls head over heels

There is so much to unpack in this whirlwind fairytale! In fact, it is not just one fairytale but three fairytale retellings in one. There is Snow White, Red Rose, and Little Red Riding Hood. It would be bene icial to break up the tales because each chapter changes from the different points of view and makes the pace feel extremely repetitive. At times the plot meanders. There are descriptions of wolf attacks for anyone sensitive to trauma. While the female characters are delightful and ierce, the male characters leave much to be desired. In fact, two of the brothers have a dif icult time understanding “no means no”, and all of their appeal is lost. However, the ending really sets up the plot for book two which will leave readers wanting more!

In inite Azure (A Blushing Death # 9) Suzanne M. Sabol The title has received a DNF rating due to its menage/reverse harem (one wife, two husbands) content. Annalee Stilove

Amanda Hupe

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Young Adult

House of Eclipses (House of Eclipses #1) Casey L. Bond

However, the last chapter or two feel incredibly rushed, with pieces all falling into place magically, causing a lack of believability, but that is where the laws end. The characters are full of secrets and emotions that leap off of each page. Noor has especially beautiful character development as she learns of her true power, while Citali and Beron are interesting supporting characters with exquisite backstories and motives. Casey L. Bond has written an immersive story with a clif hanger that will have everyone jumping for part two! Sadie Wilson

FANTASY: Noor has one chance at survival: ind the crown. She is a daughter of Aten, the human embodiment of Sol. While she has always remained faithful to Sol, she often feels forgotten and unloved. As the youngest Atenas come of age, Sol will be looking to appoint a new Aten to reign over Helios. With a new message from the House of the Moon, Noor and her older sister Citali are taken to meet the new Lumin, the human embodiment of the moon god Lumos. The Lumin will pick his new bride, Noor or Citali, and forge a peace treaty between Helios and Lumina. “House of Eclipses'' is a wonderfully written tale! The storyline lows with ease and the anticipation over what will become of Noor and her sisters leaves readers on the edge of their seats. The romance is organic and endearing, but it never overshadows the true point of the novel. The story building is absolutely beautiful—the worlds seem nearly tangible, as the detailed descriptions and vivid dialogue evokes the heat and sands of Helios as much as the cold and darkness of Lumina.

From Bricks & Darkness J.L. Sullivan

deepest, darkest desires; however, Bax does not expect the impending, cruel effects that will come from this monster’s mission. In this thrilling fantasy novel, get ready to be transported into the mystical world where one will be roped into the chaotic mindset of a kid who juggles his real life and the mysteries of the hidden magical world. Mr. Sullivan’s impressively detailed descriptions allows readers to feel like they’re in the story. The plot is a bit dry, since there was a lot more potential for a more interesting storyline. Nonetheless, the hilarious commentary between Baxter and his friends keeps readers entertained throughout the novel. Still, some of scenes at the end are random and confusing, throwing the reader off. However, the world building skills are very impressive, allowing the reader to soak into the fantasy without being rapidly forced into it. There are also a lot more potential plotlines that could’ve been expanded but are cut short, making the story feel rushed. The author still did a wonderful job of tying up loose ends and didn’t leave readers hanging at the end. Austen Grace

FANTASY: Baxter Allen has always been a loner, the kid who drifts just under the radar. However, the young high school student is in for a treat when he runs into a man with purple eyes. Once the man hands him a shiny ring with a purple jewel, Bax enters a whole new world of magical creatures called djinn. Bax’s friends, Jason and Ashley, somehow get wrapped into the mess of things when Bax accidentally summons a djinn called Ifrit. This demonic creature digs through Bax’s subconscious in order to ful ill his

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Young Adult

Black Dove Carrigan Richards

Alisa Hopewell and her father move back to her hometown in Alabama from Kentucky after her mother dies. While there, she reconnects with her childhood best friends, Sarah and Ben. Sarah and Ben have long since had a falling out, in no small part because of Ben’s controlling girlfriend, Courtney. Each of the three is struggling with family issues. Sarah’s mother is a drug addict, Alisa has been dealing with abuse and self-harm, and Ben’s parents take their failing relationship out on their children. Alisa and Ben are drawn to each other, but their reunion is very hot and cold as they alternatingly connect and push each other away as a result of their struggles. Carrigan Richards crafts a unique and heartrending story of the struggles of two teenagers living very different lives. “Black Dove” is written in alternating irst person POV and the author excels at giving Ben and Alisa distinct voices and personalities through her writing. The plot feels a little repetitive at times, causing the middle of the book to drag a bit. The protagonists seem to take the same actions over and over again, with little growth demonstrated. This causes some of the interpersonal relationships—particularly those between Ben and Alisa—to fall a little lat. Despite that fact, the external family issues and internal thoughts are all well-written, seeming very raw, visceral, and realistic. For those seeking a compelling, emotional read with relatable, lovable characters, Carrigan Richards’ “Black Dove” is sure to keep readers enthralled. Shailyn Rogers

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Inspirational

Her Unlikely Homecoming (Home to Harmony Book 2) Rachelle Paige Campbell

Zoey Wright left home over a decade ago, leeing tragedy and heartbreak. When her career stalls, she makes a last-ditch effort to grab a promotion and ends up back in Harmony, Illinois, as a result. But in order to get this promotion, she must help the man who broke her heart in a special collaboration between their companies. She’s determined to be professional, launch Noah’s new clothing line, and get the job done. But Noah isn’t the same irresponsible guy she left behind, and Zoey isn’t the same girl Noah’s been dwelling on either. It may be time to stop running, but this time, it will take two to make the future worthwhile. A sweet contemporary romance that would easily match the Hallmark vibe, “Her Unlikely Homecoming” mixes a second chance romance with some light Christian themes to make a charming if un inished read. The story focuses on two major plot threads, the need to forgive and move on, and whether to allow love another chance. Both Zoey and Noah are dealing with a great deal of emotional trauma, some of which are only lightly touched on and not fully explored. As a lighter read, the story mostly concentrates on who they are in the present and weaves their progress together to get them back to the starting line by the end of this book, but as the second book in the series, neither this romance nor the one from the previous book are fully concluded. Instead, the reader is left with the warm feeling of progress and encouraged to get the next book to ind out just where it will all go in the end. Sarah E Bradley

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Time -Travel

Winning Her Highland Warrior (Time to Love a Highlander Book 3) Maeve Greyson

immediately grabs the reader's attention. The romance between Satia and Kane develops at a natural pace. However, aside from the occasional worry that she'll be burned as a witch, Satia accepts life in the 1300s too readily. We never see her truly debate the risks of living in such a harsh time period. Nonetheless, there are some unexpected twists to keep the story engaging along with strong supporting characters. For a love that transcends time, "Winning Her Highland Warrior" hits the mark! Tricia Hill

Satia St. Clair worked her way up from the streets to a university researcher. She's determined to prevent her foster sister's cancer from coming back and to get her reputation back after her research was stolen. In the early morning hours she wades into a Scottish loch to collect samples and wakes up in the 1300s. Kane MacPherson rescues the lady from the lake, certain she is a faerie queen. It doesn't take long for Satia to set him straight, but it leaves her with a major predicament: how can she return to her time? Kane inds himself falling for the unusual woman, but he needs her to choose him. When Satia discovers a way of returning to her time, it puts everything on the line. How can a woman from the future hold on to a man from the past? "Winning Her Highland Warrior" rockets the plot from a medieval romance to a time-traveling adventure! Satia is tough, smart, and a product of her time. Kane is caring, compassionate, and a warrior to his soul. The story begins in the present and

The Bear’s Heart (Guinevere Book 2) Fil Reid

Queen Guinevere, also known as ordinary librarian Gwen Fry from the twenty- irst century, stands amidst the circle of magical stones on Glastonbury Tor and makes the fateful decision to remain in ifth century Britain with her new husband, King Arthur Pendragon. At his side, Gwen hopes to ful ill the destiny for which Merlin kidnapped her from her own time into this one. Merlin’s prophecy was that she

will be instrumental in the King’s destiny to unite Britain and drive out the Saxon invaders. But to do so, she must contend with the perils of conniving noblemen, misogynistic values, her own modern sensitivities, and perhaps even Arthur’s own darkness. Will Gwen be able to steer Arthur towards fame and success, or will his mother’s vision of Gwen, surrounded by blood and betrayal, come to pass? “The Bear’s Heart” is Part Two of a series. “The Dragon’s Ring” precedes this volume and should be read beforehand. Fil Reid evokes the exciting adventures of a warrior king who must ight forces from outside his kingdom and within to protect his land, his people, and his family. The author excels in reconstructing the unblemished scenery and the brutal innocence of a dark age unspoiled by modern concerns but plagued by its own set of incomprehensible cruelties. Through Gwen’s eyes, Arthurian Britain is brought to life in both fantastical and historical brilliance. Happiness and heartaches are vivid. The pacing is marvellous, mesmerizing, and active. This medieval fantasy is highly recommended for its romantic and historic immersion. “The Bear’s Heart” ends with Arthur and Guinevere’s story embroiled in crisis and is to be continued. Joan Lai

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Science Fiction

I, Bionic (Ignisar #2) Jess K. Hardy

Elanie, a half-human bionic, is going through some major hormonal changes that are complicating her life in ways she never imagined. Aboard the Ignisar, she seeks out the ship's

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clinician, Dr. Semson, also known as Sem, for answers. He is immediately smitten with Elanie, and she is feeling a stir of something herself. One night a strange voice hacks into Elanie’s programming forcing her to steal an escape pod and leave the Ignisar behind. Sem tries to stop her and when he is unable to, he hops into the pod with her and they both jump through space, landing on an unknown planet. Elanie and Sem work together to discover where they are and if they should stay. “I, Bionic” is a delightfully humorous science iction romance! With laugh out loud moments between Sem and Elanie, this book is easy to devour in one sitting. Following them as they explore this unusual planet and also try to navigate their developing feelings for each other

makes this story exciting and fun. Ms. Hardy’s development of the two main characters is very good, and even with this being the second book in a series, it can de initely be read as a standalone. There are several different types of science iction creatures throughout, which make it very intriguing. It would be nice to know more about each species to have a better understanding of what they look like and how they navigate day-to-day comings and goings. “I, Bionic” is great for readers who enjoy awkward irst meetings, humor- illed romance, and quite a few steamy moments. Jennifer Shepherd


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Whiskey Home (Whiskey Falls Book 1)

a small child. Subplots abound but are all nicely woven into the fabric of this intriguing tale. There are some motorcycle club shenanigans sprinkled in, providing the bow on top of this gift of a story. Though ‘friends to lovers’ and ‘brother’s best friend’ are common tropes, book one in this series is so much more. This is a standalone, but readers will really want to grab the series to see what’s up next in Whiskey Falls!!

Taryn Rivers

Viola Robbins

Bree and her best friend Sadie have lived in Arkansas since college; graduation was ive years ago. Now feeling settled, Bree has her own home, a decent job, and a very soft and cuddly ‘guard’ dog. Her family would love if she would return home to Whiskey Falls, Wisconsin, and eventually take over her father’s construction business, but Bree isn’t going anywhere. Erick (Bree’s brother) and Tony have been best buds since childhood and even went into the Army at the same time. Bree and Tony have always had smoldering feelings for each other just waiting for the lames to combust. When trouble hits Whiskey Falls, everything points to Crest Construction, and the entire family could be in danger. Can Erick and Tony ind the criminals and keep Bree and Sadie safe? “Whiskey Home” has it all! Major suspense, drama, steamy romance, and alpha males are all a part of this gift of a story. Ms. Rivers has a talent for creating down to earth, in-depth characters, especially Bree, who deals with the family drama which has surrounded her since she was

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Suspense/Thriller

Deadly Deception Mary Martinez

work together getting to the truth behind the unscrupulous medical research lab, and her husband and daughter’s deaths. The premise behind “Deadly Deception” is good. Unfortunately, the execution needs a little work. With so many characters and points of view in this story, it’s dif icult to get a grasp on one before the story jumps off in another direction entirely. Characters are brought in momentarily without seeming to add to the storyline, and then never appear again in any meaningful way. The main supporting characters, however, including Marcie’s family and her assistant, KaDee, add some nice texture to the story. The camaraderie among family, friends, and even the police adds to that element. Though the heroine’s journey is hit or miss, her eventual ability to continue on with her life is uplifting and provides a satisfying conclusion. Fans of suspenseful women’s iction will ind the storyline intriguing! N.E. Kelley

Widowed Marcie Faraday is on a mission to prove the death of her husband and daughter was not accidental. All she has to go on is her intuition. Of icer Booker Dixson has always doubted the accidental ruling, and when he begins to examine the matter, he comes to the same conclusion as Marcie. When they both begin, separately, to investigate the case, they uncover more than either expected, including a massive cover up by a prestigious medical research lab. Marcie also discovers a secret her husband harbored that further complicates her feelings, and her investigation. Eventually, Marcie and Booker


Suspense/Thriller

Whiskey Dream (Whiskey Falls book 2) Taryn Rivers

balanced, and the plot moves quickly throughout the story. The characters are very detailed, with most carrying over from book 1. Reading the series in order will bene it readers greatly. The military training for some of the characters is well thought out. The gang crimes, which cross over countries, add to the chaos. Ms. Rivers has a talent for laying out many characters and giving each certain details to make them noteworthy. Absolutely unputdownable! Viola Robbins

Erick has seen Rosalie around town and knows she will soon be his. His father, Joe, and her father, Milo, have been friends for years. One reason Milo accepted her move from the family compound in Minnesota to Whiskey Falls was knowing that Joe and his family could keep an eye out for her and keep her safe. Rosalie is a past Iditarod race winner, raising sled dogs—racing is in her blood. Her parents are the extreme ‘preppers’ and want to depend on no others when doomsday hits. It’s when trouble inds Rose and her sister Poppy that a new level of danger comes to town. Erick and the Sheriff, Tony, have many connections to bring the bad guys out of hiding and put safety back into their day-to-day lives. But can they do it before more damage is done? Action and romance hit all-time records in “Whiskey Dream”. When a small town becomes the center of rival gang activity, there will always be fall out. Erick is our hero in this book, and his heroine is as tough as nails and can de initely hold her own in the most dif icult of circumstances. The suspense and drama are well

stalking her, and it won’t be long before she will have the ight of her life on her hands while trying to protect her son. What will happen to Joy and her son Jerry? The plot of this book is heartbreaking and could be triggering for some readers. Audrey Wilson has created a mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end. The thrilling plot and a varied array of characters who are going through a lot bring this book together. Some aspects could have used a little more work, however it didn’t take away from the whole feel of mystery that “Wrong Girl Gone” has. Captivating, suspenseful and thrilling. Readers will be drawn in and held tight until the last page, having lown through the story at lightning speed. Another good read to add to the e-reader this season and one that should be added to mystery fans’ ‘To Be Read’ lists. Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

Wrong Girl Gone Audrey Wilson

Joy Elliot Larson will do anything to keep her son safe while living with her alcoholic husband Carl. When she inds a stash of money Carl has hidden, she realizes that Carl only cares about himself and the alcohol he consumes. Life is so hard, and when she inds the money, it’s the one thing she cannot forgive. Having tried to make ends meet and working hard to put food in her son’s mouth, the money stash is the last straw. With the help of her sister, Joy takes the money and escapes with her son. However, what she doesn’t realize is that someone is

Twisted Lies C. B. Clark

In this suspenseful mystery, Athena Reynolds is battling some demons. Losing her parents at a young age and not knowing what happened to them has caused her to spiral into an alcoholic

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depression. While trying to recover from her alcoholism, she receives a letter in from an attorney requesting her presence. More questions begin to arise rather than answers when she learns that she is the heir to a fortune left by the owner of the island she grew up on with her parents. Not understanding or accepting the money left to her, she sets off to ind out why he listed her as his heir. With the help of his handsome adopted son, Russell Crawford, will she be able to uncover the truth of what happened to her parents and inally have answers to the questions she’s been asking for over twenty years? “Twisted Lies” is a story shrouded in unknowns. Ms. Clark does a good job developing the characters, and the reader will have an opportunity to explore the pasts of both Athena and Russell. The pair has a well written dynamic and a lot of sexual tension between them. Athena and Russell both have traumatic pasts. They are relatable characters in how they deal with their traumas, and it is interesting to witness them opening up to each other. However, the plot does seem to repeat itself a few times, making it seem like it is only going around in circles again and again, but the ending is de initely worth the wait. Plenty of twists and turns, however, will keep readers engaged to the very end. Jennifer Shepherd

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Suspense/Thriller

Not Dead Yet (Guardian #6) Traci Hunter Abramson

incredibly action-packed with a little bit of romance thrown in, but not enough to distract from the main plotline. The author does a great job at keeping this spy thriller a clean read, suitable for various types of readers. And regardless of the fact that this book is the sixth in the series, the previous books are recapped very well and it makes the storyline very easy to follow. This is de initely a heart pounding suspenseful adventure that you won’t want to put down! Jennifer Shepherd

Cassidy Edgemont, a member of a group known as the Coalition, died four years ago, or so everyone believes. Living in Paris, a mere shadow in the city, Cassidy remains invisible to protect herself and her family. That is, until her family decides to visit the exact location she is hiding in. After her family’s arrival, a bomb goes off nearby and Donovan, a handsome fellow guardian, is sent to aide Cassidy in trying to uncover some truths about the recent happenings in what had been Cassidy’s calm existence. Should Cassidy remain hidden or should she risk exposure in order to protect innocent lives? “Not Dead Yet” is full of action, undercover agents, and nail-biting scenes. Traci Hunter Abramson does an outstanding job of grabbing the reader's attention from the very beginning. The pace throughout the story does not lose its momentum, which makes this one a fast and fun read. The characters are incredibly likeable and down to earth. The conversations between Cassidy and Donovan are particularly enjoyable, and the development of their relationship is so much fun to witness. The story itself is

Halo (Part 1: Episodes 1 to 6) Shiloh Love

Cameo has missed out on a lot of her life. Whisked out of the country at birth by her cruel father, the General, she was deprived of her mother, her twin, and her half-Lakota heritage. Now, at the age of thirty-nine, she has recently reunited with her wily mother, escaped her father, and is hoping to make a fresh start in the land of her birth. Just outside of Denver, she meets Rebar, a handsome and instantly smitten ex-Marine engineer who happens to have ties with both Cameo’s father and her twin. In fact, he mistakes her for Camille! Cameo adopts her sister’s codename,


Suspense/Thriller Halo, and together with Rebar, she battles the mysterious General, who has been directing Rebar’s troop of eight military operatives to execute his own shrouded agenda. Will Cameo be able to unravel the truth about her lineage and achieve justice for the General’s victims? This creative military suspense romance comes with fast cars, sexy operatives, and enough intrigue to require a scorecard. The extreme masculinity of all the men Cameo encounters is notable and emphasized by Rebar’s stance on homosexuality. The pacing is drawn out, partly because Cameo’s romantic interludes and shifting alliances interrupt the high stakes action, and partly due to the episode format, which breaks the low and divides the story into arbitrary portions. It is dif icult to invest in characters who are thinly drawn, some of whom have toxic personalities. Readers may be disturbed by traf icking, violence, multiple cheating, and a narrow interpretation of what constitutes PTSD. Cameo’s adventures take many tumultuous twists before Part 1 ends with a soft landing and hopefully with the right guy! Joan Lai

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Mystery

throughout the book, which readers may ind interesting, and there’s just enough history to keep one wanting more. At the end of the book, the author shares historical facts that make the time period come to life, and truly enriches the story. Gail Meath has written a tale with loveable characters, a surprising ending, and a love story for the ages.

Framed (Jax Diamond Mysteries, Book 2)

Heather Kroll

Gail Meath

Jax, a private investigator, his furry companion Ace, and Jax’s girl, Laura, set off to ind the real killer and help Jax’s old partner and best friend, Tim Murphy, who’s been framed for the murder. As Jax, Ace, and Laura sort through the clues to get to the bottom of who killed, Jax’s longtime friend turned enemy’s girlfriend, Evie Becker, Laura and Ace must go undercover, and Jax must hide within the shadows of the city. As they uncover clues and rely on those they normally wouldn't, Jax and Laura (with Ace’s help) are able to put the puzzle together and uncover who the real killer is! Gail Meath has written an Agatha Christie-esque story with many twists and turns! Readers may be shocked to ind out who the real killer is! For those who enjoy a plot that slowly unravels, this is de inite whodunnit tale for you. “Framed” is the second in the Jax Diamond series. Some readers may have a hard time understanding and tracking the dialogue if the irst book was not read, though not enough to have readers putting the book down until after they turn the last page. There are references to the 1920’s

The Dog Days of Murder M.K. Dean

As the unfaltering Ginny struggles to treat her doggy patients with her veterinary prowess, the reader is ushered into the vibrant world of a dog-loving community, which is not only entertaining but also very engaging. Whatever concerns may be in the reader’s mind lake off as soon as the lead character picks up the task of digging into the life of the community’s new members. The loyalty of Ginny’s trusted companion, Remy, is the cherry on top of the cake for all pet enthusiasts. The rather uphill climb of the irst several pages as the reader tries to wrap their mind around the low of events could deter some readers from seeing the fully-blossomed multifold mystery this book turns out to be. Also, the narrative’s pointing to the obvious main suspect in the irst murder case threatens to dim the thrill of the murder investigation. Overall, all dog lovers should enjoy the prepossessing fragrance this book radiates to the reader’s mind. JM Lareen

Greenbrier is a small rural community near the VirginiaCarolina border where Veterinarian Ginny Reese plans to make her dreams come true by acquiring the community’s vet clinic. To her dismay, an outsider, Dr. Rachel Burnham, beats her to it and acquires the clinic without Ginny’s knowledge. While Ginny tries to igure out other careerenhancing options, her mother has other plans in mind… like getting the clinic for her daughter by all means. Coincidentally, she voices one of those ways, a dangerous one, in a public place which gets her into a nasty situation after Dr. Burnham is found dead in her of ice at the clinic.

Relative Consequences Jody Herpin

Jessy Tate has been haunted by a couple of missing years in her memory for a long time. Plagued

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by anxiety and depression, the sudden loss of her husband in 2005 sends her searching for answers to her sleeplessness. Vivid lashbacks featuring her childhood friend, Rita May, and a giant banyan tree ill her dreams. Uncovering the truth means digging into the days of her childhood in the late 1950s, but with so many years gone by, seeking answers will prove painful, especially when Rita May insists on keeping quiet about that time. Still, inspired by her family, Jessy sets off to ind the truth about her past no matter what the consequences.

A thought-provoking story, “Relative Consequences” examines the late1950s, from the perspective a child in a small Florida town. While facing family struggles, Jessy Tate makes some new friends and witnesses irsthand some of the prejudice of the civil rights era. Readers are offered the events through her childhood memories and her feelings about them as an adult years later in such a way that makes one consider what should have or could have been done. This is contrasted with Rita May’s view of the past and that of Jessy’s family. Although a great deal is told instead of shown in the irst and third parts of the story, and some of the descriptions are lacking at times, the mystery itself is well laid out, and part 2 in particular is very interesting and unique in its perspective and depictions. Overall, readers looking for a little more depth in their reading will ind this book worth adding to their to-read lists! Sarah E Bradley

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Mystery

Northfall Brian Lutterman

genuine character and how comfortably she is able to investigate with the use of her wheelchair. Only a few spelling errors and the feeling that there must be more to the elusive Jake Conover that didn’t seem quite wrapped up in end give this novel a fantastic four stars. “Northfall” provides classic twists within the pleasure of reading a well-written mystery, leaving readers wanting Pen to take us on another investigation in the future. Moira Wolf

While Pen Wilkinson awaits word if she’ll return to prosecuting, she is approached by a local businessman to put her investigative skills to use to solve a murder case. Although Pen has promised her boyfriend, James, that she would steer clear of trouble, her discoveries lead her down the very rabbit hole she had hoped to avoid. Pen inds there’s much more to the death of the handicapped homeless man. Her investigative skills set her on a path that weaves into the lives of wealthy families who wish the nosey attorney would simply go away. With one question too many, Pen not only inds herself in the cross ire, she also unravels stories of betrayal, lies, and murder. Thank goodness for trustworthy connections - or are they? Brian Lutterman’s thriller storytelling maintains a pulse that will keep readers guessing. The low of information is well-timed and maintains connectivity between Pen and the overall story. The ebb and low of the present and past gives readers a deeper understanding of the story than just a simple history rundown would. Mr. Lutterman does a phenomenal job presenting Pen’s

Tainted Harvest (Simone Doucet Series Book 1) E. Denise Billups

HISTORICAL/PARANORMAL: Simone Doucet is looking for something. Not entirely sure what she’s looking for, she takes on a writing assignment to a bed and breakfast in Mississippi, the Magnolia Sunrise. What she doesn’t expect is to ind herself transported into someone else’s life each night. What she witnesses is horri ic! Through the eyes of Delphine, she witnesses the awful things the poor woman went through. Delphine is determined to tell her story, and the only way she can do this is to haunt Simone and try to get her


Mystery story across. Will Simone ind what Delphine wants her to and see that the truth is revealed? Or will her message go undiscovered?

for a rainy spring night when there are a few hours to pass. Lynn-Alexandria McKendrick

The irst thing that really jumps out in this book is the plot. It is unique and will really appeal to fans of suspense and those who enjoy a good ghost story. There are some very descriptive scenes which may be hard to read, especially given the slavery aspect and the violence. All in all, the characters are dynamic, and E. Denise Billups has done excellent research into the era in which parts of the book are set. The dialogue, which feels appropriate for the time period, really adds authenticity to the story. Simone and Delphine are both strong characters that readers will be able to relate to, particularly if they have gone through trauma themselves. The atmosphere of “Tainted Harvest” is gripping at times! A good page turner, great

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his readers to truly dig deep within themselves as they take in James’ journey. Overweighted descriptions slow the pacing at times, however, those details add to the fascinating world building. Overall, this is an intriguing science- iction adventure, layered with spirituality.

The Alien Agenda: The Earth is a Garden James McGill Jr. Narrator: Andrew Rowe

FANTASY: Aliens have arrived from deep within the Earth, and they have a mission—to save it! Their message urges caution from the planet’s citizens. Change their ways or they, and the planet they call home, will have no future. Though they destroy all of Earth’s treasured theologies, they con irm the existence of an imbalance between forces of light and dark. The leaders of humanity’s governments must decide if they believe these aliens who live under the planet’s surface. With one group buying into the story, they set out to be the change the aliens are desperately seeking. Introspective and raw, “The Alien Agenda” is a fascinating work of science iction that will leave readers thinking long and hard! The story is told primarily from the perspective of James Marriott, a man from the future. This and the aliens’ unique mission make this book stand out from other science iction. Mr. McGill doesn’t shy away from tackling heavy topics, and readers will either ind this fascinating or uncomfortable. The author asks

Mr. Rowe gives a solid performance that carries the story well throughout the book. He captures the character of James Marriott, and brings his personality and emotions to life luidly. Some of the other characters aren’t as well done, but a nice attempt at different voices and accents is made, making them easy to tell apart. There are moments where James’ dialogue blends in with the main narrative making it dif icult to tell when he is speaking and when he is merely telling the story. All that aside, the production quality of the book is engaging for listeners. This is a good read for fans of science iction and books with spiritual themes. Chelsea Andersen

The Big Break-up of 1948 James Grant Goldin Narrator: Nancy Bober

MYSTERY: Getting divorced from your detective partner while trying to solve a case is hard. Mr.

Jeremiah and Mrs. Jessica Key have to do exactly that when they’re called to the May lower hotel in Washington D.C. to investigate a murder. Hijinks abound as they fall deeper into the rabbit hole and discover nothing is quite as it seems. Can the ex-couple hold it together long enough to ind the culprit? Or will their personal drama get the better of them in the end? This humorous and exciting mystery will keep readers guessing from start to inish! Mr. Goldin has created a tale full of chemistry and tension, with a great balance of strong characters and a ful illing plot. He has done a great job capturing an era dramatically, so unlike our own, putting readers right into the setting and the action. Jeremiah and Jessica Key might have a failing marriage, but their interactions with one another are nothing but a success! Their banter is light and lows easily. Together, they make quite a hilarious team. Some readers might struggle with getting interested in the story in the beginning. Once it gets going, however, this novella is hard to put down! Readers will be guessing the entire time, and come to ind satisfaction at the end of this humorous caper. Ms. Bober has a wit and tone that match the novel perfectly. Her performance truly brings out a great deal of the subtle humor, making the book even funnier for listeners. With her vocal pitch, she’s able to create different patterns of speech that make it easy to tell which character is speaking when. Sometimes, her pacing feels a little too slow, and while it doesn’t take away from the emotion of the story, it can be distracting. Overall, it’s a fun and

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Audiobooks


Audiobooks entertaining, and listeners will not want to take a break from it! A great listen for lovers of cozy mysteries, and romantic comedies! Chelsea Andersen

GO! The Bettenhausen Story: Race Against a Dream Carl Hungness Narrator: Stark Wilson

HISTORICAL SPORTS: The Bettenhausen family is one of the greatest in racing history! This non iction narrative delves into the history of the auto racing industry in great detail through the perspective of the Bettenhausen men—from the 1930’s to the 1980’s. The need for speed and the challenge that comes with trying to win the coveted Indy 500 championship is part of the Bettenhausen DNA, making them the perfect family through whom to discover more about the sport of car racing, rejoice in their triumphs, and grieve their losses. Follow them on their rise to becoming a piece of history. Learn why the thrill of the race has driven this family for generations! This book gives a fascinating look at the thrilling history of the Indy 500! Mr. Hungness gives a

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detailed account of the history behind the Bettenhausen family and the role they played in one of the greatest races of our time! The book is thoroughly researched and displays a great deal of passion for the material. Unfortunately, the characterizations of the key players to the story aren’t well developed. The story itself isn’t presented as a ictional narrative. A lot of scenes are retold action by action with a layering of facts, rather than an imaginative retelling of events. Some readers might ind this less engaging. However, there are a lot of unknown facts that are fascinating! Mr. Wilson gives a steady reading of the book, which helps keep the narrative captivating. He does his best to bring the characters to life and adds urgency to some of the more intense moments of the story. This adds energy to the book that also keeps its contents fresh and more entertaining. Overall, “Go! The Bettenhausen Story” is a well done production! Listeners who are willing to devote to the tale will ind themselves surprised by all they’ve learned. This is a book for lovers of non iction narratives like “The Zookeeper’s Wife” or “Hidden Figures”! Chelsea Andersen

The Captain's Christmas Promise (Grif in Force #2.5) Julie Coulter Bellon Narrator: Tristan Wright

SUSPENSE/THRILLER: Colt Mitchell and Brenna Wilson leave Syria for Canada, after a long and stressful period of time hunting unsuccessfully for a wanted Syrian terrorist. Their boss makes them take the break; however, within minutes of landing in Canada, Brenna has guns pointed at her head via the bodyguards of the son of a Kuwaiti diplomat, Jassim. After things calm down and everyone leaves the airport, they discover that Jassim and his bodyguards have been attacked, and he is nearly dead. To prevent a diplomatic nightmare, they decide to use their skillset to help. Unfortunately, there is a Russian assassin on their tail who refuses to give up. Jassim gives them a cryptic message, and Colt and Brenna need to igure out what it means and how it its into the bigger picture before it is too late. Despite the abbreviated novella length, there are a lot of details imparted within this story. It is a continuation of a prior story, The Captain (Grif in Force #2). This audiobook stands alone, yet might


Audiobooks be a richer experience with knowledge of the prior volume. Nonetheless, the pace is rapid and the tension is high throughout. There are some lighter moments that add brightness and joy to the story and pull readers deeper into caring more about the fate of these protagonists. Con licts are evident within this story, yet there is a deeper sense of responsibility and gravitas that presents itself during the telling. Tristan Wright is the perfect narrator for this audiobook. He brings a distinct voice to each character in the story, deftly navigating the various accents, ages, and sexes portrayed throughout the tale. The production quality is high, and there aren’t any unexpected noises present in the recording. Carey Sullivan

Asgard Park: The Summer of 1991 Ronald Simonar Narrator: Dennis Heath

PARANORMAL MYSTERY: This is an intricate tale told in three seemingly unrelated parts involving separate protagonists in different parts of the world, followed by a fourth part that ties them all together. The main characters are Shequere Avhiu, a

young widow in Albania; Birger Wallenberg, originally from Sweden, who is the new Director of Research for Asgard Park Mental Institute in upstate New York; and Burton Crane, a troubleshooter for the NSA stationed in London. The unifying thread is Heimdallr, the Nordic Watchman who never sleeps and who guards Bifrost, (the rainbow bridge between worlds). Wallenberg starts to develop some uncanny abilities, which causes him to question his own sanity. Meanwhile, through unforeseen circumstances, Shequere inds herself homeless and on the run from police. Minor characters include a biker gang, a wealthy baron, a drug lord, and the supposedly disbanded communist Stasi.

wonderful job bringing these characters to life in a believable way!

This unique story ties everything together, but calls for patience. It’s not always evident why certain information is presented, but it eventually becomes clear. There are also some violent incidents and some chilling accounts of life in Albania. The main protagonists are described well, and listeners can easily evaluate their motivating forces and internal con licts. The pace stays consistent and will draw in the discerning listener. Things often look bleak for each of these protagonists, but hope triumphs in the end.

PARANORMAL: In this cleverlyplotted story, Jack Kelly is a 47year-old happily married man with three children and a loving wife. When one of his kids gets deathly ill, he discovers a world straight out of nightmares: ghosts, demons, and creatures in the night. The spirits actually want Jack, not his son, so he sacri ices himself to igure out why. When he awakens, he is a 13-year-old student at a Catholic school in New York - with all of the memories of his adult self and his family irmly intact, and a propensity for cussing. He inds support in unlikely places, which puts him at odds with his conservative school. He ends up hearing snippets of thoughts from others, which works out well at times, and not so well at other times.

The recording quality of this audiobook is excellent, and the narrator has a delightful voice. Each of the main protagonists has a distinct voice; however, some of the minor characters sound nearly identical, with intonations that sound remarkably like the voice of Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies. Aside from that issue, there are no extra or unexpected noises within the recording. Dennis Heath does a

Carey Sullivan

Book of Souls Kevin Moore Narrator: Luke Welland

While there are many things to like about this book, there are some frustrating aspects as well. This audiobook is complete enough to be a full story, but isn’t

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Audiobooks totally inished in that there are unanswered questions; another volume is in the works that will presumably answer these questions. Additionally, there are several instances where a portion of the story is repeated from a different character’s perspective. This doesn’t add much but is especially useful when clarifying the role of Casper, a major character in this tale. There is also one instance where Jack knows something he shouldn’t know - when he recognizes an uncle that is part of Casper’s storyline, not Jack’s. The listening quality is good for this recording. The only detracting issue is that it’s not always clear whose head listeners are in, as it sometimes takes a while before it is evident which character is speaking. Fortunately, the narrator has a pleasant voice. Although some of the minor characters sound similar, the major protagonists are easily distinguished. Carey Sullivan

Love’s Journey Home (Lincoln Love Stories #2) Julie Coulter Bellon Narrator: Brianne Vega

CONTEMPORARY: D.A. Olivia Dalton loves her job as a tough as

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nails attorney seeking justice. Mick Donovan is the town player, always dating a new girl. But when Olivia and Mick are thrown together and bonded with a common goal of helping an innocent child, they begin to learn the truth about one another. Mick discovers Olivia has a softer side and can bend rules if it means protecting those she loves. Olivia learns Mick is much less of a player than people believe, and he has a truly honorable heart. Mick is afraid to let anyone get too close, believing if they know his secrets, he will be rejected just as he was in the past. As they fall in love, she just has to hope he will trust her enough to open his heart to her and all the possibilities in their future. Mick is a sweet and relatable guy who is not known by many people in town. People only know what he lets them see. When he begins to trust Olivia and let her into his life and heart, a strong and sweet romance begins to build. The chemistry between them is strong from the start. The character development is great as Mick and Olivia learn to move beyond their pasts and focus on the future and let their love create a home. Julie Coulter Bellon tackles harsh realities but tempers the dif icult plot with a romance illed with hope and desire. The story drags along in some parts with so many trust issues between the two. An emotional romance illed with action and drama. Brianne Vega has a soothing voice that draws in the listener. With a perfect cadence and speed “Love’s Journey Home” immerses you in the case Olivia is prosecuting. There isn’t enough differentiation in the characters’ voices at points, but the pacing is

great, adding drama and affect to the emotion packed scenes. Trigger Warning – contains descriptions of abuse. Cara Cieslak

A Knight’s Vengeance (Knight’s Series # 1) Catherine Kean Narrator: James Gillies

HISTORICAL: Lord Geoffrey de Lanceau watched his father be wrongfully killed right in front of him for treason, but when he was not able to prove his father’s innocence, his thoughts turned to revenge. What he didn’t expect was for the woman he saved and instantly felt attracted toward, to turn out to be the daughter of his sworn enemy. Taking advantage of the new situation, Geoffrey decides to kidnap Elizabeth Brackendale and use her to draw her father out. While Elizabeth has longed for freedom from her father’s choices, she does still love him. When she is taken by the man who wants to see him dead, she is determined to spoil his plans no matter what it takes. However, as the pair spend time together, love blooms and gets in the way. This beautiful historical romance is sure to sweep listeners off their feet. Lord Geoffrey is an anti-hero


Audiobooks that is so well written, the listener is sure to fall for him while still feeling a need to root for Elizabeth’s escape at times. Elizabeth’s courage and determination are both inspiring and add an air of suspense that even Geoffrey can’t help but admire. The truth about what happened to Geoffrey’s father keeps listeners wrapped in a mystery that doesn’t overshadow the romance, and plays out perfectly. While the love between the couple could bene it from a more meaningful emotional bond, the story is absolutely heartwarming.

James Gillies does a fairly good job narrating the story. However, there are times when characters' voices get mixed up with one another. Additionally, moments of emotional distress can sound as though the character is feeling an entirely different emotion. Nevertheless the voice quality is clear and there are no unexpected noises in the audio. Annalee Stilove

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Other

The Fry Guy from Beachside: A Beachside Boys Novella (The Beachside Boys Book 2) Piper Malone

LGBT M/M ROMANCE: Milo Cusano is on a new life venture! He is opening a fry shop on the beach featuring his favorite potato

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and onion recipes. The shop needs to open before summer and all the events that will occur. He has enough on his plate when a familiar face from his past comes sur ing back into his life. Jackson Rutledge has returned home after a shark attack injury removed him from sur ing competitions. He feels lost and alone. Then he reunites with Milo. They were super competitive in high school, but it is obvious that there was more to their relationship than friendship. It turns out that Milo and Jackson both missed their chance and will need each other now more than ever.

how Milo helps Jackson overcome his fear after his sur ing accident. Milo recognizes his anxiety and does his best to support him and guide him back to the water. Even though this is a short story, the romance develops into love extremely fast, so much so, that it does not feel real. Some readers may not connect with the storyline. However, the family has the sweetest bond! Grandma is a riot and will have readers rolling on the loor laughing! One thing is for sure, this book will make readers want to read the whole series!

This novella is the PERFECT beach read for this summer! There is sur ing, descriptions of delicious food, a hilarious grandmother, and a sweet romance. One of the most precious aspects of this tale is

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