Aimee and Mickey here, and we just wanted to casually introduce ourselves as the new publishers and owners of Top Shelf Magazine. Aimee Ravichandran, the owner of Abundantly Social, and Mickey Mikkelson, the owner of Creative Edge Publicity, ironically never envisioned working within a magazine, much less owning one, and yet, here we are!! With over 20 years combined working within the book and publishing industry, we are both excited and passionate about what Top Shelf means to us. We both know that the magazine was built as a forum dedicated to authors and was a huge influencer in the book publishing and promotion market. When discussions started about us adopting the magazine from the previous owners, Keith and Becky, we were both incredibly honored and extremely touched that they would even consider us, and we want to publicly issue a Thank You to both of them for not only believing in us but also trusting us with an entity that they worked so hard to build and preserve!
Our dedication and support to them is to ensure that Top Shelf Magazine’s legacy continues by releasing professional mainstream content that focuses on the book industry as a whole. We want Top Shelf to be known as the Book Community magazine, and we want to cover all areas of focus, including independent publishing, traditional publishing, and leveraging and creating content for libraries, bookstores, and reader festivals, and ensure every genre is represented. The next steps are to rebuild our website, but we wanted to get the Top Shelf Awards and September Issues out as there have been a lot of patient readers waiting for the issue. Finally, and this is probably the most important part of this is that we want to hear from you! The readers, writers, and really the book community as a whole. Because without any of you, we don’t have a magazine, and we are hopeful that each of you will join us on this book-related journey together! We can be reached at Amtopshelf@yahoo.com, and if interested, please drop us a line. Tell us what you do like and even tell us what you don’t like (we can’t improve if we don’t know)! We are both looking forward to continuing the legacy of Top Shelf Magazine and getting to know its readers and its fanbase! We hope you enjoy!
Aimee and Mickey, The Top Shelf Publishing Team ANNOUNCEMENT
Magazine Content Creator: Deena Rae; eBookBuilders
Interviews: Danielle Urban Book Reviews: NornsNornsTriadReview Team: J. M.
RED HOT RIGHT NOW NICOLE FANNING
Her debut novel, Catalyst, is the first incendiary installment of the Heart of the Inferno Series, which follows the story of a dangerous mafia don and the girl who became his only exception.
Nicole is a smitten wife and super proud dog mom to three rambunctious rescue dogs.
She is an old school romantic, with a proclivity for a little mischief, and an obsession with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Q: USING THREE WORDS FOR EACH CHARACTER, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR HERO AND HEROINE, JAXON AND NATALIE?
Q: WHAT LED YOU INTO WRITING ROMANTIC SUSPENSE NOVELS SUCH AS YOUR HEAT OF INFERNO SERIES?
Jaxon: Calculated. Complicated. Ruthless. Natalie: Calm. Observant. Courageous.
Ignite picks up where Catalyst left off-with Jaxon having been shot by his assumed dead, but very NOT dead exgirlfriend, who is now out for vengeance. And, if having a crazy ex-girlfriend after you isn't enough, Jaxon also learns that Natalie is pregnant with his child. Natalie learns more about Jaxon's "other" life, the one that very few outside of his underground crime organization ever get to see. But Jaxon is more than just a brute or bully, he is a complicated man, with a complicated past...and is also the father of her child. While Catalyst introduces us to a cast of beloved characters and sets the stage for Jaxon and Natalie's love story, Ignite will test that love in every way imaginable. Ignite is the fuel on the fire, thrusting our characters into a myriad of trials, tribulations and heartbreak that will test just how deep their love truly is.
and even love. Not to any government or power in particular, but to their organization. Their FAMILY. I guess my dark little heart found that...beautiful. I've always had a heart for a good romance story, but I've always loved those broken, dark, bad boys even more. Those characters that blur the lines between "good" and "bad," challenging us to fall in love with both the light and dark inside them. I wanted Jaxon to be complex enough to make us REMEMBER him. To see him as the bad man keeping worse men in check. Moreover, to see that regardless of how rough and curt he can be with the people in his life, he would always treat Natalie like a queen...and that ALL of us are capable of Ultimatelychange.Iwanted a story that would appeal to both the romance lovers, as well as the thrill-seekers, and hope that I have accomplished that with this series.
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Q: TELL US, READERS, ABOUT YOUR LATEST RELEASE, IGNITE.
I'm a bit of a documentary enthusiast and fascinated by the various crime organizations around the world. Perhaps it's simply because I love a little mystery, but I find it incredibly interesting that so many exist around us without the average person ever knowing. And while, yes, the men and women involved in these organizations might bad people who did bad things, the more I learned about these organizations, the more I realized there was more to the story. There was loyalty, honor,
Ignite is the second book in the Heart of the Inferno Series. It is the story of Natalie Tyler, a nurse and everyday girl-next-door, who inadvertently becomes the paramour of billionaire mafia don Jaxon Pace. From completely different worlds, these two were never supposed to meet, let alone fall in love. But love is a funny thing, and despite all the outside forces attempting to tear these two apart, we see them choose each other, finding hope in the darkness.
Right now I am finishing up the third book in the four book series, Flash Point. I know they say authors shouldn't have favorites but I would definitely argue that Flash Point might be just that! My books are available on Amazon and Kindle!
Q: WHAT THEMES WILL READERS FIND IN YOUR NOVEL, IGNITE (BOOK 2)?
beauty and attraction are easy enough to find in romance novels, the struggle and strength of a relationship between those beautiful people isn't as common. Jaxon and Natalie face many trials together as a couple, some of which are excruciatingly painful. But through it all we see them cling to each other, finding their way through the night together. Additionally, we see both of our characters grow in many beautiful ways, and find their strength in the community around them.
Ignite is many things, but mostly it is a story about the power of love, and what makes a strong relationship. While superficial
While New York City has quite a history with the mafia, many forget that Chicago does as well. And with its ideal geography, it serves as a gateway to much of the country. I felt that given its history and mystery the Windy City provided an excellent and eclectic backdrop for a story about a secret billionaire mafia man.
Q: WHAT OTHER PROJECTS ARE YOU CREATING NOW AND WHERE CAN READERS FIND YOUR BOOKS ONLINE?
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Q: TELL US MORE ABOUT THE VILLAINS AND YOUR INSPIRATION FOR CREATING THEM. JAXON'S EXGIRLFRIEND, RACHEL, AND HER PSYCHOTIC BROTHER, MICHAEL SOUND LIKE A GREAT PAIR.
Q: WHY CHOOSE CHICAGO FOR THE MAFIA CITY? WHY NOT NEW YORK CITY?
Nicole can be found at nherownwords.com
Rachel and Michael are the product of the world around them. They were born into pain, and though Rachel was able to find some sort of stability with Jaxon during their relationship, we learn it wasn't for very long. Jaxon was young and selfish, and Rachel was unfortunately a casualty of his wake. Michael on the other hand, is a different beast entirely. We learn in Ignite that he was traumatized as a child, an incident that completely changed how he viewed the world...and the people in it. Love is something he doesn't remember or understand, and so anyone in his life is always at risk of being his next victim.
Fast forward several years and several manuscripts later. My writing had become technically stronger. But I’d also learned that without a plan, I often had to rewrite whole sections of a book, not realizing I needed to include something in the beginning until I reached the end. That amount of rewriting became frustrating. Besides that, there was something fundamentally missing from the stories I wrote. I could acknowledge the lack, but I had no idea how to fix it.
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by J.E. McDonald
between two people of warring cultures, but because the story grabbed me so tight I wasn’t happy until I wrote what came next—even if I had no clue what that event would be.
a fledging writer I wrote by the seat of my pants. A pantser. Every night before bed, I would handwrite a few pages in a notebook, a love story set in the far future where we’d messed up Earth so badly it had become a conservation zone. From what I’ve found, the term pantser came from National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s appropriate then, that the first time I sat down and decided to write a manuscript from start to finish was during NaNoWriMo one November years ago.
I’ve heard there are those who are “true” pantsers, those who write without any idea of what they want to write about. That wasn’t me, no. I definitely had the shape of a story in my head before I set out to write it (usually the beginning and the end), I just never put pen to paper outlining which event would lead to the next, in any chronological fashion beforehand.
That first story will always have a place in my heart. Not only because I loved the romance
Cue the writing groups.
One of the best resources for writers is to connect with other writers. I joined as many local writing groups as I could, and in doing so exposed myself to many different writing styles
So the pantser thing hadn’t worked, and the plotter thing didn’t fill all the gaps I could still see in my narrative. I wanted to create the kind of stories I enjoyed, the addictive ones so many of my favorite authors seemed to create effortlessly. (I know now none of it is effortless.) I continued to write, to try to make my work better, but could never find that elusive thing I searched for.
No matter how many critique partners and beta readers I hoped would shed light on the issue, it never appeared.
I began to write pages of what I knew would happen in the story and then I’d go back over those pages to fill in the blanks. I kept up with this process until the shape of an entire manuscript took the form of an outline. The plot existed. When I sat down to write the actual story itself, I did so knowing what would happen next and found I enjoyed it. It allowed me enough wiggle room to discover new and interesting things about the work while moving on to the next plot point. I’d feared some magic would be lost in the process. Luckily, in understanding what came next and leaving wiggle room to be imaginative, this new method became fundamentally freeing.
My “Ah ha!” moment came in the form of a three-hour workshop at a Romance Writers of America conference. It felt like the whole workshop had been created specifically for the problem I could see in my work. I sat there dumbfounded (and a little embarrassed to be honest) that I hadn’t seen it before. I’m still usure if it was what presenter said or if it happened to be the best possible time for me to listen. Maybe if I’d heard the same words two years earlier, I wouldn’t have understood them in the same way.
In seeing how others worked, I thought perhaps I should take a crack at this mystical thing I’d heard of called “plotting.”
Not only do I allow myself this pantser freedom in backstory, but I allow myself to fall down the rabbit holes of research during this planning stage. What I once thought of as constraining becomes freeing. My research takes me to places I never fathomed, enriching my stories in more ways than I can count.
The plot must be driven by the characters. The story must come from the characters. Every choice they make, every action they perform, needs to come from somewhere, some point of origin that makes them behave the way they do. Just as we, in real life, are victims of repeating the same patterns for reasons that have been ingrained in us since childhood, so are our Ironically,characters.thepantser
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It still wasn’t enough.
in me began to flourish once more. In backstory. This is where I let my imagination run wild. This is where I don’t worry about what comes next, instead immersing myself in the scene, using as much vivid detail as I can muster. I write scene after scene for my main characters (and even secondary ones where it’s called for), depicting past events, pivotal moments in their lives, searching for those things called “emotional wounds” or “misbeliefs.” And when I find them, I can understand what pushes them onward, where the plot comes from.
It all came down to character.
and techniques. There were those who wrote over a hundred thousand words of outline spanning three books without writing a single word of the actual manuscript. There were those who handwrote in notebooks like how I had started. There were those who only wrote short stories and those who wrote epic fantasies. By mingling with such a cross-section, I discovered there was no right or wrong way to approach a story. Even then, I continued to feel like I lacked something in my own writing.
J.E. McDonald was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, The Land of the Living Skies. As a child, she was either searching the clouds for identifiable shapes, or star-gazing way past her bedtime. She cut her teeth watching Star Trek, James Bond movies, and reading the Harlequin novels her mother left in the bathroom—which resulted in an extremely skewed sense of sex education by age eleven. All of these factors contribute to her love of writing paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and far-future romance. J.E. resides in Saskatchewan with her husband and three daughters and drinks way too much coffee.
process. The lovely people in my writing groups taught me that.
I no longer call myself a pantser. But I’m not a plotter either. I think the term “planster” is just about right—the pantser who plans. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but for a person who likes to know where they fit in, it feels just about perfect.
And all of this happens before I’ve ever written a word of the actual manuscript.
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There are times I pause in writing to research something I hadn’t thought of. There are times when I need to add a couple more scenes I hadn’t considered because of timeline issues. And that’s ok! The best thing I can do for myself at that point is to not get frustrated with doing something “wrong.” None of it is wrong. It’s all part of the
But the ARC program is not the only reason why over 5000 authors have turned to Hidden Gems and continue to recommend them to their peers. Authors can find beta readers, blurb writing, and a whole host of other services and
free tools, including more 1-on-1 dedicated attention from Craig or Roland in the form of scheduled and personal consult calls.
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One of the biggest challenges authors face is gathering reviews, which are a critical component to the success of any book. Even when sending free copies to fans on their own mailing lists, most authors see very few reviews as a result. Hidden Gems solved that problem with their revolutionary ARC program, which delivered previously unheard of results and quickly became the industry standard. Even now, as other ARC services have attempted to imitate the Hidden Gems model, they rarely achieve the same results.
HiddenGemsBooks.com (aka Hidden Gems) is an author services company that was started by Craig Tuch back in 2015. After writing under a variety of pen names and being an active member of the quickly growing online self-publishing community, Craig recognized a number of common difficulties that independent authors had in promoting and marketing their books.
Fully Booked – The Hidden Gems Author Podcast
If you’re interested in ways to improve as a writer, or in learning about new or better ways to market, advertise and sell your books, then join Craig and Roland every Thursday as they talk with each other and their guests about a wide range of topics relevant to self-publishing and writing.
Even writers that aren’t in immediate need of their services still visit the website regularly, as Hidden Gems is also an ongoing source of free and valuable information. Each week, the website publishes new content to their author blog, and new episodes of their podcast, Fully Booked. Both the blog and podcast are dedicated to providing tips and advice on writing, marketing and promotion–all with the goal of helping authors reach greater audiences and sell more books.
Roland Hulme was born in the UK and dreamed of two things growing up - moving to America, and becoming a successful author. Over the course of a 15+ year career in advertising and marketing, Roland eventually achieved both those goals - using everything he’d learned from his ad agency experiences in London and New York to market his own successful series of romance
Before starting Hidden Gems, Craig Tuch had been successfully self-publishing romance novels on Amazon for a number of years under a variety of pen names, with many of his books becoming Amazon bestsellers. Collectively, those books sold hundreds of thousands of copies and had close to 100 million Kindle Unlimited page reads.
Craig Tuch (Author, Fully Booked co-host and founder of Hidden Gems)
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Past episodes have included topics such as whether you should create an audiobook version of your book, whether you should translate it into different languages, how to write unforgettable characters, novel serialization options, the benefits of beta readers, whether you need an author assistant, how to use social media effectively, finding an agent, marketing across a variety of online stores and platforms, collaborating with other
Roland Hulme (Author, Fully Booked co-host and Hidden Gems contributor)
authors, and so much more. Whether you prefer to watch them on Youtube, or simply listen to them as a traditional podcast on one of your favorite podcast sites like Spotify, Apple, Google and Amazon, there is likely a topic that can help you advance in your career as a writer. Just search for “Fully Booked: The Hidden Gems Author Podcast” or find all the links on our podcast page, and make sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss an episode.
blogger, podcast cohost and blurb-writer for Hidden Gems, Roland continues to use that knowledge to help other authors polish their published works, navigate the pitfalls of self-publishing, and help build their own online communities of eager readers.
Craig always attributed much of his success to the support he got from the online writing community, and thus his goal in starting Hidden Gems was to help other independent authors, both new and established, navigate and succeed in the complex and often-changing world of self-publishing.Asidefromthe blogs and his own podcast, Craig has written feature articles for other sites, spoken at author conferences, and been a guest on a variety of industry related podcasts.
• Fiction-Palooza June 2023
Current scheduled events:
• Fiction-Palooza Oct 2022
• Worlds2Esdcape2 Oct 2023
• Mystery, Murder & Mayhem Aug 2023
MORE INFORMATION, TO APPLY TO BE A PRESENTING AUTHOR OR TO PURCHASE TICKETS, PLEASE www.MasterclassSummits.comVISIT
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Masterclass Summits’ (MCS) online events are unlike any other you’ve ever attended— GUARANTEED. With vibrant 3D animated graphics, interactive capabilities, and a cuttingedge platform that’s easy to use, the event organizers are dedicated to entertaining and educating attendees in a totally safe, exciting, newYouway.will feel emersed in the event via your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. We even have an app for those wishing to attend on the Withgo.events for all ages and all readers, this is a safe and convenient way to attend book events, meet authors and win prizes.
BOOK EVENTS FOR ALL GENRES
• Deck the Bookshelves Nov-Dec 2022s
• Luv-a-Palooza Feb 2023
Masterclass Summits events have 3D Animated Graphics, and the events are Interactive, Immersive, and Super Fun.
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I began writing this book the day after my father died—a draft I still have in two spiral-bound notebooks that (mercifully) looks nothing like the book does today. That means I wrote and rewrote this book for about seventeen years. Writing was my way through. A much-needed and often far-off lighthouse.
In my experience, scars do, indeed, fade. Same for nightmares. But complex PTSD is a sneaky creature. Sometimes the nightmares creep back in—often without warning—but then they move along again. At least, mine do.
I wish I’d known that one day, I would have a life not defined by my father or what he did to me. I’d assemble a life full of love and kindness. I’d like myself one day. Truly, actually like who I am. I’d love the work I do, both in teaching and writing.
What has helped me most in recovery is building my sense of self-worth, brick by heavy brick, and keeping it healthy. Nurturing it. Nurturing myself. I spent so many years steeped in harshness; I only knew how to be merciless to myself. Now, I aim for much softer landings.
Can women from abusive pasts such as yourself ever find the connections or true explanations for why their abusers do what they do?
We can spend a lifetime trying to understand precisely what drives abusers to do what they do. Even if we unlock certain doors—say, we figure out who abused them—it still can’t wholly explain their behavior. I spent so many years trying to answer why, but I wish I’d been asking how? How can I focus energy on my own recovery? Sorting through “why” was certainly part of that, but it also allowed me to neglect myself.
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Drawing from your own childhood horrors, what is your advice for others going through the same suffering?
Choose yourself. Choose yourself again and again. Whether that choice lies in going no contact, finding an affordable therapist and/or support group, and/or calling a domestic violence hotline to make a safe plan.
When I was younger, I couldn’t visualize a life in which I thrived. I didn’t believe that was possible for so, so long. I thought I was broken—that my father had, indeed, irreparably broken me—and my job was to hobble through life.
Do the scars and nightmares ever go away? What can women do to move past them?
And read. Read a lot—about recovery, about abuse, about PTSD/CPTSD. Understanding not only how abuse works but how it affects the mind—what actually happens in the wiring of the brain—was immeasurably helpful to me.
When did you decide to write about the abuse you and other women suffered from your father?
Trauma recovery isn’t a destination. It’s an odyssey. I’ve arrived at a therapy session many times to say, “So, today’s the day, right? Today I’m cured?” It always gets a laugh.
Recovery Road is long and coiled. I’ll think I’ve got a handle on something only to shift my thinking by a millimeter and realize that I am, again, staring at something I need to unpack—
What is your advice for other victims in helping keep a distance from their abusers?
What were your thoughts when the truths about your dad and his crimes came to light?
My thoughts felt like that for a couple of years.
Nikolidakis tried to make sense of her childhood, which was scarred by abuse, violence, and psychological terrors so extreme that her relationship with her father was cleaved beyond repair. Having finally been able to leave that relationship behind, surviving meant forgetting. For years, “I’m fine” was a lie Nikolidakis repeated.
Where can readers find your book online and where can they connect with you?
This book is available in multiple formats on Amazon, including audiobook, which I narrate in my smooth-jazz voice. Lol. You can also get at me through my website lisanikolidakis.com, on Twitter @lisanikol, and on IG @lisanik.
Have you ever stood before a lake and jumped in fully prepared for your body to rocket to the bottom only to find that the water is ankle-deep?
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Then, on her twenty-seventh birthday, Nikolidakis’s father murdered his girlfriend and her daughter, and turned the gun on himself. Nikolidakis’s world cracked open, followed by conflicted emotions: shock, grief, mourning for the innocent victims, and relief that she had escaped the same fate. In the tragedy’s wake, questions lingered: Who was this man, and why had he inflicted such horrors on her and his last victims? For answers, Nikolidakis embarked on a quest to Greece to find her father’s estranged family and a reckoning with the past she never expected.
A powerful memoir about the traumas of a perilous childhood, a shattering murdersuicide, and a healing journey from escape to survival to Growingrecovery.up,Lisa
something I thought I was finished with. But I have learned to pivot, and my refractory time continues to shrink. I bounce back to balanced more quickly with continued practice.
One of the most helpful habits I’ve developed is finding small joys. A weird rock, a hopping bird, a crooked tree. Making art, silly horror movies, chilled face masks. A perfectly ripe avocado. Those few weeks when Pink Lady apples are paradise. I work hard to stay present and appreciate the little things, and that has carried me through even the darkest days.
In her gripping and moving memoir, Nikolidakis explores not only the making of a killer but her own liberation from the demons that haunted her and her profound selfrestoration in the face of unimaginable crimes.
by Jen Nash
CEO I was recently talking to shared that: “…the pandemic is hard. Everyone wants a change. Something to break up all the monotony of doing the same thing, day in and day out. But realistically you can’t divorce your partner. Moving to a new house is insanely expensive right now,” the wise pharmaceutical marketing leader continued “... so what can employees do to shake things up? They don’t have a lot of options besides quitting their jobs. That’s pretty much their only option right now, and as a leader, I can tell you that’s really hard on me and hard on my company.”
Office Friendships Make All The Difference
As an executive coach and corporate trainer, I found this so insight so powerful it got me
How leading companies are slowing the tidal wave of exiting staff.
Monotony of Covid Forces Employees to Crave Change
looking at what do stats show will consistently work when it comes to retention, so I could focus more profoundly on positively supporting my corporate clients. The CEO who preferred to remain anonymous—as they’re looking at staff attrition rates between 15-20% over the past quarter—was eager to consider all solutions available. Especially if those solutions were easy to implement and could create lasting change.
I did some digging and it turns out that supporting office friendships went a long way to changing the resignation culture. Did you know that 62% of people would say NO THANK YOU to a higher paying job if they
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“That warm, fuzzy feeling drops dramatically as the number of workplace friends declines— fewer than half of those with one to five friends at their company feel the love and just 24 percent with no workplace friends love where they work.” Says Kathy Gurchiek in an SHRM article about the importance of workplace friendships2.
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and that’s a conservative estimate. So, a 100-person organization where the average salary is $50,000, would have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year 3. Holy wow. Let’s start helping our employees make friends shall we?
How Can Employers Support Employee Friendships?
In case you’d forgotten, according to a Gallup study, the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times that employee’s annual salary --
Just how Expensive Is Losing Employees?
As more leaders are leaning into empathetic leadership styles, they are seeing how important it is for them to foster potentially connective moments. One effective suggestion is encouraging employees to starting meetings by playfully sharing something personal about themselves, like what everyone is currently binge watching. Better still is going deeper and connective moments where people are encouraged to openly talk about their core values, as these moments can 3
had 5+ friends at their current job? And that number rises to over 70% for those with over six at work 1.
an,to%20%242.6%20million%20per%20yearaspx#:~:text=The%20cost%20of%20replacing%20fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/. TOP Shelf 18
With two decades of professional experience working as a senior consultant for Fortune 100 Pharma, Health, Tech, and Finance giants—Jen integrates human behavioral theory with realworld practicalities.
Jen understands that you can be critically successful and yet still wonder if there isn’t meant to be more for you? To that end Jen has coached and trained hundreds
give leaders and staff insight into what motivates everyone from a deeper perspective. This insight gives the firm a direct line to understanding what type of motivation will be most effective moving forward.Having
Jen has completed training as a Coach For Life and is a member of the ICF. She is regularly interviewed on a wide range of podcasts talking about coaching and her book The Big Power of Tiny Connections.
Born in Canada and raised around the world in such countries as Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Australia, Jennifer confuses people by speaking French with a French accent and trying her hands at over 40 other languages. She studied Communication Design at Parsons & The New School for Social Research in New York City.
When not traveling the globe learning new ways to say ‘thank you’ and finding bright souls with whom to foster lifelong friendships; Jen Nash can be seen biking around New York City, Los Angeles or striding around el Centro in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.
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of individuals on stepping into their potential, mastering connective speaking, and being the best leaders they can be.
time set aside for virtual games and other connective engagement, that’s not necessarily directly correlated to client work or the bottom line, can be deeply rewarding over time. PwC has project managers allocate different employees to take walk and talks together. Everyone is “walking” wherever they want to walk, but for that 25 minute, they’re on the phone with a colleague…connecting. Little initiatives make all the difference as I’ve found in training after training that I’ve facilitated.
Friendship and connection support retention, and it’s critical now more than ever to look for ways to add more of that into your office culture. Dim Sum anyone?
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most beloved characters in the Dark Victoriana Collection books is Jude from Brotherhood of Secrets, who is also the most dangerous character. He’s violent, has a lot of unresolved anger issues, and nobody understands him nor cares to. He doesn’t fit in Victorian society. His disturbed nature manifests in odd behavior, something he can’t fix without help. And the only man who offers him a helping hand is one with bad intentions, one who plays off Jude’s pain and tendency toward violence and uses it to his own advantage.
But can you, as the reader, really dislike a character whose weaknesses are used against him in such an ugly way? Can you condemn Jude for his actions, even if his violence saves some people from even worse brutality?
everything in life were black and white, there would be no confusion in any situation. You’d always know what to do, and it would be easy. But life is made of gray areas of uncertainty. Our choices and our perspectives make us unique individuals—and it’s no different in fiction.
by Christie Stratos
decisions, pain, and confusion caused by their background.Oneofmy
Moral gray areas and characters’ decisions about how to handle them make the story interesting and create both likable and dislikable characters. But most importantly, they create relatable characters. Life isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be for characters, which is why all my books include those moral gray areas. Villains aren’t so easy to judge harshly if you can understand where they’re coming from. In fact, villains can be readers’ favorite characters and the most relatable ones. Most of the time they’ve been through hell, and a lot of the time, they never really came back. They’re still stuck in their own living hell, one made of poor
The complexities of characters in fiction reflect the intricate web of real life. Complex characters and moral gray areas are just a couple of examples of what makes fiction both relatable and enjoyable.
Christie currently co-hosts the once-a-week (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET) interactive videocast Lurking for Legends with award-winning epic fantasy author Richard H. Stephens. She was the original host of the well-received podcast Writers Showcase, rated #1 videocast of 2019-2020 on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. She has interviewed New York Times bestsellers, publishers, and major award-winning authors, including America’s favorite inspirational storyteller Karen Kingsbury, #1 New York Times
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Author YouTube Instagram
Victoriana Collection. Also a poet, Christie has been published in anthologies, literary journals, and magazines. Christie has been featured on the radio, in magazines, and on podcasts, and she has given presentations for writing organizations and at writing conferences.Sheowns her own editing company, Proof Positive, where she works one-on-one with authors as well as with small presses as a freelance editor, and she has enjoyed working with a rising press as an acquisitions editor.
Social media links:
bestselling author Peter Straub, Hugo Award winner Robert J. Sawyer, BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawksley, and Mary Higgins Clark Award winner Hank Phillippi Ryan.
Christie Stratos is
Website Amazon author page
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I’ve had the honor of obtaining exclusive interviews with many classic and new cyberpunk authors, and have learned much
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My website, www.markeverglade.com, is the top cyberpunk book website online, and features reviews, interviews, and articles with the main influencers in the subgenre. Cyberpunk books can be hard to find, especially given that 75% of what is labeled cyberpunk is done for marketing purposes, not because it truly represents our common themes. One of our core concerns, for instance, is supporting the proletariat’s advancement of human rights against corporations and dystopian regimes that would seek to suppress them. The site also features both indie and mainstream literature, and overall
Hi. Social conflict is the basis of my books, and can be defined most simply when two or more groups have competing interests that must be reconciled. For instance, in the U.S. the rich exist in a predatory relationship with the poor, whereby their goal is to maximize profits at any cost to society, while the goal of the poor is to garner enough income just to survive. This conflict between the haves and the have nots is crucial to many popular books such as Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn.
As for the genre’s origin, we can trace it formally back to the early 70’s, with strong roots as far back as at least the 20’s.
Conflict can surround any illusion that separates people into disparate groups, however, including things such as race and gender. We see concepts like those depicted in books ranging from R.A. Salvatore’s Homeland series to Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis. Even characters’ inner conflict, if believable, is situated within a larger social context of norms and values.
Q: TELL US, READERS, ABOUT YOUR WEBSITE WHERE YOU REVIEW CYBERPUNK MEDIA AND INTERVIEW LEGENDS.
Cyberpunk media is defined by scholars differently than by some of its fans. That’s not to say the average fan is by any means uneducated, as they’re willing to think outside the box far more than the average person, but the focus may be different. Casual fans will recognize cyberpunk for its unique aesthetic. This includes the hallmark mirror shades, 80’s retrofuture stylings, slick outfits, punk/goth adaptations, computerized weaponry, cybernetic enhancements, and neon pinks and Beyondblues.that,
the indie authors are the ones who are hitting the hardest and most truthfully with their social analysis.
Q: How would you define cyberpunk media? How long has it been a thing?
however, cyberpunk exists as a postmodern statement against the rise of totalitarian nation-states and the horrors of advanced capitalism playing out across fictional, dystopian settings. Neither liberal nor conservative, it is constantly evolving and resists definition. Cyberpunk is what it needs to be for each country, person, and generation, an outlet for rage against the unjust, a statement of unadulterated individuality, with an underlying value of fairness and equality. Unfortunately, unconscious sexism among many of its authors holds it back from being all it promises to be.
Q: Who are the legends you interview on your website?
Q: WHAT IS SOCIAL CONFLICT?
A clone searching for her identity, an android out of control, a young man fleeing from killercyborgs, a synthwave DJ whose music slays, a deadly videogame – and a very hungry cybercroc. Welcome to the world of Neo Cyberpunk! Fifteen of the hottest contemporary cyberpunk authors have joined forces to create a unique anthology. In this book readers will find the full spectrum of modern-day cyberpunk, full of action, mystery, technology and humanity. Cyberpunk is Now!
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Q: How many dystopian short stories have you written so far and where can readers find your work online?
Q: How did begin running Cyberpunk Day? For those who do not know, when is it featured?
from each of them. From Kevin Jeter (author of Dr. Adder, Noir, the Bladerunner sequels, and much of The Mandalorian season II), to Dr. Tom Maddox (Halo, Mirror Shades, and some of the X-files), to Lewis Shiner, Michael Swanwick, and Bruce Bethke, who created the word cyberpunk, a record few journalists seem to get straight. You can really see how their personalities shaped their literature, while reading their commentary on current events.
Cyberpunk Day is held each autumn and will be observed November 12th this year. Matthew Goodwin, a phenomenal author in his own right, founded the day and began gathering people together over three years ago to support his efforts to spread awareness of the genre, the media, its creators, and the underground punk community. Our group quickly formed and we launched the first two days with tremendous grassroots supports from indie artists, offering video game demos, role-playing game sessions, book readings, and custom, live electronic music sessions inspired by our themes. Our website will be releasing the schedule of interviews, discussions, and artistic events soon this year, and we’ll be sending information out on social media and through our mailing list.
I’ve written a couple dozen over my life that are in various publication stages. The easiest way is to follow me at twitter. com/markeverglade where I announce new stories, and to sign up for my mailing list on my website. I’ll send you your first free story, and then a book of short cyberpunk stories for free as soon as the cover design has been completed.
Kindle Unlimited users can also check out my new novel Song of Kitaba for free (with subscription to Amazon’s service) to explore a world where everything you think is recorded on giant screens, displayed to the public, and monitored by the government for any thought of rebellion. Thanks!
REVIEWED BY SAHARA
Throughout the book, Jen has stories/examples
of how some random encounter turned into amazing connections. I found them quite relatable and fascinating. What I didn’t like was that she seemed too over the top with her suggestions. Jen did say that it takes practice and she didn’t find it easy either to just start talking with total strangers to make a possible connection. Still, the vast majority of people will never go to the extreme she has. But, lessons can be learned to help oneself become a better person during the process. That part I can say YESIftoo.you’re
When I first picked up this book, I was uncertain. Though I enjoy reading
A friend suggested that I read this book. Any words of wisdom to help improve myself was okay by me so gave it a try. From page one I was very impressed by the excellent writing style of the author.
NotNORTHUPWhat I Expected
The Big Power of Tiny Connections
So much of the book resonated with me. Unfortunately, since I’m in my mid 60’s, I feel that I’ve missed the boat for most of her teachings/suggestions. Still, there can always be room in one’s life for growth, no matter the age.
REVIEWED BY J.M.
Christ at the Coffee Shop
a person looking to change their lives, whether a job, relationships, or just better friends, I highly recommend this book. In my opinion, everyone should read it. I give it a resounding 5-stars.
As an introvert, how many wonderful connections did I miss because being a wallflower was safer? I’ll never know. And in today’s modern world of cellphones and social media, how many young people have totally ignored their tiny connections as they’re glued to their screens. Life is passing them by.
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The Tatto Murder
I Have A New Series!
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I recommend this book. Honestly, I didn’t think I would nor that I’d like it as much as I did. The kindness, easy-manner, and sincerity of the writer is what made the difference for me. It wasn’t judgmental. It wasn’t condemning. This read was just about wishing everyone to see the love and light in the simplest elements of life, even when it seems the darkest.
A Cleverly Crafted Story
First off, author D. C. Gomez does a great job with conversation between the characters. I love the
The Tattoo Murder reminded me very much of the Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels I read back in the seventies and eighties. For those who love this kind of crime-noir, are going to really love this story.
I felt the author remained neutral. He didn’t try to convert anyone. Instead, the purpose of his book was to get one to ask questions and look at everyday happenings with new eyes. Mr. Ingram uses powerful tales that make you consider situations we’ve all experienced at one time or another. It’s compelling.
One scene in the story particularly amused me. The FBI were in a meeting with local detectives as their cases had acrimoniously crossed. Our hero, John Potenza, quoted a line from an old movie. One of the feds instantly recognised it. The meeting was forgotten for a moment as they discussed movies, before carrying on.
There were a number of deliberately clichèd scenes in this story. I enjoyed the humour of them because it is what set it apart from a normal crime story.
The plot was well thought out, and I liked that it was different. As it drew to a close, it led to an exciting climax with a well constructed ending.
Just a lovely message of hope.
REVIEWED BY KAREN J. MOSSMAN
Detective John Potenza was portrayed like the detectives of old, in a modern day setting.
I loved the setting and that the main character was a surfer who liked nothing more than to take to the ocean to wash away the stress of his day.
REVIEWED BY DEBBIE
Having said that, the writing style did make me feel like an outsider observing it with slight detachment.
I have a new series to get into! I love a great series and this one has punched all the buttons for me.
I saw this book advertised and discovered it was written in a crime noir style. Bob Brill’s clever descriptions made it easy to envision the actions of the characters.
about religion, studying theology is quite different from devotions or testimonials of faith. It can get dangerous moving from the objective to the subjective, so I tend to avoid it in this topic. However, I was pleasantly surprised by thisTheretext.were several things I actually liked about this book. For starters, Jesus liked to speak in parables. I appreciated the way the author used a modern version of that, sharing his examples in forms of short stories to illustrate the points he was trying to make. It was a marvelous way to clearly show readers what Mr. Ingram was saying, and it made the book enjoyable as well as relatable.Inaddition,
Another unusual occurrence in the book was part way through. A few pages were dedicated to photographs showing where particular instances took place. An enjoyable pause to the story.
Flirty, Fun, and Fabulous!
Although a good, solid read, the subject matter of genealogy was not my cup of tea. I felt there was a lot of extraneous information about genealogy that did not
REVIEWED BY NICHOLE
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Year of the What?
I am very excited to read the next story in the series!
Reading Stephanie Lavigne’s “Headlines, Deadlines and Lies” was quite entertaining. It would be a good fit for any one who loves a cozy mystery story. Her prose style is fluid and she makes sure to add some levity to her writing so it is not onerous to read. A clever plot, with enough last-minute revelations to keep you guessing. She would lead you one way, then spin you around and take you in another direction.Hercharacters did come to life for me, and I have to admit I liked the sidekick, Boots, more than the main character, Piper. Boots was so vivacious and spunky that you wished she was your friend, too. Piper was more subdued and had a lot of angst about her life’s course throughout almost the entire book.
TheSUSANstory is about genealogy
flow of the relationships and expressiveness of the dialog! 5 stars right Characterthere.development was also 5 star. Do I still have questions about the how and why of some of the players? Why yes! That’s what a great series does. From this first book, I got enough to really become invested in the story. I am definately looking forward to the next book in the series to gleen more of each person’s mysterious background.Thefact that this story is about Death, who is a character and about all things mystical, also makes this my kind of book. I loved the relationship development between the three main characters. Isis, the new intern for Death, a young boy, Bartholomew and Constentine, a talking cat and Death’s righthand “man” along with Death, make up the main players with several more to grab your attention.
This is the first book I have read by this author. It was entertaining and light, but also introspective. We join Dana as she mourns the final end of her longest – and only – relationship, and embarks on a journey of self discovery. I loved the relationship between Dana and her best friend, Kelly. With her raw, sensual energy (Kelly is a professional dominatrix) she helps Dana let go of her hang-ups and discover the freedom of abandoning shame and embracing her power.
I enjoyed the structure of the book. Each chapter represents a month in the year following the end of Dana’s long-term relationship. It breaks up the story nicely, and gives the reader a firm sense of the passage of time. The
main characters are engaging and easy to empathize with. And the parade of Dana’s partners – from casual encounters to budding romances – are entertaining and recognizable. Occasionally Dana’s inner monologue is a bit repetitive. As a reader, this caught me up a couple times. But as a human, I know all too well the circuitous nature of self-evaluation, so it is most definitely easy to overlook.Iwould recommend this book to anyone who loves a humorous, flirty love story full of self reflection and discovery.
REVIEWED BY J.M.
Kudos to Mike, and his parents, for helping him be ordinary. We learn to live and work with our limitations and strive to be like everyone else. I totally get his thrill withAsdriving.forRoselle, how could you not love her? She was so brave and sounded like an amazing dog. I just knew I would cry, and I did.
Presented In An Entertaining Way
Other than that, I enjoyed the story and sad that 9-11 has become a footnote in our history and almost forgotten. Readers who are dog lovers, enjoy true life stories, and like learning new stuff will love this book. I give it 4 stars.
Being born visually impaired, and then legally blind by 14, I can so relate to Mike. I went to school about the same time frame and I can attest to the struggles students with disabilities faced. Classes were based on the chalkboard or overhead projectors. To me it was all a blur, even sitting right next to the teacher’s desk. And only a few teachers took the effort to help someone that needed the extra assistance.
REVIEWED BY SAHARA
move the plot along but instead, made it difficult to get through. In fact, I skipped over parts of the book that related to it because it was so dry. I would rate this a four because it was a delight to read, especially if one were interested in genealogy.
What I didn’t like was making a 4 year-old and dog sound like an adult with complex thoughts and ideas. That didn’t set well with my logical brain. But that was probably just me.
I DEFINITELY recommend this book. As I said above, I will be purchasing this book for the littles in my life. I enjoyed it, and I know they will. I look forward to sharing the story with my grandkids!!
Teddy Loses His Ears
What I liked… so many things. First, the artistry was wonderful. The illustrations were endearing, with the expressions and color. They were a joy, and I can tell any age reader will love them. As a cat lady, I particularly enjoyed them. So cute! Second, the messages. There were great lessons for kids – 1) you need to be mindful in the cold, 2) you need to be thoughtful of your pets, and 3) being different is okay. Lastly, it was just a really fun story.What I didn’t like… as an editor and formatter, I tend to see things differently than a typical reader. That being said, I did note a few inconsistencies with the Oxford comma and the use of the word ‘and.’ Otherwise, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like.
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This was absolutely wonderful, and I will be gifting it out as often as I can to the younger readers in my life!
This was also an educational story as it explained how guide dogs are trained and the process they have to go through. To me, it almost borders on animal cruelty, but I understand the need for the strict discipline for them to help their partners.
Running with Roselle
BY KAREN J.
Just like the first book Catalyst, it contains tender loving moments, explicit bedroom scenes, and horrific mafia violence. At times I gasped out loud at an unexpected turn of events. Or, my breath hitched when something beautiful happened.
So who would like to read this? I would say readers who love to get their teeth into a great series. Gritty, powerful, romantic, and full of action. It will satisfy the desires of a variety of readers.
The Smoke in His Eyes
Violent, Compelling and Emotional
There’s no doubt this author is a gifted storyteller and cares deeply about her books. The editing, plot, and formatting were all impeccable.
I love her use of capital letters to express rage or high emotions. She doesn’t just say gunfire, she literally interrupts a conversation with BANG! Not only are the characters shocked, but the readers, too.
What I didn’t like, and I said it with Catalyst, is that it should have been two books. For a voracious reader like me, it felt overwhelming at times. What more could the author tell? Well, plenty actually. There were no wasted words, scenes, or actions. The story filled every one of those 561 pages.
This is the first book I have read by this author. It is a stand alone story with characters who are from very different backgrounds that come together to achieve, what they assume is the same goal. As the story spins out, each of the main characters, TJ and Lila come to understand their very individual reasons for chasing the dream of being a musician and what that means to each of Therethem.isamystical element that pulled me in, wanting more, turning pages to get to see what TJ’s odd visions were all about. I loved the friendship that first develops between TJ and Lila as they both try to find their way through college with music as their major. I also loved when I finally came to understand what was happening to TJ. The author’s imagination was on display in the final half of this book. I found it enchanting and complex. There was really nothing for me to dislike about this novel, except maybe how long it took to understand the mystical part of this story. For that though, I blame my own impatience because in the end, I felt it was perfectly planned and laid out. There is a lot of sexual references but they are not too explicit and very important to the story. I feel that readers who love music, mystical stories and to some degree, coming of age tales will love this book. The conversations and relationships are well written and thought provoking.
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This is the second book in the Heart of the Inferno series. It tells the story of Jaxon Pace and Natalie Tyler, their romance, and his mafia empire.
If you thought you would take a break from reading, you won’t, you can’t. This is a page-turner.
REVIEWED BY DEBBIE
This is the first book I have read by this author – and I am HOOKED! This title is the first in a series – the Awakenings series – and I will definitely be reading them all.
Wild not Broken
REVIEWED BY RomanticSUSAN Intrigue
I was taken in – hook, line, and sinker – from the opening to the last sentence of this story. The relationship of the main characters is beautiful and simple – they love each other, no matter what, and would do anything to help each other. Genie, Beth, Whit, and Mei are dedicated to each other in a way that seems fleeting in today’s fast paced, online world. I was invested in their adventure from page one.
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As a lover of magical and fantasy fiction, the appeal of this story is immediate. It is not so much a modernization of the King Arthur tales, but a continuation of the story. The world of Avalon has been alive and well through the centuries, and the author melds the modern world of the four young women into the tales of knights and wizards with an ease that makes it feel not only plausible, but natural as well. This is not a sugary story of magic and heroes, nor is it dark and foreboding. There is a balance between the light and the dark – a theme throughout the book.There is much discussion among those from the “first world” and those from Avalon about the discrepancies and outright embellishments of historians as they recorded the histories. I found this entertaining and thought provoking. How often do the recorders of history get it completely wrong? This may or may not attract King Arthur enthusiasts from being able to dive into the world as easily as I did. But I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure, magic, and tales of unbreakable bonds of friendship and love.
I really cannot say enough about this book, and I will be downloading the next adventure ASAP!
Descendants of Avalon
This book, Wild Not Broken by Sarah Kades, the second in the series, was an enjoyable read, covering romance, intrigue and some comedy relief. It starts out right away with action and intrigue, then slowly develops into a romance with an action-packed ending. The main characters, Colt and Lillian, are polar opposites with entirely different backgrounds – one is a rodeo bronc rider and the other is an ex-M16 and former war journalist.It’sfun to see how the relationship evolves between them since they are so different in status and backgrounds. The banter back-and-forth between the players stays fairly close to character except a few times between Lillian and her niece, Sophie, but it does not detract from the narrative. The descriptions of Canada’s scenery are not overdone and convey the beauty of their surroundings.Theonly thing negative to say about this book was some of the editing. It wasn’t too distracting, but for a proofreader, such as I am, it did cause me a little discomfort. I would give a four-star rating only because I am a purist when it comes to the editing. Otherwise, this was a great, fun read that I would recommend to friends. I do regret not reading the first in this series, but I don’t think it would have changed the context of Wild Not Broken and either added or detracted from it.
REVIEWED BY NICHOLE
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REVIEWED BY SAHARA
I recommend this book. You’ll need to stick with it; the pacing won’t bring things together until you’re just past halfway through, but it is magical when it does. It’s perfect for readers who love action/adventure, aliens, space fantasy, horror, friendship saga, humor, or entertaining sci-fi with subtle commentary on human nature.
This should have been a 5-star rating, but instead, I’m downgrading to 4-stars. Still, I highly recommend the book for people who can’t get enough of psychological thrillers and a roller-coaster of a ride.
REVIEWED BY J.M. NORTHUP
I have to admit, it took a few pages for me to get used to the writing style. Once I did, though, Quicksand. Man, I got sucked in so fast and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Every revelation was a shock to my system. How can people be so devious? So greedy? So uncaring?There’s a lot of backstabbing in the story so I can’t go into too much detail about the individual characters. Suffice it to say, villains come in many different flavors. PoorAsAbbey.Iraced through the story and hit Part 3, on went the brakes. Here I found timeline inconsistencies, actions and deeds done prior that were now walked back to get another character into line. It all felt too pat. Too contrived. Problems that could have been fixed with a developmental editor.
What I liked was the laid back attitude of Lazer. I loved the friendship shared between Lazer, Streek, and Zizi. Gray and Dex intrigued me.
I’m an avid reader, who doesn’t limit my genre. This book is a perfect example of why – it’s a bit of a Whengem. I first picked it up, I had my doubts. I love aliens, but space opera… hmm. Initially, I felt disconnected from the story, not seeing why, or how, certain pieces were in frame. Then, they snapped together and the action kicked in, making it hard to put the book down.
Very cool tech. It was an interesting mix of primitive warfare with advanced weaponry. Also, cool how some of the tech was actually lifeforms.
The world building was excellent – the societies were generally well thought out and developed. I found myself left with questions about the moss life forms on Zizi’s planet, Qiti’s consciousness without an apparent conscience, and why most life forms were humanoid. Still, I’d be more concerned if I hadn’t had any questions at all.There was probably more gore than I needed, but it fit the story. It will be very appealing to many readers, and made the fight scenes and scary aliens more realistic.
This is the first book I’ve read by Rachael Tamayo and what a ride. Such dark, twisted, psychotic fun. Made me think of Fatal Attraction with the mentality of Mad Max.
Reviews Team: Hawkins M. Northrup Sahara Foley Susan Bintz Nelson J. Mossman
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Reviews Team: B. The Book Trollop
Daughter of Hades
REVIEWED BY NICHOLE
As an enthusiastic fan of historical fiction, I appreciated how the author does not romanticize the realities of the times, but addresses the very real issues of slavery and the horrifying treatment of people of color with solemnity and respect. While keeping the reader painfully aware of the truth of the times, Little creates a world with characters so rich, they seem to walk straight out of the pages and into my living room.My heart broke for Lei and Dinny as they were separated by the sea. I ached for young Pax, forced into adulthood at a painfully young age, and his brother Ivan, torn between his first love and the ruthless pirate who seeks his affection. And Ami, who longs to be a warrior, blessed with gifts of sight, facing a possible future not of her design. With a firm grasp on the line between fantastic and over the top, Mack Little weaves a spell of adventure, betrayal, love, and revenge that I will not soonThisforget.book is perfect for readers of historical fiction, adventure, and romance. READ IT!!! You will be left wanting more!
This is the first book by Mack Little that I have read, and I hope it is not the last! The storytelling is enthralling, the characters are flushed out and whole.
Danielle Urban lives in North Central Arkansas with her family. She started by blogging about her favorite books, short stories, and writing prompts. Soon her blog became something more than just that. Writers needed more than just reviews. That's how Urban Lit Magazine came to be. It features reviews, interviews, news of new literary agents and more. Her goal was to help readers connect with writers from all over the world.
Danielle has worked as an article writer, editor, journalist, and interned as a senior publisher for romance novels. In addition to that, she started the journalism club at ASUMH and it's very first digital and print publications. From there, she continued her studies in Arkansas and graduated with an M.A. in English. Today, Danielle continues to inspire writers and encourage readers to try something new. When she's not subbing at school, she is busy writing.
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