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The Matriarch

Women of the Dust, Book 1

Dystopian Romance

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Publisher: AKM Publishing Pty Ltd

 

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Her citizens are oppressed. His society is diminishing. In a frantic bid for survival, can their fiery union save their peoples?

On a scorched and barren future Earth, Yolanda is her people’s only hope. As Matriarch of an all-female nation, the battle-hardened commander fights an impossible war while desperately seeking a way to stop her subjects from dying of thirst. But when the enemy king is beheaded by his own warrior son, she’s offered a truce that will bring the water they urgently need… in return for leaving her populace defenseless.

With his father dead by his hand, the Hammer is determined to rebuild the shattered community the warmongering king’s brutality almost destroyed. In a bold move to strengthen his dwindling numbers, he offers armistice to a dangerous queen and her bloodthirsty horde of fighting women. All he asks in exchange is for her to accompany him to petition the Council to drop their poisonous sanctions…

As they uncover the truth behind the horrific war, Yolanda is surprised when her begrudging respect for her capable companion blossoms into unexpected desire. And though the Hammer learns there’s more to the impassioned fighter than her brutal reputation suggests, he fears giving himself to her could make him a traitor to his own kind.

When their united strength pits them against oppressive factions, will their growing bond become an unbreakable force?

 

The Matriarch is the thrilling first novel in the Women of the Dust dystopian romance series. If you like enemies-to-lovers, dynamic couples, and empowered feminism, then you’ll adore Annabelle McInnes’s gritty tale.

 

Buy The Matriarch to fight for freedom today!

 

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About the Author 

From the age of sixteen, Annabelle lived in a homeless youth refuge while she remained committed to her education. She spent two years within a section of society that most overlook. 

Her experiences are the foundations that drive her stories and her characters. They fight for their freedoms, have courage in the face of adversity and always aspire for greatness.

Annabelle is the author of True Refuge, an International Bestseller and a finalist for the Australian Romantic Book of the Year in 2018. She is privileged to live in a small rural town in country New South Wales and writes to a distinctive Australian backdrop with its captivating change of seasons. 

Outside of her love for reading, she spends her time with her husband, son and her fifteen year old poodle named Serendipity. She drinks her whisky neat and can often be found at the local market hunting for blue cheese and artisan bread.

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Soul Stealer

 

 

Urban Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller

Published: May 2020

Publisher: THEORYbee

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  He was looking forward to college…

…but then the worst possible thing happened.

Could Nythan survive the demon inside of him?

College in Florida was supposed to be about the beaches, the girls, and sometimes even a class or two. But the demon inside had one demand. Help it fulfill its quest so the demon might escape. It’s the only way for Nythan to get his life back.

There are just two problems…

Nythan doesn’t want to hurt innocent people…

And there’s a secret order out to stop him.

They’re called the Ordo Solis, an ancient group whose only mission is to hunt down and destroy the Soulstealer. They’ve been chasing it for thousands of years. It’s in Nythan, and they have no choice.

The host must die.

Caught in the middle, Nythan must come up with a plan.

Will he survive?

You’ll love this coming-of-age urban fantasy because it’s an action-packed adventure that will keep you turning the pages.

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 Praise for Soulstealer:    

“A measured but engaging start to what’s sure tobe an epic supernatural saga” – KirkusReviews

    “Soulstealer is a fast-paced thriller that keptme turning the pages, highly recommended!” – Readers’Favorite, 4 out of 5 stars!

    “A vivid story that mature teens will findcompelling…highly recommended for prior fans of urbanfantasy” – MidwestBook Review

    “Fun and fast-paced, SOULSTEALER is a great mixof urban fantasy, fantastical mythos and real world framing” – IndieReader, 3.8out of 5 stars!

    “…a compelling urban fantasy novelthat teems with moral quandaries” – ForewordReviews

    Finalist for 2020International Book Awards, Fiction: Visionary Category

    “Boulware fleshes out even the most minor ofcharacters, employing dialogue that’s natural and believable” -BlueInkReview

    Nominated for Best Audiobook Narrator forMLC Audiobook Awards,Summer 2020

    Nominated for Production with Outstanding Sound-Voice-Narration forMLC AudiobookAwards, Honorable Mention Award

    “…filled with embellished metaphors, engagingplot, and a smooth style” – BookLife(Publisher’s Weekly)

    “…looking forward to the Soulstealer’s next chapter”- San Francisco Book Review, 4 out of 5 stars!

    “Every element in its right place. A greatcover design” – The BookDesigner

    “I implore you lovely readers to get lost in his work” – Red HeadedBook Lover, 5 out of 5 stars!

 

 

About The Author 

Shane Boulware is an unconventional idealist from Orlando, Florida. Naturally, he commissioned as a Contracting Officer in the United States Air Force in 2012, where he promptly got tased, was hit with pepper spray, participated in a mock riot, jumped out of an airplane, and lived in a combat zone. These experiences tempered his creative instinct and led him to publish two music albums, found an innovation company, break a Guinness World Record, and learn over sixteen dance styles.

Having grown up a huge fan of Dune, Star Wars, Stargate SG-1, Warhammer 40K, Harry Potter, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Lord of the Rings, Shane always wanted to create and share a world of his own. His imagination set him on a path to write the supernatural thriller, Soulstealer, and its sequel, Ordo Solis.

When he’s not negotiating contracts or salsa dancing the night away, you can find Shane taking his creative passion out on an unsuspecting keyboard. If you want to know when his next book will be available, visit his website at ShaneBoulware.com, where you can sign up to receive release updates and join a community of savants, swashbucklers, and nerds.

 

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ACutTwice

Congratulations to Wendy L. Anderson on the release of her Viking adventure, A Cut Twice As Deep! If you enjoy Norse mythology, you will love this! Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book! A Cut Twice As Deep Final Front CoverA Cut Twice as Deep Publication Date: October 7th, 2020 Genre: Viking Adventure/ Sisterhood/ Romance The bond between sisters is one forged in blood and fire. Twin sisters, Liana and Deirdre were inseparable like the two halves of a double-bladed axe, making the pain of having to leave each other a cut twice as deep. Their father, Gorsedd Gunnarson, King of the great country of Svartur Rokk, did not care about twin bonds or his daughter’s preferences and severed the pair with a single blow. Both Liana and Deirdre have been sold to the highest bidders for ships, weapons, and alliances. For Gorsedd Gunnarson these are very profitable and advantageous marriage arrangements, but the twin sisters would be torn from each other lives and sent to lands far apart forever! Liana is forced to leave her childhood sweetheart and marry a stranger. Sweet, timid Deirdre would be wed to a Viking warlord. One would leave her home on a ship and the other on a horse. Both would travel great distances to new lands. Given no choice but to embrace the lives planned for them, they find that the future holds more than they could ever have suspected. In a land where blood and ice reign, danger and betrayal war with love and hope, as they fight to find happiness in a ruthless world ruled by the sword and axe. Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Liana recalled with great detail, the smoky room, and the flickering torches in iron sconces on the walls. Remembered the smell of sweaty men, oiled leather, damp fur, wood smoke, and roasting meat. Heard the rattle of sword and thump of drinking horns and the pounding of eating knives on the worn, beaten tables. Shadows crouched in the dark corners of the hall. She could see clearly in her mind’s recollection, how her father had suddenly stood after eating and drinking for hours and raised his large drinking horn on high. He smoothed his hand over his long greying blonde beard, straightened the black bear fur cloak on his broad shoulders, and roared for silence. As all eyes trained on King Gorsedd, the conversation and laughter quieted.

“This night!” Gorsedd Gunnarson’s deep voice boomed out and the men stilled to listen. “We celebrate!” The men roared in response and then quieted.

“Raise your mead horns and drink to my daughters!” The men raised their horns and cheered loudly sloshing mead on the tables and over their hands.

This was strange behavior coming from their father and Liana and Deirdre exchanged surprised glances as they moved slowly toward the front of the room. Pulled forward by this uncustomary sentiment, their father had their full attention.

“Tonight!” Gorsedd boomed again, waiting for the men to quiet down and regain everyone’s attention. “We celebrate the betrothal of both my daughters! Drink to our good fortune! SKOL!

All eyes turned to stare, and the men drank to Liana and Deirdre.

“Skol!” they all shouted then quieted as Gorsedd began to speak again.

“For my eldest Liana, I have arranged a marriage contract with Tiernan Lachlan of Lochlannach and Kearn Mac An-Bharain of Noreg for Deirdre.”

He gestured toward strangers in the hall and bellowed.

“Welcome men from Lochlannach to Svartur Rokk my great mead hall where the warriors are more skilled at sword and drinking! These men will be taking Liana across Loch Indaal to marry Tiernan Lachlan!”

Loud cheers rang out and the men raised their drinking horns in salute, sloshed mead into their mouths, and banged their daggers on the tables.

Both Liana and Deirdre stared in wide-eyed shock at their father with their mouths falling open. This was the first time they had heard this news, and both girls stood stunned, disbelieving their ears. They turned and looked at each other, terror written on their identical faces. The men at the tables murmured and some continued to cheer, a few fell to grumbling.

Deirdre staggered in disbelief and her frightened gaze stayed fixed on Liana while she slammed down the pitcher of mead she had been holding onto the nearest table. Her furious gaze flew back and forth between their father and Deirdre.

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About the Author

16643855 Wendy L. Anderson is a Colorado native and mother of two boys. A devout reader of the classics, fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction, she has decided it is time to write down the fantasies from her mind. Writing about everything from fantastical worlds to the stuff of her dreams she takes her stories along interesting paths while portraying worlds she sees in her mind’s eye. Her goal is to deviate from common themes, write in original directions and transport her reader to the worlds of her creation.

Wendy L. Anderson | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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Book One in the Daemon Collecting Series

 Fantasy

Date Published: October 6, 2020
 Publisher: Spark Press
 

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Rachel Wilde comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). Now Rachel has been given two unusual assignments: 1) find a person who has been trying to break down dimensional barriers, and 2) track down a missing line of gatekeepers, human placeholders for a daemon that was too badly damaged to repair. Authorities of Rachel’s world believe the missing gatekeepers are descended from a girl who went missing from West Africa hundreds of years ago, likely sold into slavery. With no leads to go on, Rachel seeks help from Bach, a raving homeless man who happens to be an oracle. Bach does put her in the path of both of her targets―but he also lands her in a life-threatening situation. Somehow, Rachel has to stop the criminal, reunite a gatekeeper with her stolen past, and, above all, survive.

Purchase Links

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 About the Author

ALISON LEVY lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and variety of pets. When she’s not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects.

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YA fantasy

Date Published: January 21, 2020

Jack Galloway has had enough of life and is chasing a high he just can’t seem to find. Upon meeting with a drug dealer from his school, he is givensome mysterious, bean-shaped pills that just so happen to be nothing butbeans. However, Relatively Normal beans do not grow miles and miles into thesky overnight, drawing attention from everyone around and destroying thevery idea of reality on Earth.

Now, in order to restore his Relatively Normal world, Jack must embark on a mission with a girl he barely knows from high school, Red Crawford, who just so happens to be the only one he knows who has encountered a tear in the non-magical reality they live in.

The beanstalk, too tall and too wide to climb, leads them down a rabbit hole to the strange and nonsensical Underland, where they must go through insane trials in order to reach the answer to their problems — the Giants, magical creatures who live in Overland and can rid the Relatively Normal world of that pesky beanstalk. However, the beanstalk and its effects on reality might just be the least of their worries when they reach the dark, mysterious Overland.

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Excerpt

Jack sighed. “Listen. It wasn’t a coincidence that yesterday, I decided to try some harder drugs. It wasn’t a coincidence that Shy gave me those beans. It wasn’t a coincidence that you were the one to find me after I passed out. It wasn’t a coincidence that we’ve been experiencing all of this together. I know we don’t even know each other that well, but for some weird reason, I feel like we’re in this together. If we want to fix this, it can’t just be me. It can’t just be you. It has to be both of us. We’re the reason the portal is opening, and we’re the ones that have to close it.”

About the Author

Mikaela Miller has not exactly found her place in the world yet, and she’s still trying to understand herself, so there’s not much to say. She loves writing, memes, her friends, and her fur children. She is currently living the small town life but has high hopes of moving to a big city to live out her dreams one day. She loves the darker side of all fairytales and has recently discovered a love for horror novels. This book idea came to her in a dream, as many of her strange ideas do, and she hopes for a bright future as she delves further into her characters’ lives. One day, she would like to be able to rescue lots of homeless animals and be the crazy old cat lady
down the street.

 

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Minute Zero Blitz

MinuteZero

Happy publication day, and congratulations to author Chris Jayne on the release of Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)!

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

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Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)

Publication Date: September 11th, 2020 (Today 🎉)

Publisher: Inferis Press

When the world ends in a heartbeat, suddenly old secrets don’t matter anymore. But new ones still do, and protecting the ones you love is the only thing that still remains.

Two sisters, one a trendy caterer on the run from a vicious killer, the other a country midwife.

Because of a simple mistake, Lori Dovner must flee from the vicious mafioso Raoul Saldata, and her life goes from routine day to terrifying journey in a single moment. On the road with her two children, her only goal is to get to her sister’s Montana farm alive. But both Lori and Louise have been hiding a devastating secret for years.

Two brothers, one a Navy Seal on leave, the other a good man who wants to do right by his family.

Captain Deacon Hale is taking two weeks to help his brother Roger and his wife Louise on their remote Montana farm. He loved Lori once, but has finally put her behind him. Roger Hale just wants to give his pregnant wife and two young children a good life. He has no idea about the betrayals that have been hidden from him.

Dangerous identity.

Angela Jones is an FBI agent with a terrible debt that she knows she will someday have to pay. And when Raoul Saldata calls in that marker she has no choice but to comply.

Evil incarnate.

Raoul Saldata as a child in Albania, would pretend he was a dhampir, the offspring resulting from the mating between a human female and a vampire. A myth of course, but the evil Saldata practices is anything but. And when he finds Lori Dovner, he intends to do a lot more than just kill her.

“Minute Zero” Stronghold: Book One is an apocalyptic EMP thriller (with a touch of romance) about an ordinary family struggling to stay safe and find each other in the face of insurmountable odds, an abysmal loss of life and the dawn of a new, post-apocalyptic dark age.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

“Roger, I’m in trouble.”

His voice came back, quick and sure. “What’s going on? Where are you?”

“I’m at a rest area about an hour outside of Billings.”

“West or east?”

“West. We’re maybe twenty miles from where we go off the highway and come north to Lewiston. I can’t remember the road number.”

“191,” he supplied. She heard Roger speaking to someone else in the room, his voice distant, as if he was holding the phone away from his mouth. “Top drawer of the desk. Yeah, there. There’s a road atlas in there.” His voice came back into the phone. “I’m think I know where you are, but I’m getting a map. What’s going on?”

“The man who is after me is here. His name is Raoul Saldata and…”

“There? Now? With you?” Roger’s voice, while remaining calm, still carried a note of real urgency.

“No. I saw him just by chance. He didn’t see me. He got into a car and left.”

“You’re sure he didn’t see you?”

“Yes. If he’d seen me, there’s no way he would have driven off.” She quickly shared with her brother-in-law her guess that if it were not for Grace’s illness, they would already be at their destination and because of that, Saldata was no longer looking for them on the road. “Roger,” Lori voice cracked, “he wants to kill me. And he’s not alone. He’s got two people with him, a man and a woman.”

Lori heard what sounded like a door slam and then another voice muffled in the background, the words unintelligible, but it was definitely a male voice, and not her sister.

“How long ago was this?”

“Just a couple of minutes. I saw him, watched him leave, walked back to my car, and then called you.” She did the quick math. “No more than five minutes.”

“So, two hours from here,” Roger stated flatly. Lori got the feeling he was talking to someone else as well as to her. “Is he armed?”

Lori swallowed, her throat dry as dust, thinking about what she’d seem at Saldata’s house. “I’m sure he is. But,” Lori had a sudden thought, “can you bring guns on the plane?”

“He flew?”

“He was in a rental car. I assume he flew. That means he would have had to bring the guns on the plane, right? Can you do that?”

“You have to declare them if you fly commercial. But, if this guy has enough money or influence, he may have come on a private jet. Then he could bring anything he wanted.” Roger paused. “Tell me about who he’s with.”

“I don’t know who they are. I don’t know this man, really, at all. I just did a party for him. But, the first one is some sort of helper. A bodyguard maybe. I saw him at Saldata’s house. The other one is a woman. Young, maybe thirty. Very professional.” Lori envisioned what she’d seen in the restroom and suddenly Lori realized exactly what she looked like. “Like a lawyer or a detective maybe. She saw me in the bathroom.”

“She saw you?” Roger couldn’t hide the shock from his voice.

“Yes,” Lori explained, “but she didn’t recognize me. I cut my hair really short and dyed it black. I look very different. And the kids weren’t with me, thank God.”

There was a long pause as Roger was obviously considering the next steps. “Did you notice the model of the car?”

“No, Roger, I’m sorry, I don’t really know car models. It was a small SUV.” She thought about car models that she knew, ones that she and some of her friends owned. “It wasn’t as big as my Range Rover. Maybe something like a Toyota 4Runner. That size. It was gray. And it definitely had Montana plates.”

“How did he know you were coming here?”

“I don’t know, but…” Quickly, Lori shared with Roger her fear that Saldata had somehow found her employees, Salvadore and Michelle.

As she waited for Roger to respond, she watched her two children with Simone. Brandon had run over to Simone, and, his face turned up, he said something to her. He smiled, so sweet and trusting. My God, she had to protect them, all of them. The silence on Roger’s side of the call grew. “What should I do? Where should I go? I’m so sorry.” She heard her voice rising to shrill, but she couldn’t stop it.

Roger interrupted curtly. “What’s done is done, Lori. You need to hold it together. And the only thing that matters now is keeping everyone safe.”

“I don’t know what to do. Even if I turn around and I didn’t come to you, he’s still on his way there.”

“I want you to stay there.”

“Here? At the rest stop?”

“Yes, I’m going to send someone to get you. Do you remember my brother Deacon? He’s on leave and visiting us for a few weeks.”

For the second time in ten minutes, Lori felt like she’d been punched in the stomach and for a very long moment, she could not breathe. On a day when things could not possibly have gotten worse, they just did. “I met him at your wedding,” she managed to choke out. That flat statement masked a wealth of information. Did Roger notice how strangled her voice was?

Lori remembered Deacon Hale very well, but now was not the time to dwell on it, though why in the name of all that was holy had her sister not mentioned that Deacon was there visiting them? For a brief hysterical second, she wondered if she’d be better off taking her chances with Saldata. And in the next moment, she knew a hard truth, one she had never allowed herself to acknowledge. The main reason she had avoided being around Lou and Roger for the last five years was that Roger reminded her way, way too much of Deacon. She could barely gasp out her next, strangled question. “So, you’re not coming?”

“No.” Roger’s voice was flat and hard. “If what you say is true, I have three people on their way here who are perfectly capable of putting a bullet into the brains of anyone in my family.”

“You think I should just wait here? At the rest stop? What if he comes back?”

“You’re sure the woman didn’t recognize you?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. She just walked right out of the bathroom. I look really different, Roger.”

“Then, they won’t come back,” Roger responded, his voice full of confidence. “Why would they? And even if they’d turn around for some reason, they’d be on the other side of the interstate.” Lori saw the logic in that. “Just sit tight. Deke’ll be there in two hours, give or take.”

In less than three hours she’d see him. See Deke. Could she do it? There was no way. No. Fucking. Way.

The phone went dead in her hand.

And in one instant the world changed forever.

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About the Author

chris-jayne-author-headshot_orig

Chris Jayne is author of the apocalyptic EMP series “Stronghold.”

Jayne is also the penname of a USA Today bestselling romance and thriller author who is has started asking “what if?” What if the lights go off? What if the food supply chain just… stops? The world could become an unfriendly place in a hurry.

Three years ago, Chris began exploring the “prepper” lifestyle, and hopes that if TEOTWAWKI would actually happen, she would be in a position to protect her family and loved ones.

She now spends her days splitting her time between her romance writing and her apocalyptic and dystopian fiction novels. Because what’s more fun than imagining the end of the world from the comfort of your couch? And if the end of the world has a few sexy Navy Seals in it? All the better!

She loves writing stories exploring how ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances, especially situations where the normal comforts, conveniences, and rules are stripped away.

Chris Jayne | Facebook | Instagram

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Firebrand, Book 1

Urban Fantasy

Release Date: September 3, 2020

 

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A werewolf killer. A paranormal murder. How many times can Emma Bellamy cheat death?

I’m one placement away from becoming a fully fledged London detective. It’s bad enough that my last assignment before I qualify is with Supernatural Squad. But that’s nothing compared to what happens next.

Brutally murdered by an unknown assailant, I wake up twelve hours later in the morgue – and I’m very much alive. I don’t know how or  why it happened. I don’t know who killed me. All I know is that they might try again.

Werewolves are disappearing right, left and centre.

A mysterious vampire seems intent on following me everywhere I go.

And I have to solve my own vicious killing. Preferably before death comes for me again.

 

 

Purchase Link

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 Excerpt

The first thing I heard was the buzzing. It tickled my eardrums at first then, as I gained consciousness, it became more insistent – and more annoying.

I moved slightly and there was a strange rustle. What the hell was I lying on? It felt like plastic, or rubber sheeting perhaps. There was an acrid tinge to the air that definitely smelled of rotten eggs, and there was an unpleasant taste of ash in my mouth. This didn’t make any sense.

It took more effort than it should have done to open my eyes. It was like they’d been glued together and I virtually had to peel open my eyelids. I blinked, trying to adjust my vision. I was so hot – and what was this crap around me? I plucked at it. I’d been right: it was definitely some sort of white plastic sheeting, but it was singed and burnt like someone had taken a flamethrower to it.

I sat up, shoving it to one side. That was when I realized I was naked.

I jerked with such force that I fell off the table and landed with a heavy thump on the cold, linoleum-covered floor. I groaned and looked around. It wasn’t a table, it was a metal gurney. That was when the memory of the attack came flooding back to me.

I must be in hospital. It was the only thing that made sense. The incessant buzzing was coming from an overhead strip light that cast a stark light around the room. I licked my lips and tried to call out to alert a passing doctor or nurse but I could only croak. If I wanted help, I’d have to go and look for it.

Staggering to my feet, I grabbed the remnants of the plastic and wrapped it around myself. This was a strange hospital room: for one thing, the bed wasn’t a proper bed, it was just a slab. And there was no IV line or comforting ECG beeping next to me, although I could see a metal tray with various implements lying neatly across it. Several scalpels and … I stared. Was that a rib spreader?

I backed up, colliding with another metal trolley and sending various bits and pieces clattering to the floor. Without thinking, I bent down to pick  them up. When I saw the flames flickering around my toes, I let out a brief shriek and frantically slapped at them to put them out.

My heart was hammering against my ribcage. What in bejesus was going on? I straightened up. With shaking fingers, I touched the side of my neck where I’d felt the knife pierce my skin and slice through my artery. There was nothing there. No mark, no bump. It wasn’t even sore. I reached up to the back of my head where I’d been thumped. There was nothing there
either.

Breathing hard, and growing more and more convinced that this was some sort of crazy-arsed nightmare, I looked around for some kind of clue as to where I was and what had happened.

My gaze fell on the clipboard hanging on the side of the gurney. I grabbed it and stared at the words: Jane Doe. DOA. Approximate age: 30. Identifying features: mole on left thigh. Apparent cause of death: exsanguination from knife wound on throat.

The clipboard slid out of my hand and fell to the floor.

 About the Author

After teaching English literature in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, Helen Harper left behind the world of education following the worldwide success of her Blood Destiny series of books. She is a professional member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and writes full time, thanking her lucky stars every day that’s she lucky enough to do so!

Helen has always been a book lover, devouring science fiction and fantasy tales when she was a child growing up in Scotland.

She currently lives in Devon in the UK with far too many cats – not to mention the dragons, fairies, demons, wizards and vampires that seem to keep appearing from nowhere.

You can find out more by visiting Helen’s website here.

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Being Alert

 

BeingAlert

Happy publication day to author Charlie Laidlaw!

Today marks the release of searing satire, Being Alert, and I have a sneak peek for you as well as a chance to win a digital copy of the book!

Being Alert! coverBeing Alert

Publication Date: August 21st, 2020

Genre: Satire

The book, which begins in January 2020, follows in a long tradition of British satire, as the British prime minister, Winston Spragg, first learns about a new virus that seems to be centred in a city in China that nobody has heard of.

The book populates Downing Street and Whitehall with an inept prime minister presiding over a dysfunctional government as it deals with an existential threat that rapidly becomes a national crisis.

It remains true to the timeline of Covid-19 and the government’s response to it, including its failure to lock down sooner, secure adequate supplies of protective equipment or protect the care sector.

Like satires before it, the book uses humour to paint an uncomfortable picture of a government in crisis, and seemingly as concerned about justifying itself as working to suppress the virus.

As the book progresses, with a mounting death toll, I hope the book strikes a changing balance as both a month-by-month narrative about the virus and a comedy to mirror

unfolding events.

As the country emerges into a new normal, the country will inevitably want to know why, per head of population, we have suffered worse than any other European country. Being Alert! provides the perfect outlet, not just to ask very real questions of government but to use humour as a satirical and healing tool.

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Excerpt

Comings and Goings

In late February, according to a Sunday Times report, at a private event, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor outlined the government’s strategy at the time and which was summarised by someone present as ‘herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.’

In early March, the Prime Minister told the nation that, while the virus was likely to become a more significant problem, ‘this country is very, very well prepared. However, the final sentence of his message didn’t appear on his official Twitter page: “I wish to stress that, at the moment, it is very important that people consider that they should, as far as possible, go about business as usual.’

By and large, Derek Goings was both universally loathed and feared. It was assumed that he either had access to supernatural forces or was, in fact, one of the Undead. Even the Archbishop of Westminster would cross himself when the two met, which was rarely – at the archbishop’s request. Partly, he was loathed because of his role as the PM’s chief advisor, with almost permanent access to the Prime Minister’s ear. Partly, it was also because the PM usually did what his advisor told him to do, and that this was somehow undemocratic. Partly, too, it was because he smelled of sulphur. Nobody could therefore understand how he was married, shared a marital bed and had fathered a child. However, the sceptics pointed out, only his marriage was a matter of record. Whether he slept with his wife, and who the father of his child was, were grey areas best not explored.

Derek, his critics often complained, although never to his face or to his few friends, had somehow appeared from nowhere. One minute, nobody had ever heard of him; the next minute, his name, and the smell of the underworld, was everywhere. Derek’s great achievement, agreed on by friends and foes, was to have leaped successfully onto the political stage without ever having done anything useful. Okay, he had once helped a relative run a nightclub in the north of England, and never mind that it had been voted the second-worst in Europe. (The worst subsequently burned down, accidentally or on purpose, handing the crown to Derek’s relative). Okay, he had also tried to start an airline in either Prague or Moscow (nobody was entirely sure which) but that hadn’t got off the ground, either literally or metaphorically.

Having therefore done nothing of note, he then appeared as if in a puff of black and menacing smoke on the Westminster stage, immediately making enemies of virtually everyone. However, having enemies only seemed to increase his powers because, say what you might about him, he did get things done. In a Whitehall dominated by men in grey suits, and all either from Oxbridge or interbred, the proper way to get things done had always been the old-fashioned way. After all, the British way was the traditional way; decisions were made over Pimm’s at Wimbledon; gin and tonics at Twickenham, and whatever was available at Henley. Decisions were rarely made in Whitehall, where they were supposed to be made. Derek, of course, thought otherwise, facing up to the grey suits in either jeans or tracksuit, with a mission to bring the British Civil Service at least into the 20th century. Perhaps, even for him, the 21st century was too big a task, at least for now. This wrecking-ball of a man, with his glittering career in night-time entertainment and air travel, therefore brought him into endless conflict with the mandarins who were supposed to be running the country.

Derek’s meteoric rise through the government’s advisory ranks was extraordinary; so too the growth of his reputation as someone who could end a political career with the merest nod of his head. He was, it was agreed, either Machiavellian or Svengalian – generally the former, because few civil servants or politicians had ever read a 19th century novel, and therefore didn’t quite know who Svengali was.

Kevin Kock was, of course, all too aware of the PM’s advisor, having been in numerous meetings with him and having seen how even the most confident minister could be brought to his or, sometimes, her knees with a cursory glance. It was therefore with alarm bordering on panic that he received the news from his Permanent Secretary that Derek Goings was on his way round for a ‘bit of a chin-wag.’

“But I’m busy,” he’d squeaked to Sir Roger.

“No, you’re not. I manage your diary, Minister.”

The Health Secretary could have said that he had a completely separate diary in which he, as Health Secretary, kept his Top Secret meetings; or that he was ill; or could have chosen from any one of the many excuses that he’d used over the years, mostly to cover up his blood and germ phobias. Now, of course, thanks to his Permanent Secretary, his alien life-form phobia because, in his mind, Covid-19 was now sentient and possibly intelligent – like a jellyfish, but with a more deadly sting. He then spent some minutes spraying his office with air freshener and disinfectant, and covering his desk with large piles of files. He even undid the top button of his shirt to demonstrate his dedication to the British people except, of course, Derek Goings.

His arrival was signalled, not by a deferential knock on his office door or a bleep from his internal phone, but by the smell of decay. The Health Secretary closed his eyes for just a moment and took several deep breaths only to find, when he opened his eyes again, that the PM’s advisor was already standing on the other side of his desk.

“Derek, good gracious! How nice to see you!” The Health Secretary automatically stuck out a hand, before realising that Derek Goings still had both hands in the pockets of his jeans. Only the Prime Minister was still shaking everyone’s hand, particularly on hospital visits.

The PM’s advisor sat in the chair opposite and sniffed the air. “Very wise,” he remarked. “As Health Secretary, it’s good to see that you’re setting an example.”

“Am I?”

“You can’t be too careful, Minister, because you never know who might be harbouring infection. Sterilising your office is possibly or probably a good thing.” The advisor’s eyes, hidden behind dark glasses, were black discs. His soft voice carried with it both menace and good hygienic advice.

“Am I to assume that you’re here for a reason?” the Health Secretary asked, hoping to sound business-like and brusque, having rehearsed this opening line as he sprayed the room. “Because I am, as I’m sure you are, rather busy.”

“No, you’re not, Health Secretary. I looked at your diary.”

“Sir Roger had no right….”

“I have every right, Minister.”

Before Kevin could think of a suitably outraged reply, there was a soft knock on the door and Sir Roger himself appeared, carrying a notebook. Without asking, he took the other available seat next to Derek and neatly crossed his legs.

“I am here, Minister, to determine whether this country is prepared.” The PM’s advisor’s voice was barely a whisper. “After all, we are now beginning to see the first Covid-19 fatalities on British soil.”

“I did know that, Derek.”

“We will certainly see more fatalities, Minister, which brings me neatly to the reason why I am here. I merely wish to determine if you have made adequate preparations. Particularly the provision of personal protective equipment.”

This was a question that the Health Secretary, even panic-stricken, had foreseen. “Of course, Derek. We have, for example, a reserve of over one billion items of PPE. One billion, Derek.” The Health Secretary smiled brightly at his nemesis on the other side of the desk, using the advisor’s first name twice in the space of a few seconds, a useful trick that he’d learned on some management course he’d attended. Sir Roger picked imaginary spots of dust from his immaculate trousers and looked out the window.

“Yet, I am led to believe, Minister, that this figure includes things like cleaning products, waste bags, detergents and paper towels,” said the advisor, still in his stage whisper.

“Does it?” replied Kevin. “I mean, yes it does. At least, possibly it does. But a billion is still rather a lot of stuff, I’m sure you would agree.”

“Not necessarily,” said the advisor. “For example, your inventory lists 547 million protective gloves.”

“So?”

“So, a more accurate figure would be 273.5 million pairs of gloves, or am I missing something?”

“Pairs of gloves?”

“Your inventory lists each glove separately.”

The Health Secretary looked wildly at his Permanent Secretary, who merely shrugged. “I did send you the inventory last year, Minister. Which you approved,” he added with a smile.

“Well, you know what they say, Derek.”

“No, I don’t know what they say, Minister.”

“That there are only three kinds of people in the world. Those who can count, and those who can’t.” The Health Secretary gave a small laugh, which wasn’t echoed from across the table.

“I hardly think that this is a time for levity, Minister.” The smell of sulphur had risen several notches, and a green vapour seemed to be filling the room. “I also just hope the media don’t get hold of the story. I dread to think what Panorama would make of it.”

“I’m sure they won’t, Derek.”

“However, if things deteriorate, PPE will get eaten up pretty quickly,” said the advisor, whose eyes had never left Kevin’s face, or maybe they had because, behind dark glasses, he could be looking anywhere.

“We are, of course, setting up new procurement channels to ensure against any and every contingency, aren’t we, Sir Roger?”

His Permanent Secretary shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Of course, Minister,” and then actually wrote something in his notebook.

“Very well, then I will assume that you have the needs of the health service and its gallant staff fully covered. But what about the care sector?”

“What about the care sector?” asked the Health Secretary.

The advisor was quiet for a moment. “Well, you are the person responsible for it.”

“What!” Kevin almost pushed himself upright.

“You are, as I assume you must realise, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.”

“What!”

Sir Roger cleared his throat. “I did send you a memo, Minister.”

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About the Author

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I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.

I was brought up in the west of Scotland and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.

I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.

Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in central Scotland. And that’s about it.

Charlie Laidlaw | Facebook | Twitter

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If you haven’t heard about the Highglade Series yet, check out the cover for Awaken the Three by D. L. Jennings, a must read for Fantasy lovers who love imaginative new worlds and epic adventures!

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Awaken the Three (Highglade #2)

Expected Publication Date: August 11, 2020

Genre: Fantasy

Beyond the Wastes of Khulakorum, a storm is rising . . .

The Shaper of Ages is gone, and along with her, the Breaker — yet gods are not the only threat to the peace of the living.

Aldis Tennech, the once-great general of the armies of Gal’dorok, finds himself in exile. His only hope of reclaiming glory lies in the hands of a self-proclaimed emperor, and the unearthly powers that put him there. Meanwhile, improbable alliances are forged in the north as unexpected enemies rear their heads and threaten ruin-with a single thread in common, connecting them all.

In the sequel to his award-winning novel Gift of the Shaper, D. L. Jennings once again brings to life an epic tale of war and chaos as earthly armies fight for otherworldly prizes. Ancient powers lying dormant must be called upon, bringing strength to those who need it and conquest to those who seek it; battles will rage and cities will fall, but only the most desperate or reckless would seek . . .

. . . to awaken the three.

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Gift of the Shaper (Highglade #1)

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For thousands of years, the Breaker of the Dawn has been locked away in the ethereal plane of the Otherworld. Now, a young blacksmith’s apprentice finds himself trapped in a war between the noble Athrani, a subset of humanity gifted with the ability to transmute matter, and the malevolent and powerful Khyth, who seek to free the ancient god from his prison.

When his father, Olson, is kidnapped, Thornton Woods and his childhood friend, Miera, must leave their small village of Highglade to find him. On their way, they are joined by Ynara and Kethras, cat-like humanoids called Kienari, who use their skills as hunter/trackers to follow Olson’s trail. When it comes to light that one among them possesses the key to the Breaker’s release, Thornton and his friends must defy the might of the Khyth as armies on both sides collide in pursuit of the ultimate prize.

Gift of the Shaper chronicles the epic struggle between the existing forces of good and evil, with both sides vying for control of the key that unlocks the Otherworld. The very powers of creation and destruction hang in the balance, and only a heroic effort by Thornton and Miera, backed by the power of the Athrani, can possibly stop the Khyth from unleashing ruin — and the Breaker — upon their world.

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About the Author

 

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Once again, D. L. Jennings, who won the “Beverly Hills Award for Fantasy” in 2018, brings life to an epic tale of war and chaos as earthly armies fight for otherworldly prizes. Reminiscent of Game of Thrones, AWAKEN THE THREE is a riveting page-turner, and a must-read for fantasy readers who want to escape to a different world, time and place ruled by other-worldly beings. It’s the perfect book to escape from the anxious times of our COVID-19 reality.

D. L. Jennings is a fourteen-year active-duty veteran of the United States Air Force, serving under the Air Force Special Operations Command. In 2005, he earned his associate degree after graduating at the top of his Korean class at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, and earning the Korean Consul General’s award for excellence. He is a graduate of Bellevue University in Nebraska, earning a bachelor of science degree in security management in 2008. He finished writing his debut novel, GIFT OF THE SHAPER, which won the Beverly Hills Book Award in 2018 for Fantasy, while serving on his ninth combat tour. He has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as several countries in Africa. When he is not reading or writing epic fantasy, he enjoys traveling, listening to ‘90s punk, and watching Ohio State football. Jennings lives in South Florida

D.L. Jennings

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Master&Beginning

Welcome to the tour for Masters & Beginners, by Daley Downing, book one in The Order of the Twelve Tribes series! Read on for a sneak peek, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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Masters & Beginners

Publication Date: August 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Urban Fantasy/ Magic

When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

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Excerpt

Prologue

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasant late summer’s evening, shortly after sunset, the sky a rich navy blue, stars beginning to twinkle in the distance. In a pleasant subdivision, residents were settling in for the night. In a tent pitched on one of the well-mowed lawns was a group of four teenage girls, in their pajamas and sleeping bags, currently finding out who could come up with the scariest scary story.

“…and to this day, he wanders the woods, looking for his head.”

“Can I just say, eew.” Margaret wrinkled her nose and frowned disapprovingly.

“That was the Headless Horseman. That’s not an original story, Kimberly.”

“Fine! You come up with something better.” Kimberly flopped down onto her pillow.

The tent was pitched in a backyard just like so many other backyards up and down the street. The development was one of the last to be built in the town limits, and it sat near the boundary of the state forest. The fact they lived so close to a nature preserve meant to the adults lots of hiking and biking on the trails, a chance for the kids to see wildlife, and learn about the woods firsthand. To their children, it meant a sense of danger, dark goings-on, and the perfect atmosphere for telling ghost stories during slumber parties.

“Fine, I will.” Sophie sat up taller on her blanket. It was her tent, her backyard, her house, with her family inside, hosting the slumber party. Taking the flashlight, she placed it under her chin, the beam casting shadows over the contours of her face.

“There was a house at the edge of the city that everyone called the glass house,” she began. “It looked like it was made all from glass, and it was strange to the people in the city. It belonged to the most wealthy family, the Greymalkins. They employed many servants and farmers in the past, people working on the land they owned. But these days, they had all but stopped hiring new staff.”

Margaret and Helen watched Sophie, listening politely. Kimberly pretended to be bored, and fiddled with a loose thread on her sleeping bag.

“The people didn’t really go near the glass house anymore,” Sophie went on. “The former staff, or their descendants, said that the Greymalkins were having troubles — illness, bad investments, and the like. They said that soon the family may be forced to sell the glass house and all their land.

“That was a shame, old Mrs. O’Connor said, as her grandson was coming back to town after traveling abroad for a few years, and he needed a job. He’d just completed his courses at an important university in another country, and he was well-trained in managing finances and keeping records. That was a very good thing, said Daphne, one of the few maids left at the glass house. Because the Greymalkins were looking for someone to do just that.

“And so Augustine O’Connor began to work at the glass house.”

Margaret and Helen were definitely interested now. Even Kimberly sat up a little more and glanced in Sophie’s direction.

“Daphne showed Augustine where he would work. It was mostly in one room, a study where all the family’s important papers were kept. After a few hours of working each day, he would go to the kitchens for a meal, and take a walk in the gardens if the weather was good. Most of the time, he only saw Daphne, or the cook, or the butler, Mr. Lee.

“One afternoon, just as he was finishing up, a very grand, and beautiful, woman came into the study. She wore a silver dress, and diamond combs in her hair. This was Lady Greymalkin, he knew, as he had seen portraits of her in the lobby of the glass house. Augustine quickly stood up and then bowed, as Mr. Lee had instructed him to do if he ever met a member of the family.

“Lady Greymalkin insisted he not bother about such a formality. ‘Thank you for doing this work for us,’ she said. ‘We need all our affairs in order before we sell the house.’ So it was true, Augustine asked, the rumors among the people? ‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ the lady said. ‘Life has not gone…as we planned recently.’ Augustine gave his apology. ‘There’s no need to be sorry. It’s how things happen sometimes.’ And she invited him to tour the rest of the house with her.”

Outside the tent, it was quiet except for the chirp of crickets, and the occasional, brief passing of a car. Fireflies danced in the trees beyond the fence, but the girls didn’t notice.

“Augustine walked along the halls and saw the big dining room, the library, the grand parlor, where the family had entertained in happier times. Lady Greymalkin told him a little more about her children, her husband, and his parents, who built the glass house. When it was time for him to go, she invited him to tour the property on his own, as he wished.”

Kimberly couldn’t pretend anymore; she was listening as raptly as Helen and Margaret.

“A few days after this, the Lady came to find Augustine in the study,” Sophie continued. “She told him that they had a buyer for the land, and soon his services wouldn’t be needed anymore. ‘Thank you so much for your help. I’m sorry it means you’re out of a job. If I can do anything, please let me know.’ Augustine replied that a good reference would come in handy, but also, before he left, he’d like to walk around the gardens one more time. The Lady said yes, and that she would join him.

“As they walked, Augustine saw a door in the garden wall he had never noticed before. ‘Come with me,’ the Lady said, and she showed him a tunnel beyond the door. As they began walking down the tunnel, the Lady said, ‘Oh, I forgot, Mr. Lee needed to see me! Do wait here.’ And she ran back into the garden, shutting the door behind her.”

The back door of the house gently opened and closed. A shadowed figure slipped away from the lights inside, creeping into the yard and towards the tent.

“Confused, Augustine tried to open the door. He found it locked. There was only a little light in the tunnel, and he couldn’t see very far. Deciding he should wait as the Lady had told him to, he stood still.”

The dark figure paused near the tent, crouching down, trying to stay out of the light coming through the windows of his home.

Sophie’s hand was beginning to get tired of holding the flashlight, but she was almost done with the story. “Then a loud sound came from the other side of the wall, a sudden scream. Augustine jumped, and ran into the tunnel. As he ran, he heard other sounds, on either side of him, growls and snarls like those of wild animals. All the noise came out of nowhere, but it seemed to be all around him.”

Helen was spellbound. Margaret hugged her pillow close to her. Even Kimberly’s eyes were wide.

“Augustine stopped running when he realized the light was fading in the tunnel, and the noise seemed to be behind him. He stood in front of another door, and he wondered if this one would lead back to the garden, or to the glass house. He opened the door, and saw nothing else.”

A branch snapped in the yard, and something scratched at the tent. Helen and Margaret screamed, and Kimberly dived into her sleeping bag.

Sophie smiled and turned off the flashlight.

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About the Author

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Daley Downing is an autistic author, parent to special needs children, a dance teacher, and cat whisperer. She spends her days attempting to write just a few more words than in the previous 24 hours, and lovingly refers to her genre as suburban fantasy. Visit her at: https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/.

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Blog Tour Schedule

July 27th

I love Books and Stuff (Spotlight)

Kiki’s Books (Review)

The Faerie Review (Review)

July 28th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight)

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight)

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight)

Rajiv’s Book Reviews (Review)

July 29th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight)

Read and Rated (Spotlight)

Rambling Mads (Spotlight)

July 30th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review)

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Jessica Belmont (Review)

July 31st

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Book Reviews by Satabdi (Review)

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