The Empty Box (Invisible Magic Wand Series) by Lois Wickstrom – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Empty Box (Invisible Magic Wand)The Empty Box by Lois Wickstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every year on Caspian’s Unbirthday his Grandpa puts his present under his bed. This year Caspian finds an empty box as his present and is disappointed. Then Grandpa tells him that inside the box is an invisible magic wand that will only work when he names it. Once Caspian learns how to use his invisible magic wand he is able to control time. If he wants something to go quickly, he is able to speed time up. If he wants to enjoy something longer Caspian can slow time down and stretch it out. This comes in handy when Caspian wants to make the school day go by faster, or when he wants to really enjoy eating his favorite dessert.

This was another wonderful book by this author who has once again written a super cute and fun book for children. I loved the idea of an invisible magic wand and being able to speed up or slow down time. If I had an invisible magic wand when I was in school I would have done the same as Caspian and sped up the school day so that it went by faster. Caspian has a lot of great adventures with his invisible magic wand both at school and at home. The story was entertaining, and the illustrations really brought the story to life. A cute story for children of all ages.

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The Forlorn Cowboy (The Studs of Clear Creek County) by Stacy-Deanne – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Forlorn Cowboy by Stacy-Deanne (The Studs of Clear Creek County)The Forlorn Cowboy by Stacy-Deanne by Stacy-Deanne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christopher is a cowboy in Clear Creek County who has been presented with an opportunity to climb the ranks of the social ladder. All he has to do is marry Minnie, a young woman who comes from the social elite. The problem is that Christopher does not love Minnie and is only engaged to her because his father wants them to wed so his financial struggles will end.

A chance encounter with a headstrong black activist named Greta Fay changes everything for Christopher. He finds that he is madly in love with her but is conflicted because he is still engaged to Minnie. Christopher does not want to hurt or betray his father, but he cannot bring himself to love Minnie in the same way that she loves him. Now Christopher is faced with a choice between marrying into the social elite or being with his true love.

A quick read with great characters and a wonderful storyline. Although Minnie is part of the social elite, she is down-to-earth and kind which makes Christopher’s decision a difficult one to make. Christopher loves his dad and feels bad that he has worked so hard all his life and made sacrifices for him. So, when his dad wants him to marry Minnie, Christopher considers doing it because it will help his dad. Greta Fay is feisty, headstrong, and believes in standing up for others regardless of the risks. When Greta Fay and Christopher fall in love they risk losing more than family. A great story, albeit a bit brief, about love triangles, passion, cowboys, damaged heroines, and an interracial relationship.

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Ruthless Hawke (The Hawke Family Second Generation Book 1) by Gwyn McNamee – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Ruthless Hawke (The Hawke Family Second Generation Book 1)Ruthless Hawke by Gwyn McNamee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ruthless Hawke continues on with the story of Jack and Nolan, who we were first introduced to in Night Hawke. The two of them spent a wild and steamy weekend together but neither realized at the time that the other was not using their real name. Both must reluctantly return to the lives they spent the weekend escaping from but none more so than Jack who seems to be on the run from someone or something. Once the weekend is over Jack flees from the hotel room and the last thing Nolan sees is Jack getting into a car.

Fast forward five years and Isaac Hawke, AKA Nolan, has moved on with his life but has never forgotten the woman of his dreams. He has become successful in his family’s business and has a reputation for being ruthless both in and out of the courtroom. He is a man who will do anything to protect his family. Isaac is naturally surprised when he walks into his office one morning and the long-lost woman of his dreams is standing there.

Giacomina, AKA Jack, has been whisked away in the middle of the night by her father and brought to his friends, the Hawke’s, office in New Orleans. Jack’s father asks for the Hawke’s to protect his daughter, and his four-year-old granddaughter, Viviana. Jack is shocked when she sees Isaac walk into the office and is as equally shocked to learn that his name is not Nolan.

Both Isaac and Jack want to ask the other a ton of questions, but neither can act as though they know the other. To do so, would put Isaac’s own life at risk. Isaac knows immediately after looking into Viviana’s beautiful blue eyes that this is his daughter and immediately feels angered that he has not been told he has a daughter. However, he must wait until he can get Jack alone to question her because there is too much at stake for both of them to do otherwise. Isaac sees his chance to do so by offering for Jack and Viviana to stay with him. That gives him the opportunity to protect them from whatever danger is lurking out there that is intent on destroying them as well as ask Jack about why she ran off and where she has been all these years.

This book has passion, love, betrayal, chemistry, drama, banter and twists and turns. The chemistry between Jack and Isaac is undeniable and unforgettable. Isaac is fierce and powerful when it comes to the lengths that he will go to in order to keep those he loves safe and out of harm’s way. Jack is full of secrets and has led a life that has left her sheltered from the outside world. Due to the line of business that her parents are in they have kept her protected which has left Jack feeling stifled and more like a prisoner than a daughter. Love this book and the Hawke family! Great read!

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A Stranger in Disguise (A Commissario Scala Mystery in Rome) by P.J. Mann – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

A Stranger in Disguise: An Italian Murder Mystery (A Commissario Scala Mystery in Rome)A Stranger in Disguise: An Italian Murder Mystery by P. J. Mann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A foreign acting company has come to Rome to put on a play to raise funds for a crumbling old theatre when suddenly one of their actors winds up dead. Detective Scala ends up with the task of solving the murder which initially seems easy enough. The last person to see the victim becomes the prime suspect who just happens to have been caught on surveillance leaving the area at the same time as the murder. The disappearance of the prime suspect makes them look even more guilty until their body is also discovered. Detective Scala now figures that there must be more to the case than initially suspected and starts to dig farther. As he digs farther into the life of the victim he learns that she had her own deep, dark secrets. It is up to Detective Scala to figure out what the victim’s secrets were before more innocent lives are lost.

This murder mystery was brilliantly written, and I was in awe of the determination Detective Scala had to solve the case. He really sunk his teeth into the mystery and would not let go until the case was solved. The more Detective Scala looked into the murders the more layers of the proverbial onion he was able to peel back. The case turned out to be far more complex and involved than he originally thought but it only made Detective Scala work harder to uncover the truth. He was hyper focused, determined, hardworking, diligent, and smart. Detective Scala is the type of person you would want to have on your side. A great book full of action, suspense, mystery, intrigue, and a few twists and turns that will take you by surprise!

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Exposed (Descendants Series Book 3) by Lea Cherry – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Exposed (Descendants Series Book 3)Exposed by Lea Cherry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amy’s whole life has been turned upside down and she feels lost. Her friends have abandoned her and everything she thought she knew about herself, and her family turns out to be untrue. Not only does she discover who she “really” is, but she learns who her father is and that the mother she thought was dead is not actually dead. Problem is that her mom’s soul is trapped in an ethereal state and needs to be reattached to her body. Amy sets out to rescue her mom but needs someone of Pure-blood to power-share to bring her mom back. The only one with this ability is the enemy and Amy must make a deal with him if she wants to save her mother. Will the risk be worth it?

This book is the third book in the Descendants Series and jumps right into Amy’s story. Admittedly, I have not read the first two books, but it was easy to follow along without feeling like I missed anything. The characters are well written, and the scenes are written superbly. Amy is stronger than she thinks when faced with adversity and betrayal. Rather than give up after her whole world was turned topsy-turvy, she chose to stand up and face the challenges head-on. A fantastic read that is full of mystery, magic, action, suspense, drama, and adventure galore.

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Creatures of the Night by C.A. King – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Creatures of the NightCreatures of the Night by C.A. King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When an unusual anomaly in outer space opened up portals it brought with it a black mist that covered the earth. It also brought something far more sinister and deadly when it brought monsters and war started across the human race. The war raged on for generations and the remaining humans grew up training to fight and kill demons and monsters. In this new world they survived by forming clans where they could better protect themselves.

Zoe always knew that she was different and did not see things like others. In this new world she was expected to possess magic and men were expected to be warriors. Zoe knew that magic was no good if you were unable to protect yourself, so she also wanted to be a warrior. Instead, she must obey society’s rules and is sent off to the academy to hone her magic.

When Zoe meets a demon, it changes her outlook on everything. She has always fought alongside her family battling the black mist, demons, and monsters and never questioned why they do so. When she falls in love with a demon she starts to questions the rules and all that she has been taught throughout her life. Zoe begins to realize that maybe all demons are not the same after all. She is faced with the difficult decision of choosing between love and her family and friends. No matter which choice she makes she will lose something or someone that she loves. What will Zoe’s heart decide is best for her?

This book was well written and the scenes were described so vividly that you feel like you are part of Zoe’s journey. The character of Zoe really grows and develops as the story unfolds. She is smart, strong, feisty, and a force to be reckoned with. When Zoe meets a demon she becomes conflicted about what she has been taught and must make a difficult decision. She craves love but will she choose it over her own family. What a gut-wrenching decision to have to make. A great Dystopian Fantasy read with love, romance, adventure, supernatural, magic, demons, and monsters.

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Manipulator’s War (Ruarnon Trilogy Book 1) by Elise Carlson – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Manipulator's War (Ruarnon Trilogy, #1)Manipulator’s War by Elise Carlson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruarnon has spent their life learning lessons in combat and how to run the kingdom they will one take over. As the non-binary heir to Tarlah they have had to work harder to impress their father who happens to be the King of Tarlah. When Ruarnon’s parents are abducted in the middle of the night they are thrust into the role quicker than anticipated and find themselves forced to make difficult decisions as they take over ruling the kingdom. In their new role Ruarnon finds that they are uncertain who to trust within the Royal Council and is also faced with the news that the neighboring kingdom wants to expand into Tarlah. Ruarnon is thrown headfirst into their role as heir to the throne and jumps straight into battling an ongoing war.

Meanwhile, Linh is on an excursion to Australia with her class when her and her classmates find themselves in a foreign land they do not recognize. As they try to find their way back Linh learns of a place that has a race that may have the knowledge to help her get back home. In her journey she stumbles onto a small island where monsters are attacking anyone and everyone. The monsters see everything as a target and annihilate anything that moves. Will she be able to escape to safety and find this race that will help her find her way home?

This book was action packed from the first pages as Ruarnon was thrust into their role as ruler of Tarlah. The storylines were entertaining, and I had to continue to read to see how the two were going to join together. I loved that the protagonist was non-binary and written from their perspective. The character of Ruarnon was written well and the author did a great job of including the struggles they faced as being non-binary without that defining them. It was an aspect of who they were, not what they were. A great read full of action, war, rivalry, betrayal, and even some monsters.

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Emissary (Star-Crossed Celestials Duet) by A.L. Morrow – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Emissary: An MM Forbidden Romance (Star-Crossed Celestials Duet)Emissary: An MM Forbidden Romance by A.L. Morrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kai is known as an Emissary, or Angel of Death, who along with Messengers are those that hunt down and destroy Watchers and demons. His life is full of darkness and loneliness, and he has become even more lonely after an error in judgement caused the death of his true love. Kai’s life revolves around following orders dictated by the stars, so he finds himself conflicted when he is ordered to kill a demon named Byron, but the stars tell him that it is not Byron’s time for death yet.

Byron is a demon who has had a rough life and has struggled to survive in a world where death chases after him constantly. Someone wants Byron dead, and he feels that death will be inevitable when he meets Kai. Instead, Kai not only saves his life but teams up with him to find out who is trying to kill Byron. The two find themselves on the run as they race to get to the truth behind who the person responsible is. Their time together draws them closer and their attraction to one another grows more intense.

This book was an intense, action-packed read from start to finish. The author did an amazing job of vividly describing the worlds of each character, and each scene jumped off the pages. Kai and Byron’s relationship is complex due to Kai being an Emissary and Byron being a demon but the attraction they feel towards one another is undeniable. Complicating matters farther is the feelings that Kai has about the tragic loss of his true love which leave him feeling remorse and sadness. I found their storyline interesting and loved the idea that just because you are an Angel does not mean that you are any better than a demon. Kai and Byron may have been from two different worlds, but their relationship worked. The storyline of who Byron’s father was took me by surprise and I can honestly say that I never saw that twist coming. A great read from start to finish.

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Echoing Hearts (The Echo Series Book 1) by C.R. Alam – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Echoing Hearts (Book 1 of The Echo Series)Echoing Hearts by C.R. Alam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rae is a woman focused on her job that has no time to look for romance. She is happy to travel and write articles for magazines without worrying about settling down. Rae does not believe in the concept of a fairy-tale romance with a happily ever after ending because she watched as her mom fell into a deep depression after she had her heart broken. When Rae takes on a last-minute assignment as a favor for a friend, she is only expecting to write an article on an up-and-coming female architect.

When Rae arrives on the property she is to write the article about she is greeted by a man who accuses her of being a trespasser. The man greeting her so coldly unbeknownst to her is the homeowner, Dean. Her first impression of him is that he is good-looking but that does not make up for how rude he is. Dean is home on a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city and his flourishing business. He is not expecting a sassy little redhead to come wandering into his life so unexpectedly. Although he finds her attractive, he has no desire to be in a relationship and wants nothing to do with women after his fiancée left him at the alter. Rae and Dean spend the weekend remaining cordial to each other for Dean sister’s sake. Dean does not want to ruin his sister’s career and Rae finds his sister to be a genuinely kind person.

Once the weekend is over, Rae and Dean expect to go their separate ways and never see one another again. Life has unexpected plans for them when they both end up at the same club. Dean is there for work and Rae is there to see a friend of hers that plays in a band that is playing at the club. Dean cannot take his eyes off Rae but refuses to admit that he is drawn to her. Rae does her best to ignore her attraction to Dean and still thinks he is a jerk. Despite their denial they feel the intense attraction towards one another but refuse to act on it.

This book was very well written, and I enjoyed reading it to see how things would play out between the characters. Both Rae and Dean had their own emotional baggage they were carrying around that came from past hurt and trauma. This made them fearful of getting hurt again so they decided it was best to just stay away from relationships. When they meet they realize that they have to work through their demons and heal from their past trauma so they could move forward. The ensuing journey is an emotional rollercoaster ride as Rae and Dean struggle to overcome their past. A beautifully written love story with passion, chemistry, drama, emotional scars, family, friends, jealousy and raw emotion.

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Deadly Intentions by Anise Storm – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Deadly IntentionsDeadly Intentions by Anise Storm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Viviana’s life changed in an instant when her and her best friend, Donnatella, took a girl’s trip to New York City. During the trip Donna was murdered by a member of a notorious mafia family. Viviana is overcome with grief and vows revenge on the man who murdered her best friend. She spends the next decade transforming herself from quiet and meek to a sleek killing machine. When the opportunity presented itself, Viviana set her plan into motion.

Fast forward ten years from her friend, Donna’s, death, and Viviana has infiltrated the notorious Vaccaro crime family as the head member’s mistress. Stefano Vaccaro is a force to be reckoned with and has a reputation for being cold and ruthless. Viviana feels that she has prepared herself to exact her revenge when the opportunity presents itself but Stefano’s son, Nazario knows otherwise. He fears for her safety and tries to warn Viviana not to follow through with her plan, but Viviana ignores his pleas. Viviana hates him for being part of the notorious mafia crime family and knows that he is as equally ruthless as his father but is unable to deny the intense chemistry she feels towards him. Nazario is equally drawn to Viviana and vows to make her his at all costs. Before long they can no longer deny the attraction and an intense, passion filled affair develops between them. Will Stefano learn of his son and mistress’ betrayal? Will Viviana get her long sought after revenge?

This book had everything one would expect from a dark mafia crime novel; deceit, revenge, lust, passion, and betrayal. Stefano was cold, calculating and showed no remorse in anything he did throughout his career as a crime boss. Viviana was once what someone might consider to be quiet and mousy but when tragedy struck it changed her. The only thing that she could think of was exacting revenge on those responsible for the murder of her best friend. The trauma she suffered turned her into someone else and she learned to shut off her feelings until Nazario resurfaced in her life. He was the son of the man responsible for her friend’s death and although she hates him she is consumed by desire for him. Nazario feels equally attracted to Viviana and knows what her true intentions are towards his father but it does not deter him from pursuing his feelings for Viviana. The attraction is undeniable and the two of them share some passionate and steamy moments.

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The Veil of Corruption (The Virus of Beauty Book 2) by C.B. Lyall Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Veil of Corruption (The Virus of Beauty #2)The Veil of Corruption by C.B. Lyall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book two in the Virus of Beauty series continues the story from the first book and centers on teen wizard Wilf. In Book One we learned about Wilf who has no interest in magic and all he truly wants to do is play soccer. However, life has other plans for him, and he now finds himself caught in the middle of a long-held dispute between the witches and the wizards. The ongoing dispute has somehow destabilized the Magical Realm and it is up to Wilf to find the antidote for the Virus of Beauty that many of the witches have been plagued with before it is too late.

When Wilf’s stepsister, Myra, disappears it is left up to Wilf to find her and bring her to justice. In his quest to find her the defensive barrier known as the Veil between the witch and wizard cities becomes corrupted and Wilf is blamed. The corruption of the Veil allows the virus to spread and affects both wizards and witches throughout the magical realm. When evil strikes and his witch friend, Katryna, is kidnapped Wilf will do anything to save her even if it means that he risks his own life in doing so. He is the only one that holds the key to saving both his friend and the Magical Realm from certain disaster.

Book Two in the Virus of Beauty Series did not disappoint. The reader is transported to places all over the world as the wizards and witches fight to stabilize the magical realm before it destroys them all. Our teen wizard Wilf has to really step into his role as wizard because this unlikely hero is the only one who can save them. Wilf must put aside his thoughts and feelings on what his perception of a normal life may be and embrace his wizard side while fighting evil head on. Wilf really discovers who he is and what he is capable of as he becomes stronger as both a person and a wizard. It was interesting to read how his relationship with Katryna unfolded and how her family slowly came to terms with it.

This book has everything a YA reader can hope for in one place. Magic, self-discovery, adventure, suspense, unlikely heroes, family drama, young romance, and even some witty banter. It held my attention and kept me reading until the end. The overall most intriguing part of the story for me, since Book One, has been what the witches perceive as beauty in their realm. For them to catch a virus that makes them beautiful by our society standards is horrifying. In their realm ‘beauty’ is defined entirely different and for the witches you are ‘beautiful’ if you have warts, hairy chins, and large noses. It truly goes to show how perception can change everything and what one sees as normal, or beautiful, is not necessarily the same way another person may view it. Fascinating concept! I highly recommend!

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Straight for the Kill (Benoit and Dayne Mystery Book 3) by Winter Austin – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Straight for the Kill (Benoit and Dayne Mystery, #3)Straight for the Kill by Winter Austin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Benoit’s best friend died of an accidental overdose 25 years ago. Elizabeth suspected that there might have been more to the case but chose to push those feelings aside and move forward. Lila Dayne is a Deputy working in the same department as Elizabeth Benoit who discovers the body of another young girl twenty five years later who has died under similar circumstances. Lila chooses to move forward with the case without involving Elizabeth but that does not go well. As Sheriff of the department not only is she Lila’s superior but it also becomes personal for Elizabeth because of the loss of her friend in a similar manner years prior.

As Lila digs deeper into the case she comes up with a list of suspects but nothing concrete. As Lila struggles to pinpoint a main suspect in the case important members of the community suddenly vanish. This leads Lila to believe that there is something bigger at work and that there is more to this case than she originally thought. Elizabeth has tried to stay away from the case due to the personal issues of it, but when her sister suddenly vanishes, she must do everything she can to find her. Elizabeth and Lila must team up to solve the case and bring the murderer to justice. Will they be able to find out in time before more people vanish?

This book kept me on the edge of my seat and was action packed out of the gate. Both Lila and Elizabeth are smart, strong, independent, feisty, kick-ass women who do not back down from a challenge. I found myself cheering them on and trying to crack the case along with them. A highly suspenseful, action packed read!

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Hush, My Darling (Benoit and Dayne Mystery Book 2) by Winter Austin – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Hush, My Darling (Benoit and Dayne Mystery, #2)Hush, My Darling by Winter Austin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lila Dayne is a Deputy with Eckhardt County who survived an attack on her life by a serial killer. Two years later she is haunted by the memories of that vicious attack. Still running from that night and trying to overcome her fears she is desperate for a fresh start. Even after moving to a small part of southeast Iowa, Lila is unable to shake her fears of constantly being watched.

Elizabeth Benoit is the new Sheriff of the department in Eckhardt County where Lila is now working as a Deputy. Elizabeth is quickly thrown from her task of stopping corruption into the solving of murder when dead bodies suddenly start to appear. The murders are freakishly similar to those of a serial killer who left bodies along the I-80. When one of the bodies portrays a sinister message directed at a member of the department it sets off a chain of events that has one member spiral out of control.

I loved this book and found myself really invested in Lila and her story. I could feel her fear and experienced the terror that went along with her as she fought through the things that triggered her. As I read along and followed her on her journey I found myself trying to solve the mystery of who the serial killer was and why they were after Lila. I was compelled to read through in one sitting to find out what was going to become of Lila and solve the mystery along with Lila and Elizabeth. I was on pins and needles as the story unfolded. This book is full of action, suspense, mystery, and intrigue. I highly recommend!

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The Exchange by Nadija Mujagic – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Exchange: A NovelThe Exchange: A Novel by Nadija Mujagic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After graduation Sam leaves her small hometown behind her to move to LA and start a career in acting. Once in LA it is not as easy as Sam was hoping that it would be nor is life as she had expected. Her apartment is rundown, the neighborhood she lives in is rampant with crime, and her money is running out. Things start to look up for Sam when she lands a meeting with a talent agent, but her hopes are quickly dashed when the agent rejects her. With her hopes and dreams suddenly shattered Sam starts to look for a job to make ends meet. She finds a small coffee shop that hires her immediately and she eagerly accepts the job.

While at work an attractive man comes into the coffee shop and flirts with Sam who instantly becomes smitten with him. Cory promises her that he can help her with her acting career and takes her under his wing. He helps her out of her desperate situation and offers her a room in his house where she can feel safe. It does not take long before Sam realizes that something is not right with her living situation but with nowhere else to go, and no money, or job, she brushes off her uneasy feeling. When Sam becomes pregnant Cory offers a proposition that seems too good to be true. He can make all her acting dreams come true in exchange for her child.

Four years go by, and Sam is living a normal life and raising her child on her own. When her child suddenly goes missing without a trace Sam wonders if Cory has made good on the deal and taken her child. She is desperate to find her son, at any cost, but what will that cost be? To what lengths will Sam go to in order to save her child?

This book was a brilliant read and I instantly fell in love with the character of Sam. She was smart, determined, strong, and never gave up hope no matter how dire the situation became. She kept her wits about her when most others would have given up all hope and fallen into despair. Cory was superficially charming but something sinister lurked under the surface. This book took some twists and turns that I did not suspect coming and they caught me off-guard. To say that Sam was clever is an understatement. Wow, just wow! I will not spoil it; you will have to read it for yourself. Brilliantly written!

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What I Wish I’d Known: For Writers by H.D. Thomson – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

What I Wish I'd Known: For Writers: 100 Authors Reveal What They Wish They'd Told Their Younger SelvesWhat I Wish I’d Known: For Writers: 100 Authors Reveal What They Wish They’d Told Their Younger Selves by H. D. Thomson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this book over 100 authors share their wisdom, words of advice, and experiences of becoming an author. Some share some very personal stories of how they overcame the obstacles and personal issues to get to where they are today. Many share their stories of how when they first started, they received stacks and stacks of rejection letters from publishers. Many authors recall how friends and family laughed at them or mocked them for wanting to become a writer. Yet, despite all the rejection and the mocking they never gave up their dream of becoming a published author.

Whether it be years ago, in a time prior to Indie publishing, when they were trying to find a traditional publishing house, or now with self publishing options so widely available, there is a lot to learn. These authors share their vast wealth of knowledge and give tips and pointers on what it takes to be an author. Not only are we offered support and words of encouragement, but we are able to learn from mistakes they may have made on their own personal journey.

Of course, the one prevalent theme throughout is to just sit your butt in the chair and write. Whether it is just for a few minutes, or even just writing one sentence, but just write something. They also give tips on finding the time to write when you feel that your life is just too busy. Beyond the words of encouragement are invaluable pointers on not just the writing process but the publishing process as well.

Throughout the book is the common theme of never giving up and of believing in yourself, even when others do not. No matter how many rejection letters you receive do not give up. No matter how many people mock you for your dream do not give up. No matter how little time you have in your day do not give up. No matter what, sit your butt in the chair, write, and never give up on your dreams. As numerous authors said throughout the book, as long as you are writing, you are a writer. Thank you for this book and to these authors for sharing your stories, advice, and words of encouragement, I feel truly inspired!

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Loretta’s Caterpillar (Loretta’s Insects) by Lois Wickstrom – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Loretta's Caterpillar (Loretta's Insects #4)Loretta’s Caterpillar by Lois Wickstrom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loretta loves to look out her window and watch all of the beautiful butterflies flying around. When she wakes up one morning and all of the butterflies are gone she becomes concerned. She goes outside to see what happened and finds a leaf with a tiny egg on it. The egg is from a Monarch butterfly and she is determined to take care of it and watch it grow. She protects the egg from a bird, a wasp and even a lizard as it grows and goes through metamorphosis. Loretta is thrilled when it finally turns into a beautiful butterfly and flies away to go through its migration journey.

I adore the stories that this author writes and find myself wishing that I had these books for when my children were little. Up until reading this book, my favorite book by this author was Bees in Loretta’s Bonnet. Now, I am adding this book at the top of my list of favorites. As with every book by this amazing author it is beautifully illustrated which really brings the story to life.

In all of this author’s books I learn something new and this one was no different. I was fascinated to learn that it took five generations of butterflies to migrate from the United States to Canada! I also learned the difference between a female butterfly and a male butterfly. I had no idea that there was a difference. Children of all ages will love this cute story about the life cycle of a butterfly from egg to metamorphosis to migration. I highly recommend!

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Master Calabrea (Masters of the Consulate Book 6) by Sylvia Black – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Master Calabrea: Dark Vampire Romance (Masters of the Consulate Book 6)Master Calabrea: Dark Vampire Romance by Sylvia Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Master Calabrea is Book 6 in the Masters of the Consulate series. Master Calabrea is a vampire with the Consulate who has been given the task of hunting down Isala, an enemy of the vampire community. Embry’s cousin, Tansia, has come for a visit and to help her out. Tansia’s arrival has an unexpected effect on Calabrea, who acts indifferent to her but feels the opposite. He has no time nor need for a mate, let alone a human one so he chooses to ignore his feelings. Tansia has no luck at all with relationships and has a terrible track record, so she has no desire to try again, especially with a vampire who clearly hates her.

Time is running out to capture Isala, so Tansia and Calabrea are teamed up and told to remain together at all times. Tansia feels this is an impossible task because Calabrea cannot stand her. She could not be more wrong. Tansia has an unexplained effect on Calabrea, and this sets a chain of events into motion between Tansia and Calabrea that neither expected.

This book could possibly be read as a standalone, but it is probably better to read the series from the beginning. Sadly, I have not read the first books in the series so I feel as though I may have missed something. This book was fast paced from the beginning with wonderful characters and a great storyline. The attraction between Calabrea and Tansia is sizzling and undeniable. The hunt for Isala is fraught with tension and danger as they try to capture her before time runs out. I enjoyed this book and know that I will be reading this series from the beginning.

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Grace Under Fire (The Anderson Sisters Book 2) by Jennifer Raines – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Grace Under FireGrace Under Fire by Jennifer Raines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grace is an Artisan Cheese Maker who is determined to become the fifth generation to live on her family farm. She wants to do it alone because she trusts nobody to help her and is used to relying on herself and doing things on her own. After having recently lost her closest friend to suicide and watching her father get swindled out of land it is important for Grace to keep the family farm going to pass down to farther generations. When she learns that her mom has declining health, she is racing against the clock to come up with money to buy her parents out.

When the bank makes it difficult for her to come up with the money Grace considers selling part of the land to her neighbor Ryan. Ryan’s brother has recently committed suicide and he blames himself for his brother’s death. After years away from his family’s farm, he has only returned with the intention to sell the farm. Ryan finds himself not wanting to become attached to anyone or anything. His only passion in life is to buy a property, flip it, and move on. He surprises himself when he offers to help Grace after someone sabotage’s her purchase. Grace and Ryan both get more out of the deal than they originally bargained for.

Grace and Ryan have undeniable chemistry going on between them but first they both must learn to open their hearts and trust again. Both are headstrong, determined, and used to being independent so learning to lean on each other for help does not come easily. Grace has to first realize that asking for help does not make her a failure and Ryan needs to take down the walls around his heart. Together, they make an amazing couple, and I enjoyed watching their relationship unfold. A great read!

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Taylor’s Law (The Anderson Sisters Book 1) by Jennifer Raines – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Taylor's LawTaylor’s Law by Jennifer Raines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ella’s sister, Chrissy, has recently died and Ella has been left to raise her young niece on her own. Ella loves Tessa as her own child and has helped to raise her since she was a baby because Chrissy was too sick to care for her on her own. Ella is still coming to terms with the death of her sister when she receives a letter summoning her to Taylor law to discuss paternity and custody of Tessa. Ella is in shock over the letter and is scared to death of losing Tessa.

When Ella arrives at the law office of Jacob Taylor, she is expecting to meet him alone but instead finds him sitting with an older gentleman. It turns out the older man is the father to the man Chrissy has stated was Tessa’s father, Drew Browning. Ella is shocked when news is revealed to her of a letter that her sister Chrissy was supposed to have written to Drew prior to her death. It seems that her sister had some secrets that she kept well hidden from Ella.

Jake has the best interests of his aunt and uncle at heart and thinks that Ella is trying to con them by saying his cousin, Drew, is Tessa’s biological father. Before they have even determined that Tessa is their granddaughter the Browning’s develop an attachment to the young girl and this concerns Jake. He thinks that Ella is lying and will do everything in his power to protect them from getting hurt and conned. Drew only wants to exploit his relationship with Tessa for his own selfish gain. As secrets are revealed and things ensue Ella and Jake are on opposite sides of a custody battle for Tessa. Both Ella and Jake want to protect Tessa but that becomes complicated by their undeniable attraction to one another.

This book had an overwhelming theme of the love of a family and never giving up. Ella loves her niece as her own child and will do anything to protect her. Jake loves his aunt and uncle and will do anything to keep them from getting hurt. Both Ella and Jake want what is best for young Tessa but Jake is conflicted between the love of his family and the love of a woman. Will he be able to make the right decision? There was a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout as the story unfolded and secrets are revealed. I highly recommend!

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Three Made In Heaven (Made In Heaven #1) by Elena Kincaid – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Three Made in Heaven (Made in Heaven, #1)Three Made in Heaven by Elena Kincaid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maddie met the men of her dreams when she was only nine years old but she was too young to realize it at the time. As she got older, she realized that no man she dates can ever compare to the two men, Charlie, and Cole, that she has been dreaming about for years. Maddie is desperately in love with Charlie and Cole but knows that they are only a part of a fantasy that occurs in her dreams. Even if they were real, they can never be together because she could never choose between them.

Charlie and Cole have been meeting up with Maddie at different locales in her dreams since they were twelve years old. They have had mindless relationships with other women over the years, but none compared to Maddie. Both men are hopelessly head over heels in love with Maddie but fear losing her if she only chooses one of them. Rather than risk losing her altogether they secretly love her from within their dreams.

When Maddie starts having a recurring nightmare and the men find out they fear for Maddie’s safety. Charlie and Cole need to save her but do not know if she is even real. Cole knows that he himself is real and after learning from a psychic that the three of them are soulmates with a unique bond he sets out to find Charlie. It turns out that Charlie is quite real as well, and after the two men do some sleuthing they track down Maddie and set off to rescue her.

I was intrigued by the concept of soulmates being connected through dreams without ever having to meet in person. Maddie, Charlie, and Cole had a special connection that ultimately brought them together even though they were miles apart. The bond was so strong that two men were willing to risk their lives to save the woman of their dreams without ever having met her in person. That is the ultimate sacrifice for the woman you love. When they do finally meet in person the chemistry between them is undeniable so be prepared for some hot and steamy sex scenes.

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Shadow Wolf (Protector Wolf Shifter Series Book 1) by Lilliana Rose – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Shadow Wolf (Protector Wolf Shifter Series Book 1)Shadow Wolf by Lilliana Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tamaska meets Kodiak when she hires him to work as security for an important event that she has put together where a priceless jewel is to be auctioned off. She is immediately attracted to him but refuses to allow herself to feel anything towards him. After all, not only is he staff that has been hired to work the event, but she also does not believe in one-night stands. Kodiak also feels attracted to Tamaska but tries to deny it. Not only is she a human, and he hates all humans, but he must maintain focus on the job he was hired to do.

When the priceless jewel is stolen from under their noses it is up to Kodiak to find it. He knows that it has to be the work of the vampires and sets out to get the jewel back. Tamaska blames Kodiak for the theft and wants nothing to do with him. She is determined to find the jewel and bring it back because she does not want to lose her job or her reputation. What Tamaska is unaware of is that the world she is venturing into is dangerous and that the vampires want to capture her. Kodiak must protect her, but Tamaska refuses his protection because she does not trust him.

Kodiak knows that he is the only one who can protect Tamaska from being killed by the vampires. An event that could wreak destruction and death on the world. He approaches the alpha of his pack and requests his permission but is told that he must not allow himself to be distracted by a human. Kodiak must now choose between his pack and the woman he is finding himself attracted to and feels compelled to protect.

This book was a great read with wonderful characters and a great storyline. It had action, suspense, murder, passion, vampires, wolves, and shapeshifting. I loved the shapeshifting aspect of this book and the love-hate thing that Tamaska and Kodiak had going on between them. It was obvious from the very first look between them that they were equally attracted to one another. Yet, both were allowing their pride to deny them to really act on their feelings. Tamaska is a strong-willed, stubborn, hardworking, and independent woman who is used to doing things on her own. She does not feel that she needs protection and feels that she can do everything on her own. Kodiak is not used to feeling like he should protect anyone, especially a human. He finds Tamaska bossy and pig-headed but still feels drawn to help her. Neither Tamaska nor Kodiak are used to needing another person to rely on and are used to doing things on their own, yet the attraction between them is undeniable.

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The 45th Parallel (Antipodes Series Book 6) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The 45th Parallel (Antipodes, #6)The 45th Parallel by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 45th Parallel is the sixth book in the Antipodes Series. This book follows many of the children of the individuals from the first five books in the series, but the main focus is on Caitlin and Seraphine. They were born with a specific goal in mind of repopulating the community and keep it immune from disease. Cait and Sera have been told all of their lives that is their destiny to do so but they want more from life than to breed and populate the community. They want adventure and choose to reactivate the Nexus in search of new communities and to see what else is out there. In doing so they get more than they bargained for and are suddenly swept up in events beyond their wildest imagination.

Cait and Sera find themselves in an underwater community where strict rules are in place to prevent overpopulation. The community is ruled with an iron fist and outsiders are forbidden. Cait and Sera do their best to remain hidden until they are able to travel back but one small mistake ends with them getting caught. Will they be able to escape back to the safety of their own community before it is too late?

This book was fantastic and I enjoyed how the author chose to tell the story of the children from the inhabitants of the community of Lewis. The characters were lovable, and the setting was an interesting spin to the story. Cait and Sera were strong willed, independent, feisty, and smart young ladies. All traits that they clearly inherited from their parents. The underwater community was a fascinating aspect to the story, and I enjoyed reading about how it worked. This entire series is a must read and I highly recommend it! You will find mystery, action, suspense, intrigue, love, romance, loss, and even murder. I highly recommend!

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Sessrumnir (Antipodes Series Book 6) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Sessrumnir (Antipodes, #5)Sessrumnir by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The residents of Lewis must do whatever they can to save the lives of their children after they receive some terrifying news. It is up to Illyria and Freyja to figure out who or what is threatening to destroy them and all they hold dear to them. Joining forces with both old and new friends they must eliminate the threat before it eliminates them. Will they be able to save the lives of their children in time?

This series has had me hooked from the first book and it just keeps getting better and better. Cam, Freyja, and the residents of Lewis have all become like family to me and I have become heavily invested in their lives. I have watched them grow older and wiser. I have been there with them and experienced the ups and downs with them. I have felt the sadness through the deaths of loved ones and the joy at the births and new beginnings. I have experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions as the characters deal with some unimaginably difficult situations. Yet, throughout it all they overcome adversity, and fight through all of their difficulties becoming stronger for them. Through it all the importance of the love of family has been the focus and of never giving up hope through the darkest of times.

This book was beautifully written, as were all the books in the series. The characters were relatable and the issues they experienced were ones that I feel many of us can relate to. The author draws the reader into the story, and you can picture yourself there with them in that time and place. You feel each emotion as much as the characters do and root for them each step of the way. This is a series that will be worth reading time and time again. I cannot begin to say enough good things about this series! I highly recommend!

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Caim (Antipodes Series Book 4) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Caim (Antipodes, #4)Caim by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Freyja and Cam are blissfully happy with their lives in their community of Lewis. After all the hardships they have experienced through the years they finally feel safe and secure. Their community is sustainable and they have forged some valuable friendships. Life is peaceful until some individuals from their past arrive unexpectedly and bring with them some horrific news. Freyja feels compelled to get answers and heads out on a quest to find them.

This book was a bit darker than the first few books and really digs into the diabolical plans that the scientists had for them and the reasons why they were chosen. Cam and Freyja face some horrific and terrifying adventures throughout their journey that really tests their courage and perseverance. This one is told from Freyja’s point of view and it really opens up the reader’s eyes on who Freyja is and how courageous she is. She is a strong female role model and I admired her strength, courage, and resilience through the most difficult of hardships. Cam and Freyja make a remarkable power couple as they build each other up and are there to lean on one another through the hard times. Nothing can stop them when they are together and are a force to be reckoned with. A must read!

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Ouroborus (Antipodes Series Book 3) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Ouroboros (Antipodes, #3)Ouroboros by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Book 3 of The Antipodes Series things become intense for Cam and everything he values is put at risk. Freyja is not only back in his life but they have been thrown together in the hopes that together they can save everything they hold dear to them. Cam is still reeling from the loss of his one true love and his on his own journey to discover who she was and where she came from. Now he is tasked with facing the feelings he has kept suppressed for his first love Freyja when they join forces to save their community.

Along their journey Cam and Freyja make some horrifying discoveries about the truth of their community and why they were chosen to rebuild. As secrets are revealed and the truth comes to light, they are shocked at what they learn. The real reasons each of them was chosen were purely evil and were part of a much more sinister plan. The survivors are now pitted against each other, communities are divided, and friendships are tested as they decide what to do.

This series has captured my attention from the first book and it has been impossible to put down. The storyline is brilliant and as the story unfolds it becomes more intense. There have been some twists and turns that I did not see coming. Freyja returning came as a surprise to not only me as the reader, but to Cam as well. He had suppressed his feelings for her so long that it was eating him up inside. I was surprised that Freyja had been pining away for him and that she had not moved on with her own life. Her love for Cam almost came across as obsession, in a way. In other ways, it was sappy and romantic and you could not help but feel sad for her that she had still loved Cam after all that time apart. The revelation behind the real reasons each of the individuals was chosen was mind blowing! A must read!

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The Liminal Space (Antipodes Series Book 2) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Liminal Space (Antipodes, #2)The Liminal Space by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 2 in The Antipodes Series picks up where the first book left off and continues with Cam’s journey. He is now living in the community of Lewis where he has been accepted and where he feels at home. He loves his community and has not only made some strong friendships, but he has found love again. Although still in love with Freyja, Cam knows that she is never coming back and it is best that he move on with his life. He has found his soulmate in Laetitia and is wholly, truly, and deeply in love with her. For once he is content and feels at peace with his life and his community.

Then Cam’s world is turned upside down when he makes the startling discovery that someone, he loves dearly may not be dead as he had thought. He sets out on another journey and along the way he makes some startling revelations. Cam is overjoyed with the news of the loved one still being alive but is conflicted when someone else from his past also suddenly resurfaces. After finally coming to terms with his feelings and letting go of the past he is faced with some very difficult decisions and must navigate through the conflicting emotions of joy, grief, anger, betrayal, loss, and hurt simultaneously. Any decision Cam makes has a devastating outcome for those he loves dearly.

Book Two was amazing and we really got to see Cam grow as a person. The hard work of rebuilding and making a community flourish have made Cam wiser and stronger as a person. I enjoyed reading about his journey as told from his point of view. Laetitia is a truly beautiful person both inside and out and it is easy to see why Cam fell in love with her. I enjoyed reading about the portals and was fascinated by how they worked. I highly recommend this book! Now please excuse me, while I anxiously read Book 3 to see what happens to Cam next!

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Antipodes (Antipodes Series Book 1) by T.S. Simons – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Antipodes (Antipodes, #1)Antipodes by T.S. Simons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The world’s water supply has been contaminated by a deadly virus and it is rapidly killing people all over the world. Australian scientists decide to select a group of individuals within a specific age range, and with very specific skills, to live in on an island in a domed community. The young people are put through rigorous testing prior to being chosen because the intention is for them to save and rebuild the human population.

Cam is one of the young people who has been chosen for this important task and he must make the difficult decision to leave his parents and his sister behind. Cam finds himself settling into a routine on the island and even finds love in a girl named Freyja. However, when Freyja disappears Cam finds himself lonely and at a loss. He sets out to find Freyja and makes some startling discoveries along the way. In his journey he finds similar communities and forms new friendships. However, in doing so, Cam is forced with making a difficult decision that could change his entire life.

I loved this book and was invested from the first few pages. I was fascinated with the idea of the pandemic that was wiping out the world’s population and how the author had come up with creative solutions for the characters to rebuild. Cam was smart, tough, and unafraid to back down from a challenge. As the story unfolds Cam really grows as a person due to all the hardships and challenges, he faces along the way. I highly recommend!

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The Authorpreneur Yellowpages by Winnifred Tataw – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

The Authorpreneur YellowpagesThe Authorpreneur Yellowpages by Winnifred Tataw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot begin to say enough good things about this book! It is an invaluable resource for anyone who is looking for book and publishing services. Each page is packed with information and includes information for cover designers, editor services, book marketing services, beta reader services, author support services, and so very much more.

The author has included not only contact information but also costs associated for the services she lists. The book is laid out in an easy-to-read format and can easily be read in one sitting. It is a quick read, yet it is jam packed with information. This is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to make their dreams of publishing a book become a reality! I highly recommend this book!

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Wild Lavender (Heart & Hand Series Book 1) by Nicole E. Kelleher – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

Wild Lavender (Heart & Hand, #1)Wild Lavender by Nicole E. Kelleher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aubrianne has recently wed Lord Roger in a marriage arranged by her parents. She knows little about this man but feels that in time that she can grow to love him. Aubrianne is determined to make the most of their marriage and be a good wife. However, married life turns out to be anything but bliss and Lord Roger only has coldness in his heart. He turns out to be cruel and is violent not only towards his wife but to his servants and help as well.

Aubrianne is a fighter, and she is determined to not allow Lord Roger to break her. Along with a small group of servants, who have become her closest friends, they set out to find out why Lord Roger is frequently gone for weeks at a time. They suspect treachery and want to stop it before they become implicated in his treacherous acts.

Unbeknownst to them Lord Roger is being investigated by the Royal Guard of Aurelia. Larkin, a member of the Royal Guard, met Aubrianne by chance years earlier and has not been able to stop thinking about her. He is eager to set out on new adventures and investigate the dealings of Lord Roger and see Aubrianne again. However, if she is implicated in Lord Roger’s treacherous acts she will be faced with the same punishment as Lord Roger. Death will the punishment for all those involved.

This book was beautifully written, and it was easy to become immersed in the story as it unfolded. You could feel yourself being swept back in time and see yourself in each scene. You could feel yourself bounce along on the back of the horse and hear the clip clopping of the horse’s hooves as they traveled along on the roads through ancient forests. You could feel the pain Lord Roger inflicted on Aubrianne and doled out to his servants. The characters, whether you loved them or hated them, were wonderful. Aubrianne is a woman to be admired for her strength and courage to get through the horrific abuse that she endured. Lord Roger is a cruel, cold, and heartless man that deserved to receive the same treatment that he dished out so easily to others. Larkin was kind, sweet, and patient and easy to find yourself drawn to. Wild Lavender is a historical romance that is packed full of action, suspense, mystery, intrigue, murder, and romance. A must read!

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A Mountain in the Air: A Trilogy by Laura Koerber – Review by Tara Johnson Barnes

A Mountain in the Air: A TrilogyA Mountain in the Air: A Trilogy by Laura Koerber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three novellas in one, all set in a mystical, dystopian future world that has been ravaged by climate change.

Coyote Jim is a shapeshifter who spends most of his time in the human form. He has lived in the desert all of his life but when climate change destroys all he knows he sets off in his truck in search of a new home. Along the way he meets numerous people and discovers they are also searching for better lives. In Coyote Jim’s journey of self discovery, he also finds love and hope.

Raven Woman’s Tavern is set in the near future in an abandoned mining town that is occupied by a small group of survivalists eking out a meagre existence. The story is centered on Rachel the Raven Woman, a shapeshifter, and her tavern. Many, but not all, of the community’s citizens are law abiding folks.

The third novella is focused on a musician named Pete who had a following back in the 1990’s but chose to disappear into the mountains. After forty years of living in solace he finds himself lonely and decides to approach people through their dreams.

Raven Woman’s Tavern was the first book that I read by this author, and I loved it. When I saw the trilogy available with three novellas included, I knew that I needed to read it. The novellas all gave a glimpse into how lives would be if we were suddenly stripped of all the modern conveniences, we have grown accustomed to having and often take for granted. This is something that I have though of often and found myself wanting a simpler life. Learning to fend for myself and be more self sustainable started with growing and canning my own food. These are skills that seem to have become lost through the years and I am hoping to pass these skills onto the next generation. Every year I build up on my skills and knowledge of plants and of being self-sustainable.

All three novellas include shapeshifting, magical realism, drama, and all contain the underlying important message about the havoc wreaked on the world by climate change. The author did a marvelous job of describing the characters, their lives, and the worlds they were struggling to survive in. The author’s description of a dystopian world ravaged by climate change really makes the reader more aware of the damage and pollution we are all part of creating. Unless we learn to stop destroying the earth we are destined to live in a world like the characters in the novellas. The world where fields of wildflowers grow on the mountain as far as the eye can see is the world I want to leave for future generations. Kudos to the author for bringing such an important topic to light. A great read!

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