The Checklist Book by Alexandra Franzen

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  • Published: January 14, 2020 by Mango
  • Genre: Self-Help
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 160
  • Rating: 3 stars

Simplicity at its best: The checklist is one of the world’s oldest―and most effective―productivity systems. If anything, author and entrepreneur Alexandra Franzen shares, it is just as valuable now as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. Writing out a simple checklist allows us to tangibly plan our day and set in stone what we want to accomplish.

Cut out unnecessary noise: There are countless apps and organizational systems out there to help us straighten out our lives, but often they only add to the madness. Trying to keep up leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed. Learn how to choose your highest priorities, set realistic goals, celebrate tiny wins, and feel calmer every day with the magic of checklists.

Be realistic about the time in a day: By physically writing down our tasks on a single piece of paper, we force ourselves to limit how much we can do in a day. Too often, we cram our day with tasks and chores and leave almost no space for self-care or time with loved ones. We end up disappointed in our inability to complete our never-ending to-do list. Checklists help you plan your day in a more gentle, realistic way. You accomplish what needs to be done―and enjoy things you want to be doing, too.

Self-Help is not a genre in which I have read many books, but I pleasantly enjoyed Franzen’s The Checklist Book! Personally, I’ve never really created checklists for my daily routine; however, I was a strong believer in keeping up with a student planner during my school years!

In this book, I felt like the author did a wonderful job at explaining the importance of a checklist and I discovered that there are several different types of lists; I had only known of the standard one where you check off items you have completed for the day/towards your goal.

I can safely say that everyone will walk away with something from this read! I walked away with so much knowledge about lists and the tools to successfully create ones that will not be setting myself up for failure. Even if you currently use checklists, I still encourage you to pick this one up because there is tons of useful information that can further boost your own lists.

*I’d like to thank Nicole Pyles and Women on Writing for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Dali Summer by T.J. Brown

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  • Published: May 5, 2020 by Tule Publishing
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 344
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

Her wild and vivid visions inspire an icon…

Nothing is more important to prim, colorblind Dolors Posa than family and living down the shame of her illegitimate birth, but when the sudden onset of fantastical visions threaten her sterling reputation, she must search for answers before the inhabitants of the tiny village of Cadaqués brand her as demente— crazy like her mother. In a quest to stop her hallucinations, she befriends a beautiful, intoxicating fortune teller and her handsome anarchist brother, as well as becoming a reluctant muse for thirteen-year-old Salvador Dali. In a summer that changes everything, Dolors must choose between her family’s reputation and a life filled with adventure, friendship, rapturous color and the possibility of love.

Set against the political upheaval of 1917 Spain, Dali Summer captures the fierce spirit of Catalonia, the generosity and stubbornness of its people and the blossoming promise of a woman who thought life was bland and empty and had long ago passed her by.

I happened to finish this title in one sitting; it has been so long since I have read a historical fiction novel that captivated me like this one managed to do. The author provides an interesting array of characters, risky situations, and lots of love that will provide readers of all ages an enjoyable reading experience.

Dolors is a young woman who is colorblind and has been since she was six years old; she doesn’t have any close pals other than her brother Bernat, who has gained his mother’s concern due to still being unwed. The duo shortly cross paths with a fortune-teller named Lidia and her brother Xavi and establish a friendship with the pair despite their mother’s disapproval.

With the increasing amount of time spent with Lidia and her brother, Dolors and Bernat find themselves in some uncertain situations. Bernat seems to be falling in love with the fortune-teller, but are the feelings to be returned? Xavi seems to have affection towards Dolors, but will the woman who has never been in love find herself falling for the beau Lidia has forbidden her to fall for?

Love is constantly in the air during this novel; whether is love to be gained or love lost, Brown will keep you on your toes and constantly flipping through the pages to discover what is awaiting you next!

*I’d like to thank Trish Collins and TLC Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour and giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Well behaved women rarely make history. Teri Brown lived that quote way before she ever even heard it. The two things she is most proud of, (besides her children), is that she jumped out of an airplane once and she beat the original Legend of Zelda video game. She is a novel writer, head banger, pet keeper, math hater, cocktail drinker, booty shaker, book reader, city slicker, food fixer, French kisser, rule breaker, wine sipper and word scribbler. She loves her husband, kitties and chocolate.

Seduced Into Darkness by Carrie T. Ishee

Trigger Warning: This novel contains the following content that may be sensitive for some readers: attempts of suicide, drug use, emotional abuse, inappropriate relationship with person of authority, and manipulation.

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  • Publication date: August 1, 2020 by Terra Nova Books
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Edition: E-book
  • Pages: 286
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

This poignant memoir chronicles the traumatic psychological abduction and sexual exploitation of depressed college student Carrie Tansey at the hands of her psychiatrist, Dr. Anthony Romano―thirty-one years her senior. For three years, their secret “affair” was carefully calculated and controlled by Romano, as Carrie’s mental and emotional health continued to deteriorate, bringing her closer and closer to the edge.

Their dual-relationship―clinical and clandestine―finally came to light when Carrie’s suicide attempts landed her in a world-renowned psychiatric hospital. Gradually, she began to reclaim her power, reported Romano to the state licensing board, successfully sued him for malpractice, and testified before the state legislature to help pass a law aimed at curbing such abuses.

As Carrie tells her tale, it is a journey paralleling that of the mythical archetype Persephone, the naive innocent who was abducted into darkness, reemerged and regenerated herself, then fearlessly returned to the prison she had fled, this time to help free others. Today, Carrie Ishee is a widely respected art therapist and life coach as well as a teacher specializing in the issues of ethics and boundaries for mental health professionals.

For those of you who follow my blog, you are probably aware of the fact that memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read and review. With that being addressed, I was excited to be included in the tour for Ishee’s novel; this memoir is different from any other memoir I have read!

Throughout the novel, Ishee shares her own personal experience of being in an intimate relationship with her psychiatrist; as she documents the progression of their relationship from professional to unethical, the author draws on comparisons from the Greek mythology of Persephone. For those unfamiliar with the story, no worries as the author includes parts of the story prior to sharing her own personal connection to the tidbits shared.

Carrie is a twenty-one year old college student struggling with an immense amount of anxiety and depression when she is introduced to Dr. Tony Romano. The author’s only goal is to pinpoint what is causing her mental health issues to spiral out of control and for her mental health professional to be able to provide an effective method of treatment. To her relief, Dr. Romano does not think she requires medication. He suggests three years of psychotherapy and for her to take a break from her graduate studies despite the fact that she is only six months away from completion. Desperate for any possibility of feeling normal again, Carrie and her family are in support of Romano’s treatment plan.

Isolated from her friends, Dr. Romano gradually begins isolating Carrie from her parents as they begin to suggest that some of his activities with their daughter is overstepping boundaries. Ishee begins lying to her parents about her whereabouts, so that she is able to spend time alone with Dr. Romano who she now only calls by his first name: Tony. It is on these secret escapades that her psychiatrist begins supplying her with marijuana, coaxing her into nude photoshoots, and more. Carrie feels like these events are wrong, but through the manipulation of Tony she believes he has her best interest at heart.

This cycle continues on for a couple of years before the author is able to truly acknowledge her personal experience with Romano. When she “graduates” Tony’s course of counseling, she begins seeing a new therapist; it is during this time that she begins to understand how unethical her relationship with her former doctor was. She begins to slowly open up to her new counselor and finds the courage to seek justice for his wrongdoings.

I was able to binge this story in one sitting, it was that good! I personally feel like those individuals on the opposite end of a situation like this could view the author’s actions as unimaginable and as a position they would never wind up in, but Carrie is able to bring awareness to her readers that it is possible; like her, she had no intentions of falling for her mental health professional. However, over time the psychiatrist was able to use her weaknesses against her and would find that it would be years for her to process this experience for what it truly was.

This novel is empowering and eye-opening. If you enjoy memoirs, stories of female empowerment, or just wanting a new unique read then I encourage you to consider this one when it hits shelves!

*I’d like to thank Nicole Pyles from WOW, Women On Writing, for reaching out to me to participate in this blog tour. I was also provided a free copy of the book in exchange for posting my honest review.

Selah’s Stolen Dream by Susan Count

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  • Published: January 1, 2020 by Hastings Creations Group
  • Genre: Coming of Age, Fiction
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 262
  • Rating: 3 stars

One girl’s victory is another’s tragic defeat. Thirteen-year-old Selah’s perfect life unravels when her beloved horse is stolen.

Then ten-year-old Emma buys the dream of a lifetime at a horse auction. When she learns the horse was stolen, even removing her hearing aid won’t drown out the voice telling her to make it right.

But two girls can’t divide the horse they both adore. So will life surprise them with an answered prayer?

This is the final book in Susan Count’s Dream Horse Adventure series, although the books can also serve as standalones. Readers will follow Selah on one final journey and will delighted by the story’s outcome.

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*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Five Wakes and a Wedding by Karen Ross

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Nina is your average 30-year-old with a steady job, a nice home – and dead bodies in her basement. As an undertaker, she often prefers the company of the dead to the living – they’re obliging, good listeners and take secrets to the grave.

Nina is on a one-woman mission to persuade her peers that passing on is just another part of life. But the residents of Primrose Hill are adamant that a funeral parlour is the last thing they need… and they will stop at nothing to close down her dearly beloved shop.

When Nina’s ‘big break’ funeral turns out to be a prank, it seems like it’s the final nail in the coffin for her new business. That is, until a (tall, dark and) mysterious investor shows up out of the blue, and she decides to take a leap of faith.

Because, after all, it’s her funeral…

Photo of author

As a former journalist, broadcaster and advertising copywriter, Karen Ross has followed a fairly traditional path into writing fiction. Five

Wakes and a Wedding is her fourth book, and like its predecessors, the novel has two common threads: the setting is London’s Primrose Hill – Karen’s own neighbourhood – and one of the characters is a dog . . . this time he’s called Chopper and he’s almost the same size as a Shetland Pony Karen has been self-employed for many years, and continues to work as a marketing consultant, in the absence of an offer to manage Tottenham Hotspur. By way of credentials, her other ‘job’ is trading profitably on the world’s first football stockmarket, a platform called Football Index, where you buy and sell players with real money.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Until participating in this tour, I had not heard of this author nor read any of her works. I must also admit that I originally decided to partake in this tour because I was intrigued by the book’s title.

The main character, Nina, has recently found herself terminated from her job at a popular funeral home after making a decision that went against her boss’s wishes. Instead of wallowing in her own self-pity, she makes the decision to open her own funeral home; however, this move comes with its own set of problems. The neighborhood in which her business resides is known for lots of thing from spas to high-end restaurants, but businesses involving the dead it is not.

The chairman of the town’s association committee immediately marks her as an enemy and sets out to exterminate her services from the area. She begins to bring other civilians into her plots to ensure that Nina’s business does not succeed while Nina is just struggling to find a way to feel like she belongs.

Will Nina be able to stand her ground and win, or will she accept defeat? You will have to read to find out! I found myself enjoying this book and recommend it best for those who enjoy women’s fiction, reads that are light and comical, and for those wanting to branch out into different authors.

I’d like to thank Rachel Gilbey for organizing this tour and allowing me to participate.

The War Beneath by S.R. Hughes

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  • Published: October 1, 2019 by Permuted Press
  • Genres: Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
  • Edition: Hardcover
  • Pages: 320
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

“There is a war going on behind things, beneath them.”

Paul had been a forensic psychologist. But after his daughter’s funeral, he hit the rock bottom of a spiraling addiction. When the spirits of the dead started rasping their wishes in his ears, he fled New York for withering Oceanrest—a flat-broke city barnacled to Maine’s coast. There, he’s spent the last five years scraping by, trying to shake off the burdens of his past, pretending to be a man without context, without history, without the secret ability to speak with the dead. But soon, all of that will be taken away from him.

Deirdre’s spent the past fourteen years as a resident of Squatter City—the most distal and dilapidated of Oceanrest’s gangrenous appendages. Growing and harvesting a hydroponic farm of mystic flora and esoteric plantlife, she’s built a business as a drug dealer and apothecary. After years of relative peace, Deirdre’s life finally seems tenable. But when one of her regular clients double-crosses her, what little serenity she’s discovered quickly unravels.

Deirdre and Paul soon find themselves under attack from criminals and cultists, on the run from Quebecois mobsters, Aryan Nationalists, and a group of young men who seem dedicated to a cause of brutality and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.

S. R. Hughes inhabits the glittering darknesses between dreams but writes from Queens, NY. He’s been published in Sanitarium, the Wild Hunt eZine, and has had stories featured on several podcasts.

I must confess that I have not read many books that fall into the paranormal category, but have been slowly adding some titles from this genre into my reading and have discovered that I love it! This was my first time reading a title by this author, but after enjoying this one I will definitely be adding more of his work to my TBR.

Hughes finds a way to combine all sorts of elements into his plot without it confusing the readers or adding unnecessary substance. I started this book yesterday and found myself wrapping it up early this morning! I am a sucker for novels that are nonstop action and constantly throwing blows at you until the very end.

I highly suggest this one to readers who enjoy paranormal reads, who enjoy paranormal shows like Supernatural and Ghost Whisperer, and readers who enjoy fast-paced thrillers. I urge others to grab a copy of this book because I assure you that you will not regret it!

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*I would like to take a moment to thank Trish Collins from TLC Book Tours for reaching out to me about participating in this tour.

Lost Girl by Holly Kammier

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  • Published: January 5, 2020 by Acorn Publishing
  • Genres: Romance, Suspense, Young Adult
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 292
  • Rating: 3 stars

AN APPALLING ACT OF VIOLENCE AND AN UNSOLVED DOUBLE MURDER.

SMALL-TOWN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SHELBY DAY, IS DETERMINED TO HUNT A KILLER. 

As her search draws closer to uncovering the twisted truth, she begins receiving ominous warnings to stay quiet and drop the story. The young journalist is in danger. Her cameraman and best friend, a person with his own secret past, says he wants to protect her. But Shelby is headstrong and dodging anything that could lead to love. She can’t allow anyone to distract her as she fights for the two women who deserve justice. 

She never expects along the way she’ll have to stop and save herself.

Ticktock… If Shelby doesn’t solve the crime soon, she’ll become the killer’s next victim. 

This is my first book by this author and it will certainly not be my last! I sat down with this book and only planned to get a few chapters knocked out, but ended up binge-reading it in one sitting! This book has a little bit of everything: an unsolved double murder, a budding romance, and unexpected reveals!

When this book opens, readers are quickly introduced to the main character: Shelby Day. The protagonist’s career is in reporting and she is currently tasked with interviewing individuals close to the two murdered victims whose killer still hasn’t been caught.

Day’s character is very career driven and feels like she does not have time for a committed relationship while opting for casual flings instead. However, things get complicated when she starts acknowledging her deeper feelings for a longtime male friend.

The mixture of suspense and feelings of love continue to build as this novel goes on, which leads to one killer ending. You see what I did there?

I hope those who read this enjoy my review and are encouraged to pick this one up! I’d also like to take a moment and thank Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour.

Amber Hollow by Edgar Swamp

Trigger Warnings: This novel contains the following topics that may be upsetting to readers: gore, mass murders, sexual assault, and suicide.

  • Published: October 10, 2019 by Swampland Enterprises
  • Genre: Horror, Mystery, Suspense
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 471
  • Rating: 2 stars

On July 14, 1991, an isolated village in Northern Wisconsin is ground zero for an unprecedented, fiery tragedy. Of the community’s 600 residents, there are only five survivors. Detailed accounts by the victims contradict one another; the only link they have in common is a man named Anthony Guntram, who they allege is the primary suspect. Because he is presumably dead, this claim can’t be verified. Further inquiries expose a culture enshrouded in mystery. What are the survivors are hiding? Only the villagers know the secret of Amber Hollow, a place where sanity is checked at the town line, and the parameters of reality become blurred. An unconventional horror story by design, Edgar Swamp delivers an action-driven page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the calamitous ending.

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I must confess that the book’s cover and synopsis is what initially drew me to sign up for this tour. Once I started reading, I quickly became hooked; the readers are introduced to two detectives: Sadie and Jeremy, who are working a case about a suspicious fire set in the community known as “Amber Hollow.” The duo begin questioning their limited survivors, but soon realize that their stories aren’t lining up, but can’t seem to figure out why…yet. Unfortunately, it is shortly after these events that the book begins to lose my interest. I felt like this book had the potential to be a great horror read, but the author’s mentions of known serial killers and a climactic buildup that fizzled out by the end really put a damper on this one for me.

Throughout the novel, the author makes references to well-known serial killers such as: Jeffrey Dahmer, Jim Jones, and Ed Gein. I can understand his reasoning for including them as the case the detectives are working on involves elements drawn from these three in particular, but I felt it took away from the story a tadbit for me personally.

Throughout this novel, Swamp is slowly rewarding the readers with the pieces needed to complete the overall investigation puzzle. Readers are gaining insight from survivors’ testimonies, exploring the isolated community, and more with each new chapter. However, by the time the “big reveal” occurs, it came across as rushed and did not pack the punch it could have for me.

Overall, I found this book to be an okay read that was a fast read; I’d still recommend others to check it out. Perhaps, this one would be best for those readers that enjoy slow-burners.

Thank you, Goddess Fish Promotions for allowing me a spot on this tour and providing me a copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.

Heist by Kezzy Sparks

  • Published: October 31, 2019
  • Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Thriller
  • Edition: Kindle
  • Pages: 364
  • Rating: 3 stars

In this debut instalment, a dark mage acting on behalf of a vengeful ex has magically removed the genitals of a man and vanished, leaving him wiped clean down there. And unfortunately for the victim, he is set to wed…now imagine saying ‘I do’ while in that deprived state. 

No wonder when a shell-shocked and heartbroken Casey walks into Melanie’s office to report the incident, the witch hunter immediately goes on a chase, risking her own life as she encounters dark creatures and malevolent spirits in the city’s darkest corners.

The pressure is indeed on Mel: the wedding is fast approaching and leads remain few. Will she be able to corner the mage, recover the taken goods and save a doomed marriage, while bringing the conspirators to justice?

I must confess that once I read the synopsis on this one, I knew I had to read it! I love thrillers, but I haven’t read many with paranormal elements involved; however, this one did not disappoint! This title has a little bit of everything: a man looking forward to marrying his beloved, a mage hired to extract revenge, and a woman tasked with hunting down said mage.

The readers are introduced to Casey grabbing drinks at a bar before his upcoming wedding. He is looking forward to married life despite the feedback from his buddies. It is here that Casey encounters the mage, but her appearance has been altered by one of her spells; to Casey, she appears as this attractive, young woman that he can’t seem to resist. Her spell works and she manages to isolate him and perform her removal.

Alone with the victim, the mage performs the operation while he is in a drunken stupor. Upon awaking the next morning, he quickly spots the violation and begins seeking out solutions for his situation. While looking for answers, he is pointed in the direction of Melanie; she’s a witch hunter and agrees to help him out.

Melanie definitely has her work cut out for her, but remains optimistic that she can help restore Casey’s manhood. The wedding is days away, the mage has to be found, the stolen goods have to be returned…will justice prevail? You’ll have to read to find out!

* I’d like to thank Giselle from Xpresso Book Tours for allowing me a spot on this tour and for providing me with a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Once Upon a Time Bitches by Branden Lanette

Trigger Warning: This book contains topics that may be difficult for some readers: foster parenting and profanity.

  • Published: October 5, 2019 by Success in 100 Pages
  • Genre: Self-Help
  • Edition: Paperback
  • Pages: 112
  • Rating: 3 stars

Once upon a time I realized we all have a story, we all have a struggle and happiness is relative. I am not cynical or hardened, I am just stating the facts. Here’s the deal:

  • Prince Charming doesn’t exist. 
  • Fairy Godmother is drunk.
  • Glass slippers don’t come 2 Day Prime Shipping from Amazon.

There is no magic fairytale, but if YOU work at it enough you can come pretty close creating your version with a happy ending. The best part is, in life you can continue to make edits until that sh*t reads exactly how you want it to. 
You may not agree with everything I say in this book but the most important takeaway is that YOU have to be your own f-ing hero. No more damsel locked in a tower, bullsh*t. That ends now. Join me as I take you through my 7 Magical Maxims for creating a fairytale life. (I know what you are thinking: Branden, no one gets a fairytale life.) Can you stop being so damn cynical for two seconds and just go with this? 

Is it possible to design a fairytale life? Control your destiny? Be the hero in your story? I believe you can and that’s why I wrote this book. I am going to make you a little uncomfortable. Back out now if you aren’t ready. 
Sh*t is about to get real bitches…

Personally, I have not read many books pertaining to the self-help category; the most recent one that I read was Girl, Wash Your Face. Surprisingly, I found there were quite a few similarities between Hollis and Lanette; both authors dealt with challenges when it came to intimate relationships and foster parenting, but what made Lanette stand out was her confidence and no filter writing style. The author addresses the judgments she has faced, addresses the hardships she has dealt with, and addresses the work she put into turning her life around and shares those tips with her readers.

Branden Lanette acknowledges that she has a boy’s name, but does not feel ashamed about it and instead owns it. The author is the mother of six children and has no problem admitting that she has a “mom bod,” but would not trade it for anything. She may have several tattoos, but does not apologize for expressing herself the way she chooses. The list of things the author has been judged on is endless, but she does not let it prevent her from living the life she wants for her family and herself.

Sometimes, life can be overwhelming and it can appear as if dreams could not be further from reach; Lanette understands this a little too well. The author grew up with an uninvolved mother, which resulted in her emancipation and finding herself in a toxic relationship with a man that she would end up marrying TWICE. These difficulties that she faced made her continue to ignore the whispers inside her that said she should write her own book until one day something within her changed her mind.

Branden’s life has been far from a happily ever after; Lanette has made several mistakes along her journey, but has learned from them all and ends up providing the readers with her seven steps to living a fairy-tale life like the one she now does. These tips are ones that the readers will find fairly easy to achieve and will want to keep with them as they navigate obstacles in life.

I personally enjoyed this book, so much so that I finished it in one sitting! The page total is fairly short and Branden’s writing style will have you laughing throughout the book’s entirety. I highly recommend others to give this book a read as it provides for an uplifting and enjoyable read.

* l was provided a copy of this book via the author as part of Lola’s Blog Tours and in exchange for an honest review.