Book Reviews: A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib and Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson @SaraBLarson @Scholastic @rajiahassib @VikingBooks

A Pure Heart
Rajia Hassib
Viking, August 2019
ISBN 978-0-525-56005-0
Hardcover

The Gubran family led a normal, content life in Cairo. Rose and Gigi were, to Rose’s thinking, the best friends that sisters are meant to be. There would always be quarrels, but nothing to break their bond. Even as they age, pursue further education, broaden their horizons with new people and ways of life; they would surely stick together.

Thinking back, though, maybe Rose hadn’t been so supportive. Or remotely open-minded. As Gigi grew more devout and adopted some Muslim customs that Rose considered outdated; rather than addressing it with Gigi, Rose silently stewed, waiting for her little sis to ‘come to her senses’. Perhaps if she’d attempted to understand—sincerely—they may never have agreed, but neither would they have grown apart. Maybe.

Younger siblings seem to live in someone else’s shadow, making self-discovery slightly more difficult. Delving deeper into her religion may have been the best way for Gigi to create her own light. She can almost understand why her parents essentially ignore the changes they have to see in her, but Gigi is stunned when her family makes no effort to understand her disappointment and dismay with her elder sister.

First, Rose decides to marry an American. To leave Egypt for the United States. She took his last name. Her sister should be “Dr. Gubran”, as she’s always dreamed. Proudly bearing the name of the family that supported her throughout, not the surname of some folks from West Virginia.

Unless…

Did Rose make those allowances for love? That, Gigi can understand. She, too, has chosen the love of a man, but over objections from her parents and friends. Gigi may not have made the best choice, but she doesn’t know that yet. Instead, she simply sees similarities between her love-life and Rose’s. She was pleased to, once again, have something in common.

Happiness for herself is short-lived. She feels sad for Rose, who doesn’t know about this connection. Gigi envisions sharing the secret she’s carried alone for years.  She must mend her relationship with Rose. She knows the perfect place to start. The American brother-in-law will be staying with her family while he is conducting interviews in Egypt for an upcoming article. Gigi vows to go above and beyond to assist him.

That is the decision that will ultimately change all of their lives.

Reading Rajia Hassib‘s A Pure Heart is like watching a moonflower unfurl, as dusk darkens, until the almost-iridescent, snowy-white bloom is wide open against the pitch-black night.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2019.

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Dark Breaks the Dawn
Dark Breaks the Dawn #1
Sara B. Larson
Scholastic Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-06869-6
Hardcover

Dark and Light were meant to exist independently, yet harmoniously. This provides and maintains balance for the world. Only, the rulers of Dark want more. They are determined take away the magic of Light and have waged war.

That very war has already taken Princess Evelayn’s father, and is currently keeping Queen Ilaria away from home. But (finally) the day of Evelayn’s 18th birthday arrives. The “18th” being of upmost importance as the ability to access full power has proven dangerous when wielded by immature beings. Evelayn has been impatiently awaiting this day since the moment she found out that the “more” she craved was not just possible, but promised.

So, that’s a pretty big deal, but there is something that pushes its way past the magic thing. The queen has promised to return for Evelayn’s special day. Even though the trip will take her from the frontlines, where she has been battling alongside the kingdom’s best soldiers.

And herein lies my first favorite thing: Royal Court receives pampering and protection during normal, every-day activities only. When it is time to fight, no one is expected to be more ferocious and fearless than the leaders.

Having always taken her physical training seriously, Evelayn can more than hold her own in a fight. And, the princess of Light has mastered the mask—the stoic expression that is to reveal nothing of her thoughts or feelings. Albeit not always employed, she is also able to perform her duties with the courtesy and politeness expected by her parents. Yet, she is nowhere near ready to replace her mother; Evelayn can’t even shift.

As day breaks, Evelayn awaits the arrival of her full power and her mother, while Dark prepares the grand finale. Step one being to kill Queen Ilaria.  Without the conduit, the people of Light will not be able to access individual powers.

The magic may be restored. It’s just a small matter of Evelayn becoming Queen, performing the requisite ceremony with her high priestesses, then accessing and redistributing. In three days. If it doesn’t go down, exactly right, in that tiny time window, there is an opportunity for Dark to steal the magic for themselves.

Ms. Larson is not afraid to hit the ground running (really) in her magic-filled-fantasy, Dark Breaks the Dawn. I may not have fully understood everything at first, but that couldn’t keep me from franticly flipping pages to find out what’s next. Just as the big picture was coming into view, I smugly ‘figured out’ how this tale would end.

I was wrong. Now I’m off to find a copy of Ms. Larson’s Bright Burns the Night because I haven’t had nearly enough of this world.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2019.

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Book Review: Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. by C.A. Gray @AuthorCAGray @AnAudiobookworm

Audiobook Tour: Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. by C.A. Gray

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Author: C.A. Gray

Narrator: Matthew E. Berry

Length: 6 hours and 16 minutes

Publisher: Wanderlust Publishing

Released: July 17, 2019

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism


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Workaholic insurance attorney Luke Darringer has it all: money, looks, ambition. Sure, he hasn’t taken a vacation in over a decade, and his personal life is almost nonexistent – but that’s a small price to pay in order to maintain strict control, and minimize his vulnerabilities.

But then Luke’s firm, with the help of his cheeky administrative assistant Charlotte, strong-arms him into becoming the first-ever client of the new Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. The new company promises fantastical vacations to wealthy clients, as well as controlled therapeutic experiences to individuals suffering from various forms of mental illness, such as autism and PTSD. They’re a potentially huge client for Luke’s firm, but they need liability insurance before they can get off the ground. Luke expects he’ll have a quick little canyoneering adventure like he did back in his college days, and then get right back to the grindstone.

But Luke’s adventure doesn’t quite go the way he planned. Eli, the entrepreneur in charge, assures Luke that the glitches are nothing to worry about, and they’ll have things under control again in no time. Instead, Luke soon finds himself in a wilderness of questionable reality, where he is responsible not only for his own safety, but also Charlotte’s, Eli’s, and that of a nonverbal autistic boy whose vulnerability strikes a bit too close to home. Forced to confront his past and his deepest fears, Luke must decide whether to rewrite history and become the man he’s always wanted to be – or whether instead he is doomed to repeat it.

Buy Links

Buy on Amazon


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By day, C.A. Gray is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) with a primary care practice in Tucson, AZ, and she writes medical books under her real name (Dr. Lauren Deville). She lives with her husband, with whom she maintains a facetiously contentious movie review blog, and travels as often as they can get away. When not writing or seeing patients, she does yoga, drinks red wine while eating dark chocolate, and consumes audiobooks like there’s no tomorrow!

WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreadsInstagram

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Narrator Bio

Matthew has been very active in his career as a radiologic technologist, but something was nagging at him. His urging to be involved with the written word. The medical journals he wrote did not fill the desire for the kind of words he wanted to be a part of. He had always considered himself a writer. But one that often had difficulties completing the story. So, how else could he be involved? Matthew began listening to audiobooks and decided in 2017 that he was going to give it a try.

He now has 9 audiobook projects on sale at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with two projects in the works.

TwitterFacebookInstagramSoundcloud

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I’ve been enjoying Ms. Gray’s audiobooks for a while now so tackling this one was a given but I actually had another reason for wanting to read it. Back in the day, when I was in the corporate world, my career was very much like Luke’s except that I wasn’t an attorney. I was an insurance casualty underwriter, tasked with deciding whether my company would agree to insure a particular client, and that frequently involved my visiting to see the operations for myself. Mind you, we didn’t deal with entertainment or high tech but the core process is pretty much the same.

That said, my predisposition to like this book was spot on. At the same time, I was surprised at what the story turned out to be because I was expecting something like a high tension thriller when, in fact, it’s more of a look at how life shapes a person and what forces come into play in our personal growth once we allow ourselves to be open to change and to face our pasts. This is no boring psychological study, though; watching Luke get the benefit of what Dreamscape Adventures has to offer is heightened by a fast-paced adventure with plenty of twists to keep you guessing.

Matthew E. Berry is a new narrator to me and I found him quite accomplished with different voices (including female) and he helped me connect to the characters. His pacing and his dramatic intonations were also good and, for me, he was a real asset to the story.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by C.A. Gray. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Giveaway

Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card

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Aug. 27th:

Viviana MacKade

Nesie’s Place

Aug. 28th:

Hall Ways Blog

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

Aug. 29th:

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

T’s Stuff

Crossroad Reviews

Aug. 30th:

Buried Under Books

Country Road Reviews

What Is That Book About

Aug. 31st:

Momma Says To Read or Not to Read

My Creatively Random Life

Audiobook Ebook Fascination

Sep. 1st:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Sep. 2nd:

Locks, Hooks and Books

The Book Addict’s Reviews

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Book Reviews: Journey to a Promised Land by Allison Lassieur and Three Twigs for the Campfire by Joseph Cognard

Journey to a Promised Land (I Am America)
A Story of the Exodusters
Allison Lassieur
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1631632761
Trade Paperback

Hattie has a dream. A far-reaching fantasy, some would say, but she knows she can find a way. She will become a teacher.

The spring of 1879 tried to bring a fresh start to a new world in Nashville, Tennessee. Although each of Hattie’s parents had been born into slavery, both obtained an education immediately following the Civil War. Her father works just as hard today, but for it is himself and his family and in his very own black-smith shop. Her mother happily runs the household and Hattie contributes, too. Not only a stand-out student, she also earns money for her family by mending for Miss Bradford.

It’s a good enough life for Hattie. She knows, of course, that recently, black folks have been joining together to make the journey to Kansas. Tales of towns with nothing but black faces tempt her parents and Mr. Singleton sure has been working hard to convince her family to make the move to Nicodemus, a small town being established and in need of a blacksmith.

It isn’t until her father leaves the house for a meeting about the potential move that it hits Hattie. She’s heard stories of what happens to black men who dare attend these gatherings. And suddenly, she is scared for her father. After seeing him on the receiving end of retaliation—Nat had the audacity to charge a white man for his work—Hattie understands the very real danger they are in.

Loathe to miss school, Hattie could not have imagined the education she would receive during her journey. Seeing the stark differences between the group of black travelers when compared to almost every clump of white men, was a shock. Whereas individual black people intuitively worked towards the greater good of their party, sharing the last crumbs and caring for those in need; the freakish faction of inexplicably angry, willfully ignorant and hella hateful white men appeared to unite solely to terrorize black citizens.

I wish I could put a copy of this heroic historical fiction in every single classroom. It is that good and unquestionably, that vital. Although Hattie’s family may be a figment of the author’s imagination, Benjamin “Pap” Singleton was very real and invaluably instrumental in helping hundreds of African Americans move from Tennessee to Kansas.

Ms. Lassieur shares this story of the Exodusters by popping the reader right into the mule-driven wagon to bear witness to the atrocious, senseless acts against black people. But she also demonstrates the intuitive kindness, generosity and strength of each and every black person, automatically reminding everyone to continue the good fight. Oh, and I can’t wait for you to find out why the emigrants were dubbed “Exodusters”.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

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Three Trees for the Campfire
Joseph Cognard
CreateSpace, January 2013
ISBN 978-1482320985
Trade Paperback

At first, I want to judge this book by its cover. The campfire calls to me, then captivates as I notice it’s not at simple as it seems. But before I know it, I’m completely caught up in the quintessential summer read.

Three siblings surround the glowing embers to swap stories and sleep under the stars. Billy, being the youngest, is participating (fully) for the first time, so being in his head at the beginning perfectly sets the scene.

“Billy began to worry that, like the fire, he might not make it through the night.”

The eldest, Jack, begins with a fantastic tale featuring a dragon. When Chelsea follows with her own natty narrative, she subtly weaves in bits and pieces from her brother’s story in a sweet (but not corny) kind of way. Billy may be bringing up the rear, but he can spin a yarn as well as his siblings. And he’s pretty slick about bringing in a real-life character.

Authentic and relatable, in a dreamy sort of way, I thoroughly enjoyed this tiny tome that probably fits best in the Juvenile Fiction genre, but I can easily imagine anyone enjoying it.

Huge thank-you to the author for sharing this with me!

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2018.

Book Review: Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

Outrun the Wind
Elizabeth Tammi
Flux, November 2018
ISBN 978-1-63583-026-2
Trade Paperback

Never, ever forget to honor Artemis. This Greek goddess relishes revenge. With a fine-tuned, blood-curdling cruelty. One retaliation resulted in the creation of The Calydonian Boar. In an either epic display of ignorance, or a sick desire to taunt the deity, the very King that caused her anger, proceeds to order his son to select a hunting party to slay her beast.

Despite vehement opposition, Prince Meleager includes Atalanta. He knows she’s an asset as “…the fastest runner he’d ever heard of and the most precise archer he’d ever dreamed of,” but his comrades simply see a beautiful, but (by definition, useless) female.

Until the moment the boar is felled. And the men see Artemis, in her righteous rage and flanked by her huntresses, glaring at them over the corpse of her creation.

Then, the hunters happily give Atalanta full and complete credit for the kill. She has only one real option. Atalanta runs.

Fighting to make her own way (quite literally), Atalanta is followed by one of Artemis’ patronesses as her father frantically searches for her. Kahina, a natural huntress with hidden knowledge, makes it to Atalanta’s home first, and awaits her arrival.  It is when Atalanta and Kahina come together that the sparks really fly.

I’ve always been a fan of retold fairy-tales, so I was certainly psyched to check out mythology re-imagined. Ms. Tammi manages to stay true to themes; the lives of mere human beings are secondary to the quarrels among the gods and goddess, while keeping current with quick-witted, cutting dialogue. This is simply too good to keep to myself, so I’ll be sending my copy to my favorite classroom library. And I’ll be looking forward to more from Ms. Tammi.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2018.

Book Review: Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

Unwritten
Tara Gilboy
Jolly Fish Press, October 2018
ISBN 978-1631631771
Trade Paperback

Gracie is basically a good girl. Inquisitive and tenacious, maybe she sometimes skirts the rules. Not so unique for a twelve-year-old, and really, it is only one of Mom’s orders that Gracie disagrees with. She believes that information is knowledge, knowledge is power and she has a burning need to know her own story, in its entirety.

Because, Gracie’s tale has already been told. Well, written.

Of course, neither Gracie, nor her maternal parental unit, had ever actually read the book by Gertrude Winters. At best, they know a fraction of the tale. Gracie was told only that they escaped the fictional Bondoff, ruled by cruel Queen Cassandra, so that Gracie could live a safe life. Here, in the real world.

Not good enough for this curious lass. When Gracie sees that Ms. Winters will be visiting a book-store nearby, she realizes her opportunity to obtain answers, but can’t show up empty-handed. The single parchment page torn from her story will be perfect. Despite specific instructions to the contrary, she unlocks the box.

Ms. Gilboy’s fresh, magical fantasy somehow feels like a cozy classic…but with a kick. Determinedly focused, Gracie can be a bit gruff. But Walter, her fictitious friend who is wholly unaware of their parallel lives, is more patient and pragmatic. His approach is practical, in a methodical, kind of way. Whereas Gracie knows just enough to be dangerous and in pursuing answers, she plunges back into the unraveling role written so long ago.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2018.

Book Review: Beneath by Maureen A. Miller

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Title: Beneath
Series: Beneath, Book 1
Author: Maureen A. Miller
Narrator: Brandy Skelly
Publisher: Maureen A. Miller
Publication Date: August 17, 2018

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Beneath
Beneath, Book 1
Maureen A. Miller
Narrated by Brandy Skelly
Maureen A. Miller, August 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It was Stella Gullaksen’s final break before starting her freshman year at college. Joining her best friend Jill and Jill’s family aboard the Starkissed, Stella wakes up to a violent storm that capsizes the boat over a hundred miles off the New Jersey shore.

As the waves pull her under, Stella knows that she is going to die. Instead, an unusual current drags her deep into the underwater canyons of the Atlantic Ocean. Powerless against the raging waters, she is suddenly sucked into a ventilated cave. One by one, Jill and her family also emerge in the sunken cavern. With only a faulty diving flashlight to keep oblivion at bay, Stella and her best friend’s brother Colin search the cave in hope of finding a way back to the surface. What they discover, however, is that they are not alone. There are other survivors in this subterranean grotto – survivors spanning decades of maritime disasters.

Will this discovery prove salvation, or have they all been condemned to the same fate? A grim finale at the bottom of the sea? On an alliance forged by friendship and attraction, Stella and Colin battle to escape the danger that lies beneath.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; is the phenomenon pure fantasy or science fiction or perhaps even real? No one has the definitive answer but there is no question that a lot of boats and planes have been found on the bottom of the Atlantic and disappearances continue to happen. The premise that Ms. Miller suggests in Beneath is not all that bizarre considering the oddities of the Triangle, is it?

Now, just suppose such a thing happened to you and you found yourself in a vast undersea cave system with other people who had been “saved” over a period of many years. You’d be filled with questions as are Stella and Jill’s brother, Colin, and no one would be surprised when they act on their curiosity, going in search of answers. They find some of those answers, leading to even more, but perhaps the biggest is, are they condemned to remain here until…

Stella is a likeable character—as is Colin but he’s less vibrant—and I had no trouble believing in her personality, her attitudes and her determination to brave the unknown. I’m glad, actually, that her story isn’t over yet and that a sequel is coming.

Brandy Skelly brought Stella to life for me even though there were moments when her narration wasn’t entirely successful. Between Ms. Miller’s intriguing story and Ms. Skelly’s telling of that story, Beneath is a tale worth hearing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

 

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About the Author

USA TODAY bestselling author, Maureen A. Miller worked in the software industry for fifteen years. She crawled around plant floors in a hard hat and safety glasses hooking up computers to behemoth manufacturing machines. The job required extensive travel. The best form of escapism during those lengthy airport layovers became writing.

Maureen’s first novel, WIDOW’S TALE, earned her a Golden Heart nomination in Romantic Suspense. After that she became hooked to the genre. In fact, she was so hooked she is the founder of the JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE website.

Recently, Maureen branched out into the Young Adult Science Fiction market with the popular BEYOND Series. To her it was still Romantic Suspense…just on another planet!

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Instagram

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About the Narrator

Brandy Skelly studied theatre in college, and even participated in storytelling festivals when she was growing up. She’s a practicing attorney, and loves to participate in ACX projects to keep her creative side happy and fulfilled. She can perform fiction and non-fiction, in neutral-American or Southern-American accents.

Brandy lives in North Carolina with her husband, toddler, and pound puppy. She has a soft spot for romance and she loves a good laugh!

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Medallion of Murder by BR Myers

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Title: Medallion of Murder
Series: A Nefertari Hughes Mystery #3
Author: BR Myers
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Link:
Amazon

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Medallion of Murder
A Nefertari Hughes Mystery #3
BR Myers
Blue Moon Publishers, September 2018
Ebook

From the publisher—

Still struggling with nightmares from the past summer, Terry tries to bury her secret guilt and enjoy her family’s first Christmas in Devonshire. But when a murdered man is found with a postcard addressed to her, Terry fears the repercussions from that fateful night in Egypt are becoming a reality.

After she receives a coded message from Awad, Terry and her best friend Maude are thrown into the hunt for a lost medallion, an artifact that possesses a great power—and a gruesome destiny. As each clue leads to more disturbing truths (and bodies), Terry begins to suspect she’s the real target of the search. When Awad goes missing, she becomes certain the Illuminati are involved, and has no choice but to risk losing the thing she cherishes the most to get him back.

But Terry will soon discover the secrets of the tomb cannot be erased by distance or power, because the ghosts of her past are closing in quickly… and this time, they refuse to stay buried.

Nefertari Hughes is a most remarkable young woman. Wearing a prosthesis is no hindrance to her nor does she let the loss of her leg dampen her enthusiasm for life and she’s already ready for adventure. That’s a good thing because, once again, Terry and her friends are drawn into a deep mystery with tones of the supernatural, Terry fearing that a murder is somehow tied to deadly events that took place in Egypt.

Terry, who has some superhuman abilities, and her friend Maude throw themselves into the hunt for a killer and for a medallion that holds special powers. Meanwhile, bodies pile up and her Egyptian friend, Awad, goes missing after leaving a few clues and Terry’s nightmares about those events in Egypt continue to plague her. Then there’s that mural somebody painted under a bridge…Tangentially, Terry and her boyfriend, Zach, have to deal with day-to-day issues that confront teens but the hunt takes precedence.

This is a series that I think is best read in order, especially because there is not a lot of backstory offered to bring a new reader up to date. I do think it’s unfortunate, though, that readers who choose not to buy books from Amazon or read on a kindle have no options; while many small press and independent authors’ books can be found in some version, paper or electronic, on multiple platforms, this series is only available on kindle. I hope that Ms. Myers and her publisher will at least offer her potential fans—for this is a very good series—paperback editions in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and independent bookstores.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

Update: print editions are available at Indigo and Amazon.ca and will be listed soon at Amazon.

About the Author

Always in the mood for a good scare, B.R. Myers spent most of her teen years behind the covers of Lois Duncan, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King. Her YA contemporary coming of age novel, GIRL ON THE RUN, was chosen by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a BEST BOOK for TEENS for 2016.

When she’s not putting her characters in awkward situations, she works as a registered nurse. A member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia, she lives in Halifax with her husband and two children—and there is still a stack of books on her bedside table.

Author links:  Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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Follow the tour here.

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