Thursday, September 16, 2021

Kyle and Corey and the Game-Store Mystery by Joe Stephens (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Kyle and Corey and the Game-Store Mystery


Joe Stephens




GENRE:   Juvenile (or Y/A) fiction






Kyle & Corey Holley (15 and 12) live in Fairly Springs, a small southern beach town. Kyle is a budding engineer; Corey is impetuous, funny and sports-crazy. Like most brothers, they fight often, but they also solve crimes—like the rash of recent robberies around town. When Kyle and Corey investigate, they learn that in each robbery, the thieves stole a high-end desktop computer. Why? What are they looking for? And how soon till they find it? Other complications include Corey's wheelchair-bound math tutor, Kyle’s after-school job in a local game store and a revolutionary new video game launching soon.

Kyle and Corey: Brothers. Best Friends. Detectives. They don't go looking for trouble; it has them on speed dial!







That night at dinner, sitting at their comfortable round oak dining table at

home, Mrs. Holley said to Corey, “She thinks you’re a pathological liar.”


“He is a pathological liar,” Kyle said, helping himself to more mashed

potatoes and pouring a generous helping of brown gravy over them.

Corey, sitting across the table from him, glared over his plate of sliced roast

beef, steamed broccoli, and a smaller helping of mashed potatoes. “Liar is a

strong word. I know the difference between truth and a lie, you turd.”


“Corey!” his mother said in warning.


“Well, I do. I only lied at the end a little, when I said the whole thing was a



“I know,” Mrs. Holley said. “Ms. Morrison hasn’t lived here long enough to

know what happened this summer.”


“That’s why I did it. If she’d thought it was really true, she’d have asked all

kinds of questions and probably made me write a whole other paper. She’s that



Mrs. Holley looked affectionately at her younger son. Corey had a knack for

picking out the essential personality traits in everyone he met, almost instantly.

He knew things about people after a ten-minute conversation that took therapists

months to root out.


Her husband Donald was proud of Kyle for his math and science abilities, his

kind and forgiving nature, his loyalty to friends and his gift for taking raw

materials and turning them into something new and unexpected. He was proud

of Corey for his people smarts, his vivid personality, and his natural ability as an

athlete. “I wouldn’t trade either of ‘em for a million bucks,” he told his wife

often, and she always answered, “Wait till someone makes you an offer.”


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AUTHOR Bio and Links:


JOE STEPHENS has been a fan of boys’ adventure books all his life, and in

this, his first series book, he’s created two boys as memorable as Frank and Joe

Hardy. He has a background in education and has also visited more than thirty

countries while pursuing his passion for scuba diving. He lives in Georgetown

with his growing family and three thoroughly spoiled cats.






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The tour dates can be found here





My review:



4.5  out of 5 stars


Kyle and Corey and the Game-Story Mystery by Joe Stephens centers around two brothers who join together, despite their sibling rivalry, to investigate a string of robberies in their typically quiet town. Kyle, the eldest, is a video game enthusiast, and his specialized knowledge helps him discover a few clues, but it turns out that he needs the help of his younger brother, Corey, to finally crack the case.


This young-adult mystery was such a fun read. I was captured from the very beginning, and I enjoyed watching the brothers approach both the mystery affecting their classmates and their individual responsibilities so differently. I was a big fan of the Hardy Boys, and this evokes their adventures with a modern twist. These two were a bit too perfect in some respects, but I enjoyed their interactions and the compassion they displayed. Those who are concerned with such things should be warned that the point of view switches a bit frequently, but I don’t think it detracted from the mounting suspense and the action.


There are references to a previous case the brothers worked on, but I am under the impression that this is the first in the series, and I can’t wait to read more adventures featuring the charismatic Kyle and Corey.



A copy of this title was provided for review


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Sophie Washington: Lemonade Day by Tonya Duncan Ellis (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


Sophie Washington: Lemonade Day


Tonya Duncan Ellis




GENRE:   Children's Middle Grade






When Life Gives You Lemons…Make Lemonade
Sixth-grader Sophie Washington and friends learn lessons about entrepreneurship and team work when they sign up for a city-wide, Lemonade Day event. Sophie wants to buy her mother something special for her birthday, but she’s short on cash. Her bestie, Chloe, comes up with the perfect solution. Build their own lemonade stand to raise money at Lemonade Day! The girls add friends Carly and Nathan, and Sophie’s little brother, Cole, to their team, and decide to donate some of their earnings to a local animal shelter to help save stray animals. Things are going great, until the family dog destroys their supplies. They get worse when Sophie tries to impress another boy in their class and upsets Nathan. Can they save their business in time for the event?








Lemonade (clap, clap, clap)


Crunchy ice (clap, clap, clap)


Sip it once (clap, clap, clap)


Sip it twice (clap, clap, clap)




Crunchy Ice


Sip it once


Sip it twice


Turn around


Touch the ground


Kick your partner out of town!




"Watch out, Sophie!" Chloe yells.




I accidentally kick a ginormous, cardboard box off the coffee table before freezing into an Egyptian pose.


My best friend and I are teaching Alexis, the five year-old we're babysitting, a hand game called Lemonade. Back in kindergarten, I was a Lemonade champ. Six years later, not so much.


"Oops!" I squat to pick up the box and tip it over. Papers and file folders spill on the floor.


"Let me help!" Chloe sweeps some of the printouts into a pile with her hands.


"Me too!" Alexis drops her robot pose and slides behind us, tumbling into Chloe. We twist like a pretzel, spreading paperwork all over the rug.


Wiggling near the fireplace, Alexis fans her arms and legs to make a paper snow angel. "This is fun!"


Our spacious den has copy paper everywhere.


"OMG!" I hold my hand over my mouth to cover my giggles.


"Get up, Alexis!" Chloe snickers, scooting to us on her bottom, and one of the papers rips.


"Girls!" Mom rushes into the room, and we freeze for real. "What are you doing?! I spent two hours organizing these files!"


My stomach drops.




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AUTHOR Bio and Links:



Tonya Duncan Ellis is author of the award winning, bestselling, Sophie Washington children's book series, geared toward readers ages 8 to 12, and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Her independently published books have been featured in the Houston Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun and have seen over 70,000 downloads and sales in the United States, India, Canada, and Great Britain. She has worked as a journalist and a freelance magazine writer, and is a graduate of Centre College of Kentucky and holds an M.B.A. degree from Washington University in St. Louis.


The twelve book Sophie Washington series stars a sweet and sassy African American preteen from Houston, TX and her diverse group of friends. Each funny and heartwarming story teaches lessons about friendship, responsibility, truthfulness, and perseverance.

Tonya loves to travel and has visited 49 American states, 20 countries, and three continents, but some of her best journeys have been between the pages of a novel. As a girl she could always be found with a book in her hand, and reading is still one of her favorite hobbies. When she's not reading or writing, the author likes to ride her bike, swim, and spend time with her husband and three children. She lives in Missouri City. 





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The tour dates can be found here






My review:



4.5 stars



Sophie Washington: Lemonade Day by Tonya Duncan Ellis is part of the ‘Sophie Washington’ series that details the adventures of a young preteen in Texas. This book follows Sophie as she learns about teamwork, accountability, and hard work while she and her friends become junior business owners and participate in a citywide “Lemonade Day” event, with assistance from friends and family.


One of the reasons I enjoy this author so much is the way lessons about life are presented in such a relatable fashion in these middle-grade adventures. There is no problem understanding the sibling rivalry, or jealousy of a friend who seems to have more (beauty, friends, allure, material items, etc.), or even how a thoughtless statement can have a hurtful impact when none was intended. I love the way I can identify with the emotions that Sophie experiences (even though childhood was a LONG time ago, lol) and the way she works her way through challenges until something positive results from them. This story does a great job of exploring the idea of entrepreneurship, teamwork, planning, and charitable giving. I love the diversity and variety of talents these kids embody, and the reminder not to discount anyone just because you can’t immediately tell what they can contribute. I love this series, and this is my favorite story yet!


A copy of this title was provided for review

Monday, September 6, 2021

Breaking the Shackles by Mell Eight (Spotlight, excerpt, and review) IMD


Breaking the Shackles

Series: Dragon's Hoard, Book Two


 Mell Eight




Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/06/2021

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 23600

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, bonded mates, royalty, interspecies, mythical creatures, shifters

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Separated and abused by the magi, twins Laine and Baine each swore to do whatever it took to break free and save the other. But when Baine arrives at the werewolf village prepared to rescue Laine and return home triumphant, he soon learns that any plan involving a dragon and a werewolf is bound to go awry. 





Breaking the Shackles
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

The haze covering Laine’s mind faded. Slowly he became aware of his surroundings and flinched at that realization. Awareness equaled pain: pain from the knowledge of those who had been so violently lost and pain as his own flesh writhed from the cruel ministrations of the creatures that had taken control of him.

The magi, his mind hissed. The magi had taken him captive with five others of his clan. Only he remained alive. The return of memories that came with his first moments free of the haze was one of the reasons Laine so hated each return to consciousness.

As the haze further retreated, Laine expected to feel a whip on his back or an excruciating pull as his magic was forcibly drained from his body. His magic gave him life eternal, brought breath to his body, and made his heart pump. Without it, the other five of his clan had perished, gasping for air they could no longer breathe for hearts that could no longer beat. The magi stole the magic that gave them life, and they died.

Shackles surrounded Laine’s upper arms, but pain did not wrack his body. His magic felt strong and hale, as if the magi had not drawn from him in hours. Strange, and worrying. What twisted plan did the magi have in store for him now?

Laine’s surroundings came further into focus. He felt like he was riding on something. His body was lifting and lowering in the air as whatever he was tied to bounded forward. His fingers were clenched in what felt like fur.

Laine did not open his eyes. That would alert the magi that he was awake and aware, which would lead to more pain. Instead, Laine enjoyed the soothing feeling of the fur below him. His mind drifted away into a dream—one in which he watched the magi die.

Wolves howled in the woods. One of the magi tugging Laine along the tangled forest path swore. The wolves were truly wondrous creatures. They broke cover and appeared in the clearing. One wolf with a white muzzle, as if he had dipped his nose in a bottle of milk and hadn’t yet licked himself clean, stood out. That wolf killed the magi who liked to giggle when he drew power from Laine.

Two more wolves appeared, the first a female of russet color and the second a light-brown male with large black splotches on his back. Together they ripped apart the magi’s second-in-command, a man with long brown hair and light-blond stripes growing from his temples. Laine found it strange that the magi bled the same color as Laine’s back did whenever the man gleefully used his whip.

And then a beautiful dark-brown wolf with the deepest, most wonderful brown eyes appeared in front of Laine and dove directly at the magi holding him captive. The connection between them snapped as the magi used both hands to defend himself against the wolf. Laine fell to the ground, released from the magi’s clutches. Claws slashed wickedly as the wolf backed the magi into a tree. Every time the magi opened his mouth to lay a coercion spell, the wolf increased the fervor of his attacks until all the magi could do was gasp and bleed. The wolf ripped the leader of the magi’s throat out soon after. Laine glimpsed the long black hair with two white stripes growing from the temples before a spray of blood disfigured the leader’s face forever.

The dream ended with Laine sitting on the forest floor while blood and wolves surrounded him. Even in the dream he returned to the haze. Laine wished it were possible for such things to come true. For the magi to be dead and Laine to be free. Well, it was a nice dream, but reality abhorred dreams.

Laine drifted. Hours, days…he couldn’t keep track of time. He didn’t want to keep track of time.

When he came to again, the situation had grown stranger. His side was warm and he heard crackling. Was he lying in front of a fire? He lay on a real bed with feathers and a pillow. A blanket was even tucked around his body. How many years had it been since Laine had felt the comfort of a simple blanket? He didn’t keep track of time for a reason.

He knew it would alert the enemy if he moved, but Laine couldn’t help it. He curled deeper into the warmth of the mattress and pulled the blanket over his shoulders. Laine ignored the shocked whispers behind him. Surrounded by unfamiliar comfort, his body fell into a real sleep—the first in a very, very long time.


NineStar Press | Books2Read




Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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My review:



3.75 out of 5 stars


Breaking the Shackles by Mell Eight centers around Laine, who has been rescued from his horrific captivity and brought to the home of the wolf alpha, Reese, but isn’t sure what his life is going to be like, because he fears he’s exchanged one captor for another. His twin, Baine, comes to rescue him, but soon learns there is a complex relationship between the werewolves, the dragons, and humans. Where will the twin maji fit in, and will they only have a brief time to enjoy their long-awaited reunion?


This gay paranormal romance novella is the second book in ‘The Dragon’s Hoard’ series, and picks up where “Finding the Wolf” left off. I love the way this author creates intriguing characters who are able to find love despite all of the trauma and terrible experiences they have had.


The novelty of expanding the concept of dragon hoards to living beings and applying that to werewolf society as well made this a fascinating story, although those who dislike “insta-love” may be disturbed by the connections that form quickly between various individuals. Although this can be read as a stand-alone story, it would be better appreciated if the first novella in the series is read first. Laine is a sweetheart, and his feisty twin makes a great foil for him, and it’s fun to watch the sparks and snark fly. There are lovely moments of levity (e.g. the “illness” displayed by the dragon Ana’Gail) and touching interludes warm one’s heart.


As always, I enjoy the way I’m immediately drawn into the story even as I wish for deeper glimpses of the various characters and their respective societies. Hopefully there will be more adventures set in this universe, and we will learn even more about all of these unique individuals.



A copy of this title was provided for review



Saturday, September 4, 2021

Five Dead Herrings by E.J. Russell (Spotlight, excerpt, and review)


Five Dead Herrings

Quest Investigations, Book One


E.J. Russell


Something’s definitely fishy about this case…

On my last stakeout for Quest Investigations, I nearly got clotheslined by a grove of angry dryads. I expected my bosses to reprimand me, but instead they handed me my first solo assignment. Me! Matt Steinitz, the only human on the Quest roster!

Okay, so the mission isn’t exactly demanding. Obviously, the bosses wanted to give me something they think I can’t screw up. I’m determined to show them what I can do, however, so I dive right in with no complaints.

At first glance, it looks as simple as baiting a hook: A selkie’s almost-ex-husband is vandalizing his boat with unwanted deliveries of deceased sea life. All I have to do is document the scene, tell the ex to cease and desist, and present the bill for property damages. Boom. Mission accomplished, another Quest success, and as a bonus, I get to keep my job.

But then things get…complicated. Suspicious undercurrents muddy up my oh-so-easy case. Nothing is as clear as it should be. And the biggest complication? My inappropriate attraction to the client, who may not be as blameless as he claims.

Turns out those dead herrings aren’t the only things that stink about this situation.


Five Dead Herrings is the first in the Quest Investigations M/M paranormal mystery series, a spinoff of E.J. Russell’s Mythmatched paranormal rom-com story world. It contains no on-page sex or violence, and although there is a romantic subplot, it is not a romance.






Jordan handed me the bag. “I stopped by your office to pick up the pastry trays from that big meeting yesterday. Zeke was busy, so I offered to do the delivery.” His brown eyes sparkled. “Your job must be so exciting. Who are we spying on?” He bounced a little on his haunches. “Oooh! Oooh! Is it Sasquatch?”

“Not this time.” I smiled wryly. Ted used to imitate Sasquatch by partially shifting and lurking in the woods near his place. He was lonely back then and trying to attract someone to talk to. It certainly worked on me. He hooked me like a lovesick trout. “A tree.”

Jordan’s face fell. “A tree?”

“Yup.” I pointed to the tree of my-own-personal-purgatory. “That one right there.”

He wrinkled his nose. “Ugh. Those are so stinky.”

“You can smell it?”

“Can’t you?”

Ah. Right. Werewolves had a heightened sense of smell. “No.” I shifted uncomfortably, my bladder reminding me of my earlier coffee intake. I eyed Jordan, who was frowning at the tree. Since he was here, I might as well take advantage of it. “Say, Jordan, can you do me a favor?”

Immediately, he brightened. “Sure! Just name it.”

I handed him the camera. “Keep this focused on the tree and if the dryad emerges”—I pointed to the shutter release button—”press this and hold it.”

“Wow.” His expression was almost reverent as he took the camera. “I’ve never been an assistant spy before.”

I buried a snort. Jordan was even less unobtrusive than trows and duergar. “I won’t be a minute. Just gotta duck behind a bush for a bit, if you know what I mean.”

He nodded sagely, but I’m not sure he really got it. “Sure thing, Hugh.”

Nevertheless, I checked to make sure his fingers weren’t blocking the lens before I crept away, keeping low and moving as silently as possible in the underbrush.

I took care of business, which lasted a little longer than I anticipated—hey, I drank a lot of coffee, okay?—and slunk back toward my stakeout blind, keeping my head down. But when I got to the thimbleberry, Jordan wasn’t there. I would have thought that I’d mistaken the spot, except the falafel bag was there, as was my lens cap.

But not Jordan. And not my camera.

I peered through the screen of leaves. The tree of heaven looked just as boring and just as dryad-free as it had all day.

“Jordan,” I muttered, “where the heck are you and where’s my camera?”

I spotted a flash of white about thirty yards to my right, completely out of sight of the target, and controlled my urge to roll my eyes. “Seriously, Jordan?” I murmured. The white wasn’t his Wonderful Mug T-shirt. No, that would be his bare chest. I couldn’t see below his waist, thank goodness, but I expected his pants were gone too.

“Get back here!” I hissed, but he was either too far away to hear or he was deliberately ignoring me. He brandished the camera and then beckoned and pointed in some kind of weird and totally unintelligible sign language.

I held up my hands, palms up, in a helpless shrug. He scrunched up his face and then made an exaggerated point of setting my camera down carefully.

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it!” I muttered.

But we were talking about Jordan so of course he did it. He shifted, and suddenly there was a lean gray wolf with a white blaze on his flank slinking through the underbrush.

“Goddamnit.” I took off in a low crouch toward my camera and reached it just as Jordan paused by the tree of heaven. And lifted his leg.

“Are you kidding me?”

But after a morning of no action whatsoever, I couldn’t risk missing an opportunity. If I were a dryad and a werewolf peed on my shoes…roots…whatever, it would probably provoke a reaction. I raised my camera to catch the fallout.

But nothing happened.

Jordan cast a glance over his shoulder, and even though he was a wolf, that expression was nothing short of cheeky. He continued past the now-watered tree of heaven toward a massive Pacific madrone about a dozen yards further on. He sniffed around the base, then raised his head and caught my gaze, holding it long enough that I got the message.

I pointed the camera at the same time he lifted his leg and—

“Holy crap!”

A dryad burst out of the madrone, knocking Jordan head over tail. Jordan’s yip and sharp whine almost made me miss the shot. But then another dryad charged out, and another, and another.

“It’s like some freaking woodland clown car,” I muttered as I rushed toward where Jordan had landed against the base of a maple.

By this time, there were about a dozen dryads dressed in Robin Hood grunge, milling around, shouting, and waving their arms like trees in a windstorm. Then they all spotted me and froze.

“Human,” one of them choked out.

Uh oh.

“Jordan,” I called, “run!”



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E.J. Russell (she/her) ), author of the award-winning Mythmatched LGBTQ+ paranormal romance series, holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she spent three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s now abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words across a rainbow of genres. Count on high snark, low angst, and happy endings.


Reality? Eh, not so much.


She’s married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, CH loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).


E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.




Social media:



Facebook group (Reality Optional)








My review:


4.5 out of 5 stars

Oh, I was so excited to realize this story is connected to the other 'Fae Out of Water' and 'Mythmatched' and 'Supernatural Selection' and all of those other lovely stories set in that universe, and I wasn't disappointed. There are multiple cameos of some of my favorite characters, some new folks to pique one's curiosity, and a mystery to follow. I adore Jordan the werewolf, and he is evidently going to be a contributing factor to this fun new 'Quest Investigations' series. This story is a perfect blend of humor, urban fantasy, and relationships, and I'm already tapping my foot waiting for the next exciting story in this fantastic new series.

A copy of this title was provided for review