Monday, October 31, 2022

Academy Arcanist by Shami Stovall (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


Academy Arcanist


Shami Stovall




GENRE: YA Fantasy






Hopes. Dreams. And literal nightmares out to kill a young boy.


Gray Lexly, son of a candlemaker, wants to escape his life of old-world technologies and study at the prestigious Astra Academy, a school for arcanists—those who can wield magic. But Gray has a major problem. Every night, as he sleeps, he’s visited by monsters. When they injure Gray in his dreams, he wakes with the same wounds in real life…


On the night Gray might finally die in his nightmares, he is saved by the kind and mysterious Professor Helmith, a powerful arcanist. She offers to protect Gray and invites him to attend Astra Academy.


Before that can happen, Gray must bond with a mystical creature to become an arcanist himself. Will he bond with a unicorn? A pegasus? A kitsune? Whatever he bonds with will determine his magical abilities, so he must choose wisely.


And when trouble finds Professor Helmith, Gray must become powerful enough to help her and fend off the terrible nightmares, before it’s too late…






“I don’t want to sleep,” I said. “The monsters will return. They’ll…” 

My father lingered by the door, half inside my bedroom and half in the hall. He turned down the light of my oil lamp, though he didn’t snuff it out. The shadows in the corners of my room grew darker. I dared not stare at them.

“The monsters aren’t real, boy.” My father offered a gentle smile. “Those were just nightmares. Everyone has them occasionally.”

I sat on the edge of my bed, my posture stiff as I tried to act twice my age. With my throat tight, I lifted my left arm. An injury ran from the crux of my elbow all the way to the edge of my palm, scabbed over and red. It was a straight and shallow cut, but it stung worse than a normal wound.

“The monsters are real,” I said, defiant. “I told you—they attacked me.”

“Gray, we talked about this,” my father said, sighing.

His shoulders sagged and his eyes were heavy lidded. He looked tired. Probably because he was. Every day, he worked from sunup until sundown, mixing waxes and perfecting wicks. He was our island’s only tallow chandler—a person who made candles with oil, wax, and animal fat.

My father wore an apron marked with his profession, stained by the hot wax. He rubbed his blistered hands down his sides, no doubt trying to think of what to say. I already knew what he would eventually settle on.

He would say, “You just fell out of bed.”

“You just fell out of bed,” my father muttered.

And then he would say, “I know your arm hurts, but it was an accident. Just go to sleep.”

“I know your arm hurts.” My father half closed the door as he spoke. “But it was an accident. Just go to sleep.”

All those long hours working meant my father didn’t like dealing with problems. He was rather predictable. His most common advice was to just ignore my problems. “They’ll go away eventually,” he often muttered. “Keep your head down and do your work.”

That was easier for him, I supposed.

And although I knew he cared about me and my brother, I sometimes feared he didn’t listen. The monsters in my dreams? They were real. One had attacked me, and if I hadn’t woken up, it would’ve ripped me apart.





AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators, or hugging John.


If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:








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My review:


4.5 stars


“Academy Arcanist” by Shami Stovall follows two brothers, Gray and Sorin Lexly, who want a life beyond their father’s candlemaking business. The dangers that follow Gray into his dreams prompt him to pursue his desire to become an arcanist--if he can survive long enough to take the tests.


This young adult fantasy is the first book in the ‘Astra Academy’ series, and returns to the creative world peopled by those who can bond with all sorts of beings, including knightmares, reapers, kitsune, and those rarest of eldrin, mimics. The adventures draw you in from the very first page, as the mystery of how Gray is being attacked in his sleep is contrasted with the struggle to get his parents to believe his troubles and the stalwart support of his brother.

I loved the creativity and the kinship I felt with these characters, including the insecurity of comparing oneself against others only to discover they are dealing with their own issues. It’s great that Gray isn’t perfect, and watching him learn from his mistakes while the brothers continue to support each other is heartwarming. The secondary characters are intriguing, and the layers of mystery that permeate the story make one anxious to keep turning the pages. Naturally, there are some dangling threads to keep one curious about the next story in the series, but this fun, action-packed story had a fascinating arc that reached an exciting conclusion, and I can’t wait to read about more adventures at this academy.



A copy of this title was provided for review

Monday, October 24, 2022

365 Days of Gratitude Journal, Vol. 2 by Mariëlle S. Smith (VNBtM, Guest post, excerpt, and GIVEAWAY) GFT


It is my pleasure to welcome author Marielle S. Smith, who kindly answers my question (although I hadn't expected quite so much advertising)...

ELF: How do you mentor others?


MSS:  I love this question so much. As a writing coach, mentoring others is literally my job, but being asked the question forced me to sit down and reflect on my coaching practice and whether I mentor others in any other way.


Here’s what came up for me:


52 Weeks of Writing


One of the ways in which I mentor others is through my 52 Weeks of Writing series. I created this series of journals/planners to help writers get out of their own way and users consistently describe the three volumes as ‘it’s like having a coach in a book’.


Of course, it’s not exactly the same and a journal can never replace the real thing, but the series has been lauded as an affordable way to get at least some coaching in your writing life.


My upcoming book, 99 Writing Prompts and Journal Exercises for Writers to Cultivate Courage and Kick Imposter Syndrome to the Curb, serves a similar purpose. If you want to check it out, I’m currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its launch.


The Accountable Wordsmiths


Those who’ve purchased a copy of 52 Weeks of Writing get access to my Facebook group The Accountable Wordsmiths. While the group is intended as a safe space where writers can support each other on their respective journeys, I reply to comments where I can, to offer guidance, ask deeper questions, make suggestions, and so on.


I also share my own struggles in the group to show we’re all in this together. I might have a lot of answers, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get into my own way as well ;)


Individual coaching sessions


As a writing coach, I offer individual coaching sessions to writers who somehow got stuck, whether that’s because their plot’s not working and they need a sounding board, they can’t figure out how to prioritise their writing time, they struggle to own their voice and brilliance, it can be anything.


Often, I find that writing-related issues are actually linked to author mindset issues. Someone might come to me with a plot problem, only to learn that the reason they have a plot problem is because they don’t dare to write what their story is asking for.


Or, they think they’re struggling to finish their novel because of time constraints, only to realise what’s really keeping them from committing are fears around their writing style or language proficiency.


3-Month 1:1 Coaching for Writers Programme


During the thirteen weeks of this programme, I work together with writers to figure out why they aren’t where they want to be. What I love about this programme is that it gives us time to dig deep and truly unearth how and why they’ve been getting in their own ways.


Because of my spiritual background—I’m a Reiki master, a Magnified Healing practitioner, a cartomancer, and an Akashic Records reader—I sometimes use different coaching modalities during the programme as well, if my clients are up for it.


Sometimes, we run into something that seems to be running so deep, it needs a little more than regular coaching sessions to get to the bottom of it. What these modalities do is offer a fresh perspective, an angle our thinking brains easily overlook because it might not be as obvious at first glance.


However, this is not for everyone and that’s absolutely OK—you don’t need to be spiritual to work with me. But, if you are open to explore this other approach, I’ve booked some great results using different these modalities.


While I used to offer these alternative coaching modalities only during the three-month programme, I’ve recently started offering individual sessions in my inner circle, the success of which made me decide to include a coaching reward tier for individual sessions in my current Kickstarter campaign where you can choose whichever modality you prefer.


At this point, I have no idea whether there’s any demand for that amongst my own followers, but it’s been so rewarding doing this for my friends and so immensely helpful, I wanted to give others a chance to try it too.


So that’s how I mentor others. I have my book, my Facebook group, and my actual coaching practice. When I started my freelance editing business all these years ago, I’d never expected to end up as a writing coach, but I’m so glad I wholeheartedly said ‘YES!’ to it when it crossed my path. .


365 Days of Gratitude Journal

Vol. 2


Mariëlle S. Smith




GENRE:   Non-fiction; self-help






*** Now available in black-and-white AND full colour! ***

The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.’ Mary Davis

Gratitude is not just about ATTITUDE.

Gratitude is about PRACTICE.

But how do you create a gratitude practice that sticks?

After the success of her first 365 Days of Gratitude Journal, writing coach Mariëlle S. Smith brings you Volume 2. Same journal but with an entirely different look!

After years of barely surviving her own emotional minefield, Mariëlle discovered the transformative power of practising gratitude. But, like no one else, she knows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done.

365 Days of Gratitude, Vol. 2 is an undated, guided journal. Complete with inspiring quotes, daily prompts, and recurring check-ins, it was designed to help you create a sustainable gratitude practice too.

Commit to the life-changing power of gratitude today and order your copy now!







I’m not here to sell you on gratitude. There are many articles and research papers I could be citing to convince you just how great practising gratitude is for you. I think you’re already aware of that, though. Perhaps you’ve read some of those articles and papers or maybe you just know it somewhere deep down—or not so deep down.


I’m not hooked on gratitude because it works wonders on my blood pressure and promises to help me sleep better. Although it probably does that, too.


I’m hooked on gratitude because it enables me to perceive everything in life as magical again. I’m hooked because I’m not the same person I was since I started practising it. And because I slip and return to being that anxious, burned out, overachieving workaholic as soon as I stray from the gratitude path—which happens far more often than I care to admit.


Gratitude is a commitment for life. I created this journal to help you commit and turn your gratitude practice into a sustainable one.


 Purchase Links

All purchase links can be found on



Amazon (Deluxe edition)

Barnes & Noble (Black and white edition) 

Barnes & Noble (Full colour edition)  



AUTHOR Bio and Links:


Mariëlle S. Smith is a writer, writing coach, and editor. She lives in Cyprus, where she organises private writer's retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.


Contact Links







YouTube channel




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The tour dates can be found here



My review:

4.25 stars


365 Days of Gratitude Journal, Vol. 2  by Marielle S. Smith is a non-fiction book aimed at reminding one to find something to be grateful for every single day, and encouraging one to reframe even negative occurrences into something to appreciate. There are inspirational quotations every so often, and a place to plan for making the following day even better.


I like the way this encourages you to live a life of positivity and to stop and appreciate things. Although I tend to like having lines to write on, the spaces allow one to perhaps sketch or apply stickers to help make the journal your own. I tend to forget to write daily in a journal, so it’s nice that the pages are labelled with just a sequential day which may or not be the next calendar day. The prompts such as what I could have been more grateful for today stimulate introspection and thoughtfulness. I think this would be a lovely gift to oneself or for someone else as a tool to make one’s outlook on life more positive.



A copy of this title was provided for review

Friday, October 21, 2022

Innocent Eyes by Gabbi Black (Spotlight and excerpt) ADULT title


Innocent Eyes

ADULT title


Gabbi Black

Hardworking university student Tarah Peters has observed tycoon Sebastian Merrick from her security guard post for weeks. Under his gaze, she experiences desire for the first time in her life, and his unexpected proposition both daunts and intrigues her. 

Sebastian doesn’t proposition women, but feels compelled to offer Tarah a place to live and money for her schooling while he introduces her to his darkly erotic world. Her naïveté calls to him, but he must maintain an emotional distance while showing her the meaning of submission.

Tarah yearns for Sebastian to admit he wants more than just a Dominant/submissive relationship, that their enthrallment is mutual. Can she convince him this might be more than just an affair?



She’s a diligent student.

He’s a masterful teacher.

Add it to GoodReads



Exclusive Excerpt


Like clockwork, Big Tits reappeared at four a.m. Tarah held the door open for the woman, watching to make sure she made it to her cab. Although that service wasn’t in her job description, she believed prudence was important. It wouldn’t do to have one of Mr. Merrick’s companions get injured and sue the strata corporation.

After watching the taxi depart, she took in a deep lungful of frigid air before turning back to her desk.

Sebastian Merrick leaned against her console.

She stopped dead in her tracks.

“Good evening, Miss Peters.”

She froze, rooted to the spot. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine he might know her name.

“Good evening, Mr. Merrick.” Morning had almost dawned, but she followed his lead. “How may I help you?”

His gaze was intense and unwavering.

Maintain eye contact. Don’t let him see how he affects you.

She tried to hold his gaze but, in the end, she couldn’t. His eyes were too incisive, too piercing.

“You get off work at six, yes?”

She swallowed convulsively. Damn dry throat. “That’s correct.”

“I’m taking you out to breakfast at six-fifteen.”

That would give her enough time to change from her uniform into street clothes. “That w-would be f-fine.” Stammer much?

He inclined his head and strode to the elevators. Of course, one waited for him. Even an elevator wouldn’t dare defy him.

When he disappeared into the car, and the doors slid shut, she let out the breath she hadn’t even been aware she’d been holding. Sitting because her legs couldn’t hold her any longer, she snickered because it never occurred to her to say no.





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