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Book Blast & Giveaway: The Disappearance of Emily (Destiny Falls & Magic, #2) by Elizabeth Pantley

The Disappearance of Emily

by Elizabeth Pantley

May 23, 2023 Book Blast


The Disappearance of Emily by Elizabeth Pantley

A magic mirror. An enchanted world. A mysterious missing mother. A suspicious package. An unexplained death. A community of strange, quirky people. A sassy cat and a hilarious, perpetually annoyed witch. Come visit Destiny Falls and escape to a great time

Hayden’s life was normal until she fell through a mirror and was thrust into an alternate, magical place. Destiny Falls is not on any map and is home to a family she never knew she had. The town is enchanted and charming, and the amazing mansion she lives in changes to meet the needs of the people who live there, including her! Every day she discovers a new enchantment.

But something is amiss. Hayden gets an ominous warning from a strange woman, who promises to tell her the town secrets and give her a package – if she’ll meet her at the mysterious ferry that lacks a published destination. The ferry visit is cancelled, but the package is delivered. Once it arrives, someone turns up dead. Then the suspicious episodes start, too many to call them coincidences. She and her family are targeted and in danger.

Who or what is causing the chaos? All signs point to the mysterious disappearance of her mother – way back when Hayden was just two days old. Can she identify and eliminate the threat before another person in her life is stolen away? Can she learn more about the secrets kept for her lifetime? With the help of her sassy sidekick cat, and a host of new family and friends, Hayden finds herself surrounded with support as she solves the mystery of the death and learns secrets about herself.

Praise for The Disappearance of Emily:

‘Intriguing and totally unput-downable, it draws you in from the word go, and you will not want to leave until it chucks you at “The End.”‘
~ Carol, Goodreads

“Will blow you away!”
~ Cozy Mystery Book Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Better Beginnings, Inc.
Publication Date: March 2021
Number of Pages: 208
Series: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic Series, Book 2
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:


The mountain trail was tricky. I was moving slowly through the deep snow. I knew the lake had to be nearby. It was important to find it, but I could barely see ten feet in front of me due to the storm. The trail was steep and slippery, and I was making my way using trekking poles to assess where I should step next. My hands and feet were cold. I heard Latifa calling out to me. Where was she? What was she saying?

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Her lilting voice woke me from my dream. “Happy one-month-a-versary!”

It’s amazing how accustomed I’d grown to my cat’s telepathic voice in my head. I squinted at my fluffy Himalayan sidekick. She was sitting beside me on the bed. I stretched out my arms and gave an extra-loud yawn in her direction, hoping she’d get the hint that she had woken me up.

“Message received. Woke you up. So sorry. Got it.” She squinted at me and whispered, “Not sorry.”

I yawned at her again.

“Bet you forgot today is one month from the earth-shattering day we arrived in Destiny Falls.” Her big, baby blues were focused on me, and her whiskers were twitching. “I have appointed myself Keeper of Your Calendar. You can be so forgetful about celebratory dates.” She shook her furry head as if it were impossible to believe.

I gave another exaggerated stretch and reached over to the bedside table. With a flourish, I presented her with a small, gift-wrapped package.

“Squeeee! You remembered!” She head-butted my face and spun a little circle on the bed, then turned to tear open the package. There was more squealing as she discovered her new, feathered cat toy.

I patted my sidekick’s head and tossed my legs over the side of the bed. A glance at my phone confirmed that Latifa-the-alarm-clock was right on time. I needed to get changed and meet Axel downstairs for a morning jog into town. He was often too busy with work to join me in the morning, so it was a wonderful treat to have some extra time with my newfound brother.

My brother. How I loved the sound of that. After a lifetime as an only child in a tiny three-person family, finding out that I had siblings and a large hidden family was monumental. Add to that a mysterious, magical new world, and I was floating on cloud nine.

The only dark spot was missing my family and my best friend, Luna. I was still trying to figure out how to tell them about Destiny Falls. I’d have to sort this out soon, since my cover story of a working trip to Denmark was nearing its expiration. A month overseas was feasible, but as the timeline continued, I’d need to address my disappearance.

My Nana and Granana would be happy that I was happy. They’d been my biggest cheerleaders my entire life. They always said my happiness mattered most to them. Both my parents disappeared the week I was born, so my grandmother and great-grandmother jumped into raising me. They were dedicated to the job, with an enthusiasm that was a complete contrast to their tiny, delicate appearances. Luna and I referred to them as the Mighty Minis, which was an apt description.

Figuring out how to explain that I wasn’t really in Denmark, but in a magical, hidden town in an unknown location was a whole new ball of wax. Especially since the town was finicky about who it revealed itself to. Any e-mails or texts I attempted to send explaining my location, disappeared into the ether in a wisp of bounces— undeliverable, message not sent, connection lost. Even phone calls suddenly lost the signal. Maybe Axel, my brother—deep sigh of joy—could help me solve this problem.


I turned on the movie channel for Latifa, my furry little movie buff, tucked my ponytail through the back of my baseball cap, and headed out. I strolled slowly down the hallway, so I could absorb the beauty of this amazing home.

Hmm. That was odd. Where was the window seat? It was usually somewhere in my hallway, but it was oddly absent. There was a glorious swatch of sunlight, which is where it normally would be lounging. I snickered. Imagine that. A window seat that can lounge in the sun. Magic touched the Caldwell Crest home in the most interesting ways.

Caldwell Crest is a masterpiece of design. It could be described as a cozy, mansion-sized mountain cabin. I felt embraced by the sweeping staircase made of polished wood. I loved the plank wood floors and ceilings and the gorgeous but understated chandeliers. I adored the stone fireplaces that soared all the way up to the tall ceilings. The earthy colors of the décor were soothing. Even after a month, I was still adjusting to the fact that it was now where I lived.

The home was enchanting. I could almost believe the rumors that it was originally built as a castle back in the 1800s and magically remodeled many times. It’s difficult to understand Caldwell Crest and the mysterious place that was Destiny Falls, especially since the definition seemed to always be changing.

It had been a wild ride of a month since I’d been thrown through a portal and landed here.

Destiny Falls is different from any place I’ve ever known before. I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what defines a town. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that the town isn’t on any map and isn’t accessible by normal means.

You must be called here by either the home or the town. Then you whoosh through time and space, to the accompaniment of a flash of brilliant light, as you tumble through a mirror. It’s a one-way trip. Once you’re here, you are, well . . . “trapped” is a harsh word for such a lovely place. However, it’s accurate. I cannot choose to leave. Destiny Falls controls the comings and goings.

I feel a bit like Alice falling through the mirror into wonderland. Albeit a much nicer wonderland than Alice had to deal with.

I’ve figured out that’s it’s easier if I just go with the flow and don’t try to understand all the nuances of this place.


Excerpt from The Disappearance of Emily by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2023 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Elizabeth Pantley

Elizabeth Pantley is the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents, published in over twenty languages.

She simultaneously writes the well-loved Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic book series and the new Magical Mystery Book Club series.

Elizabeth lives in the Pacific Northwest, the gorgeous inspiration for the setting in many of her books.

Catch Up With Elizabeth Pantley:
BookBub – @DestinyFalls
Instagram – @destinyfallsmystery
Facebook – @DestinyFallsMysteryandMagic


Tour Participants:

It’s a blog hop so visit these other great hosts on this tour for more giveaway entries!


This is a giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Tours for Elizabeth Pantley. See the widget for entry terms and conditions. Void where prohibited.



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Lone Star Lit Pop-Up Blog-Hop: Confessions of a Knight Errant by Gretchen McCullough

by Gretchen McCullough
Humorous Fiction
Publisher: Cune Press
Page Count: 240 pages
Publication Date: October 18, 2022
Scroll down for a giveaway!

Confessions of a Knight Errant is a comedic, picaresque novel in the tradition of Don Quixote with a flamboyant cast of characters.

Dr. Gary Watson is the picaro, a radical environmentalist and wannabe novelist who has been accused of masterminding a computer hack that wiped out the files of a major publishing company. His Sancho Panza is Kharalombos, a fat, gluttonous Greek dancing teacher, who is wanted by the secret police for cavorting with the daughter of the Big Man of Egypt.

Self-preservation necessitates a hurried journey to the refuge of a girls’ camp in rural Texas. Then a body turns up nearby that is connected to Middle East antiquities, and they are on the run once more.

Review 2

4 stars!

A trans-world jaunt and a giggle of a story!

Confessions of a Knight Errant by Gretchen McCullough may have literary ties to Cervantes’s Don Quixote, but this more modern adventure story will surely tickle a funny bone or two rather than conjure up nightmares of high school English class. Cairo professor Dr. Gary Watson is the reborn Quixote tilting at his own version of windmills. His mission is to stop and reverse the pollution of the Nile River. However, when his expose drew unwanted attention to the wrong people, he was accused of uploading a computer virus to his publisher and wiping out all their manuscripts, including his own attempt at a thriller, Pure Water.

Wanted by Interpol, he flees Cairo with his pal, Kharalombos, also in Dutch with the powers that be, not once, but twice, and re-enters the US with a fake passport to hide out at a Christian girls camp near Schulenburg, Texas. From the camp’s owner, whom they helped get out of Cairo during a revolution, to the pint-sized privileged campers, Gary and Kharalombos become embroiled in one weird but amusing incident after another.

At 50, Gary is still often blithely unaware of his own role in getting himself in trouble. As time passes, he sees the light, but it remains somewhat dim. For me, this state made events all the more entertaining. Kharalombos loves the ladies, and the ladies love him, and that is the basis for much of his appeal and many of his mishaps. However, my favorite Kharalombos moment concerns his relationship with Dagmar. (Many pet owners, like myself, will relate!)

I enjoyed the various settings featured during the story, all described with a nuance that made me feel the location. I could well imagine Kharalombos’s homesickness for his colorful Cairo after a sojourn in south Texas during the summer. The real town of Schulenburg is known for a couple of things, but one item, in particular, relates to this story. The small German-founded city is the site of an annual sausage festival, and the flamboyant German camp owner, Gudrun Grunewald, repeatedly criticizes the quality of the sausage in her adopted home.

With a vivid array of personalities and players, trans-world settings, and a laugh-out-loud string of mishaps, many brought on by funnily ill-timed or poor choices, I recommend CONFESSIONS OF A KNIGHT ERRANT to readers looking for a light read that will keep entertaining with every page.

Gretchen McCullough was raised in Harlingen Texas. After graduating from Brown University in 1984, she taught in Egypt, Turkey, and Japan. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama and was awarded a teaching Fulbright to Syria from 1997-1999.
Her stories, essays and reviews have appeared in The Barcelona Review, Archipelago, National Public Radio, Story South, Guernica, The Common, The Millions, and the LA Review of Books. Translations in English and Arabic have been published in: Nizwa, Banipal, Brooklyn Rail in Translation, World Literature Today, and Washington Square Review with Mohamed Metwalli. Her bilingual book of short stories in English and Arabic, Three Stories From Cairo, translated with Mohamed Metwalli, was published in July 2011 by AFAQ Publishing House, Cairo. A collection of short stories about expatriate life in Cairo, Shahrazad’s Tooth, was also published by AFAQ in 2013.
Currently, she is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo.


In Confessions of a Knight Errant, readers get a taste of the Hill Country. One winner will, too, with a one-pound bag of pecans from Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company!
(US only; ends midnight, CST 4/28/23)

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The Detective by Jake Zuurbier

The DetectiveThe Detective by Jake Zuurbier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A clever story-within-a-story that offers a different take on the “And Then There Were None” plot.

The Detective is a clever story-within-a-story, narrated by the stymied and frustrated writer-character and protagonist of both tales, Michael Davis. Michael has had a successful writing career until the last couple of years, and he’s struggling with his latest book project, a detective mystery novel. This is a new venture for him, he’s not written in the genre before now, and it has been proving not to be his thing. He’s depressed over his relationship with Jessica, which imploded when he discovered she’d been cheating on him while she was supposed to be working. Perhaps as a means of working out his anger, he’s made Jessica and Jason characters in the mystery; however, the story is still not working for him, and his drinking is beginning to take over his life.

The plot is quite intriguing as the frustrated author finds himself inserted into his fledgling story with its unintended Agatha Christie-style “And Then There Were None” storyline. Michael hadn’t gotten far in his written version of the book, so the ensuing action is as much a surprise to him as it is to readers. Some unusual twists and turns kept me wanting to turn pages. The story, however, still felt a bit rough overall. There were numerous spelling and grammar issues, and they required me to re-read passages to try to understand what the author was trying to say. Some of these are intentional on the part of the author, though, as a means of mimicking the actual thought processes of the character; many of the repeated “errors” disappear when Michael is back in the real world. This may extend to some of the repetitive passages in the story, repeated descriptions of features of the house or clothing, explanations of situations, and dialogue, as he lives through the events of the investigation. There is quite a bit of sexual innuendo, some sexual encounters, and death scenes that make this book only suitable for adults. The book would benefit greatly from having an editor tighten up the story and the execution.

I recommend THE DETECTIVE to mystery readers who would enjoy a story with a different take on the Agatha Christie “And Then There Were None” storyline.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Book Tour: The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions, #1) by Sunayna Prasad

The Frights of Fiji

Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions: Book One


Sunayna Prasad

Middle-Grade Fantasy

Publisher: Independently published

Publication Date: October 20, 2018

Page count: 176 pages



Sent to live with her strict, aloof, and uncaring uncle after her parents are killed in a car accident, twelve-year-old orphan Alyssa McCarthy longs for the life she used to have—one filled with fun and love. Then one stormy night, a message appears in the raindrops on the window that will change everything.

“Your life will never be the same again, as magic will interfere.”

Before long, Alyssa is kidnapped by Master Beau, a banished sorcerer with a mysterious connection to her who can only regain his power by weakening hers. Suddenly hurled into a world of wizardry filled with fantastical beasts and marvelous technology beyond her wildest imagination, Alyssa must defeat Master Beau if she ever wants to get home again. But Master Beau will stop at nothing, including using Alyssa’s friends, to ensure he is triumphant.


| Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |



The raindrops darkened into black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer to them. She squinted to determine the shapes they formed on the kitchen window… letters.

No! That couldn’t happen. Yet, a message spelled out as more pigments plopped onto the glass. Alyssa gasped at what it said.

Your life will never be the same again, Alyssa McCarthy, as magic will interfere.

What? Magic didn’t exist—at least that’d been what others had told her when she was little. No one on Orion Street could possess enchanted abilities.

Alyssa had lived here since she’d lost her parents in that car crash five years ago. She’d only been seven then. How would she tell her uncle, Bruce, about this? He’d consider her crazy.

He’d already toughened up his attitude and rules. So he might consider it an excuse to escape this house.

Although Alyssa’s parents had designated her godfather as the first priority guardian, Uncle Bruce forbade her to try and contact him. He’d hidden the phone number and other information about him.

Since Alyssa’s aunt, Laura, had died three years ago, Uncle Bruce had required fun to be earned. And that took more effort than Alyssa could often accomplish.

Turning around, she spotted her babysitter, Mrs. Hutchinson, examining the kitchen floor.

Alyssa’s eleven-year-old cousin, Hailey, watched the progress. Hailey had mopped the floor.

Would she earn a break now? Ever since her uncle, Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Hutchinson had admired the way Hailey had done her chores more than Alyssa.

“Hailey, you can take a break until your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back to work. You’ve been staring at the rain for too long.”

“Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency.

“What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.

Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish washing the dishes.”

She scrubbed her dish and glass with soap under warm running water. Her eyes focused on just those. No way would she want Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Mrs. Hutchinson was only in her sixties, but she’d sometimes seem to forget that was 2010 and not 1960 with her guidelines. Yet, it had taken Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense, such as getting distracted by a windowpane when having to perform chores.

Now that she finished washing her dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and grabbed some paper towels to dry them.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.

Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”

“The last few times I was here, you left little bits of food on your dishes.”

“But they were stuck.”

“Let me inspect them. Also, if something is rubbery, you have to wash it again.”


“Because clean dishes aren’t supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job. Look at that stain on your sweater.”

Alyssa looked down.

“That looks like chocolate.”

Alyssa blushed and arched her eyebrows. “Hey—it’s just water.” She covered the stain at the bottom of her sweater’s V-neck.

But Mrs. Hutchinson waved her index finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa. That’s rude.

In my days, kids respected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that way unless we didn’t mind them smacking our bottoms.”

“Things change.”

“Not when I’m here, they don’t. Now let me do my inspection.”

Great—an inspection! How long would Mrs. Hutchinson take? She might spend a couple minutes or maybe twenty. Alyssa crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wished to read, rest, do a small craft, like lanyards—anything but wait for Mrs. Hutchinson to finish her task.

“Mrs. Hutchinson?” Alyssa asked.

“Whatever you need to say, wait till I’m done,” she said.

Alyssa sighed. She continued to watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the dish. She then rubbed it back and forth. When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa figured out that the dish had nothing on it.

Mrs. Hutchinson spent a few minutes of running her finger down the glass. She put it down and turned to Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”

“Um . . . if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”


“There was writing on the window.”

Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and tilted her head. “Really?”



“No, really, it was there.”

“There was nothing there when I came, and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”

“But it’s not a story.”

“I don’t want to hear any more. Now it’s time for your next chore.”

“Aw, but I wanted my break.”

“Too bad. You have to go vacuum the living room.”

Alyssa dragged her feet toward the living room and took the vacuum from the corner.

She cleaned and thought about that writing as well as how Mrs. Hutchinson wouldn’t believe her. Would a nicer babysitter have believed her? Mrs. Hutchinson had watched her and Hailey for three years, and not once had she smiled or assisted with anything.

After vacuuming the carpet for about five minutes, Alyssa decided that she had tidied the floor enough. So she stopped and put the vacuum away.

“Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!” Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.

“Coming!” cried Hailey.

Another rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could only go outside together. He worried about people taking them or something, even though Alyssa would turn thirteen next month. But that rule had been placed because a few months ago, Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy who had been shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. Violence could even happen here in Bursnell, New Jersey.

Hailey and Alyssa headed to the closet and put their raincoats on until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped raining outside.”

“Already?” asked Alyssa.

“Yes.” Mrs. Hutchinson went to the bathroom.

The girls walked outside toward the mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail and headed back toward the door. But mud bubbled from the ground near the house. It piled up, looking like horse manure, and grew as more soil emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.

“Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey asked.

“No idea,” said Alyssa.

The dirt stopped piling up, but it continued to bubble, and the effects spread throughout the whole pile. The bubbles stopped popping up and down. Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths open as the bubbles merged together, each one attached to another, forming a single bigger shape. Alyssa and Hailey stepped back as the now giant bubble swelled. And it . . . popped!  Particles of exploding mud landed on the girls. They shrieked.

The front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson. “What the heck have you two been doing?”

“T-the mud . . . it e-exploded,” said Hailey.

“Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”

The girls returned inside, pulling and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa could spot the mud in her straight pale-blonde tresses, unlike Hailey, who likely needed more patience to search for globs in her elbow-length red locks. But Alyssa’s hair fell a few inches past her hips, so cleaning out the mud would take longer, even with the shorter layers in the front.

“How could dirt explode?” Mrs. Hutchinson stomped.

“I-I think it was magic!” exclaimed Alyssa.

“There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve years old. You’re too old to say things like that!”

“But nothing else can make mud explode!” Alyssa said.

“Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!” whined Hailey.

“Enough!” snapped Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”

Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have splattered all over them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t have thought they’d play in the mud like small children.

“Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.

“Sure,” said Alyssa.

As Hailey strode into the bathroom, Alyssa walked into her room. She scratched more mud off her skinny jeans (the only jeans she’d worn ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her hand. She stood by her bed since she wanted to keep it clean.

She considered the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Someone wanted magic to interfere with her life, but who, and how come?

Also, why hadn’t she ever seen wizardry before? Why would her parents and others tell her that it hadn’t existed? Did sorcery just start on earth? Had it hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no one had ever believed in it.

Alyssa thought about the possibility that maybe magic might only interfere if she stayed here in her uncle’s house. Maybe if her godfather could arrange with his lawyer to let her move in with him, sorcery would hopefully leave her alone. However, unlike science, anything could occur with magic, which meant that it could follow her wherever she went.

The sound produced by the bathroom’s running water ended, which let Alyssa know that Hailey had finished. Now she could have a turn.

After about five minutes showering, Alyssa stepped out and headed back to her room.

She put on leggings and a long shirt. But she gasped at something appearing out of nowhere on her bed. Now that had to have come from . . . magic.

Approaching it, she saw that it was a folded piece of paper. She opened it and read it.

Hello Alyssa McCarthy,

You must be wondering about the writing on your window, the exploding mud, and the note that appeared here. Who was responsible for them? You’ll find out at some point.


Anonymous? How dare someone create incidents and not say his or her name! Alyssa needed to know his or her identity in order to report him or her. She didn’t want strange, magical occurrences to keep happening.

Regardless of that, now she had proof to Mrs. Hutchinson that the writing and exploding mud had occurred. Mrs. Hutchinson had seen her write before, and this looked nothing like hers.

She handwrote in a half-print and half-script style. This, however, was pure print.

Alyssa jogged down the stairs and carried the note. “Mrs. Hutchinson, I have something to show you.”

“Not right now, Alyssa.” Mrs. Hutchinson left the kitchen. “You and Hailey have to go wash my car.”

“But it’s quick.”

“You can show me after you’re done with my car.” Mrs. Hutchinson turned to Hailey, who emptied the dishwasher and put dishes away. “Are you almost done?”

“I think so,” said Hailey.

“How many dishes do you have left?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.

“Uh . . .” Hailey looked at the top rack. “Four.”

“Okay, hurry up.” Mrs. Hutchinson turned to Alyssa. “Why don’t you go put that piece of paper away?”

“But this is what I need to show you.”

“Do I have to repeat what I said before?”


“Alyssa, do as you’re told.” Mrs. Hutchinson pointed to the staircase.

Alyssa sighed. This note contained so much crucial information. Only that paper itself had evidence to show that those incidents had occurred.

After putting the note back in her room, Alyssa headed down the stairs and walked with Hailey toward the garage. The two grabbed sponges, buckets, and soap for washing cars. They filled the buckets with water and scrubbed Mrs. Hutchinson’s car.

“I wish we had another babysitter,” muttered Alyssa.

“What was on the piece of paper?” asked Hailey.

Alyssa told her.

“Who wrote it?”

“There was no name on it. Just ‘anonymous.’”

A girl whistling turned Alyssa’s attention away from the car. She leaned her head toward the sidewalk and saw her friend from grade school, Madison Jennings, riding her scooter.

“Hi, Alyssa,” said Madison. The wind blew her long dark-brown waves across her face.

She stopped at Alyssa’s driveway, and her hair went limp. Hailey and Alyssa ran up to greet her and ask how she’d been.

“I just moved onto Draco Drive a few days ago,” Madison referred to a road off Orion Street.

“So how do you like the middle school?” asked Alyssa.

“Oh, I go to Catholic school now,” said Madison. “What about you?”

“Hailey and I are homeschooled now,” said Alyssa. “I never got to tell you.”

“That’s okay,” said Madison. “So you guys want to come over to my house on Saturday?”

“What time?” asked Alyssa.

“I’ll ask my mom and let you know,” said Madison. “Okay, bye, guys. Nice seeing you again.” She rode back in the direction she’d come from as Hailey and Alyssa waved goodbye to her.

After washing the car for another ten minutes, Alyssa and Hailey cleaned up and walked back inside. A snore suggested to Alyssa that Mrs. Hutchinson slept. Huh? She never napped while babysitting.

Alyssa strode toward the living room and saw Mrs. Hutchinson asleep on one of the couches. Hailey followed her. “Why is Mrs. Hutchinson sleeping?”

“I don’t know,” said Alyssa.

“Can you show me the note?”

Alyssa nodded and led her up the stairs. She opened her door but gasped at what she saw.

The note that she’d left on her bed was gone.

“Where’s the note?” asked Hailey.

“It was right there,” Alyssa pointed to the bed.

But another piece of paper appeared onto the mattress. Alyssa picked it up and read it.

Hello again, Alyssa,

I have put your babysitter to sleep to reveal magic to you. You’ll find out why she is sleeping later.


“Not again,” mumbled Alyssa. “Why won’t they say their name?” She showed the note to Hailey.

“Let’s go call my dad before anything happens,” said Hailey.

 How much worse could this get?  Alyssa thought as she followed Hailey down the stairs.


4 stars!

A magic-laden plot with a nice touch of mystery and suspense!

The Frights of Fiji is the debut novel by young author Sunayna Prasad and the first in the planned seven-volume, middle-grade fantasy series, Alyssa McCarthy’s Magical Missions. With its realistically relatable young heroine, her friends, and family members leading the action, this first book was a fun and imaginative adventure where good triumphs over great odds and the evil behind it.

A major strength of the story lies in the realistic portrayal of the pre-teen characters, with their friendships, rivalries, and squabbles. Alyssa and Hailey relate to each other like siblings, and ‘mean girl’ Destiny Cox brings conflict into the group of friends. Much of the dialogue feels authentic and true to life. I liked that the author had adults who made regretful decisions but later apologized for their hasty actions.

The plot slowly divulges the main characters’ backstories while maintaining the action’s pace. The current menace is confronted and dealt with, and the book concludes on a positive note, leaving plenty of room for future adventures.

I recommend THE FRIGHTS OF FIJI to middle-grade readers who enjoy a magic-laden plot with a nice touch of mystery and suspense.


Sunayna Prasad enjoys writing fantasy books for children, as well as cooking, creating artwork, watching online videos, and blogging. She is passionate about modern-day life in fantasy stories, worldbuilding, and even humor. She is constantly brainstorming new ideas and using her creativity.

Sunayna has been writing stories since the age of six. Many sources that have inspired include various books and movies, all of which are fantasy.

She is lives in New York with her parents.

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Book Blog Tour & Giveaway: Skyriders (Skyriders, #1) by Polly Holyoke

Skyriders Series, #1
Polly Holyoke
Children’s Fantasy / Middle Grade Readers / Mythical Stories / Adventure
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 7, 2023
Number of Pages: 304 pages 
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Wings of Fire meets Pax in this epic fantasy adventure set in a world where human and skysteed share a deep bond of friendship. When monsters emerge to attack the empire, it’s up to shy Kiesandra and her beloved winged horse N’Rah to prove to the imperial army that she has what it takes to lead them to victory . . . and to ensure the survival of their world.


Buzzing with action, heart, and friendship, this first book in the Skyriders series shows that kids can achieve the impossible–especially with flying horses on their side.


“Skyriders soars off the page and takes you along for an epic adventure that will leave you breathless and asking for more.” —James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of the City Spies series

“A breathtaking, mythical adventure. This is the kind of book I would have devoured and read over and over again as a kid.” —Liesl Shurtliff, New York Times bestselling author of Rump and the Time Castaways trilogy

“Kiesandra Torsun is an unforgettable heroine who never gives up, even when facing staggering odds against vicious three-headed monsters attacking her homeland. Her loyalty, courage, and kindness won me over and her bond with her winged horse left me dazzled.” —Mary E. Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of The Remnant Chronicles


5 stars!

An epic middle-grade fantasy adventure that will capture the hearts and imaginations of boys and girls alike.

Skyriders is the first book in a new middle-grade fantasy series of the same name by author Polly Holyoke. The story pulls out all the stops for adventure, world-building, and overcoming impossible, overwhelming odds. This epic fantasy adventure will appeal to both boys and girls, reluctant readers, and would be perfect for reading aloud and tempting eager young imaginations.

The book’s action begins immediately with minimal exposition; there’s no waiting around! Kie is the kind of young heroine who everyone can get behind. At 13 years of age, she is humble, loving, brave, and loyal. I loved that she (and the others) could communicate telepathically with their skysteeds, and early on, readers know that her ability is not limited to N’Rah. Their foe, the chimerae, are horrific three-headed monsters and are a returning menace from her country’s past, one foretold by her beloved Uncle Dug. He was right all along! The aerial battles against the chimerae are exciting and easy to follow.

The plot is an extraordinary underdog story, as Kie faces frustration after frustration trying to get those in a position to act to believe her. Her warnings repeatedly fall on deaf ears. However, it’s always a satisfying moment for young readers when young characters prove to be right and the adults wrong.

The author’s world-building is so impressive in this first volume of the series. The descriptions of the various settings are so vivid you can practically feel the mountain storms or the grit and heat of the desert. But best of all are the Pegusus-like skysteeds, sentient and wise and a welcome addition to a genre filled with dragons. You can almost feel the experience of flying on the back of one of these winged horses (but don’t call them horses!) Kudos for the fabulous cover that features Kie, N’Rah, and the monstrous chimerae and establishes a perfect visual right from the start.

With its highly relatable heroine, great underdog story, and fantastic creatures of myth and legend, I recommend SKYRIDERS to readers of middle-grade fantasy and adventure.



Polly Holyoke is the award-winning author of the middle grade sci-fi Neptune Trilogy (Disney/Hyperion) and the new children’s fantasy series, Skyriders (Viking Children’s Books). A former classroom teacher, Polly loves doing school visits and getting students excited about writing.

Polly grew up in Colorado, where she spent her childhood skiing, camping, reading, and dreaming up fantastical stories. Polly went on to graduate from Middlebury College and become a middle school social studies teacher. She lives with her husband and their two daughters, as well as two cats, two Chihuahuas, and a beagle.

Signed copy of SKYRIDERS, set of 5 flying horse necklaces
+ a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/7/23)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Book Tour: Meesh the Bad Demon (Meesh the Bad Demon #1) by Michelle Lam

Meesh the Bad Demon

(Meesh the Bad Demon #1)


Michelle Lam

Middle Grade Fantasy Graphic Novel

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Publishing Date: March 21, 2023

Page count: 304 pages


A tale of unlikely heroes and myths is made real in this debut graphic novel series about a “bad” demon trying to find her place in the underworld. But she’ll have to save it first!

Meesh is a bad demon. “Bad” meaning she always sees the good in those around her–which, strictly speaking, isn’t how a demon is meant to feel or act.

Bullied by the other demons, twelve-year-old Meesh is more likely to be found poring over Fairy World’s magazines and fangirling the fairy princesses. When disaster strikes and her family is threatened, Meesh must journey to the Fairy World to find a healing crystal that can save the underworld. And speak of the devil! She meets a fairy princess right away.

But things in the Fairy World aren’t so perfect either. As Meesh makes surprising new friends and unites a band of outcasts–including her bully–she learns there’s more to being a demon than being bad.

Sometimes the secret to real power is in loving yourself, faults and all.

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Michelle Lam is a Los Angeles based story artist in the animation industry, a graphic novel author and illustrator, and cartoonist on social media. She assistant directed the CG animated series ONIThunder God’s Tale (Netflix / Tonko House), storyboarded and wrote for I Heart Arlo (Netflix), and storyboarded for Arlo the Alligator Boy (Netflix / Titmouse Animation) and Trash Truck (Netflix / Glen Keane Productions). Animation work aside, Michelle moonlights as an author and illustrator with her first graphic novel Meesh the Bad Demon (Penguin Random House Knopf), and creates autobiographical comics on her Instagram @mewTripled. She shares her life and career experiences through the form of videos on Youtube also under @mewTripled.

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March 20th
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March 21st
Confessions of a YA Reader – Promotional Post
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March 22nd
Stuck in Fiction – Promotional Post
Boys’ Mom Reads! – Review

March 23rd
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March 24th
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March 25th
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March 26th
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March 21st
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March 22nd
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March 23rd
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March 25th
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March 26th
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Pop-Up Blog-Hop & Giveaway: Sweet Comfort (Comfort and Joy Trilogy, #1) by Kimberly Fish

Comfort and Joy Trilogy, #1
Women’s Fiction / Later-In-Life Romance
Second-Chance Romance / Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Fish Tales
Page Count: 359 pages
Publication Date: January 21, 2023
Scroll down for a giveaway!
Welcome to the hometown everyone wants to call their own.
Gloria Bachman, a retired bank executive, has eight weeks to flip a location on Comfort’s High Street into a boutique chocolate shop. Defying expectations for “women of a certain age,” Gloria rediscovers talents and a sharpening of skills. If only she could read people as well as she does a spreadsheet. Even with the renovation in good hands, the subsequent struggle to name the shop brings Gloria and her business partner into conflict with a shady citizen. While Gloria is capable of remaining in her retirement rut while opening a business, two competing social groups try to lure her into their networks, causing Gloria to wonder if she ever knew Comfort at all. A murder rocks the community and revives investigative instincts honed by years in the banking industry.
Mason Lassiter, a disgraced CEO, has his own dramas to escape and the offbeat town seems the perfect place to recover his self-esteem. What was to be a quick reversal of fortunes becomes a quest to right a deeply felt injustice. Fascinated by the women driving the energy of Comfort, he extends his stay to find out why the small town is the backdrop to their best tales. Tangling with his neighbor Gloria becomes his favorite pastime and the key to unlocking the mystery of his past—if he can convince her to trust him.
Chocolate and joy become the glue bringing an unlikely cast together, which just might change Gloria’s and Mason’s course for the better. With characters familiar from previous Comfort novels and introducing fresh names, Sweet Comfort will entertain those who like their stories seasoned with coziness and sweet, second chances.
5 stars!

The story welcomed me with the promise of chocolate, but I stayed for the relationships.

Sweet Comfort is the first book in author Kimberly Fish’s spin-off series, Comfort and Joy, and I can’t think of a more descriptive or appropriate moniker for the series. While I was initially attracted to the book because of the promise of gourmet chocolate, it was the characters’ relationships that pulled me deep into the story. This is one of the best buildups of the community of characters for a series that I think I’ve ever encountered.

The main character Gloria Bachman is a woman of a certain age and well-regarded in her adopted hometown of Comfort, Texas. She’s suffered some hard knocks in her life and career, but she’s a survivor. To her chagrin, perhaps, her younger women friends have seemed to have placed her on a pedestal, and she certainly doesn’t view herself in that light. They hold her in high esteem and aspire to emulate her take-charge and take-no-prisoners demeanor that got her to where she ended up: a bank president. I liked seeing her opening this new chapter in her life and trying something entirely different with her friend and business partner, Kali. Then it was also good to see an older woman exhibiting realistic attitudes toward a possible romantic partner and relationship.

Besides the second chance storyline, there is the chocolate business to drool over. And while I enjoyed every virtual morsel, I also liked all the details about renovating the old building slated to house the new shop. I appreciate all the research the author must have done before putting pen to paper. There is even a mention of the traffic snafu caused by the crane that was needed for some of the work! True to life. And there was still so much more that had me turning pages: the mysterious death of the estranged wife of the successful Dallas businessman, the murder of a local contractor, and of course, learning everyone in Comfort’s business. As always, it was fun to have a fictional story set in the very real town of Comfort, Texas.

The author’s writing style is easy to read yet compelling. I was immediately drawn into Gloria Bachman’s life and soon felt like I knew her and her many friends and acquaintances. The dialogue sparkled, with some real laugh-out-loud moments and situations that were Pure D entertainment.

Although this is the first book in this series, there are hints that certain characters or couples have backstories featured in the author’s previous works. However, I didn’t need to have read those to become immediately invested in this current tale. The bonus is that there is backstory gold just waiting to be discovered.

I recommend SWEET COMFORT to readers who enjoy women’s fiction, later-in-life and second-chance romances, cozy mysteries, chocolate themes, stories set in Texas, especially the Hill Country, and fans of the author’s previous novels.

Kimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction novels and novellas, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of the novels have won distinguished awards. Sweet Comfort is her latest novel, the first book in the Comfort and Joy Trilogy.

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Book Tour: Royal Blood (Royal Blood #1) by Aimée Carter

Royal Blood

Royal Blood #1


Aimée Carter

Genre: Young Adult Mystery

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publishing Date: March 7, 2023

Page count: 368 pages


An American girl becomes the British Monarchy’s greatest nightmare in this thrilling new series where royal scandals just got deadlier.

As the King of England’s illegitimate daughter, 17-year-old Evan Bright knows a thing or two about keeping secrets.

But when she’s forced to spend the summer in London with her father and the royal family, who aren’t exactly thrilled she exists, her identity is mysteriously revealed, and suddenly the world is dying to know every juicy lie the press prints about her.

After a fun night turns deadly and Evan becomes the primary suspect in a murder investigation, the escalating rumors and fallout threaten to tear her life apart. As she fights to uncover the truth about what happened, she discovers royal secrets that are even more scandalous than she imagined – secrets that could change the monarchy forever.

And her own may be next.

Content Warning: attempted sexual assault, use of the date rape drug

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5 stars!

A stellar start to this new contemporary young adult trilogy!

Royal Blood is the first book in author Aimée Carter’s new contemporary young adult series of the same name. The book is exciting and full of intrigue, and definitely not the typical fairy tale or rags to riches story; it addresses some very serious topics. Evangeline, or Evan as she is called, is a wonderful heroine with a quick wit and a kind heart and carries some heavy issues on her young shoulders. I was rooting for this unique and engagingly sympathetic underdog from the first page.

Evan is surprisingly resilient and very understanding of the Queen’s and her half-sister’s feelings, even as they treat her horribly. So much information about her past, including her parents’ history with each other, had been kept from her, and it is no wonder that misunderstandings occurred. With the death of her grandmother, her mother’s mental illness, and her absentee father, she has way more hanging over her head than a child should ever have to handle alone. She deals with her situation the only way she thinks will be successful; she purposely acts out and gets expelled. Other than her having to change schools, though, her actions have no consequences.

Once ensconced at Windsor Castle and among the family and their coterie of relatives and friends, Evan is targeted by the media and attracts all manner of abuse from the press and their followers. But the intrigue starts immediately and although, Maisie, Gia, and Rosie start out as typical ‘mean girls,’ they eventually start to relent, especially when Evan holds the key to keeping their princess out of serious trouble. However, she finally has something she’s not had in the past: a friend her age.

The story includes an incident of drugging, attempted date rape, and death, and the author presents the events from Evan’s point of view without excuses from the perpetrator. As the tragedy unfolds, readers will recognize and relate to how easily the awful events happened.

Each chapter starts with either a text message exchange between characters, a news story, or a media interview related to what is happening in the story. These add some fun insight or extra needed information in an interesting way. Each chapter ends on a small cliffhanger that worked like magic on me to keep reading! The story completely hooked me from the start, and those teasers had me reading page after page until done. I am looking forward to the next book of the trilogy with great anticipation.

With its exciting plot, family intrigue, and great characters, I recommend ROYAL BLOOD to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction, especially those who like a secret baby or fish out of water theme.


Aimée Carter is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including The Goddess Test series, the Blackcoat Rebellion series, and the Simon Thorn series for middle grade readers, now a #1 international bestselling series under the title Animox and Die Erben der Animox. Her newest middle grade book, Curse of the Phoenix, will be released in June from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

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The Low Road (Michael McLaren Mystery, #16) by Jo A. Hiestand

The Low RoadThe Low Road by Jo A. Hiestand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

McLaren investigates the murder of an old friend while reconnecting with his family.

Michael McLaren is off his home patch of Derbyshire, visiting his uncle and grandfather in Auchtubh, Scotland. He and his girlfriend, Melanie Travers, are staying in the older man’s ancient and historic home together and have made the trip a small vacation. Until recently, Michael been estranged from his grandfather, but they’d tentatively reconnected.

The nominal reason for the trip is for Michael and his folksong singing group, Woodstock Town, to perform at the area’s annual Highland Games event. But when one of his friends is murdered at the games, Michael is determined to bring the killer to justice.

The Low Road is the 16th entry in the Michael McLaren Mystery series by author Jo A. Hiestand, and I found the plot intriguing, the characters interesting, and the Scottish Highlands settings and bits of history spectacular. With it being McLaren’s 16th adventure, there is a bit of backstory to the character; however, the author pulls out the relevant points so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or behind in the overall story as a new reader.

This is Melanie’s first visit to Scotland and some of the loveliest and most atmospheric images of the setting are presented through her eyes. The author included a glossary of words, phrases, and place names with pronunciation that I found very helpful.

The murder mystery is a good one with an interesting hook: the victim’s uncle (of the same name) was murdered exactly a year previously at the games in the same field set aside for the sheaf toss competition. McLaren conducts an admirable and thorough investigation, starting from ground zero with literally nothing to go on. Although, McLaren has no connection to the local police, he investigates because of his close relationship with the victim whom he feels responsible for bringing back to the area where he meets his demise.

In addition to the excellent plot, another attractive element of the story is the inclusion of smatterings of Scottish and clan history. There are fascinating tidbits about the formation of the clan communities, tartans, crests, mottoes, and an explanation of the well-known folk song, Loch Lomond, with its reference to the low road. I was also surprised by the mention of one victim’s visit to the Crater of Diamonds State Park outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas, as being a possible link to a motive for his death.

With engaging, recurring characters and the driving force of the murder of a close friend of the main character, I recommend THE LOW ROAD to fans of the Michael McLaren Mystery series and mystery readers looking for an excellent new series to enjoy.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.

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Good For It (A Grifter’s Song, #30) by T.G. Wolff

Good For ItGood For It by T.G. Wolff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With its likable characters and clever plot, GOOD FOR IT is better than great!

On the run from mobsters out of Philadelphia, Sam and Rachel stop for a quick bite in bump-in-the-road Wisconsin Dells, looking to melt into the rural background and out of sight of their dogged pursuers. They’d left their last sanctuary in Minneapolis in a real hurry with little more than what they were wearing, so this was a short break to recharge, refuel, and regroup. However, when they overhear a woman at the next table lament the unexpected exit of critical staff from the luxury senior living establishment she ran, the two are all ears. There could be worse places to hide out than Catalonia Shoals, with its concentrated abundance of wealthy, elderly pigeons to pluck. Engineering a “chance” encounter, San and Rachel, now known as John and Tricia, are hastily engaged as live-in caretakers. But as the days pass and they slowly draw their elderly targets into their latest scam, the two grifters don’t realize that they are the ones that may be the marks.

Good For It by author T.G. Wolff is the 30th entry in the terrific novella anthology, A Grifter’s Song, which follows the moves and maneuvers of Sam and Rachel, a pair of con artists on the lam from the capo of the Philadelphia mob. The books stand alone and are written by a variety of different authors. From the reviews, each is a gem in its own right, and this tale is outstanding as well.

The main characters, Sam and Rachel, are fun and flirty with each other: a committed couple. They are also ever-ready with a con to separate a mark from their money while evading their mob pursuers and setting up a safe exit strategy. While cold-blooded and unsentimental in their endeavors, I think a couple of the residents of Catalonia Shoals got under their guard this time. The ending carries a fair amount of melancholy.

The senior facility sounds like a sweet deal, and the residents are absolutely living their best lives in style and comfort, but they are not at all who they seem. I enjoyed the older characters immensely, and though I liked the two con artists, I was delighted with the outcome and laughed out loud over some of the dialogue as the real con was revealed.

With its likable characters and clever plot, I recommend GOOD FOR IT to readers who enjoy crime fiction and characters of a certain age.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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