To The Lions, Holly Watt

**Review**

To the Lyons, Holly Watt

⭐️⭐️⭐️

To The Lions was intense, disturbing and morally challenging. It reminded me of The Most Dangerous game, except the victims don’t know their being hunted. They don’t suspects thing.

This novel explores the trenches of humanity and the disparity of wealth and privilege. From refugees to billionaire CEOs and Members of Parliament, To The Lions delves into the culture that reinforces who is the hunter and who is the huntee.

The writing was choppy at times, which added to the suspense but also sent me back to reread for clarification more than once.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

5.21.19 InstaShortie – Baxter

Warm liquid ran down my calf. It worked its way from my ankle into my brand new Kate Spade pumps. Pooling under my foot, I felt the heat rise all the way to my cheeks. I lifted my head and stared up at the cloudless sky. The sun warmed my skin even more. Confusion followed the heat as it spread through me.

If the sky was clear and I wasn’t standing in the shower, where the hell was this water coming from? I looked down. The confusion was replaced with horror. This is not happening. Not today.

“I am so sorry!” a deep voice behind me shouted over the buzz of early morning commuters. “Baxter, no!”

The sound of a puppy whimpering mingled with the man’s disappointment. Did this dog just pee on me?!

I glanced around the lobby of Starbucks. There were two people ahead of me and about fifteen behind me in line. It was 7:30 am on a Monday morning. There was no way I was giving up my spot. I’d been in this line for fifteen minutes. My foot and shoe would have to wait.

“Baxter!” he called to his dog again but the chocolate brown puppy plopped down on the sidewalk next to me. His deep black eyes peered up at me, melting whatever anger I’d just felt. I reached down and patted his head. He tilted to the side, giving me access to his ear. I obliged his silent request and scratched behind his ear.

“What a cute boy you are Baxter,” I said. My voice ticking up an octave or two as I slipped into the voice reserved for my baby sister and, apparently, dogs. My sister, now twenty-five, hated it. But Baxter seemed to appreciate it. “You’re just cute enough for me to forgive your for peeing in my new favorite shoes.”

“Let me buy your coffee,” the man said. I didn’t bother looking up at him. Baxter had my full attention. His hand grazed mine, sending a jolt through me. I jerked my hand away. I may have forgiven Baxter, but this human should have known better than to bring his non-potty trained puppy to the busiest Starbucks in downtown Nashville on a Monday morning.

I shrugged, acknowledging the fact that he’d effectively used his dog’s potty break to cut ahead in line. The lady behind me groaned but I ignored her.. “Sure, that’d be great.” I stepped up to the counter and decided to treat myself. “I’ll take a venti iced skinny cinnamon dolce latte with an extra shot.”

He cleared his throat.

“And a whole grain bagel, toasted with cream cheese.”

“Anything else?” the young barista asked. I shook my head. “Name?”

“Maddie,” I replied.

“Tall Americano, please.” I detected the tiniest hint of annoyance in his voice. He brushed my shoulder as he stepped past me to pay.

“Thank you,” I said and turned away, leaving him to deal with the bill. I walked carefully towards the station with napkins and pulled out a handful. Sitting down at the closest table, I slipped my shoe off and soaked up the dog urine with the napkins and attempted to clean my foot.

“I’m Lucas,” he said. After offering to take the napkins and throw them away, he sat down in the seat across from me. Baxter settled at my feet, seeming to have given up on his human. I didn’t blame him. Lucas cleared his throat. He extended his hand and I shook it, ignoring the sweat that soaked his skin.

“Oh, I’m Maddie. You’ve got a sweet puppy, here.” I reached down to pat Baxter’s head again. “Just need to work on his social and bathroom skills. Preferably on knowing when and where it’s appropriate to relieve himself.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled. “We are working on it, huh big guy?” Baxter lifted his head and yawned. I did not believe the two were on the same page.

“Bagel for Maddie!” I excused myself from the lack of conversation to retrieve my bagel. I didn’t need or want it, but it was the least he could do. When I took my seat next to him again, my eyes drifted over his jeans and up his torso towards his face. The sharpness of his jaw and the depth of his blue eyes took me by surprise. His hand was grasping his chestnut brown hair, and a long frown settled on his lips. They looked soft. It was a stark contrast to the hardness the rest of his body carried. His soulful eyes were deeply imbedded in dark circles.

“Puppies are a lot like babies,” I said. My comment hung in the air for a moment before he allowed the tiniest smile to flirt with the corner of his lips.

“He doesn’t sleep much.”

“How old is he?”

“Six months, I think?” he said. “I rescued him a week or so ago. He was dumped on the side of the road by my parent’s house.”

“Awe, who could abandon a face like that?” I said, cooing.

“I know, right?” He yawned again.

The barista called my name and his. Before I could get up, he was on his feet and walking towards the counter to retrieve our respective drinks. I couldn’t help but stare at the way his jeans curved perfectly around his butt. My cheeks reddened and flames spread through me. If there was ever a time I was grateful to have been peed on, this was it. Some people imagine how quarters might bounce off an ass, but my mind was not at all on quarters as I studied the way he moved. I could think of a few things more enticing than quarters.

My body responded almost as quickly as my thoughts. It shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d been single for almost a year and a half now. I’d been on a few dates, but nothing promising. I insisted it was too soon when friends tried to set me up. I didn’t think I was ready. But watching Lucas, I was beginning to think the time had come. I was ready to dive back into the dating pool. Or just a random night of fun with a hot guy who’s dog had already stolen my heart.

“Your latte,” he said, handing me the cup. I was careful to not touch him this time. I didn’t trust my body to respond appropriately. He slipped his hand into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so jealous of a wallet. “Here.”

He handed me a white card. Lucas Moretti. I ran my finger over his name. Below his name was the name of a local real estate firm and a phone number.

“That’s my cell,” he said. “Don’t worry, I won’t try to sell you a house.” This time, a real smile crossed his face, wrinkling the tan skin around his eyes.

“Oh,” I replied. I pulled my own card out from my purse and handed it to him.

“Maddie Anderson,” he said, drawing my name out. Each syllable slithered off his tongue. I watched his lips move and tried not to imagine just how magical they would feel against mine. “Is Maddie short for Madison?”

“Amanda,” I said, shaking my head. “I hate the name Mandy, but there were seven Amandas in my school. So, I picked Maddie.”

Tugging at a strand of my blonde hair, I twisted it around my index finger and thumb. Over and over. Each time dropping it so the curl cascaded down my shoulder. I recognized this as my nervous tic. I glanced around the cafe, trying to decide whether or not to make eye contact. When my gaze finally landed on his face, he held his eyes on mine. Still smiling, neither one of us broke the stare. I couldn’t look away. Baxter laid his head down on my foot, resigning to his fate of being stuck in this cafe. Neither Lucas or I were willing to make the first move. I needed to get to work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I’d rather be doing with this man I’d just met.

“Let’s get dinner sometime, Maddie short for Amanda.” He smirked.

“You’ve got my number,” I said and stood. I decided to play it cool. He didn’t need to know I’d been holding my breath waiting for him to ask that very question. I knelt down to give Baxter one final ear scratch. “Bye, Baxter. Don’t go peeing on any other girls today, okay?” His head bobbed up and down as if he’d understood my request.

I offered Lucas a quick wave before ducking out of the cafe and back onto the busy street. My heart raced when I turned back and noticed him watching me walk away. I could only hope that my skirt was giving him the same thoughts his jeans had given me.

Taking a long, slow sip of my free and extra potent latte, I forced a smile and pulled open the door to the office building. I shouted a greeting to the security guard and walked through the large, ornate lobby. I scanned my badge at the elevator and closed my eyes. I took three deep breaths, letting each one in and out slowly and deliberately. Today was going to be a good day. Today was my day.

The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister

Where do I begin? When I first started reading The Scent Keeper I wasn’t sure how I felt. The comparisons to The Great Alone and Where the Crawdads Sing gave me some ideas of what to expect, but what I found was a completely unique and enthralling story.

The Scent Keeper tells the story is Emmeline, a girl raised on a remote island by her father. She is taught how to hunt and gather, and to use her gift of scent to not only find food but to also find and savor memories.

Emmeline is a strong, relatable and damaged character. The scents themselves where a whole other character, full of their own power and stories. I don’t think I’ll ever smell perfume or fragrance the same again.

Thank you  to St. Martin’s Press for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book: Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them.  As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

About the Author: Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

Where to Buy:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble 
Books-a-Million 
Indie Bound 
Powell’s

The Dreamers, Karen Thompson Walker

**Review**

The Dreamers, Karen Walker Thompson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Warning: this book will be superglued to your hand. You won’t be able to put it down. You think you’ll be able to stop at a chapter, but you won’t. You’ll be compelled to keep reading.

I’m not sure I’ve completely processed The Dreamers. I’m also pissed that I let it sit unread on my shelf for so long. What I do know is that this is a story that will stick with me and make me continually question dreams and life.

There were a lot of characters, but I felt invested with every single one. I needed to know how each of their stories ended. That’s what kept me turning the pages… I had to know who had the sickness, who woke up, who dreamed and what they dreamt of, who didn’t make it. I found myself holding my breath for several pages at a time.

The Dreamers is a freaking masterpiece of a mind f*#+. If you haven’t read it, you need to. Like yesterday. Don’t be a fool like me and let it sit on your bookshelf neglected for months.

Beyond the Point, Claire Gibson

**Review**

Beyond The Point, Claire Gibson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Have you ever closed a book, smiled and then cried? I hadn’t until I read Beyond the Point.

Reading the synopsis, I was intrigued. I’m always drawn to stories of strong women shattering glass ceilings. This book did not disappoint.

Reading the prologue, I knew there would be tears, but what I didn’t expect was to find myself so incredibly connected to Dani, Avery and Hannah. These characters are so well-developed that I felt as though I was the fourth friend in the Cult.

I did not want this book to end. At almost 500 pages, it wasn’t long enough. The story covers 6 years of these young women’s lives, but I need more. Claire Gibson please write a sequel.

5.14.19 InstaShortie – Delivery

Sweat beaded at my hairline and trickled into my eyes. My fingers curled into tight fists. Gritting my teeth, I exhaled sharply. The hissing sound I made danced through the chaos barely audible. I heard it. I heard and felt everything. I tried in vain to concentrate on anything other than the pain. It tore through me in quick waves, syncopated but uneven. The room was dim, but the lights from the machines around me illuminated the faces I couldn’t focus on.

The woman standing beside me squeezed my hand. “It’s time,” she announced.

“Time?” I gasped. I wasn’t ready. It couldn’t be time yet. We’d been here nearly twelve hours, and I still wasn’t ready. Not that I ever would be. I’d read the books, watched the YouTube videos, scrolled the blogs and made the lists. But I knew I’d never be ready. After all, that’s what they all said. Nothing can truly prepare you for the moment or flood of emotions. Or the years of exhaustion and elation that followed.

“Dad,” she called across the room. “It’s time to push.”

My husband didn’t look up. He reached into his backpack, his back to me. We watched in complete silence as he shuffled through the contents. When he found whatever it was he was looking for, his back straightened. But he didn’t turn around. The nurse repeated herself as my body tensed for another contraction.

“Dan!” I hissed. “What the fuck are you doing? It is time to push!”

He turned around. His eyebrows furrowed and his mouth open. “Flossing.”

“What?” I asked not believing what I was hearing.

“Flossing,” he repeated without hesitation.

“It is time to push,” the nurse said again. Her tone far kinder than mine had been.

“Okay,” he said. The floss picker between his fingers, he opened his mouth wider and popped the blue plastic tool between his teeth.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked. My teeth clenched so tightly I knew I was bound to chip a tooth. “You’re flossing right now. It couldn’t wait?” My body pitched forward, curling around my stomach.

“There was something stuck in my teeth.” He remained calm and unphased. His shoulders slouched forward and eyes on the floor.

“Yeah? YOU have something stuck? YOU?!” My hands flew in the air in the touchdown formation. I dramatically waved them down towards my swollen belly. “If you don’t put down that stupid flosser, you’re going to have something stuck somewhere even more painful.” The words flew out, growing increasingly louder until I was screaming.

His eyes grew wide for a moment as if he’d just remembered where we were and what was happening. But he didn’t drop the floss. He stood shell shocked and stared at me.

The nurse grabbed my leg and I felt the flames of her stare as she shot daggers across the room. “It’s time,” she snapped. The sharpness in her voice pulled him back. I glanced at her gratefully and she nodded. “You’d be surprised by the stupid shit Dad’s do in the delivery room.”

He sighed and dropped the floss in the trash. I could hear his feet shuffling across the floor during his walk of shame towards the bed. The heat from his breath and the lingering smell of the ice cream cone he’d eaten in my face an hour ago smacked me when he leaned in to kiss my cheek. I jerked away and glared at him. I was starving. The smell of old ice cream mixed with the Greek he’d had for dinner. The two smells danced in my nose and taunted my empty stomach. I growled under my breath.

Before I could utter the words I wanted to curse him with, my lower half tightened into a ball of fury and held my breath captive.

“Ready to push?” The nurse asked.

“Yes,” my husband said as if he’d been ready the entire time.

5.7.19 InstaShortie – Keys

I glanced at the clock. The seconds ticked by—one by one. Each one clicking on to the next as if the world did in fact keep turning. As if it hadn’t just shattered into a million minuscule shards of glass that became shrapnel. The pieces pierced my skin creating a river of emotion that drained from my body slowly. I tried to stop it; to hold the pieces of my world together. I stitched them in uneven, imperfect lines. A perfect representation of myself. Together and whole, but completely and utterly broken.

The door slammed and the entire house shook. The sound echoed through the air and hung with baited breath, waiting for me to react.

I should have yelled “STOP!” I should have demanded an audience and a stage. I had things I wanted to say—no, needed to say. Words built inside me and held me captivated. They would stay there and fester, eating away at my soul along with the could haves and should haves. The dreams and plans. They would all die slowly.

Blame rested solely on me. The walls built were erected by me. Each and every brick created with my own hands and cemented with lies. It was meant to provide protection; a shield. Instead the structure became a weapon. The very thing that was to keep me safe was the thing that eviscerated my world.

Cold. Unfeeling. Stone. All words he used to describe me. Those were not the words inside me. Protected. Safe. Guarded. Those were my words. He’d taken them and twisted them into a knife meant to slash my heart.

The door creaked open. A tentative hand pushing it slowly, carefully. Was he changing his mind? Or did he just forget something? Me? Did he forget me?

I waited, holding my breath. First an inch of light broke through. Then six. Then nothing. It paused. I could see his fingers wrapped around the door. He stood on the other side of the pristine white door for what felt like hours.

“Levi?” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. His knuckles went white as he gripped harder. Still, the door didn’t budge so much as an inch. He was hesitating. Something was keeping him from running completely. Me? Was it me that pulled him back?

The door flew open and he stepped through the threshold. Sunlight danced behind him igniting his golden hair. I forced a smile and hoped it seemed warm and inviting—anything but cold and rigid. Surely a person could become someone completely different in a matter of minutes.

When his eyes met mine, my smile faded.
It disappeared into oblivion along with what little hope is held onto. His anger seethed through his green eyes. Flames danced with daggers as he looked straight through me as if I weren’t even there.

I opened my mouth to speak. What exactly, I didn’t know. His hand flew up, fingers splayed, stopping my apology or groveling before it even started.

“I forgot my keys.”

Not I forgot I loved you. I missed you already. I’m staying. He forgot his keys.

When the door shut this time, a sense of resolution flushed through my veins. Brick-by-brick the wall started to rebuild itself. The thick layer of protection restored my sense of self. I blinked away whatever tears threatened and ignored the ones still welling inside.

He’d be back. I was certain of that. In his haste to ignore me, he’d grabbed my keys instead of his. This time I’d be prepared. No fake smiles, just words. I only needed three words. Three words could fix this. I could fix this. I had to.

The door flew open without hesitation this time. He breezed in, flushed with annoyance.

Ignoring the weight of the freshly built wall, I finally said the words I hadn’t been able to before, “I love you.”

The anchor pulled, forcing the bricks to buckle. Give and take. Wasn’t that what he’d asked me for?

He stopped. The keys fell to the floor and he turned. Our eyes met—blue to green—his anger fizzled as my gaze flooded his.

“What?” He whispered. “What did you say?”

“I love you, Levi.” This time the words flowed easier. They had a natural simplicity to them. “I’m sorry. Stay.”

The words freed me and pulled him back in. The wall could grow to fit two. It could encompass the both of us. I could be safe within the walls with him.

“Say it again.” His voice was light now. The anger vanished. Three words was all he needed.

I smiled. “I love you.”

Just Write

As a writer, I’m constantly questioning my words. What are words? What are sentences? Does Stephen King really never use adverbs in his books or daily conversations?

One of the hardest things for me to accept is that sometimes the words I put down on paper (or, Google Drive, because 2019), aren’t the greatest. I don’t know that I’ll ever be the type of writer that makes people discuss my prose or verbose language. I’d rather let the story lead the discussion. I want my words to be accessible. And, selfishly, I want readers to devour a book in one sitting. Hard to do that when they have to ask Siri what pontificate means.

But there are times I write words and sentences that make me want to burn it all day. Sometimes I do. That’s what editing is for. Write it out. Set it aside. Edit. Edit. Edit.

We rarely hit perfection on the first try. Hell, we rarely ever hit it. And that’s okay. Life isn’t perfect and neither is fiction.

The minute writing stops being fun is the moment I lose my passion. I don’t ever want to get to that point. I get frustrated and annoyed. I re-read a chapter and wonder if I even understand language. But I never want those doubts or fears to stop me from doing what I love.

Writers: just write the words. You can edit them later. Get it out, if even its nonsense now, it won’t be after you edit and revision.

Don’t Let Fear Win

You won’t find my books in the library or on the shelves at Target or Barnes & Noble (not yet, anyway). They aren’t on any best seller lists or included on popular must read lists (yet).

Between self-doubt, my day job, motherhood and life, I never allowed myself to believe that traditional publishing was possible. I let fear and a million what-ifs drive me.

I knew going Indie was a risk, but that it was also one way to share my work. I’ve written a total of 7 complete novels. Three of those are sitting in this photo. Three are tucked safely away from the world. One is being pitched and queried to literary agents.

I owe this last fact to Bookstagram and the amazing readers and writers I’ve met here. The encouraging words from @thebooksocialite (my biggest and, arguably, only fan) gave me the boost to actually think I might do it. She’s also been a wealth of knowledge of what to do and what not to do when it comes to querying.

Being indie is rewarding and challenging. It’s removed barriers and allowed me to get my work out. But it also means it’s all on me. That’s been hard. I do Marketing in my day job and it’s the last thing I want to do when I get home. I have two young, demanding kids. It’s exhausting balancing it all.

It’s also rewarding and challenging putting myself out there. Hearing no is tough, but worth it. Every single no is one step closer to a yes. I only need one yes, and the 100 no’s are steps toward the one.

All this to say, stop letting fear and self-doubt stop you. You can do anything. No is just a word. It can feel personal, but it’s not. It’s a chance to learn and grow.

Camp Grandma, Marianne Waggoner Day

This boy right here loves his Granny. I can’t wait to read #CampGrandma by Marianne Waggoner Day and share with my mom. (Release Date: May 7)

From the publisher:

Warm cookies and milk are still okay, but what if they came with a workshop on goal setting or writing a business plan for the school year? Camp Grandma is full of innovative ideas that Marianne Waggoner Day, a highly successful businesswoman who became a committed and dedicated grandmother, modified from her working life in an effort to connect with her grandchildren. Along the way, she realized that in teaching her grandchildren, she in turn was learning some unexpected and invaluable lessons from them.

Here, Day offers a new and refreshing perspective on grandparenting. Readers will be introduced to a compelling, sometimes humorous, and totally unexpected twist on a role people often take for granted―as well as enter into the larger societal conversation we should be having about the possibilities and value of grandparenting and how the women’s movement has reinvigorated and reshaped women’s approach to being grandmothers.

Full of ideas and creative ways for grandparents to help their grandchildren grow strong, think critically, and have fun all at the same time, Camp Grandma reveals the importance of grandparenting and the value of passing on traditions, knowledge, and wisdom to the new generation. Babysitter? Not even close.

Thank you to BookSparks and the publisher for the ARC; I’ll be posting a review soon!