Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey


Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart. 


A family of four ladies, the mother, Ainsley and daughters Caroline, Emerson and Sloane. They are trying to heal in some form and family is the best way they know how. Everyone ends up back in Peachtree Bluff to repair and soothe their wayward lives. 

This story is basically about Caroline as her family is falling apart. She heads back Peachtree Bluff, a place she never expected to be her saving grace. As her marriage publicly implodes her family becomes her restorative.  Caroline is a strong, yet quirky woman. She has some OCD issues and can be a little more “truthful” than you want her to be. This was an endearing trait which I loved. 

There are so many great aspects to this read. Wonderful setting, awesome characters and there are some fabulous lines in this book. I laughed out loud in several places and wanted to cry in others! I did feel there were too many characters. I had to think about a character and how they were related. All in all a really good, heartwarming read! 

There must be a sequel in the works….a story line is not finished and I so want to know more! 

I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.

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The Magician’s Workshop by Hansen and Fehr – BOOK SPOTLIGHT




 AUTHORS: Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr

CATEGORY: Young Adult, Fantasy, Coming of age

eBook IBSN: 978-1-945353-11-6

File Size: 800 KB Print Length: 247 pages

PUBLISHER: Wondertale

DATE PUBLISHED: November 8, 2016






TWITTER: @HansenFehr  









Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence.

Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop. 

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world. 






The first glimmering Chris Hansen had that there was far more to reality than he had ever imagined occurred six days after his ninth birthday. “Christopher!” cried a wise, old sage. “Life is full of deep magic. Miraculous things happen all the time and all around us, if you know where to look for them.” Full of expectation and childlike optimism, Chris began searching for this magic, prepared to be surprised and amazed by it. And he was: he found Wonder! Now he’s chosen to write stories about it.



When J.R. Fehr popped out of the womb, he knew there was more to the world than the four boring hospital walls that he was seeing. “Zango!” his newborn mind exclaimed as he saw people appear and disappear through a mysterious portal in the wall. As a child he found life wowtazzling, but as he grew older the cold water of reality hit him, and the magic he once knew vanished. After spending some wet and shivering years lost in a joyless wasteland, he once again began to see magic in the world. He writes because the Wonder of true life is far grander than anything he ever thought possible.



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Ugly by Alexander Boldizar AUTHOR INTERVIEW 

The Ugly

By Alexander Boldizar

Genre: Satire/literary fiction/humor


Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300–pound boulder–throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists. In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders. His anarchic adventures span continents, from Siberia to Cambridge to Africa, as he fights fellow students, Tuareg rebels, professors of law, dark magic, bureaucrats, heatstroke, postmodernists, and eventually time and space. A wild existential comedic romp, THE UGLY tells the tale of a flawed and unlikely hero struggling against the machine that shapes the people who govern our world. 


“A comedically absurd tour de force that examines the complex relationship between words and actions.” – Foreword Reviews (editor’s pick, 5 stars)


“[A] muscular critique of conflicts both intellectual and physical. A surprising treat.” — Publisher’s Weekly


“A full-on satire of contemporary law as mesmerizing and complex as something lost from Foster Wallace, yet as light in tone as A Confederacy of Dunces.” — Goodreads (#1 New Releases, Sept 2016)


“A bold and hilarious satire, a stunning debut.” — LB Book Notes
“This decade’s A Confederacy of Dunces.” — Christoph Paul, Clash Media


Author Bio

Alexander Boldizar was the first post-independence Slovak citizen to graduate with a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School. Since then, he has been an art gallery director in Bali, an attorney in San Francisco and Prague, a pseudo-geisha in Japan, a hermit in Tennessee, a paleontologist in the Sahara, a porter in the High Arctic, a police-abuse watchdog in New York City, an editor and art critic in Jakarta and Singapore, and a consultant on Wall Street. His writing has won the PEN/Nob Hill prize and was the Breadloaf nominee for Best New American Voices. Boldizar currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where his hobbies include throwing boulders and choking people while wearing pajamas, for which he won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships and a bronze at the World Masters Championships of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For several years, an online Korean dictionary had him listed as its entry for “ugly.”



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1. This is a very “smart read” book as I like to say. How did you research this? How did you verify your information? 

Thank you for the kind compliment! Much of my research was primary—I did attend Harvard Law School, live with the Tuaregs in the middle of the Tuareg Wars, catch malaria while stuck on a riverboat on the way to Timbuktu, date a postmodernist “professor doctor doctor,” participate in a Voodoo ceremony in Benin and get iced-in one August during an expedition to Bylot Island in the high Arctic. I may even have thrown a boulder from time to time, though not at another human being. I absorbed ideas that I used in The Ugly, sometimes local words that I later transcribed, but I did all this with no academic rigor.


When I sent The Ugly to my publisher, of course, they insisted on fact checking every word in Tamasheq or Inuit or Harvardese, or some important detail of culture. For most discrepancies, I gave in to reality (and to my amazing publisher, Brooklyn Arts Press), but there are also moments in The Ugly where I insisted on following Nietzsche’s observation that “We have art to save ourselves from truth.” Half the slogans on the Harvard library walls are real, while half are not. One of the two books bound in human skin really is bound in human skin, the other has been found to not be. (Though the Gutierrez book was only established by DNA testing as not being human in 2014. In the late 1990s, we thought both were.) Half of the stories in the novel may be based in something real, half are not.


The Ugly is a book of fiction, so I tell readers to please assume they’re all untrue. Except Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz really did in real life what he does in the novel, though in hindsight I almost feel a bit bad about poking fun at him now. And although Muzhduk saved Pooh’s tree in the novel, it was a temporary victory. In real life the tree was cut down in 2012. The world is doomed.


Some readers have taken Pooh as the most surreal part of The Ugly. To them I suggest googling “Harvard Pooh” to see that I made up nothing. Ok, a few things. But nearly all first novels have autobiographical elements, and that’s certainly true of The Ugly.



2. What inspired you to write this type of novel? It has a complexity and creativity not usually found. Is there something specific which lead you to this tale?


There were really two drivers, one personal and one intellectual, and I very consciously tried to make sure the book also had two layers—the entertaining surface plot, and the thematic layers underneath. The book took 16 years to edit because making both of those work simultaneously was challenging.


I worked as a summer associate at a French law firm in Prague in the mid ‘90s, shortly after the country split. At the time I often spoke English in cafés if I if I didn’t want to be asked whether I could really afford the coffee. A table full of Czechs next to me didn’t realize I was Slovak, and I overheard them making fun of Slovaks as dumb mountain men who grunted and threw boulders at each other.


I absolutely loved the image. When I was younger, I had a bad habit of playing dumb whenever I could see someone start off with that assumption—I was large, drank too much, fought a lot, and had an East European love of the absurd that North Americans sometimes mistook for stupidity—and when I heard that dumb mountain man stereotype I wanted to run with it and turn it on its head.


At the same time, Harvard Law really was a very alien place for me at first. At one point in the book, Muzhduk gets an anonymous letter stating that his admission devalued the Harvard name for everyone at the school. That was, nearly word for word, taken from a real letter I received in my first year. It was a very careful place, where nobody knew if the person next to him or her might end up being a supreme court justice, or the president of some little country. Or big country. People who had lawyers for parents knew that the most valuable thing at Harvard wasn’t the education or even the name, but the connections—all in a hypercompetitive context. I preferred a directness that made me look like a caveman in comparison.


I had no interest in writing a One-L type neurotic complaint about law school, but I thought it would be fascinating to bring a real mountain man to Harvard Law and see what happened. That was the personal side.


At the thematic level, The Ugly is driven by the question “What is thinking?” I wanted to examine different ways of thinking. Kaspar Hauser mountain man, Harvard lawyer, African Voodoo priest, academic postmodernist, American painter, with many of these subdivided and then thrown at each other.


The thematic inspiration for The Ugly was a frustration with analytic rationality generated by being in law school. I was very good at logic, felt like I could fill out the entire volume of its Venn diagram, but I became frustrated that so many of my fellow students equated logic with thinking. I wanted more. That was also why in real life I did two years of law school, then took a year off to go to Africa, searching for a more tangible, immediate way of interacting with the world. So I talked my way onto a National Geographic expedition to go dig for dinosaur bones in the Sahara, trading abstract thought for sand and bones.


That wasn’t the answer either. I wanted to go to the jumping place, but I didn’t know where it was. Einstein did it, filled in the space of existing science, jumped into the realm of art, and pulled back the theory of relativity. The Ugly was my attempt to find the jumping place.



3. Without thinking hard….off the cuff….what is your favorite book? Quickly now…if you think you will change it. I want the first thing that pops in your head!


The Castle, by Franz Kafka. Even its title probably influenced The Ugly.


4. Which author, dead or alive, would you want to meet and have a conversation with and why?


Kafka, if it’s just one. I’d love to see how his mind worked on daily things—we’d talk about the weather and aliens and slow people who drive in the passing lane—to see whether his ability to consistently open a weird existential sideways shift was just who he was, or whether it was a conscious intellectual move within the story.


But if I can choose more than one, I’d love to have a poker game with Kafka, Heller, Vonnegut, Musil, Borges, Joseph Roth, Hrabal, Bowles, Dostoevsky, Camus, Rilke, Conrad, DN Stuefloten, Jodorowsky, PK Dick, Frank Herbert, Fassbinder and Einstein for variety—and just listen to them trying to bluff each other.



5. Catherine Mckenzie must have her tunes, Dan Brown needs his gravity boots. Is there anything special you need to write? 


Time, silence and a beverage. Every machine has an input and an output. To be productive, I need to be sipping something liquid that my body can turn into ink on a page. On a good day, I’ll go through fifteen cups of coffee before switching to alcohol. Though I’m not averse to hanging upside down from time to time, just for fun.



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Twisted Beauty by Kristen Flood – COVER REVEAL plus giveaway 

Twisted Beauty

Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance



KRISTEN FLOOD, author of Seeking Incandescence and The Museum, pens a riveting adult romance with a poignant examination of love, identity, and forgiveness. 
Once the powerful prince of Renol, William is a shell of the man he once was. Living under the curse of a powerful witch, William has spent 100 years making deals on her behalf and mourning the loss of his first love. 
Belle has spent her life confined within the limits of her city, Paylor, and is now bound to a man she does not love. When she dares to venture outside the city’s gates in search of something she’s lost, she finds more than she ever expected. 
As Belle and William embark on a journey of love and mourning, passion and forgiveness, they discover that sometimes what we lose isn’t as important as what we find. 


Twisted Beauty is on Goodreads at Facebook: @kristenfloodbooks. Twitter: @KristenFlood01. 




Go to Kristen’s Facebook author page (@kristenfloodbooks)and share the cover reveal video that she will be posting today at 2:30 pm central time. The giveaway will start February 2nd and go until March 15th. Two winners will receive a signed copy of Twisted Beauty one month before it releases and a $10 gift cards.






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Devil’s Playground by Dylan Kidson 


Mia Sawan thinks her time with The Firm is behind her, as she spends her days selling art to a very wealthy clientele. 

But when a Christian banker in Beirut is crucified and a 10-year-old girl in Azerbaijan is kidnapped, Mia finds herself once again at the head of a dangerous investigation. What is the connection between the two? And will she be able to find the missing girl before it’s too late? 

Racing against the clock and unsure of her real enemy, Mia must rely on her own incredible instincts, a trusted mentor and a notorious warlord, until she ultimately uncovers a conspiracy far larger and darker than she could have ever imagined. 

Devil’s Playground is a chilling, explosive and often heart-rending tale of human trafficking, violent cartels, the dark side of religion and the power of redemption.


This is one fast paced thriller. No fluff whatsoever and with a strong female lead, I was in heaven. Mia doesn’t take no for an answer and she doesn’t let anything get in her way, including bullets. Mia is a bada$$. She is one tough woman. She is brought into Beirut to find out who burned a Christian banker on a cross. But, this leads her to find a kidnapped child.  When Tatyana is kidnapped in Baku, Mia is unstoppable to find her. 

This story brings out the reality of the sex trade. How well organized, how well hidden, and how cruel, just to name a few.  I was mesmerized by this novel because I have read very little about this crime. It is an extremely sad fact and it does exist. This story tore at a piece of my heart. To know there are girls out in the world right now going through what some of these girls in this book went through, just unnerves me to no end. 

There is a huge mistake in this book which a lot of people will catch.  Medical personnel and diabetics will catch this fast. Tatyana is a diabetic but she used an Epipen to deliver her insulin.  You do not use an Epipen for insulin…makes no sense. Epipens are used for allergic reactions, not to deliver insulin.  This is not even close to being correct. It is stated in several places in this read…hope they fixed this before publishing. 

I received this book from Netgalley for a honest review. 

Purchase here 


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The Benevolent Terrorist by Danny Wynn – BOOK SPOTLIGHT 

The Benevolent TerroristBy Danny Wynn

Genre: Adventure/Literary


The Benevolent Terrorist is a thinking person’s adventure story, in the vein of various novels by Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and Patricia Highsmith. It tells the tale of a troubled young American named Jack who’s been wandering the world for extended periods on an increasingly desperate quest for excitement and adventure. Jack is traveling with a likable and beautiful Australian woman, who’s quickly getting fed up with him. In Athens, they meet a mysterious loner, an ex-Army guy who recently finished working construction in Tunisia. The unlikely trio travels to a Greek island where a romantic triangle develops. Jack’s deep desire to escape boredom and his theory of benevolent terrorism – ¬fighting terrorists with terror – lead the two men on a dark and violent adventure. The novel explores with intelligence a number of the disturbing aspects of life and artfully straddles the boundary between commercial and literary ¬fiction.
“A fantastic, existentialist thriller with visceral charm…offers a trio of vivid character studies while ¬filling [the narrative] with sinister tension…sharp, philosophical, and occasionally surreal prose.”— Kirkus Reviews


About the Author

The Benevolent Terrorist is my third novel of publishable quality. Before turning full-time to writing, I worked at CBS Records (later Sony Music) for many years and traveled extensively, rising to the level of Executive Vice President. I’ve lived in New York City, Los Angeles, and London, and now make my home in the West Village with my wife and two children. My second favorite place in the world (after the West Village) is the island of Mallorca, Spain, which I have visited more than thirty times (and is where one of my earlier novels, Man From the Sky, is set). My writing has received numerous starred reviews and garnered very favorable criticism such as, “an enjoyable tale of lost souls colliding in the most unlikely of places,” “conjuring shades of Steinbeck,” “the prose is subtle but vivid, intellectually engaged but never arid, as the author provides readers with a flurry of snapshots that gradually coalesce into a picture of tarnished longings,” and “well written, thought provoking…,stands in a class all by itself.”  

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A Bit of Earth by Wendy Crisp Lestina 

A Bit of EarthBy Wendy Crisp Lestina

Genre: Memoir; humor



A Bit of Earth, published by Lychgate Press, an independent press in Corvallis, Oregon, is a memoir that begins in 1980 with the theft from a car parked on the streets of New York City of my father’s Silver Star medal, which was awarded to him for his heroism during World War II—heroism that resulted in his death. The book ends, 22 chapters later, with its unlikely recovery, 34 years later, in 2014. The story in-between, life stories that begin before I was born and take place in various settings (farms in northern California and tiny towns on the Minnesota prairie; Los Angeles and New York) is a kaleidoscope of stories about a life—mine—influenced by a dead father’s spiritual admonition to “life a big life, as big as you can make it, big enough for both of us.”


A Bit of Earth is both a personal story, filled with details of people and places and things that are unique to my experience, and a story about everyone whose childhood and adult life began in the atomic age and wove through a world in which long-standing rules were subject to revision or dissolution. Everyone seeks ways to survive, cope and—occasionally—master this challenge by finding a home, something to hang on to, a piece of earth. My way is humor. This is, mostly, a funny boo


An interesting read, no doubt! I enjoyed many aspects of this memoir. Many parts had me chuckling and few left me with tears in my eyes. This story is an emotional roller coaster. I could not believe she found the Silver Star medal 34 years after it had been stolen. Truly amazing! 

The author jumps around a good bit.  This is the only reason I give this 3 stars. I had some trouble keeping up. It was probably more me than the story but,  I did feel lost a few times. I also needed more detail on the people involved. However, good people do exist in this world! 

If you need a good memoir for your soul, this is it! 


About the Author


Wendy Crisp Lestina is the author of five books: When I Grow Up I Want to Be 60 (Penguin/Perigee, Spring 2006); Do As I Say Not As I Did (Penguin/Perigee, 1997); From The Back Pew (2003); Old Favorites From Ferndale Kitchens (1994); and the best-selling 100 Things I’m Not Going to Do Now That I’m Over 50 (Penguin/Perigee, 1995). 

Her career has been as a magazine editor (Savvy, Datamation, among others) and a public speaker (as the spokesperson of the National Association for Female Executives). She has appeared on dozens of national television programs, including Oprah!, The McLaughlin Group, the Today Show, and Good Morning America. Her op-ed pieces have been published in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Portland Oregonian, and heard on Oregon Public Broadcasting. 

Since 2004, Wendy has directed over a dozen documentary videos, including Saving the Queen, produced under a grant from CalHumanities; and Letters Home, which won the Western History Association’s Autry Public History Prize in 2011. Her weekly newspaper column, “From the Back Pew,” has won three national awards for both “most serious” and “most humorous” from the National Newspaper Association. In 1997, Middlebury College (Vermont) awarded her an honorary doctorate for her work “on behalf of women and children.” She holds a B.A. (English) from Whitman College (Washington).

As a volunteer, Wendy served eight years on the national board of directors of United Methodist Communications (Nashville). She was a seminar leader in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (New York); she coordinated nonprofit fundraisers in New York and Humboldt County. She is now the president of the historic Ferndale Cemetery Association.  

Wendy and her husband, John live on the family farm outside of Ferndale, California where they are hosts of an Airbnb that serves dinner.


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