The Hive Queen by Robin Kirk

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Welcome, welcome to my TLC Book Tour review for the second book in The Bond Trilogy, The Hive Queen! Dystopian future meets fantasy in this futuristic look at a time when humans are engineered rather than made in…traditional ways. I’m talking Handmaids meet Avatars.

Of course if you’ve read here before you know I love dystopians but this was an extra interesting take. Following The Bond where Dinitra and 12 ultimately help Fir and his brothers escape a captivity where they only serve their mothers, this is Fir’s story. Headed toward The Master (leader of men) he must travel through The Hive Queen’s domain (leader of drafts) where she’s in interested in more than a friendship with Fir. But Fir has places to be – specifically those free of women as he has always been held captive due to being a man.

Wild battle scenes ensue with drafts (animal, human, plant concoctions) and men as Fir must continually rescue others from death. And in true dystopian style Robin Kirk has no problem killing characters off and some bloody gore. I don’t mean to say kill all the characters, but it definitely keeps you on your toes and adds an element of suspense.

If you like dystopians or SciFi or Fantasy then this is a series you’ll want to grab! It was a fun and very entertaining read in a completely new world – one where women rule (duh) and men are hunted due to their violence toward women and the planet. But as you continue you start to wonder, at what point is it justice and when does it cross the line back into violence for violence’s sake?

In the second book in the INDIE-award-winning Bond Trilogy, warrior Fir leads his brothers on a quest for salvation that will threaten everything he holds dear.

After the battle that toppled the Weave, warrior Fir leads his brothers east to escape servitude, or worse—death at the hands of rival warriors. They search for the fabled Master of Men who promises freedom for men in the Weave. But their quest leads them to a foe more dangerous than they could have imagined.

When the beautiful Hive Queen, Odide, bespells Fir, he’s compelled to betray his brothers—and risks dooming them all to an unspeakable fate. To survive, Fir must choose between his loyalty to his brothers, his allegiance to the Queen, and his love for Dinitra.

But salvation is not what it seems. When theworlds of the Hive and the Master collide, it triggers a devastating betrayal that leaves Fir with an impossible choice: can he sacrifice his brothers for the love he thought he could never have?

Purchase: Bookshop.org l Amazon l Barnes & Noble

Connect with Robin: Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l Website

Thanks again to TLC Book Tours and Robin Kirk for my copy to read and share!

Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters by Emily Carpenter

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters entangled in my homegrown pumpkin vine.

A sequel and a stand-alone, Emily Carpenter brings us Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters. The story of Ruth “Dove” Jarrod, one half of the heal-through-prayer sisters that traveled southern Alabama in the 1930s.

The story alternates between Ruth, who was born in an insane asylum to a mother who would later kill herself leaving Ruth to plan her escape, and her granddaughter Eve who has spent her life keeping secrets for Ruth. Ruth’s story is from her escape through her death and the events that made her who she was: an evangelist healer traveling the world to cure people’s ailments. Eve’s story is of a cover. She’s spent the last 8 years keeping Dove’s BIG secrets, that were otherwise buried with her, to protect her mother and brother. It turns out someone might know and expose her anyway. This she is sent racing through Dove’s last trying to uncover the secrets that are being threatened to be exposed in order to save the foundation Eve and her family run in Dove’s name.

This was my first trek through southern gothic fiction and it was such a great read and entertaining story. I definitely recommend if you liked The Lost Girls of Devon or Where the Crawdads Sing. I was so sucked into this story I couldn’t put it down until I started falling asleep…I got up immediately the next morning to finish.

Rarely does an author go from start to finish in a non-thriller and not lose me at some point along the way. You’re basically a passenger of Eve’s throughout the story with glimpses into the famous and infamous Dove’s past. Truly great read.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation – and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…

Tuscaloosa,1934: a wily young orphan escapes the psychiatric hospital where she was born. When she joins the itinerant inspirational duo, the Hawthorn Sisters, the road ahead is one of stirring new possibilities. And, with an obsessive predator on her trail, one of untold dangers. For a young girl to survive, desperate choices must be made.

Now, in order to protect her family, Eve will join forces with the investigative filmmaker and one of Dove’s friends, risking everything to unravel the truth behind the accusations against her grandmother. But will the truth set her free, or set her world on fire?

Connect with Emily: Website l Instagram

Pre-order from your local store for October 20, 2020 release! Colorado local? Try Barbed Wire Books or The Used Book Emporium! Otherwise check Barnes & Noble, Target or even Amazon to get your hands on your next great Southern fiction read!

Thanks so much to Lake Union Publishing for my copy to read and share!

The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating by Margot Starbuck

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Welcome to my stop on the book tour for The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating and a big thank you to Margot Starbuck and TLC Booktours for allowing me to read and share!

*Four years after an unexpected divorce, best selling writer and funny lady Margot Starbuck found herself venturing into the unknown waters of online dating. What she discovered surprised her – and changed her.* Read to find her tips and tricks for online dating as well some funny dating fails and even interviews Margot gives.

First, I actually finished this. I don’t usually finish self-help type books. The humor was a big help (and what got my attention to begin with) because even if I’m not looking for a man, this was very insightful. Also I love to laugh and Margot has the own-biggest-fan and self-depreciating humor down perfectly. (I laughed out loud more than once.)

My favorite part was probably the emphasis on female friendships. You realize how important those are every year you get older which makes it sad to think back on older articles in magazines and online and even parts of books I’ve read that say not to tell your girlfriends (or anyone really) anything about your relationship because you will ruin it. This book is not that: red flags are real and should be discussed. Trust your girls, trust your family and trust yourself. I love that.

This is a Christian dating advice book but even if you’re not religious I think this could be helpful in your online search for a man. Or a woman. If I had a criticism it would be that this is very hetero-oriented and I do wish it hadn’t been so “woman gets husband” specific because the tips definitely apply to everyone. Not that this blatantly excludes any gender by any means, it just is definitely for any and everyone!

Also, and again not that I have any dating profiles, but I think you should absolutely put your biggest passions on your profile even if it’s just a picture of you at a protest or being your activist self or volunteering. Personally, I don’t want to meet anyone who has the exact opposite passions as me (because I’m always right, right?) but I also have very little patience for people in general so I would think it’d make it easier to be up front in that arena.

This was a fun read overall. Margot goes through the ups and downs of online dating and the fun parts and even the ugly ones. She also is very clear that self care is important in this journey which is awesome. It was a really refreshing take on something like online dating in general, but also for grown ass adults who may or may not have been left by their husband for another man. Did you have a disappointing or rough end to your last relationship? Margot has tips on healing as well.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, are you in the dating scene? Then this book is probably perfect for you. Write your bio with Margot’s insight and hook the fish you’ve been angling for!

P.S. Margot, want to grab coffee and tell me jokes some time? I have a feeling you will make me laugh even more in person and that’s my favorite thing.

Does the thought of joining a dating site invoke feelings of fear and anxiety—or, worse, insecurity or unworthiness? If so, then The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating is the book for you. With practical advice about how these sites work, what to expect, and when to join and quit, along with proven tips for making the most of them, The Grown Woman’s Guide equips readers with all they need to take the plunge.

Purchase: Amazon l Thomas Nelson l Barnes & Noble

Follow Margot Starbuck on: Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l Website

One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and A Journey into the Hearts of Shelters and Rescues by Cara Sue Achterberg

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

When Cara Sue Achterberg reached out to ask me to read and share One Hundred Dogs and Counting, I almost missed out on the opportunity. Due to the Covid19 pandemic, she could only offer an eBook, but I didn’t have an eReader. Over the next week I realized it wasn’t going to be quick for anything to arrive, so I decided to order an eReader. Once it arrived (because who knows if 2 days was going to be true (it wasn’t)), I reached out and confirmed with Cara. And I am SO GLAD I DID. 


I figured it would be a heart wrenching story about fostering dogs and that I would soon be crying. While it will tug at your heart strings, it is with information that you need to know. And while it will hurt the hearts of animal lovers a little bit, the information gained is worth the tiny bit of pain. In fact, I would recommend every animal lover IMMEDIATELY reads this. You will get insight into fostering dogs, but more than that you get to go on Cara’s journey visiting animal shelters in the south to see why there seems to be a never-ending flow of dogs going into and out of (and sometimes not) shelters. 


Additionally, Cara mentions how it would be possible to save all the dogs instead of just some if everyone were to have this knowledge and then pitch in however they can. Volunteer,donate to shelters (money, food, medicine), foster, spread the word on social media, and most of all just TALK about what is going on. Of course it’s a sad subject but it is so worth your time to help save innocent pups and even some kitties too. 


Go with Cara on this journey to see her difficulties and successes with fostering. See what the animal shelters look like that need the most help and no help. See what Cara sees when there are no shelters or no space or no resources and a lone citizen is willing to take on the job. Invest yourself how Cara invests herself: wholeheartedly. See what YOU can do to help and if fostering might be for you. 


My personal tips: 

1) Don’t adopt unless you plan on keeping that fur baby. Check with your apartments/cities to make sure it’s allowed to that you aren’t having to rehome.
2) Training is available and you should use it if you need to, especially if you’re considering rehoming due to behavior issues. Google it, call shelters, ask friends and family, get a trainer, utilize fund raising sites.
3) Keep your pet healthier and vet costs down by not letting your pet drink from other animals’ water bowls. Make sure open areas are safe for them (there is an algae in Colorado that comes yearly and can kill pets so I have to be careful where and when I hike).
4) Adopt don’t shop-there are so many good animals in need of homes in shelters. The fees usually cover the adoption and spay/neutering and aren’t profiting people that breed animals and then send them to a shelter once they can’t have anymore litters.

To purchase: http://www.carawrites.com/100-dogs–counting.html

*Thanks to the author for my copy to read and review!*

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

I was so excited to receive a copy of The Happy Ever After Playlist from the publisher to read and review. At first, I was a little concerned that I would so willingly take on this challenge after getting my heart ripped out by the first installment, The Friend Zone. But then I remembered that while Abby takes you on a whiplashed tour of all the emotions that you experience in love (including love), she also heals your heart and puts you back together by the end.


In HEAP, Sloane Monroe ends up the pup-sitter for a dog whose owner, Jason, is currently across the world on tour. She cares for the dog and tentatively plans to meet up with Jason when he returns to
 maybe give his dog back. Then it turns out that Jason is actually Jaxon Waters, the musician whose music got her through her fiancé’s death. 


Sloane doesn’t plan on falling for Jason, but fortunately for us Abby oversees her fate. So instead of Sloan playing it safe, we get to play the HEAP on Spotify while we read the book and follow Sloane through her very interesting and entertaining life after loss. And of course, Kristen and Josh are back from the first book as well as cute little Stuntman Mike. This one pulled at my heart strings but thankfully Abby is an expert romance
 and comedy writer so that readers can laugh just as hard as they cry.


This was wonderfully written – I LOVE books that read how I imagine the author talks. That’s how I write and so it really appeals to me. I also love how she weaves together such different elements from drama, to baking, to dog care, to outdoor life, to music, to love, to loss. It makes for a really captivating read. I cannot wait for the third installment, assuming there is one. If there isn’t then I imagine we fans need to immediately start a petition to remedy that.

The Meat Hunter by Megan Allen

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

The release has been delayed due to corona virus. It should have been out today (03/20/2020) and I am crying (you know, figuratively) because you all have to wait to read it. So, in the meantime, read on so I can tell you more about how much I loved it.

First of all, Megan Allen is a badass and in The Meat Hunter she writes the badass character of Molly Bishop. Her writing style drew me in immediately and I connected right away with the characters. This was such an easy read for it being about such a tough topic. Everything just flowed so well, I could not put it down.

Molly Bishop of The Meat Hunter grew up on a pig farm where she quickly learned that not all animals are pets, and not all farmers are ethical. Molly can’t stop her father from killing her pig friends – who, by the way, are extremely smart and know what is happening to them – so she does the next best thing: she gets an education. Molly is smart and driven and uses her education and background of farm living to get a job with an animal pharmaceutical company where she forces the owner, Carl Monroe, to become her best friend.

Soon, slaughterhouse owners start showing up dead. Molly has access, so could it be her? But Molly is also “just another pretty faced woman”, so how could it be her? This is a fast paced, educational, empathy-teaching, learn-to-be-mindful read and I loved every second of it. I was rooting for Molly, Carl and Detective Lair. Even though none of them were on the same page, they made a great unlikely and, at times, unwilling team.

I’ve seen some reviewers angry that this is pushing veganism on them? I don’t see it that way. I see it as a reminder to be picky about where your meat comes from and to not support companies that don’t treat the animals humanely. She wrote another book with similar criticisms: The Slave Players (pending mail delivery to read) that sent her into hiding as the KKK was so angry at the premise of white people being slaves and Megan Allen “forcing her literature on our youth” that they threatened her life. It’s fiction and yet I still feel the need to remind people to take it with a grain of salt. All fiction is a what-if scenario and Megan is really just out here pushing the bar as high as it can go.

I loved The Meat Hunter. I hope you all buy it and love it too. I hope Megan keeps writing and keeps taking on big what-ifs and keeps makes big waves. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Huge thanks to Burn House Publishing for my copy to read and review-one of my favorite books of the year now!

Flower by Safira X

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Flower 🌸 🌺 🌹

THIS is a short story.

This is an INCREDIBLE short story.

A FEMINIST, TWISTED, BLOODY, HORRIFIC, incredible short story.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time which is what I expect from thriller/horror stories. And if it’s short? I expect you to pack an explosive story in there. I know I have high expectations BUT Safira X accomplishes that several times over in this 40 page sucker punch.

Murder ✅ Revenge ✅ Torture ✅ Fragile Masculinity ✅ Sexism ✅ Blood & Gore ✅ Animal Abuse (not my fav but works in favor of the story) ✅ Sex ✅ Supernatural ✅ “40 pages? No way there could be any of the back story or character development needed to make it so good.”FALSE.

I am so impressed and I canNOT wait for the next book!

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Raymond Fleischmann gives us a beautifully written debut novel with How Quickly She Disappears. Following Elisabeth on dual timelines we witness in one the grooming and taking of her 11-year-old twin sister, Jacqueline, and in the other we watch Elizabeth slowly unravel at the appearance of a mysterious man named Alfred. Alfred, who claims to know what happened to Jacqueline. Alfred, who knows everything about Elisabeth though they’ve never met. Alfred who might be a little bit mad.


Elisabeth is living in remote Alaska with her distant husband and fiercely intelligent daughter, Margaret. When Alfred shows up claiming he needs to rest before a flight, Elisabeth allows him to stay in their guest room. From there things quickly spiral out of control. Even after murder, her daughter’s attempts to get attention, her husband constantly battling her beliefs and actions, and prison (among other things) Elisabeth pursues the truth about her sister. 


This book reads like The Silence of the Lambs watches (I’ve only seen the movie) with a drawn-out cat and mouse chase between Alfred and Elisabeth. Alfred’s quickly changing moods do nothing to quell Elisabeth’s hunt for facts. Repeated attempts from her husband and police to stop her vigilante investigationdoes not deter her. I loved the steady pace of this book and the way Raymond really brings us with him to watch Elisabeth lose herself in her search for her 20-years-missing sister.


This book is dark and beautiful and haunting and I will absolutely be buying Raymond’s next book.

The Poison Garden by A.J. Banner

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

Who is really the crazy one in the latest psychological thriller from A.J. Banner, The Poison Garden? Because I’ll be honest, it could have been any of them from the first page. The opening page brings us to Elise Watters running for her life with a quick, pulse raising one-and-a-half-page prologue. And then we are purposely disoriented, being thrown back to the “before” of the chase with a calm ferry ride back to her island home after attending business on the mainland.

Elise has an interesting life though it seems she tried to make it as dull and peaceful as possible. No drama, just simple things that make her happy – a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful gardens, running an herbal boutique. But she did just lose her mother. She just got married. She just started working full time in the herbal shop inherited from her late mother. She also just came home early to catch her husband in the middle of an affair…among other things.

On top of that, she’s unearthing secrets as quickly as you’ll flip the pages of this book. And, she’s sleep-walking?! Not entirely strange in and of itself, but the activities she’s enjoying while doing so are a little suspect.

The duality of all these characters is incredible. There is the crazy woman that her husband was caught with (what exactly is she involved in?). Her neighbor is one of her good friends, but also a grieving schemer. Her ex-husband is around every corner because he’s the island’s go-to Mr. Fix IT…or he’s stalking her. Small island; hard to tell. And then there is Elise’s husband himself, good looking, patient favorite Dr. Kieran Lund. He seems like a good guy who made a mistake. He does everything to make it up to Elise-and I mean everything. They go through a lot in such a short time and he really is holding Elise upright. But it’s either him who’s crazy or Elise. It can’t be both…right?

A.J. Banner does such a great job of misdirection in The Poison Garden that you really won’t know what’s what and who’s after who until the very end. I LOVED the ending. Oh my gosh, just such a good twist! (Let’s be honest, twistS.) I highly recommend this fast paced, psychological thriller with a poisonous touch-it’s just up my alley!

And now, a comprehensive list of people I suspected throughout the book: Everyone.

Enjoy!

TH1RT3EN by Steve Cavanaugh

A BarksBeachesBooks Review

This book was incredible. It was so good in fact that I was sneaking reading in during any possible breaks in work that I could. Shhh, don’t tell on me.

A couple of things about this book:

1) I was about 75% done with the book when I found out that it was the fourth book in the Eddie Flynn series by Steve Cavanaugh.

2) You do not need to read the others to pick this up and know what’s going on. I was immediately sucked in and had a very hard time putting this book down until I was finished reading it.

3) TH1Rt3EN was so good that I immediately called a local book store and had them hold all the other books in the series they had available and am having my sister pick them up as I type this.

4) Mr. Cavanaugh’s writing style reminds me a lot of The Collector Series by Dot Hutchison. They should collaborate and/or create a serial killer writing prodigy child together.

TH1RT3EN alternates between the point of view of the serial killer Joshua Kane and the up-and-coming lawyer and ex-con man Eddie Flynn. Both characters have very different and very entrancing styles of narrative which was a huge plus for me. Kane’s narrative is that of the highly intelligent, narcissistic, and even entitled and cocky serial killer that he is. On the other hand, Flynn is not your typical lawyer. While he is educated and has a law degree, he speaks like a New Yorker. You know the type – that Brooklyn accent? That was how I automatically read Eddie. The dialogue is even written that way. He is a gritty ex-con, now on the good side of the law and using his old tricks to his advantage.

While reading this book I kept thinking it would be so easy to tell who Kane was on the jury since that part is explicitly on the cover. However, Cavanaugh did an excellent job directing you toward the “culprit” and the doing a complete 180. I did not see that reveal coming, and then on top of that there is another twist that I really enjoyed. Without giving away too much, it had to do with the identity of one of the officers. This may or may not be me intentionally leading you in one direction so as not to give it away much in the same way Cavanaugh did to me. (I am.)

This was easily one of my favorite books of the year, and I cannot wait to get the others in the series and race through those as well. That’s another thing about Cavanaugh’s style: the writing is so well done that I flew through the pages trying to figure out Kane’s game and how it would end. Now that it’s over I wish I wish it hadn’t ended. Isn’t that how it always goes?