Genre: Gothic Literature

A #SpooktasticReads Book Review | “Ghastly and Good” (Merry Hanukkah series, Halloween short) by Debby Caruso

Posted Monday, 19 October, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: In 2018, I was approached by the author to read the first story in her Merry Hanukkah series – whilst in 2019, I had the delightful joy of having her as a featured guest during my @SatBookChat! In June, 2020 I was able to read the sequel to ‘Merry Hanukkah’ which was ‘Happy Everything’. Wickedly ahead of sorting out which spooky reads I wanted to be reading this #SpooktasticReads, I was contacted by the author about this lovely Halloween short story she had written into the series. I was quite chuffed I could receive a print copy and thus, this delightful short became the story which kicked off my readathon of #SpooktasticReads! (a mini-event for @WyrdAndWonder)

I received a complimentary copy of “Ghastly and Good” direct from the author Debby Caruso in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On why I love #SpooktasticReads:

Quite humbly, I attempted to host #SpooktasticReads as a book blogger years ago – however, the better incantation of the event I envisioned wasn’t fully realised until I pitched the idea as a mini-event attached to Wyrd And Wonder to Lisa and Imyril. As we co-founded @WyrdAndWonder together as a celebration of Fantasy. #SpooktasticReads picks up where Wyrd and Wonder leaves off – wherein, each Autumn we get hankerings to be reading a spookier side of Fantasy and/or any story which allows us to get our spook on – in whichever capacity which inspires us to read.

Some of us like the cosier side of Horror (ie. my own personal declaration of reading #CosyHorror notwithstanding!) whilst others like to seek out ghost stories, Urban Fantasy, Gothic Lit or Gothic Romance or any route betwixt and between which seeks to give us a slight chill to our readerly lives this October. For me personally, I love reading selections which run the full gambit of choices – from stories of Suspense & Thrillers which give me a chilling read through a Mystery I cannot predict how it will end to an epic Ghost Story which might leave me rattling my funnybone or contemplating the layers of how authors write such believable ghost stories within a witchy setting! I love stories involving witches and ghouls as much as I appreciate a delightful Urban Fantasy.

Ergo, to get myself into the festive mood of the next 13 days where you will find me on a bit of a binge of all the spooktacular reads I have on hand to be read – I decided to dial it back a bit and selected a story I hadn’t even realised was available to read this #SpooktasticReads as it was a surprise from the author! I love light Halloweeny tales as much as the grip your heart ones and this one is right in the middle of a series I have loved reading since the first novel released.

I felt this lighter read was the best way to start my readathon and find the festive spirit within the story itself! I can’t wait to see what everyone else is reading and I can’t wait to dive into stories and audiobooks in the thirteen days leading into Halloween!

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On what I enjoyed about “Happy Everything”:

Caruso also spends a wonderful amount of time tucking you closer into Rhonda’s marriage – how she feels as distant as her husband does to the celebratory coupling moments they loved sharing – wherein once life starts to pick up its pacing after you’ve dated and married, those more intimate and special moments can feel as if they’ve gone by the wayside. You can feel how much he misses their romance – the little nuanced moments they used to share vs how rushed they feel now going to family meetings and doing what they might consider out of duty for friends and family alike. In essence, reality has truly hit and hit hard as these two try to navigate their ‘new world’ as a married couple who barely have enough time to spend on each other. It drives home the realism once the afterglow of the honeymoon stage waxes off and the truer moments of marriage are observed with a humbled honesty only Caruso can tell.

One new character I liked as much as Rhonda was Diana – she seemed like the kind of person who could consistently surprise people for how much she understands about this dynamic family and how to show a different side to a person even Rhonda felt she knew everything about. It just shows you that sometimes you can have the complete wrong impression about someone until a new person shows up and starts to show you a new side of their personality which had remain hidden until now! Diana is a charming character who has a tough-as-nails job to do but one that is truly important in a world where not everyone cares about their companions in fur, feather or scales.

If I could have transported myself into Mimosa alongside Rhonda, her and I would have spilt a second salted caramel brownie!! Sometimes you just have to go with what soothes your soul and in that moment, where Rhonda knew the best response was to show kindness and grace, the better part of her mind knew that if she didn’t comfort herself with some much needed chocolate, she might have spoken out of turn which would have done nothing to savage the lunch. It was the kind of scene you’d find yourself living inside but without the right set of reactions – I agreed with Rhonda about how her father blindsided her with news and the kind of news that he seemed to have taken in stride – expecting her to do the same and let nothing be said about it either. I felt that was a bit over the top as how could Rhonda not have a reaction? She played her cards well!

Caruso allows Rhonda to show the portions of herself and her emotional internal life that might not always be disclosed in other stories. The ways in which she lets the reader see Rhonda’s heightened emotional states and reactions to different life moments in the heat of Rhonda being unable to sort through them properly and chooses to explode instead. Seeing how she becomes vocal and then remorseful – how she uses exercise to find a centre of calm and how like for most of us in those instances, nothing truly changes immediately after an experience like that but we each know of a route to find our balance and re-centre ourselves to continue moving forward. I liked how Caruso showed this area of Rhonda’s life and how emotionally Rhonda was at her tipping point.

Through everything Rhonda and Dez rise to the occasion. Their lives are chaotic and sometimes they have family members who drive their very last nerve out of their bones but overall, they share a sisterhood friendship with has such a strong bond that nothing can shatter it. Not even all the little fires which creep up in our lives which seek to cut us down to the quick. I love how Caruso shows through faith, family and friendship you can tackle anything which crosses your path in life but without the addition of humour, coffee and some wicked sweet Italian foods – you might not get through it quite as well as those who do!

I love this series – I am hoping for a third if not fourth installment – as I can’t leave this family where we last find them. Plus, I was so overjoyed I could handle the journey through Cancer with Aunt Bunny as that is one of my issues with most Contemporaries which feature the illness; either the details or the descriptions weigh heavy on my heart. Caruso thankfully focused on other bits of her journey and mostly focused on the recovery and bolstering of having loved ones have your back when a medical crisis arises. Best of all though is the comfortable pace and the realistic marriage you get to tuck inside between Rhonda and James. Theirs is a marriage which is equally strong to Kay Hunter and Adam (from the Kay Hunter series by Rachael Amphlett). You truly will find yourself snorting into laughter, getting emotional about the tides which keep turning and eager to get to the conclusion to find out if Rhonda can breathe a bit easier again!

-quoted from my book review for Happy Everything

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A #SpooktasticReads Book Review | “Ghastly and Good” (Merry Hanukkah series, Halloween short) by Debby CarusoGhastly and Good
by Debby Caruso
Source: Direct from Author

Join Rhonda, Dez, and the Merry Hanukkah crew as they try to pull off yet another holiday feat in this Halloween Short that’s sure to leave you laughing.

In an attempt to treat the kids at the local shelter to a Halloween party like no other, Rhonda finds herself running out of time, battling a hurricane, and wrestling with ghosts. In true Rhonda fashion, she has a few tricks up her sleeve, and the end result is anything but ghastly.

Grab a hot apple cider—or pumpkin spice anything—snuggle up, and enjoy a short story that will bring you back to a time when Halloween was filled with all the good things life has to offer.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy (Rom Com), Spooky Reads for Halloween, Women's Fiction


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ASIN: B08GJBCYFL

Also by this author: Merry Hanukkah, Happy Everything

Also in this series: Merry Hanukkah, Happy Everything


Published by Self Published

on 9th September, 2020

Format: Personal Copy provided by Author

Pages: 37

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The Merry Hanukkah series:

Merry Hanukkah by Debby CarusoHappy Everything by Debby CarusoGhastly and Good by Debby Caruso

Merry Hanukkah (book one) | see also Review

Happy Everything (book two) | see also Review

Converse via: #SpooktasticReads + #WomensFiction or #Halloween #shortstory

This is a Digital First Release (ebook only!) Read More

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #SpooktasticReads 2020
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Posted Monday, 19 October, 2020 by jorielov in #SpooktasticReads, 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Contemporary Romance, Family Drama, Family Life, Indie Author, Modern Day, Romance Fiction, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Women's Fiction

A #WyrdAndWonder Special Feature | “The Qinali Virus“ by Valerie J. Mikles

Posted Friday, 1 May, 2020 by jorielov , 0 Comments

Guest Contributor and/or Reviewer of JLAS banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

Today kicks off #WyrdAndWonder – a month long Fantastical celebration of Fantasy Lit (for those of us who are book bloggers – we tend to do an all-out binge fest of #Fantasy) and all the wondrous ways in which Fantasy can become a forethought of interest in our lives. This can express itself through exploring other mediums wherein Fantasy can reign and become a celebration of the fantastical. As the event gets underway, I have a rather uniquely new post to share with my readers this morning which showcases a Speculative Fiction novel which I felt was quite a lovely discovery due to how interesting the plot felt to me when I first read the premise!

I realise it might fit better under the @SciFiMonth (ie. Sci Fi November, #SciFiMonth) umbrella of inclusion being this is a Science Fiction Post-Apocalyptic novel – however, I like other #WyrdAndWonder participants like to blur the lines between Science Fiction & Fantasy – where even if I’m celebrating one of the genres during one of the yearly events, there are strong odds I could be caught reading the other genre! Laughs.

Perhaps the same is true for you, dear hearts!?

The reason why is because I LOVE Speculative Fiction so dearly much – its hard to just read it twice a year! lol This one is a special selection of mine to be featuring as it dips into one of the genres I do not generally seek out to read – Dystopian & Post-Apocalyptic – as these are themes I find harder to source when seeking out stories to read which are not gritty in graphic violence and are a story I can sink my Speculative teeth into without feeling overcome by the theme itself. This particular story also focuses on two other interests of mine as a reader: astral projection and telepathy – as I was definitely the girl who grew her paranormal love off of tv series which focused on parapyschological investigations! I definitely want to read this lovely one day – if only to see how the author treated those sections and to see how she pulled us through her vision of how those concepts can be explored in literature.

I’m hopeful once my library re-opens this can become one of my next purchase requests – as I dearly wanted to read it but I have to await a print copy. My libraries are quite helpful when I want to seek out Indie Authors & Indie Publishers to be reading – they accept either print (locally) or audio (regionally) which keeps me well consumed I must admit in a lot of lovely Indie writ stories!

My featured author today is the first author I’m hosting for OWI – Other Worlds Ink Blog Tours – a touring company I discovered whilst I read a wickedly delightful Historical Fantasy novel by Edale Lane. I’ll be hosting a blog tour focusing on Ms Lane’s sequel to “The Merchant’s of Milan” lateron this May – however, I am thankful I found her via Tomorrow Comes Media otherwise I might not have found OWI whilst following her blog tour route – as more than one of the stops had someone hosting for OWI! (big smiles)

This post was a lovely surprise for me as I signed on to host something special by the author and I am wicked thankful I had! I *love!* grab bag surprises – for me, getting a wholly original post by an author on a blog tour is just about as wicked sweet as it can get – I loved how she approached how to ‘interview’ herself and how to give a well-rounded impression about her personality as well. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the author through this quirky interview and conversation!

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A #WyrdAndWonder Special Feature | “The Qinali Virus“ by Valerie J. MiklesThe Qinali Virus
by Valerie J Mikles

Rage. Poverty. Disease.

They’re gone. Every last one.

The cost was great. The population has been devastated. But for the survivors, utopia has arrived.

Then the suspicious death of a young person forces Amber to question her world like she never has before. The Contentedness Council is after her, determined to protect their perfect society. Now Amber must unbury her city’s repressed past, expose the crimes that led to their utopia, and find a way to stop the Council from killing the world… again.

Join astral-projecting asexual Amber and her telepathic sister as they fight to save the human race from extermination!

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Dystopian, Genre-bender, Paranormal Suspense, Science Fiction, Space Opera


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8610487830

on 9th March, 2020

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Adventure, Quest, Post-Apocalyptic
involving astral projection, mental projection (empathy, telepathy), aliens

Identities represented: Aromantic/asexual, gender-fluid,
neutrois/agender, FTM (with the first two most prominent)

Converse via: #WyrdAndWonder, #SciFi, #ScienceFiction, #SpeculativeFiction

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Posted Friday, 1 May, 2020 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Astral Projection, Blog Tour Host, Equality In Literature, Genre-bender, Hard Science Fiction, Indie Author, OWI - Other Worlds Ink Blog Tours, Parapsychological Gifts, Science Fiction, Space Opera, Speculative Fiction, Telepaths & Telepathy, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

An Audiobook Spotlight | “Donn’s Hill” (Book One: The Soul Searchers Mysteries) by Caryn Larrinaga, narrated by Jessica McEvoy

Posted Wednesday, 1 April, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Audiobook By: I started to listen to audiobooks in [2016] as a way to offset my readings of print books whilst noting there was a rumour about how audiobooks could help curb chronic migraines as you are switching up how your reading rather than allowing only one format to be your bookish choice. As I found colouring, knitting and playing solitaire agreeable companions to listening to audiobooks, I embarked on a new chapter of my reading life where I spend time outside of print editions of the stories I love reading and exchange them for audio versions.

Through hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions, I’ve expanded my knowledge of authors who are producing audio versions of their stories whilst finding podcasters who are sharing their bookish lives through pods. Meanwhile, I am also curating my own wanderings in audio via my local library who uses Overdrive for their digital audiobook catalogue wherein I can also request new digital audiobooks to become added to their OverDrive selections. Aside from OverDrive I also enjoy having Audible & Scribd memberships as my budget allows. It is a wonderful new journey and one I enjoy sharing – I have been able to expand the percentage of how many audios I listen to per year since 2018.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “Donn’s Hill” via Audiobookworm Promotion who is working with Caryn Larrinaga on this blog tour in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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A bit of background on what was happening in my life during this blog tour:

Initially, I had planned to host an interview with the narrator Jessica McEvoy – however, time seemed to not be on my side in regards to this audiobook blog tour! I took ill the last two weeks of February with a bad Winter’s cold and whilst I had hopes March would go a bit easier on my family, it sort of took a few left turns especially with the recent issues in getting groceries & supplies whilst Dad also had a brief stay in the ER as we suspected he might be having a heart attack (a week before my first tour stop). Thankfully, it wasn’t a heart attack and we thankfully were able to see his doctor to confirm he is doing better.

In the midst of all of that – I was still trying to stay current with my reading queues but at some point those fell a bit by the wayside. I had intended to begin listening to my audiobooks and start reading the stories on my shelves – however, things started to continue to put a strain on my hours – to where I honestly could not focus on reading or listening to the audiobooks I had slated to be read or heard throughout March.

Earlier on the tour I decided to run an interview Audiobookworm Promotions put together with the narrator whilst also spotlighting the series itself in case someone who follows my blog is looking for a new Cosy Paranormal Mystery series to begin listening to via audiobook! I know all of us right now are trying to find stories which can hold our attention and be enjoyable reads whilst the world is a bit off-balance due to the growing health crisis affecting all of us at once. Hence why I’ve started to find ways to use the tag #InThisTogether as a bit of a lift of spirits and sign of solidarity that we’ll all find our way through these difficult times.

I still look forward to hearing from you, dear hearts, if you love these kinds of Mysteries and if you have an authors, stories and series you think I should have my eye on as well?

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An Audiobook Spotlight | “Donn’s Hill” (Book One: The Soul Searchers Mysteries) by Caryn Larrinaga, narrated by Jessica McEvoyDonn's Hill
by Caryn Larrinaga
Source: Audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions
Narrator: Jessica McEvoy

"Grief can change us... rewire our brains and shift the way we look at the world..."

After returning home from her father's funeral to find her boyfriend in bed with another woman, Mackenzie Clair is looking for a fresh start. She thinks she'll find it in her favorite childhood vacation spot, but returning to Donn's Hill awakens more than nostalgia. Mac regains a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead, and the poltergeist haunting her apartment is desperate to make her use that gift to find his killer.

Aided by her new roommate - a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker, and the ghost-hunting crew of the nationally televised show Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to learn how to use her powers. But she'd better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can't somehow divine the truth, Donn's Hill will never be the same.

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Crime Fiction, Cosy Mystery, Ghost Story, Paranormal Suspense


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-0692836507

ASIN: B074CJC2DK

Also by this author: Donn's Hill (Spotlight and Interview)

Also in this series: Donn's Hill (Spotlight and Interview)


Published by Twisted Tree Press

on 1st August, 2017

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 9 hours and 54 minutes (unabridged)

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The Soul Searchers Mysteries:

Donn's Hill by Caryn LarrinagaDonn's Shadow by Caryn Larrinaga

Donn’s Hill (Book One)

Donn’s Shadow (Book Two) → forthcoming release in *audiobook!

Mackenzie Clair finally has this whole ghost-hunting psychic thing figured out. The Soul Searchers are a hit, she’s got pet-parenting down, and she even has a plan to banish the poltergeist running amok at a lakeside cabin. Best of all, Donn’s Hill feels like home. But not everyone loves the town as much as Mac.

A world-famous paranormal debunker thinks the psychics in Donn’s Hill are lying about their abilities. His determination to destroy the Soul Searchers threatens Mac’s livelihood, and when a killer strikes, the sheriff’s suspicions threaten her freedom.

Mac needs all the help she can get to find the real murderer and clear her name… even if that help comes from beyond the grave.

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Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #AudioReads, #Audiobook

as well as #CosyMystery, #Mystery or #Mysteries

About Caryn Larrinaga

Caryn Larrinaga

Caryn Larrinaga is a self-described horror evangelist and paranormal junkie. Her debut supernatural mystery novel, DONN’S HILL, won the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill Award in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist. Her short fiction has won multiple honors and been featured in local and international anthologies. Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child, and those nightmares inspire her to write now. She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats. Visit www.carynlarrinaga.com for free short stories and audiobooks.

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Posted Wednesday, 1 April, 2020 by jorielov in Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Book Spotlight, Indie Author