Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Review Tour and Giveaway: Ugly by Kelly Vincent

Welcome to my stop on the review tour for Ugly by Kelly Vincent. This tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as my book review. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content and reviews. Enjoy!
Title: Ugly
Author: Kelly Vincent
Publisher: KV Books
Publication Date: June 7th 2022
Print Length: 380 pages
Genre: LGBTQ+ Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Sophomore Nic Summers tries to ignore the taunts of “ugly lesbian.”

Because she’s not sure they’re entirely wrong. But she also has bigger concerns for now, including prepping for the school’s art contest. And while she isn't certain of her sexuality, she does know her life is on the verge of falling apart when her best and only friend, Sam, drops the bomb that her family’s moving to Scotland. Together, to soften the blow and distract themselves from the inevitable, they start Operation Social Interaction for Nic—or OSIN for short—to try to find her some new friends.

But it’s an uphill battle for the introverted teen artist.

As Sam’s last day nears, Nic's self-confidence wavers even more, and she starts questioning everything. If lesbian doesn’t feel quite right, maybe she’s transgender? It isn’t until she stumbles across the label “gender nonconforming” that things start to make a little more sense, and fall into place. But finding the right label doesn’t really tell her what to do next, and before she knows it, Sam is gone.

Mustering all her resources, Nic realizes she needs to find her own path and live her own truth.

Monday morning I slept past my alarm, so I was running late. Caleb was in the shower and I had to wait for him, but I really needed a shower. So I was sitting with my stack of clothes on my bed when my phone dinged.

A message from Sam. —there’s something I need to tell u

ok. what?

This didn’t sound good. My stomach made this noise and I couldn’t tell if it was hunger or sudden nerves.

not over text

call me then

The shower turned off. Caleb should be done any minute. But I still had time for a quick call.

can’t. have to talk to one of my teachers. see you at lunch

She wouldn’t have her phone in class and I never saw her in the mornings because of where our classes were. I would have to wait until lunch.

My stomach twisted again and I suddenly wondered if she was going to friend-break up with me. Everything had been fine Saturday, but I’d experienced things like this before.

But no, that couldn’t be it. Maybe she’d started dating somebody and wouldn’t be able to do lunch with me anymore.

What if it was something bigger than us? About her family? Oh God, what if she was moving?

I heard the bathroom door squeak open and raced across the hall to shower, all the bad thoughts swirling in my head.
I was so happy when I read the synopsis for Ugly by Kelly Vincent. This sounded exactly like the kind of book I needed to get me out of my reading slump. I was correct in my assumption. I absolutely loved this book!

Ugly is the story of a teenager named Nicole, or Nic as she goes by since she hates being called Nicole, Nic is 16 years old and lives in Oklahoma. Nic is made fun of at school and everywhere she goes. She's constantly being mistaken for a male everywhere she goes. During her sophomore school year, she starts questioning her sexuality and her gender identity. 
It's obvious that the author knew exactly what she was talking about before writing Ugly from being gender non-conforming to even the therapy sessions Nic goes to. Ugly is definitely a well written book for sure. I like how Ugly draws attention to the struggles of not conforming to every day gender and sexual standards. I also want to give a shout out to the author for mentioning asexuality in the book. (I wish more LGBTQ+ books would talk about asexuality.) However, one minor gripe I have is that it mentions a character might be asexual because they didn't want/hadn't been in a relationship. Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Asexuals still can want a romantic relationship. Aromanticism is the lack of romantic attraction. (Even then, asexuality and aromanticism have many more identities under their umbrella.) If the character was an aromantic asexual, it would have made more sense why they didn't want a relationship. Other than that, I loved everything about Ugly. My favorite part of the book (although all of it was fantastic) was when Nic goes to Scotland and sees just how different the people over there are compared to the people in the United States. I felt the same way as Nic when I lived in the United Kingdom. It did feel like people in the UK were less judgmental and more accepting than people here in the US.

Reading Ugly was like being in the mind of a teenager throughout a school year in their life. While the book goes through even the mundane day to day life of Nic, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about Nic's life. Her struggle of trying to fit in whilst being made fun of and bullied really resonated with me. I felt like I was reading a biography about my life almost. I've never identified more with a book before! I think many teens and adults that were bullied, even those that are secure in their sexuality, will be able to relate to Nic on some level. Nic was the most relatable character I have ever read about. I would have loved to be friends with someone like her back in school (and even today). I also loved Nic's best friend Sam. Sam was just about the opposite of Nic both personality wise and looks wise. I loved how much Sam really cared about Nic.

Trigger warnings for Ugly include profanity, underage drinking, some minor drug use, some talks of politics, child molestation (though the book doesn't go into detail), bullying (including characters telling another character "kill yourself"), and depression.

Overall, Ugly is a book that should be in every school library as well as every public library. I feel like it's such an important book for teens (and adults), especially for those struggling with their sexuality and/or gender identity in this day and age. The research the author has put into the book as well as the author's ability to write a solid novel help to make Ugly such a fantastic read. I would definitely recommend Ugly by Kelly Vincent to everyone aged 14+ whether they are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not. This is a book that everyone should read due to its important topic.

(A special thank you to Goddess Fish Promotions for providing me with an eBook of Ugly by Kelly Vincent in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Kelly Vincent wrangles data weekdays and spends the rest of her time playing with words. She grew up in Oklahoma but has moved around quite a bit, with Glasgow, Scotland being her favorite stop. She now lives near Seattle with three cats who help her write her stories by strategically walking across the keyboard, with her first novel, Finding Frances, a fine example of this technique. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth program.

Kelly Vincent will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Virtual Book Tour: Northern Echoes (Web of Echoes #2) by Melody Ash

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Northern Echoes by Melody Ash. This book tour was organized by Pump Up Your Book. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a guest post from the author about the inspiration behind the book. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Northern Echoes
Series: Web of Echoes #2
Author: Melody Ash
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Print Length: 301 pages
Genre: Time Travel Science Fiction
Caitlin Benoit assumed the next destination would be her time, her world. Instead, the stone thrusts her further into the past and onto a different continent.

Now in 1831 England, she's discovered by William, the Duke of Lancaster. By sheer luck, he's willing to allow her into his manor. While she fights to gain a footing in this new time, Caitlin discovers the stone also ripped John from Charleston.

Everything she thought she knew about how the stone worked is false, and neither John nor her understand how to escape the grip of the past. As they work to uncover the mystery of the stone, an acquaintance of the Duke plots an intricate scheme certain to destroy them all. She and John must solve the puzzle in an unknown amount of time or risk getting stuck—or buried—in 1831.

Air emanated through Caitlin Benoit like life itself as she inhaled with lungs still recovering from the constriction of time travel. A full rich zephyr. She heaved another breath, the fresh rush inflating her chest. Relief electrified every nerve, and Caitlin's pulse quickened. One more time, a bit slower now, the breath cleansed as she gazed through eyes still blurred from travel.

Sketchy lines of a horse and its rider slowly came into focus, and as the man stopped in front of her, his gentle brown eyes seemed laced with confusion. Dressed in a navy tailcoat over a white silk shirt and beige wool pants, he looked more Georgian than Victorian, and those clothes placed him—and now Caitlin—in the early eighteen-hundreds. And the location…

Her eyes strayed from the man to the grounds beyond the rider. Trees, sloping hills, a magnificent manor house. The far forests seemed to stretch for miles in a thick blanket of green. But they couldn't be relied upon to pinpoint a location, not when similar woodlands spanned the globe within the temperate woodland biomes of the world. It was the house itself that provided the clues, one she recognized from several period movies—a Hollywood favorite.

Chatling Hall, an aristocratic home to a Duke of England. Only that made little sense. After traveling in time to the plantation in South Carolina and living among slaves for a week, she'd been instructed how to utilize the stone she'd discovered at the archeological dig in 2018 and followed those instructions to the letter. Should have earned her a one-way ticket out of 1859 back home. But if this was England, then not only had she traveled further into the past but also managed to hop the large pond between two continents.

"Madam? Can I be of some assistance?" the man asked for what Caitlin thought might be the second time. Maybe the third. Her brain was only just beginning to focus, to wrap around the context of what her eyes saw.

"I think I'm lost," Caitlin muttered as she shook her head.

"I venture to guess so much. Pray tell, what is your name?" He slid from the horse, boots raising a cloud of dust. The man removed his hat, hung it casually from two fingertips. Manners that screamed early-century Europe.

"Caitlin Benoit." She held out one hand, though a handshake wouldn't fit the customs if she was standing in—what?—eighteenth- or nineteenth-century Britain. Still, surprise tickled her when the man took hold of her hand and gently kissed her fingers.

"It is my pleasure to meet you, Miss Caitlin." After a bow of his head, the man replaced the top hat and straightened. "William, Duke of Lancaster."

The duke himself. The stone couldn't give me a little break and place me at the feet of a peasant or a groomsman. "Is this your home?"

"It is," William said with a smile. "Madam, if you are indeed lost, I welcome you as a guest of Chatling Hall until your traveling companions return."

"Thank you. I appreciate that."

He tilted his head, studied her once more. Her modern English against his very proper British accent likely sounded as strange to him as his did to her. And her clothes were as far removed from anything a proper English woman would wear. They wouldn't even be invented for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Caitlin shifted her weight, glanced over his shoulder. If she was in danger, what escape could she have?

"Are you familiar with riding on the back of a horse?"

The question cut through the noise in her head. Caitlin raised a brow. Horseback riding was one of her favorite past times, but the way she rode would make nineteenth-century women blush in shades to match their pretty, fancy dresses while men would question their value as a proper lady. Notions that were both archaic and sexist—they made her skin crawl—but she needed time. Time to figure out how she left a South Carolinian Plantation in 1859 at the courtesy of a mysterious rock, endured the plastic wrap of time travel once more, but didn't return to twenty-first-century America. At this point, it seemed time meant nothing, and yet she needed to buy some now. "No, not well, I'm afraid."

"Then I shall walk with you."

She nodded, fought to ignore the twinge in an ankle badly sprained days earlier, if she tried to define it in the conventional, linear sense. Seemed those conventions were out the window now, but her mind would take a little time to catch up.

Caitlin focused on the hills of the Peak District. She followed all the rules the slave woman shared with her in South Carolina—inside the circle, in the direct sunlight—yet she landed in England. Only… what year was it exactly?

"Forgive me, but I do not recall having the pleasure of your acquaintance in the past. I like to think I'm familiar with everyone in the nearby villages," her companion said. "Are you here on holiday?"

Of course, he knew most everyone nearby. He owned the land, and the villagers were his tenants. Caitlin cleared her throat, prepared for the book of lies she would have to tell until she could leave the past where it belonged. "Yes, it's been a long trip."

"Then you must be tired."

Caitlin didn't bother to respond as he led her closer to the great manor. A path worn with the indentations left behind by carriage wheels curved around a bend where the trees gave way to a full, unobstructed view of Chatling Hall. In front of the manor house, a fountain as long as a football field shot water high into the clear afternoon sky. Set behind the fountain, Chatling Hall appeared to float on the surface of that water. The illusion was a good one, and almost took Caitlin's breath away.

The stone manor house itself was even more impressive than it had appeared in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century movies. Classical architecture climbed three stories towards the sky. Gilded urns lined the roof, while three rows of windows—their frames also gilded—stretched right and left. As she and William neared the home, a staircase came into view. It curved upwards to a proud, rectangular landing to provide an outlook for the fountain.

Chatling Hall dwarfed Shady Oak Plantation in every possible way, even Biltmore paled in comparison. The aristocratic wealth was what Americans could only mimic but never quite attain. North America was too young, the British aristocracy too carefully built and maintained. The house defined the difference in spades.

"Are you traveling with family?"

Caitlin pulled back her gaze to face the duke. "No, no, I'm not. I'm sorry, I know this is going to sound a little funny, but… what year is it?"

The duke's brows furrowed, and he stopped, stared at her. "1831. Did you hit your head? Are you quite all right?"

A hardness filled her stomach. She must tread carefully, or risk finding herself on the receiving end of questions she couldn't answer.

With a mind that reeled in every direction, Caitlin didn't pay attention to the ground beneath her feet. Too late for her to notice, she stepped on a large pebble and stumbled, causing an already weakened ankle to turn. Caitlin dropped to one knee, the fresh pain bursting through the joint. "No, I don't think so."
I grew up loving the endless possibilities Fantasy and Sci-Fi held between their pages or played on the big screen. Star Wars, Stephen King, The Neverending Story, vampires, Disney, I loved it all (and still do!) At age ten, I picked up a pencil and began coming up with stories of my own that toyed with other worlds and the mysteries of this one.

My first attempt at writing came at ten years old while, during a sleepover, I tried writing a ghost story. In sixth grade, I entered my school's writing contest, and in college, my writing professor allowed me to work on a novel instead of following the curriculum.

But at the time, writing was only a hobby I enjoyed. I picked it up, put it down, sometimes for months or years at a time, but I didn't think of it as a career. Instead, I majored in communications with the goal of a career in journalism. After a couple of years, I changed course and entered the travel industry. Travel had always been another love, especially to Walt Disney World, and the choice seemed the perfect fit. I opened my own travel agency and grew it from the ground up until the Great Recession of 2008 rolled in, along with the blessing of my first child.

With her birth, I left behind the office career and finally admitted what I already knew - I wanted to spend my life creating on paper what played in my head. A series that had already been haunting my dreams for months that I knew would be my first attempt to break into the publishing world.

After releasing romantic suspense under the pen name, RM Alexander, Caitlin Benoit started whispering in my ear and her story started forming. My passion for adventure and travel bled onto the pages as Caitlin was launched into the adventure of a lifetime. But because the story wasn't focused on romance, I knew I needed a new pen name that would be focused more on UF / Sci-Fi, and Melody Ash was born.

As a complex PTSD and trauma survivor, I often write characters who often face the worse circumstances and must search for their inner strength. It is my hope readers not only connect with the characters and stories but also are encouraged, as they read the last word, that their real-world problems can be overcome.

Outside my writing world, I spend my time with my husband, two children, and Pomsky (who you'll likely find posted on my social media) in Indiana. I still love to travel and am addicted to orange juice, Ghirardelli chocolate, and adventure.

The Inspiration Behind Northern Echoes
by Melody Ash

Ask any author and they will tell you inspiration for books come from just about everywhere: dreams, movies, a song, the kid next door. And I can tell you all these are true. But for Web of Echoes (because it was really the series I had the inspiration for and not the book) was a little less straightforward. So we’ve got to take a little tour of what I enjoy, and all the pieces will come together.

While I was writing this, I was trying to figure out the best place to start, and since I’m watching tv (Stranger Things) with my oldest kiddo, I figured we’d start there. I LOVE movies off all kinds: romance, some romcoms, thrillers, suspense, adventures. If the story is good, I’m all over it. But I do a thing for movies that can take me away for a little bit, that bend the rules of our world, that leave you thinking, “What if?” When I was growing up, it was Star Wars, Gremlins, The Neverending Story (all you 80s kids will get it). As I got older, not a lot changed. With TV favorites like Outlander and Vampire Diaries, fantasy still grabs my attention.

And that leads us to stop number two. Now you’ve got to understand, I don’t get time to enjoy many hobbies – not with two kiddos, homeschooling and you know, all the stuff that makes up adulting and being a mother. I wouldn’t really have it any other way. But every once in a blue moon, I take a couple hours (usually during the winter) and do a little gaming. Like some of my favorite movies, my favorite games allow me explore and have an adventure, figure out puzzles. Whether its fighting monsters in games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, or exploring in games like Tomb Raider (which is my favorite, btw), I could lost in these games for hours.

Now stop three and the final one on our little tour, and the one that makes my hubby just a little bit crazy. By now, this probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but you put me in the middle of the forest on a strange path I’ve never been on before, and I can guarantee you one thing: I’m going to want to know what’s at the end of it. Add in some mysterious brick walls or an overgrown brick path, and you’ll have me circling it for hours, imagination in overdrive, looking for clues on what it might have been. Coming up with stories to it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve freaked out my husband when we first started dating, finding the most remote trails and heading down them for hours only to find another and following that.

One thing people will tell new writers is to write what they know about, and as you can see, the inspiration for Web of Echoes came from many different parts of what makes me who I am. In that way, there is probably more of me in the series than in any other project I’ve undertaken, and that’s a scary thing for an author. But in the end, I hope its those pieces that make you fall in love with Caitlin, John, and all the characters who make up the Web of Echoes story.

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Saving Sophie by Debbie Schrack

Title: Saving Sophie
Author: Debbie Schrack
Publisher: Fire & Ice Young Adult Books
Publication Date: April 26th 2022
Print Length: 329 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Seventeen-year-old Gabe Hunter knows he has a purpose in life. He has always strived to be the “best of the best,” but lately nothing has gone his way. Gabe was devastated six months earlier when his half-brother Josh had a drunk driving accident that killed four members of a family and left a sixteen-year-old girl named Sophie an orphan. Josh went to prison and Gabe struggles to forgive him because how can he forgive the unforgivable? When Gabe reluctantly agrees to do math tutoring for his senior service project, he discovers that the girl he will be tutoring is also named Sophie. But in a town of eighty thousand people, what are the odds it will be the same person? Astronomical, Gabe figures.

Gabe soon discovers, though, that it is the same Sophie. A former National Merit Scholar finalist, Sophie had a severe brain injury in the accident. She has seizures, amnesia, and can barely read or write. When he meets her, Gabe realizes what his purpose in life must be—to help Sophie and make amends for his brother. His plan is to spend the rest of the school year tutoring Sophie, then say goodbye and go quietly off to college without ever telling her that his brother was the one who killed her family. What Gabe doesn’t count on is falling in love.

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After Mom got the call that Josh had been in an accident and had been taken to the hospital, it was our bad luck to have to drive right by the place where it happened, the intersection of King and Park. It’s one of those intersections that’s needed a traffic light for years—a four-way stop where no one really stops. It’s just far enough on the outskirts of town that people usually get away with it.

I will never forget what I saw there. Splotched sheets on the road. Glass everywhere. A burned-out Chevy Suburban, upside down on its roof. Josh’s silver Camaro, farther down the road, also upside down and so flat it looked like a crushed soda can. Red and blue flashing lights casting a garish purple glow over everything.

I wasn’t prepared for the horror of it all, the obliteration of both vehicles, the number of police and firemen sifting through the aftermath. I remember the smell of burnt metal, the sound of Mom’s gut-wrenching sobs, the way my insides shriveled into a twisted knot. Because even if Josh was alive when they pulled him out of the car, there’s no way he could have survived that. No one could survive that.

A police officer approached our car and I rolled down the window. He leaned in to look at us. “This road is closed. You’ll have to find another way around.”

“That’s my son’s car,” Mom wailed, pointing at what was left of the Camaro. She was sobbing so hard her whole body was shaking. “Please. I need to see my son.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” the officer said, glancing back at Josh’s car, his face grave. “I’ll get you an escort.”

While we waited, his words tumbled over and over in my mind. Sorry, ma’am. Sorry, ma’am. Did that mean that Josh was already dead? That taking him to the hospital was just wishful thinking?

Within minutes, the officer was back, and we were hauling ass behind a cruiser, sirens screaming in our ears. As I drove, I kept thinking about the people in the Suburban. Where were they headed in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to stop? Why didn’t they see Josh’s car? Because there was no doubt in my mind that they were the ones who caused the accident.

I’ve never been so wrong.
Debbie Schrack has spent her professional life working with children and young adults. She has a B.S in Special Education from the University of Virginia, and an M.Ed. from George Mason University. Although the character Sophie in her debut novel SAVING SOPHIE is fictional, she is a composite of many of the struggling learners Debbie has taught over the years.

Debbie lives with her family in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Debbie finds personal fulfillment in creating new things, whether it be a novel, a painting, or a batch of croissants. She loves animals, and horses are her special passion. When she’s not writing or horseback riding, Debbie is a sucker for musicals, enjoys visiting art galleries, and desperately wants to travel more. She also loves hanging out with her three children, who she will always consider her most amazing creations.

Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter
One Winner: $25 Amazon gift card
Five Winners: Kindle copy of Saving Sophie by Debbie Schrack

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prizes. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility for this giveaway.)

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Monday, August 15, 2022

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: The One Woman by Laura May

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for The One Woman by Laura May. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as the author's inspiration behind the book. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: The One Woman
Author: Laura May
Publication Date: August 16th 2022
Print Length: 310 pages
Genre: LGBTQ+ Romance
Right Person. Wrong timing.

Julie manipulates what the eye can't see as a graphic designer but no matter what lens she uses, her life and her relationship with her boyfriend Mark remain mundane. Until she meets Ann. Ann is successful, beautiful, and charismatic. Julie can't deny the spark during their chance meeting. When their present entwines once again in Barcelona the spark is impossible to extinguish. When tragedy strikes, Julie must decide between her devotion to Mark and her love for Ann. Can true love survive when the timing is all wrong?

We took our seats towards the back. I was so nervous I was going to faint. Good, at least I would not need to endure this hell for long. I stared forward at the seat in front of me, paralyzed. I am going to die here, played on a loop in my head.

Something warm touched my hand, I looked down and through the fog I saw Julie's hand squeezing mine.

"Breathe," she told me. She was calm. "You are brave—"

And it started. Momentarily, I was pressed deep into the seat. Julie screamed but didn't let go of my hand. A great force made it hard to even take a breath.

As we rushed up, I glanced down. It was so high my poor hammering heart skipped a beat. Now we were on the top, and the wind was freezing here. In the next second, we were falling.

Now, I screamed. Everyone screamed. It made it easier. Julie was not holding me anymore; she clutched me. And we were down. My heart had never beaten so fast in my life.

I turned to Julie, feeling like we were running on pure adrenaline. Time stopped as I drowned in her pools of caramel. She was breathing hard, and I felt her grazing my hand up and down with her thumb. I looked down, but she quickly removed her hand.

"You did it," she said breathlessly.
Laura May is a pseudonym of a Ukrainian-American author. Laura lived in Kyiv till her mid-twenties. Now she can be found traveling around the world. The One Woman is her debut novel published by Creative James Media.

- Who or what was your inspiration behind this book?

According to The One Woman dedication: To all the books that came before, the books that I read were my inspiration.

Since I was a young child, I have always made friends in books. Later, the stories were able to arouse such a range of emotions that I was left speechless and dreamed of one day penning something even nearly as moving as the book I was holding at the moment.

So instead of looking out when the pandemic struck and we were all trapped in our homes with no way to travel, I began looking in.

The One Woman started in my imagination as a woman walks into a bar…

Also, a great moving point for me was reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I started doing the morning pages she describes there. It’s three pages of a handwritten thought train done first thing in the morning.

I recommend this type of morning journaling to anyone, artist or not, to dream, to plan, even to start a book!

The One Woman was written by hand in two and half notebooks. Later it took me about a month to type it, so after that the morning pages are staying in notebooks, and books have moved to the laptop. Thankfully, two of my next books were written on my laptop and will be out in 2024 with Creative James Media.
Laura May will be awarding a $10 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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NBtM Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Awakening (The Inner Compass Trilogy #1) by Abby Wynne

Welcome to my stop on the NBtM virtual book tour for Awakening by Abby Wynne. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a highly interesting guest post regarding the author's job as a Shamanic Psychotherapist. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win €50 off any of the digital products on the author's website. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Awakening
Series: The Inner Compass Trilogy #1
Author: Abby Wynne
Publication Date: April 10th 2022
Print Length: 673 pages
Genre: Magical Realism
When Marissa’s fiancĂ© leaves her unexpectedly, she is left trying to put the broken pieces of her life back together again. The magical years of her childhood are now lost or long forgotten and, trapped in a downward spiral of worry and anxiety, nothing seems to be bringing the magic back any time soon.

Training to become a therapist, Marissa discovers an unforeseen talent for helping others and, for a while at least, she puts her own needs and concerns to one side. An unexpected windfall prompts a spontaneous trip to Peru, and an encounter while she is there triggers an astonishing series of events. Shaken but excited, Marissa embarks on a wonderful journey of revelation and adventure – after which, her life will never be the same again.

Marissa’s story is your story, is my story, is everybody’s story: we each must find our own true path through life, our one true way.

Abby Wynne, author and Shamanic Psychotherapist, brings all her wisdom to bear on Marissa’s amazing tale of discovery and healing. A catalyst for people’s healing processes, Abby is a problem solver, a creative artist, an alchemist, a healer, a mother, a daughter, a lover of life - and it shows in this, her first novel.

Marissa felt a huge wave of something come over her – was it excitement? Anxiety? She didn’t know what it was, only that she was relieved she was sitting down. She looked at her burrito and chips and suddenly didn’t want them anymore. She sipped her drink until the feeling passed. She wiped her forehead, yes there were drops of sweat there. What is wrong with me? It’s a gift, it’s money, I get to choose what to do with it. Calm down.

Marissa came back to her desk, still a little shaky, and discovered a brochure for Peru had been shoved under her keyboard. As she pulled it out she saw the colours and the mountains and her heart leapt as if she had discovered contraband. She held her hands out in front of her and saw that they were shaking. What is this about? She felt hopeless, whatever this was, she needed to surrender to it. She shoved the brochure quickly into the top drawer of her desk and sat down, catching her breath and bringing her focus back to the moment. She woke up her computer and there was an email in her inbox from Sarah with just three words in the subject line: Come with me. She deleted the email immediately and, still shaking, slowly opened up her spreadsheet.

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. Her stomach was nauseous. As she looked at the numbers she started to feel a little more settled, the shaking subsided, then another email popped in from Sarah. ‘Well?’ it said. Jeezuz it’s as if she knows what’s going on inside me. But I have money now, I actually could go... How much money did he give me? Marissa opened a tab on her web browser and logged into her bank account, not really knowing what to expect. There was a deposit of €8,000 with a note ‘from Uncle Louis – first instalment’. Suddenly, a wave of calmness swept over her and something inside solidified. That’s enough to pay off my loan and cover my college fees, with some left over. I really could go to Peru with Sarah.

The texture of this thought felt very different from the ungrounded, anxious thinking she had been doing the past few days. I could ask Michelle from the upstairs flat to mind Tobermory for me. Half term is coming up, so I’d not miss too much college. This would be a great adventure and it would also be educational – What am I afraid of? I’ve got the money.

She emailed Sarah back: ‘When are you going and how much will this cost me?’

Like magic, Sarah was there at her desk with a big beaming smile. ‘Are you serious?’

Marissa nodded her head as the butterflies flew in droves in her stomach against the calmness, it felt like she had swallowed one of those majestic mountains.

‘Look. At. Me.’ said Sarah. ‘Are you serious?’

Marissa turned to Sarah and looked her in the eye. ‘Yes. Yes, I am serious.’ Marissa was suddenly calmer than she had been for a whole week.
Abby Wynne is the bestselling author of the “One Day at a Time Diary”, “How to Be Well” and “Energy Healing made Easy.” The Inner Compass Trilogy is her first novel, weaving her knowledge of shamanism, psychotherapy and energy healing into an exciting, fast-paced story which spans across many dimensions. Abby’s based in Ireland and lives with her husband, 4 children, a dog and a cat! Abby offers many ways to feel supported while you are on your path of healing; her mission is to empower people by teaching them how to heal themselves.

- What made you decide to become a Shamanic Psychotherapist?

Marissa’s journey of finding herself in The Inner Compass Trilogy kind of describes what I went through when I was in my training also. I learned Shamanism while finishing my psychotherapy degree, and I became a Reiki Master around the same time. Sitting with clients and not being able to do the energy work with them, whilst knowing that the energy work would transform the issues irreversibly, was hard. I felt that I was short-changing someone if I didn’t go deeper with them and facilitate healing for them. Psychotherapy is talking about an issue, understanding it, changing how you see it and think about it, but it doesn’t transform the emotions around it, or shift spiritual energy such as soul contracts, cut cords in relationships, heal past-life trauma. Shamanism is all of that spiritual work, and we are spiritual beings. Yes we navigate the world with our minds, but that’s part of the issue - when you dont use your natural born gifts, your intuitive knowing, when you go ahead and choose based on what you think you should choose instead of what you know is right, then you miss out on a whole lot of magic. Life is more than our thoughts, and we are spiritual beings inside of a physical body. We must look after all of the aspects of ourselves. So I chose to weave the energy work and shamanism into the psychotherapy, and by doing that it became a healing practice, rather than a psychotherapeutic one.

- What does your job entail?

My job as a shamanic psychotherapist has changed a lot over the years. having many people visit for similar issues lead me to write books and create downloadable sessions that are affordable and effective. Many of my clients are international, and after meeting clients over Zoom I realised that we can go deep quickly that way. Having people come into my room for face-to-face visits took more energy from me than I liked, so in 2018 my healing practice became online only. Meeting with someone for me is a wonderful experience, they have already filled out a form around what they want to heal. I listen to what their mind is saying to me, but I also tune into their energy and their higher self, to get to listen to what they are not saying, or not aware of consciously. Then I use energy clearing techniques to clear what is in the way of the healing process, and work with the client directly, so they are aware of what is happening every step of the way. At the end of a typical session the client would have transformed something, let go of emotion, know what it is that they need to work on now.

Again, many people do show up with similar issues so I try to make my healing techniques available to all. I teach courses online, on my main website, and you can get pre-recorded healing sessions there for many issues. Come visit the website and check out my monthly online healing sessions, I also have a healing circle and I run live programmes from time to time. My next live programme is a 21 day online ‘Raise your Vibration Bootcamp’ where you get an email every day with a task, or healing exercise, or an audio recording that takes only 10 minutes to do, and over the 21 days your energy improves, you learn how to take better care of yourself, and make a new habit of spending time with your spiritual energy! And as well as offering all of that, I write books too!
Abby Wynne will be awarding €50 off any of the digital products on the author's website, Abby's Online Academy, to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter - open worldwide. Good luck!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Goddess Fish Promotions and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Wicked Deception (The Paladin League #4) by Patti O'Shea

Title: Wicked Deception
Series: The Paladin League #4
Author: Patti O’Shea
Publication Date: August 15th 2022
Print Length: 322 pages
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Special Forces Sgt. Kyle Winter’s vow to stay far away from the nun he can’t get out of his head is blown to pieces when he’s assigned to work undercover at the convent. The arms dealer his team is after has been showing too much interest in the place and his captain wants to know why. How hard can it be to avoid Sister Sexy anyway?

Marianna Castillo is desperate. So desperate, she’s disguised herself as a nun, and hidden in a convent. She’s been running for more than two years, staying one step ahead of the arms dealer trying to kill her. He can’t allow her to live, not when she knows a secret that can destroy him. And now he’s watching the convent.

Mari needs help, but the person with the skills to keep her safe can’t be trusted. A mercenary’s loyalty is always for sale to the highest bidder, and the man who wants her dead can pay him a fortune.

But as the arms dealer closes in, she has to make a choice. Keep running or trust Kyle to fight beside her to reclaim her life.

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Trujillo, Puerto Jardin
South America

After finishing his sandwich, Kyle quietly sipped his coffee and waited. There was no guarantee she’d be here today. Just because he’d seen her on a Thursday didn’t mean anything. The nuns probably came to the open-air market multiple times a week. Maybe they had a rotation and there was no telling which day would be assigned to her. Maybe she rarely drew market duty.

Maybe, but Kyle was here anyway.

He shouldn’t be doing this. Not only because his captain would be irate, but because he was attracted to her. Very attracted.

Nothing would come of it. He’d been raised in Catholic boarding schools across South America and respected the sisters. He might have stopped going to mass after his father died, but Kyle hadn’t strayed so far that he’d make a play for a nun.

No, he was here because he was sure she was in trouble. When she’d looked around the market three weeks ago, there’d been terror in her eyes. Something scared her to death and he wanted to know what.

And he wanted to help.

Kyle wasn’t like his buddy, Griff. He didn’t rush to every woman’s rescue. But he did have a soft spot for nuns.

Sweat ran down his cheek, and he absently wiped it away. He was dressed in camo fatigue pants, combat boots, an olive-drab T-shirt with a long-sleeved camouflage shirt to hide his weapons, and the dark green Toros baseball cap he’d appropriated from Griff’s woman when she’d left for the States. It wouldn’t matter what he wore, though. It was hot.

Trujillo was close enough to the equator and the tropical rainforest that drinking coffee wasn’t a pleasure. He sipped anyway because it gave him a reason to be sitting in the market and because he was addicted to caffeine.

The place became busier as it got closer to lunch, but still no sign of the nuns. Kyle was reasonably certain she was part of La Convento de Madres Fieles. It was the nearest abbey to the market, and it sure looked as if the sisters walked here to shop.

He bought a second coffee. Another half hour passed. He was about to give up when he saw the flash of black in his peripheral vision. Kyle turned. The nuns were at the market, but they were too far away to know if his sister was part of the trio.

They wore short tunics again, ending above their knees—not too surprising given the heat—but they had full coifs and veils, and were carrying string bags. He felt for them. They must be more uncomfortable than he was.

Keeping them in the edge of his vision, Kyle turned his attention toward the produce stall across from his position. If today was like the previous weeks, they’d head there to buy their fruit, and he didn’t want to show interest in them.

They grew closer. His nun was one of the sisters today.

Again, her legs were the first thing he noticed, and he had to force his gaze to her face. He guessed she was in her mid-twenties. In the US, it might be surprising, but not in Puerto Jardin where many young women went into the church. One of her group said something and she smiled briefly.

He forgot to breathe. Even without makeup, she was beautiful. High cheekbones, big, dark eyes, and full, kissable lips. Easily one of the most stunning women he’d ever laid eyes on.

None of the nuns he’d had in school looked like her.
Patti O'Shea's passions are writing, airplanes and traveling. Fortunately, she's been able to enjoy all three. After receiving a degree in advertising copywriting, she took a job with a major U.S. airline and now works in 757 Engineering. Besides teaching her about the planes she loves, it's given her an opportunity to travel to places like Australia, Papua New Guinea and Canada's Yukon Territory.

Writing, though, remains her primary love. Patti created her first romance when she was in junior high school and has been hooked ever since. She should have figured out she was a writer years earlier, however, since her dolls had such involved lives, complete with goals, motivation and conflict.

Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter
Win a $20 Amazon gift card!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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