Monday, February 28, 2022

Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner

Welcome to my stop on the virtual book tour for Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a top ten post getting to know the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Secrets of a River Swimmer
Author: S.S. Turner
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 8th 2022
Print Length: 258 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he's ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy's story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?

In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.

My thoughts drift to picture what life as a gillie must be like. I imagine you start the day by carrying all the fishing equipment your fat and wealthy clients will need for a day of luxurious and fully-catered fishing. You carry everything while they take it easy, and you locate the best spot to fish for the largest possible salmon. Your local knowledge about fishing spots has to be extraordinary. You then set up the fishing rod, position your client in the right spot, and talk them through what they need to do to catch that magic fish they’re all searching for. Of course, your clients are always searching for the largest catch of the season, so they can go home and brag to their friends and family about what skilled fishermen they are. It’s obvious to you, if not to them, that the subtext is being able to sing to the world that they have massive willies, bigger than everyone else’s.

Beyond fishing, you’re forced to listen to whatever the hell it is your clients want to talk about for the eight long hours you’re on the river. Your clients are all obscenely wealthy, so it’s more than likely you’ll hear a lot of moaning about all the small things in life they’d like changed. Many of them will complain about local wind farm developments, council plans to develop their neighborhood, and, of course, the big one: immigration. They all believe immigrants are responsible for all the problems in the world. These people are your quintessential NIMBYs, and will always complain about progress if it affects them in any way, no matter how minor. You do whatever you can to bring the conversation back to fishing because it’s an easier conversation for you, and less productive grounds for their complaining. They’re slowly sucking the life out of you with their negativity, so you carefully select your words to bring the conversation onto a more positive pathway. And, of course, your ultimate back-up plan, as it is for many British people, is to pull out the ultimate conversation filler when you’re at rock bottom: the weather. Yes, it’s a desperate move and the equivalent of holding up a white flag, but needs must.
S.S. Turner has been an avid reader, writer, and explorer of the natural world throughout his life which has been spent in England, Scotland and Australia. Just like Freddy in his first novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, he worked in the global fund management sector for many years but realized it didn't align with his values. In recent years, he's been focused on inspiring positive change through his writing as well as trying not to laugh in unfortunate situations. He now lives in Australia with his wife, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and ten chickens.

10 Things Most People Don't Know About Me
by S.S. Turner

1) When I attended Edinburgh University to complete a Masters, I was the singer in a band called The Carbon Cowboys. We sang songs about addressing climate change. One of the songs we recorded was an altered version of St Elmos Fire which was renamed Put Out the Fire. The son of John Parr, the original song’s singer and living legend of the eighties, was behind the idea at first. But once he heard the song we never heard from him again. I blame the rest of the band because the singing was impeccable (not!). Those recordings shall remain buried forever…

2) I once travelled to Iceland to join the Icelandic farming community round up their free-roaming sheep in the Icelandic mountains. It was a glorious two-week horse ride in a hypnotic land filled with fascinating characters. We ended each evening being entertained by a one-man band in the horse stables.

3) I am a proper music nerd, and listen to around ten new albums each month. To say I love music would be an understatement.

4) For around ten years, when I was living in London, I had to travel Europe for around three months a year for work. It was a great way to get to know the locals in each country. I particularly loved the Nordics as I felt at home there like a local whenever I visited. I remember I once went for a jog on the ice-covered Helsinki harbor in the middle of winter. It was minus twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit, and by the time I returned to the hotel I understood why I hadn’t encountered any locals out jogging.

5) Many years ago I ran with the bulls in Pamplona. I made it all the way to the stadium at the end of the course and was astounded by crowd’s welcome. But when I saw how the bulls were treated I vowed never to return.

6) I lived next to Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s famous mountain, for a few years. The flat I lived in had a glorious view of it, and it became a key feature in my life at the time. I used to jog up to the top of the mountain every week. Arthur’s Seat is famous as being a spiritual place and I definitely felt something deeper every time I visited the summit.

7) I’ve completed two Swimtreks in Greece and Croatia. Swimtreks are 25-30km island hopping adventures which last 5-6 days. The Greek trip sounded like a great idea until I discovered that everyone else in my swimming group had competed in either an Olympics or a Commonwealth Games. I was a lot faster at swimming by the end of the trip!

8) My sense of humor got the better of me in my last role as a proper employee for a fund manager in Edinburgh. One day, I gave my boss a pretend parking ticket as a light-hearted joke. However, he didn’t realize it was a joke and made quite a fuss about it with the council. That little prank led to me being reprimanded for “taking the piss too often”.

9) I run a casual ultimate Frisbee game each week near where I live. It’s a super fun game and a great way to engage in fun social sport. However, despite loving the game I’m yet to master the forehand throw.

10) When I attended a friend’s wedding in India a few years ago, I called down to the hotel reception to request a Pitcher of water because it was so hot and I was thirsty. A few minutes later, a hotel employee knocked on my door. “Here’s your picture of water” he explained proudly as he handed me a photograph of a glass of water.
S.S. Turner will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to one 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 with this giveaway.)

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Bona Fides (MI-X Series Vol I) by Ash B. Whitley

Title: Bona Fides
Series: MI-X Series Vol I
Author: Ash B. Whitley
Publication Date: March 1st 2022
Print Length: 360 pages
Genre: LGBTQ+ Science Fiction
With great power comes horrific possibilities…

Former child prodigy, Rowyn Miller, needs to prove her incarcerated and spiralling dad isn’t a murderer. It should be a piece of pish—she is his ‘victim’, after all.

One problem: not a soul has been able to see or hear her for 1,573 days.

Being a living ghost is hell. For starters, her available investigative methods leave Rowyn lagging miles behind the shadowy forces who set-up her dad. Plus, she’s desperate for a proper blether instead of the increasingly gloomy one-sided chats.

At least the creepy government scientists and unkillable terrorists can’t get their hands on her, though, and Rowyn will soon discover there are far worse ‘super’ powers she could have been lumbered with…

Goodreads * Amazon
Interlude – Lecture Hall A, Linbury Building, Oxford University, 9th March 2015

Rowyn glanced around the unfamiliar lecture hall. This is a world away from physics. The lecturer was equally animated—bounding back and forth, throwing out interesting anecdotes—but the students were not. For a start, few had bothered turning up. Those that had, mostly opted for sleep, some relaxed enough to lie flat out on the leather bench. A bunch of people behind her hurriedly arranged a drug deal whilst broadcasting it to the rest of the theatre. I’m in a zoo.

Under normal circumstances, fifteen-year-old Rowyn would stick out like a sore thumb. She had done since her very first day at uni when christened ‘McDoogie Howser MD’ by one of the more influential mean girls. At least it sounded nicer than ‘jailbait’ though.

“Is it always so relaxed in here?” Rowyn asked, trying to keep the shock from her voice. The woman to her left didn’t respond and continued to take reams of notes in elegant cursive. “Oh, sorry. I don’t usually sit in Arts lectures.”

For three months and seventeen days, she had immersed herself in everything weird and wonderful physics and biochem could offer, in a futile attempt at working out what the flaming hell was going on. Not being able to turn pages or use a keyboard proved tricky. In short, being this was a complete bawache. So, with no clues to go on, Rowyn had opted to take a break.

“… and if you’ve ever met a Londoner, you’ll understand what I’m saying.”

Her companion let out a gentle laugh at the lecturer’s barb. The sound drew Rowyn’s attention, but not the usual pang in her chest she knew so well from her non-ghosty days. This was the third time now that she had sought the woman with the twinkly eyes and the warm smile. Aye, that’s not creepy at all. Following a pretty girl around town, like some kind of horror film boogeyman.

Soon realising her blatant ogling, the young genius cast her eyes downwards. Her neighbour continued listening, unaware. Rowyn turned her attention back to the lecturer and tried to follow her example.


Rowyn turned towards the urgent whisper and gold-flecked eyes. The other woman had slid across the bench, so that it wouldn’t take much movement to meet the pink-glossed lips currently quirked in amusement. Or it wouldn’t do if Rowyn was really there.

“Excuse me, but you and your staring are extremely distracting.” The woman moved ever closer with each word.

Rowyn’s not-quite-dead heart kicked. “Y-you can see me?”

For the first time since this nightmare began, a way out lit up before her. The woman’s smile acted as a reviving shower, pattering across her dried-out husk of a person.

“Why are you even in here, anyway?”

Rowyn’s head was empty. “I’m um—”

“I missed you,” said an unexpected deep voice from Rowyn’s right.

The physicist watched as denim-clad legs slid through her own and took over her seat. With a strangled yelp, she jumped up and into the aisle. After three months and seventeen days of this, you would think her body would suppress the involuntary flinch. She doubted it would ever seem right having someone sitting on top of—well, through—her.

She looked at the happy couple whose heads were almost knocking together as they giggled over some private joke. Despite her face being devoid of sensation and her huffing lungs remaining numb, she knew that tears were streaming down her cheeks.

That smile wasn’t for you.

Neither were the words.

None of it will ever be for you.

You’re alone.

Completely alone.
Ash B. Whitley is an SFF and mystery writer, hailing from the North East of England. By day she works in Finance and by night (well, post-bedtime story) she hammers away on her keyboard, writing far-fetched stories of superheroes, spies and complex female characters. Although several varieties of nerd, her first love is comics.

Goodreads * Twitter * Amazon
Win a $50 Amazon gift card and an eBook of Bona Fides by Ash B. Whitley!

(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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Sunday, February 27, 2022

Blog Tour and Giveaway: You Won't Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson

You Won't Know Her Name tour banner
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for You Won't Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson. This blog tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book, my book review, and a helpful guest post about bullying by the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway to win a paperback of the book. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
You Won't Know Her Name book cover
Title: You Won't Know Her Name
Author: Shanti Hershenson
Publisher: Apollo
Publication Date: July 27th 2021
Print Length: 200 pages
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction/Poetry
“I thought they were my best friend…”

There lives a little girl whom you will never know the name of, and for her, a terrible storm is coming. She is going to a new, public middle school knowing no one but her sister, and the horrors are absolutely endless.

But she doesn’t expect what is to come.

In her first few months of school, terrible and unspeakable things begin to happen, that go beyond what is considered “normal”. Finding the courage to get away from the wrong people is a difficult thing, but when a horrific incident occurs, she finds herself running from who she once thought to be friends.

Now lost and alone, The Girl turns to one thing to help her get through her darkest moments. Writing poetry is the one way she can express her anger, and when her school announces that they will be hosting an open-mic night, she knows she has to enter. But entering means that she will have to face her demons, and it could be her worst nightmare…

From a teenaged author, You Won't Know Her Name shines a light on a heartbreaking reality that often goes unspoken about - the issue that is bullying in middle school. From hateful comments to real, shocking violence, this book shares what cannot be ignored.

There lives a little girl
Whom you will never learn the name of
But she exists; she’s real in these pages
Her features, you may never learn
But you can know one thing
She is a survivor
Or, she thinks she is
She thinks she’s faced the worst storm
But that’s a lie, and things are only calm
Because a deadly hurricane is coming

The Girl is starting middle school three days late
Once because of a car accident
Then, because of a tragedy
And lastly, because of what is supposed to be good news
She’s moving to a new school

The Girl walks through the doors for the very first time
Her sister by her side
She takes in a deep breath
Other kids flooding around her
The public school is like nothing she’s ever seen before

The school floors are grey
They feel dark and dreary
And for The Girl, everything feels like a nightmare
She is lost and cannot find the way

The Girl is given a fresh slip of paper
With bold lettering telling her where to go
It’s like a map, and it gives her a classroom number
She needs to go there soon, or else she’ll be horribly late
On her already chaotic first day

The Girl hurries up the stairs
And makes it to a large door
Where she can hear voices inside
Preparing to start the day
And with her backpack slung over her shoulder
She steps inside, and is met with the stares
Lots and lots of stares

Up until this point, The Girl had attended private school
But now she’s struggling to fit in
In a new city
With too many classmates
That she does not know
She’ll come to learn their names, in time
But for now, they are strangers, and she is alone

She is asked to introduce herself to her classmates
To make new friends in the process
“Hey, my name is-”
It’s important for you to not know her name
“-and I like a few things.”
She explains how she likes to read and write
And the shows she watches
The movies she likes
The games she plays
She’s a normal, innocent child

The Girl doesn’t really like school in general
Except for one subject - writing
It’s a break from the storm that brews
A break from the struggles that loom
Like being a teenager, which she isn’t yet
She’s eleven-years-old, but won’t be for much longer

At eleven o’clock, it finally comes time for a break
It isn’t lunch, and it isn’t nearly long enough
But this becomes her one time to make friends
Her sister knows people, having not been late
And those classmates are her only possibilities
For a friendly day

The table is crowded as children coo
And The Girl comes to sit beside her sister
Who doesn’t know these kids any better than she does
But they will come to learn their names
Their personalities
Whether they be good, or bad

The Girl meets one person who stands out
Though she just can’t figure out
If it’s in a good way
Or bad
“Hi, I’m-”
Actually, you shouldn’t know their name either
Apologies, really, but names are not important here

The Girl sits at the table, beside The Person
She is asked questions, mostly about her interests
“What shows do you like?”
The Girl and The Person have a few shared interests; things that could bring them close
“But your favorite show?”
When The Girl answers, she is given a different response
“Get the f*ck out of here. Now.
The Girl doesn’t know what to think
Her mind is a haze and everything is confusing
The Girl stays and The Person doesn’t seem to mind
And things seem better, as though friendship is a possibility
The Girl might be making a mistake

The Girl makes it to the end of the day
After hours of work, and getting to know
More and more people
Whom she doesn’t really care about
She thinks she may have made a friend
Though things still feel uncertain
If a good first day means making it to the end
Then she had an awesome day
When I first heard of You Won't Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson, there was just something about the synopsis that was calling to me to read it. The synopsis really sucked me in, and I found myself wanting to know more about The Girl. I ended up loving this book!

You Won't Know Her Name is certainly not for the faint of heart. With heavy themes such as bullying and sexual assault, I knew the plot would be a dark read. However, Hershenson writes like a pro, and the way she incorporates these themes into her story didn't put me off reading. The plot is solid and interesting if a little sad at what The Girl had to go through. I loved that there were no chapters, only poems and that each poem started with a title of what the short poem would be about. Each poem flows well into the next. It really made my heart hurt for all the injustices done to the girl (and her sister). What angered me the most was how the school failed this child. Unfortunately, many schools fail bullied children every day. (I speak from personal experience). I would say that there is a plot twist in this story, but there are no cliff hangers. It's just sad that there are so many people (children and adults alike) that have to go through such horrible bullying.

The characters in You Won't Know Her Name felt very realistic. We are told early on by the author that names aren't important so no names are ever mentioned in this story. We have "The Girl" who I felt so bad for. She didn't deserve any of the hate and the uncaringness she got. I just wanted to protect her so much throughout the story and tell "The Person" (The Girl's bully) to just back off. The Person acted in such a vile way toward The Girl and her sister. It made me wonder about The Person's background though. Was The Person being bullied at home to act out that way in school? I am, by no means, excusing The Person's behavior though. 

Trigger warnings for You Won't Know Her Name include sexual assault (not graphic), profanity, talks of suicide, and violence. The author has included trigger warning notices at the start of each poem that could possibly trigger some readers though.

You Won't Know Her Name is a sad but a good read. There is some good to come out of it though. You Won't Know Her Name is a thought provoking read about a subject that, sadly, many children (and adults) have to deal with although they shouldn't. 

Overall, You Won't Know Her Name is a well written piece of poetic literature that everyone should read. I would highly suggest that parents read it with their child and discuss it. If you are a librarian, buy this book for your library. It's not a long book either, so even the most hesitant reader could get a lot from it. I would definitely recommend You Won't Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson to those aged 14+. Trust me, this is a book that needs to be read.
Shanti Hershenson author picture
Shanti Hershenson's first two novellas were published when she was in the sixth grade, although her writing journey started long before then. Ever since she could hold a pencil, marker, or crayon, she was creating stories. They started from pictures, mere scribbles, and eventually, turned into captivating tales.

Bullying is something that devastates millions of students, and often - particularly in my case - can be something that is severe, that feels endless and painful. I’ve gone through it - perhaps you have too - and it’s something that I know can’t go on. But if you’re a teen, or even the parent of a teen, I have a list of advice for those who are being severely bullied at school.

And for the record, I don’t want to sugar-coat anything. I don’t want to say that there are one - or two, or three - things that can make bullying cease. However, I do think that there are several things you can do to take control of your situation, improve it, and hopefully, ensure your safety (because in many ways, these situations and incidents can be more dangerous than one would think). These are the things that I wish I would’ve done years ago, that could’ve put a stop to what was going on before it reached the point it did. And ultimately, these are things that in most - but not all - situations, will improve things drastically.

Distance yourself from the bully as well as you can.

For me, and a lot of cases, I think, the bully in question is in some way, either a friend, or a friend of a friend. In all of my experiences, I was friends with the bullies, and often too young to understand what was going on. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you distance yourself from the bully - try to stop hanging out with them, avoid them, if you must. I regret continuing to sit with a bully as I waited to be picked up, as one thing led to another, and ultimately, it all got worse. This brings me to my second piece of advice.

Find and tell a trusted adult.

In some cases, I believe that bullying can be handled by the victim. However, contrary to popular belief, telling a bully to simply “stop!" usually won’t do much. If distancing yourself from the bully doesn't work (and if they don’t get the message from it), things can get quite worse. The moment the comments and insults from the bully grow to the point where they are causing you to lose sleep, be distracted, and affecting you in any other way, then I advise you to tell an adult. Even if it’s an older sibling, a parent, a teacher, a coach, a relative - or any other trusted adult - please tell them. They can give you advice on what to do and how to handle it. If the said adult is a teacher or administrator at your school, then they could potentially handle it. And, for the record, if the bullying is, or turns, physical, than please turn to an adult as soon as you can. Waiting can only cause the situation to worsen, as it did in my case.

Find a creative outlet to express your feelings.

You may already have this in some way - an outlet to express yourself and provide a distraction from the bullies. Things like art, music, and of course, writing can all be used to express yourself and share your thoughts. For me, I write and perform poetry. Poetry has, and will likely always be, my number one source for sharing my feelings. I write poems about my days, about how bullying has affected me - about my anger, sadness, and whatever comes to mind. Often, when I am done writing them, I have a sense of peace as if a small weight was lifted from my chest.

Know that you are not the problem.

This last piece of advice may seem obvious - or not. I hear far too much that victims think the bullying was their fault, that they did something to make the bully dislike them, that “I deserved to be bullied,” or, commonly, “I was annoying.” Being bullied is NEVER your fault, nor should you think that. For a long time I believed that all these horrible things happened to me because I was “too obsessed with that one show,” or, “I could’ve left sooner. I was fine with what happened.” It took me years to realize that no one deserves to go through bullying, and that no one is an apparent “bully magnet.” The bullies are the problem - not you. You are beautiful. You are loved. And you are, of course, perfect.
Win a paperback of You Won't Know Her Name by Shanti Hershenson - 5 winners!
(US only.)

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Lola's Blog Tours and the author assume all responsibility for this giveaway.)

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Fire of the Forebears (Heritor's Helm #1) by L.A. Buck

Title: Fire of the Forebears
Series: Heritor's Helm #1
Author: L.A. Buck
Publisher: Redhearth
Publication Date: February 22nd 2022
Print Length: 635 pages
Genre: Fantasy

Pitted against one another, with the people and country they love in jeopardy, the daughter of a deserter and the son of the king have a chance to fulfill their forebears’ legacy—or destroy it entirely.

Twisted monsters called saja lurk in the shadows of the mountains. Rumors say the Fidelis, human wielders of an ancient elemental magic, again walk the plains. Not all in Avaron believe, and not all welcome the return of legend.

Kura’s a skeptic. But, she’ll cross and befriend centaurs, talking animals, and worse to save her family after the rebellion mistakes her for the land’s prophesied savior. And, while he’d rather negotiate with rebels than fight them, Triston can’t ignore prophecy. That was the sham his father used to steal the crown in the first place.

Over a century ago, their ancestors sailed the oceans in search of peace and died as heroes fighting for it. But heroes—and villains—aren’t always what they seem to be.

Inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s grounded characters and JRR Tolkien’s sense of wonder, Fire of the Forebears is a fantasy for fans who think a dual perspective adventure about the fate of one nation might still be pretty epic.

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The sunrise cast a sickly yellow glow over the city, bringing light to a scene of carnage better left in darkness. Triston stood in the center, droplets of rain cascading down his cloak, and grimaced as he surveyed the billowing tendrils of smoke and steam that emanated from the charred clearing. It was a bitter dawn—one he’d been dreading.

Twelve. There were twelve men unaccounted for after the last night’s battle.

So far they’d found seven, all of whom had died within the city after it’d been breached. Now, with the first of the morning light, Triston picked his way east of Tarr Fianin’s walls—or, more accurately, what remained of the walls. Several townsfolk were already attempting to replace the damaged logs, and they sent embittered glances in Triston’s direction. At the moment, he didn’t care.

Carcasses, stiff from death’s embrace, littered the clearing. A few were men—far fewer than Triston had first believed. During the battle he’d been unable to tell, but now he saw plainly the faces of his enemies: they were monsters, beasts that walked like men but wore the faces of animals. Perhaps this was clearest in death, their features twisted into unnerving snarls, their fur splattered in blood and matted by the rain.

He hadn’t believed it before, but he knew it now: the Wynshire was a dangerous place, and they never should have come.

Among the drab garb of the dead there shone a patch of bright red—a soldier’s cloak, the color undampened by the rain. Triston crossed the field to kneel at the dead man’s side. It was Mory, face pale, lifeless eyes staring up at the sunrise. Triston carefully pulled the man’s wet cloak over his body.

“Triston.” Seren’s voice broke the stillness. He maneuvered around the debris like a mother crossing a cluttered playroom to tell her child to pick up his toys. “I thought I would find you here.”

The anger that had been brewing in Triston’s chest threatened to boil over, and he clenched his teeth as he rose to his feet. He didn’t want a conversation, not now and not from him.

“Come on,” Seren said gently. “You can let the captains do this.”

Triston closed his fist around the sword hilt at his side. Of course Seren would say that; a strategist delegated the burden while a military man shouldered it. “How do you explain these?” He motioned toward one of the dead creatures as he looked Seren in the eye. “Is it saja? Not seen in Avaron for generations?”

“They’re not saja.” Seren’s apparent confidence set Triston’s teeth on edge. “They’re dangerous, though. And worse yet multiply in Lovaria even as we—”

“Stop. Just… stop.” Triston shook his head, and he couldn’t help but stare at the red cloak covering Mory’s body by his feet.

“It’s not your fault.”

Triston laughed bitterly. “Not my fault? What did I tell you yesterday? I said these towns were unpredictable. I said we needed more men.”

“And you were right.” Seren’s tone was somewhere between consoling and placating. “I should have listened. But I still outrank you: the siege was my decision.”

“But it was the wrong decision, and I knew it. I shouldn’t have let my men follow you.”

Seren’s eyes narrowed slightly. “What do you mean to suggest?”

Triston sighed. Did I really just say that? He ran his fingers through his wet hair. Yes, he’d said it. And he didn’t want to take it back. “I don’t know what I mean.”

Seren nodded slowly. “You had best find out.”
A goat farmer, engineering graduate, first degree black belt, and medical student, the one thing Lauren Buck always knew she wanted to be was an author. The first stories she ever wrote, as a grade-schooler, were about super heroes. But, raised on a steady diet of Lewis, Tolkien, and Sanderson, it was only a matter of time before she set her sights on epic fantasy.

When not writing, working, or studying, she enjoys drawing, playing the guitar, traveling, as well as outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and kayaking. Sometimes you can find her hanging out on Twitter, probably with a German shepherd or two sleeping at her side.

According to Myers-Briggs Lauren is an INTJ, and country roads will always take her home to wild and wonderful West Virginia.

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Win a $25 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 for this giveaway.)

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Saturday, February 26, 2022

Book Blog Tour and Giveaway: Out of Temper (Bean to Bar Mystery #3) by Amber Royer

Welcome to my stop on the book blog tour for Out of Temper by Amber Royer. This blog tour was organized by Lone Star Book Blog Tours. On my stop, I have information on the book as well as a scrapbook page about coffee from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway to win a signed copy of the book and a yummy bar of chocolate. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
Title: Out of Temper
Series: Bean to Bar Mysteries #3
Author: Amber Royer
Publisher: Golden Tip Press
Publication Date: February 1st 2022
Print Length: 264 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Felicity Koerber's bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston's historic Strand has been the scene of two murders - both of which she has been instrumental in helping solve. So when she gets invited to demo her chocolate skills aboard a cruise ship sailing out of the local port, she's excited at the chance to get away from the shop long enough to regain her equilibrium. She even brings her best friend along and makes plans for time at the spa. But when she gets on board, she finds out that she's been booked for a mystery-themed cruise, and said best friend, Autumn, has to finally deal with the real reasons she quit writing mysteries. Only - if that wasn't stressful enough - it doesn't take long before there's a real murder on the cruise, and someone Felicity knows becomes the prime suspect. When said suspect asks her for help, she can't exactly say no, can she?

Felicity finds herself surrounded by cruise goers who all had connections to the victim - and finds that both Logan (her business partner, whom she recently kissed) and Arlo (the cop who was once Felicity's first boyfriend, before she moved away from Galveston) are dealing with the case until more official help can arrive. How will Felicity survive the ensuing awkwardness?

One thing that helps: the retired police dog turned therapy dog she meets on board. Satchmo helps Felicity deal with being back on the water after tragedy in her past - and also helps her uncover a vital clue to the case. Can Felicity unmask the killer and keep a friend from being framed before all the suspects leave the ship?

Watch the book trailer below or by clicking here.

Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs. If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Cool Places I’ve Had Coffee
by Amber Royer

I love to travel (which means that the last couple of years have been hard, without the ability to go so many places.) This wanderlust is something I and my protagonist for the Bean to Bar Mysteries share. Felicity, in part, quit her previous job as a physical therapist to become a chocolate maker in part because she wanted a reason to travel with purpose. In Out of Temper, she gets asked to demo her chocolate making process aboard a cruise ship, and she jumps at the chance.

When I travel somewhere new, I like to check out the local coffee scene. You can learn a lot about a community and meet people who are passionate about what they do. You can also learn about the world – finding out where the coffee was imported from, how it was processed, etc. I also like visiting local cafes, especially places recommended by friends. Here are a few of the coolest places I’ve had coffee.
1—Here’s my coffee from Building 6 Coffee Roasters in El Paso, Texas. We were with a friend who had family in El Paso, so we used it as a home base to day trip into New Mexico to visit White Sands and the Carlsbad Caverns. We visited several coffee shops in the area, but the cool thing about this one was getting to watch them roasting coffee on site.

2—Here’s me having coffee at the Lost Dog Café in Folly Beach, South Carolina. We had been out at the beach to photograph the sunrise and had asked some local surfers for a good place to have breakfast—preferably without moving our car, as you had to pay for parking, and we wanted to go back out to the beach afterwards. The photos behind Jake are all pics of customer’s dogs. My favorite one was a picture of someone’s cat, which had been captioned, “I swear I’m a dog.”

3—Here’s my coffee from our hotel in Tokyo. We were able to sit at that window every morning and watch people go by, before heading out for whatever activity we had planned. The inset pic is me and Jake at Fifth Station on Mount Fuji. It was fall, and the leaves were changing. So beautiful! As a bonus, here’s my fancy coffee from Dotour, which is the Japanese equivalent of a Starbucks.

4—Here’s my coffee at Kickback Jack’s in Rancho Cucamonga, California. I’d gone to visit friends, and my friends took me to King’s Canyon National Park to go up and see the trees. (It was a long drive to get out to the park, and I appreciated that I wasn’t the one driving on all the switchbacks.) Here’s all of us with the General Sherman Tree, the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth, estimated to be around 2,200 to 2,700 years old.

5—Here’s my coffee from the Calypso Café in Corpus Christi, Texas. They’ve been roasting their own coffee since 1995. They do some cool stuff with recycled coffee bean bags as wall art and upholstery. We were in town for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchling release at the Padre Island National Seashore. I had written about turtles in the second Bean to Bar Mystery, and brought a copy of the book for the expert I had consulted with (pictured in background, placing turtles on the sand – all turtles were handled gently by official park staff).

6—Here’s my coffee from Spyhouse Coffee Roasters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My agent, who is from the area, had set up a reading at a local bookstore. While we were in town, we got to visit a number of bakeries and restaurants. We also got to see some nature (including the waterfall at Minnehaha Park) and catch a little culture, with the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Win a signed copy of Out of Temper by Amber Royer and a chocolate bar from French Broad Chocolates! (US only)

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prizes. Amber Royer (the author) assumes all responsibility for this giveaway.)

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