Friday, April 29, 2016

Chasing the Mouse by Fr. Nathan Monk

  I've been a fan of Mr Monk's for quite a while. A page that I follow on Facebook once posted about all of the remarkable things he has done for the community (promoting equality, sheltering the homeless, and helping the community in general), and I had to start following his progress to see what extraordinary things he was going to do next.
  Then one day, Mr Monk posted about his book, Chasing the Mouse. I contacted him and offered to help promote his story, so that people could become more informed with what steps he has taken in making the world a better place.
  Chasing the Mouse tells the story of Nathan Monk, his childhood experience of being homeless, meeting his wife, and becoming a father (both literally and spiritually). Rebellion, love, life, family, broken promises, and creating lifelong memories are also key to this book, and he does a good job of letting that be known. Nathan is the narrator of the story, so each reader of Chasing the Mouse will receive a firsthand experience of the reality of growing up homeless. Now, he is not a professional author, and there are flaws that every book critic would just foam at the mouth to pick apart, but readers of this book must appreciate it for what it is. A man conveying his story in his own way, and telling the world what truly matters in life.
  This book is a very powerful read. I enjoyed it very much, and I took a lot of meaningful aspects out of it, that I'm positive will come back to me throughout the years.
  I will, and already have, recommended this book to friends, saying that there's a scene at the end that will nearly bring you to tears. (I know I came close!)
  Now Nathan Monk spends most of his time with his family, and helps to take people off the streets and put them into homes, shelters, and communities. He does remarkable work, and if you follow his progress, I guarantee you will notice the impact he is making on the world.
  Thank you, Nathan, for telling us your story. It was a beautiful one.

Book                                ebook

About the Author

Nathan Monk is a civil rights activist, author, and former Orthodox priest. He resides in Pensacola, FL with his partner Tashina and together they are the parents of three children, Kira, Selena, and Gideon. Though he is best known for his social activism, he has been frequently spotted frolicking with woodland creatures. For more than a decade, Nathan has worked tirelessly for social justice, specifically for the homeless. Nathan holds a Masters Degree in Theology and served as a priest for eight years before resigning in 2013 after stepping out in support of marriage equality. He was subsequently declared de facto excommunicated and defrocked by the hierarchy of the Church, though the Church fell short of formally processing any official declarations of laicization. Currently, he is the executive director of a non-profit that focusing on housing solutions for homeless families. Over his career, he has received notable awards, appointments, and national media for his accomplishments in the area of social justice. He was appointed by Mayor Ashton Hayward III as the co-chair of the Task Force on Human Services, a focus group tasked with finding practical solutions to address homelessness and poverty. The Pensacola City Council appointed him to the City Planning Board. He received international recognition for helping fight to overturn the city’s notorious “blanket ban” which made it illegal for the homeless to utilize any device to shield themselves from the elements.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

In the Country of Shadows by Cindy Brandner

  If you are in need of actual physical proof that author Cindy Brandner is an expert in the art of storytelling, look no further than her latest piece of literature, In the Country of Shadows.
  In the Country of Shadows is the fourth installment of the Exit Unicorns series, so I promise not to give too much away (my book reviews are all spoiler-free anyway), but I will say that tensions are high, and broken hearts cannot be so easily mended.
  When I started In the Country of Shadows, I was pleased to see that Ms Brandner had not lost her magical ability to spin stories together in order to create a literary masterpiece.
  What I didn't expect was to be so emotionally destroyed, I was incapable of starting a new book for several days after I finished it. I was emotionally destroyed in a good way, of course, in a way that only a true author is capable of accomplishing.
  This book left me breathless, wrung out, and entirely overwhelmed in every way possible. Cindy Brandner has broken my heart, pieced it back together, and broken it again with her words.
  I may say this every time I finish a new book of Ms Brandner's, but I'm confident in saying now that In the Country of Shadows is, by far, my favorite book in the Exit Unicorns series.
  Ms Brandner has completely outdone herself with this latest installment of Pamela, Casey, and Jamie's story.
  Bravo, Cindy Brandner. You've done it again.

Book                                ebook

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cover Reveal: A Wizard's Forge, Book One of the Woern Saga by A.M. Justice

Cover Reveal for A.M. Justice's "A Wizard's Forge," Book One of the Woern Saga

As a long time fan of A.M. Justice, I was thrilled to hear her announcement about A Wizard's Forge. Her Woern Chronicles have captured my heart, and have given me MASSIVE book hangovers! It is with the utmost joy that I am here to announce the release of her latest project, A Wizard's Forge (coming this September)!

And now, A.M. Justice!

"In 2013, I released an indie novel called Blade of Amber. Rebecca reviewed it right here on the Literary Connoisseur, and she honored me and Blade with the #4 spot on her 2013 Top 5 List. Becca talked about how Blade inspired a book hangover, and I rejoiced that my first novel touched someone so deeply.

"But…I knew I could do better. I also happen to be one of those people who loves retellings and enjoys reimaginings. Battlestar Galactica is my all-time favorite television show, after all. The “reboot” has become commonplace in film and TV, but not literature. Who rewrites their own published novel? Well, I do, and with the help of my publishing partners at Wise Ink Publishing and the phenomenal cover artist Steven Meyer-Rassow, I turned Blade of Amber into this:

"A Wizard’s Forge tells how a young woman named Vic (short for Victoria) transforms herself from a shy scholar to a kickass warrior and ultimately a powerful wizard, all while trying to escape a man determined to control her. Ashel, the prince who loves her, will make any sacrifice to save her, but Vic must find her own path to freedom.

"A Wizard’s Forge and Blade of Amber share characters and plot, but in Forge I streamlined the narrative and made it more intense. Many new scenes tell a deeper story with a sharper focus and a faster pace. Gritty action, dark plot twists, and doomed romance carry readers through to a harrowing conclusion.

"The book launches this September, and over the coming months I’ll be describing my revision process in more detail on my own blog, as well as tipping my hat to everyone who helped make A Wizard’s Forge into a book I want to shout about from rooftops. But for now I’ll thank Becca for providing the first roof. I hope her readers love this cover as much as I do, and I hope everyone will look for a copy this September!"

A.M. Justice is a Brooklyn-based author, lover of science and wit, sporadic scuba diver, and once and future tango dancer. My characters live only in my head, but they’re real, and I put them through hell. Follow me on Twitter at, like me on Facebook at, and on my blog at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Top Five Favorite Reads of 2015!

It's that time of year again!!!

  Okay, I lied. It's shortly after that time of year again!!! Thanks to a somewhat newly budding elf business (shamelessly plugging HerShelves Elves here), and a very chaotic move at the beginning of the year, I have had barely any time to read, let alone sit down and write a blog post. 

The fact that I haven't written a blog post in almost a month, and not for any reason as cool as having a Harry Potter reread or something, is quite a depressing thought. But I plan on changing that now that I'm settled in my new home! 

So what better way to get back into the swing of things than to list off My Top Five Favorite Reads of 2015?

If you are a new follower, or haven't witnessed my top favorite reads within the past few years, you can find 2013's here, and 2014's here! Every year, I look back on all of the review requests I've received within the past twelve months, and I let my followers know which ones left me with the biggest book hangovers, the ones that left me in tears, and the ones that I will never forget. 

So! That's what we're doing here now! Are you ready to begin? Because I'm ready to let you in on all of the little jewels I've stumbled across this past year! 



Unseen by Stephanie Erickson

My Review:

  Sometimes you come across a book so addicting, you can't do anything or think of anything without having this book occupy your mind every single minute of the day. This is what I found in Stephanie Erickson's Unseen.
  I was in the middle of a reading lull a little while ago, after just finishing a book I enjoyed, but didn't LOVE. I started to read another book by the same author, but that one didn't capture my attention either. I was bored, I couldn't concentrate, and all I wanted was a book extraordinary enough to provide Grade A escapism.
  Feeling at a loss, I put the book I was reading down, and I decided to pick up Stephanie Erickson's latest (at the time) book, Unseen. "Stephanie Erickson hasn't disappointed in the past," I thought. "Why not?" I read the back of the book and became even more interested in this new novel, and that's when I knew that this was the Grade A book I was looking for.
  Little did I know how much I would truly fall in love with it.
  Mackenzie Day has a secret that she hasn't ever had the courage to divulge to anyone, even her best friend. After Mackenzie's parents passed away when she was little, she was left to be raised by her cold aunt, and she grew to only trust herself with her deepest darkest secret.
  Mackenzie can read minds.
  She would give anything to be normal like her best friend, but until she starts being followed by the same two strange men, she won't know how truly special her gift is.
  These two men are part of the Unseen. They are fellow mind-readers.
  Now Mackenzie has to make a decision: Will she follow her birthright and join the Unseen, or does she decide to accept the job opportunity of a lifetime (something she's been working on all her life)?
  This book had me so involved in its story, I even went to a book signing the day I was reading it, and all I could think about was THAT BOOK.
  It was so good, it's become a book I will recommend to anyone and everyone in a reading lull. I swear it will guarantee an immediate extraction from said lull.
  Unseen was extraordinary. As soon as I finished it, I privately messaged Stephanie in a panic, bombarding her with questions all to do with book two. (Yes, there will be a book two, and three from what I hear.)
  As you probably know by now, I read. A LOT. I read a lot of good books, and books that deserve five stars. Rarely though, do I read book so intense and beautiful, I want to recommend it to everyone I know, and I have found that in Unseen. I wish I had endless Unseen reading material and endless time to read it in.

Why Does it Make the List?

This book is ADDICTING. If I can be distracted during a book signing because of the book I'm currently reading? This author deserves some well-deserved credit.

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The Seventh Magpie by Nancy Chase

My Review:

  In this dark fairytale, the princess becomes the more ways than one.
  When Princess Catrin's mother vanishes unexpectedly, her father finds that the only way to cope is to send Catrin far away until she becomes of marrying age. Then he will have her sent back home and married, against her will.
  But Catrin isn't pleased with this choice. She decides to choose her own life, and she falls in love with a sailor that she's known since she was little...
  ...but fate has something else in store for Catrin and her father's kingdom. Catrin's sailor love is lost at sea on the journey back to Catrin's kingdom, and Catrin strikes a deal with her father. She tells him that it is impossible for her to love another in her lifetime, and that unless a faraway prince brings her a story better than the one her mother gave her before she disappeared, she will never marry (meanwhile doing everything in her power to find a way out of marriage).
  I'm being 100% honest with you, dear reader, when I tell you that this book had me interested from the very first page. I went into The Seventh Magpie without reading the synopsis, so all of these plot twists were completely new to me, and boy, was this book an adventure.
  Nancy Chase's storytelling is captivating and flawless. Her words will snag its reader, almost as if they are under a spell. Although there is no tonic to this spell; the only way to find a cure is to read more. And more, and more, and more.
  I was so hooked on this book, I started and finished it in one sitting. As soon as it was over, I felt like there was an empty hole in my chest that couldn't be filled ever again. I think the only thing that will come close to reading this book for the first time again is for me to buy a paper copy and keep it in my purse 24/7 just so I have it around and near me every second of the day. 
  I predict that Nancy Chase's The Seventh Magpie will make "My Favorite Books of 2015" list. I almost wish that I could make a "My Favorites" list early on in the year, just so I can give this story a giant spotlight. This book will leave you breathless.
  I will reread this book. A lot. I will probably read it to my children (when I have them...some day). I will highlight my favorite passages (not in my paper book, my Kindle of course, I would never damage my paper's priceless), and I will cherish this book forever and ever.
  Thank you, Ms Chase, for writing such a beautiful story. I will be sure to share it with the world, so that they can discover the beauty of your written word as well.

Why Does it Make the List?

This story was magical. Ms Chase's writing was magical. I lost myself in this book almost quicker than any other book I've read. As each chapter passed, I grew more and more scared that something was going to ruin my perception of the book, and I was wrong. It was beautiful. A magnificent read.

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Rachel Abbott*

*Now, #3 is different. I cannot simply just suggest ONE book of Ms Abbott's to my readers. I must recommend them all.

Why Does She Make the List?

Rachel Abbott's books got better and better as I read on. I thought the first one I read was going to be the best, and I was proven wrong with each new book I read. This cycle repeated until I finished Stranger Child (one of her more recent books). I will read any and every story she writes. I highly recommend her.

Her Books:




The Thompson Sisters Series and the Rachel's Peril Series by Charles Sheehan-Miles

My Review*:

     When I first launched The Literary Connoisseur, fresh out of the box, I was already a fan of Charles Sheehan-Miles' work. I had already fallen in love with Just Remember to Breathe, his Thompson Sisters novel about Alex and Dylan, and I was hooked for good.
  I quickly dove into A Song for Julia and The Last Hour (which I still haven't forgiven Charles for), and loved them just as much, or even more so than Just Remember to Breathe. In fact, The Last Hour made its way up my favorite books ever read list, even though it tore me apart emotionally, physically, and mentally. But aren't the best books like that? It takes a pretty amazing author to get such a reaction from their readers, doesn't it? It takes real writing talent. Charles has it. Charles has IT. 
  When I heard that he was expanding the world of the Thompson Sisters, and adding Girl of Lies to his life-changing books quota, I was thrilled.
  I was excited, I was nervous, I was anxious, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.
  Of course Girl of Lies was incredible. Would I expect any less from one of my all-time favorite authors ever to publish a book?
  No? That's what I thought.
  Now, I don't normally do this with books, but once Girl of Rage came out (the second Rachel's Peril book, the Thompson Sisters/Rachel's Peril book you must read 5th), I didn't read it right away. As much as I wanted to put down the book I was currently reading to devour it, I was diligent.
  I was going to wait until Girl of Vengeance came out, so I could seriously ignore everyone around me and binge-read the Charles Sheehan-Miles books I had not yet torn apart and put blood, sweat, and tears into reading.
  I waited, and boy was it well worth it.
  You are lucky, because you don't have to wait! It was torture. Honestly, torture.
  But it was well worth it, I tell you.
  I cannot even begin to tell you how I felt when I realized I was done with the Rachel's Peril series. It felt like someone had taken a chunk out of my heart, and the only way to get it back was to reread Charles' books. His books will stick with you forever and ever.
  I once said in a review for Lindy Zart's Unlit Star that her book wasn't a favorite review request or Indie book of mine, it was a favorite book of mine altogether in the world of literature.
  Charles' books are the exact same way. His Thompson Sisters series and his Rachel's Peril series raised the bar, and bumped their way up to one of my favorite series ever. They're up there with books I've fallen in love with over the years. Charles' books are ready to be read by billions of readers across the world and land themselves on the New York Times Bestselling list.
  They're that exceptional.
  I feel as if it is my duty to personally recommend this series to anyone and everyone looking for a read to captivate them until the very last page. And then some, because I'm still hooked on the series even though I've "technically" finished them.
  Seriously. I know I rave about a lot of books (because, well, it's in my nature), but you SERIOUSLY need to read these six books. (And the novella, Falling Stars. But I'll get to that later.)
  Charles' books are amazing, and he is one of the sweetest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. He's an angel, and his genuine nature is reflected in his work.
  I am in love with Charles Sheehan-Miles' work. I will read anything and everything he writes, period. His writing is pure poetry and beauty in the most stunning of ways. His story is original, and his backstory is irresistible; I've never read anything like it before in my life. His characters are so real, you feel pain when they feel pain, you cry when they cry, and they're so realistic, they are moments away from coming through the page.
  I don't know why these books aren't more popular, but believe me, I will continue to be stubborn and headstrong until the world knows Charles' name and the stories he writes.
  These books are amazing. I wish I could read them again for the first time. If you can do that now, consider yourself a lucky duck and do it. You won't regret it.
  (Warning: Time spent binge-reading this series will take away from social life, cooking, cleaning, and every day normal schedules.)

*I decided to include this review in particular, because it perfectly sums up my thoughts of Charles' two series. 

Why Do They Make the List?

Charles Sheehan-Miles' Thompson Sisters and Rachel's Peril series have been constantly on my mind for the past three years. (Ever since I picked up Just Remember to Breathe.) If that doesn't snag him a place on My Favorite Reads of 2015 list, he deserves to be on My Favorite Series Ever list.

Thompson Sisters Series             Rachel's Peril Series

And now...

for the grand finale.

Are you ready to see...

...who made #1?

Get ready...


The Exit Unicorns Series by Cindy Brandner

My Reviews:

 It is the start of the Irish Rising in 1968 when we begin our story and start to follow the players in Exit Unicorns. Jamie Kirkpatrick has just lost his father due to mysterious circumstances, Casey Riordan has just been released from jail, and Pamela O'Flaherty has crossed an ocean to return to past memories and a love that she once had. These three come together (plus Casey's brother, Patrick, who is my personal favorite) through intense and horrific happenings as the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in Ireland begins.
  I was lucky enough to receive an autographed copy of Exit Unicorns in the mail some bit ago to read. I've got to say now that I've finished it, I could not be more thrilled that I own a book by Cindy Brandner that she, in fact, touched. I am both grateful and resentful that I have this novel. I am grateful because it is a beautiful piece of literature that has emotionally raked me over the coals, and I resent it for the same exact reason.
  Civil rights movements, revolutions and the like are very emotional and saddening topics, and Cindy Brandner has captured just that feeling. The series of thoughts that go through one's head when they're being affected by such dire circumstances are dark and frightening. This author puts you right there, in the middle of the action. I would like to compare the beginning of Exit Unicorns to one of those matching games where you have to find pairs of the same picture. Cindy Brandner has given you pieces of the story to put together yourself, and once you get them matched up and start to put the story and action together, it hits you like a freight train. Suddenly you're in the action and feeling the desperation, love and anger the characters are feeling.
  Among the sweetness and sadness I felt with this novel, I also had that quick shift from one emotion to another, where everything would be normal and suddenly I would burst out laughing. The Riordan boys are definitely part of a family I want to join! (Not just for the humor, but for everything that comes in the Riordan package.)
  I love this book. I absolutely love it. I can't wait to start Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears (book two) and see what lies ahead for Pamela, Jamie and the Riordan brothers. Although, I fear for my favorite characters' safety...

 Have you ever gone through a reading drought where nothing can satisfy that escapism emptiness you need filled? Nothing is quite scratching that itch; the itch that can only be satisfied when you read something truly remarkable? Remarkable to the point where you feel as if you won't be completely sated until you convert all of your friends into avid readers of this particular story?
  I was lucky enough to find that recently. Not only did I read a truly remarkable book, I read a truly remarkable series, by a truly remarkable author.
  Cindy Brandner's Exit Unicorns series scratched my itch.
  I read Exit Unicorns (book one in the Exit Unicorns series) quite a while ago, and it actually took me a bit of time to pick up the second book in her series, Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears. I predict that this was due to my sub-conscious preventing me from coming to the inevitable and heart-breaking end (for now) to the series, as there are only three books currently out.
  Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears (Mermaid for short) follows Exit Unicorns' four major key characters, Casey and Pamela, who are husband and wife, Patrick, Casey's brother, and Jamie (a very big favorite of Ms Brandner's readers) and Pamela's best friend. We follow these three as they face the ugliness and the beauty of Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s.
  At this point in time, I have finished all of Cindy Brandner's Exit Unicorns books, and I would have to say that Mermaid is my favorite book of hers, followed closely by Flights of Angels, book three.
  Mermaid hooked me instantly. Even though I hadn't picked up a Brandner book in quite some time previous to this, I felt as if no time had gone by whatsoever and I was catching up with old friends, as soon as my eyes hit the very first word on the very first page.
  I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that Cindy Brandner's writing has only improved and blossomed over time. It seems that the more words she writes, the more they flow and become perfection.
  Cindy Brandner is a natural born storyteller. Readers of her work will find themselves easily captivated with the world she has created, and will find themselves sucked into her stories while losing track of time in every day life.
  That is the key indicator of an amazing piece of literature, and Cindy Brandner has created it. She has raised a bar for my taste in books, and I don't plan on seeing it lowered any time soon.

  I have told my fellow readers many times that Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears by Cindy Brandner is my favorite Exit Unicorns book. That was the book that clicked for me. I got sucked in more instantly than I did with Exit Unicorns, and its story was the one to prove to me that Ms Brandner's work is truly exceptional.
  That being said, Flights of Angels, book three in the Exit Unicorns series, sold me for good. This book in particular has taken the Exit Unicorns series off my "favorite series" list, and put it near the very top of my "exceptional series" list. The list that contains such authors as Susanna Kearsley, John Green, Diana Gabaldon, and yes, even J.K. Rowling. (Of course J.K. Rowling will always be my end all be all, but there are some authors who come pretty close to her status in my book.)
  Cindy Brandner's storytelling in Flights of Angels (Jamie's story in particular) sets the bar higher than ever before. Now, authors I read will have to prove themselves if I am to compare their writing to Ms Brandner's.
  As I look back on my read of the series, I stand by my previous statement (in my Mermaid in a Bowl of Tears review, I think), that her writing has gotten better, more advanced, and her stories have grown into a stunning masterpiece. There are many books I read and review on The Literary Connoisseur that I truly enjoy. I find them fun, charming, and satisfying to a reader's mind. I read many books that reach that standard of mine, but Ms Brandner's Exit Unicorn series is truly exceptional. She has bypassed the "favorite review requests" category in my head, and has proven what she is capable of.
  Cindy Brandner's books deserve to be the first thing you see as soon as you walk into Barnes and Noble. When The Reading Room, or Book Riot posts "books to read to bring you out of your reading lull," Exit Unicorns should be front and center.
  These are the "It" books. The Exit Unicorns series ages like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.

Why Are These Books My #1?

I say that these are my #1 favorite books of 2015, but as of now, in the midst of reading book four in the series, In the Country of Shadows, I feel like admitting that they're my favorite books in the world. There's nothing like reading Pamela, Casey, Patrick, and Jamie's story. Nothing like it. I won't make a big fuss and say that these books are "the best books in the world, and OMG better than anything you've ever read," because to each his or her own, but they're pretty exceptional. I don't want to rush my time with them. I want to draw it out in hopes that one day, the book will swallow me whole, and I'll be able to help the quartet survive and be happy. I don't know what Ms Brandner has in store for her characters and her readers, but I know I will be there every step of the way to witness it.

The Exit Unicorns Series

And that concludes My Top Five Favorite Reads and review requests of 2015!!! I hope you enjoyed counting down with me, and I also hope you found some good reading material to last you the next few weeks! 

I've already read a good share of amazing books this year, so I look forward to counting down my favorites in 2017! 

So, go on, adopt a few new books, and delve into a new story or two! Be adventurous--be daring!

In the meantime, happy reading, and see you soon!



The Literary Connoisseur