Category Archives: Books

Book Review: The Twenty Days of Turin

The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria

I struggled mightily with this book and that doesn’t happen often. In a lot of ways for me, it was like reading Lovecraft. An amazing story with very interesting elements bogged down by heavy writing and molasses-slow pacing. The story was originally published in 1977 in Italian. If I didn’t know the author was Italian, I would have figured him more for the deep south, given the preference for slow, sweeping pacing that allows for every drawn-out word to get imbued with even more weight than it had before. It’s a humid, thick story with amazing pieces. It’s worth the reading for the premise in the same way that Lovecraft is worth the reading.

I had to read this in small bursts in part because I have other things I’m doing and in part because, unlike most books, it required all of my focus. I know my meds have changed up how my brain functions and I forget things too easily now but I’ve never had this sort of problem except with Lovecraft.

Read it for the ideas and the story, but not the writing. I may try this book again in the future, maybe the second read will feel less like thick word fog.


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Writer Wednesday: Interview: Savannah Cross

Savannah Cross Skydiving

Author Savannah Cross has been lovely enough to let me ask her my questions!

Sarah: What book made you want to be a writer and why?
Savannah: Wow! There were so many. I fell in love with romance writing with Emily Loring books. She wrote from the 1930s to 1960s and I loved how she wove romance and suspense together. Another favorite is Johanna Lindsey, and believe it or not Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway isn’t romance but I adore his stories.
Sarah: What does your process look like? Do you work from an outline or not? Do you have a favored writing implement? How long does it take you to write a book?
Savannah: Every book begins with an idea, right? I usually get my ideas from the places I visit and researching about those places. I always begin with an outline; this makes the writing process much easier for me because I know where the characters are headed and what trials and challenges they must overcome to end up in each other’s arms. Writing implement? My brain! I’ve dictated into a tape recorder (or cell), written with pencil and paper, and typed on laptop and PC. Everyone has a favorite method, I say to use what works for you. My first book took 5 years to write! Wow! That’s because so many other things got in the way – like something called ‘mortgage”. I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and no way I write 2,000 words a day. I have one of those things called a “job” so I don’t write full-time. And, I’m not a fast writer. I write and edit as I go so this means that I think about my words and sentences and flow as I go along.
Sarah: What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite part?
Savannah: My favorite part of my writing process is when I have that great idea and the words flow through my fingers onto the page! My least favorite is getting my energy up to begin the writing process. Staring at that blank page is scary.
Sarah:  Out of all the characters you’ve created, is there one who stands out as a personal favorite and why?
Savannah: We always remember our first, right? My first book “Desert Dreams” is about a woman moving to Arizona to follow her dreams of being a ceramic potter. Okay, I’m not a potter but I followed my dream of moving to Arizona and writing. Always follow your dreams!
Sarah: Does your location influence your stories or characters?
Savannah: Absolutely! I set my stories in places I visited or lived. The location can influence the characters or behaviors of the characters. In “Desert Dreams”, the Arizona desert is a vital part of the plot because one of the characters is lost in the desert. In “On Fire” the characters live in an Arizona resort town where seasonal tourism is important.
Sarah: What are three things you need to write?
Savannah: I need to write what has happened around me. I’m writing a romance/suspense about a virus in a hospital in Flint, Michigan. I currently living in Michigan and a Flint hospital recently had a virus outbreak. I am also writing a thriller about an arson investigator in Arizona. And, I absolutely have to write about my experiences working in a substance abuse facility in Detroit. Lots of personal stories there!
Sarah: What question would you most like to be asked but have never been asked?
Savannah: I would love to be asked what I would do with the money if I had a best-selling book. The answer is that I would give money to various animal shelters and to protect our wildlife.
Sarah: What made you want to write your most recent story?
Savannah: I began “On Fire” after visiting Lake Havasu City, a resort town in Arizona. Also, I know a chef. I tied these two elements together.
Sarah: All-time favorite movie?
Savannah: Absolutely, “Alien” with Sigourney Weaver. She’s a powerful woman role model.
Sarah:  Best advice for new writers.
Savannah: Write! Don’t be afraid of people not liking your writing. Write what you want, then get feedback from your writer’s circle.
Sarah: Describe your ideal outing.
Savannah: Poolside sipping a Margarita while listening to Jimmy Buffet!
Sarah: One moment. Give us one moment that defined who you are, not just as a writer, but as a human being.
Savannah: You ask really tough question! Can I have two moments? Please!? Here is one: One of my dogs was hit by a car and died after she got out of the yard. Ever since then, I have wanted to help lost animals. At one time, my husband and I had 13 dogs but we are now down to 10. Another time is the feeling when one of my online college students and I had a real-time chat. A few months later she emailed me to tell me how talking to me inspired her to continue her studies. That was awesome! To think that my words could inspire others.
Sarah: Favorite author dead and living.
Savannah: Can I have two writers? Please? Ernest Hemingway and Geraldine Brooks.
Sarah: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
Savannah: “Funkytown” by Lipps, Inc. “Take me to Funkytown”! I want to be swept away reading an awesome book.


Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain, Ms. Cross!

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Book Review: On Fire

On Fire by Savannah Cross. 

Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

Ryan and Maddy’s restaurants share a parking lot and little else; their competition is heating up along with their desire, and the danger surrounding their businesses is nothing compared to the risk of losing their hearts.


Maddy Sawyer’s dream was to be the chef-owner of a restaurant. She’d studied and worked for renowned chefs in notable kitchens for years before returning to her hometown of Lake Havasu, Arizona, to open The Haven. In tough economic times, she mortgaged her home to make payroll, and now that she’s beginning to enjoy the success the restaurant deserves, an interloper opens a – yech – bar and grill across the parking from The Haven. She doesn’t know whether to strangle Ryan Flannery or kiss him senseless.

Ryan Flannery was a decorated Lake Havasu firefighter who chased his dream of opening a restaurant all types of diners could enjoy. After opening Flannery’s, he meets Maddy Sawyer, owner of the fancy schmancy Haven, and wants nothing more than to learn all about the woman beneath her chef’s jacket. But Ms. Sawyer is a tough nut to crack who throws down a cook-off challenge that gains national attention. But their sparring is overshadowed by a series of restaurant fires that are more than suspicious, and when Ryan finally breaks through with Maddy, he worries they’ll lose more than their hearts before the cook-off is over.


This is the first book I’ve read by this author and it’s a solid mystery romp. My biggest problem with mysteries is that I have yet to find one that I haven’t figured out well before the reveal, not because there’s anything in the story but because I’ve watched and read more mysteries (fiction and true crime) than any other genre, and the fact of the matter is, in books, unlike real life, the answer has to make sense.

The writing is solid, the premise is solid, the research is solid, and it’s a fun, quick read. If you’re on a diet and not so good on the willpower thing, it might make you hungry (it certainly did me!). The location is very interesting and I even learned something new! I never gave much thought to the London Bridge before but it does make for a nice historical touchstone for a backdrop. Maddy was a little bit flighty but personable and likable and, most importantly, relatable. Ryan was dreamy and sweet and also quite likable (not just eyecandy, maybe imagination-candy as he’s a book character).

If I come across another mystery or thriller by Ms. Cross, I’ll likely pick it up. A solid 4.5/5 for romantic suspense.








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2018 Is Just About Over

And I am so glad but it’s not quite done yet. Before it does finish out, there’s still a few days and during those few days, Hunter’s Crossing, Christmas In Bear Ridge, and Eldercynne Rising are all currently on sale on Smashwords starting at $1.25. It’s the perfect time to give my books a try if you haven’t yet!

By the end of every year, I’m glad to see it go. Part of it is that I look at the new year like a great big shiny new notebook that still smells like clean paper. It’s clean and new and shiny and has all the potential to be the best one ever. Sometimes the previous year was just really that awful. It happens but not nearly as often as it seems in my end of year posts. This year maybe wasn’t as productive or successful a year as I’d like to see but a lot of that is my health – I’ve spent a chunk of the year struggling to type, I had a pretty big bump in my depression this year that I don’t think I’m really out of just yet actually, and I’m finding that the medication is working a bit less effectively lately so I’m hoping January brings some changes and some relief. It’s nowhere near as bad as it what but sometimes, at the end of the day, it’s all I can do to crawl into bed and even my very light down comforter is so heavy on my feet that I can’t find a comfortable place.

I did write two books this year – one of them being Christmas In Bear Ridge and the other I’m working on polishing up but I hope next year sees the sequel to Hunter’s Crossing coming out. I did start sending out poems and short stories again, which is nice. I had one big acceptance for a DnD expansion book that was a LOT of fun. I wrote some poems this year that I think are better than anything I’ve done in a long time and I should be hearing back on soon.

I lost my Cas this year and I miss him a lot but I’m comforted some that he came home to me to say goodbye instead of doing what cats tend to do. As sick as he was, he came home so I would know and so I could help him. That means more than I have words to explain.

My favorite thing this year was the look on my oldest child’s face when the tour guide opened up the very real secret passage in the House of Seven Gables. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone as excited as he was in that moment. He was a child again for that quick climb up and it was absolutely marvelous. It wasn’t a thing that could be bought or repeated but it was the most amazing moment.


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Christmas in Bear Ridge – Release Day!

Christmas in Bear Ridge by Sarah Wagner from Boroughs Publishing Group

It’s release day for Christmas in Bear Ridge – a little myth and a little magic, just in time for Christmas!

From the back cover:

Sometimes it takes a little magic, and a Christmas wish, to see beyond tomorrow, but it takes love to see forever.


Bear Ridge is the cutest little town that no one can remember. It gathers magic like faerie dust to a wand, especially at Christmas. Toni Bell hasn’t believed in magic since her parents died. She’s been on her own for more than a decade, driving from town to town, job to job, gig to gig, living out of her truck turned tiny home, making a point to never get attached. She’s on her way to the West Coast for New Year’s Eve, and plans to be on the road for Christmas, hoping to avoid the heartache being reminded of how alone she is brings. But a wrong turn, a loose dog, and a bollard pole change her world.


Stuck in Bear Ridge until her truck can be fixed, Toni decides to make the best of it only to discover everything she’s ever wanted, and never dared to wish for, were all within her grasp. Nicodemus Panait makes her want to believe in magic, miracles, and Christmas, but she’s afraid that all he offers will prove too good to be true. Nico knows what his forever looks like, but he has only until Christmas to make Toni see it too. Fortunately, he has fate and love on his side.

You can get it a number of places:

Direct from Boroughs, from Amazon, on Smashwords. Barnes and Noble links take a few days longer for some reason but it’ll be there soon enough!

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Book Review: Noelle by Emily Mims

Noelle by Emily Mims

It’s that time of year! Christmas movies are playing nonstop on a number of TV channels, Christmas music is on just as many radio stations, and, best of all, new Christmas books come out! I adore Christmas – usually I’m too busy to read my Christmas books until after Christmas but I’m making a couple of exceptions this year and Noelle is one of them.

This isn’t your normal Christmas book – it’s less about Christmas and more set at Christmas with a few of the trappings but not overly so. There’s a nice balance between some of the more uncomfortable topics and the sweet finding family story that it is. At its heart, Noelle is a romance – new love blooming from old roots against the odds.

There are topics and themes in this book that aren’t generally found in happy Christmas stories and it handles them with grace and dignity. The book touches on rape and the worst kind of bigotry without glossing it over or in any way apologizing for calling it out and pointing it out as what it is – blind hatred, no matter the foundation.

The ending was earned the hard way and the journey to get there was enjoyable. I was swept up and lost myself in its pages very quickly. I think I might have to go find some of the other books in the series.

All in all – 5 of 5 stars.

The writing is solid, even when delving into some pretty heavy dialect. The plot is quick paced and involved. It touches on big, deep topics without getting slogged down or preachy. There’s music involved and that’s almost always a plus as music is one of my favorite things – I didn’t know any of these songs as I don’t care for country music, but the emotion was understood.

Buy from Boroughs, Amazon,


From the cover:



Five years after his wife fled with their baby daughter, Ike finally finds them and truths he never thought he’d have to face before finding real love.


When Ike Jeffries married Cassandra Siler he believed in their future, and he couldn’t wait to meet their daughter, born on Christmas Eve. What should have been a blessed event turned into a nightmare when Cassie disappeared with their baby girl. With a hardened heart, Ike finds them five long years later and learns that everything he thought he knew about his wife and child was a lie.


Cassie Jeffries loved her husband with all her heart. But after the birth of their daughter she discovered a horrible truth about the child that forced her to run for their lives. Crisscrossing the country until she found a new home, Cassie knew she’d done the right thing until Ike found them and demanded answers she wasn’t prepared to share. But life has a way of giving you what you need, and Cassie and her daughter needed the family they had left behind, even if it meant fighting for what was right, and for what she’d forsaken all those years ago.


I hope you enjoy the book too!

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Big Week Ahead

I’ve got a big week coming up – Christmas in Bear Ridge is coming out (I’m SO excited about this book), I’m almost done with my making things for this year – all but the food, most of which has to be done closer to last minute anyhow, and this week marks my first plus one. It’s a little weird, it’s a little morbid, and I know this but I can’t actually help the counting of it. I’ve been counting down for more than 20 years. On the 13th, I’ll be one day older than my mom ever got to be. I’ve got nearly 30 years to go before I get my second plus one – dad was 68.

I think the approaching marked day may have factored into the upcoming book too – there’s a lot about grief in Bear Ridge. Don’t worry – it’s still very much a Christmas story but for me, Christmas has always come with more than a heavy dose of nostalgia. Most of my favorite parts of Christmas come from my own childhood and my mom – chocolate oranges, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, butter rum coffee, and making things for the people who matter most. Hopefully, I’ve managed to pass on at least a few of those to my kids. I couldn’t have written a holiday story without touches of my parents – they’re there in the little things: the music, the food, the reluctance to believe in magic even when irrefutable evidence is right in your face, the ability to believe in magic despite all logic and reason.

I can’t get through this time of year without thinking about all the things my mom never got to do, never got to see, or how proud my dad would be, watching my oldest kid playing the villain in the school play and getting his first college acceptances or seeing my youngest get that hard fought for A in English this year or trying a freaking taquito (which sounds like a little thing but in our house it is HUGE – new food, new textures, and new flavors). Certain songs will come on and I’ll think of them, certain movies do the same. It’s never the same songs or movies – they were very rarely together in my life – but all the memories bring on the warm and fuzzies. Other times of the year, it feels more sad and sorrowful but this time of year, thinking about them makes me feel something else. I might cry a little and I probably look sad but it isn’t sad, it’s a warmer feeling than that, a less bleak or alone feeling. I might get a little taste of gray when the neverwills pop up and remind me that they are both gone now, but mostly, it’s just like wearing his jacket or her perfume: a little hug from the past that brings a smile rather than a sob.

This book may have done more for me in the writing of it than I knew when I was writing it. The thing about grief that no one tells you is that sometimes, even years later, you’ll find yourself going through most, if not all, of the stages again like it’s a new pain and not an old, scarred over book of memories.

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Writing Wednesday: Writing as Therapy

With NaNoWriMo put aside for this year – and just in time too as my edits came in and I would have had to stop anyway – it’s back to regularly scheduled Writing Wednesday! I know a lot of people who write more to process their emotions, their experiences than to publish or share them. I find myself often in the middle which might be why it stings so badly when these pieces of my heart get rejected and rejected and rejected (because all of the acceptances are rarely as impactful for some weird reason). Writing is a thing I would do even if I weren’t driven to share because it helps me get through the worst parts of things. Even when there is no one left in my life who wants to hear what I’m saying, my paper will always take my ink. Paper is never too busy or too uninterested in whatever my current whine is.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend wondering about writer’s block (and methods of getting around it) and I don’t really get block so much as I get too full of whines to create something anyone is going to want to read so I write essays no one will ever see. A few hundred words of my truth that isn’t normally meant to be shared. Every once in a blue moon, one will strike my fancy and I’ll pitch it somewhere. That’s how Beacon came about – my Chicken Soup entry in Grieving and Recovery essay. I have two right now that I’m sending out into the world but it won’t bother me so much if they never see the light of day, the writing of them was for me, the sharing of them is in case there are other people like me.

Sometimes there are stories you don’t even see yourself in until well after you’ve written them. That’s where I’m finding myself with Christmas in Bear Ridge. There is a lot of my own grief in those pages, grief I didn’t even know I was still holding on to. It’s been more than 20 years since my mom died and steadily approaching 2 years for my dad but they are very much a part of this book. It’s been very cathartic for me and I hope it is for someone who reads it also.

I think in some ways, I wasn’t really ready to write this book, to really examine my own proclivity to obsess over the dreams of my parents – the life my mother wanted me to live that is pretty much the opposite of my life or the things my dad wanted for my kids. I’ve done my best to let that go but I haven’t gotten all the way there yet. Maybe this book was my way of starting that process a little bit.


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Inspiration from Life

The Scout (with bonus Joe McBride)

Every now and again, I’ll put something in a story that comes from things in my own life. I made an Instagram post about it yesterday but I had more to say than a little dinky paragraph. In my upcoming book, Christmas in Bear Ridge, Toni Bell drives an International Harvester, mostly because her favorite childhood memories all surround that truck with its camper top. My parents didn’t have an International Harvester but they did have an International Scout that they loved. I have zero recollection of that car but I heard a lot about it over the years and my dad always said if they’d had the Harvester (especially with the camper), it would still be in the family.

Sometimes we have things we can’t let go of because of the people we associate with those things. It’s especially hard when we lose those people. I have a lot of those things, especially things that belonged to my parents.

Sometimes, we have to go tripping down memory lane into the past before we can confidently move forward into the future. Christmas in Bear Ridge touches a little on it with Toni but it is sort of that for me too. Not in the story of it of course, but the book itself. This book is the first book in a long time that my dad didn’t take a look at first or even talk through it. For me, the process of writing the book was my memory lane but now I know I can still write a book without him pestering me for the next chapter or making sure I’ve plugged up any little holes in my plots. This book will always hold a special place in my heart because of it. There are a lot of tiny things in the background of the story that are nods to my parents that no one but me will ever notice but I know they’re there and that’s all that matters.

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Christmas in Bear Ridge!

Christmas in Bear Ridge by Sarah Wagner from Boroughs Publishing Group


Bear Ridge is the cutest little town that no one can remember. It gathers magic like faerie dust to a wand, especially at Christmas. Toni Bell hasn’t believed in magic since her parents died. She’s been on her own for more than a decade, driving from town to town, job to job, gig to gig, living out of her truck turned tiny home, making a point to never get attached. She’s on her way to the West Coast for New Year’s Eve, and plans to be on the road for Christmas, hoping to avoid the heartache being reminded of how alone she is brings. But a wrong turn, a loose dog, and a bollard pole change her world.


Stuck in Bear Ridge until her truck can be fixed, Toni decides to make the best of it only to discover everything she’s ever wanted, and never dared to wish for, were all within her grasp. Nicodemus Panait makes her want to believe in magic, miracles, and Christmas, but she’s afraid that all he offers will prove too good to be true. Nico knows what his forever looks like, but he has only until Christmas to make Toni see it too. Fortunately, he has fate and love on his side.


Christmas in Bear Ridge is coming very soon – just in time for an early Christmas present! I’m going to be doing a couple of giveaways and such soon too so, stay tuned!

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