Odd Partners: An Anthology Edited by Anne Perry [Book Review and Giveaway]

April 24, 2019
I always enjoy short story collections and I don't just say that because I'm a short story writer. Short story collections are a bit like going to a buffet or a chocolate shop. You can select from a variety of options and you try out different tastes and flavors. And that experience is no different with the book Odd Partners edited by Anne Perry.

First before I go into what I enjoyed about it, here's a bit about the book:

Unlikely pairs join forces to crack a slew of intriguing cases in an anthology edited by New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry, featuring original stories by Jacqueline Winspear, Jeffery Deaver, Charles Todd, and many more, including Perry herself. 

Throughout the annals of fiction, there have been many celebrated detective teams: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Nick and Nora Charles. Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The latter were the creation of beloved mystery writer Anne Perry, the editor of Odd Partners. With this collection, Perry has enlisted some of today's best mystery writers to craft all-new stories about unlikely couples who join forces--sometimes unwillingly--to solve a mystery. From Perry's own entry, in which an English sergeant and his German counterpart set out to find a missing soldier during WWI, to William Kent Krueger's story of a fly-fisherman and a gray wolf in the Minnesota woods trying to protect their land from a brash billionaire, to Robert Dugoni's psychological tale of an airplane passenger who wakes up unsure of who he is and must enlist his fellow passengers to help him remember, each mystery deals in the complexities of human (and animal) interactions.

The collection features stories by New York Times bestselling authors Ace Atkins, Allison Brennan, and Robert Dugoni, as well as Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale and selected members of Mystery Writers of America. With each author's signature brand of suspense, these stories give new meaning to the word "teamwork."


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What I Thought: 

There were a few that I enjoyed the most so I will reflect on those as well as the anthology overall. Odd Partners is about "two beings who had to cooperate with each other, willingly or by force of circumstances, to solve a crime." (quoted from the book's introduction) Right out of the gate, I was intrigued by the first short story called "The Nature of the Beast" by William Kent Krueger. It takes you into the setting of WWII and one man has gone rogue, so to speak, and his comrade goes off to search with him, finding an "odd partner" that will help him. This was so well done and so captivating to me. I felt like I was in the bunker and searching right along with the two main characters. The other that I enjoyed was, "What Ever Happened to Lorna Winters" by Lisa Morton. I liked the character a lot here and loved his mission to find out what happened to the actress, particularly around his unusual find at his job. If you love unsolved mysteries and old movies, you'll love this short story. The other one I really liked was Oglethrope's Camera by Claire Ortada. This takes you on the journey of a sneaky cat who goes out at night and brings back an unwelcomed prize to his owner. This one had a surprise ending and I love that.

Each story was unique in its own way and figuring out who the odd partners are and their connection was always half the fun. If you love a mix of mystery and surprise, you will love this book.

Be sure to add this book to your Goodreads list or pre-order a copy on Amazon.com.

Best of all, I get to giveaway a copy of the book to THREE LUCKY WINNERS! That's right - three of you will win a copy. So, enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on May 10th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest review. 
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Interview with E. A. Aymar, author of The Unrepentant

April 22, 2019
Today I'm excited to have author E. A. Aymar on my blog today to talk his book The Unrepentant. First, before the interview, here is a bit about the book:

As a respected and involved member of the mystery thriller community, E.A. Aymar’s latest book, The Unrepentant (March 4, 2019, Down and Out Books), is sure to be highly anticipated across the country.

Eighteen-year old Charlotte Reyes ran away from an abusive home only to end up fooled, kidnapped, and spirited across the country by a group of criminals. When she is rescued by Mace Peterson, a former soldier, they can’t seem to shake the gang or the crooked cop paid to bring her back. Seeking the revenge she feels is owed, Charlotte realizes she only has one option. She has to fight.

Corruption, cliffhangers, and violence drive this page-turner, while current issues relating to legalized sex work and mental health comment on relevant conversations that the public is focusing on right now.
First of all, congratulations on your book The Unrepentant! You deal with a lot of tough issues in this book. What kind of research did you do? Did anything surprise you?

Thank you so much for having me here! It's an honor to be here, alongside writers like Joy Fielding and Kathleen Valenti.

And thank you for the congratulations! It's been so nice to have The Unrepentant so warmly received. I honestly didn't know what the feedback would be like, and the enthusiastic response has been immensely gratifying.

I usually don't do much research for my books, so conducting interviews was new to me. I thought it'd be awkward, given that I was talking with women who had dealt with horrific experiences - I spoke with women who had escaped the sex trade, or women who were fighting it (in the form of legal fights, or counseling victims). Surprisingly, they were easy to talk with, and very open about their experiences. The interviews turned into conversations, and I was greatly appreciative of that. And I was always impressed by the strength and resilience of those women. I felt honored that they talked with me.

I think that's amazing you talked with women who had direct experience in the very area you were writing about for your book! In an article with Publisher's Weekly, you said a poignant quote, "For The Unrepentant, I didn’t want to turn the camera away, but I didn’t want to risk glorifying an act that is, often, profoundly ugly. I wanted to write honestly." What was it like for you writing those scenes?

There was a lot of questioning. Most writers are taught that less is more, and that just the suggestion of violence is a poignant way to convey its experience. I generally agree with that...but I've also known writers (like Chevy Stevens, for example) who can describe something explicitly, and not lose any power, or risk venturing into gratuitous territory. I admire that, and wondered if it was something I should attempt.

But I decided that, while that approach was right for Stevens (and for, say, Ellis in American Psycho), it wasn't right for this book. I settled on landing someplace in between. There are scenes where the content is explicit, but I didn't make it exploitative. And I never wanted to celebrate violence with this book. Those were my guiding parameters.

That makes absolute sense to me. So, I found out that a shooting at your son's daycare influenced the theme of violence in your book. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Several years ago, my son was sleeping in his daycare room, with about eight other children and two teachers, when a bullet broke through the window and landed in the wall. The children were sleeping and the teachers were bent over cleaning so, fortunately, no one was hit. But the police never found out who did it, and they never discovered a motive. All they found was that multiple bullets had been fired at the daycare.

Many things from that day have since shaped me, but nothing as much as my understanding of violence. For me, that incident typified the randomness and awfulness and uncertainty of violence...and the unsettling sense that, at some point, it will come for you. And it won't be on your terms, and it will never be fair.

The violence in The Unrepentant is representative of that experience. Charlotte isn't seeking a fight. Like (I think) most women and violence, it comes to her. It comes for her. Her response is to seek to control it, to shape her own narrative, to recover in the way she chooses. And maybe that's the most we can do.

Absolutely! What was your process when writing this novel? How did it transform from your first draft?

Oh, it's such a different book! The first version was going to be about a vigilante who helps out people in troubled relationships...and when I excitedly told my agent about my idea, she told me that Sophie Littlefield had written the same thing. So...that didn't work.

But then the research I'd done into violence started to take over, and I wanted to write a different book. So the departure from that first idea was pretty dramatic, but probably for the best. I ended up with a significantly different concept, but one that, once I started writing, seemed natural.

That's incredible how it changed! You've received some rave reviews about your book! How does it feel to receive such incredible positive feedback about your skills as a crime writer?

It's wonderful, and unexpected. Like I said, I didn't know how The Unrepentant would be received. I took a lot of chances with it - writing from the view of a female co-protagonist, writing about violence, writing from different races. I tried to tread carefully, and I think that was important.

One thing I've been working on as a writer is telling the story I want to tell, but giving an audience something they'd enjoy reading. And I don't know if I exactly did that with this book, but it seems like it. And that's a wonderful feeling. It's nice to have a book I'm proud of.

That balance of telling the story you want to tell but giving your audience what they want is a tough balance! Can you tell us a bit about the need for diversity in crime fiction?

I think that the next great literary movement is going to be the multitude of diverse voices. I don't think it's going to be a widespread employment of certain writing conventions, like we had in romanticism, realism, and modernism; I think it's going to be substantially different. We're in an age of diversity, it's inevitability, and the push back to its march. That fight defines us - people, rather than just Americans - more than we realize.

So that change is coming to crime fiction, and it's greatly uncomfortable for a number of people, because it challenges the way they view literature; it challenges their knowledge, and "earned" wisdom. It also challenges, for many of those detractors, their finances - I've heard white writers despair about their books being read. The truth is, very little is going to be replaced; what we're looking at is an addition.

If there's no room on your bookshelf for new voices, then build a bigger bookshelf. Make room for more books. That's not something you'll regret.

You are very right! What advice do you have for writers who are interested in writing crime fiction?

Most people answer that question with tips about networking, and that is important. But I'd tell people to think about where they're writing. Location is incredibly important. It informs your characters, your story, and your voice. Have a relationship with your setting. You don't have to love it, but your characters need to emotionally react to it. And if they do, readers will as well.

This is of particular importance in crime fiction, because crimes are responded to differently in, say, Baltimore than they are in Green Bay. Make sure you understand those differences. Otherwise, your story has no identity.

So one question I love to ask authors, what were some of your favorite books as a kid?

I loved books by this guy named Willard Price. He wrote these adventure stories about a pair of young naturalists, and I deeply loved them, and read them over and over. I also loved a writer named Robert Asprin, who wrote these wonderful fantasy books called the "Myth" series. I remember reading them and laughing endlessly.

When I was a little older, I subscribed to some sort of action-based publishing house, and every month I got a box of books about government-operated vigilantes, like Mack Bolan (a sort of precursor to Jack Reacher) and a group called The Phoenix Force and Able Team. They were hyper-violent and I remember they caused my parents a great deal of concern. But my parents gave me the freedom to read whatever I wanted, under the hopeful assumption that my love of reading would lead me to other books. Which it did! But now I write crime fiction, so I guess that was the rather expected result.

Lastly, what are you excited to read (or have read) this year?

Off the top of my head...Angie Kim's debut MIRACLE CREEK has received a lot of accolades, and deservedly so. I had the chance to read an ARC and it's fantastic. I'm also excited about Louis Bayard's new novel, COURTING MR. LINCOLN, and a collection of short stories called WEAR YOUR HOME LIKE A SCAR by a writer I greatly admire named Nik Korpon.

A friend of mine (who actually served as editor of The Unrepentant) named Chantelle Aimee Osman recently started a publishing imprint under Polis Books championing diverse voices, and they have three books coming out this fall, THE NINJA DAUGHTER, THREE-FIFTHS, and REMEMBER. I'm really excited about their lineup and looking forward to reading all three of those books.
And I'm extra super duper excited about books by two writers who excel at short stories and have now produced novels. Tara Laskowski's ONE NIGHT GONE and Jen Conley's SEVEN WAYS TO GET RID OF HARRY. Tara and Jen are two of my favorites, and I hope their books get the wide readership they deserve.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today! Best luck with your book! Readers, you can purchase a copy of this book The Unrepentant on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads list.

About the Author


E.A. Aymar’s other thrillers include the novel-in-stories The Night of the Flood (in which he served as co-editor and contributor), as well as I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and You’re As Good As Dead. Aymar’s column, “Decisions and Revisions,” appears monthly in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and he is also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers; he also serves on the Board of the International Thriller Writers, as Vice President of Author Programs. In addition to ITW, he is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Aymar also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the D.C./MD/VA triangle. Visit his website at https://eaymar.com/
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3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night with author Andrew Nance

April 20, 2019
I'm back with another guest host on my "3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night." This time it's with author Andrew Nance, who wrote an excellent thriller called "All the Lovely Children." Check it out on Goodreads and you can also enter to win a copy of the book over at my review from Monday. Or purchase it now on Amazon.com.

With that, take it away Andrew!

My choice for Saturday night reading is a beast of a book. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney is over 800 pages of small type. I chose it because I started reading it one Saturday night in the late 70s. I’d been alone in my dorm room and there was a knock on my door. I opened it to a new student who’d recently transferred into our coed dormitory. An incredibly intelligent young woman, she had made money for tuition by working as a server at one of the Playboy Clubs for a couple of years. She was beautiful and all the guys had a crush on her. I’d talked to her a few times and our conversations kept veering into weird wonderful books. She handed me Dhalgren, said that few people can get through the book but she thought I would, and then she left. I started reading and was hooked from the first page. I read straight through the weekend, skipped classes on Monday, and finished it that night. I break it out to read every several years. I still have Dhalgren inspired dreams.

I go back to my childhood for a Saturday night movie choice. I spent most Saturday nights watching classic black and white monster movies on Shock Theater with host Dr. Paul Bearer. So I think any of the black and white classics would be a good choice, or maybe something more contemporary and fun like Shaun of the Dead.

I’ll fill in the blank for a third Saturday night choice with a fine whiskey like Knob Creek, or Bulleit, or my standby, Jamesons. We’ll sip it on my back deck that overlooks a Florida marsh, and while listening to the nocturnal marsh animals, we’ll talk about books that changed our lives.

About the Book, All the Lovely Children

In 1959 Charly Bloom was a thirteen-year-old Tomboy full of piss and vinegar. As her father often said, “Calling Charly hardheaded is like calling the sun hot.” Young girls began to disappear in the small mountain town of Temperance, North Carolina. Charly’s natural curiosity, fueled by her love of the Hardy Boys mystery series, inspired her to conduct an investigation of her own. What she learned led to a confrontation with the deranged child snatcher and Charly almost died. Twenty-three years later Charly is a private investigator who recently left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. When crimes identical to those from 1959 take place again in Temperance, Charly returns to her hometown to help the sheriff stop the abductions and find the lost girls.

Nance has done a marvelous job in creating a well-written, suspenseful novel. His language is crisp and fresh; his world-building, authentic; and his pacing, just fast enough to keep readers at the edge of their seats but slow enough to let them enjoy the ride. He has crafted a compelling, engrossing novel with more than one scene of gritty-realism that will prickle the back of your neck. --Southern Literary Review

Where to Find the Author:

https://www.andrewnance.net/

https://www.facebook.com/AndrewNance.author/



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All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance [Book Review]

April 15, 2019
As the winter turns into spring, I've been reading a fantastic thriller that I think you should check out. It's called All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance. Before I get into how I felt, here's a bit about the book -

About the Book (Courtesy of the Author)


In 1982, Charly Bloom, one of the first female field officers in the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, has left the bureau and turned to private investigation. When she gets a call from an old flame, she returns to her hometown of Temperance, North Carolina to look into the disappearances of four children. The abductions are eerily similar to a set of previous crimes. Two decades earlier, Charly and her two best friends played amateur detectives and tried to find a girl who’d been kidnapped from her home. More girls went missing. Clues overlooked by an inept sheriff led Charly to a confrontation with the man known as the Snatcher. She managed to fight back and kill him. Or so everyone thought. Is the Snatcher back, or is there a copycat? Charly must face her past and her own personal demons in a race against time to save the latest victim.

What I Thought

I thought this book was excellently written, first of all. I really felt transported into this small town when I was reading it. I liked the female character Charly, she was definitely my kind of character! I enjoyed seeing what she was like as a kid and then who she became as an adult. The timeline bounced between 1982 and then 1959, which made for interesting contrasts. A lot of different people were coming in and out of the life of the Charly - both young and as an adult - which sometimes I had a hard time keeping track (could just be where I'm at with things lately). A definite surprise ending though and made it worth reading!

Purchase your copy now at Amazon.com. And best of all, I get to giveaway an ebook copy of the book to one lucky reader! Enter below. Open internationally. Ends 4/30.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review. This post contains an affiliate link for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link.
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Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre [A Review]

April 11, 2019

I'm always excited to read a book a bit outside my usual reading tastes. I think that's the challenge and the excitement of being open to reviewing books. So, thanks to WOW! Women on Writing and the amazing blog tour set up by Crystal, I had the chance to read the book Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre.

Here's a bit about the book:

In 1960, the Badre family emigrates from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States, a dream come true for fourteen-year-old Nasib.

Nasib struggles to assimilate as a teen in Albany, New York. With limited English skills, he attempts to learn new customs, make friends, and adapt to a different culture. In Beirut, the Badre family was well-known and socially privileged. In America, they are unknown nobodies. Nasib adopts his father’s name “Albert,” and to further Americanize his name, young Albert becomes “Al.”

Despite the many frustrations and difficulties, Al’s ultimate goal is to become a successful American. The new anonymity actually inspires the young man. Excited by the opportunities available to him in his new country, he determines to make a potent contribution to society.

As he strives to adapt, Al reads voraciously, becoming increasingly interested in religion and philosophy. Books become his “American friends,” and reading soon prompts him to ask deep theological questions about his family’s Lebanese Protestant roots, his mother’s conversion to Catholicism, and the contrast between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. This ultimately leads to his Catholic conversion.

Al’s search for meaning in life leads him to social activism among New York City’s poorest. And, in time, to graduate studies, where his desire is to improve the human condition through information technology.

Al Badre-- like many other American immigrants--works his way through hardship to achieve a meaningful place in his adopted nation.

What I Thought

Reading this book, gave me such an incredible insight into what it's like for a family to be new to America. I felt like I was right there beside AI Badre and his family as he navigated the world of America. I think this was a well-done vividly told book and it's a must-read for anyone who wants to see what it's like, first-hand, for someone new to the country. I think considering everything going on in the world right now - this is a must-read. 

Purchase your copy on Amazon or add it to your GoodReads

About the Author

Albert Nasib Badre is an American author born in Beirut Lebanon. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1960 at the age of fourteen. His family made Albany, N.Y. their first home in America where he attended a private Catholic high school through his Junior year. After three years in Albany, the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa, when his father accepted a professor position at the University of Iowa. He finished his senior year at Iowa City High School, then went on to the University of Iowa where he got a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. After college, he spent a year as a social worker in New York City. Deciding social work was not for him, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan where he got his Ph.D. in 1973.

He spent the next thirty years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and today he’s Professor Emeritus of Computing. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, he was an international consultant specializing in designing technology to enhance the human experience. Dr. Badre was an early pioneer in the field of human-centric design, with some thirty years of experience in human-computer interaction, learning technologies, and human-centric e-learning. His background combines expertise in the empirical methodologies of the behavioral sciences and the design approaches of the computing sciences.

Dr. Badre authored numerous technical papers, is co-editor of the book Directions in Human Computer Interaction, and the author of the book, Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context, which was adopted in several dozen courses worldwide. His memoirs, Looking West, is the story of his coming of age immigration to America and subsequent conversion to the Catholic Church.
Today, Dr. Badre and his wife live in Providence, R.I., near his son and family, where he leads a very active volunteer life, in service to the community.

Find Albert Online:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/197752.Albert_N_Badre

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anbadre

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anbadre/

Website: https://www.badremusings.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12819942

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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April's A to Z Challenge: B is for Blogging

April 2, 2019
Okay, so I'm attempting to do the A to Z Challenge hosted every April. And we'll see how I do this year! B is for blogging!

Did you know I've been blogging since 2011? (My first post!) I have learned a lot with blogging, both professionally speaking and also as a casual blogger. I think the main reason I've stuck with blogging personally is that it provides an outlet for my thoughts and it's a part of a larger community. I like that feeling.

I think the reason I have kept this blog up for so long is that I've allowed it to change and evolve and I've never been strict about the direction it takes. I guess for that reason maybe it's not a huge hit, but I realize now, I never meant for it to be that kind of blog.

So, if you are visiting my post today, I'd love to know a few things about you -

1) Do you blog? Why?

2) What is your blog (so I can say "HI")?

3) And when you don't know what to write about for your blog, what do you write about?

Happy April everyone!
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April's A to Z Challenge: A is for April Showers

April 1, 2019

Welcome to April, everyone! It's been 5 years since the last time I did the A to Z Challenge and I thought I'd try again. Why? Well, I've been wanting to find more blogs to interact with and comment on that will comment back and I think this is a great way to do it. Also, this may inspire a more personal element to my blog then I've been having lately. And if you want to join in, check out the post here.

I feel like I am cheating a bit with the letter A a bit, but given that it's the first day of April, I thought I'd focus on one of my favorite aspects of April - April showers! I love the rain and with that, I have a rainy day playlist that you'll want to listen to if it's raining. You can list below or click here to listen on YouTube.




There are 31 songs, so hopefully, you like this list!

What is your favorite rainy day song?
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Nobody Talks About This! So Why Would I? by Amanda Russell


I am so excited for today's guest post. You can find out more about Amanda Russell in our interview by reading it here. Then come on back!

It is commonly said that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. If miscarriage is that common, why had I never heard anyone talk about it? I was newly married and in my early twenties when it happened to me.

I was at home alone and unable to reach anyone on the phone. When I finally reached my midwife’s office, the nurse told me approximately, “If you were having a miscarriage, you would be in more pain. Lay down and drink some water... We will see you at your next appointment in two weeks.” So, that’s what I did.

I knew something was not right. I went in for my 16-week appointment only to find out that I had, in fact, miscarried not just one baby, but twins. My husband and I were shocked. Devastated.

The next day we went into the hospital to be induced, give birth, and then have a d&c.

The recovery, for me, was long and recursive. A huge part of it was the patient support of my family and friends. But another side of it came to fruition through my efforts to express my experiences through writing poetry.

Why did I write this book?

I did not start out thinking I would ever share these poems with anyone. I wrote for my own processing of grief. For several months, I endured a lot of silence because I could not yet give words to my feelings. They were inexpressible and scary to me. After eight months of trying repeatedly to write, I finally penned the poem “Sonogram (16 weeks)”. Then once the words came, I continued writing more and more. I was beginning to make sense of what happened and not only express it, but honor my grief by naming it and holding space for myself in my notebooks.

Why did I decide to publish this book?

Fast forward 5 years. My husband and I were on the verge of a big move away from our home state of Texas and all of our family. This was a bit of a turning point for me because I had just decided to compile my best poems into a collection, even though I did not know yet what I was going to do with it. I had about 90 pages of poetry in the original version of BARREN YEARS, which at the time was titled GROUNDED.

As I began working on the poems, I, of course, asked my friends to read it and share their thoughts. I wanted to know if my writing was clear and understood. I wanted to know if they thought it kept pace or fizzled out at page 50. I wanted to know if any of my writing resonated with other people. As I shared my work, I learned that many of my friends had also experienced miscarriage. Over the course of a few more years, I whittled the collection down to the 25 poems it contains today.

Because the poems span about a 7 year period, they represent the whole process of my grieving and moving forward. For me, the best feeling is when I hear from a reader that my poems helped her process her own experience with miscarriage. Ultimately that is why I decided to publish. I realized that miscarriage is often a topic that gets hidden in a family and not discussed. I think that it should be discussed.

The truth is that miscarriage affects many people. And if we do not talk about it, we end up isolating ourselves at a time when we really need the support and companionship of others. I hope that my little book of poems can help others not feel alone in their experience and realize that all their feelings are valid. I also hope they will feel encouraged and inspired to turn to creativity as a means of expressing and working through their grief in their own timing.

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Be sure to pre-order your copy of BARREN YEARS today! If you do, it counts towards the author's advance sales goals (you will receive the book in June 2019). You can find Amanda on her blog at https://poetrussell.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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