Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Anthology – The Shadows We Breathe (volume 1) Edited by Sarah Brentyn and contributing authors


Delighted to share the news of the release of the anthology The Shadows We Breathe, edited by Sarah Brentyn and featuring several contributing authors.

About the Anthology

WE ARE ALL PART SHADOW

Life promises joy and sorrow. Alongside the light, there will always be traces of darkness. It is the nature of being human.

In this anthology of short fiction, we explore relationships—how they sculpt us, hurt us, help us, and reveal our deepest desires.

Eight artists, whose words paint worlds, bring you stories of heartache, loss, hope, and forgiveness. They unveil the intimacy and complexity of relationships.

Whether family, friend, or lover, connections to others can hold us up or break us down.

Within these pages, beautiful words are spun into tales threaded with darkness.

Discover the shadows we breathe.

My review for the collection 10th October 2021

Wonderful storytellers take on the task of creating stories that haunt, bring hope and satisfy in stories, 100 word flash fiction and just 10 words.

That is a challenge all the writers excelled at and I found myself turning the pages eager to read the next gem.

I am familiar with the writing of some of the contributors but was intrigued to see that they embraced the dark side of human nature in some unexpected ways.

Difficult to single out any particular short story  for special mention as they were all excellent but in the first section “What You Wish For” by Georgia Bell, “The Perfect Face” by D.Wallace Peach and “A Good Night Sleep”  by Mary Smith. “Moment of Truth” by Maria Carvalho gave me goosebumps.

In the 100 word flash fiction…”Certainty” by Reena Dobson, “Fair Exchange” Ali Isaac and “A Woman Walking” by Sarah Brentyn were exceptional, as was Allie Potts 10 word interpretation of ‘Fold’

This will be much enjoyed by those who love short stories in all their forms and appreciate the skill it takes to create them in only a few words

Buy the anthology: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

About Sarah Brentyn and the contributing Authors

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.

She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Author Page – Twitter

Georgia Bell

Georgia Bell is the author of Unbound, a young adult paranormal romance about love, fear, and immortality. She was raised on a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy and began writing the stories she wanted to read over a decade ago.

Author Page | Twitter

Maria Carvalho

Maria Carvalho is a multi-genre writer whose short stories have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies, including Under the Full Moon’s Light and Cabinet of Curiosities (both by Owl Hollow Press).

Author Page | Twitter

Reena Dobson began pursuing her creative writing with a vengeance when she realised the world was never going to stop and give her time to write. She now writes at the edges, in sunshine and under cover of darkness.

Author Page | Twitter

An image posted by the author.

Ali Isaac is a writer and blogger living in Co. Cavan, Ireland. In 2020, she was awarded a writing mentorship by Words Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland, working under the guidance of author, Sara Baume. Her writing has been published in The Stinging Fly, Sonder, and Paper Lanterns.

Author Page | Twitter

D. Wallace Peach, best-selling fantasy author, started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked.

Author Page | Twitter

Allie Potts

Allie Potts lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, two children, and spoiled dog. When not finding ways to squeeze in 72 hours into a 24 day, Allie consumes and creates science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic quests, cozy mysteries, and contemporary fiction.

Author Page | Twitter

Mary Smith, author and poet, is based in Scotland. Her memoir Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women focusses on her work in Afghanistan, which also provides the setting for her novel No More Mulberries.

Author Page | Twitter

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – #FlashFiction – Sarah Brentyn, #psychologicalthriller Jaye Marie, #Supernaturalthriller Mae Clair and #Children’s Eloise de Sousa


Welcome to this year’s Christmas book fair where I will be sharing the books of all the authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore with their most recent review in the last six months. I will be selecting authors at random so that there is something for everyone in the post.

The first author with a welcome gift for flash and short fiction lovers is Sarah Brentyn with a recent review for her collection of short fiction Hinting at Shadows

About Hinting at Shadows

No One Escapes Life Unscathed

Delve into the deeper reaches of the human condition and the darkness that lives there.A girl haunted by her sister’s drowning. A boy desperate for his father’s affection. A woman forced to make a devastating decision. A man trapped by his obsessions.

Experience tales of love, loss, murder, and madness through this collection of flash and micro fiction.Take a peek behind the smile of a stranger. Get a glimpse inside the heart of a friend. Scratch the surface and discover what is hidden beneath.

These stories will open your mind, tug at your thoughts, and allow you to explore the possibility that, even in the brightest moments, something is Hinting at Shadows.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Sep 13, 2019 Colleen M. Chesebro rated it Five Stars

I love flash fiction—and not because it is quick or easy to read. Much like syllabic poetry, I’ve found this abbreviated fiction form is rich in meaning. In fact, the brevity of words deepens the message.

Between the pages of this book, you will find a collection of flash fiction that delves deep into the human condition exploring perceptions, reactions, thoughts, and emotions.

The author split the book into four parts: Mindscapes, Connections, Lifelines, and Microbursts, which are stories under fifty words, including a few modified Haiku.

I found there was a certain edge or shadow that meandered through the pages conveying a wide range of emotions in my soul. We all have a place of darkness inside us, and Brentyn excels at finding and revealing even the darkest of human truths in her writing. She bares it all!

I’ve read this book many times, especially when I need to reconnect to some of my own dark truths. It was no surprise that one of my favorite sections were the Microbursts. In only six words, a story is born.

“Her voice was music and madness.”

Brentyn, Sarah. Hinting at Shadows (p. 92). Kindle Edition.

Brentyn is a master storyteller of the macabre and the mundane as she weaves her stories into feelings that will make you embrace your own darkness… if you dare!

Also by Sarah Brentyn

Read the reviews and buy the Collections: Amazon US

And on: Amazon UK

Read other reviews and follow Sarah: Goodreads

Connect to Sarah via her: Blog

The next author celebrating recent rave reviews is Jaye Marie for her recently released psychological thriller – Silent Payback.

About the book

A serial killer roams the streets of Brighton, hunting for his next victim.
When the case lands on detective David Mallory’s desk, will his personal demon prevent him from bringing this vicious monster to justice?

As the body count rises, Mallory finds himself sinking under the weight of his heavy secret – one that could jeopardise his job and his reputation.

With the pressure building, can the troubled detective reconcile his issues and solve the case before more women die?

One of the recent reviews for Silent Payback

I read this book in two sittings when I should have been doing other things. Another chapter…. okay another chapter. Eh, just one more. That’s how my day went, and suddenly I was at the end of the story. In reflecting on the read, one thing I noticed is that the pace is flawless, unrelenting in the way it pulled me through the pages. Not every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, but there is barely a wasted word, so I was never bored. I was intrigued.

The main character David, a police investigator, is the focus of the story, but multiple POVs (first and third person) gave me glimpses into other characters. That included the people surrounding him in his personal life… and the soon-to-be victims of a serial killer. And both (all) perspectives were valid since there are two – almost equally important – storylines running through the novel.

For one, there’s a killer on the loose. He has an interesting twist to his personality, which occasionally had me second-guessing his identity. The peeks into the lives of the ordinary people who ended up being victims intensifies the wrongness of the murders.

The second plot-line follows David’s struggle with a secret, and he has a significant choice facing him in the near future (no spoilers here). The author handles this topic with grace, and the human story is a nice counterpoint to the descriptions of senseless murder. I enjoyed both as well as the way they were woven together. In general, characterizations are well-done. These are believable people, and the ones we get to know are flawed with imperfect lives, trying to make them work with what they have. Sounds familiar.

The short Prologue is a bit clunky, and there are a few editing glitches, but I recommend getting past those for the well-crafted drama beneath. In Chapter One, the story settles in and is well worth it. An enjoyable read for those who like murder mysteries, thrillers, and a human story.

A small selection of other books by Jaye Marie

Read the reviews and and buy the books: Amazon US

and: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Jaye Marie : Goodreads

Connect to Jaye Marie: WordPress Blog

Next on the gift list is a supernatural thriller by Mae Clair –  End of Day: (A Hode’s Hill Novel Book 2)

About the book

The past is never truly buried…

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined with a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. To set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Oct 15, 2019 Teri rated it it was amazing

I loved the first book in this series (and have the third one pre-ordered) and was so excited to read End of Day, I made it my choice for book club.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dreary night. Some scenes will send chills up your spine and have you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no one’s there. With book club members, it spawned spirited conversations ranging from genetics (an odd choice, I know) to our beliefs in ghosts and mediums. For this horror fan, it was a highly enjoyable meeting.

As with the first book in the series, I especially enjoyed the alternating timelines and how Gabriel’s fate was gradually explained. I remembered Dante from the previous book, and looked forward to learning more about him. He’s now one of my favorite characters in the series, and his scenes with Elliott in the role of a substitute father figure warmed my heart. Jillian’s tragic circumstances immediately pulled me in, and I count her therapy dog, Blizzard, as one of the best bookish furry friends I’ve read.

End of Day is a compelling blend of paranormal, thriller, and mystery, and although part of a series, can easily be read as a standalone. I highly recommend this well-written, atmospheric read.

A small selection of other books by Mae Clair

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Mae: Goodreads

Connect to Mae via her: blog

I recently reviewed the latest children’s book by Eloise de Sousa.. Space Dust and recommendations have been rolling in for this lovely gift for any child.

About Space Dust

We’re going on a trip in Big Ox’s canoe. Watch the fire bears roar on Venus as pepper pot trees grow on the moon. As Big Ox steers us to the planets, Litte One wonders if Mum will come home soon.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Oh what a beautiful book for children from 3 to 11, and if you want to know my honest opinion, I loved it too and read it out loud to my husband who mmm mmm’d (that’s good!).

Eloise de Sousa has a way with words. When I started reading I had a little lump in my throat but soon I was excited on the adventure with Big Ox and Little One, whose Mummy had left without even a goodbye! The theme of space is so relevant as our youngsters learn more about the Universe. The story gathers pace with Little One looking for his Mummy on the adventure that Big Ox has taken him on in a canoe with his “absolute favourite spoon”. They travel passed planets and Eloise has incorporated some real life information about Venus and Saturn, and “Neptune’s glassy cloud” in a subtle way.

Beautiful flow, rhyme and rhythm, as mentioned by other reviewers. Repetition is just right. Imagination is second to none – “sea horses swimming in creamy mushroom soup, Or spring onion beams for them to perform their daring loop-dee-loops” … can you just see it?

I love how sensitive Little One is when he tells Big Ox he is “very sorry if I sound like I don’t care”; but then sees how down Big Ox is by his remark. Little One quickly wants to get Big Ox back to his happy self by suggesting they continue their travels where he may see his Mummy.

Very sensitively written. I love how the story calms down towards the end as sleep overtakes Little One but we know that there are more adventures with Big Ox and Little One to follow.

The illustrations are brave and bold and love that they are by the author herself.

I’m so pleased that I have bought a few of these books for the young people in my family as well as close friends. I’m sure they – and their parents – will enjoy.

Well done Eloise de Sousa!

A small selection of other books by Eloise de Sousa

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US

And on : Amazon UK

Read the reviews on Goodreads: Goodreads

Connect to Eloise via her: Blog

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you will have found some amazing gifts for your family and friends (and yourself).  Thanks Sally.

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Author Update – #reviews – D.G. Kaye, Toni Pike, Sarah Brentyn and Stevie Turner + 19 Writers.


Welcome to the first of the author updates this week.. More talented writers with recent reviews.

The first author today is non-fiction author D.G. Kaye with a recent review for her memoir P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy. Debby is here in both capacities today as an author and a reviewer

About the book

“I hurt for her. She wasn’t much of a mother, but she was still my mother.”

Confronted with resurfacing feelings of guilt, D.G. Kaye is tormented by her decision to remain estranged from her dying emotionally abusive mother after resolving to banish her years ago, an event she has shared in her book Conflicted Hearts. In P.S. I Forgive You, Kaye takes us on a compelling heartfelt journey as she seeks to understand the roots of her mother’s narcissism, let go of past hurts, and find forgiveness for both her mother and herself.

After struggling for decades to break free, Kaye has severed the unhealthy ties that bound her to her dominating mother—but now Kaye battles new confliction, as the guilt she harbors over her decision only increases as the end of her mother’s life draws near. Kaye once again struggles with her conscience and her feelings of being obligated to return to a painful past she thought she left behind.

One of the recent reviews for P.S. I Forgive You on Goodreads

Jul 05, 2019 James rated it it was amazing

My month of memoirs continues with an autobiography by D. G. Kaye — ‘P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy.’ Although not quite a series, this is the second book by the author as she explores the impact of a narcissistic mother on her daily life. I read this before bed last night, and all I can say is that some people are dealt a very unfair hand in life. That said, it’s amazing to see how wonderful Kaye is handling all that she went through in the last ~50 years. What a great (but painful) read!

Imagine growing up with a mother who seems to intentionally cause pain for her children. The oldest of four, Kaye spent years letting the woman treat her horribly. In this introspective and emotional autobiography, we learn how and why she tolerated it. The memoir kicks off by letting readers know that the author’s mother has passed away, and this is the story of how she handled the decision whether to be there when the woman crossed over. Sick for many years, touch and go at times, it seems like every possible painful opportunity was taken to cause trouble for this family. It was heartbreaking not just because of what they went through but because you really want this to turn out to be a positive story.

In some ways, it does turn out that way… in death, you are often released from the troubles of the past. Not quickly. Not immediately. Not entirely. Kaye suffers to this day because of the trauma she went through. Emotional pain can be far worse and impacting that physical pain. Seeing how the author connects with her siblings and her aunt helps provide a sense of love and hope for her future. Kaye has a phenomenal way of sharing her past with readers… we feel as if we are there, but one thing is for sure — we were not. That… is fantastic writing.

There is a cathartic honesty in her writing style as well as how she processes the events of her life. On the outskirts, it might seem simple: (A) She’s your mother, you should stay and respect her, or (B) She’s been evil and nasty, you need to run away and forget her. Nope… Kaye fully provides the wide spectrum of all the scenarios that ran through her head, some positive and some not-so-positive. How do you make such a decision? Only a strong person can thoroughly see through the minutia to determine what’s best for both the victim and the victimizer (I might’ve made that word up).

If I could reach through a book to hug someone, this would be the prime one for it to happen. I’ve felt these emotions tons of times before when an author creates a character who suffers… but when a real-life woman shares the truth and the pain she’s gone through, it’s a whole different ball game. If you have a high threshold for reading about someone’s emotional suffering, I suggest you take this book on… it might give you the perspective you need to help others.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LWOYPRP

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/P-S-Forgive-You-Broken-Legacy-ebook/dp/B01LWOYPRP

Books by D.G. Kaye

Read all the reviews and buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/author/dgkaye7

and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.G.-Kaye/e/B00HE028FO

More reviews and follow Debby on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/dgkaye

Connect to Debby via her blog: http://www.dgkayewriter.com

Now for a recent review for the recently released  thriller from Toni Pike…..Desolation Bluff

About the book

Blind romance author Oliver Cameron uses the pen name of Fidel Amore and thinks he has the perfect life at his country estate near Desolation Bluff. After a honeymoon in Paris, his wife Vanessa continues her work as his assistant. His friend Ray is the business manager who lives in the gatehouse and also acts as the public face of Fidel Amore, doing all those book-signing trips that Oliver never wanted to attend. Helen Dunkley is the housekeeper devoted to him since childhood – but she detests the two newcomers.

Complications set in when Ray, working on his old car, accidentally backs into Oliver. His injuries appear minor but the next day he suddenly regains his sight. Oliver wants Ray and Rachel to be the first to hear his good news, but when he finds them he uncovers a shocking betrayal.

A game of cat and mouse begins – and with the arrival of a mysterious stranger, it turns deadly. A short suspense novel that will keep you guessing right to the very end.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Desolation Bluff was a pleasure to read. Blind writer, Oliver, who writes under the pen name of Fidel Amore, is a workaholic who has his newlywed wife, Vanessa looking after Oliver’s administrative and public relations side of his novels. Oliver’s best friend – Ray, impersonates Oliver by doing all the physical PR work, showing up to book signings, etc, pretending to be Oliver, allowing Oliver his freedom to write without having to go anywhere to promote his work. What could possibly go wrong?

Blind at birth, Oliver is unaware of the shenanigans going on between his wife and his best friend until the plot thickens and Ray accidentally backs into Oliver on the driveway and knocks him down. One of the side effects from this was Oliver’s vision was miraculously restored – and this is when the story really heats up.

Oliver makes a decision to keep his newly restored sight a secret when he realizes that his wife and Ray have become much ‘closer’ than he was aware of. And so the games begin! – Somebody is murdered, and then another somebody is murdered, and Oliver realizes that he may be next in line!

This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read with interesting characters and great plot twist to keep me hooked all the way through to a most satisfying ending! #Recommended. 

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RCDRF86

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Desolation-Bluff-Toni-Pike-ebook/dp/B07RCDRF86

Also by Toni Pike

Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Toni-Pike/e/B009I70E8Y

And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Toni-Pike/e/B009I70E8Y

Read more reviews on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14736589.Toni_Pike

Connect to Toni Pike via her website: www.tonipike.com

The next author with a recent review is Sarah Brentyn for her Flash Fiction collection On the Edge of a Raindrop

About the collection

When You’re on the Edge, It’s Easy to Fall  These are stories of lives on the edge.

A girl tortured by the world within her. A boy powerless to escape his home. A mother doomed to live with her greatest mistake. A man lost in a maze of grief.

Each raindrop provides a microscopic mirror of ourselves and those around us. But we can’t always trust what we see. The distorted images disorient the mind, altering our view of reality.

This second collection of flash and micro fiction explores the depths of the human condition and the fragile surface of our perceptions.

Dive into these tales of darkness and discover what life is like On the Edge of a Raindrop

Each selection is approximately 100 words, with a bonus section of Microbursts in which each story is told in 50 words or less.

One of the recent reviews for the collection.

Flash fiction is a curious beast to tame but Sarah Brentyn feels beyond comfortable making 6 lines leave you thinking, “What the hell happened?” Much like “Hinting at Shadows”, this collection would be something I would recommend to anyone who is facing writer’s block. Try to imagine micro stories so intense that they would make an amazing prompt for a long story or even a novel, that’s what she does so well and so consistently.

I will admit that some pieces hover near the waters of poetry, but Brentyn often pulls the reign to bring it back into the realm of prose. Page after page of inspiration await anyone who picks either of her collections and she proves once again that impact and word count are not correlated.

Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Raindrop-Sarah-Brentyn-ebook/dp/B077QM32S7

and on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Edge-Raindrop-Sarah-Brentyn-ebook/dp/B077QM32S7

Also by Sarah Brentyn

Read the reviews and buy the Collections: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Brentyn/e/B01N410987

And on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Brentyn/e/B01N410987

Read other reviews and follow Sarah on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32998449-hinting-at-shadows

Connect to Sarah via her blog: https://sarahbrentyn.wordpress.com/

And last but not least a recent review for the anthology Understanding that was compiled by Stevie Turner and featured stories of real life events by 19 writers.

About the anthology

The following authors and bloggers answered questions posed by Stevie Turner regarding significant life experiences they had undergone. These events include sexual abuse, a near death experience, alcoholism, being diagnosed with cancer, depression, losing weight, getting married, being a mother to many children, being the daughter of a narcissistic mother, and many more!

The contributors to the anthology.

Alienora Browning – Sally Cronin – Dorinda Duclos – Scarlett Flame
Bernard Foong – Darlene Foster – Janet Gogerty – Debbie Harris
Lucy V. Hay – Miriam Hurdle – Phil Huston – Pamela Jessen
Joe – D.G Kaye – Lynda McKinney Lambert – Jaye Marie
Clive Pilcher – Abbie Johnson Taylor – Beem Weeks 

One of the recent reviews for the anthology

I’ve delved into this book as if reading/listening to the lives of good friends who have gone through traumatic times, and come out of them with insight and wonder to write about them. Each ‘chapter’ of questions and answers is a story itself. And each discusses a part of life that gives pain and strength, fear and ultimately, even joy. Some stories grabbed me more than others; for me, the ones about struggling with weight issues, cancer, parental abuse, care giving, and depression lifted me with the courage that these writers show in writing honestly about their struggles, and their path to joy.

All proceeds will be donated to Cancer Research:

Read the reviews and buy the anthology for only 99c: https://www.amazon.com/UNDERSTANDING-Anthology-True-Significant-Events-ebook/dp/B07Q5NLHRZ

And on Amazon UK for 99p: https://www.amazon.co.uk/UNDERSTANDING-Anthology-True-Significant-Events-ebook/dp/B07Q5NLHRZ

Editor and publisher of the anthology Stevie Turner who also contributed an article on Thyroid Cancer.

Connect to Stevie via her blog: https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books under your arm… thanks Sally.