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?wazithinkin (Oklahoma)

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Dark and Disturbed
Dark and Disturbed
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Disturbed by Morgan Winters, 26 May 2016
I don’t normally read dark twisted stories or horror. However, I have found that taken in small doses, like these flash fiction pieces, they can be enjoyable. Each story in this collection is vastly different from the one before and stretches your imagination to wondrous limits and then leaves you to ponder the possibilities. I found all of these devilishly delightful, but not overly graphic, or profane.

Morgan Winters has gathered the Flash Fiction prompts and photos from the weekly Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Competition and presents them alongside his stories here. He doesn’t enter to win, purposely writing more words than the competition allows. Mr. Winters uses this vehicle to stretch his writing muscles so that one day he will be able to write his own magnum opus to share with the world. He disappeared for a while, but when I noticed he was back at his craft again I decided to pick-up this book to review. Hopefully he will stick around and gift us with more of his fiendishly scandalous words. I am looking forward to seeing more from this author.

FYI: I read Dark and Disturbed on my Kindle Paperwhite, which shows the photos in black, white, and shades of gray. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** May 16, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No issues.

Price: £3.26

4.0 out of 5 stars Tranquility by Grace Jelsnik, 22 May 2016
This review is from: Tranquility (Kindle Edition)
Ms. Jelsnik does an excellent job introducing the reader to the main character, Caitlyn Blanchard. Caitlyn had an unusually difficult childhood. Summers spent at her Gram’s helped teach her how to deal with the barrage of psychic images that had left her mute for the first six years of her life. She is now in her mid-twenties and has managed to earn a veterinary degree while keeping people at arm’s length. Caitlyn’s drive to Gram’s isolated cabin in timber country is poetically described. It was easy to see the dangers as well as the beauty of the area. I found it easy to immerse myself into the scenery.

It had been three years since Caitlyn has visited her Gram and she is well aware that her Gram had passed away before she headed there this trip. However, she was unaware that foul play may have been involved. She had received a cryptic letter from Gram the day before that stated, “We must find justice for the boy.” Caitlyn found herself unsure who to trust. The banter between Caitlyn and Sheriff Trevor was realistic, acerbically witty, and highly entertaining. Sheriff Trevor gave as well as he got. This kept the pace of the story moving along nicely as he put Caitlyn under protective custody.

When Caitlyn learns about the young boy who went missing in early spring, she knows she has to share Gram’s cryptic letter with the sheriff. Then people start turning up dead. As the list of suspects starts to grow, Trevor’s past comes back to haunt him. This is an engrossing story with a lot of heart smoothly blended with a tragic situation. Ms. Jelsnik managed to keep the tension high while still mixing in some comic situations and banter with unique characters.

FYI: **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** May 11, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No significant issues.

Special Agent Francesca (Undercover FBI Book 1)
Special Agent Francesca (Undercover FBI Book 1)
Price: £2.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Special Agent Francesca by Mimi Barbour, 20 May 2016
Special Agent Francesca Donovan was thrilled to be moving to the Las Vegas FBI branch to escape her powerful, domineering mother. Kathleen Donovan held the position of Special Assistant to the Director of the FBI in New York City. She had always made sure Frankie was assigned soft cases. So when a position in the bureau opened in Las Vegas, she jumped at the opportunity to move more than halfway across the country. Frankie chose a hotel away from the glitz and bright lights of Vegas to familiarize herself with the underbelly of the city. On her first night in town, before Frankie checks in with the bureau, she gets between the hotel owner and a couple of goons who are out collecting protection payments in the seedy area for their boss.

Craving the chance for real undercover work, Frankie grabs at the opportunity to be involved in cleaning up gang corruption in the nasty neighborhood. In the sting operation, to lure out a Vegas kingpin, she is to pose as the new hotel owner along with Sean Collins, a Psychiatrist and LVPD Profiler, as her loving fiancée. But first Frankie needs to approach a father she’s never met, a man who doesn’t even know she exists.

Frankie is a wonderful character. While she doesn’t have an outgoing personality, she is feisty, smart, and confident in her abilities. She is also multi-talented and doesn’t shy away from danger. There is an undeniable chemistry between Frankie and Sean. I enjoyed the way Ms. Barbour played with each character’s perceptions of the other while they explored and came to terms with their own feelings. Neither can deny their attraction to the other and as the danger intensifies, the stakes get higher.

The characters are all well developed and diverse. The storyline is a rollercoaster ride that will keep you enthralled as Frankie dives head-first into trouble trying to prove her worth to her profession and her mother. I think readers will find this an intense but enjoyable jaunt into Francesca’s journey.

FYI: Special Agent Francesca, Book 1 of Ms. Barbour’s Undercover FBI series, is available free in the Kindle Store. This book contains adult language; several F-bombs were dropped. Sexual situations and encounters were mildly explicit and well written. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** May 9, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No significant issues.

Just Married Again: A Romantic Comedy
Just Married Again: A Romantic Comedy
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Just Married Again by Charlotte Hughes, 15 May 2016
I found myself wanting a light, sexy read and Just Married Again sounded like it might satisfy my itch. Maddy and Michael have been separated for ten months. Their well-meaning, private physician plants a thought in each of their heads that they need to get away to their mountain cabin for some rest and relaxation over Thanksgiving. Did he know they would both take him up on his suggestion? Did he realize there was a huge early snow storm moving in that would leave them both stranded there in the mountain wilderness? I am pretty sure the doctor didn’t know that Michael’s thirteen year-old nephew, Danny, would stowaway in Michael’s car when he headed for the rustic mountain cabin.

I found this an engaging read as we learn the backstory of Maddy and Michael’s breakup. Having Danny stranded with the couple was a clever trick to force both Michael and Maddy to keep their tempers in check. Danny also set up a base for the innocent reality of their situation. I enjoyed having both Michael’s and Maddy’s perspectives voiced. While Maddy is trying to protect her heart from further heartbreak, Michael is trying to figure out how to get back into Maddy’s good graces. Add in the antics of Maddy’s two dachshunds, Rambo and Muffin, and this ends up being the perfect storm; Michael doesn’t stand a chance. The comedy of errors that ensues keeps the mood light as these two learn to communicate and respect each other again.

I think Ms. Hughes was able to strike a nice balance between seriousness and folly in this story.

FYI: Adult sexual content between consenting adults. I found no offending language. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** May 6, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No issues.

Force of Will: a short ghost story
Force of Will: a short ghost story
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Force of Will by Jack Volante, 12 May 2016
We are thrown into the middle of a raging war just after a young soldier has been mortally wounded. He is not quite dead yet, however, and as he reminisces his life he hears a voice demanding him to get up and continue fighting. Even though he tries to comply, he is unable to because his legs are missing. This is an interesting perspective to be given as he describes the horrors of the undead army he had been fighting against. As the young soldier succumbs to death and the orders of the necromancer, his spirit, filled with an overpowering rage, rises in ghost form.

I found the story consuming even though I don’t normally read horror. It was the ghost story that drew me in and kept me reading. The twist of the ghost’s all-encompassing rage was unexpected and enjoyable at the end. I have to admit it left a smile on my face.

This short story was a quick read and well told. Future works from Mr. Volante could prove interesting to check out. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 27, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I found nothing significant to speak of. An extra word, which can be seen in the preview, and a dropped ‘n’ on a word that should have been then, not the.

Koolura and the Mayans (Koolura series Book 3)
Koolura and the Mayans (Koolura series Book 3)
Price: £2.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Koolura and the Mayans by Michael Thal, 3 May 2016
I think Koolura and the Mayans is my favorite book in the Koolura Series so far. Not only is it a fun adventure, it is a bit educational as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this story sparked an interest in some to learn more about Mayan history. Of course there were plenty of fantasy elements woven in to make the story unique and captivating. Koolura gained new insight about her powers as well. The aliens added a fascinating element to the story. Advanced alien technology has often been theorized to be involved at many ancient sites around the world.

The plot is fast-moving as Koolura and her best friend, Leila, teleport to Oaxaca, Mexico to attend Koolura’s father’s wedding to Terri Lather. Leila’s parents are archaeologists, specializing in pre-Columbian culture, and Leila is anxious to explore ancient Mayan ruins. Their first stop is Monte Alban, the most important archaeological site in the Valley of Oaxaca. While they are exploring one of the ancient pyramids, where they don’t belong, they are thrown back in time over a thousand years where they encounter an alien race from the future enslaving the Mayans.

There were several twists which, without Koolura’s and Leila’s fast thinking, could have left us all with a wholly different future. The fact that the girls stumbled along the way added a touch of realism to their adventure. They are only twelve years-old, but they are smart, and a bit mischievous — they did break into a pyramid — after all. I also love the fact that these two friends communicate using American Sign Language like it is their own secret language. I can’t wait to see where their adventures take them next, the possibilities are now endless.

FYI: Koolura and the Mayans is the third book in the Koolura Series. Following book one, The Legend of Koolura, and book two, Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback. As with the first two books of this series, I think Mr. Thal included enough background material that this book could be enjoyed as a standalone. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 25, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I noticed no issues at all with proofing or formatting.

Spider's Lifeline: Book 3 of the Pipe Woman's Legacy
Spider's Lifeline: Book 3 of the Pipe Woman's Legacy
Price: £2.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Spider's Lifeline by Lynne Cantwell, 26 April 2016
Spider's Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series and begins several years after the ending of Firebird’s Snare. At first I was a little disappointed to learn that Webb was now thirty-five years old. I suppose I wanted to watch him grow up. This book, however, has moved beyond a coming of age tale, instead dealing mainly with Norse mythology, concerning Ragnarok "Fate of the Gods," and Native American legends.

Webb does an excellent job setting up this story as well as filling in any background information we need to know. The story was mainly told from his first-person point-of-view with a few occasional point-of-view shifts to Sage, whose current mission intertwines with Webb’s nightmares. Several players are brought back into the mix to complicate and or help in the situation at hand. There are also a couple of new players woven in to make things even more interesting. One character has pleasantly surprised me and I eagerly wait to hear more about Antonia’s and Brock’s youngest son, Roman. He may well turn out to be an unsuspected ally. The other is the hereditary princess of Iceland, Ingrid Ingunnardottir, who seems to be causing disruptions on cosmic levels. Ms. Cantwell has indeed woven a tangled web.

I suspected as the story branched off into related story arcs—or strands of a web, if you don’t mind me saying—that there was no way to bring this book to a satisfying ending with Ragnarok looming. This story alludes to a disagreement between the Gods on a cosmic level that is starting to spill over into the mortal realm and might bring forth the end of the world. On the home front, society is breaking down and Sage is, yet again, conflicted about the role the Gods have chosen for her. This is also causing tension between Naomi and Sage as well.

One of the aspects I liked about Ms. Cantwell’s storytelling, which shines in this series, is the seeming role reversal of Sage and Webb. Sage’s patron, being the Phoenix, is outwardly more physically protective and aggressive. While Webb, being Heyoka—the sacred clown in the Lakota tradition—tends to be more introspective and creative. I love the unassuming air he exudes throughout this book. Despite the critical importance of this story to the series, Webb’s voice is light and easy to read. He is my favorite character of all and I loved getting to know him better.

If you are a reader who has aversions to cliff-hangers you may wish to wait for the next book to be released before reading this one. I could see it coming as there were many strands to this tangled web that needed resolving. I felt like I knew this author well enough that she wouldn’t let the story suffer by closing things up too quickly. So for that I was thankful. Now, I can’t wait for the next addition to this series. Hurry hard, Ms. Cantwell.

FYI: Spider's Lifeline is Book 3 of the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. While this book could be read as a stand-alone, because Ms. Cantwell does an excellent job filling the reader in on pertinent info, do yourself a favor and read book 1, Dragon’s Web, and book 2, Firebird's Snare.

I need to add a warning here, there were several F-bombs dropped and sexual abuse, including a mildly graphic rape, for those who have sensitivity in these areas. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 22, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I found excellent formatting and editing.

Dandelion Iron (The Juniper Wars Book 1)
Dandelion Iron (The Juniper Wars Book 1)
Price: £4.32

5.0 out of 5 stars Dandelion Iron by Aaron Michael Ritchey, 17 April 2016
I generally don’t read dystopian stories, but the premise of this one grabbed my attention. The characters are all well-developed, quite unique, and interesting. This is going to be an epic coming-of-age saga contrasting two disparate worlds existing side by side. Aaron Michael Ritchey has done an outstanding job setting up his world and has kept it as realistic as fantasy can get while still pushing the limits of reality with the elements he employed.

The story is told through Cavatica Weller’s eyes. She is the youngest of three living sisters who has been pulled out of school, The Sally Browne Burke Academy for the Moral and Literate in Cleveland, Ohio, to assist in a cattle drive to save the family ranch in the Juniper. Each sister has her own strengths. Cavatica is strong-willed, opinionated, naÔve, and ruled by her emotions. A persevering theme throughout the story is the New Morality Movement. There were several times I wanted to slap the s**t out of Cavatica. Her views are so extremely colored by this New Morality that she can’t see straight. I found it frustrating and kept having to remind myself of her young age. I hope she will eventually find a balance that will serve her better in coming sequels. The mysterious young man they rescue from a raid adds a complicated element to the storyline, especially when the oldest and youngest sisters set their sights on him.

The character-driven plot is fast-moving with several surprising twists thrown into the mix, which continually causes adaptions to be made to the Weller sisters plans. I have found myself invested in this family’s quest to get their cattle to a fair market with their family, friends, and employees intact. The surprise at the end left my jaw on the floor. Mr. Ritchey has woven a tangled web and I am not sure what to expect next. I do know that I will be anxiously awaiting the next addition of this story.

FYI: Dandelion Iron is the first book in The Juniper Wars series. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 8, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I read and reviewed from an advanced readers copy, so can’t really comment on editing.

Two Hearts in Winter (Ocean City Boardwalk Series, Book 2)
Two Hearts in Winter (Ocean City Boardwalk Series, Book 2)
Price: £2.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Hearts in Winter by Donna Fasano, 17 April 2016
You can always count on Ms. Fasano to write about a topic that many women struggle with and do it with finesse. Her characters are also always strong but flawed. How she is able to shine a light on these flaws and allow us to follow their journey to completeness or happiness as they gain insight to tackle their problems head on is one of Ms. Fasano’s greatest strengths.

In this second book of Ms. Fasano’s Ocean City Boardwalk series we meet Heather Phillips, the owner and operator of The Lonely Loon Bed and Breakfast. She seems to have her life on track after suffering through a devastating break-up with a fiancé years ago over a decision she made for her own wellbeing. She’s now happy, prosperous, and has good friends she can count on. Her life would be almost perfect if it wasn’t for this cranky author, DB Atwell, who has rented the entire Bed and Breakfast for the whole winter so he can have peace and quiet to finish his next best seller. Heather has been walking on egg shells for over a month now and the quiet is driving her nuts. Heather is a social person who loves getting to know her guests, which is one reason her B&B is such a success, and it is Christmas Eve.

It turns out Daniel is dealing with more than his next novel and he is hiding from the paparazzi. I love the way Ms. Fasano is able to unfold her characters through realistic dialogue, it gives the reader a genuine sense of who they are. Daniel’s story is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching as he tries to navigate international politics while trying keep his sanity. When Heather begins to learn his story a compassion is awakened in her that she thought she had safely buried and she is forced to confront her past decision in a way she never imagined. I was able to feel her emotional turmoil as if it was my own.

The plot moves at a steady pace, but never too slowly, because there is a lot going on. We also get to revisit and learn more about people and events from her earlier works in this series. While it is not necessary to have read the first book of this series, Following His Heart or the related novella, An Almost Perfect Christmas to enjoy these parts of this story, I have to say that you are missing out on a couple of gems if you haven’t read them. Now I am anxious to learn more about Cathy!

I found Two Hearts in Winter a unique, captivating, emotional tale that will keep you thoroughly enthralled until the very end. Don’t miss this one, it will make your heart smile.

As a bonus Ms. Fasano has included the recipes Heather prepared for her International Holiday Dinner party on Christmas Eve at the end of this book for us all to enjoy as well.

FYI: Two Hearts in Winter is Book 2 in the Ocean City Boardwalk series. This book can be read as a standalone story, as is true with other series books by Ms. Fasano. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 15, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I found exceptional editing.

Tangled Up in Blue (Ikana College Book 1)
Tangled Up in Blue (Ikana College Book 1)
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Tangled Up in Blue by J.D. Brick, 15 April 2016
Keegan Crenshaw comes from a privileged background but really doesn’t see herself as different from any other college student her age. She’s been through some tough experiences but has fought hard to keep her grades up. Her scholastic efforts have awarded her the coveted position of head editor for the campus newspaper, The Daily, over an equally qualified senior student. Recently though she has become the target of a stalker who is sending threatening text messages, emails, and recently a phone call. Keegan’s hardline determination starts to waiver as the stress of the stalker weighs heavier on her psyche. Desperate to hide, she moves out of the dorm and into an off-campus party house known as The Canadian Embassy. What was she thinking?

Blue Danube, head resident of the Embassy, is an ex-military upper-classman studying music at Ikana College. Blue has a complicated history he keeps hidden deep in his soul and suffers PTSD. The instant sparks between Blue and Keegan come across as pure lust. I had trouble buying into the love at first sight storyline, however I enjoyed having both Keegan’s and Blue’s dual perspectives. It gives the reader a sense of Keegan’s insecurities and naÔveté as well as Blue’s inner strengths and struggles. A few of the secondary characters are also well developed and some are still in the process of full disclosure. Personally, I would love to know more of Keegan’s grandmother’s thoughts and feelings.

This turned in to a much more complicated and twisted storyline than I was expecting. There is a helluva cliffhanger at the end, which I guess I overlooked in the blurb. If you are looking for a happily-ever-after story you won’t find it in this book as it stands. Perhaps the sequel will be able to deliver? It’s hard to say at this point.

FYI: Tangled Up in Blue is Book 1 in Ms. Brick’s Ikana College series. This book also contains adult language and mild adult sexual situations that may be offensive to some readers. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** April 4, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I ran across a small number of proofing errors during my reading.

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