Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Murder on Moonshine Hill by Joan C Curtis

murder on moon

When Jenna decides to go to a friend’s wedding, she expects to dredge up old secrets and old hurts, and she expects to see people from her past, but she doesn’t expect to stumble on a dead body.
Jenna’s friend is arrested. The wedding is cancelled. And Jenna’s tendency to stick her nose where it shouldn’t be leads her into the path of the killer.
Set in the serene mountains of North Carolina, Murder on Moonshine Hill is filled with suspense, humor, and a quirky cast of supporting characters.


Thanks to the author for gifting me this review copy!

One of my favorite things about this book is the extensive cast. From ex-best friend to spoiled trophy wife, author Joan Curtis displays her masterful knowledge of character development. Everyone has an agenda – some are selfish, some are hidden, and one in particular is the thing that Jenna is trying to discover.

Imagine getting a wedding invitation from your best friend – the one that broke your heart when she dropped you like a hot potato after a death in the family. Would you turn a blind eye to the snub to see her on the happiest day of her life? Reluctant at first, Jenna decides to go after a hidden plea for help drops out of the invitation envelope. She becomes immersed in the extensive family drama swirling around the joyous (or not) event, and soon it is up to her to save her friend’s life. Even if her friend doesn’t want to be saved.

Curtis enjoys the setting of North Carolina; it’s evident in the loving and descriptive way she describes the scenery. When a book is written in a way where the setting complements the plot, that adds another level of enjoyment to my reading.

Jenna’s friend Quentin is adorably protective of her, often deflecting her overbearing mom’s attention away from her and onto himself, using tried-and-true methods that had me laughing. What girl doesn’t need a Queer Eye For The Straight Girl BFF?

Another hallmark of Curtis’ writing is that the villain is not always obvious. My mental finger was pointed at quite a few people before the troublemaker was finally exposed. I love when a book is written in this manner; my interest is held all the way until the end, no early boredom sets in!

Jenna’s character is not without flaws – she is a strong woman with feelings that can be hurt, as demonstrated in her internal dialogues detailing her confusion and sorrow after her childhood girlfriend suddenly vanishes from her life without an explanation. Most of us have been there in some way or another – but we may never get the chance for closure like Jenna does.

I strongly recommend picking up this book; it’s an easy, well written mystery that will keep you entertained all the way through. You can pick up your own copy here.

The Joy Of Nursing by Juliana Adams

joy of nursing

Juliana Adams has lived her dream of being a nurse for 50 years. Her stories are stunning and startling; raw and revealing; heart wrenching and heart soaring. In her eye-opening experiences, she provides a deeper perspective … to always look beyond the diagnosis … because every nurse is more than just a nurse!
The Joy of Nursing: Reclaiming Our Nobility is provocative and riveting as the stories from new nurse to intuitive experienced nurse unfold. Far more than a memoir, it is a rich journey from novice to expert, a concept with historical roots for all who enter this profession.
-Are you a nurse or exploring nursing as a career?
-Are you wondering what is true about being a nurse?
-Does your nursing reality match the dream you once envisioned?

With courage, insight and optimism, Juliana Adams reveals the challenges and barriers that face the profession. To be a nurse is an honor.
She shares stories, her insights, and her dedication to nursing are exactly what the overwhelmed, disillusioned, innocent and anyone entering nursing needs.

Many thanks to the author and JKS Communications for gifting me this book for review!

Nursing is not an easy job – there is heartbreak, stress, and backbreaking work involved. THE JOY OF NURSING illustrates all that, but with an undertone of hope, pride, and strength.

To have a career that spans 50 years is impressing and daunting in itself, never mind having to deal with human suffering for all that time. Imagine the innovations that one would see, watching the field grow and develop! Adams starts with  the beginning of nursing, as created by Florence Nightingale, and discusses how doctors would view these eager young women entering the field. She then ties that in with her own nascent desire to become a nurse, and describes her journey.

Patient care itself has not changed since the first nurse started doing her job; rather, it is the albatross of Health Insurance that has skewed how hospitals are run. The objectives are still the same; ease pain and suffering, provide a friendly face to those who worry about their loved ones, and advocate for those who have no voice.

Adams does all of these things and more – and tells how she tries to find joy in each day. One story that touched me a great deal was the gently used clothing bin she and other nurses created; for indigent patients whose clothing was soiled due to illness, or for those who simply didn’t have another change of clothes available. What a thoughtful thing to do – provide a basic human need at a time when it is needed the most.

As you read through this book, you will see that Adams is intent on keeping nurses in love with their job, by sharing her own struggles and solutions. Words of advice can be found on almost every page, with scenarios that show how Adams grew within her profession and how she overcame her own disillusionment. She is honest and open about her own strengths and weaknesses while telling us the lessons she has learned over the years.  It is easy to see how each of her patients has touched her as their lives intersected.

The underlying intent of THE JOY OF NURSING is obvious – Adams has done a wonderful job of sharing the love she has for her calling – and the message comes through loud and clear. The blurb notes that it is good for either new nursing graduates or for those who are feeling disillusioned.

We all need a bit of encouragement now and then; and this book will certainly provide that for nurses. Who will heal the healers? Adams understands that advice from someone who has “been there” is invaluable. She gives the field of nursing a valuable and necessary gift in this book.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.


The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis

Conversations cover

The Conversations We Never Had is a new memoir/historical fiction novel by Jeffrey H. Konis. It tells the tale of a grandson who had taken his grandmother for granted, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

“My father remembers nothing about his real parents. They were dead by the time he was nine. Olga, his mother’s younger sister, not only survived the Holocaust, but was able to find my father at his hiding place – a farm in Poland – and later brought him to America to raise as her own. In all that time, he never asked her any questions about his parents,” says Jeffrey. “Years later, I moved in with Olga for a period of time, but I allowed history to repeat itself – a classic mistake – and failed to ask her the same questions my father avoided. Olga has been gone for more than twenty years, along with everything she could have told me. I am left with a sense of guilt and profound regret, wishing so badly that I could go back and have a second chance to get to know her better and learn more about my family from the only person in the world who knew them and remembered them.”

The Conversations We Never Had is a chronicle of Jeffrey’s time spent with his Grandma “Ola” and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had he only took the time to ask the questions. It is a heartwarming story that will leave you eager to spend time with your family and learn more about them before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for introducing me to this touching story. Many of us have regrets that we didn’t spend time with our family when we had the chance – myself included. Reading this story should encourage you to rectify that situation sooner rather than later.

Conversations Jeffrey H. Konis

Excerpt from Chapter 2 – Grandma Ola and Me

Over the following days, I found myself picking up the old routine of going to classes, hitting the library, getting a slice or two for dinner, going home and hibernating in my room. Grandma would occasionally check on me, I think more than anything to make sure it was indeed me and not some wayward stranger. I felt bad not spending more time with Grandma the way I had that night when we talked about her dad, but I guess I was too tired after my long days or unsure how to restart the conversation. I knew Grandma was lonely, lonelier with me around than she would have been alone. Then there was something of a break in my schedule. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and, caught up with all my work, I decided to spend some time with Grandma and talk. Late Saturday afternoon, after the caregiver had left, I approached her.

” I know it’s been awhile but I was wondering whether we could talk some more, if you’re up for it, that is.”

“Up for it? I’ve been ‘up for it’ for the last two weeks. What do you think, that I’ll remember these things forever? You think my memory will get better as I get older?”

“I know, I’m sorry. I’ve been busy with school and…”
”Jeffrey, you barely say hello to me. How many grandmothers do you have anyways? Well?”

Interesting question but, of course, she was right. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was a young girl; I never knew her father, Grandpa Eugene, who died when I was two.

But Grandma Ola said something else that made me stop to think for a second: her memory would surely deteriorate, and in the not-too-distant future. Once that went, so did any chance of learning about my paternal grandparents. There was now a sense of urgency to my mission. Indeed, there were increasing signs that her mind was starting to slip.

The phone had rung, a few nights previously, and I gave Grandma first dibs to pick up the phone to see who it was, as this was pre-caller i.d. The phone kept ringing and I looked in on Grandma, who I knew was lying on the couch in her room. The scene upon which I stumbled was humorous, though it should not have been: there was Grandma, holding a pillow to her ear and talking into it, “Hol-low? Hol-low?” I quickly picked up the phone just as my dad was about to hang up. He often called to check on both of us, to make sure that we hadn’t yet killed each other, that we were still alive.

As willing as Grandma was to have me and as eager and grateful I was to live with her, we each had our own trepidations about this new living arrangement, this uncharted territory in which we were to find ourselves. Grandma Ola had taken in her first new roommate in over forty years. Grandma, I suspect, felt responsible for my well-being. For all she knew, I could be entertaining all sorts of guests and be a constant source of noise and irritation that she had been mercifully spared for so long. I, on the other hand, was moving in with an elderly woman whose mind was on the decline, someone for whose well-being I would be responsible. Not that Grandma expected this of me; then again maybe she did.

She had employed caregivers seven days a week from nine to seven, who would look after her needs, meals, laundry, baths, doctors’ visits, grocery shopping – everything. Grandma, who was a proud, independent woman, and did not wish to argue or appear unreasonable with these good- hearted people, particularly Anna, seemed to accept their help with graciousness and gratitude. Anna may well have a different story to share but this is what I had observed. Above all, Grandma was a realist; she was aware of her own limitations.

What did I add to this equation? Not a whole lot. I did provide Grandma with some psychological comfort in the evenings when I was home. Should some life-threatening event occur, a bad fall for example, I was there to help. My services had been called upon once in this regard, though the fall in question was more humorous than harmful.

I woke up to a yell from Grandma in the middle of one night. My first thought was that she was having a nightmare and ran to her room to check on her, only she wasn’t there. Puzzled, I was on my way to the kitchen but noticed the light was on in the bathroom. I knocked and opened the door a crack. “Grandma, are you in there? Are you okay?” I asked.

She cried that she wasn’t and asked for help. I walked in to find my grandmother stuck in the bathtub on her back from which she was unable to extricate herself. She explained that she had been about to sit on what she thought was the toilet, not realizing her error until it was too late. I scooped her up and carried her back to her bed. I made sure she was indeed okay and wished her goodnight.

I suppose I shouldn’t have found any of this humorous, that this was a sad result of aging, a dreaded process, and that I should have been more compassionate and understanding. True, I suppose, but my understanding under the circumstances consisted of making sure Grandma was all right, carrying her to bed and keeping a straight face through it all. But it was funny. The only thing that wasn’t so funny was that I would be exhausted in my classes the next day owing to my lack of sleep.

As her new roommate, I was also expected to provide Grandma with some company, particularly since she had recently lost her husband. My father, I knew, expected at least this much from me; I didn’t know, on the other hand, what she expected. She likely considered my presence a mixed blessing; I might be nice to have around but also something of an intrusion.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

About the Author

After practicing law for many years, Jeffrey H. Konis left the profession to embark on a career as a high school social studies teacher. His first book, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, offers a unique perspective for teachers who seek to inspire their students to learn for the sake of learning. His latest work, The Conversations We Never Had, was released in May 2016. Jeffrey loves reading, collecting fine art photography, soccer – especially Liverpool F.C. – travel, and his family most of all. He currently resides in Goshen, New York with his wife, Pamela, and sons, Alexander and Marc.

Readers can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Rarity From The Hollow by Robert Eggleton

Rarity Cover with rocket

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in The Hollow isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

The original, uncut version is available in all formats and can be ordered from anyplace that sells books. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016.

Many thanks to the author for providing this guest post! Here is some important information:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Purchase links: 

Author Contacts: 


Author Interview – The Child Victim in Fiction

I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. Last year, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.

One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family that would protect her.

This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. My fantasy of becoming the next Charles Dickens had awakened. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.

Charles Dickens may not have been the first novelist to address the evils of child victimization, but his work has certainly had an impact on the consciousness of us all. Every Christmas, Tiny Tim pulls at our heart strings, now by cable and satellite, and stirs the emotions of masses. In another Dickens novel, after finally getting adopted into a loving home as millions of today’s homeless children also dream about, Oliver eventually made it to Broadway well over a century later. Oliver Twist may be the best example of Dickens’ belief that a novel should do much more than merely entertain, but entertain they did, very well.

My wife and I talked it over and decided that author proceeds, if any, should be donated to the prevention of child abuse. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. The second edition is scheduled for release on September 30, 2016. At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year.

During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of my stories have been science fiction.

I modeled the flow of stories after a mental health treatment episode: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.

When writing Rarity from the Hollow, and I know that this sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.

In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood maltreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Six book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited from having read the story. One of them publicly disclosed that she was a survivor of rape as part of her review: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….”

I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to be a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment. Many abused kids have demonstrated resilience that, for me, has been amazing. I wanted parents who read my story to understand that child victims, more than anything in the world, want to love their parents, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered.

If you or one of your readers has experienced childhood violence and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical, and may even seem silly if the political metaphors are missed: “…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.”

The novel won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is also apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity from the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved….” The intent was to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.

However, if your readers are looking for an exposé or a memoir on child victimization, they may not appreciate this story: “…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity From the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.”

No book is for everybody. If Rarity from the Hollow is not your cup of tea, but you want to help victims of child maltreatment, there are lots of ways to help. It is a world-wide problem that exists in your own community, everybody’s community. For example, there are thousands of underfunded emergency children’s shelters all over the United States. You could send an anonymous gift with a note addressed to the shelter director to give it to a needy child. If it’s clothing, any size will do because maltreatment comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes.



Cozy in Cardboard

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school. She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.

Nothing’s more important than an education.

The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother’s new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before. Her father brought it home for her to play in.

The nicest thing he’s ever done.

Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off. She lived in the next house up the hollow. Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities. Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.

All she needs is a little motivation.

Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, “The place of all things possible—especially you passing the fifth grade so we’ll be together in the sixth.”

Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.


“A, R, M … A … D, I, L, D, O,” Faith demonstrated her intellect.

“That’s weak. This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points. Come on.”

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

I’ll trick her by going out of order—a word she can’t turn into another punch line.

“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away. Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.

My mommy don’t like sex. It’s just her job and she told me so.

Faith turned her open spelling book over and rolled onto her side. Lacy Dawn did the same and snuggled her back against the paper wall. Face to face—a foot of smoothness between—they took a break. The outside was outside.

At their parents’ insistence each wore play clothing—unisex hand-me-downs that didn’t fit as well as school clothing. They’d been careful not to get

muddy before crawling into the box. They’d not played in the creek and both were cleaner than on the usual evening. The clubhouse floor remained an open invitation to anybody who had the opportunity to consider relief from daily stressors.

“How’d you get so smart, Lacy Dawn? Your parents are dumb asses just like mine.”

“You ain’t no dumb ass and you’re going to pass the fifth grade.”

“Big deal—I’m still fat and ugly,” Faith said.

“I’m doing the best I can. I figure by the time I turn eleven I can fix that too. For now, just concentrate on passing and don’t become special education. I need you. You’re my best friend.”

“Ain’t no other girls our age close in the hollow. That’s the only reason you like me. Watch out. There’s a pincher bug crawling in.”

Lacy Dawn sat almost upright because there was not quite enough headroom in the refrigerator box. She scooted the bug out the opening. The clubhouse door faced downhill—the best choice since nothing natural was flat in the hollow. If it had sloped uphill, too much blood in the brain would have been detrimental to studying spelling or any other higher calling like changing Faith’s future. Faith watched the bug attempt re-entry, picked it up, and threw it a yard away into the grass. It didn’t get hurt. Lacy Dawn smiled her approval. The new clubhouse was a sacred place where nothing was supposed to hurt.

“Daddy said I can use the tarp whenever he finishes the overhaul on the car in the driveway. That way, our clubhouse will last a long time,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Chewy, chewy tootsie roll. Everything in the hollow rots, especially the people. You know that.”

“We ain’t rotten,” Lacy Dawn gestured with open palms. “There are a lot of good things here—like all the beautiful flowers. Just focus on your spelling and I’ll fix everything else. This time I want a 100% and a good letter to your mommy.”

“She won’t read it,” Faith said.

“Yes she will. She loves you and it’ll make her feel good. Besides, she has to or the teacher will call Welfare. Your daddy would be investigated—unless you do decide to become special education. That’s how parents get out of it. The kid lets them off the hook by deciding to become a SPED. Then there ain’t nothing Welfare can do about it because the kid is the problem and not the parents.”


“I ain’t got no problems,” Faith said.

“Then pass this spelling test.”

“I thought if I messed up long enough, eventually somebody would help me out. I just need a place to live where people don’t argue all the time. That ain’t much.”

“Maybe you are a SPED. There’s always an argument in a family. Pass the test you retard,” Lacy Dawn opened her spelling book.

Faith flipped her book over too, rolled onto her stomach and looked at the spelling words. Lacy Dawn handed her the flashlight because it was getting dark and grinned when Faith’s lips started moving as she memorized. Faith noticed and clamped her lips shut between thumb and index finger.

This is boring. I learned all these words last year.

“Don’t use up the batteries or Daddy will know I took it,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Alright—I’ll pass the quiz, but just ’cause you told me to. This is a gamble and you’d better come through if it backfires. Ain’t nothing wrong with being a SPED. The work is easier and the teacher lets you do puzzles.”

“You’re my best friend,” Lacy Dawn closed the book.

They rolled back on their sides to enjoy the smoothness. The cricket chorus echoed throughout the hollow and the frogs peeped. An ant attempted entry but changed its direction before either rescued it. Unnoticed, Lacy Dawn’s father threw the tarp over the box and slid in the trouble light. It was still on and hot. The bulb burned Lacy Dawn’s calf.

He didn’t mean to hurt me—the second nicest thing he’s ever done.

“Test?” Lacy Dawn announced with the better light, and called off, “Poverty.”

“I love you,” Faith responded.

“Me too, but spell the word.”

“P is for poor. O is for oranges from the Salvation Army Christmas basket. V is for varicose veins that Mommy has from getting pregnant every year. E is for everybody messes up sometimes—sorry. R is for I’m always right about everything except when you tell me I’m wrong—like now. T is for it’s too late for me to pass no matter what we do and Y is for you know it too.”

“Faith, it’s almost dark! Go home before your mommy worries,” Lacy Dawn’s mother yelled from the front porch and stepped back into the house to finish supper. The engine of the VW in the driveway cranked but wouldn’t start. It turned slower as its battery died, too.

Faith slid out of the box with her spelling book in-hand. She farted from the effort. A clean breeze away, she squished a mosquito that had landed on her elbow and watched Lacy Dawn hold her breath as she scooted out of the clubhouse, pinching her nose with fingers of one hand, holding the trouble light with the other, and pushing her spelling book forward with her knees. The moon was almost full. There would be plenty of light to watch Faith walk up the gravel road. Outside the clubhouse, they stood face to face and ready to hug. It lasted a lightning bug statement until adult intrusion.

“Give it back. This thing won’t start,” Lacy Dawn’s father grabbed the trouble light out of her hand and walked away.

“All we ever have is beans for supper. Sorry about the fart.”

“Don’t complain. Complaining is like sitting in a rocking chair. You can get lots of motion but you ain’t going anywhere,” Lacy Dawn said.

“Why didn’t you tell me that last year?” Faith asked. “I’ve wasted a lot of time.”

“I just now figured it out. Sorry.”

“Some savior you are. I put my whole life in your hands. I’ll pass tomorrow’s spelling quiz and everything. But you, my best friend who’s supposed to fix the world just now tell me that complaining won’t work and will probably get me switched.”

“You’re complaining again.”

“Oh yeah,” Faith said.

“Before you go home, I need to tell you something.”

To avoid Lacy Dawn’s father working in the driveway, Faith slid down the bank to the dirt road. Her butt became too muddy to re-enter the clubhouse regardless of need. Lacy Dawn stayed in the yard, pulled the tarp taut over the cardboard, and waited for Faith to respond.

“I don’t need no more encouragement. I’ll pass the spelling quiz tomorrow just for you, but I may miss armadillo for fun. Our teacher deserves it,” Faith said.

“That joke’s too childish. She won’t laugh. Make 100%. That’s what I want.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow.” Faith took a step up the road.

“Wait. I want to tell you something. I’ve got another best friend. That’s how I got so smart. He teaches me stuff.”

“A boy? You’ve got a boyfriend?”

“Not exactly,” Lacy Dawn put a finger over her lips to silence Faith. Her father was hooking up a battery charger. She slid down the bank, too.

He probably couldn’t hear us, but why take the chance.

A minute later, hand in hand, they walked the road toward Faith’s house.

“Did you let him see your panties?” Faith asked.

“No. I ain’t got no good pair. Besides, he don’t like me that way. He’s like a friend who’s a teacher—not a boyfriend. I just wanted you to know that I get extra help learning stuff.”

“Where’s he live?”

Lacy Dawn pointed to the sky with her free hand.

“Jesus is everybody’s friend,” Faith said.

“It ain’t Jesus, you moron,” Lacy Dawn turned around to walk home. “His name’s DotCom and….”

Her mother watched from the middle of the road until both children were safe.

Please let me know your thoughts on this powerful, unique story and Robert Eggleton’s mission. These children need your support.

Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich

patient hm


In 1953, a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison—who suffered from severe epilepsy—received a radical new version of the then-common lobotomy, targeting the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry was left profoundly amnesic, unable to create long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pig who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Patient H.M. is, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison—and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation—experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons, as they called themselves, conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world.

Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.


Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC.

This book is more than a memoir; more than an expose of the lobotomy trade; more than a poignant tale of a man whose life was largely lived in the present moment. It’s an unsettling view of a medical procedure touted as something to make willful women “compliant” and violent men “placid”. The imagery of the procedure itself is even more eerie – the author describes the hippocampus as “being sucked up” by the vacuum used to perform the surgery. Implements such as a trephine drill, a scalpel, and forceps are used to obliterate parts of the brain responsible for making each of us human. Patients vomit or sing during the surgery, their brain sending out chaotic impulses. Afterwards, they are a shell of their former self, sometimes mute, dull, or forgetful.

Patient H.M.  was the most intensively studied lobotomy “victim”, and his journey from epileptic to amnesiac is well chronicled here. Adding to the drama is that the grandfather of the author (Dr William Scofield) is the surgeon that operated on H.M.

There is backstabbing and intrigue within the medical community as well; one of H.M.’s fiercest protectors, neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin, may have destroyed much of her written notes on H.M., thereby casting a shadow over how much of her research was actually correct and reliable. It is mind boggling to learn about the amount of “experimentation” done on men and women, all in the name of advancing scientific knowledge. Consent at times was dubious, even after the Nuremberg Trials.  The doctors thought they were doing the best for these patients, but as the author puts it, their hubris and audacity changed lives not always for the better.

Towards the end of the book, there is a section on H.M.’s actual thoughts on himself and his memory. He tries to put a positive spin on things, noting that always living in the present makes things interesting. I suppose you can’t miss what you never had; but I also was very deeply touched by the portrayal of this man who underwent a lobotomy because he was desperate to end his constant seizures. Was the quality of his life made better by suctioning out parts of his brain? That’s the gist of PATIENT H.M. – there are uncomfortable questions and sometimes dubious answers that make sense at times, but in actuality heinous, unspeakable deeds were committed against innocent people.

The author does a wonderful job of forcing the reader to consider these broken people as tragic creatures, unknowing fodder (sometimes referred to as “material”) for the surgeons who were all eager to try out this new and groundbreaking procedure.

Also broken are the main characters: the surgeon Scoville, the neuroscientist Corkin, and the brain researcher Jacopo Annese, who took possession of H.M.’s brain after the famous amnesiac died. After live streaming the dissection of the brain, there followed a volatile custody battle between Corkin and Annese over who was the “real” owner of the organ. Everyone wanted a piece of H.M. , either in life or death – and akin to Henrietta Lacks, he was never truly compensated for it.

I dare you to read this book and not be moved. PATIENT H.M. is educational, thrilling, and serves as a reminder of just how far medical science has come – and the depths it has gone to in order to reach this point.

You can pick up your copy here.

Weave A Murderous Web By Anne Rothman-Hicks and Ken Hicks


No good deed goes unpunished. When Jane Larson—a hot-shot litigator for a large firm in New York City—helps out a friend, she is sucked into the unfamiliar world of divorce and child support.
Jane’s discovery of the deadbeat dad’s hidden assets soon unravels a web of lies, drugs, and murder that keeps getting more dangerous.
Soon, Jane is involved in a high stakes race to recover a missing suitcase of cash and catch the murderer before she becomes the next victim.



Many thanks to the authors for gifting me this book for review!

This is the second book in the Jane Larson series and it’s just as fast, furious, and fun as the first one. Jane is still as stubborn as ever. Her client Gail, who seems to be adept at dodging the truth, is seeking child support from her ex husband.  Jane’s friend Francine paints a sob story about Gail needing help, and as always, against her better judgement, Jane takes the case. It’s not a quick open and shut job, however. Jane struggles to find the truth, gets shot at, and meets a handsome stranger.

The authors have done well with Jane Larson: a smart, sarcastic female character who doesn’t let a little danger cramp her style. She argues with the police assigned to the murder, and gets tangled up in the web of a double talking reporter who always seems to be one step ahead of Jane.

This book’s strength lies in its character development. There are many, but they all have very distinct personalities and move in and out of the story, advancing the plot well. The identity of the killer is not easy to figure out, as the authors utilize many red herrings and lead the reader down many paths, only to have those paths double back and head in another direction.

My favorite character is Officer Steinberg; a roly poly man who excels at appearing dumber than he truly is. I could almost see him in the room next to me, picking crumbs off his wrinkled shirt.

MURDEROUS WEB is a classic whodunit with classic New York City characters. There is a great deal of action going on: bribery, arson, drugs and blackmail are just a few of all the evils that befall the aforementioned characters. This was a fairly quick read that started out a bit slow, but once I got past the first few chapters the plot took off and it was a wonderful ride.

I’m looking forward to see what happens next to Jane! Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.




Exclusive Interview with Tommy Bailey (from COUNTERACT, RESIST, and IGNITE)


Ignite 004In 2034, Americans live in constant fear of the threat of terrorism, and the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has guarded the public with an ever-expanding list of Civilian Restrictions designed to increase security. There’s no social media. No one is allowed to gather in public places or attend concerts or sporting events. Only a small, select group of adults have driving privileges. It’s a small price to pay for safety.
Despite all that, eighteen-year-old Tommy Bailey had a pretty good life, up until the summer he graduated from high school. Since then, things have been rough: he’s alone and struggling to recover from a serious injury sustained in the auto accident that killed his parents. While his friends prepare to head off to university, he’s learning to walk again.
Just when Tommy feels as though he’s regained some control over his shattered life, he wakes to the wail of a disaster siren. A chemical weapons attack is imminent, but the OCSD is ready with an antidote to the poison, which they’re providing free of charge. Three drops a day is all it takes. But is the antidote designed to protect—or is it part of the problem?

Tommy  Bailey  has  anchored  the  cast  in  Counteract,  Resist,  and  now  Ignite,  the  first   three  books  in  the  Resistance  Series.  Recently,  I  got  the  chance  to  ask  him  some   questions  about  how  he  went  from  law-­‐abiding  citizen  to  freedom  fighter:


1)  What  was  it  like,  growing  up  under  the  strict  control  of  the  Office  of  Civilian   Safety  and  Defense?  It’s  funny  you  ask  what  it  was  like  to  grow  up  under  the   thumb  of  the  Office  of  Civilian  Safety  and  Defense.  The  OCSD  really  took  hold  in   2019,  when  I  was  only  three  years  old,  so  I’ve  never  known  what  it  was  like  to  live   without  the  Restrictions-­‐-­‐until  now.  I  guess  my  life  was  pretty  close  to  what  you’d   think  of  as  normal.  I  see  now  just  how  hard  my  mom  tried  to  shelter  me  from  what   was  really  going  on.  My  dad  was  an  attorney  and  activist  who  opposed  the  creation   of  the  OCSD  and  spoke  out  against  their  policies,  but  my  parents  didn’t  talk  about  it   at  home-­‐-­‐at  least  in  front  of  me.  I  grew  up  going  to  school  and  playing  sports.  We   lived  in  an  area  that  still  had  a  few  restaurants  and  shops,  and  now  I  understand   that  it  wasn’t  like  that  for  everyone.  I  guess  our  quadrant  had  a  lot  of  people  who   were  rich.  Our  community’s  social  status-­‐-­‐and  our  compliance  with  the  Restrictions-­‐ -­‐were  what  allowed  us  to  have  those  kinds  of  luxuries.

2)  What  games  did  you  like  to  play  as  a  child?  I  wasn’t  big  on  computer  games  or   anything.  Once  they  shut  down  access  to  the  internet,  nobody  spent  much  time  on   computers.  Football  was  always  the  thing  for  me.  When  the  OCSD  announced  they   were  phasing  out  school  sports  and  banning  spectators  in  college  and  pro  games,  my   dad  was  really  upset.  At  the  time  I  thought  it  was  because  Dad  was  hoping  I’d  play   pro  someday,  but  I  found  out  later  that  the  Restriction  wasn’t  about  keeping  people   safe  from  terrorist  attacks.  It  sounds  crazy,  but  you  gotta  understand  we  were  told   that  gathering  at  stadiums,  movie  theaters,  and  malls  made  us  potential  targets,  and   we  were  safer  viewing  and  shopping  from  our  homes.  Anyway,  Lowell  Stratford,  who  was  the  OCSD  director  at  the  time,  was  trying  to  get  my  dad  to  back  off  and  quit   speaking  out  against  the  OCSD.  Stratford  said  publicly  people  should  ‘blame  Tom   Bailey’  for  all  the  attacks  and  attention  we  were  getting  from  terrorists.  Stratford   knew  associating  my  father’s  name  with  the  taking  away  of  access  to  the   entertainment  and  sports  people  loved  would  hurt  his  cause,  and  make  him  a  less   powerful  opponent.     Luckily,  my  high  school  took  their  time  about  phasing  out  sports,  and  I  got  to  play   my  senior  year.  I  wasn’t  super-­‐motivated  to  play  college  ball,  though.  Now  I  regret  my  lack  of  motivation.  I  like  to  think  I  could’ve  contributed  to  a  team  at  that  level,   but  I  was  just  coasting  through  those  last  months  of  high  school,  ignoring  my   parents’  prodding.  Then,  that  summer  after  graduation,  everything  changed.  My   family  was  in  an  auto  accident,  and  I  lost  both  my  parents.  My  right  leg  was   mangled-­‐-­‐it  took  four  surgeries,  and  still  the  doctors  weren’t  sure  if  I’d  ever  walk   normally,  let  alone  run,  again.  Eventually  I  stopped  feeling  sorry  for  myself  and  got   into  the  physical  therapy,  and  I  was  getting  better.  I  was  on  the  verge  of  feeling  like   myself  again-­‐-­‐not  exactly  like  I  was  before,  but  you  know,  like  I  could  feel  whole   again  someday.  Then  the  chemical  weapons  threat  came  up,  and  bam.  Taking  the   antidote  killed  my  motivation.  I  quit  working  on  my  recovery.

3)  What  does  the  antidote  CSD taste  like?  The  antidote  is  bitter.  It  tastes  like   something  you  wouldn’t  take  if  you  didn’t  have  to.  Did  they  do  that  on  purpose?  To   make  us  think  it  was  like  some  kind  of  medicine,  something  we  really  needed  to  stay   safe?  If  they’d  made  it  taste  like  candy,  maybe  we  wouldn’t  have  taken  it  seriously.

4)  What  did  it  feel  like  when  you  took  the  first  dose?  When  I  took  my  first  dose,  I   was  also  on  some  heavy  pain  meds,  and  the  whole  experience  was  pretty  trippy.  I   thought  I  was  out  on  the  lake,  in  a  boat,  where  we  used  to  go  on  holiday  when  I  was   a  kid.  Other  times,  it  rained  inside  the  house.  Grass  grew  out  of  the  TV.  But  none  of   that  seemed  strange.  On  the  antidote,  you  just  kind  of  roll  with  whatever  happens  to   you.  Well,  on  Phase  One,  that  is.  Phase  Two  was  different.  Stronger.  I  don’t   remember  much  about  what  happened  when  they  upped  our  doses.  Careen  told  me   some  things  that  make  me  glad  I  was  totally  checked  out.

5)  What  is  it  like,  being  part  of  the  Resistance?  Life  in  the  Resistance?  Let’s  just   say  I  had  no  idea  what  I  was  getting  into.  I  can’t  believe  I  was  that  oblivious  to  what   was  going  on  in  the  world  around  me,  but  like  I  told  you  before,  I  never  considered   blowing  off  the  Restrictions  and  refusing  to  do  what  the  OCSD  told  us  to  do.  They   said  it  was  the  only  way  to  survive  the  chemical  weapons  attack.  The  day  Careen   and  I  ran  out  of  the  antidote  was  kind  of  the  point  of  no  return  for  both  of  us.  We   realized  we  weren’t  going  to  die;  then  we  started  to  wonder  if  we  were  the  only   ones  who’d  stopped  taking  the  antidote.  It  became  obvious  that  something  was   really  wrong  when  we  saw  what  the  antidote  was  doing  to  other  people.  Then  we   made  contact  with  the  Resistance  and  before  I  had  time  to  think,  we  were  going   along  on  a  mission  to  rescue  some  people  who’d  been  detained  for  opposing  the   OCSD’s  policies.  Things  got  a  little  messy  while  we  were  at  their  headquarters  in  the  capital.  Now,  we’re  fugitives.  We  can’t  go  back  to  being  anonymous,  even  if  we   wanted  to.

6)  What  do  you  miss  about  your  old  life?  My  old  life  seems  like  a  dream.  I  miss   playing  football  and  knowing  it’s  all  just  a  game,  not  a  matter  of  life  and  death.  I  miss   sleeping  in  and  being  lazy.  I  miss  not  worrying.  Now  I’m  watching  my  back  all  the   time,  ’cause  I’ve  realized  you  can’t  trust  anyone-­‐-­‐and  that  includes  other  members  of   the  Resistance.  I  feel  responsible  for  Careen  and  some  of  the  others.  But  I  can  handle   it.  Physically,  I’m  strong  again.  My  skills  are  needed.


047)  Do  you  have  any  long-­‐term  plans  with  Careen?  Careen  showed  up  on  my  front   porch  one  morning.  I’d  seen  her  around,  I  think,  and  she’d  been  in  a  couple  of  my   dreams.  She  seemed  to  have  some  connection  to  me,  too,  but  later  we  realized  she   was  being  manipulated  by  a  member  of  the  quadrant  marshals,  who  was  using  her   to  find  out  if  I  was  carrying  on  my  father’s  work  against  the  OCSD-­‐-­‐which  I  wasn’t!  The  day  we  met  was  also  the  day  we  ran  out  of  antidote.  I  remember  sitting  there   with  her,  believing  we  were  going  to  die  from  the  poison,  and  wishing  more  than   anything  that  it  was  an  ordinary  day  when  I  could  meet  a  girl  and  not  have  to  think   about  dying.  Careen’s  smart  and  brave,  and  she’s  been  through  some  rough  times;   it’s  not  easy  for  her  to  trust  anyone.  Even  though  we  stuck  together  while  we   detoxed  and  tried  to  figure  out  what  was  going  on,  she  kept  me  at  arm’s  length.  That   was  okay;  I  was  willing  to  be  patient  until  she  was  ready  to  trust  me.  Things  got  more  dangerous,  and  before  long  we  realized  there  was  no  escape  for  us.   The  Quadrant  Marshals  were  looking  for  Careen,  and  it  was  only  a  matter  of  time   before  we’d  be  arrested  and  forced  into  the  OCSD’s  civilian  army.    There  was  no   reason  not  to…um,  you  know…and  we  did.  Maybe  things  between  us  moved  too  fast,   but  that  connection  between  us  is  real.  I  think  I  love  her.  I  know  I  want  her.  We’re   still  getting  to  know  each  other;  we  don’t  always  agree,  and  yeah,  we  fight   sometimes,  and  it  ticks  me  off  that  one  of  the  other  guys  in  the  Resistance  is  trying   to  put  the  moves  on  her  when  he  knows  she’s  my  girl.  Oh-­‐-­‐but  long-­‐term?  Sure.  It’s   just  not  practical  to  plan  too  far  into  the  future.


8)  What’s  happening  in  Ignite?  Man,  it’s  hard  to  do  this  without  spoilers!  Right   now,  umm,  Careen  and  I  aren’t  together,  and  by  that  I  mean  we’re  not  in  the  same   location.  But  I’m  gonna  fix  that.  My  feelings  for  her  haven’t  changed.    I’m  more  determined  than  ever  to  stick  with  the  Resistance  and  overthrow  the   OCSD,  even  if  I  don’t  always  agree  with  how  other  members  of  the  Resistance   choose  to  advance  their  goals.  At  the  moment,  Jaycee,  who’s  the  daughter  of  one  of   the  Resistance  leaders,  has  stepped  up  to  fill  the  void  left  by  some  of  the  people   we’ve  lost.  She’s  awfully  young,  but  she’s  been  waiting  for  the  revolution  all  her  life.   We’re  going  to  need  everyone  in  the  Resistance  to  work  together  if  we’re  going  to  sabotage the OCSD’s latest plan to control the people.

Wonder which Resistance series character YOU are? Take this fun quiz!


CRIMINAL Excerpt/Author Interview/Giveaway!!!


Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order is wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince everyone to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters destroy them all. But Pria’s tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend.

A new scheme to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine places Pria once again at the centre of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.


Welcome to the GTB blog tour of CRIMINAL by KB Hoyle. The title is actually an acrostic:

C is for Commune. Pria and some others go on a mission to Denver Commune.

R is for Remembrance. Pria struggles to remember who she is.

I is for Incriminating evidence. Pax goes to trial and Etienne stand trial.

M is for Making a move. The Free Patriots decide to make their move against the UWO.

I is for Illness. Pax hides a mystery illness.

N is for New friends. Pria makes a couple of new friends at Asylum.

A is for Awkward romantic tension between Pria and Pax, and Pria and Henri.

L is for Love. Pria learns what love is.


Here is an exclusive excerpt:

I wake confused and chilled to the bone. My blankets have slid to the floor off the side of the bed, and the air in the cave feels like it’s dropped ten degrees since the day before. I scoot to the edge of the bed to try to retrieve my blankets, but I hear a gravelly voice say, “I’ll get them. Don’t move.”

A moment later, Henri spreads them back over me, and I smile in gratitude. The lights are dim and everything is quiet, but I hear soft breathing on my other side as well. I look over to see Pax, fast asleep. They’ve both stayed the night.

“How are you feeling?” Henri asks in the same gravelly whisper. “Need more pain medication?”

“No,” I whisper back. Whatever they gave me, it must have been strong. I can feel only a dull ache beneath the fresh wrappings on my thigh and wrist. “What time is it?”

“Almost morning.” Henri rubs a hand over my buzzed hair. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “You’re almost as bald as I am,” he says. “Still beautiful, though.” He leans down and presses his lips to my forehead.

I’m too stunned to say anything, but I shrink back slightly, into my pillow. His familiarity confuses me, sets me on edge, even as it also spreads warmth through me. I glance over at Pax, prompting Henri to do the same. He straightens and, without another word, returns to his chair. It’s identical to the one Pax is slumped in, asleep with his hand on his forehead.

I try to turn over onto my side and find I can’t. Movement in my injured leg is restricted and painful. I sigh in frustration. My back hurts from lying in one position for too long, and I’m certain I won’t be able to fall back asleep.

Henri said it’s almost morning. What will the morning hold? Release from the infirmary, hopefully. Holly’s test before Luther? Probably. If he didn’t see to that last night while I slept. I wonder if he’ll want Pax and me to participate in her interrogation.

I’m surprised Luther hasn’t come to see me yet. I would think he’d be interested in the intelligence he sent me into Sanctuary to retrieve. Maybe he’s too distracted with the files transferred via the hack.

Someone pushes a cart past the curtain of my room, and the wheels clatter over the uneven rocky floor. All I can see of it are the glinting silver spokes. Who else is here, injured, with me? What do these people do all the time?

It strikes me how little I actually know about the people with whom I’ve chosen to identify.

“Henri?” I whisper. “Are you still awake?”

“Hmmm.” He sounds just barely so.

“Did Holly get her wrist treated last night? She’s not in a holding cell, is she?”

“Probably, yeah. But don’t worry. They’ll have taken care of her wrist.”

I chew my lip, thinking, remembering what it was like for me when I first left Sanctuary. “She’s going to be confused, you know . . . scared. I hope I can see her today.”

There’s a rustle of clothing as Henri leans forward. “What makes you think you can trust her, Pria? Isn’t it kind of convenient that she just showed up right before you fled Sanctuary? How do you know she’s not a spy for the UWO?”

I wrinkle my nose. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Try to make me doubt her. You weren’t there when we were trying to escape. I think she’s telling the truth.”

“If she’s not, we’re all screwed. There are any number of ways she could lead them right to us, and we’d never know it.”

“Stop.” I put my hands over my eyes. “You sound like Etienne.”

Another rustle of clothing and I feel Henri’s shadow fall over me. Then his cold hands touch mine, prying them away from my face. “Look at me, Pria.”

“No!” I struggle, but I don’t know why.

“Look at me!”

He wrenches my arms apart, and for a moment all I see is Henri’s friendly face twisted into an ugly grimace. Then he turns his head, and the dim light glints off a spot of gold in his ear.


I shriek and flail, but he’s holding my arms too tight for me to get away. I fling my head to the side, looking for Pax, but his chair is empty. The chill in the cave bites my skin, which is exposed. I’m dressed in only my undergarments.

“You can’t smuggle a bomb in here without my knowing it. There’s one easy way to find out if you’re a spy.” Etienne pins both my arms above my head with one hand and takes up a scalpel in the other. “I just have to perform a quick procedure.”

He draws the blade down my stomach, and the skin springs apart like a severed wire. The pain is excruciating, unbearable, beyond articulation. I watch in horror as he flings the blade aside, sending flecks of my blood flying across the room, and then digs his hand into the incision. He retracts his hand a moment later, holding a fist-sized metal contraption.

“See?” he shouts. “It’s a bomb! You were going to blow us all up!”

“No! I swear!”

A switch on the side of the bomb ticks up, and red lights start to blink. Faster, and faster, and faster.

“Now we’re all going to die,” Etienne says.

I scream. 


Below is an interview with the author, and at the end of the post there is a link to a GIVEAWAY!






Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

There are several messages, really, in Criminal, that I want my readers to grasp, but as an author, I never want the message to overtake the primary function of the novel—which is to entertain the reader. So obviously first and foremost, I want to just tell a good story, and for my reader to be carried along by the story and to have a good time reading it. As far as the message/messages go, I’d say the primary one in Criminal has to do with identity. I sought to answer the question of what makes us human? The main character, Pria, is faced with this question over and over in the story, even to the point where, by the end, her entire reality is shaken by some presuppositions she has about this question. Pria has to discover her personal identity, but she also has to figure out what she believes about the identity of others, and what that means about the human race and her part in the rebellion against the Unified World Order. These are big issues, and things I think we should all think about, even though we’re not living in a dystopian society.


How much of the book is realistic? 

I’d say this book is about 50% realistic. Obviously all the characters and the plot are fictionalized (and the concept of the Golems), but I base my settings and my conceptions of the future society off research I did into real technologies, conspiracy theories, my own knowledge of Denver and its surrounding areas, and just basic knowledge of human nature and my thoughts on future trends in society. I could see some of the sorts of things I write about coming to pass. Actually, some of the things I have written about in my books have come to pass already in the years since I started researching them. It’s a little frightening.


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? 

This is a difficult question! Because by the time you get a book all the way to publication—especially when it has taken a long time (as this book has)—you tend not to wish that you could go back and change things. And my editing team does such a fantastic job of helping me tweak things. Hmmm. I guess, maybe, if I could go back, I would make the first act of the book a little shorter (so as to get to the main action faster), and the last act longer (so as to draw out the finale).


Can you share a little of “Criminal” with us? 

Here’s a short excerpt from what was one of my absolute favorite scenes to write. It falls about mid-story, and I won’t say too much so as not to spoil things, but this is a scene where Pria and Pax and some others from the rebel Nest Asylum are being attacked by Golems. It’s absolute chaos, and in the midst of it all, Pax and Pria get separated from the others. 

My spine grates over hard rock, and then my breath whooshes out of me as we leave the ground. For a moment, I think a Golem has lifted us, but then I hit a patch of gravel, hard, and my head cracks against a stone. With Pax on top of me, I can hardly breathe, and starbursts fill my vision.

The forest lights up with more starbursts and the zip-zip-zip of energy guns.

“Pria!” Pax slaps my cheek. He rolls off me, and I can breathe again. “Are you hurt? Can you hear me?”

The trees are lighting up. It’s beautiful.


I cough and rake air into my lungs. I cough again and nod. Nodding hurts.

Aircraft circle above the trees like birds of prey, firing down on the Golems. One flies low, and a Golem snatches it out of the air. With a roar and a vicious shake, it flings the craft to the ground. The craft explodes, and bits of burning metal and flesh scatter, some of it reaching Pax and me where we lie just below a shelf of rock. I raise my arms to cover my face, but Pax leans over me, taking the brunt of it. A piece of something red-hot lands on my calf, and I kick it off.

More shots echo through the woods, followed by bellows and crashes. The Golems are being taken out.

I struggle to sit up, and Pax pulls me to his chest. “It will be over soon,” he says in my ear. He sounds so assured.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

I used to find it challenging to discipline myself to do the planning and research I needed to work out a novel before I started writing it, so that would have been my old answer to this question, but I’ve progressed enough in my career now (I’ve written 9 novels—8 published and 1 on deck) that I’ve found my writing rhythm. I know the drill. I know how to research and outline and plan. I actually really relish all those steps. And I know when to start writing. All of that is, quite frankly, more or less easy. What is particularly challenging is my schedule—finding the time and just fighting exhaustion to get it all done. With four small children to mother (all boys and all 9 and under), a day job as a teacher, my website and social media platforms to manage, trips and speaking engagements to manage, my house to (attempt to) keep clean, meals to cook, and just all the regular things in life to get around to, the challenges I face are never (or rarely) IN the actual writing. The challenges are external to the writing, but they affect the writing. Finding the right balance where I can get all the work done and still get sleep and maintain healthy relationships and good health is difficult.


What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing “Criminal” to life?

Aside from the external challenges mentioned above, I didn’t have too many of these challenges in bringing Criminal to life. It did take me much longer to write Criminal than it usually takes me to write a book, but that’s because I had just had a baby and was nursing at the time. I also battled a bout of post-partum depression while trying to write the book, which didn’t help me to be very productive, but on the other hand, staying actively engaged in a creative project was good for me at the time in battling depression. I didn’t have too much extra research to do because I was just building on the research and world-building I had already done for Breeder. I’d spent about three years prepping this whole series, The Breeder Cycle, so writing Criminal was really just a matter of going back to my notes and making sure I was still on track and following the plan.

Click the link below to be entered in the GIVEAWAY! One lucky reader will win a print copy of Criminal and Breeder by K.B. Hoyle!! Good luck!

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The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan


The feud began forty years ago. On one side: one of the wealthiest families in America. On the other: an artist known as Qi, heralded as the next Andy Warhol. After an acrimonious falling out, a Cold War began between these two families, and very few people remember the artist at all. Until a piece by Qi appears in New York.
Outside the Fern Gallery, a man stabs himself in the heart while staring at the last Qi, a painting of a young Chinese empress. Paire Anjou, a young art student fresh to the city, stands so close, her dress is freckled with blood. The resurgence of Qi’s art stirs up widespread curiosity and attention. Much like Michelangelo’s David, the portrait evokes powerful reactions from people. Patrons pass out, write love letters, and try to vandalize it. Since the day she saw it, Paire can’t stop ruminating about the painting.
The descendants of both families converge, and Paire, who covets the Empress, is woven into an escalating blood feud. Paire Anjou is herself a descendant of criminal parents with a predilection for theft. And she has decided that she needs to possess the Qi for herself.

Thanks to Diversion Books for gifting me this book for review!

EMPRESS is the kind of book that has a dark undercurrent running through it. The darkness may ebb and flow, but it’s always there. Paire is a character who may be sympathetic at times, and other times she will make you cringe and wonder what you ever saw in her in the first place.

The titular Empress is the sun around which everyone’s world revolves. Dolan’s description of her is so precise, so fawning, that it makes you wish you could see her for yourself and become obsessed. As Paire slowly sinks into lustful infatuation with the Empress, the darkness flows into her and also makes her stronger. Paire gets involved with illegal activities, all the while with the painting at the back of her mind.

The darkness envelops other characters as well, and begets betrayal, or violence. It seems as though the painting is like a Rorschach drawing; people see what they want to see, while the image affects them all differently. I especially enjoyed this aspect of the book – watching everyone decompensate is a delicious, voyeuristic experience.

Another enjoyable facet of this story is the art and artist setting. New York is the perfect backdrop for this beleaguered gallery and its employees. There also was a great deal of authentic art discussion that taught me things and enriched the reading experience.  Any time I can learn something from a book, it’s a plus for me. This shows that the author is not just trying to create a story; he is doing his hardest to immerse the reader in a believable world where things occur because of the setting, not despite it.

THE EMPRESS OF TEMPERA was a compelling and brilliantly conceived story. I loved it! Definitely a must read this year. You can pick up your copy here.

Ruffian: The Story Of A Jockey by Beverly Harrison


60 seconds out of the starting gate, Jockey Syd Paul is riding for her life. Blindsided, she’s attacked during a race by a fellow jockey and friend. Forced to fight for her life atop a fast and furious thousand pound horse galloping at top speed, Syd struggles, fighting in disbelief, while only inches away, the other jockey falls to his death. Shocked and battered and without a moment to think, she turns from the nightmare behind her toward the finish line just ahead, and wins the race.
Bloodied and beaten into a bruised lump of flesh, Syd finds herself dazed and standing in the winner’s circle, flashing back at what just happened. WTF, she thinks, watching the instant replay unfold like bad reality tv. From the video replay, there’s no question. Syd looks guilty as the gates burst open just like a hundred times before. Only this time, Syd battled another jockey to the death and then went on to win.
Bleeding and head swimming, the single question remains: Why did my friend attack me? She finds a shocking truth: Some unidentified person will go to any length to control the jockeys and the outcome of certain races. One jockey has died and others will follow. Syd is forced to accept help from police detective, Joe McQueen. He’s drop dead gorgeous with the tenacity of a pit bull and the sensibility of a good ol’ boy.
Unsure of placing her life and her future into the hands of a complete stranger, (McQueen), Syd sets out to find the answers and keep herself safe, knowing she’s only one golden ticket away from her dream of riding in the Kentucky Derby, but in the next race, she’ll be riding not only for her career, but also, for her life.


Thanks to Word Slinger for gifting me this book for review!

I found the plot of this book wonderfully refreshing. Not many stories are written with a racing background (unless you are a Dick Francis fan), much less with a female jockey in the main role. Syd Paul is a feisty girl, making her way among the misogynistic jockeys at the track. She is a talented rider, hoping to find a mount to get her into the Kentucky Derby.

When her good friend attacks her during a race, she is thrown into a race fixing scheme that threatens her very existence. Syd is a loner by nature and is mistrustful of most people, except for a handful of friends. Her best friend convinces her to go to the police, but they don’t seem to be much help. She gets attacked again, and doesn’t know why she can’t get anyone to believe that she is danger.

I enjoyed the book, despite the writing being a bit uneven. Perhaps it was the editing, but it pulled me out of the story when I would see odd words capitalized (Owner, Jockey) and the occasional typo here and there. I also wanted to shake the character of Syd a few times, when she persisted in going places alone and putting herself in danger. ( I suppose that was needed, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a story.)

The same thing that bugged me about her was also her strength: a female jockey who didn’t want to sit on the sidelines while the men took care of business was an excellent choice of main character. Competition is intense in racing, and Syd showed her mettle by holding her own against the guys. She refused to give in to emotion, always keeping her goal firmly in her sights. At times this was also a noticeable quirk – Syd seemed to vacillate at times between grief and being perfectly fine (after the death of someone close to her). I kept thinking that it was very strange for her to be so happy just a few minutes after having tears in her eyes and talking about how much she missed her friend. Personally, if that was me, I would have been home crying and being miserable, not out flirting and going to restaurants.

But that is a small criticism. I’m sure anything she did was to advance the plot, which was quite suspenseful. I wasn’t sure who the bad guys were, and all in all, the idea of race fixing was quite plausible. Many people believe horse racing is fixed in some way, but never think of the people that may be caught up in it without their consent.

The race descriptions and personalities (and names) of the horses left me in thrall – I love horses and felt as if I were behind the scenes at a large track. Syd’s skill as a jockey was also a plus; she always raced to win and never compromised who she was.

My verdict? A good story, well rounded characters, and some suspense. Definitely an enjoyable and unique read that horse racing fans (and mystery lovers) will enjoy. You can pick up your copy here.

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