Book Review: Apocalypse 5 by Stacey Rourke

Apocalypse Five
Stacey Rourke
(Archive of the Fives, #1)
Publication date: February 12th 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Good luck and have a pleasant apocalypse.

The end of the world is coming. How or when, scientists can’t agree upon. For decades, Earth’s best line of defense has been a team of young soldiers known as the Apocalypse Five, forced into virtual reality simulations to train for Doom’s Day. But, this is no game. Death on the grid is brutally final and calls up the next in a long line of cadets.

Stationed aboard the AT-1-NS Starship, the A5 are celebrities thrust into the limelight by a calling they didn’t choose. All it takes is one unscheduled mission, showing seventeen-year-old team leader Detroit a harsh and unfathomable reality, to shake the A5’s belief in all they thought they knew. After questioning people with the power to destroy them, the team is framed for a crime they didn’t commit and marked for death. Now, the hunt is on.

Can the Apocalypse Five expose the truth the starship would kill to keep hidden? Or, will their bravery end in a public execution?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

My Review

Certainly reminiscent of The Hunger Games, Apocalypse 5 adds a few twists. In the former, society has already suffered the events that led to a dystopian rule and the games are essentially an entertainment and a reminder of who is in charge. In the latter, the events are coming sometime in a nebulous future and the games are intended to defend society.

It’s an interesting premise but is puzzling and part of the story’s development has to do with understanding how it came to this, why death games are required for an essentially unknown danger. Ms. Rourke is an author new to me and I appreciate her storytelling abilities that kept me wanting to read. The characters are fleshed out nicely, although I could do without the ubiquitous romance, and I especially enjoyed the interaction and camaraderie of the team members.

All in all, this book is a good choice for anyone looking for an adventurous story and I’ll be back for the next tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

 

Author Bio:

RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel

Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012

Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013

Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner for Crane 2015

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Reel Romance Series. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.

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Spotlight on Any Means Necessary by Jenny Rogneby

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Title: Any Means Necessary
Series: A Leona Lindberg Thriller #2
Author: Jenny Rogneby
Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Noir, Police Procedural

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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Synopsis

In the highly anticipated sequel to Leona: The Die Is Cast, a
corrupt detective deals with the emotional fallout of her actions
while investigating a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm.

After a man blows himself up outside the Parliament House in
Stockholm and miraculously survives, investigations begin to determine
if he was a lone wolf, or were there more heinous acts to follow. Leona
Lindberg, who has barely escaped her trials from the last case, is
focused on her shattered family, lethal personal threats, and desperately
trying to gain liquid assets. It’s lucky then, that she can think outside
the box like no other detective when she’s put on the case. With
one foot on each side of the law, she mounts a special operation
of grand proportions, and the higher the risk, the higher the reward.

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An Excerpt from Any Means Necessary

In my car on the way from Aimi’s office, I turned the call from Alexandra over in my mind. From her tone on the phone, it was clear she had something important to tell me.

Alexandra Risberg was the new superintendent at the Violent Crimes Division. That was still her official title. Next year, the Police Authority was set to undergo its biggest reorganization in fifty years. After that, the divisions would no longer be called divisions and Alexandra’s title would change. Even though she was new in her job, there could be no doubt that she wanted to climb the ladder.

Alexandra had explained to me that the division had been allocated additional funds earmarked for counseling, which she had offered me several times after Benjamin’s death. I had declined every time. When I told her I had decided to see a private therapist, she had been very encouraging and given me permission to go during work hours. Now she had called to ask me to come back as soon as possible, knowing full well where I was.

I turned the police radio off and skipped through the regular channels in an attempt to find something upbeat to help me shake the heavy mood from my therapy session. After browsing through a number of uninspiring talk radio stations, I gave up and listened to the monotone drone of a newscaster:

Today’s headlines. The bomb that exploded outside Parliament last week triggered extensive police action, involving the National Task Force, the National Bomb Protection Unit, and officers from several police forces. Snipers and specially trained negotiators were also called to the scene. A total of two hundred officers were active during the acute phase, which lasted approximately ten hours. The national police commissioner predicts that from now on, Sweden, like other countries, will need to dedicate more significant resources to fighting terrorism . . .

I turned it off. Couldn’t bear to listen. Over the past week, the media had been utterly dominated by the suicide bomber outside Parliament. You couldn’t turn on the TV or radio, browse the Internet, or flip through a newspaper without being bombarded with information about and debates on the subject. Every expert felt compelled to have a theory about it. Even at work, the event was the topic of fervent discussion. People speculated about whether the Security Service really did keep an eye on all potential terrorists in the country, and whether it had been right to heed the recommendation of the National Center for Terrorist Threat Assessment to raise the threat level. I stayed well out of it. The whole thing just made my longing for a different kind of life more urgent.

I didn’t notice the faint smell of smoke in the car until I stopped at a red light on Sveavägen. It didn’t take me long to locate the cigarette butt on the floor next to my feet. I rolled down the window and was about to throw it out when I heard a child crying.

“Mommy, mommy.”

A woman was holding a little boy by the hand, walking so fast down the sidewalk that the boy, shuffling behind, was unable to keep his balance. His legs wouldn’t carry him. His mother pulled and tugged at him. Shouted that they were in a hurry. I rolled the window back up. Felt sick. From the smell of the cigarette. From seeing myself in that woman. My previous life.

The boy was no more than a year or so older than Benjamin. I recognized the stress. If only I hadn’t rushed around like that woman. If only I had had more time with my son.

That life was like a hellish hamster wheel.

People always complained about the everyday niggles, but never spotted the bigger patterns. Maybe they didn’t want to see them. They preferred doubling down and staying in their pointless, regimented, stressful lives to doing something about it. Change was too difficult.

I had had my reasons for living like that. I had done it because I knew society doesn’t accept nonconformity. If you deviate from the cookie-cutter norm, you are left out in the cold. Worthless. From there on out, you’re on your own.

I wondered how long it would take the woman on the sidewalk to realize that fighting so hard to fit in is pointless. That she was part of a competition that has no winners.

Only losers.

She had come to a stop on the sidewalk, bending down and yanking at her son, who was now putting up more determined resistance. He refused to stand up and was crying so loudly I could hear it clearly through my rolled-up window. Maybe the woman would wake up one day. Realize that a single minute with her son was infinitely more precious than whatever she was in a rush to get to.

Excerpted from Any Means Necessary by Jenny Rogneby, published by Other Press on 12 February 2019. Copyright © Jenny Rogneby. Reprinted by permission of Other Press.

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About the Author

Jenny Rogneby was born in Ethiopia, but was given away for adoption when she was one year old. She grew up in northern Sweden, studied criminology at Stockholm University, and became an investigator in the Stockholm City Police Department. Her work inspired her to create the character of Leona. a criminal investigator with a dark past who by her actions challenges the norms of society in many ways, and write the best-selling crime novel, Leona: The Die is Cast. Before her career in law enforcement, Rogneby was a singer and member of the pop group Cosmo4.

Website // Facebook

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 “Leona Lindberg returns to wreak her peculiar havoc. In the second
installment of her adventures, Leona, a detective in the Violent
Crimes Division of the Stockholm Police, continues her pursuit
of a life outside all social conventions…. As a character, Leona
asks a lot of the reader. She is savvy, decisive, and resourceful,
in many ways admirable, but she is also relentlessly selfish,
willing to inflict pain and misery to get what she wants… She
differs from typical noir antiheroes—she’s not a disappointed
idealist but rather an amoral pragmatist. But never mind. This
installment is more completely plotted and more involving…
Leona’s back! Lock the henhouse!” –Kirkus Reviews

Cover Reveal: Flower Power Trip by James J. Cudney

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Title: Flower Power Trip
Series: Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 3
Author: James J. Cudney
Publication Date: March 30, 2019
Genre: Mystery


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Synopsis

At a masquerade ball to raise money for renovations to Memorial
Library, Kellan finds a dead body dressed in a Dr. Evil costume.

Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill the annoying guest who’d been
staying at the Roarke and Daughters Inn, or does the victim have
a closer connection to someone else at Braxton College?

As Kellan helps school president Ursula bury a secret from her
past and discover the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly
encounters a missing member of his family. Everything seems to
trace back to the Stoddards: a new family who recently moved in.

Between the murder, a special flower exhibit and strange postcards
arriving each week, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life
should take priority. But unfortunately, the biggest one of all has
yet to be exposed – and when it is, Kellan won’t know what hit him.

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About the Author

James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I spent 15 years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment and media industries. Although I enjoyed my job, I left in 2016 to focus on my passion: telling stories and connecting people through words. My debut novel is ‘Watching Glass Shatter,’ a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor and romance. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com

What do I do outside of writing: I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2K family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 500 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I started the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.

A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. How else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?

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Book Review: Triplicity by J. Mercer

Triplicity
J. Mercer
Publication date: January 6th 2019
Genres: Mystery, Romance, Young Adult

One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies.

Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher’s daughter, she did end up with someone else’s purse in her hands, and Jesse knows way more than he should about what’s gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive—enough money and he could get back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they’ve told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.

*For readers of Kasie West and Jenny Han.*

Goodreads / Amazon

My Review

The nature of a cruise ship is to seat strangers together for meals and, based on my own experience, that can be awkward and the people at a given table bent on not enjoying each others company or it can be the source of some real friendships. In Triplicity, it’s the reason three teens are thrown together; in a normal world, they’d be very unlikely to pal around with each other.

The mystery here is pretty light and attention is focused more on personalities but that’s okay. The interesting thing, to me, is that Navy, Jesse and Isaiah are not especially likeable—Isaiah, in particular, was frequently obnoxious—but I enjoyed spending time with them as they tried to figure out who the thief was. Really, this is a bit of a character study of teenagers in an artificial situation and a small look into how people can create relationships of sorts when you might not expect them to.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

 

Author Bio:

J. Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to college for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband–though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases. Find her on Facebook @jmercerbooks or online at http://www.jmercerbooks.com.

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Book Review: Alt Truths by Alec Birri

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Author: Alec Birri

Narrator: Jonathan Keeble

Publisher: Essential Music Limited

Released: Jan. 2019

Genre: Science Fiction Thriller

What if you knew men, women and children were being slaughtered but had to cover it up?’

Fake news. Alternative facts. Truth, lies, damn lies and statistics. Just who are we to believe? In this near-future dystopian thriller, that will be United Nations Police “moderators”.

Thirty year old UNPOL officer Richard Warren has been embedded with the BBC and not seeing eye-to-eye with journalist Sarah Dyer is just the start of his problems. News of an Ebola pandemic is being withheld, and when it’s discovered Sarah’s artistic savant brother is involved, Richard’s determination to get to the truth takes an unexpected turn. But what if the truth must never be known?

And Richard thought Sarah was a challenge. The very concept of right and wrong is about to be tested and in a way that’s going to make fake news look like quality journalism.

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.

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Narrator Bio

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of Alt Truths is no exception.

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Having consumed Mr. Birri’s earlier trilogy, Condition, as fast as I possibly could, I really was excited to have the opportunity to listen to this new book, both for the story and for Mr. Keeble’s narration and I wasn’t disappointed although I didn’t connect with it quite as much. I think that’s because there are an awful lot of ideas and plotlines here, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, mind you. I just tended to get a little confused at times.

From the morass of political correctness to a literally explosive attack to biowarfare (of sorts) to the wonders and dangers of being a savant to fake/manipulated news…it’s all here and more, something for nearly every reader who loves the what-ifs to be found in a well-crafted story. Add to that a narrator who is a master at what he does with a collection of voices that almost make you think you’re listening to a bunch of different people and you’ve got what we all want, a book you just can’t stop listening to 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2019.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Alec Birri. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

‘By her own admission, my next guest has led an unconventional life. Born into privileged American society, and educated at some of Europe’s finest finishing schools, a life of fashion shows, A-list galas, political fundraisers and other well-heeled charity events was never going to satisfy the young Karen Bradley. No, this rebellious teenager had another career in mind and one that could not have been more opposite – pounding the beat as a humble police officer. Fast-forward forty years, and today, the United Nations’ most senior policewoman commands a contingent of UNPOL moderators to the UK. And not without controversy.

  • Chief Bradley. Your officers’ methods are currently bringing protesters out onto the streets. How do you respond to those who say forcing people to understand opinions opposed to their own is straight from the pages of a dystopian novel?’
    • ‘I would respond by saying: How else are we to tackle the rampant anarchy of so-called social media? The problem is not only beyond the control of the UK’s own police force but worldwide, so making the UN responsible for moderating the internet would seem to make sense.’
  • ‘But UNPOL’s remit doesn’t just cover social media, does it? News agencies, political parties, industry, institutions, even children’s organisations. Can you not see how unsettling that might be for some?’
    • ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures. Before the UN Security Council voted to accept the measure back in 2025, the world was on the brink of collapse and all because some bored teenager could start a war with a single tweet or post. Thanks to my officers’ interventions, that threat has all but been eradicated.’
  • ‘But by forcing everyone to consume views opposing their own?’
    • ‘Not ideal, I’ll admit. But it’s preferable to censoring. By ensuring both sides of a story are told, society as a whole is not only safer but better informed.’
  • ‘Well, I can see how that could work when it comes to countering lies with the truth, but the other way around? Isn’t that not only immoral but dangerous?’
    • ‘An unfortunate necessity. Blame Trump and Brexit. The world has never been more divided thanks to those two and if countering fake news with alternative truths saves the world, then so be it.’
  • ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right, Chief Bradley. A lie is a lie no matter how you dress it up.’
    • ‘Really? What colour is your tie?’
  • ‘I’m sorry?’
    • ‘It’s a simple question. What colour is your tie?’
  • ‘Er, Blue.’
    • ‘It’s green.’
  • ‘I think I know the colour of my own tie. Aquamarine if I’m not mistaken.’
    • ‘Not to someone who’s colour blind. Some sufferers would say it was green or even grey.’
  • ‘Well, as aquamarine is a sort of bluish-green…’
    • ‘And now, having considered the opinions of others, are we agreed? Your tie is both blue and green?’
  • ‘I suppose so.’
    • ‘Welcome to the world of an UNPOL moderator.’
  • ‘I think you’ve just proven my point – your methods involve concealing lies behind the smoke and mirrors of loosely connected facts. Which brings me to my next question. What is your relationship with the King?’
    • ‘I don’t know what you mean.’
  • ‘Don’t be coy, Karen. Is it true you enjoy more than a diplomatic relationship with our country’s monarch?
    • ‘It is true my privileged upbringing has allowed doors to be opened that might otherwise be closed, but I can assure you my relationship with His Majesty is innocent.’
  • ‘Innocent? You call sneaking into Buckingham Palace at two in the morning “innocent”?’
    • ‘We’re both busy people. Finding time for recreation is difficult.’
  • ‘Recreation? What sort of recreation?’
    • ‘Sex.’
  • ‘Sex? You mean you’re having an affair with the King?’
    • ‘Of course. And not only the King of England. The British prime minister, President Gatesberg, the Russian and Chinese premiers. Don’t you want to see the world making love and not war?’
  • ‘Er, I don’t know what to say.’
    • ‘We’ve just discussed how difficult it can be to settle the world and its differences. Brute force and ignorance might work in the short term, but there’s nothing like gentle persuasion for producing a lasting effect.’
  • ‘Chief Bradley. Is this a confession? Are you saying you’re sharing a bed with more than one of the world’s leaders? Some would consider that treason!’
    • ‘Blame the hippie commune I ran away to back in the 1970s. Taking over the world by making love and not war has always made sense to me.’
  • ‘Don’t you mean, saving?’
    • ‘I’m sorry?’
  • ‘You said “taking over the world”. Don’t you mean “saving the world”?’
    • ‘Did I? My apologies – slip of the tongue.’

Music Playlist

Richard and Sarah’s Top-ten
  1. Poison and wine by Civil Wars – “I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back…”
  2. The Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley – “You look like an angel…”
  3. Wish you were here by Pink Floyd – “So, so you think you can tell, Heaven from Hell…”
  4. The whole of the moon by The Waterboys – “I saw the crescent, you saw…”
  5. Shades of grey by The Monkees – “When a man should stand and fight or just go along…”
  6. I never cared for you by Willie Nelson – “And the sky was never blue…”
  7. Opposites attract by Paula Abdul – “Baby seems we never ever agree…”
  8. I choose you by Sarah Bareilles – “tell the world that we finally got it right…”
  9. You make me mad by Third Day – “You make me fall, you make me love…”
  10. Marry me by Jason Derulo – “Nothing else would ever be better, better the day when I say…”

Top 10 List

Alec Birri’s Top-Ten Tips For Writing A Dystopia

Blame Brexit. Blame Trump. Blame the rise of populism in general if you must, but there is no doubt we are currently living in what historians may one day refer to as ‘interesting’ times. And, if you know your pseudo-Chinese proverbs, that’s not meant to settle your thoughts. The literary upshot of that? A resurgence of interest in dystopian classics like Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World and the more modern, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. Want to have a crack at ensuring historians include your name in that illustrious list? Then read on.

  1. Write what you know. Don’t even think about penning a dystopia unless you’ve already spent decades living in a one. What? You haven’t? You mean to say you’ve never been denied entry to a bar, stopped by the police or made to do something you didn’t want to? Take all that and dial it up to eleven. Welcome to your dystopia.
  2. Use technology but avoid ‘hard’ sci-fi. Best done by setting your dystopia in the not-too-distant future. That way it’s more likely to feel ‘real’ to the reader, i.e. if we’re not careful, our children might end up living in it one day.
  3. It’s a thriller first. And some other blah about the environment, population control, conspiracy theories, thought police, eugenics, #MeToo, etc., second. Be passionate about your favourite citizen-oppressing subject but don’t let the detail of it get in the way of the action.
  4. It’s about us. It might be the narrator’s job to keep the listener entertained, but how you explore the human condition will ultimately decide your literary legacy. The chapter involving the rat in Orwell’s 1984 is gripping, but the way a hidden autocracy turned its citizens into unthinking, unfeeling but above all, obedient servants was far more unsettling.
  5. Don’t ignore utopias. A perfect society may make for a boring read, but lambs don’t lie down with lions for long.
  6. Use simple prose. The novel’s going to be complicated enough. The last thing you want your audience asking is, ‘But what’s it about?’
  7. Sex, religion and politics. Might be barred from the dinner table (well, the topics of conversation are) but all three are a must in a dystopian thriller. Remember, you’re aiming to explore why societies do the things they do and digging deep reveals these guys to be the main culprits.
  8. Avoid anything gratuitous. Particularly when it comes to writing political opinions that coincide with your own. If crucial to the plot, then have someone else in the scene state the opposing view no matter how distasteful to you personally. Let the reader decide.
  9. Build the novel. As evolution (creationism?) seems to have built us – step by step. Why does that appear to have resulted in so much inequality?
  10. And finally. Aim to satisfy the audience in this way: They have enjoyed an exciting thriller which has given them a lot to think about.

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Jazzy Book Reviews

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Book Blitz: Stolen by Marlena Frank

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I am so excited that STOLEN by Marlena Frank is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Marlena Frank, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of The Parliament House and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.
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Title: STOLEN (Stolen #1)
Author: Marlena Frank
Pub. Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 342
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooksKobo

It’s difficult taking care of a delusional father by yourself. Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh Mallet would rather explore and photograph dilapidated buildings than cater to her father’s dark episodes. But when she’s kidnapped by a creature who carries her atop a flying bicycle into another world, she realizes this wasn’t the escape she wanted.
In a kingdom known as the Garden, where minotaurs pull carriages and parties are held in hot air balloons, Madam Cloom and her faerie servant, Teagan, rule over the land with incredible but terrifying magic. Shaleigh must prove that she is the reincarnation of a long-dead ruler, not because she believes it, but because it’s her only chance to survive. With the help of a trespassing faerie, a stoatling, and a living statue, Shaleigh hopes to outwit everyone. She aims to break the bonds of servitude and finally make her way home. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that she’s playing right into the hands of a far worse enemy…
Book Trailer:
Excerpt:
PART I
FREEFALL
AN EMBARRASSMENT
Shaleigh didn’t think about how much concrete and steel stood over her head as she stepped carefully down the decaying hallway of Ferris Factory. The building had been abandoned for so long that the mildew and fungus ran rampant from the moisture that crept down the crumbling walls, so a respirator was a requirement. Ferris Factory was only two stories tall from the outside, but the floors underground felt endless. The elevator shaft only went down three floors when it had been operational; the rest of the floors could only be reached with the stairs. She doubted any of it had been inspected by the fire marshal.
Her best friend, Kaeja, walked so close behind that she could feel her warm breath on the back of her neck. The only sound that echoed up and down the hallway, besides their footsteps, was the snap of Shaleigh’s camera. The photos were why they risked their lives to explore dangerous places: to document the decrepit. It was thrilling to explore a place that nobody else would see. Eventually all the walls would fall, and Ferris Factory would decay into memory. Shaleigh and Kaeja would have the only remaining proof it even existed, especially since it was clear that nobody was supposed to know about this section of the factory.
A rat skittered out of a heap of moldy paperwork and Kaeja took a deep breath until it passed. “This is the worst one yet. By far.” Shaleigh grinned, though her respirator concealed it. “Come on, we had to come back and take the stairs down. We couldn’t just end it at the base of the elevator.”
“Do you see that?” She swung the flashlight to the side. “I couldn’t even hang a picture on that wall. Four floors down was enough, five floors is just begging to get hurt.”
Kaeja was right, the walls of the hallway curved inward like a bow string. Shaleigh hadn’t noticed how bad it was until she mentioned it. “We’ll be quick.”
She snapped as many photos as she could while Kaeja held the flashlight. It illuminated a good portion of the hall, but the beam had little effect against the thick, sick air. The light ought to have made the place more inviting, but it only made the shadows darker. It was hard for Shaleigh to keep her hands steady for the photos; fear and exhilaration kept combating within her. Sure, this place was terrifying and could collapse at any moment, but the thought of capturing a world that would never been seen again, of documenting the forgotten before it disappeared, made her tap the shutter button of her camera faster. “I wish we had more time. I’d love to look inside some of these rooms.”
“Not me,” Kaeja said, her eyes shadowed by the reflections of the flashlight on her mask. “These halls are creepy enough, thanks.” The light flashed across some metal scraps against the bowed wooden wall. It was hard to tell if it had been left behind by the workers, or if it had fallen from the ceiling. “Didn’t they used to make cars here?”
“Sure, that’s it.” Shaleigh snorted as she tapped on a dirt-encrusted sign that warned visitors that the hallway was a high security corridor. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
“It’s an old building, but that doesn’t mean they were hiding anything down here.”
“Then what’s with the high security? They had to be doing something illegal down here. The maps we found don’t even show these floors. I heard it used to be a hospital,”  Shaleigh glanced back to her with a smile. “Dad heard it from a colleague at work. They used to keep dangerous people here.” Kaeja stared at her, the beam from the flashlight in her hands trembling.
A high-pitched squeal of metal echoed down through the insides of the building, as though the entire structure was shifting under its own weight. The squeal turned into a groan that shook the very floor beneath their feet. Both teens froze, barely daring to breathe as debris fell from the ceiling. Seven levels of exhausted steel, wood, and plaster shifted over their heads. They stood in silence waiting for the walls to give way, waiting to be buried beneath the rusty metal beams, discolored
linoleum floors, and rat-infested insulation; but the building remained steady.
The noise stopped. Particles drifted in the air.
“It doesn’t sound very good, does it?” Shaleigh whispered.
“I don’t like it. I don’t care what you say, this is the lowest I’m going. Five levels below ground is far enough.”
Shaleigh stifled a laugh, “That’s what you said when we found the stairs.”
A high-pitched noise erupted down the hall causing both teens to jump. It didn’t sound metallic…it didn’t sound like the building at all.
Kaeja stared down the hallway with wide eyes. The noise broke into a whimper, and then there was silence. It only lasted maybe a few seconds, but they both knew what they had heard. Someone was down there with them.
Shaleigh turned to look behind them, but without the flashlight beam it was too dark to see anything. “Was that—was that behind us?”
Kaeja spun around, temporarily blinding Shaleigh in the process. “I don’t know. I thought it came from in front of us.”
The darkness felt like a cage all around them. The beam of the flashlight, darting forwards and backwards down the hall, seemed so small and insignificant now. Someone was in the darkness. Someone was watching them. Shaleigh stepped around Kaeja and started back toward the stairwell. “We should go.”
Kaeja grabbed her arm and Shaleigh could feel her clammy fingers through the sleeve of her jacket. “Are you crazy? You said that’s where it came from.”
“How else are we going to get out of here?”
Kaeja could give no argument and shook her head. “Shaleigh…” she whimpered.
“It’s okay, we’ll do it together.” She put her camera around her neck and took Kaeja’s hand. They walked slowly towards the door of the stairwell, side by side, fingers clasped in a death grip.
For a moment, Shaleigh thought she saw movement ahead of them and stopped. Kaeja must have seen it too because she swept her flashlight left and right, searching for whatever it was. Just before the beam of light reached one of the doors, Shaleigh was certain she spotted a shadow move into one of the rooms.
“Ow…” Kaeja whispered giving their joined hands a tug. Shaleigh realized she had been gripping too hard and loosened her hold but didn’t say a word. Her eyes were fixed on where the shadow had been. As they drew closer, an arm stretched out, hairy with long, black fingernails, and pulled the door closed. There was a splash as though something heavy had fallen into a pool of water from behind the door.
Kaeja screamed. A bolt of adrenaline hit Shaleigh and she grabbed Kaeja’s arm. Together they ran. As they passed the door, the knob began to turn with a creak. She wasn’t sure if Kaeja had seen it or not. “Keep going!” she yelled, all pretense of caution forgotten.
Once the stairwell came into view, they sped up. Shaleigh slipped on a wet spot and her foot skidded. She would have sprained her ankle if she hadn’t grabbed for the wall. What a stupid way to die, she thought as she regained her footing. She had to keep her head straight, because panicking in an old, decrepit building was a sure way to get hurt or killed by whatever was after them. She forced them to slow down to climb over a pile of broken boards and nails. Shaleigh had thought it odd to have it so close to the stairwell when they’d first come down, but now she saw it as a marker, a warning perhaps, to keep trespassers out. As she helped Kaeja down the opposite side of the rubble, she heard limping footsteps approaching them.
“It’s coming!” Shaleigh cried and together they sprinted for the stairwell. The flashlight bounced beams off the walls.
They hit the metal door like a battering ram, shoving it into the rusted railings of the stairs, causing it to reverberate like a gong up and down the concrete shaft. Shaleigh gripped the metal rail, feeling the flecks of paint come off on her hands, and the raw rust beneath. She exchanged a glance with Kaeja, both trying to catch their breath. The respirator was humid with her breathing and she couldn’t wait to rip it off when they got outside. She looked up the dark stairwell above them and grimaced. There were too many floors between them and safety.
Kaeja gasped and reached out to grab Shaleigh’s arm. Shaleigh stared at her. She thought she could make out footsteps from the hall they just left, but it was so faint it was hard to make out. It could have just been the sounds of the building, but she didn’t want to take any chances. Taking a deep breath, Shaleigh led the way as they started up the stairs.
One floor, two floors, three floors.
Was that the sound of the doorknob beneath them being turned? Kaeja hurried to her side as they continued to climb. Both were audibly gasping now. It wouldn’t take much for their pursuer to know where they went. Shaleigh’s thighs were burning. She could sprint up a flight or two of stairs, but this was tough. It didn’t help that she was already out of breath before they even started climbing.
“What if it’s locked us in?” Kaeja asked between sucking in gulps of air.
Shaleigh didn’t respond. She didn’t want to even consider that option.
They climbed two more flights of stairs. Kaeja reached the door first. They both let out a sigh of relief when the door opened. Panting, they jogged to the main exit, a pair of massive iron doors that looked like they belonged in a mausoleum. Neither of them said a word as they descended the short flight of broken steps to the grass. Shaleigh ripped off her respirator, Kaeja did the same, and they both exchanged grins as they crossed the grass-pocked concrete walkway. It felt good to feel the heat of the day on her skin too. The sun was sinking in the west, but the air was sweet with wild honeysuckle and a light breeze rustled the old oaks. Shaleigh relaxed a bit but could tell by Kaeja’s expression that she wouldn’t be able to relax until they had left the property completely.
The concrete walkway fell away to tall grass that came up to their hips, as they sidestepped small pine trees that were beginning to take over the lot and moved further away from the building. The chain link fence that surrounded the property sported multiple warning signs for trespassers, though they were faded from exposure. Kaeja pulled back the corner of fencing they had used to get in, and they both climbed through without saying a word. Kaeja paused, took a deep breath, and relaxed her shoulders.
“I know you’ll hate to hear this, Kaeja,” Shaleigh started. “But I think I’m done with Ferris Factory for a while.”
Kaeja laughed. “No complaints here. I’m going to add that we never go underground again either. I am not running up that many stairs again, no matter how great you say the pictures will be.” Shaleigh couldn’t help but laugh. The downtrodden path through the woods made it a short walk to reach the bus stop. Shaleigh unwrapped the scarf from around her head and shook out her twists. The breeze felt wonderful on her scalp. They dropped everything into Shaleigh’s backpack as they walked. The main road was surprisingly empty for a Sunday afternoon. After exploring inside of decomposing buildings for a while, she had new respect for even the simplest things. The bench for the bus stop, covered in graffiti and bearing a single broken board, looked like a luxury. Kaeja sprawled across the broken wooden bench and covered her eyes with her arms.
“Wow, what a rush!”
“I know!” Despite her smile, Shaleigh still glanced over her shoulder, as though expecting the person from the building to be slinking toward them through the woods.  “What do you think it was?”
Kaeja stared up into the sky. “Someone crazy, I’m sure. It’s a good thing they made some noise. I don’t like the thought of them sneaking up on us like that.” She sat up and patted the bench beside her.
Shaleigh obliged, her legs were still shaky. “Did you see that hand?”
Kaeja shuddered, “Looked like he hadn’t seen the light of day in forever.” She stretched her arms over the back of the bench. “This is exactly why I don’t like the big ones. There are too many hiding places.”
“The small ones aren’t much better,” Shaleigh added. “Sometimes it feels like a shot right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you know?”
Kaeja nodded and the two grew silent from their own nerves. Kaeja’s leg jumped up and down, as though at any moment she would jump up into a sprint. Shaleigh kept resisting the urge to look over her shoulder once more. The bus couldn’t come fast enough.

“Ugh, I need to think about something else.” Kaeja said with a tense smile. “You’ve got a party coming up tonight, don’t you? You get to get all dolled up. I know you don’t like the people much, but I do envy you getting to go.”
Shaleigh sighed. “I had almost forgotten about it.” She checked her watch. It was a good thing they had left when they did because she still needed to get home and clean up. “If you like it so much, you can totally go for me.”
“Your dad would never let me. He needs you there.”
“Unfortunately.”
Kaeja scooted closer and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I guess that is pretty hard on you. Do they ask you a lot of questions about him?”
Shaleigh nodded. She hated the tight feeling she got in her chest whenever she thought of those stupid parties. She hated the fact that she had to go. Why in the world did Roseworth College have so many of them anyway? It was like they wanted to torture her.
Deciding to change the subject, she picked up her camera from around her neck. After checking to make sure nothing had been damaged in their mad dash, she asked, “Want to see the pictures?”
Kaeja nodded but looked concerned. Shaleigh ignored it.
The brilliant light of the flash somehow made the dark halls of Ferris Factory less frightening, less dangerous. If only people were so easy to strip of fear.
************
About Marlena:
I write about strange creatures. Typically they shouldn’t exist, or they have bled through from a different reality, or they’re pretending to be a crying baby in a crib. Sometimes that
lands my stories in horror and other times in fantasy, but there’s always an air of strangeness to my tales. If you want to get a better feel for what I’m talking about, check
out a few clips
 or read a few drabbles.
My work has appeared in a spattering of short story collections, but I do have a few novellas and novels in the pipeline. Other than talking about writing, I also talk about cryptozoologywerewolveswildlife conservation, and of course kitties. I’ve also been known to nerd out about Batman and The Hobbit, and have recently discovered the cracktastic fun of Black Butler cosplay, so there will likely be more of these incidents.
By day I work as a web developer, so I’ll occasionally talk about web issues like finding the right theme.
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Giveaway Details:
1 winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.

Book Review: Murder in Keswick by William Todd

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Author: William Todd

Narrator: Ben Werling

Length: 2 hours 38 muntes

Publisher: William Todd

Released: Oct. 16, 2018

Genre: Mystery

While on a well-deserved holiday in the Lake District to get away from the toils and troubles of London, Holmes and Watson find no respite. As soon as they exit the train, they hear news of a grisly murder making its way around the murmuring commuters. A local aristocrat, Mr. Darcy, has been found missing his head!

And that very night, the wealthy widow finds a stranger in her home who, upon seeing her, abandons his plans and quickly leaves. She believes the intruder to be the murderer of her husband who is now after a large sum of cash she keeps in the house safe.

Unsure if the would-be thief is the murderer or an opportunistic burglar, Holmes devises a plan to catch the burglar, all the while investigating the murder of Mr. Darcy. Follow Holmes, Watson, and the local constable Mr. Wickham as they untangle the mystery surrounding a Murder in Keswick.

I have been writing online since the early 2000’s, primarily writing horror stories in the style of Poe and Lovecraft. I was the 2nd most popular author on the website storiesbyemail.com for two years before moving on. I had my first book, a Victorian era horror compilation called Bumps in the Night, published by Mystic Moon Press just a week before they closed their website and never saw my hard work pay off. Afterwards I took publishing into my own hands, became an Indie author and haven’t looked back. My first self-published book was Dead of Night, another compilation of Victorian horror stories, published September 2016 by Createspace and on Kindle by KDP. After its publication I left my comfort zone for mystery and wrote a short story about Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle style. I loved it so much I then did a longer story A Reflection of Evil, both published in 2017 through Createspace and KDP. I have just release Beyond the Gossamer Veil, another compilation of both Victorian and modern supernatural/horror stories and am in the beginning stages of my third Sherlock Holmes installment.

Goodreads

Narrator Bio

Ben is an award winning actor and voice over professional, who has performed all across the United States. From Shakespeare to Neil Simon, he has displayed a versatility and diversity in the characters and dialects he has portrayed. Ben received the Joseph Jefferson Award for Leading Actor as abusive talk show host Barry Champlain in Eric Bogosian’s TALK RADIO, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Prosecutor Villeforte in Alexander Dumas’ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, also in Chicago. He has worked with an extensive list of theaters in Chicago over the last three decades: Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, Famous Door, Next, A Red Orchid, Raven Theater, First Folio, Writer’s Theater, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, as well as Utah Shakespeare Festival, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, Madison Repertory, and Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. He is an Ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago. For almost a decade he was the voice of the Adler Planetarium, hosting live shows and pointing out the stars, planets and constellations on the big dome. Ben has an eponymous weekly vlog on YouTube, that he films, produces, edits and narrates. He lives in Chicago with his wife Amy, two dogs and three cats.

Not everyone who wishes to add to the the Sherlock Homes pastiche can do so all that well but Mr. Todd pretty much nails it with Murder in Keswick. In fact, I think it might, in time, earn a place in the extracanonical body of work. Rather than the adventures of descendants of Holmes and Watson which have become so popular—and of which I’m very fond—this takes us back to the great detective himself and his companion.

The pair have set off for a vacation in the Lake District and Holmes is already bored without a worthy puzzle to solve so, when they step off the train in Keswick to hear talk about a headless body that’s been found, he can’t be happier. Who IS happier is the local constable, Mr. Wickham, who can’t believe he’ll be able to work with the famous detective.

Mr. Darcy, the victim, is naturally not happy without his head and the trio are soon hot on the trail of clues which, of course, only Holmes takes in but there are two women at the heart of the case, both very strongwilled and appealing. Could one of them be the killer? With a nifty twist near the end, all comes together…after Holmes shares his perspective, of course.

Ben Werling is a credible narrator who took me back to oldstyle Sherlock Holmes narrators, the best kind. He doesn’t differentiate voices all that well, especially females, but I actually don’t mind that. When I listen to a Sherlock Holmes story, I always hear Dr. Watson’s voice telling the story and I expect to hear him, not other characters. The only thing I didn’t care for in the production is the various background noises meant to enhance the settings; my hearing isn’t the greatest and I was distracted trying to figure out what I was hearing. I wouldn’t want them to be louder, just not there at all.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by William Todd. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Q&A with Author William Todd
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • I never used to even think about how a book would sound as an audiobook…until I finally had one done. Now, I do. The story is most important, whether read or heard. I a bad story is a bad story. But I am more cognizant now when I write with how a phrase might sound read aloud. I think my audiobooks now are much easier on the ear then my first ones because of that. And my narrator, Ben Werling, I’ve used on every story. He’s great and has a wide vocal range. He makes turning a book into audio so much easier on me. I think we’re a good team. I basically give him my manuscript with some simple directions as to accents, maybe weird words that might pop up, since I write typically late Victorian era material, and he does the rest. He does a chapter at a time and sends them to me to okay. We rarely have to redo anything. I am truly lucky because the process, at least for me, is very simple with Ben at the helm.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Because audiobooks are so prevalent and getting more and more popular by the day, I think you have to be conscious of it becoming an audiobook while writing, especially if you plan on using that format. And I think an author is selling himself short if he doesn’t at least consider putting his creations on audiobook. It is another channel to garner readers and followers…and revenue.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I put up three pages of my book for narrators to “audition”. I listen to each audition and pick the best one. But because Ben and I have such a good working relationship, ultimately, he gets my jobs. It is not only because he is such a good narrator. I write Sherlock Holmes and gothic horror. At least for the Holmes stories, I prefer having the same Holmes and Watson in each of my stories. Ben has been hands down the best Holmes and Watson I have found so why would I switch? I don’t think my readers would like that, and I know they would hear the difference.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I am. Until I land on the best-sellers list or get a movie deal, I have a job to pay bills and raise my family. I drive 45 minutes one way. Sometimes, that hour and a half is the only time I have to myself, and the perfect way to spend that time is listening to audiobooks. There are just times in this hustle and bustle life where cracking open a paperback is not possible. But your ears are always available to listen.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I might have to say all of it, but there’s a reason. Well, okay I’ll narrow it down to the final scenes of the book during a storm. But the reason I say all of it is because Ben employs subtle sound effects in the background much like the old radio stories. There is one part of the story where there is a storm, and the thunder and lightning in the background of the narrations lends itself perfectly to the feel of the scene.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • Oh absolutely. I would love to go back to say anytime between 1880 – 1915. The late Victorian era/ Gilded Age fascinates me. It was a time of extreme change, and those changes caused fear. I play off those fears in my horror stories, and Sherlock Holmes was the penultimate player in those times.
  • What gets you out of a writing slump? What about a reading slump?
    • For both it is the same–just do it. It is very easy for life to get in the way of writing. And it’s also very easy to fall out of the habit of writing. Mowing, cleaning, doing things with family, work, prepare for holidays, just plain being lazy (guilty as charged), etc. You have to make the time. This just happened to me where I wrote nothing for over two weeks, and I have deadline to have a Holmes story written by the end of the year for a publication next year. I had been under the weather and busy with life on top of that. There were times where I could have written but didn’t. The good habit of writing almost daily had been broken. But for me, all it took was forcing myself to sit at the lap top and writing a few sentences. Those few sentences ended at ten pages. Same with reading. Even if you have to force yourself, do it. If you love to read and love to write, just the mere act will set you right again. At least it does for me.
  • Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams?
    • That is where I usually get impetus for my stories, so yeah. Many characters I’ve come up with have appeared in my dreams. The trick is finding the story in which they will appear, especially when I might be working on more than one story at a time.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • Be picky in who you choose. The narrator is 50 percent of the audiobook, the other 50 percent being the story itself. I have heard many good stories butchered by bad narration.
  • What’s next for you?
    • I was approached by the editor of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes stories and asked if I would contribute a story to Volume XIII due out next summer, so I am honored to be one of the authors selected to add to that volume. It will be the first time that I am published with a traditional publisher but hopefully not my last.
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Dream Cast

Author William Todd’s Picks For Murder in Keswick
  • Holmes: Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Watson: Martin Freeman
  • Constable Wickham: Rupert Grint (AKA Ron Weasley of Harry Potter)
  • Mrs. Darcy: Catherine Bell (Hallmark’s The Good Witch)
  • Morwenna McGlinn: Emilia Clark (GOT)
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Giveaway

Prize: $20 PayPal Cash

Murder in Keswick Giveaway: $20 PayPal Cash

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Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

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Lilly’s Book World

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The Book Addict’s Reviews

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