Wednesday, July 31, 2013
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tell us whatever you thought. This was a comprehensive work at home guide that also encouraged readers to stay motivated to achieve a regular income from working at home.
Summarize the book. The author provides a list of companies which she has verified. However, it does not indicate whether this book will be updated in the future just in case the companies listed here change their policies or close down.
What was the book's central question, and how was it answered? The central question was whether it is possible for people to find legal companies and whether these companies can then provide regular income. This was definitely answered in the book.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Change Finds You
by Cara Michaels
“The date of record is October thirtieth, two-thousand-twelve. This is Special Agent Everett Benjamin.”
The voice drew my attention from the digital voice recorder resting on the table. The red recording light assured everyone observing that my words would be captured for all time, with “all time” defined as “until the Gemini Group buried the story”. At best, anything I said today would end up in a heavily redacted report buried in some government archive. Hadn’t stopped me from trying to get the word out, though. No, the FBI could take credit there. Getting nabbed at a convenience store just proved I’d never been intended for the undercover life. I’d only lasted two months on the official run.
“For the record, please state your name.” The special agent sitting across from me held an air of comfortable superiority. As homegrown investigative organizations rated, he still believed his FBI sat at the top of the food chain.
“Dr. Savannah Welborn.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” For a tough FBI guy, he had a nice voice. Kind of deep, kind of mellow.
The pen held between his index and middle fingers drummed an uneven, impatient beat. The air conditioning kicked on, a background hum of recycled air smelling faintly of paper and dust. Like the room needed to be colder. What brainless desk jockey thought hypothermia contributed to productivity? The beds of my fingernails had turned blue some fifteen minutes of waiting ago. My body had already forgotten how it felt to be warm. Inside, outside, and everywhere in between. I ground my teeth to hold in a shiver.
“Not a problem, Agent Benjamin,” I said. I even flashed my gritted teeth as I smiled. Just call me Doctor Cooperative.
His gaze slid over my Celldweller concert tee. Beneath the table, worn blue jeans allowed refrigerated air to sneak in at the torn knees. Like I needed his visual disdain to tell me I was way underdressed for a federal interrogation. They didn’t do anything without a tie or stockings.
At least my feet stayed warm in socks and sneakers.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t get apprehended in my Sunday best. I’ll try harder next time.”
His lips pinched, biting down on whatever he wanted to say and emphasizing his stern features. Add a sense of humor and strip away the premature aging of his job, and I put him in his early thirties, maybe. Salt dashed his black pepper hair, the cut military short.
“You understand why you’re here, yes?” he asked.
“I can play stupid if you’d prefer to explain it for the viewers at home.” I gestured to the large mirror dominating the end of the room on my left.
Benjamin clenched his teeth, let out a slow breath.
“You’ve been charged with obstruction of an ongoing investigation, as well as aiding and abetting the vigilante organization known as the Paladins.”
He made a good show of flipping through a manila folder stuffed with evidence. Of my so-called crimes, no doubt. My actions over the last several years tied me to the Paladins and — if one knew where to look — to the Gemini Group who had unintentionally created them. I’d built the Gemini Group, created the experiments, written the procedures. I’d documented its transition into a monster as the sons and daughters of my trial groups grew and revealed the changes in their genetic codes.
The cells made to save their parents had resulted in unexpected, even terrifying mutations. A woman with Ehler Danlos Syndrome gave birth to a daughter who could dislocate and reshape her bones and body at will. A man with early-onset Alzheimer’s fathered a child with eidetic memory. A treatment for severe hypothermia resulted in a son with extreme cold tolerance, who could manipulate the temperature around him, and even generate ice from the water in the air.
In short, my efforts to cure disease created superhumans.
But Karen Gemini, the reason any of my work had been possible, accused me of using her to play God.
She had it right, maybe. At least in the beginning.
Like a proud parent, I’d been thrilled by these gifted children. But like regular humans, they came in all shades of good, bad, and indifferent. Some made an effort to use their unique abilities to help the world around them. The public had taken to calling them the Paladins, and it suited them. Honorable, fierce, and steadfast in the face of a world turning on them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Karen Gemini gathered the blackest souls to her bosom, a nightmare brood poised to unleash hell on earth.
The FBI and Agent Benjamin might not yet realize it, but the Paladins stood in the way of gathering darkness. And as the woman whose research had started all of this, I stood to shield the Paladins.
If Benjamin meant to intimidate me, he needed a new strategy.
Go ahead, Agent Benjamin. Take me down. This is so much bigger than you know.
“Dr. Welborn?” Benjamin’s gaze, his eyes an eerie amber-orange, fixed on me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you want me to deny the allegations? For dramatic effect?”
He turned away, but not before I saw him grimace. Aw, did my attitude hurt his career advancement opportunities? Tough shit.
He needed to toughen up his poker face for this job.
I’d stepped into sharky waters with open eyes. I’d known the risks of siding with the Paladins. Of siding against Gemini.
He rolled his eyes, tension visible along his jaw. “Belligerent charm. Does that work for you often?”
“What do you want from me here, Agent?”
“Names. Aliases. Addresses. We want the Paladin operation.”
I laughed. Not a polite titter, but a snort of disbelief. “Sorry to say, but you’re doomed to disappointment.”
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Genre - Short Story Anthology
Rating – PG13 (some strong language)
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Favourite quote …
“What…I’m not finished with the article. You can give it back to your friend when I’m finished, Sister Nun.”
Tina and Kathy are being briefed in how best to intervene and help Ebony.
At the end of the book, do you feel hope for the characters? I feel hope that Tina and Kathy are closer. They did not have a strained relationship but Kathy was not close to her sisters. I got the feeling that she stood on the outside looking in with family members. With Kathy going to become a nun at such an early age she did not experience clubs or going out with friends/family. Most all family members seemed to treat her as being better than they were. Kathy kept overlooking this and did not see this happening.
What did you think was the most interesting part of the book? Why? Tina and Kathy at City Tracks a club. Kathy is enthralled about the club having a bowling alley inside.
What did you think of the main character? I really enjoyed reading about Kathy and her experience in learning more about life. Reading about Kathy seeing new stuff was like seeing the world thru the eyes of a child.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.
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Monday, July 29, 2013
How to Make Your Characters More Believable
by Bill Hiatt
Greetings, and thanks for hosting me.
Readers often ask writers where their characters came from, and writers often wonder how to make their characters believable. The writers have to be able to answer that question before they can produce anything worthwhile to read, but ironically the readers’ question contains within it the answer to the writers’ question. If a writer’s characters come from somewhere (probably the writer’s own experience), then they will be believable.
Some of you may be snickering at this point if you know that I write fantasy, since some of my characters are obviously not drawn from life. Living with Your Past Selves features a main character who can remember all of his previous lives, an ancient witch, faeries, and numerous shapeshifters, among others. Pretty clearly none of those characters spring directly from my own experience. You might think that writers in genres like science fiction and fantasy inherently can’t write believable characters, but actually in those genres believability is critical. Clearly the writer has to create an imaginary world, but in order for readers to be willing to suspend their disbelief of that world, there has to be some element for them to care about. Yes, that’s right: that element is be the characters. Readers bond with characters because of their personalities, not because of their physical attributes, whether natural or supernatural. If you look at the issue in those terms, you will see that being a vampire, a faerie or an extraterrestrial does not make the character any less believable in the psychological sense than the character’s having red hair would make him or her less believable. Only a psychology that doesn’t seem realistic could do that.
Where do writers get that realistic psychology? By drawing on their own experience and the experiences of those around them. I don’t mean that characters should be thinly disguised versions of the writer or of people the writer knows. The former can make a writer seem too self-absorbed; the latter could in extreme cases lead to litigation. But a writer can merge bits and pieces from various sources to make believable characters. Consider F. Scott Fitzgerald’s in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald puts a big chunk of himself into Gatsby: his youthful desire to reinvent himself, his distance from his parents, his pursuit of a woman who at first spurns him because of his lack of money, his wild parties. However, Fitzgerald did not become a bootlegger to finance his romance as Gatsby does, and other characters also have pieces of Fitzgerald in them. Tom, for example, has achieved an early dream of Fitzgerald’s—to play college football. One could run through all the major male characters and find some bit of Fitzgerald in them, just as we could look at the female characters and find some bit of Zelda, his wife. If one were to research Fitzgerald, one could probably figure out what other elements have gone into the characters as well.
Ironically enough, making believable characters comes down to the old adage, “Write what you know.” A writer can’t literally always do that in science fiction and fantasy, but in any genre a writer can do it with the psychology of the characters. If a writer draws inspiration from his own life, then the writer will know his or her characters as if they were real people, and, more to point, write them in such a way that they seem real to readers. Perhaps that isn’t the only ingredient necessary for character creation, but it is certainly the most important one.
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Genre - Fantasy / Young Adult
Rating – PG13
More details about the author
Sunday, July 28, 2013
"I bet he escaped from the psych ward," Remi mused, fascinated by Thane's story. "He sounds like one of those savants, people who can do one thing better than anyone else on the planet but lack in their connection to reality."
They were at his locker in the school hallway during lunch, two days after Thane's mad dash to catch the bus and lightning strike. Remi had been glad to see him and drawn out everything that had happened since he left school on Monday, and he'd just finished telling her about Brennan Tayler. "Here's your backpack, Flash," Remi said, smacking him in the chest with it. Thane gave her a quizzical look, and she colored. "He's a comic book guy. Wears all red, runs so fast he's hard to see." Thane kept looking at her until she punched his arm. "Cool people like comic books."
"Sure," Thane said, smiling a little. It felt good to be doing something normal after the last few days. He stretched the fingers of his right hand, thinking about the hospital and Brennan again.
Remi noticed. "Let me see it?" Thane held out his previously injured knuckles for her and she stared at them like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "There's nothing here. No bruising, no swelling, nothing. Are you sure you even hurt it?"
"Yeah," Thane answered. "It was broken. He fixed it."
"I wonder why," Remi mused, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers. Thane stiffened, unsure, but Remi was too deep in her thoughts to notice. She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb, trying to feel for any inconsistency. Thane felt his face going red and was about to pull away when something inside his hand moved.
Remi froze-- she'd felt it too. Their eyes met over his hand. "What is that?" she asked him. He shrugged, pulling his hand out of hers to look at it himself. He pushed his finger down in the space between his second and third knuckles, and felt that same something hard roll away. It was so small he never would have noticed it on his own. He pulled his hand up to his eyes, and Remi stood on tiptoe to get a closer look. They both leaned in, trying to see any evidence of what they were feeling under Thane's skin.
The bell rang, startling them both. Thane and Remi realized their faces were only inches apart, and sprang back. Snickers around them in the hallway let them know their display had not gone unnoticed.
"New girlfriend, Thane?" Ben called from a few lockers down.
"You could do better, new girl," Jeran said, flexing his muscles. "I could show you a lot more than that weak loser." Thane's face colored, but Jeran walked off laughing with his buddies. Jeran was an entitled prick, the star of the second worst football team in the state. He wasn't smart enough to be the quarterback but as a wide receiver, you only had to get the ball somewhere near him and he would catch it. Tall and muscular, girls flocked around him and grownups loved to talk to him. Thane wanted to punch him hard enough to make it impossible for him to smirk for at least a week.
"Don't worry about those idiots," Remi started, but Thane spun around and left her behind. From the moment Mr. Hoffman introduced them, Thane had failed at his one cardinal rule. When he was with Remi everybody saw him.
Thane was one of the first into the room. Ms. Rasmussen didn't look up as he entered, engrossed in some magazine. He managed to slide onto his stool in the back row without exciting note or comment from anyone. He took out his notebook and pretended to read it as the rest of the class arrived in twos and threes.
Remi's voice, laughing and chatting, stabbed his ear and he couldn't help glancing up. She was walking in with Jeran, smiling at him and shaking her head so that her dark hair bounced. As they came in, Ms. Rasmussen's attention was diverted by Remi's giggle and she smugly observed them. "Know your way around now, sweetie?" she asked Remi in a satisfied voice. Remi gave her a half smile, but did not respond. Jeran flashed Ms. Rasmussen a grin calculated to charm, then turned to Thane and transformed it into a self-satisfied smirk.
"Thanks, Jeran," Remi said, and walked back to sit with Thane. Jeran's face darkened as she walked away.
"I found your girlfriend lost in the hall," Jeran swaggered down the aisle towards him, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I told her you were unstable." Thane was clenching his teeth, jaw taunt, and Jeran bent down in his face. "It's okay, loser. If your dad doesn't wake up, I'll take care of your hot mom, too."
Music blossomed in Thane's mind as his fist connected with Jeran's jaw. There was a crunch and a sizzle and the smell of burnt flesh as Jeran fell backwards and the second bell rang. Jeran landed on the floor, as surprised by the sucker punch as Thane was. Jeran sprang back up, blood in his mouth and rage in his eyes and oddly, a bright burn on his jaw. He moved at Thane.
"That is enough, Jeran!" Ms. Rasmussen snapped. Jeran hesitated, and then lunged for Thane. Ms. Rasmussen grabbed Jeran's shoulder and spun him around, her eyes flashing and her breath quick. "Get out of my class."
"What?" Jeran was stunned. "But Cressa--"
"You will call me Ms. Rasmussen. Go to the nurse's office, then the principal's. Now." Her voice had gotten softer, colder, and somehow so dark that Thane repressed a chill.
Jeran crumbled. He fled from the room, the door banging as he ran through it. Ms. Rasmussen came to stand in front of Thane and rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. "Aren't you a hero for defending your mother's honor like that!" She was sweet, but her green eyes glowed with something Thane didn't recognize. Greed? Insanity? She tugged at his arm a little, and he stood up. "Why don't you come up here and take Jeran's seat? He won't be needing it."
Thane obediently gathered his things and went with her to the front. Remi followed him. Ms. Rasmussen seemed delighted. She even clapped her hands to get the attention of the class, which was completely unnecessary as every eye was already on her.
"Change of plans today, everyone! We're going to be doing hands-on experiments instead of a quiz." Her announcement brightened the feeling in the room considerably. "Put away your books and keep out your notepads. You'll need to take good notes. Every team will need a Bunsen burner, a holding tray, one five hundred milliliter beaker, one hundred milliliter beaker, safety glasses for each of you, a thermometer, and a pair of tongs. We're going to talk about thermodynamics!" She seemed gleeful, as manic as Thane had ever seen her.
Thane got up and gathered the implements since Remi wouldn't know where they were. He felt awful for ditching her in the hall. Carefully holding as many of the implements as he could in his arms, he set them down gently on the table in front of Remi and spread them out.
"I stole his playbook," Remi whispered. Thane attached the Bunsen burner to the short tube that rose out of the center of their rectangular table. "I thought we could do some creative play changing."
A rush of gratitude warmed Thane. Having a friend had perks. Ms. Rasmussen continued to give instructions. "...and be sure, girls, to keep your hair away from the flames. I'll be around to make sure that the gas lines are connected. Place the holding tray about six inches above the flame and fill the larger beaker with water from the sink..." Remi grabbed the larger beaker and followed the line of students back to the sink. Soon all the students had their beaker of water in place on the holding tray and were turning the burners on, seeing the waving yellow and orange flame tighten into a straight blue and purple one. "Open the air hole to only about half, we don't want it fully on. We're just heating water."
The lean, tall woman walked around the classroom checking each burner to ensure that the gas lines were attached correctly and the flames were high and hot enough. She came to Thane and Remi, bending to peer closely at their set up. "I think you need to lower your holding tray slightly," she instructed, and Thane made the adjustment. The corner of Ms. Rasmussen's mouth twitched, and then she moved on.
Her foot slipped, the thin heel shooting into the air, and she flailed her arms. With one hand she grabbed the side of a table, and the other grabbed Thane's left arm, pulling his wrist directly across the open flame.
"Argh!" Thane grunted, jerking his hand back. There was a shiny red mark along the underside of his wrist as wide as two fingers. He stared at it as his teacher regained her balance and turned to him.
"Oh, Thane, I'm so sorry," she gushed. "Someone spilled some water on the floor and I slipped! Let me see it," and she jerked his arm towards her. Her green eyes studied the red welt for a slow heartbeat, and she appeared... pleased. But only for a moment. Her face was full of concern and contrition when she looked back at him. "It's not badly burned. Run cold water over it. As for the rest of you," she whirled to face the class, her beautiful features twisted in fierce and dangerous anger, "be more careful. This could have been a serious accident. If you spill any liquid, clean it up immediately. I could've broken my ankle and poor Thane," she looked down at him and her tone quieted, "poor Thane could have lost his hand. Well," she said, her voice returning to normal, "back to work, everyone."
As the flames burned and the students adjusted their safety glasses, Ms. Rasmussen pulled a box off the shelf behind her desk. It was dusty, and she smiled and held it for a moment. Then she wiped it off and placed it on her desk. "In this box I have several pieces of Field's Metal. Has anyone ever heard of it?" She paused, but no hands went up. "It is a most impressive alloy. It's a non-toxic mixture of bismuth, tin, and indium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures, even though the metals they are mixed from require much higher temperatures to melt in their pure form. These low melting point metals are called fusible alloys."
Several of the students were scribbling furiously, as Ms. Rasmussen was not writing on the board. Instead, her hands were resting on either side of the open box as she was intently watching the beaker and the flame in front of Remi and Thane. Remi was one of the desperate note takers-- Thane couldn't take his eyes away from the chemistry teacher, like a bird staring at a snake. His heart pounded against his chest and his palms felt sweaty. Something was wrong.
She reached her hand into the box and drew out what looked to be a silver straw. "Each of you will be given one of these Field's Metal wires. Place your thermometers into the water and the metal wire into your smaller empty beaker. Using the tongs, hold the smaller beaker partially submerged in the boiling water. Record at what temperature, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the metal begins to melt. I will pass out molds to each team for you to pour your liquid metal into, and you will time how long it takes the metal to re-harden."
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Genre – New Adult Urban Fantasy
Rating – PG
Saturday, July 27, 2013
When seven strangers impossibly survive a horrific airplane crash, they find themselves changed in remarkable ways. The survivors are endowed with powers that defy explanation. Some are blessed. Some are cursed.
Going their separate ways, they adapt their extraordinary “gifts” to their ordinary lives. The results, however, aren’t always pretty — particularly when one of them engages in a killing spree. With little more to go on than the psychic link that they all share, the survivors seek out one another to uncover the murderer and bring him or her to justice.
The fireman, the grandmother, the psychiatric patient, the basketball player, the mute girl, the rich blonde, and the man in the wheelchair — they all have secrets worth hiding. They can’t trust each other. They can’t even trust themselves.
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG
More details about the author
Woman of Mystery
By Julia Park Tracey
I waited till I got out the door, across the parking lot and into my car before screaming. I had just left the book-signing from hell, held, appropriately, on Friday the 13th. I was supposed to participate in a “romance tableau” in honor of Valentine’s Day and had been looking forward to reading a short, evocative excerpt from my contemporary novel at the event. Alas, it was not to be.
Despite foul weather and appalling traffic, I arrived on time at the bookstore, where the manager said they were expecting a big crowd. The other reader was a romance novelist who has written about 24 books in less than 10 years. The writer asked if this was my first book, and when I said yes, she gave me a lecture about how I should always bring freebies to give away to the audience and my publisher should provide those. Then she looked at my photo on the back of the book and said, “That’s not very good.” She flipped through the pages and criticized my writing. She was also not thrilled to have to share the spotlight with the likes of me. By this time I felt we were on the road to a solid friendship and I took my seat.
Fabulous Romance Writer apparently has a big fan base, as the entire audience came out to see her, not me. No one knew who I was or why I was there except the owner, and she was late (foul weather and appalling traffic). When the owner arrived, she introduced us to the audience, first, Miss Fabulous, who the owner said would tell about the joys of being published by a major house, and then she pointed at me and said — and I quote, “This is Julie Parker and she wrote a mystery and published it herself. Now they’re going to tell about their very different experiences…”
I was, um, speechless, to say the least. Which to correct first? My name? The fact that I don’t even read mysteries, much less write them? That the book was under the auspices of an indie publisher? That I came prepared to read my novel, not compare my miserable existence to that of the Fabulous One? But there was no time for that; it was time to hear what Miss Fabulous had to say.
Miss Fab talked for a good half hour about herself and her books and herself and her editor and publisher and herself and herself, mildly interesting to me though clearly exciting to all her fans. Since I was sitting with her in front, I smiled and nodded and looked interested the whole time while feeling like the third wheel. I wondered, if I had written a mystery, what it would be about. I toyed with the notion of legally changing my name to Julie Parker, in hopes of hearing it pronounced, “Julia Park.” And I thought about my novel, Tongues of Angels — which takes on some major contemporary themes in the Catholic Church: the nun who wants to be ordained, the priests with celibacy issues, the power struggles, the politics. And I thought, “I’m at the wrong reading. I’m at the wrong bookstore. These people don’t want to hear what I have to say. They are lighting pitchforks and sharpening torches as we speak.”
When I got to speak, I skirted the story itself and instead gave a little background, then just talked about writing and the difficulty I had with finding an agent with the controversial subject matter, and why I eventually went indie-rogue. A woman from the audience offered a comment. “I read your book,” she said. “And you’re right. The Catholic Church does hate you.” She said she thought the book was “interesting.” We all know what that means.
Then a minister at the back of the room said he thought I was brave and he admired my courage. Later on, he bought my book, asked me to sign it, slipped me his card and asked me to call him. For a date. “Send me an e-mail and we’ll talk,” he said with a particular smile. I am going to have some new business cards made up that say, “Julie Parker, Woman of Mystery,” just for these occasions. My area code will be 666.
But wait – there’s more. Turns out there was an editor for a romance magazine in attendance. I offered my book to the editor and asked if she might like to review it. She looked at me and said, “Oh. Well. I don’t think so. No.”
After I left the bookstore, I reflected back on a past book-signing event, where I had sat for two hours and received more compliments on my shoes than sales of my book. I was wearing those same lucky shoes for Friday the 13th. When I got to the restaurant where I was meeting a friend for dinner, the hostess stopped me to gush over my shoes.
Per the advice of Miss Fabulous, I am planning to give a pair of free shoes with the purchase of every book.
IV Ink (www.indievisible.com) is re-releasing Julia Park Tracey’s novel, Tongues of Angels, as a 10th anniversary edition in April 2013. Follow her on Facebook/TonguesofAngels and Facebook/JuliaParkTracey; on Twitter@JuliaParkTracey.
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Genre - Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
Death Ain’t But A Word - Zander Marks
Genre - Urban Fantasy
Rating - PG13
4.4 (29 reviews)
Free until 31 July 2013
Just because Wilkin's a crackhead doesn't mean the shadows aren't real.
They're real. And they've been haunting him since he was seven years old. Mostly he ignores them.
But when the ghost of his best friend from childhood shows up at the local motel, Wilkin can't ignore the call of friendship. And when his friend's killer buys the motel so he can destroy the remains, Wilkin can't ignore that, either.
Wilkin steals his friend's skull before the killer can destroy it and is plunged into a hot mess of a supernatural thrill ride.
A death-race pursuit of a child's skull. A spirit-whispering trucker hauling plush toys to Kansas. Five demonic farm-kids in a housing project. A Dodge City marshal who executes wayward ghosts. A nasty yellow jersey that takes the joy out of living. And a graveyard full of snitches.
It's enough to make you want to hit the crackpipe. All leading to a climax where staying alive is the least of Wilkin's worries.
Because when most of the people around you are spirits anyway, DEATH AIN'T BUT A WORD.
Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.
Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage–even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.
Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.
The author donates 10% of profits from book sales to Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a 501(c)3 nonprofit she founded whose mission is to help preserve Native traditions in danger of decimation.
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Genre – Fiction / Coming of Age / Historical
Rating – PG
More details about the author
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What did you dislike? Nothing at all. Everything about this book was perfect. The story flowed. The plot was strong and the characters were well-developed. Woody's style at using the Mayan culture to further her story only added to the splendour of the story.
Tell us whatever you thought. My favourite scene was when Preston was with the Water Stone. The scenes prior to this are already fueled with mystery, and the Water Stone scene seemed to reflect some sort of cleansing and preparation for new things to come.
Who was your favourite character? Preston, of course. As he peels off each layer, the reader is given the chance to discover a different element of the Mayan culture. It is also easy to connect with Preston as he tries to reconnect with his past because deep down I think many of us have questions about our own pasts.
Disclosure - As a Quality Reads Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book from the author via Orangeberry Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.
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The next morning Molly got up and went to class, prepared to hear the groans from her Modern Poetry class for their late papers. She usually punished them with half a letter grade for every class they were late, but she wasn’t sure what to do to compensate for her own lateness. She thought if she could come up with a few options, like having class in the garden one day or letting them pick the next poem to discuss, and let them choose, they’d be happy.
Her other classes held better prospects. She was excited because the day brought discussions about Gulliver’s Travels in British Literature, and The Poisonwood Bible in Modern Fiction. Save for the groaning from Modern Poetry, she expected it to be a pretty good day.
It happened in the middle of Modern Fiction. A student had asked what point Kingsolver was trying to make by sacrificing the family’s youngest child.
“What could possibly be worth killing such an innocent character?” she asked.
“Well, what do you think? Do you think the father is so taken by his ‘mission’ to ‘save’ the heathens in the Congo that his youngest is a fair sacrifice, as you put it? What’s one life if it saves a handful of others?” Molly had just said it to spur the discussion. She often made extreme statements in class just to stir the pot and get a good discussion going.
She sat cross-legged on top of her desk looking at the rows of students as hands shot into the air. She smiled and surveyed their faces. Their expressions ranged from angry to mischievous. Molly picked one that seemed undecided. “Mia, what do you think?”
Before she could answer, the lights went out. It wasn’t really all that dark, because the back wall had several windows on it, and for that she was thankful.
“Um…OK. Just a second here, let me poke my head into the hall and see if I can find out what the deal is,” Molly said as she got down off the desk.
The students whispered to each other as she walked to the door. “Settle down. I’m sure it’s just a power surge, and it’ll be back on before I can even find out what happened.”
“My phone doesn’t work. Does yours?” A boy in the front row asked his neighbor.
It caught Molly’s attention. “Is your battery dead?” she asked.
“No. I left home with a full charge.”
Other students began retrieving their phones. The consensus was unanimous. No one’s phone worked. Molly took her phone out of her pocket to see, and to her surprise, it displayed nothing but a black screen.
She frowned and continued on her journey to the door. “I’ll find out what’s going on. Just stay calm,” Molly assured them. They all looked worried.
Teachers were beginning to poke their heads out of their doors, making similar inquiries about the outage. No one seemed to know what was going on. Normally, there would be an announcement or some sort of directive about what to do, but they’d never encountered this type of outage before.
Molly ran to her office to grab her laptop and returned to the classroom. By then the kids were getting a little panicky, letting their imaginations run away with them.
“Why would the power and our phones be out? What could possibly cause something like that?”
“How long do you think it’ll be out?”
“My mom said she thinks the apocalypse is coming. She said the signs are all there.”
Another student burst out laughing. “Your mom is crazy.”
Molly interrupted before a fight could break out. “OK, enough. The power will probably be back on soon. The school has an emergency generator that should kick in any minute now. Just let me get my laptop going, and I’ll see if I can get some information about it.”
“Dr. Bonham, if the power’s out, will you be able to get online?”
By then, Molly had already gotten her computer out and was trying to get it powered up. “Oh, that’s a good point. Probably not.”
Then she noticed nothing was happening with her computer. She held the power button down, with no response. She waited a few moments and tried again. Still nothing.
“What on Earth…” Molly muttered.
“Um…I’m not sure. I can’t get my computer to come on.”
“What should we do? Can we go home?”
“I don’t know about that either. The stairwells are dark, I don’t want there to be a stampede. Just give me a minute to think about the options.”
They weren’t prepared for something like this. They knew exactly what to do for a tornado, a fire alarm, or an earthquake. But this was new territory.
There really was no reason not to continue with class. The only things they were using were the lights, and it was plenty bright enough to continue the discussion without them. However, the kids were rattled, and quite frankly so was Molly. Continuing with the discussion seemed fruitless, but leaving right this second wasn’t a good option either. She didn’t want to put the students in an unsafe situation.
“Let me run back to the department head’s office and see what he thinks. You guys wait here until I get back, OK?” Molly looked at them all, seeing the panic starting to bubble up. “I mean it,” she said sternly. She thought giving them a task, even if it was just sitting still, would help occupy their minds.
Molly caught up with Terry Longman in the hallway. She looked at him and shrugged. “Now what?” she asked.
His normally disheveled appearance looked a little more unruly in his stress. His grey hair stood straight out and his tweed coat hung unevenly. “I have no idea. I’m telling the kids and teachers to stay put for now. There are no lights in the stairwells, and I don’t want anyone getting trampled. Let’s wait twenty minutes or so and see if it comes back. If it doesn’t, we’ll let the classes go one room at a time to prevent a stampede. So, since your class is at the far end of the building, they may be here a while.”
“No problem. Just keep me posted.”
Molly stopped in Cindy’s room, knowing she had a rowdy group this time of day. They were arguing with her about getting to leave.
“HEY!” Molly hollered to get their attention. They were immediately quiet. “This is a professional environment, not a middle school. Arguing is not tolerated. You will stay put until Dr. Longman says you can go. He’s making his rounds now, and he’s said if power is not restored in another twenty minutes or so, he will let everyone go home. However, he doesn’t want any misconduct, so he’ll be letting classes go one room at a time. Just sit tight.”
A unified groan went up. “Hey, you’re supposed to be in this class right now anyway! I don’t want to hear your complaints,” Molly said.
“Yeah, well I’m not sitting here any longer than I have to. Class gets out at three, and I’m out of here at three,” declared an older student, dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt. It was obvious that his silver chains, piercings, and long hair were meant to intimidate. Molly was unfazed.
“You’ll do whatever the head of the department says you’ll do. No questions about it. This is considered an emergency situation, and for your own safety and the safety of others, you’ll stay put for now. We’re not keeping you here forever, so just relax.”
Cindy had that deer-in-headlights look. Molly turned and put her hand on Cindy’s upper arm. “Hey, straighten up. These kids’ll eat you alive if you let them. Don’t. Terry said he’ll be letting classes go one at a time if the power’s not back in twenty minutes. The process shouldn’t take too long, since there’s about ten rooms downstairs and ten up here, so just hold the fort for maybe an hour tops, OK?”
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Genre – Adult Fiction / Contemporary
Rating – PG13 (some strong language)
Friday, July 26, 2013
A contemporary romance.
Rebecca Miller is a gifted veterinarian with an extraordinary understanding of animal behavior. She is leading a fulfilling life as the owner and operator of the Animal Friends Veterinary Clinic. Ever since her 30th birthday, her mother has made it her mission to help Rebecca find a man, get married, and give her grandchildren. But Rebecca doesn’t see the need for a man in her life. She has her dog, Captain, and that’s all the companionship she needs. However, her world changes the day she literally runs into Derrick Peterson, a gorgeously handsome ER doctor.
Derrick’s experiences with women have taught him that they are vain, silly, and untrustworthy. He keeps his relationships with them brief and superficial. However, he finds himself being irresistibly drawn to Rebecca. She’s smart, witty, compassionate, and very different from the women he usually encounters. Will Rebecca be the one to break down the wall he’s spent a lifetime building around his heart?
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Genre - Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
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Thursday, July 25, 2013
Chapter 2: A Detective, pursuing a lead not likely to produce significant results, comes upon a young girl needing to solve a certain mystery of her own, and upon interrogation finds her life to be not quite an open book, if not yet a fully closed one.
After reading and memorizing the case file that’d been faxed to the office, Riley grabbed the key to his residence for the night, the apartment of a lovely blonde secretary named Karen. He also grabbed his overnight bag with a few essentials. He left the office and took a cab out to her place in Tribeca, let himself in, and crept silently to her bedroom. A light was on. He eased open the door, and found that she had fallen asleep with the lamp on and a book in her hand, waiting for him. He took off his clothes as silently as possible, but not silently enough.
She woke up and asked what took him so long, but it was plain to see she had no real interest in the answer. He smiled, crawled across the bed, and kissed her.
When they were finished making love, Riley got up and took a shower, taking a moment to flush the condom down the toilet. After the shower he dried off and took a moment to use his beard-trimmer and then brush his teeth with his toothbrush from the overnight bag, things he liked to take care of at night. When he finished, he returned to the bedroom and sat naked on the bed, finally ready to get some sleep. Karen was lying there, looking at him, smiling, her arms and legs relaxed, her body contented. Before he could lie down, she crawled across the bed and hugged him.
“I’ve got some bad news, Riley,” she said, kissing him on the shoulder. “I’m taking myself out of the harem.”
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that, Karen. Why?”
“I’m getting married.”
“Really? That’s great! Congratulations!”
“Thanks. I’m really sorry, honey, but you can’t stay. He’ll be here in a few hours for a breakfast date. You’ve got to be gone.”
Riley was a little taken aback by being thrown out unceremoniously, considering they’d just made love. But he didn’t want to be a nuisance.
“Couldn’t I get some sleep on the couch? I can be your cousin from Schenectady.”
“Honey, I’m marrying the guy who gave jealousy lessons to Othello. You can’t be anybody’s cousin.”
Riley sighed a little and said, “OK, Karen, if that’s the way you want it. I’m sure you two will be very happy together.”
“Thanks, honey. Let’s hope so. I’m not starting things out too well, I know. I should’ve stopped you. I should’ve told you about him, but I had to have one last little taste of the Riley.”
Riley had the unpleasant reaction most men would have, hearing the word little used in any context during pillow talk, but he didn’t complain.
“I take it you never told him about us?”
“Us? There is no ‘us,’ Riley. One day a month does not an ’us’ make.”
Riley smiled. She intended to enjoy dumping him, getting some of the power and control back for the first time in a long while. She continued.
“Honey, how long do you think you can go on this way? A lot of the girls in the harem are worried about you. You’re knocking on forty, you know.”
“Please don’t call it a harem. If you call it that, I might start calling it that. I started this arrangement because I was tired of everybody hating me for having a lot of sex with a lot of different women. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I don’t like people acting like I’m a predator. This way at least there’s no lying, and everybody knows where they stand.”
“Plus you don’t have to pay rent.”
“Yeah. That’s nice.”
“And when’s the last time you told any random woman about the arrangement?”
“Because you know any woman who hears about it is going to hate you.”
“I wish women could be a little more understanding about this. You’ve never had any cause to complain, have you?”
“Honey, I’ve been a part of the arrangement for more than two years now, and I look forward to the twenty-fifth of every month like a high holy day. You never disappoint. But I never kidded myself for a second that this was a real relationship. Don’t you want a real relationship? Don’t you want to get married one day?”
“I’ve never understood the point of marriage, at least for me. You’re getting married; you explain it to me. What is it for?”
“Lots of things. Companionship. Not dying alone.”
“Oh, what’s the big deal about dying alone? If a couple is married for fifty years, unless they die together in a car accident, at least one of them is going to die alone. Right?”
“So you really don’t ever want to get married?”
“I really don’t. I don’t even like dating. Seduction kind of bores me. I really think I don’t have any ability to fall in love. But maybe some day I’ll meet a woman who might change my mind. I don’t want to say it’s totally impossible. It might happen.”
“Not if you never date, it won’t. Honey, I’m not kidding. A lot of the girls are worried about you.”
“Do you all get together and talk about me, or something?”
“There’s a Web site.”
“Of course. Of course there is. Please don’t tell me the name.”
She kissed him on the shoulder again and said, “Your clothes are hanging up in the usual place, Riley.”
“Thanks. Your fiancé didn’t find them?”
“If he’s checking out the clothes in my closet, we’ve got worse problems than you. Forget the dry-cleaning bill, OK? It’s on the house.”
He stood, turned, and leaned down to kiss her good-bye on the lips, but she gave him her cheek.
“Denied!” he said.
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Genre – Murder / Mystery
Rating – R
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
1 At the Threshold of the Gate
The lieutenant retired to his quarters, removed his tunic, and tossed it across the arm of a chair. He threw his weary body down on the bunk. The collection of bones, ligaments, and tendons in his left knee made a cracking sound as he stretched out the lingering injury. A feeling of anxiety troubled him. He could not adopt the captain’s levity about the situation. The captain had played the role of a man on the brink of Vassalage for so long now that he was, under most circumstances, incapable of gravity. The lieutenant’s position was different. He was young, full of spirit, and most of his life was still before him. He had a lot to lose. He could not dismiss the dread he felt about an uncertain future clouded by civil war. For all he knew, Hande could make good on her boast to raise millions to oppose the Commander, whether through the utility of her foot or more practical means.
His eyes refused to embrace the serenity of sleep. He tried swallowing a sleep aid but it had no effect. His mind raced like a tornado in the lonesome prairie of his quarters. What had the prophecy about the Commander meant? The implications were disturbingly obvious. And because of this, and many other things, the lieutenant could not rest. The lights eventually rose to simulate daybreak within the artificial environment of the ship. The bright light caused the lieutenant’s eyes to momentarily water. An alarm sounded throughout the ship. The lieutenant quickly rose, threw on his tunic, and exited the quarters. He methodically proceeded through the metal corridors of the ship to the bridge. He entered and saw the captain was already there, standing erect among some of the crew gathered about him. The great armada had remained poised throughout the artificial night, holding its position just beyond the invisible boundary formed by the lunar orbit. Other soldiers soon pushed past the lieutenant onto the bridge. One could sense their eagerness, their desire for events to unfold however as they would, rather than continue to bear the strain of this static pause. A sense of anticipation afflicted every person on the bridge. It was reflective of the thoughts and emotions assaulting every member of the crew on every ship of the armada at that particular moment in the drama.
The crackling sound of an incoming transmission caused everyone to turn towards the center of the bridge. They watched as the light of a hologram slowly flickered into existence, as if arriving from some faraway place and unknown time. The hologram materialized into a shape. It was the image of a woman, larger than life and towering over everyone. It seemed apparent this image was simultaneously appearing before everyone on every ship of the armada. The woman was almost painfully beautiful. Her skin was paler than normal for a human, her eyes were a lush dark green, and her lips narrow but inviting. About her shoulders spilled a mane of curly black hair, which miraculously appeared both unkempt and meticulously groomed. There was something eternal about the vision of womanhood before them. One could easily infer by her dress that she was a Marineris priestess. The sheer garment she wore displayed the nubile shape of her lithe body without revealing any details of the concealed flesh. The woman’s appearance silenced everyone. Now, the low rumbling of the engines powering the ship was the only thing that could be heard.
She raised her right hand to her face and, with her middle and forefinger extended, gracefully touched her forehead and then lowered her right hand to her heart, which she also touched, thus completing the accepted manner of greeting in Marineris ritual; tracing the ‘path of the spear’ from head to heart.
Once completed, she opened her mouth and began to sing. The melody she sang was of pure joy. A joy unlike any of them had ever experienced or even before dreamt. It was a very old song. She sang in a dialect long forgotten to most humans. The translation of the song was:
Exultation, lovely flame of God, Sons and daughters of Mars, We enter fire empowered, Heaven our reward!
Embracing that Destiny, Share your kiss among the stars, Brothers in arms and soul, A loving Father, your true north!
Can you sense this time, brothers! Seek salvation in the valley, Above the stars, you’ll dwell.
Embracing that Destiny, Share your kiss among the stars,
Sisters in arms and soul, A loving Mother, our constant!
Can you sense this time, sisters! Seek salvation in the valley, Above the stars, you’ll dwell. The priestess continued to sing by repeating these verses but then the chattering voices of the soldiers articulated thoughts into words. Phrases like ‘the Creator is with us’ and ‘the Holy Mother blesses our path’ escaped their lips. Another voice rose above the others, “Ran’s hand will strike down our enemies with the force of God!” Several of the soldiers fell to their knees in an almost violent manner to worship before the image of the priestess. The hologram slowly began to fade. The song also began to drift away. The lieutenant continued to watch until the last moment when the image at last vanished from their view. The vision of the woman dissolved into an electronic mist as if consumed in a cloud of smoke. Once the image had completely disappeared, an echo of the song hung briefly in the air. For a moment, many believed they could reach out and capture the dying embers of that song to prevent its escape. A few even reached out their hands in contemplation of the attempt but the song then faded into oblivion. There was silence.
The captain began to bellow orders. “The order is given! Proceed into the forbidden zone! Man your stations or get wherever you’re supposed to be!”
There was a moment of quiet and then the entire bridge burst into frenzied activity. Crew members returned their attention to the stations in front of them. Ordinary soldiers exited the bridge. All had now accepted their roles in the coming drama, each according to their own talents and beliefs. After the song of the priestess, it was clear the crew and soldiers were suddenly triumphant in their demeanor and determined in their purpose. The entire weight of the mighty armada slowly edged forward in united action. So began the fateful crossing of the Moon’s orbit into the forbidden zone around the birthplace of the Sovereignty. Ran had begun his thrust into the very womb of humanity.
The captain made his way across the bridge. He stood beside the lieutenant and whispered like a conspirator with a wry grin on his face. “Some trick of the Commander’s, I suspect.”
The lieutenant merely nodded his understanding.
Was it? Or were the mystics of the Marineris Sect intervening in this great drama on behalf of the Commander? Were they blessing the path he had dared to tread in pursuit of glory and honor?
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Why do you write? Stories are the closest thing to a time machine- they can transport us to places we’ve never been so we can see the world as it was seen through another’s eyes. I like to get lost in a story, and I think I want to give others that feeling. I grew up listening to my grandmother tell stories of her time as a child in war torn Poland. I’d love it when my father and uncles got together and filled in the details of their childhood in India, and what life was like there.
Have you always enjoyed writing? Yes, I loved writing stories all the way back to grade one. There were periods as a teenager where I didn’t feel that I was particularly good at it, so I stopped from time to time. But I had a few teachers who really nurtured it and encouraged me to keep going.
What motivates you to write? Giving characters life, and giving form to their stories. There’s nothing worse than a great character who’s died on the page because a writer didn’t have the time to tell their tale.
What writing are you most proud of? I’d have to say Pistachio the Tyrant, because of all the hundreds of ideas I’ve had, it’s the one that made it all the way from thought to finished book.
What books did you love growing up? I was a very big fan of the Narnia books as a child. It was such an amazing, interconnected world. I also loved Choose Your Own Adventures. I did read a lot of comic books, and many of the misfit characters in The Avengers were my favourites. The ones who started out as villains but found themselves wanting to do good, and holding their own alongside the greatest heroes despite their flaws.
Who is your favorite author? I love the work of Robert Charles Wilson, because it’s fantastic character-driven drama set in science fiction premises that only someone very smart and very philosophical could come up with. His book Mysterium was an absolute life-changer for me, because not only was it a fantastic intrigue and adventure story, but it made me think about the nature of religion, death, and what might be out there.
Genre - Children’s Fantasy
Rating – PG
More details about the author
Transcender: First Time - Vicky Savage
Genre - Fantasy
Rating - PG
4.6 (68 reviews)
Free until 25 July 2013
When a freak lightning storm turns terrifying, seventeen-year-old Jaden Beckett leaps for her life only to be glitched into an alternate universe. The destiny police want her out. Jaden's got other plans.
Ripped away from her quiet Connecticut life and dumped into a post-apocalyptic version of earth, Jaden lands smack in the middle of a kidnapping--her own!
Agent Ralston of the Inter-Universal Guidance Agency (IUGA) rescues her and helps her to assume a new identity. And what an amazing identity it is ...
In this world, she's Princess Jaden a member of the royal family of one of the three surviving nations. Plus, her mother's alive here--a miracle she never dreamed possible. If that weren't enough, she finds herself falling hard for Ryder Blackthorn, the half-Cherokee half-Irish outlaw who kidnapped her in the first place.
So, when IUGA finally gets its act together and is ready to send her home, Jaden's not budging. She's pretty sure Agent Ralston's been lying to her, and this whole thing isn't really a cosmic accident after all.
Can the powerful IUGA force her to leave? Or is Jaden what some in this strange land believe her to be--a Transcender with the ability to travel among alternate dimensions at will?
KATIE MADE HER way to the back of the plane. Lightheaded, heart still racing, she stood in the galley and spotted a tray of water set out for the passengers. A nagging thirst that was brought on by the intense dream from which she had just awakened consumed her. After three cupfuls, her tongue no longer felt like cotton still clinging to its boll. However, the water could not satiate the vivid images that were still swirling in her head. A dream, more like a nightmare, had been the cause of many sleepless nights of late. The best she could recall, it had been about two months since they first started.
“Excuse me,” Katie said, returning to her seat.
“You okay?” Spencer stood up to allow her to squeeze back into the middle seat.
Flying home, or at least close to it, was not something she relished or did frequently. Her current destination was as close to home as she had gotten in the last three years. However, the upcoming nuptials of her dearest friend was the reason this time. It just happened to be that Sam lived near her childhood home.
“I’m okay; I just needed some water,” Katie replied.
The flight was packed when they had boarded in Sacramento this morning. And that was after the sold-out flight from San Diego. Traveling from southern to northern California could sometimes be as difficult as a cross-country flight. Then, there was the forty-five minute drive to the suburbs outside of town, where Sam and her fiancé called home.
“Another dream?” Spencer asked.
She only nodded and shrugged her shoulders. Her post-nightmare routine—leaping out of bed, eyes, full of terror—was becoming something of a habit with which Spencer was growing accustomed. However, its occurrence during a brief nap was something new. Her fatigue was crossing into new levels of desperation.
The plane began its descent, the left wing tilting up towards the blue sky, high above the clouds to make the turn into Eureka. The jet engine groaned and a swift drop in elevation sent a shot of adrenalin through Katie’s body. Landing wasn’t as bad as the taking off; nevertheless, her tolerance for flight had decreased significantly over the past several years.
“I’m glad your parents will be at the wedding. It’s important for you to see them,” Spencer said.
Katie only tightened her seatbelt and prepared for the landing.
Rio Dell was a small town and was even smaller when Katie and Sam were growing up. Everyone knew each other, as was often the case in rural communities. So, when Sam mentioned she had sent an invitation to Katie’s parents, she was not surprised. Slightly disappointed, but not surprised. She knew it was Sam’s plan to get the three of them in the same room. A plan she might regret.
The wheels made contact with the runway in a rough fashion, forcing the plane to bounce up and down. As it slowed down, the drag pulled the plane forward. Relieved that she had touched ground, Katie opened her eyes and released the death grip she had on the arms of her seat.
“Come on, this’ll be fun!” Spencer patted her shoulder.
His sardonic wit was a quality she only mildly appreciated and this wasn’t one of those times.
“Sure! I’m looking forward to it.” She returned an equally ironic smile as they deplaned.
They were a good match for each other.
In the baggage claim area, Katie saw Sam in the distance and headed her way. Arms open and flashing her sparkling smile, Sam seemed thrilled at the sight of her old friend. Katie’s eyes brightened in response as she was both genuinely happy to see her friend and grateful the journey was over.
“How was your flight?” Sam asked. “It’s so good to see you!”
“You too, Sam; you look beautiful. The flight was all right. You know me, not much of a flyer.”
Spencer collected the bags from the conveyor and approached the two of them. “Hi, Sam, long time no see.” He leaned in for a hug from the waist up; appropriate physical contact for his girlfriend’s female friends.
“It has been a while. I’m so glad the both of you could come,” Sam said.
“Are you kidding? You know we wouldn’t miss your wedding.” Katie glanced around. “By the way, where’s Jarrod?”
“Oh, he’s driving around the airport, waiting for us to go to the curb. He didn’t want to pay for parking.”
Katie raised her eyebrows at Spencer as they followed Sam out of the terminal.
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Genre – Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Rating – PG