Author Archives: Carrie

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf

Before She Was Found

by Heather Gudenkauf

Mystery/Suspense

Book Description

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

 

Before She Was FoundBefore She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the very first pages of a book describe a 12 year old girl being brutally assaulted, it’s easy to get sucked in fast! Before She Was Found is a page turner, for sure…but is the payoff great?

The story centers around the aftermath of an attack on Cora Landry. Her middle school “friends” Violet and Jordyn, have gotten wrapped up in the mystery of a local urban legend that tells of a man named Joseph Wither who murders girls. Cora finds herself especially close to the heart of the story, and she takes it far enough that she gets seriously injured.

As I said, this book was indeed a page turner. I think the main thing that bothered me was the heavy foreshadowing that seemed to not really amount to what it should have.

The story rotates between points of view, including Jordyn and Violet’s guardians, diary entries from Cora, and notes from a psychiatrist involved in the case. I think this was not a bad decision, but in my opinion there was maybe one too many POV changes.

We also learn more about how the girls ended up in the position they were in through flashbacks of the school year leading up to the attack. I found it very sad to read through Cora’s diary entries and see how mean kids were to her, Jordyn especially. I wish I would have found out more reasoning behind the way Jordyn was so spiteful.

I thought I had figured out “whodunit” but I was proven wrong, and I believe you will be too. I could not have seen the end coming, and I’m still trying to decide if that was a good or a bad thing. I think for sure, it seems quite out of left field.

This book is billed as an adult mystery suspense but it could almost pass for YA so be aware of that. I thought it was good for an early summer read.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound.  Heather lives in Iowa with her family.

 

Connect with Heather

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

BOOK BLAST AND GIVEAWAY: How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

How to Make Friends with the Dark

by Kathleen Glasgow

YA Contemporary

 

Book Description

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

About the Author

Kathleen Glasgow is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel, Girl in Pieces. She lives in Arizona. Her second young adult novel, How to Make Friends With the Dark, will be published by Delacorte/Random House 4/9/19.
Girl in Pieces has been named to best of lists by The New York Public Library, Amazon, TAYSHA, Goop, TeenVogue, BN Teen, Refinery29, EW.com, TeenReads, and more.
Girl in Pieces has been published in 24 countries.
Girl in Pieces was longlisted for the Waterstones Book Prize and the CILIP Carnegie Medal.
Girl in Pieces was a finalist for the Amelia Walden Book Award, an Amelia Bloomer Project selection, and a Target Club Book pick. The Target edition contains extras and a special letter to the reader. Order here.
PURCHASE THE BOOK
Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter
 

– 2 Winners will receive a Copy of HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE DARK by Kathleen Glasgow.

 

Embracing Your Flaws

Through this first year of teaching I have learned so much about myself.  I have discovered parts of my personality that I didn’t even know I had, and developed other parts that needed strengthening.  Though no one is ever perfect, I have largely learned to embrace my flaws.

All my life, I have been told that I was too sensitive.  I have easily cried before at the drop of a hat, and of course at times when I needed to be strong.  Truth be told, I have cried this year at work!

I’ve always been made to feel that my immense emotions were a negative thing; I was regularly told as a child to “toughen up,” “stop crying so much,” “get over it” and the like.  But what I have come to realize is that my compassion is a gift in my line of work–children need understanding and emotional attachment to their teacher.

Although some might say I’m not tough enough, I believe I am the ideal blend of gentle and tough on my second graders.  They know I will follow through when I need to discipline, but that I am always there to give advice and make them feel validated with what they need to tell me.  And that is how a weakness turned into a strength.

Looking for a film that will allow your kids to know perfect isn’t always best?

UGLYDOLLS is an animated adventure in which the free-spirited UglyDolls confront what it means to be different, struggle with a desire to be loved, and ultimately discover who you truly are is what matters most.

The film stars Kelly Clarkson (American Idol, The Star), Nick Jonas (Night at the Museum: Battle of the SmithsonianJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Janelle Monáe (Rio 2Hidden Figures), and Blake Shelton (Pitch Perfect 2The Angry Birds Movie).

 

In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye. Here, the free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDoll friends live every day in a whirlwind of bliss, letting their freak flags fly in a celebration of life and its endless possibilities. The endearingly unique residents of Uglyville occasionally look to the sky above the town, where a new UglyDoll will appear and be embraced by the community.

Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) loves her square-peg life in this round-hole town, but her curiosity about all things leads her to wonder if there’s something – anything – on the other side of the mountain which nestles Uglyville. Moxy gathers a group of her closest friends and sets off to find what’s on the other side. They discover another world – Perfection – a town where more conventional dolls are trained in protocols before they graduate and are sent to the “real” world to find the love of a child.

In Perfection, Moxy and her crew are subject to the manipulations of Lou (Nick Jonas), the perfect doll in charge of training recruits. Here, the UglyDolls will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.

Scripture that Strengthens Me During Lent

As Lent is coming to a close and we have started Holy Week, I thought it would be a good time to take a moment to share some quotes that have been close to my heart during this particular Lenten season.

So much has changed in my life since this time last year, and that means the way I pray has changed as well.  I like to read a quote or meditation, think about how it applies to my life, and then try to reflect on what I have read throughout the day.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

My interpretation of this quote is that if we first seek God and the kingdom of Heaven in the way we live our lives, all other things that we have need of will come by virtue of radiating Christ’s light,

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

The Lord is listening when we pray! Even if we think we have asked too many times; our prayers are futile; our God hears us! Continue to speak to him.

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.

Things that are important in your life may not be the same things that are important to others.  So you must make sure what you treasure is worthy of all your love.

Holy Week also means the end of the fantastic series Jesus: His Life that has been airing on The History Channel.  Have you been watching? If not, now is the time to catch up!  Here is some more information.

“Jesus: His Life” explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him. Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter.

Each figure takes a turn guiding viewers through the emotional and epic story of the most famous man in history, through his birth, death and resurrection, all conveyed through a combination of scripted drama and interviews with prominent religious and historical experts. Utilizing some of the world’s most respected Biblical scholars, historians, faith leaders and theologians, the series weaves together the canonical Gospels, historical sources and cultural context to create a complete portrait of Jesus – the man and the Messiah.  The series finale airs this Monday, April 15 on The History Channel at 8pm ET/PT.

 

BOOK TOUR REVIEW: I’ll Be Watching You by Courtney Evan Tate

I’ll Be Watching You

by Courtney Evan Tate

Mystery/Thriller

Book Description

IT’S EVERY MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE…BUT ONE SHE WILL NOT ACCEPT

In an unthinkable flash, Emmy Fisher’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Leah, seemingly drowns close to shore one summer night—at least that is what the police report says.

In deep grief, Emmy needs time and courage before she can enter Leah’s bedroom. But when she does, she finds something at first bewildering, then unspeakable, as she begins to understand the full implications…

She uncovers evidence that Leah had been secretly involved with someone, someone perhaps older, someone with dark appetites.

Bit by bit, the last few months of Leah’s life unfold in a terrifying way that Emmy can hardly imagine.

All she knows is that she has to find the person who took her sweet daughter’s innocence. No matter the cost.

The truth will set her free. Or bury her.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

3 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Leah Fisher is 15 years old, pretty, popular, and living her best life as the daughter of an innkeeper on an island off of Florida. So when she disappears into the ocean on the night before starting her sophomore year, it’s a shock to everyone–no one more so than her mother, Emmy. As Emmy deals with her grief in the passing weeks, she slowly uncovers the things that her young daughter was hiding, and begins to think that maybe Leah wasn’t the victim of a shark attack after all.

I read this book pretty quickly, and it was intriguing in that the traumatic event of Leah’s death happens very quickly in the beginning. As it continued though, I found the plot to be kind of formulaic and the characters lacking a lot of depth.

Because the loss of Leah happens after only a few pages, we don’t really get any insight into her relationship with her mother and what their day to day life was like. The background we get is that Leah’s parents were divorced, and that her mom worked in the inn constantly and therefore Leah felt like she didn’t have anyone to talk to. Leah ends up being not so perfect after all, and gets involved in a situation she can’t get out of that quickly becomes dangerous.

There are a few red herrings and dead ends that the author leads you down. I didn’t find the end to be a complete shock, but the reasons behind the plot were very out of left field for me.

The chapters alternate between Emmy in present day, and flashbacks of Leah’s last weeks. There are also some times where the point of view switches for seemingly no reason between first and third person, and this was kind of annoying.

Overall I thought this was a fine quick beach read, but don’t go here looking for too much of a deviation from the standard mystery/thriller tropes.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Courtney Evan Tate is the nom de plume for New York Times bestselling author, Courtney Cole.  Courtney Evan Tate is her darker side… the side that explores shadowy places.

Courtney lives in Florida with her husband and kids.  She has a passion for raising drug addiction awareness, the Marine Corp (her middle son is a Marine) and being introspective on the human condition.

Connect with Courtney

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

 

BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: The Center of the Universe by Ria Voros

The Center of the Universe

by Ria Voros

YA Contemporary

Book Description

Grace Carter’s mother — the celebrity news anchor GG Carter — is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace — an aspiring astrophysicist — is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits.

Then one day GG is just … gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace’s family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers.

While the authorities unravel the mystery behind GG’s disappearance, Grace grows closer to her high school’s golden boy, Mylo, who has faced a black hole of his own. She also uncovers some secrets from her mother’s long-lost past. The more Grace learns, the more she wonders. Did she ever really know her mother? Was GG abducted … or did she leave? And if she left, why?

Author Ria Voros (Nobody’s Dog, The Opposite of Geek) reaches for the stars here, deftly combining mystery with a passion for science and themes of mother-daughter bonds, celebrity, first love and best friendship.

Facts about astronomy and astrophysics are seamlessly woven into the story and are supplemented by an interview with real-life astrophysicist Elizabeth Tasker, making this the perfect book for readers who love STEM. And even readers who don’t have stars in their eyes will love this smart, suspenseful, relatable and literary novel.

About the Author

Ria Voros is a YA and children’s author, teacher, presenter and obsessive reader. Her children’s and young adult novels have been finalists for the White Pine Award, the Rocky Mountain Book Award, and been a Best Books for Kids and Teens selection. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. When she’s not writing, teaching or eating sweet things, Ria can be found hiking to the tops of mountains or buying too many books at any bookstore she enters. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada with her husband, daughter and son.

 

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

PURCHASE THE BOOK:

 GoodreadsAmazonB&NTBD

 

3 lucky winners will win a finished copy of THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, US Only.

 

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:

3/25/2019- Sweet Southern Home– Spotlight

3/26/2019- Lifestyle of Me– Review

3/27/2019- Ramblings of a Book Nerd– Review

3/28/2019- Book-Keeping– Review

3/29/2019- Do You Dog-ear?– Review

 

Week Two:

4/1/2019- Moonlight Rendezvous– Review

4/2/2019- PopTheButterfly Reads– Review

4/3/2019- A Gingerly Review– Review

4/4/2019- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

4/5/2019- two points of interest– Review

 

How to Find Lasting Love in Online Dating

Every person deserves to find love in the best way possible. Online dating sites and social media are now offering people one of the best, if not the best, platforms to meet and start a relationship. If this is your method, then you should exercise caution to make sure that you get the perfect match for lasting love. To avoid taking chances or getting confused about what to do, we have prepared the best tips that any person can follow to enjoy lasting love in online dating.

Know the Dating Sites

There are numerous dating sites out there, but only a few are legit and reliable. It is, therefore, crucial to do research and identify such sites. Reputable sites try as much as possible to eliminate jokers and predators who target innocent and serious soulmate searchers. If you are using reputable online dating sites, you will also enjoy various communication tools like video chat and texting options.

A Good Profile Will Pay

It is crucial to have an excellent profile. First, check what the requirements are by the website guidelines and then create one. A clear profile picture should be used unless there is a default avatar that should not be changed. Describe everything about yourself and also list all that you want from the partner you are looking for. Some platforms will not create a profile for you if you do not comply with all of the requirements that they have.

Remain Open and Positive

Popular dating sites like happymatches.com have a variety of people who are available to date. Whether you need a sugar daddy, sugar mommy, or a lover of your age, you will get one on these platforms. So, the best thing is to remain open and positive, and that you will get what you want. Although you may get people who are not appealing or turn out to be different from your expectations, you should remain positive that the right partner will come. Keep perusing profiles until you find one.

Don’t Compromise

Even if you have clearly listed what you are looking for, some people will try to contact you despite not meeting the qualifications. You need to be clear that you are not ready to compromise your needs. Additionally, ensure that you only date people whose listed qualifications you meet. They may claim to be flexible, but this increases chances of heartbreak in the future. It is better to wait a little longer than to rush things and end up getting disappointed.

Check for Long-Lasting Love Signs

Although you can only learn this after you start dating, it will enable you to know whether your relationship will last or not. There are many signs of a long-lasting relationship, like how the other person treats you, how they control their anger, their openness and commitment to the relationship, and many other things.

You can easily learn quite a bit about your partner within a few days of dating. However, with all the above highlights, you will increase your chances of enjoying love for the rest of your life.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY: Dream Keeper by Amber Duell

I am so excited that DREAM KEEPER by Amber R. Duell is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author Amber R. Duell, 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.
About the Book:
Title: DREAM KEEPER
Author: Amber R. Duell
Pub. Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 288
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, B&N, Kobo
The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for
answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…

For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora.
When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never
expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.

When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.

Book Trailer:
Excerpt: 2
NORA
Shadows danced in the soft warmth of the white mini-lights strung around my bedroom. I hopped around my bed, fumbling with the buckle on my sandals, and tossed my purse in the corner. Something hard—probably my phone—thwacked against the light blue wall.
“Whoops,” I muttered, then growled at the metal hook locking my footwear in place. There were places to go, people to see. Or, rather, one person, and it was already hours past our usual meeting time. I jerked at the stiff strap. “Get off.”
Finally, it popped, and I kicked it triumphantly into the corner with my bag. The other came off without any trouble, and my stomach fluttered in anticipation. I tugged off my jean shorts and stepped into a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, leaving on the ribbed tank top I wore out tonight. Who cared that a glob of nacho cheese stained the front? The Sandman certainly wouldn’t.
Climbing beneath the cool sheets, I dragged in a long breath and released it slowly. A small grin played on my lips as I stared at the lights hanging overhead. Then I shut my eyes and waited. Waited for sleep to claim me. To deliver me. But my body was too tense, and my mind still flipped through the day’s events—as ridiculously boring as they were. When the highlight of your day was painting your nails a new color, what was there to mull over?
After a handful of long minutes, I opened my eyes again and bit my lip. I could ask. It had been…
Actually, I couldn’t remember the last time I asked him for anything. Even this. But I had to be up early for work tomorrow and we’d already missed out on hours together. A grin crept across my face.
“Sandman,” I whispered, and closed my eyes again in preparation. “Help me sleep.”
It came swiftly then, sweeping me gently from my world to another as easily as the breeze carries a feather. I curled my toes, feeling the powder-like sand of the Sandman’s beach beneath my bare feet, and opened my eyes. The endless blanket of bright stars, the luminescent waves, the Sandman… This place, this dream, was like coming home.
“Sorry I’m late,” I called with a smile in my voice. The light aroma of lilacs filled my lungs and I sighed, content. “Natalie and Emery dragged me to a party to celebrate our final first day of summer vacation.” By this time next year, we would all be high school graduates and legal adults—neither of which I was ready to think about. I stretched my arms over my head and fought a yawn. “Sandman?” There was no reply. I dropped my arms and spun, searching for a glimpse of the familiar black-clad figure. This was our spot—the place directly below the brightest star. My brows lowered in confusion. So why wasn’t he here? He was always here. “Where are you?”
The only sound was the soft hush of waves lapping the shore. I turned again, squinting down the beach, but there was no hooded figure in sight. My heart skipped a beat. The dream seemed to yawn open, the emptiness pressing in on me from all sides. He had to be here somewhere. A pit formed in my stomach, and I staggered back, unsteady. He had to.
The beach was an addiction I didn’t know how to cure myself of—didn’t want to cure myself of. For every time I had to pretend this place didn’t exist, the Sandman was there to absolve me of the lies. There to make me feel like I was good and sane and normal. It didn’t matter that he was also the reason I didn’t feel any of those things were true when I was awake. The Sandman was my anchor, holding me firm when life tried to wash me out to sea. Without him… I swallowed hard. Without him, I would be a ship without sails.
“Sandman!” I jogged down the water’s edge, my pulse drumming in my ears. “I’m here.”
But he wasn’t.
    THREE THIRTY-TWO.
The clock on my nightstand glowed green, the colon blinking in a slow, torturous rhythm. I tapped my fingers on my stomach. The Sandman had never been a no-show before. And if he wasn’t there, maybe that meant they were right, and he wasn’t real.
No.
I refused to believe that. My mother meant well, but I couldn’t face a lifetime of pill-pushing psychiatrists. One white-haired doctor tossing around words like personality disorder and delusional was enough. By the time the final doctor deemed the
Sandman a simple outlet for me to process my parents’ divorce, the damage was done.
Don’t worry about it, he said. It will pass, he said.
That was five years ago.
The divorce was a distant memory. My father moved across the country and my mother remarried, but the Sandman became a permanent fixture. One I’d learned to never, ever talk about.
What’s going on? I pushed the thought toward the Sandman even though I knew he couldn’t hear me. There was only one call that reached from this side of the Dream World to his, only one cry capable of bringing him here, but it never stopped me from trying.
I flung the sheets back with a huff and grabbed an oversized Lund Valley Community College sweater from the end of my bed. Natalie hoped we would go there together next year but… I wrinkled my nose and glanced at the dresser drawer where my sketchbook was carefully tucked between scarves. If I went to college at all, it would be for art, but that was a big if. No one in my family knew I drew, and if my mother was going to let me major in something “impractical,” she would want to at least see my work. Unfortunately, each page featured a majestic beach and a man hidden beneath a hood. Both things I was supposed to have forgotten long ago.
Tugging the sweater over my head, I made my way through the dark hallway toward the stairs. My mother and step-father were both working the night shift at the hospital and my sister could sleep through anything, yet I found myself tip-toeing down the hall.
I paused outside Katie’s door and listened to the steady, heavy breathing on the other side. Part of me wanted to wake my sister up to talk about what happened, but the other part of me—the part that remembered the piercing fluorescent lights of a therapist’s office—knew better. Katie had teased me about the Sandman when we were younger, but she never treated me differently. However, now we were older. Barging into her room to complain that my imaginary friend hadn’t shown up that night might alienate the last blood relative I could rely on.
Although Katie annoyed me like no one else, I loved her more than I was irritated with her. I needed my big sister on my side—even if it meant hiding a huge part of my life. So, I stepped away from her door and crept silently downstairs to the kitchen.
Maybe because I was about to steal someone’s box of frozen Thin Mints.
Sorry, not sorry.
Mist curled out of the open freezer, and I reached behind the chicken before a shrill, heart-wrenching scream tore through the house, squeezing the air from my lungs. It was made of nails and teeth and death. Of danger and fear. My eardrums rattled. Each nerve stood at attention, electricity buzzing over my body.
“Katie?” I yelled, frantically abandoning my pursuit of the cookies.
Confusion laced the edges of my shaky voice, but I was already racing across the kitchen. Instinct twisted my gut, telling me to turn and run, to save myself, but I couldn’t. Not if my sister was in trouble. Not if someone had broken in when no one was home to help. Not if Katie was hurt and scared. I propelled myself up the stairs to the second floor, my skin itching me to go faster, faster, faster. Katie’s door was still shut at the front of the hallway. My breath shuddered, and I reached for the handle, pausing with apprehension. The metal was cold in my palm.
“Katie?” Her name came out as a crackling whisper and I forced myself to inhale. Then exhale. Inhale again. My hand shook as I twisted the knob.
I eased the door inward. Without a barrier between us, the sound cut through me like a knife. I slapped a palm against the wall, hitting the light switch, and flinched at the sudden brightness. At what it might reveal.
Katie lay flat on her back, her eyes shut tight, with the sheets snarled in a ball at the end of the bed. Sweat poured down her face, plastering her pink hair to her skin. The wild scream continued, unrelenting, her jaw stretched wide, her neck muscles
protruding. But everything else was in its rightful place. Nothing was broken. The lock on the window hugged its latch.
I stepped into the room and spun, bumping into the dresser. My pulse thrashed; it mimicked Katie’s scream in pendulum beats. Loud then muffled then loud again. “Katie?” My voice felt tight. I knelt on the mattress and shook my sister’s broad shoulders. “Wake up.”
The scream cracked. Katie sucked in air as if she were drowning and began again, just as terrified. I used the back of my wrist to wipe the moisture from my forehead. My nails dug into her shoulders, and I shook her rigid body with every ounce of strength I
had. The more I yelled her name, the more desperate, more savage, my voice became. Black spots danced in my vision. Nightmares were one thing, but this was something else. Something beyond that. I shook the dizzying fear away and darted into the bathroom across the hall.
I returned with a Dixie cup of cold water and leapt onto the bed. The water hit Katie’s face with a splash. “Come on,” I shouted to no avail.
I fumbled for Katie’s cell phone on the nightstand. If our mother didn’t know what to do, she could send someone who did. My thumb hovered over the direct number to my mother’s unit when a quick, metallic burst of air whooshed in from the hallway. A shiver ravaged my spine, and Katie’s pitch reached new heights. I slipped from the bed, my hip smashing into the floor. The phone fell from my hand, seemingly in slow motion. I lunged for the door, and slammed it shut, leaning my back against the wood.
I couldn’t think.
Couldn’t… I couldn’t…
The walls seemed to shrink, boxing me in. Trapping me.
Above the screech, a deep chuckle rumbled in the hall. My heart rose to my throat, and I dove for the phone where it had landed on the rug. I managed to dial nine before Katie’s scream cut off. Palpable silence penetrated the room. My rapid breathing mixed with my sister’s, and I edged up onto shaking knees. Katie rolled onto her side with a twitch.
“Katie?” My voice came out as a squeak.
She snuggled into the pillow, and her breathing returned to normal. Okay. She was okay. I turned my attention to the space at the bottom of the door. There was probably no one out there anyway. My sister’s screams threw me off after a confusing night, that’s all. I was merely tired and scared and was likely imagining the whole thing.
But before I called anyone, I had to be sure.
With the phone clutched in my hand, I crawled across the room to where the bright yellow handle of Katie’s tennis racket leaned against the wall. I gripped the hard foam and held it to my shoulder. I didn’t want to leave Katie alone but what choice did I have? I couldn’t call for help if no one was out there. My mother would have a field day.
Clenching my jaw shut to keep my teeth from chattering, I dialed two one’s before opening the door. If anyone was on the other side, it would only take a single touch to call for help.
I eased out, holding the racket in front of me, and flicked on the hallway light. The stillness slammed into me like a brick wall. “Okay, okay, okay,” I chanted under my breath. This was stupid. And yet… at five-foot-three and a hundred and ten pounds, an
intruder wouldn’t necessarily need to be armed to overpower me.
My nerves exploded with a burst of adrenaline, and I leapt from room to room until each light bulb on the second floor glowed. I checked every closet, under every bed. The racket shook in my hand. There was nothing. No one. An irrational spike of anger zipped through me at the possibility of my brain’s betrayal.
My body moved on its own accord, taking me downstairs one tentative step at a time. One million potential fates I might encounter, if there was someone lying in wait, coursed through my thoughts. The joints in my fingers locked around the phone with my thumb still over the green call button. My tongue was sandpaper against the roof of my mouth, and I crept through the living room.
The freezer was still open, rattling in an attempt to keep the internal temperature down. I chomped down on my lip and inched my way forward to shut it. The rarely-used alarm system beside the back door taunted me—if only I remembered the code.
It seemed like it took ages to finish searching the house. I looked everywhere from the coat closet to beneath the bathroom sink, but it had only been eleven minutes since I had woken up. No time at all, really. I gripped the back of a dining room chair to stay on my feet.
There was no intruder. Katie had a nightmare, and my mind deceived me.
Again.
Always.
Only this time, it wasn’t part of my subconscious. I wasn’t asleep. Katie had screamed. There was a blast of air. Someone had laughed.
I swallowed the fear rising in my chest.
No one believed they were crazy. I wasn’t sure what it meant if I thought I was unhinged but constantly persuaded myself to believe I wasn’t. Was I? Wasn’t I? Not even the doctors could agree on an answer. My sanity was a double-edged sword, and I was fighting to maintain balance on the tip.
I dashed back to Katie and climbed in bed beside her, nestling close. I tucked the wrinkled sheet around us both and tried to ignore the nausea curdling in my stomach. Katie was older than me, bolder and more confident, but in that moment, she felt as fragile as blown glass. I wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed my eyes shut. My ears strained to hear the slightest sound that could signal danger, but no one else was in the house.
No one had laughed.
The Sandman wasn’t real.
I balled the back of Katie’s T-shirt in my fist. He was real enough to me, and I needed him. Please, Sandman, I called in a silent plea for the second time tonight—the one only he could hear. Help me sleep.
About Amber:
Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles). She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and
worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.
She does her best writing in the middle of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine. Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either love to hate or hate to love.
 When not reading or writing, she enjoys snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the next real-life adventure.
 
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.

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BOOK BLITZ & GIVEAWAY: Stolen by Marlena Frank

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.

Title: STOLEN (Stolen #1)

Author: Marlena Frank
Pub. Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: The Parliament House
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 342
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo
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:
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 cryptozoology, werewolves, wildlife 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.
Giveaway Details:
1 winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

4 Realistic Fashion Tips for 2019

The fashion industry was all over the place in the last few months. If the fashion world reflects the state of the world, then perhaps it was appropriate that chaos was the prevailing theme of the Spring/Summer 2019 collections. Looking at the shows in New York, London, and Paris, there was very little consistency, and that makes it much easier for those without the budget for Armani or Chanel wardrobe additions. Being able to mix and match the most common sights on this year’s catwalks might be easier than you think. Here are the most realistic fashion trends that are expected to be a big hit this year, and your bank balance doesn’t have to panic.

 

1.    The Return of Tie-Dye

If there was one real surprise this year, it was the fact that so many designers did something with tie-dyed clothes and accessories. If you thought that the tie-dyed t-shirt was dead, then Prada, Eckhaus, and McCartney blew that theory out of the water. For those on a budget, this is great news, and you’ll be able to either buy your own tie-dyed clothing or go traditional and make your own.

 

2.    Get Tooled Up

The need for pockets in women’s clothes has still not become obvious, so instead, we’ve got toolbelts this year. That’s actually a lot cooler than it sounds. In fact, tool belts are the natural evolution of the fanny pack, and they’re a lot more useful too, with Karl Lagerfeld certainly leading the charge when it comes to practicality. Tool belts are just a functional belt that has lots of storage space, so even if your summer dress is pocketless, your tool belt won’t be.

 

3.    Color Shocks

If you thought that 2018 was colorful in the fashion world, get ready for 2019. The spring and summer collections on show this year have been some of the most colorful on display since the 90s, and from shocking pinks to eye-watering yellows, it’s all about color in 2019. The best thing about this is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to adopt this top fashion tip for the year. Buy your blouses and favorite plus size skirts for maximum elegance and simply add your wild dashes of color where needed. Accessorizing is the key, and you could be making an impact through your color choices very easily.

 

4.    Bigger is Better

When it comes to handbags, it can be difficult to keep up with the newer trends, but this year might be easier than ever. The most consistent handbag trend on the catwalks this year all had the same thing in common: big is definitely the new small. Where last years saw tiny handbags being the major trend, this year has gone completely the other way. Now, oversized handbags are the more popular option, and some of the bags on show were big enough to keep a second-grader in. If you’re looking for a practical accessory this year, oversized handbags could be the key to a better choice.

 

The best thing about the 2019 fashion collections was that they were so accessible. There’s always a little wiggle room when it comes to transferring from the catwalk to the high street, but the emerging trends for 2019 look easier than ever to achieve.