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Didi Oviatt

Author of suspense novels Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians. As well as the short story collection Time Wasters and (co-author of) The Suspenseful Collection.

Category

thriller

Search For Maylee, #free (May 15 – 18)

I love everything about this time of year! The colors, the smells, the warmth. There is just something about new life and growth that comes with spring. I light of the spirit of spring, as well as a (somewhat belated) Mothers Day celebration, I’ve decided to do a spur of the moment spring promotion!

I’m so excited to offer my latest book Search For Maylee as my gift to you! From today May 15th through Friday May 18th the kindle version is downloadable for free on Amazon!  Click this link to claim your gift! Happy spring, and happy reading!

Description:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her. It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee? It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do what ever it takes.

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Happy spring everyone, and happy reading!!

Remember sharing is caring, and reviewing is LOVE!

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Screams You Hear, by James Morris #booktour #review #excerpt @shanannigans81 @JMorrisWriter

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Screams You Hear

Genre: Horror/ YA

Publication Date: January 8, 2018

Book Blurb:

Murder and madness infect a small town.

For sixteen-year-old Ruthie Stroud, life on tiny Hemlock Island in the Pacific Northwest is an endless sea of boring green, in a place where everybody knows everybody’s business and nothing ever happens. Then her world is ripped apart when her parents divorce and a new man enters her mother’s life. But worse is yet to come.

When she drifts ashore on the mainland, hideously burned, Ruthie has a harrowing tale to tell. It begins with the murder of a family. It ends with her being the sole survivor of a cataclysm that sweeps her little island. As a detective attempts to unravel Ruthie’s story of murder and madness, only one horrifying conclusion can be drawn: whatever was isolated on remote Hemlock Island may now have come to the mainland. Is Ruthie safe? Is anyone?

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Excerpt

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Chapter 1

I wake to pain, pain beyond comprehension, my skin on fire, only to find myself in a hospital bed, my arms bandaged, and wires snaking into machines. The burns are covered in white gauze and every motion, no matter how small, sends my nerves screaming. The air is heavy against my skin. And that smell. I can still smell the bitterness of my singed hair. I feel my head, expecting strands of hair, thick and wavy, but it’s gone. There are only splotches of emptiness, a topography of touch that alarms me. I wonder if it will ever grow back.

Tendrils of anxiety course through me, pulsing steadily. I need to wake up from whatever this is.

In spite of the pain, I caress my face and I have no eyebrows. Only stubble. No matter where I touch, my skin isn’t soft; it’s leather, a mask that rests too tightly against my skull. It’s like my skin is both expanding and contracting, pushing and pulling.

In the cyclone of terror, I remember. I remember everything.

I wish I didn’t. I wish it all away.

Around the room, there are no mirrors, and I know it’s no accident. It’s small comfort. I don’t want to see myself. I may never look in a mirror again. It’s only me and a bed, and colorful murals of elephants and giraffes on the wall, their cartoon smiles mocking me. I must be in the children’s wing, even though I’m sixteen. Next to me, an IV recedes into my vein. To my left is a button. It could be to call for assistance. Or to adjust the bed. But I think it’s something else. I think it’s for pain.

I could press it and disappear into numbness.

I could press it and just drift.

But there is something about pain. It’s the price of being alive.

The button is my litmus test.

I am stronger than my pain. I need to focus on something—anything. I need to distract myself.

I am not my pain.

I am Ruthie Stroud. I live at— wait—not anymore. I have a brother—no, not anymore.

I shut my eyes. I can’t shut them hard enough. Through the darkness, I still see fire. My world engulfed with flickering orange and reds. And the all-encompassing heat, heat beyond boiling, bordering on oblivion. Melting.

My last memory is coming ashore on the mainland, alone and fiercely tired. I didn’t walk, didn’t run. I moved, floating, held aloft by the most invisible of strings, my eyes on the horizon, people on the edges of my vision. Adults. I felt their gaze. The air was cool and moist and my skin so hot. Moving and moving; people staring. I hear them, words like police and 911 and oh my God. They surround me, a horde. They’re feral creatures, circling, their faces distorted. They are coming for me. I have no escape.

I scream and my world goes dark.

“Ruthie?”

I open my eyes. A woman stands in the hospital room doorway. Her skin is the color of teak, her black hair pulled into a tight ponytail, and without a uniform, she’s clearly no nurse. I look down her button-down shirt and a badge is attached to her belt, a gun holstered at her side.

She says, not unkindly, “I’m Detective Perez from the Washington State Police.”

I knew the cops would get involved, even though they’re late. Far too late.

She waits for me to invite her in. “May I?”

I nod and my skin crinkles and cracks. She enters, pulling a chair beside my bed and sits down. Her brown eyes rest on me and then dart away. She can’t bear to look. I must seem a monster. She asks, “How are you feeling?”

I don’t know how to answer that question.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

Down the hall, I hear a child scream. From surgery or fear, I don’t know. I think fight the pain, fight the pain.

She speaks to me in soothing tones. “I need to ask you a few questions. About what happened. Can you talk?”

My mouth is dry, my throat sore, my vocal chords thrashed. I’d forgotten how much I screamed. I feel my skin wrinkle into deep crevices as I move my jaw, and it’s an effort to form words. Even my tongue feels burned; this strange muscle in my mouth. “Is my dad coming?”

“He’s on his way.” We share a bit of silence and I stare at the woman she is, the beautiful woman I will never be, and she says, “I’d like to start at the beginning. And if there’s ever a point where you need to stop, just let me know, okay?”

“There’s just one thing,” and I clear my throat. I force her to find my eyes. To see. To look. To understand.

“What’s that?”

“Don’t judge me,” I tell her. “I did what I had to.”

Are you jonesing for more? Well for a limited time, Screams You Hear is available for review!

Request Copy!

Available on Amazon and it’s an absolute MUST read!

About the Author

James Morris

James Morris is a television writer who now works in digital media. He is the author of the young adult thriller What Lies Within, the dystopian love story Melophobia, the young adult suspense Feel Me Fall, and the young adult horror Screams You Hear. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching ‘House Hunters Renovation’, or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles. Catch him at jamesmorriswriter.com.

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Giveaway Time! The author is giving away a print copy of Screams You Hear to one lucky winner so don’t forget to enter!

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My Review: 5 STARS

Hold onto your seats with this one. The pace is fast and the twists WILL dump you on your rear, and quick!!! Every single page of this book is splattered with jaw dropping content. It’s the kind of horrifying scenario that every teen/kid (or anyone really) who lives on a secluded island should have nightmares about.
It starts out with Ruthie waking up in the burn unit of a hospital. The island she’s from has literally been completely wiped out in population… all except for her. She’s the sole survivor of an insanely morbid series of events. She’s being questioned by the law enforcement who’s trying to figure out what exactly took place. Her recollection is detailed, overflowing with adrenaline, and just flat out bloody terrifying!
So, the story bounced in time, back and forth between the now and the previous few days as the odd events play out. I loved this approach here, and I usually don’t. Most books that bounce around leave me a little confused and irritated, but with Screams You Hear it worked out perfectly. The character development was perfect. I especially loved Max her best friend, and Theo her brother. They each bring about their own story and personality dynamics, that in my opinion polish the story over, making it well rounded and actually realistic.
It’s hard to explain any details without throwing any spoilers in the mix. So, I’ll just give a short and very broad outlook. Basically, the adults in the community snap. Ruthie has her suspicions on what’s causing it, which makes total sense. No matter the scientific backdrop, it’s murderous, its nasty, its ruthless, and utterly heartless what they do to the kids here. It has a feel of a survival story, more so than anything else, as its coming from Ruthie’s point of view.
I debated between 4 and 5 stars for some time. The writing is exquisite, and the story is definitely one of a kind horrifying… But at the same time, because the kids aren’t mentally sick the way that the adults are… a few of the scenes were a little too hard for me to stomach.
All in all I enjoyed the read, and will most definitely be reading more from this author!

#excerpt #coldcase #justataste Search For Maylee

Paranoia was common for Autumn. A constant nagging fear weighed in her chest at all times, she was forever burdened by this. It had taken a full year to convince herself to sell all of her belongings and take this giant leap. She had to be strong, and she had to leave California, for Maylee. With caution in each step, Autumn slowly made her way up to the condo. She peeked into each window, then tilted an ever listening ear toward the crack in the door.

“Oh, for hell’s sake Autumn, you’re such a weirdo! You’re going to pack up all of your shit and take off on some ‘save the world trek’, and you can’t even walk into your own house without panicking!”

The voice was shrill and mocking. It belonged to Candace, Maylee’s mother. Autumn exhaled and walked inside. The sight of her sister leaning against the bar that connected the kitchen to the dining room was a lot to take in. Candace was tall and skinny. Too skinny, Autumn noted. One bony leg was crossed over the other and a thick string of smoke lifted into the air from the cigarette burning between her fingertips. She rolled her eyes at Autumn dramatically, and then flicked a long ash onto the floor.

“Candace, do you really need to do that? You know I don’t let anyone smoke in my house. You think it’s okay to just ash all over the place?”

“Who cares, you sold it anyway.”

Candace walked over and ran what was left of her smoldering cigarette under water and dropped it into an otherwise spotless ceramic sink. The condo was empty, making it seem even bigger than usual. Autumn looked around her home, holding back the tears that were soon to inevitably flow — it was only a matter of time. The floors transformed from a dark marbled tile to white carpet in the living room. The ceilings were vaulted and the countertops were black with marbled gray granite.

Autumn had married at a young age and lost her husband in a car accident shortly after. She had only known Keith for seventeen months total. A vow was made to herself when he died, she would never love another and that was final. It’d been eighteen years since the accident, and so far she’d stuck to her promise. Autumn went back to her maiden name, Brown, in an effort to help herself move on from the trauma of his death. Keith had come from money and left Autumn a rich young woman at the time.

Initially, she bought the condo along with a dependable used car. Then she placed what was left of the settlement into a steady monthly income that was meant to last 20 years. Since then, the car had been traded in for a newer model, an end of this cash flow was rapidly approaching, and the condo sold. Autumn was trudging unfamiliar ground as her entire life was growing foreign, and that didn’t even include her job.

After the loss of her young love, the years passed and the cost of living grew. Her fixed monthly income was barely enough to pay the bills and keep her fed. Enjoying nights out with her girlfriends, or buying new outfits were rare. A few years after Keith passed, Autumn picked up a job working as a waitress in a small crab shack just down the road from her condo. Surprisingly she absolutely adored it. It didn’t bring in much money, but it was enough for the little extras, and it kept her busy.

As Autumn stood across from Candace in her freshly emptied kitchen, her mind wandered to the saddened look of shock on her boss’s face when she’d quit. Autumn walked away from the steady job she loved, just over a week before. Candace cleared the tar blockage from her throat, pulling Autumn back to reality.

“How did you get in here?” Autumn asked. “And did you get me that address? I’m leaving soon. I only have a few more things to pack, so I need it. You promised.”

“You always leave that window in the back unlocked,” Candace said with another roll of her glassed over eyes. “And yes, I have your damn address.”

Candace dug a small wrinkled piece of damp paper from her pocket, along with a chunk of dirty pocket lint and a couple of pennies. The goods were slapped onto the empty countertop. Candace then shifted restlessly on her feet, her eyes darting from one side of her head to the other. The look of a wild animal had taken over her face, as if assessing the possibility of an unexpected dash for the door. Unpredictable and permanently on edge, she finally continued in her scratchy smoker’s voice.

“I still don’t think you should do this. Craig’s not a bad guy, he just gets a bad rep because of his record. Maylee’s gone because she never paid attention to anything going on around her. It’s probably her own fault she was taken, I’m sure Craig had nothing to do with it.”

Aside from the obvious itch to leave, Candace was without emotion, utterly careless about Maylee. She spoke as if Maylee wasn’t her daughter at all, but some strange girl she’d met on the street. It made Autumn’s stomach wrench hearing her sister talk this way about her own child, her flesh and blood. How could she?

The thought of the opened back window was intentionally brushed aside. Autumn didn’t even want to know exactly how her sister was privy to that information. The place would be deserted in a few hours, left for the new owners to deal with. The only thing that mattered now was how clearly strung-out and coldblooded Candace was. A surge of anger flowed through Autumn.

Autumn couldn’t stand Candace for the evil woman she’d grown into. The fact that Candace cared more about herself and getting her next fix than she did about her own daughter was sickening. Autumn stormed over to the bar and snatched up the piece of paper. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if Candace were to change her mind, steal back the address, and make a crazy dash for the door. Frankly, it came as quite a shock to Autumn that her junkie sister had actually followed through on her promise to retrieve it in the first place. Once the address was safely in hand, Autumn finally spoke her mind.

“Maylee hated that man, and the rest of your friends. She was scared of him! She ended up here ninety percent of the time because you were a shitty mom, and your shitty friends are all terrible people. Open your eyes Candace, when are you going to understand that he was the only real lead the cops ever had? Now get the hell out of my house!”

Candace took a step back, shocked at Autumn’s outburst. Her head tilted forward allowing her eyes to be shaded by the lowering of her brows. The shifty feet that struggled to hold up her stick-like legs for the first time held still. They had gotten in several fights about Maylee over the years. They brawled more since Maylee’s disappearance than ever before. Candace knew she hadn’t been the best mom to Maylee, but she would never admit it out loud, and she didn’t much care either way. Excuses were constantly shelled out for her behavior as she never even wanted a child in the first place. Candace justified her actions to herself in any way she could.

DESCRIPTION:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her. It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee? It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do what ever it takes.

#review #booktour #5stars Mask Beneath Her Face, by Rafael Chandler @shanannigans81

Release Date: October 14, 2017mask-beneath-her-face-cover.jpg
Genre: Horror/ Thriller
Blurb:

During the 1980s, slashers terrorized America. With machetes and masks, these unstoppable killers stalked college campuses, quiet suburbs, and lakeside cabins.

Thirty years ago, Bobbi Metzger survived a massacre at her 16th birthday party. She spent decades putting her life back together.

Tonight, Bobbi will face a new killer: a high-tech slasher hell-bent on opening the doorway to an abyss of unimaginable horror.

How long can Bobbi survive this nightmare? What will she do to protect the people she loves? How much blood is she willing to spill?

For fans of 80’s slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp!

Warning: This book contains graphic violence and gore. Not for the faint of heart!

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Excerpt

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Bobbi Metzger wrenched the hatchet from her boyfriend’s skull. In a few minutes, Bobbi thought, I will kill her, or she will kill me. Either way, this is going to be over soon.

She lurched across the room. Blood-soaked carpet squished under her feet. Red droplets slid down and dripped from the handmade banner over the doorway: Happy Birthday, Bobbi!

July 1st, 1987, was supposed to be the greatest night of her life. With their parents out of town, Bobbi and her sister had invited everybody to the lake house, and they’d more or less trashed the place.

Bobbi stepped over a dead body: a girl in acid-washed jeans and a Noid t-shirt. Bobbi didn’t recognize her. One of Megan’s friends.

The TV was still on. There was a video on MTV, some new band called Guns N’ Roses. Bobbi’s sister, Megan, had switched loyalty from Def Leppard to these guys, because she thought their singer was hot. “I’d feel his serpentine, anytime.”

“Those guys are all gross,” Bobbi had said. “Rob Lowe’s cute, though.”

Megan had pretended to gag.

Thick drops of blood dotted the red icing on Bobbi’s cake. A birthday card was propped up next to the cake, and the message was scrawled in Megan’s loopy handwriting: POP THAT CHERRY, BOBBI!

If Bobbi turned her head just a little bit, she would see Megan pinned to the wall with a fireplace poker through her mouth, blood dripping from the band of her polka-dotted Swatch. Bobbi didn’t look. She took another tentative step.

You can do it. You have to. If you don’t, you’re dead, like everyone else. No choice.

She stepped around the table in the middle of the room.

Heart pounding, Bobbi peeked into the kitchen. Nothing. She looked behind her.

On the couch, Bobbi’s boyfriend Kevin stared at her blankly, the hatchet wound like a vertical grin in his forehead. He wore a CONTRA t-shirt. Kevin spent most of his money down at Galaxy, the arcade at the mall, plugging quarters into games like Contra and Rastan.

Last night, Kevin had tried to protect Bobbi, throwing himself at the woman in black; but she had plucked the hatchet from his hand and buried it in his skull, so quickly that Bobbi wasn’t sure it had happened at all.

Then the killer had grinned at Bobbi while Kevin slumped backwards onto the couch, the axe handle sticking out of his skull. Bobbi tried to scream, but couldn’t make a sound.

About the Author

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Rafael Chandler writes novels (Hexcommunicated, The Astounding Antagonists), video games (SOCOM 4, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, MAG), and tabletop role-playing games (Teratic Tome, Lusus Naturae). He’s a metalhead, a kaijuphile, and a gorehound.

For your chance to win either a print copy or 1 of 5 digital copies of Mask Beneath Her Face, click the link below!
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MY REVIEW:

Oh my hell, this horror book is an IN YOUR FACE THRILL RIDE! Hands down the best slasher book I’ve read. The gore is nasty, the supernatural is terrifying, and the entire premise of the story is like a whirlwind of the worst of the worst killers combine. I usually do my reading at night while trying to either fall asleep or put my kids to sleep. After one night’s attempt at Mask Beneath Her Face, I had to switch up my entire routine.

I didn’t get a wink of sleep, I was scared out of my damn mind. I got up to use the bathroom a dozen times through out the night because I was so antsy all I could do is drink wine in bed and toss around stewing. I even flipped the body mirror in my bedroom around to face the wall so I couldn’t scare myself with an accidental glance at it. And, I closed my eyes when I was washing my hands to avoid looking in the bathroom mirror! A little extreme I know, but I was freaked the f*ck out!

The main characters are perfect, especially Cris, so I’ll get to her last. First lets start with Bobbi, Jesse, and Sam. They are like a misfit little makeshift family, tied together by the similarities of their past. Each one had a run in while they were young with their own unique slasher. The deadly events changed each of their lives and left them cursed. They lost loved ones in the goriest way, and are now forced to live out their lives with nothing but anxiety, paranoia, booze, and the hope that maybe someday they stop their tormentors from coming back for good.

My favorite of these three slashers is Jesse’s mirror terror. As I mentioned above my refusal to look in a mirror. I’ll possibly be haunted by the image Rafael Chandler created forever, I was scared out of my damn mind while reading this particular slasher! The picture painted of this creepy creepy was flawless and disgusting. Not at all for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart. I’m surprised I didn’t pass out from holding my breath for too long.

Now lets get to Cris. I don’t want to tell you too much, because I don’t want to give away any surprises. So I’ll just stick to the basics. Cris has a dicey past of her own, but it’s different from the other three. Abuse, neglect, and abandonment is practically all she’s known, up until the point where she met up with Sam. Despite the run in with his own slasher Sam’s managed to keep his life fairly in order and he’s a councilor at Cris’ school. He set her up with a job working for Jesse, helping him around the house, and typing his manuscripts. In turn, she met Bobbi through the other two.

Cris is like the adopted child the three survivors never had. She’s a teen, just about ready to graduate Highschool and aside from her looks there’s much about her that’s very impressive. She’s athletic, down to earth, and extremely intelligent. BUT, there’s so much more to Cris than what meets the eye. She has a very dark bloody secret of her own, and it’s huge. She’s like the key to the entire story, and what she brings to the table is insane!

I love the pace of this book, it’s very quick and intense. From cover to cover it’s never dull or slow. I’m actually surprised by how sucked in and attached I ultimately got! Based on the cover, a few reviews I’d read, and the description I figured I’d like it. But, I never in a million years would have guess at how blown away I’d actually be. This book is bloody epic. A story I’ll likely never forget!

A Suspenseful Chunk

Her alert ears listened carefully, but she heard nothing close. There were weeds to her waist and no space to move around. The rowdy men still playing cards and drinking beer was a faint sound in the distance. She strained her ears as hard as she could, but was unable to make out what they were saying. With a stomach sucked in tightly, and breath held, Autumn inched her way around the side of *****’s house and to the tiny dirt yard behind it.

The first filthy window she snuck by was hard to see through. Nothing was visible except an abundance of garbage that covered an old battered couch and coffee table. Finally, she made it to the back door and ever so slowly she reached for its handle. Her eyes were wide and searched in every direction. She prayed that the house was empty. The metal was warm in her hand, a scorching reminder that she was in fact trespassing in a very dangerous place. Several deep breaths filled Autumn’s lungs as she mentally pep-talked herself into twisting her wrist to open the door.

The hinges creaked allowing the door to open, and for some inexplicable reason she pictured Chance. A clear image of his piercing eyes and the angry words of caution he’d be spitting in her direction right now, barged into her thoughts. Had he known what she was about to do, he’d likely have a heart attack.

They’d grown close over the last three weeks. That first call with a professional hello and very personal goodbye had been the beginning of something more — much more. Since then, every single day without fail he’d called. Which reminded Autumn that she hadn’t silenced her phone. The last thing she needed was Chance or even Jeremy ringing in to check up on her, only to alert Mr. Cop-Of-The-Year. She most definitely didn’t need a tattling ringtone.

Autumn reached into her pocket and quickly pressed the silence button. Then she gagged down her fears and stepped inside Craig’s dark and deserted house. With each quite tip-toe she thought of Chance and his endless words of caution. A tear rolled down her cheek and she whispered to herself.

“God please help me make it out of this house alive.”

Autumn pulled her pistol out of its holster, jacked a bullet into the chamber, and clicked off the safety. The movements came natural. All that practice Jeremy and his crew of overbearing misfits insisted on was paying off. The house smelt like old cat pee and body odor. It stuck to the inside of her nostrils and dried up there like super glue.

It was a scent that she’d become acquainted with years before. The very smell had been on Maylee’s clothes several times when she was a baby, and although Autumn was very well aware of Candace’s hygiene problem, there was just something about it that had rang different. This wasn’t merely a smell of uncleanliness, there was something more to it.

The sad memories of this familiar scent broke Autumn’s heart. At the time, Autumn had asked her mother about the smell, and she only shook her head in disgust, refusing to give an explanation. It wasn’t until Maylee was years older that Hannah Brown finally broke down and told Autumn that the smell could’ve only come from the smoke of hard core drugs settling into everything it touches like a plague. This scent was overwhelming in Craig’s house, or at least she still assumed this was his house. She had yet to find reason to believe otherwise. The smell made Autumn sick to her stomach as she gently continued to move her hesitant feet.

The door she entered through placed her directly in the kitchen. It was dark but her eyes were starting to adjust and she could at least see shapes and shadows. She knew that if she were to flip on a light then the men outside would see it, so that was clearly not an option. The room was empty aside from a few spray paint cans on the dusty counter tops and some stacked up and broken old dirty dishes.

Autumn squinted and strained to get a closer look at one of the plates. It was apart from the rest, setting on the edge of the counter, and it appeared to be somewhat clean. A half eaten sandwich was placed perfectly in its center. There was no mold or discolor to be seen with such little light, so she assumed it to be fresh. Reluctantly, Autumn reached over. A rock of a lump formed in her throat, and she struggled to swallow it down. With a clammy nervous hand she felt the bread to see if it was hard or squishy. Sure enough, just as she suspected, her finger sunk into the soft piece of bread. The lump came right back up and she gagged on it, struggling to keep herself from losing her dinner.

Autumn hadn’t seen any movement coming from inside the house when she ran in the mornings, so whoever was permeating the air with this putrid stench, and eating sandwiches, must have been doing it later in the day. Her ribs fought hard to keep her racing heart in place. She debated on turning around and making an escape now while she still could, but changed her hesitant mind. If there was anyone there now then there would’ve been lights on, and there wasn’t. This opportunity to get inside would likely never present itself again so she continued, racing heart and all, and snuck through a narrow doorway into the next room.

It led into a living space with one old couch, a busted coffee table, and a cracked fireplace. Dried up mud chunks were strewn across the cracked floorboards, and illegible writing was spray painted all over the walls. It was hard to make out details without a light, but a swastika stood out promptly amongst the rest of the vandalism. Typical, she thought. This was the room she’d seen from the window, therefore the only one she knew what to expect in. Everything beyond this point was a gut wrenching mystery.

A main door that led out the front of the house was barely hanging on its hinges. There were several locks securing it in place, and a rickety old wooden staircase sat directly before the door. Beneath the tallest part of the stairwell there was a second set of stairs going down. Autumn decided to check the upstairs first and save the creepiest part of this small town house for last. She slowly walked up the creaking steps. Each one she took was louder than the next, so she placed her feet on the very edges against the wall to try and hit the most silent parts possible.

The second story was fairly open and seemingly empty. There were only two rooms and neither of them had a door. Autumn squinted her eyes as she still struggled to see. The shade of night was consuming Denver and darkening the inside of the house along with the out. There were few windows that weren’t boarded up and the light they offered was slim.

Autumn still had to make it back to her car when she left here and the thought caused a chill to dash up her spine. Again she forced her breath to steady and continued to move through the house. The first door-less room she entered was a disgusting bathroom. The smell was horrendous. It had a toilet and a shower, no sink. For the first time since Autumn broke into this house she was actually grateful for the lack of lighting. She could only imagine how much more disgusting this room would be if she could see it in full.

She quickly turned her attention to the next doorway. It led her into a far from ordinary bedroom. There was a mattress on the floor with something dark streaked all over it. There were also chains hanging from the ceiling with cuffs on the edges. Canes and whips leaned casually against the wall, along with a seemingly expensive camera on a tripod.

Autumn couldn’t tell in the dark what the streaks were on the bed but she could only imagine it was blood. She shivered at the thought. Her mind wandered to Maylee and a haunting image of her being chained up above a disgusting mattress in a repulsive old crack house. Autumn involuntarily conjured up the picture of her niece being whipped and beaten. The disgusting false image caused a cold sensation to take over her bloodstream, and her head to grow light.

She could taste the bile as it rose in her stomach and stopped at the base of her throat. Being here now seemed to cause every negative ‘what if’ thought she’d ever had about Maylee’s disappearance to resurface. It was all so real, front and center in a house that was supposed to belong to the lead suspect in Maylee’s case. With jittery fingers Autumn pulled out her phone and snapped a few pictures.

In the corner of this obvious torture room there was a small old plastic table with what looked like a shoe box sitting on top of it. Tip-toeing, Autumn slowly crept to a box and looked inside. There were a stack of photographs with a large rubber band holding them together. It was too dark to make out what they were pictures of, but it didn’t take much to imagine their contents.

Autumn tucked the stack against the skin of her chest, underneath her gun’s holster that was secured around her waist. She fastened them in tightly so they wouldn’t fall out. Giving them a thorough examination would have to wait until later, when she was safe in her own apartment.

The floor continued to creak as Autumn cautiously made her way back down the steps and to the basement door. A steady finger was held on the cold metal of her gun, as close as she could get it to the trigger without actually touching it. Jeremy taught her well, there’d be no accidental discharge of her weapon, not tonight. So far Autumn had lucked out. The crack house seemed empty of people, but the basement called to her next.

Securely in front of her Autumn held her gun, as she closed the distance between herself and the daunting basement door. She prayed that the culprit of the half eaten sandwich wouldn’t show up while she was down there, or worse, already be down there himself. The basement stairway was significantly darker than the rest of the house. She could hardly make out the last step.

When she reached the bottom she could see a small light shining from underneath a doorway at the end of an apparent hall. Autumn held her breath and very slowly walked toward it. The door was metal and locked from the outside, she gently placed an ear against it. There was a faint noise coming from inside, and Autumn strained to make out what it was. It sounded much like a wheezy breath, then a cough, followed by the soft moan of a girl in pain. Autumn’s heart sunk in her chest. Oh my God could it be her?

The cracked concrete floor threatened to swallow Autumn whole. Her nervous fingers reached for the lock, but she paused before flipping its latch. Who was behind this locked door, she wondered, what if the pained cougher wasn’t alone? Autumn waited for a few more moments with her ear pressed firmly against the cold metal. Then a quiet woman’s voice sounded from inside. It was raspy, pained, and dry… But not Mayle. A tear rolled down Autumn’s cheek, and her closing throat finally sucked in a lungful of the rancid smelling air.

DESCRIPTION:

Since Maylee was abducted from her high school the very month of graduation, her Aunt Autumn has never lost hope in finding her. It’s been three years. Autumn has finally reached inside herself and found the courage to track down an old lead. She moves across the country to find him. Will Autumn be able to pry Maylee’s case back open? More importantly, what will Autumn uncover in the process of searching for Maylee? It’s a cold dark world we live in, and she is about to find out just how cruel it can be. Strength and determination are on Autumn’s side and she will do what ever it takes.

Review: The Stone Arch Secret, by K. D. Dowdall 5 of 5 stars

My Review:

The Stone Arch Secret by K. D. Dowdall is my favorite of all the books I’ve read so far this year. What I love most about it is the deep rooted feeling of authenticity poured into each sentence. Dowdall has the gift of giving life and appreciation to the setting in a way that’s like no other author I’ve followed. The characters are excellent, I love Lilly and Noah both! They’re developed perfectly. It’s packed with personality, physical explanation, and the emotions felt as the reader are booming from cover to cover.

The main setting is in a place with beautiful, mysterious, and even creepy wooded areas, along with many old colonial style homes and places of business. Dowdall draws attention to the details that matter. As a rule, most colonial homes have a history, and The Stone Arch Secret brings this feature to the surface. Colonial building restorations, as well as usages are explained in a way that really give the entire book a rich authentic historical feel, and I love that!

It offers a few twists here and there that are shockingly unexpected. Enough so to keep you on the edge of your seat, yet still have a realistic feel!

Lilly, the main character, experiences a strange encounter of sorts as a teenager. She goes exploring in the woods with her cousin Dax, and something happens that changes her life forever and is shocking enough for each of their subconscious to block it. Dax winds up in a mental institution, and neither he nor Lilly can remember exactly what played out. Years later, upon hearing of the death of Dax, Lilly goes back to their childhood hometown Salmon Brook looking for answers from that life altering day.

Noah, a now grown man remembers Lilly from their childhood. He liked her then and is utterly drawn to her now, as she is him. He’s spent the last several years building a life for himself, and has also returned on a mission of his own. The two wind up weaving themselves into each other’s lives, and helping one another with each agenda. The flow is lovely, and the pieces of these two characters fit together seamlessly.

I love the unique angle of the villain (s). The community of Salmon Brook is not how it seems at first blush. There is a group of religious fanatics that are extremely shady. Their leader is a super creepy, calculated, and vindictive guy. As was his father and several others before them. The history of the group is disturbing and the current state of it is pure evil.

I love this book, and I look forward to reading even more of K. D. Dowdalls books!!

Description:

Readers who like books by Debra Burroughs and Melinda Leigh will like, The Stone Arch Secret. Twenty-eight-year-old anthropologist, Lilly Allaire, receives a phone call telling her that Dax is dead. The cause of death is unknown. At the age of fourteen, best friends, Lilly and Dax, experience a traumatic incident. After the incident, Dax is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital in a catatonic state. For Dax, his memory loss is a subconscious act of self-preservation, a blocking out of all memories. Lilly still suffers a blocked memory of that day and has frequent nightmares. After Dax’s funeral, Lilly decides to go back to Salmon Brook, her hometown, to find out the truth about the mysterious incident that destroyed Dax’s life. While searching for clues to the incident, Lilly has a chance meeting with a former high school classmate, Noah Hawthorne. Noah remembers Lilly as his high school secret crush and offers to help her. Together, they try to unravel the mysterious incident that plagues Lilly’s dreams and turns them into nightmares. They soon realize that their hometown has a deadly secret and both their lives are now in danger. However, Noah has a secret of his own that puts Lilly in harm’s way.

 

Review: The Pretty Ones, by Ania Ahlborn 4 of 5 stars

My Review:

Ania Ahlborn has become one of my favorite thriller/horror writers!  Within the last year I’ve read four of her books and every single one of them has blown me away! Her style is one of a kind, she’s brilliant!

The Pretty Ones is in my opinion right up there with the best of her work!  Brother is still my favorite, but this one is seriously neck and neck. Just when I thought I had things figured out, Ania threw in a curve and had me wide eyed with my jaw to the floor!  I freaking loved the end of this book. From cover to cover it offers everything a great psychological thriller should. It’s nasty, twisted and shocking, yet it still has that authentically raw and believable feel to it.

The main character Nell is extremely quiet and self conscious. She’s awkward, full of a longing to belong, and she has this deep routed hate that practically consumes her. Nell works day in and day out at a tedious call center, surrounded by girls that she absolutely loathes. These women either ignore her completely, leaving her to feel invisible, or they pick on her. She sticks with the job, and keeps quiet to support her brother Barrett in their crappy apartment on a very dicey part of the city.

Barrett doesn’t speak. He’s an aspiring writer, who makes notes to Nell to communicate. They are both extremely obsessive, possessive, protective and weird with each other. This very strange brother/sister relationship was forced into it’s weirdness by their horrible up-bringing. Their father died when they were young and their mother was an awful woman. What makes their relationship unique is that it’s layered into physiological surprises that unfold in perfect timing through out the story.

There has been a series of killing in the city, and as the book unravels those murders grow closer and closer to home. This book is awesome and I’ll definitely be reading more and more of Ania’s work!

Description:

A terrifying e-novella from the bestselling author of Within These Walls, Brother, and The Bird Eater!

New York, 1977. The sweltering height of the Summer of Sam. The entire city is gripped with fear, but all Nell Sullivan worries about is whether or not she’ll ever make a friend. The self-proclaimed “Plain Jane” does her best to fit in with the girls at work, but Nell’s brother, Barrett, assures her that she’ll never be like them. When Nell manages to finally garner some much-yearned-for attention, the unthinkable happens to her newfound friend. The office pool blames Son of Sam, but Nell knows the awful truth…because doing the devil’s work is easy when there’s already a serial killer on the loose.

The Stone Arch Secret, by K. D. Dowdall @shanannigans81 #blogtour #thriller #giveaway

Genre:  Mystery/ Thriller/ Romance

Publication Date: January 2018

Blurb:

Twenty-eight-year-old cultural anthropologist, Lilly Allaire, receives a phone call telling her that Dax is dead.  The cause of death is unknown.

At the age of fourteen, best friends, Lilly and Dax, experience a traumatic incident. After the incident, Dax is institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital with total memory loss.  For Dax, his memory loss is an act of self-preservation.  Lilly still suffers a blocked memory of that day and has frequent nightmares.

Lilly decides to go back to Salmon Brook, her hometown, to find out the truth about the mysterious incident that left Dax in a catatonic state. Lilly has a chance meeting with a former high school classmate, Noah Hawthorne.

Noah remembers Lilly as his high school secret crush and offers to help her. Together, they try to unravel the mysterious incident that plagues Lilly’s dreams and turns them into nightmares.

However, Noah has a secret of his own, a dangerous secret, that will put Lilly in harm’s way.

Available on Amazon

The Stone Arch Secret Cover

About the Author

D. Dowdall, PhD, MSN, RN was born in New England and spent her elementary-grade school years in Granby, Connecticut. She graduated from FAU with a master’s degree in Clinical Research Nursing and has a PhD in clinical nutrition. K. D. is also a lover of ballet, jazz, ballroom dance, contemporary dance, and has had her own dance studio.  She has written songs, poetry, short stories, and now several fiction novels; a children’s fantasy adventure story, a historical mystery/murder with a dash romance and a third fiction novel almost complete;  a mystery thriller with romance. All are standalone novels.  Her next book is a series.

Along the way, it was her good fortune to live in the Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, and England. Each culture she experienced reinforced her belief that all cultures are rich in storytelling to explain their human hopes, dreams, struggles, and life experiences, often in magical fantasy presentations. K. D. still dances, loves swimming, scuba diving, and theatre.

KD Dowdall

https://karendowdall.com/

Giveaway: 2 Print Copies of The Stone Arch Secret

#ARC sign up! Choose Between 7 books, Amazon #kindle Gifted!

My writing buddy Kim and I are inviting all friends to an ARC read and review round! This means you will be gifted a FREE Amazon Kindle copy of one of the below books, in exchange for an honest review. The event is taking place between the 1st- 31st January 2018. The only polite request is, if you receive a copy of the book you signed up for, please read and leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads during January 2018. Note that all but three of these books are novella length, and should not take long to read. Feel free to forward this event onto anyone who you may feel is interested! Sharing is caring!!

Further descriptions on each book can be found on Amazon Author Pages here:

DIDI’s BOOKS

KIM’s BOOKS

We are both so excited for this freebie review round!! It’s a hell of a way to kick of the new year.  The requests have been coming in and neither of us can wait to see your shining reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!  Thank you readers!

LET ME CHOOSE MY FREE KINDLE GIFT, I’d LOVE TO LEAVE A REVIEW!

Happy Reading!!!

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