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Monday, May 31, 2021

Book Review: Girl One by Sara Flannery Murphy

Girl One
by Sara Flannery Murphy
June 1, 2021
Publisher: MCD
Genre: medical thriller, fantasy
ISBN: 9780374601744
Orphan Black meets Margaret Atwood in this twisty supernatural thriller about female power and the bonds of sisterhood

Josephine Morrow is Girl One, the first of nine “Miracle Babies” conceived without male DNA, raised on an experimental commune known as the Homestead. When a suspicious fire destroys the commune and claims the lives of two of the Homesteaders, the remaining Girls and their Mothers scatter across the United States and lose touch.

Years later, Margaret Morrow goes missing, and Josie sets off on a desperate road trip, tracking down her estranged sisters who seem to hold the keys to her mother’s disappearance. Tracing the clues Margaret left behind, Josie joins forces with the other Girls, facing down those who seek to eradicate their very existence while uncovering secrets about their origins and unlocking devastating abilities they never knew they had.

A spellbinding supernatural thriller, Girl One combines the provocative imagination of Naomi Alderman's The Power with the propulsive, cinematic storytelling of a Marvel movie. In her electrifying new novel, Sara Flannery Murphy digs deep into women’s extraordinary power and reveals an unassailable truth: so much strength lies in numbers.

Josephine Morrow returns home from college to find her mother gone and their home a burned shell. Josie was Girl One, the first of nine “Miracle Babies” conceived without male DNA, raised with seven others and their single mothers in an experimental commune known as the Homestead. 

She sets off with a reporter to find where her mother went and is tracking down the other girls, hoping to find out who is trying to wipe out their existence. She unlocks some secrets along with abilities she and the other girls never knew they had. She will also learn a devasting secret as to why she was conceived and more.

This felt like a comic book origins story of mutants, except girls made from “virgin” births conceived without male DNA. But this is much more. I can actually see this as a movie.

I give Girl One 4 1/2 sheep.

Reviewed by Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Sara Flannery Murphy is the author of The Possessions and Girl One. She grew up in Arkansas, including the Arkansas Ozarks. Later, she received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis, then took a brief detour to study library science in British Columbia before jumping into writing her first novel. She now lives in Utah with her husband and two sons.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Story Behind the Story: SENTINEL by Drew Starling + giveaway

Well, hello there! My name is Drew Starling.

I’m an author of horror and dark fiction. I love writing strong female leads and I’ll promise you one thing: the dog never dies.

If you wanted to trace back the history of my writing career, my mother would refer you to a poem I wrote about bats in a graveyard in 2nd grade. She still has it, laminated and smashed in a binder of decades old memories from my childhood.

But I started writing horror in earnest about three years ago when something really strange happened to me.

Every year, my friends and I rent a cabin in the foothills of Shenandoah National Park. It’s really out there. No people, no towns, just trees and grass and hills. Three years ago, I arrived at the cabin straight from a trip I took to India, and I had the WORST jet lag I’ve ever had. I’d sleep all day and be awake all night.

Anyway, one night when I was lying awake, I rolled over to my side and gazed out the big front window of the bedroom I was staying in. The view overlooked a gloriously vast meadow filled with pine trees and wheatgrass, and right around 4am, when everyone else was asleep and a new dawn mist was forming in the distance, I saw this large shadowy thing slowly move across the land. I got up to look at what the thing was, but I couldn’t make it out, only to see that it was absolutely huge. It didn’t do anything crazy, it just moved – almost hovered – from one side of the meadow to the other.

After I was done being completely terrified and the sun came up, my mind ran wild with story possibilities. I scribbled an idea down on a piece of paper and recounted it to my friends that very day. Turn it into a short story! Turn it into a screenplay!

I was shocked they actually thought it was… good. So I did, and it started a little thing I was just going to post online until some fellow indie authors encouraged me to do more with it. I spent the next two years writing, and rewriting, and editing, and rewriting, and RE-rewriting, and just last week it finally saw the light of day in the form my first full-length novel, Sentinel.

I’ve already got a sequel in the works, and I’m releasing a short story collection later this fall with my best short fiction to date. If you want to check out my work, I’d be utterly delighted if you gave Sentinel a try (free on KU for a limited time).

by Drew Starling  
May 14th, 2021
Genre: Supernatural Horror
Publisher: Eerie River Publishing

Something is lurking within the woods just beyond the young Dreyer family’s new country home. And an evil that has been hiding in plain sight for centuries is about to emerge.

A neighbor is brutally murdered, their 4-year-old son goes missing in broad daylight, and the local town of Bensalem devolves into a cesspool of finger-pointing and chaos.

With nowhere left to turn, Aaron and Ellen Dreyer are forced to venture into the woods to find their son. But in the process, they uncover a force larger and more sinister than anything they ever could have imagined.

But from that nothingness, something arose. A click-clacking of claws on hardwood perforated the stillness. It started faintly and grew louder, closer, until a pair of glowing, yellow eyes suddenly stared back at him from the center of the room. Cooper’s eyes. Cooper stood there watching, alert. Aaron pushed himself up off the couch. “You okay? Come here.” But the dog did not heed his owner, instead lumbering through the living room to the front door. It, too, faced the front yard and the meadow across the street. “You need to go out?” With his nose an inch from the solid oak door and his eyes glaring right into it, Cooper’s ears pinned themselves back, and his upper lip curled, exposing a trap of lethal white teeth. His tail, which usually bounced along as he walked, divined itself straight down towards the ground, and his back legs began to quiver. Cooper glared at the door, slightly shaking, growling in a triggered rage. “Cooper, knock that off.” Aaron stood and faced the living room windows. Nothing seemed out of place in the front yard or the meadow, but Cooper continued to growl, his volume low enough not to wake Ellen or Caleb, but so downright out of place for a dog of his character that Aaron kept his distance. Then, like a photo somehow coming alive, a dark object moved on the perfectly-still canvas. A shadow at the edge of the pine forest on the right-hand side of the meadow pulled itself out of the thick black trees.

About the Author

An Amazon bestselling author of horror and dark fiction, Drew Starling is a husband and dog dad who loves strong female leads, martial arts, and long walks in the woods with canine companions. He would like to think his plots are better than his prose, but strives to make his words sound both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He listens to Beethoven, Megadeth, and Enya when he writes, and he’d be absolutely delighted if you’d consider joining his mailing list (which you can find a link to about one and a half mouse scrolls up this page). His only rule of writing: the dog never dies.

Twitter Tags:
@ScaryStarling @EerieRiver @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Sentinel #Supernatural #Horror

Book Tour Schedule
May 31st
Reads & Reels (Spotlight)
Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight)
Didi Oviatt (Spotlight)
I Smell Sheep (Spotlight)

June 1st
Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
Dark Whimsical Art (Spotlight)
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight)

June 2nd
Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Jessica Belmont (Review)
The Musings of a Final Girl (Spotlight)
Cats Luv Coffee (Guest Post)

June 3rd
Scarlett Readz & Runz (Spotlight)
Liliyana Shadowlyn (Review)
@gin_books_crochethooks (Review)
Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Spotlight)

June 4th
@evelovesbooks_travel_art (Review)
Phantom of the Library (Review)


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Book Review: Jaded Vamp (Jaded Vamp Series Book 1) by L.D. Wosar + giveaway

Jaded Vamp (Jaded Vamp Series Book 1)
by L.D. Wosar
January 12, 2021
Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance
Kaysee Goad
I was born only to be a menace to society until I was ratted out and became a menace inside of the walls of the Swift Correctional Facility in Southern California while doing an LWOP sentence. However, freedom came in the form of sacrificing my mortality to become an immortal killer - a kick-ass vamp. In my journey to immortality, my bond with my maker, Dominic Belluomo opens the door to not only great and powerful love, but to be an elite soldier in his Milite Coven. It is my duty to drain those who did me wrong, to protect my coven, and to protect the man who spared my life.

Dominic Belluomo
When my thoughts were first overwhelmed with visions of inmate Goad, all I could envision was the resurrection of my love, Kassandra Lillywhite. I chose to sacrifice a young girl’s wasted life for my own selfish reasons-I wanted to feel my love again. However, Kaycee Goad teaches me to be patient and what real love is. She is my mate, she is my elite soldier with a huge IDGAF attitude who could save this dying covenant. Kaycee Goad is my forever love and I do everything in my power to protect what’s mine.

Jaded Vamp is a shorter read at only about 200 pages, which is actually pretty awesome. It takes just enough time to tell the story and make it very enjoyable in the process. Some books just don't need all the excess blah blah blah of fillers, some sometimes a book can just slay you at whatever length it is. This is one of those times!

I absolutely loved this darker romance, but I am usually drawn to the darker side of the reading road anyway. Along with the darkness comes some really well-written action and a love affair that burned the pages up! This was a new author for me, but I would read anything else she writes next. Got me hooked for more!

Getting 4 and 1/2 Sheep



The lights were off in her cell, I am not sure why. Ah, that's why, it's nine o'clock at night, still, no matter what the protocol was, I wasn't about to let a wild animal ambush me. I was not about to allow some wild animals to ambush me. Of course, she’d be at the losing end if she even attempted it. The moment I stepped into the cell, the light automatically turned on. I jumped, it was startling to be face to face with the girl. She was a lovely girl but would be even more attractive if she didn’t wear such a menacing smile on her face. “Who in the fuck are you?” This feral animal asked me.

About the Author
LD Wosar writes Western Fantasy. She's from Olympia, Washington but currently living in Las Vegas and works in the Gaming Industry. She's written the Western trilogy, Kit Weston Chronicles, A Capot Adventure Series, and newly a time-travel adventure, Relic. Writing is her obsession, which she spends all of her free time writing stories with a Paranormal flare.

$20 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Thriller Author Bradley Carter: Fun Facts about the Bodhi Crocodile Series + giveaway

Fun Facts about the Bodhi Crocodile Series

🐊 There's a chapter titled, "Son of a Business Man," and it's the first time we meet the character, Alvie. In a later chapter, Alvie is browsing a collection of vinyl records. One of them is an album by Dusty Springfield who wrote and performed the song, "Son of a Preacher Man." In the same scene, Alvie plays a single by Bobby Darin but the song is not named. However, the song is right there in the title of the chapter: "Mack the Knife." Alvie also has a philosophy about the moon, and he first mentions this in a bar. The song playing on the jukebox is Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon."

🐊 As comic relief, there's a chapter when Bodhi and Alvie stop by a bar. The author, Bradley Carter, is written in as the bartender. The book's editors, Justin Bridges and Jennifer Fall, are written in as patrons.

🐊 Though her name isn't mentioned, one of the police officers is the character, Liz Williams, from "Son of a Bitch." Another is Avery, who has appeared as a character in every other book.

🐊 This is the first book not edited by the author's friend, Jaime Thorn, and it's referenced in the chapter when Freddy Gordon's collection of encyclopedias is missing the volume for J.

🐊 AUTHOR TRADEMARK: Alvie Gordon's office is located on the third floor of a building. Any scene taking place in previous books on an upper floor of a building, happens on the third. Felix Hines worked on the third floor in "Brightside." Miranda Neal's room is on the third floor of the hospital in "Red Flags." Craze has his own on the third floor in "Valiant."

🐊 Bodhi's handgun is a 9mm Taurus 1911.

🐊 Freddy Gordon is loosely based on the late actor Hume Cronyn.

🐊 Alvie is an anagram for the word “Alive.”

🐊 Part 2 contains 50 chapters. The first one written was chapter 45, titled: “Lights. Camera. Action!” In this chapter, there’s a song by Norman Greenbaum that is mentioned. The lyrics contain clues to the end of Part 3 and the outcome of the entire trilogy.

🐊 Part 2 was released on April 8th, the author’s birthday.

🐊 Tony, the rideshare driver, is the main character of the short story, “Ride Share,” also written by the author, and is loosely based on actor Tony Goldwyn.

🐊 Though the city is never mentioned, a few characters from the author's previous books appear, thus placing the story in the same universe.

🐊 Originally, Enzo's last name was Gianni but later changed to DiGiovanni as a nod to the original founders of the Kansas City Mafia.

🐊 Yeshua is based on a real person the author discovered at a restaurant. His physical description and features are identical, including related details such as the pink ‘Bitchmobile’ decal on the rear window of a brown van and fashionable combat boots. He’s six-feet-plus in height, which makes him the perfect villain to confront Bodhi.

🐊 Sharli’s character was originally a boy named Charlie. She explains this change when she first meets Bodhi.

🐊 Bodhi wears a wristwatch set six hours off from the correct time. The purpose is left unexplained in the second book, but the time difference serves as a reference to the six people who go missing throughout the story. Bodhi crushes the watch by stepping on it, but it’s not forgotten in Part 3.

🐊 Part 2: The Button is the author’s eighth novel. The preceding books are referenced throughout, as well as unfinished projects the sequel bumped aside.
-Red Flags - One of the six missing persons is a software engineer student.

-Craze - A red cardinal bird lands on Willian’s tombstone and interacts with Bodhi.

-Valiant - Detective Spencer mentions Cherish’s twin sister was murdered.

-Brightside - The commercial airing on television is for the A.G. Loan Company.

-Slumberland - Channel 8 News. Sierra Preston is the anchor.

-Son of a Bitch - Wally Redmond mumbles, “Son of a bitch.”

-In This Room - Alvie is distracted by a busty blonde (Addelyn Delacroix) passing by the window and heading to the hair salon.

🐊 Music plays an important role throughout the novel. Even though the titles are not named, they serve as either foreshadowing or clues to the plot’s outcome. You can access the playlist by searching for ‘Bodhi Crocodile’ on Youtube.

Bodhi Crocodile (Bodhi Crocodile Part 1)
by Bradley Carter
July 1, 2020
Genre: Heart-warming, tear-jerking, spine-chilling thriller
A crazed psychopath menaces a six-foot-three gentle mute man whose simple, childlike grace compels the best from four strangers who unite to protect him. Bodhi Crocodile shakes, then restores, your faith in humanity. The price? A few tears.

Bodhi is a six-foot-three mute with a child-like persona who carries with him his new companion—a plush toy crocodile.
Searching the streets for pieces of the sheltered life he knew of yesterday, he wanders into the real world, a dangerous place of loss and heartache. When the dark secrets of his newfound friends are exposed, he finds himself caught in the cross-fire and soon, hiding out from a murderous psychopath who controls the city’s underground. To protect himself, this grown man, who can’t tie his own shoes, will need to learn the ways of becoming a killer. Throughout his journey, Bodhi’s lesson serves as a reminder to us all of what it was once like to be innocent.

From Bradley Carter, the author of Red Flags, Craze, Valiant, Brightside, Slumberland, and Son of a Bitch, comes a thrilling story that will chill your spine and warm your heart.

Book Trailer:

The Button (Bodhi Crocodile Part 2)

Book Trailer:

Divinity (Bodhi Crocodile Part 3)

About the Author

Bradley Carter is an award-winning author of twisted thrillers and dark comedy. Born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, he now lives in Indianapolis and has been writing novels since 2018.

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Enter to win an Amazon Echo Dot, Audiobook, signed posters, signed books and other merchandise here!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

KICKSTARTER: Winning Streak: Tales and Trivia of the 40 Most Popular Board Games

If you enjoy trivia and board games, then this book is for you! We're also launching a Kickstarter for Winning Streak today, so have a look!

Winning Streak: Tales and Trivia of the 40 Most Popular Board Games
by John-Michael Gariepy 
Expected Publication Date: Coming Soon!
Genre: Games/ Trivia/ Non-Fiction
Did you ever wonder:

♞ What makes Clue the best movie based on a game franchise?
♝ What does the doubling cube in backgammon do?
♜ How trains are even supposed to operate in Ticket to Ride: Antarctica?
♛ How the designer of the board game Pandemic feels now that he’s lived through an actual global pandemic?
♚ Whatever happened to the Monopoly game show from the 90s?

Based on Ranker’s poll of almost 400,000 votes, these games define us. From multiple-award winning masterpieces of the past decade, to indestructible classics still going strong after 5,000 years of play, these are the games you must play before you die. Well, except for Sorry!. That game is a blight upon this list and mankind as a whole.

Excuse me. What I’m trying to say is that I wrote this book about games, and I thought you might like it
Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Over the past decade, John-Michael Gariepy played and reviewed over four hundred board games for three podcasts. He produces the movie/media conversation show, Popcorn Roulette, edited Stephen Albair’s jewelry and tableau photography art book/memoir called Spectacles, and directs and produces the medical audio drama Say Hello to Black Jack. He has a wide range of interests, a tremendous love of learning, and a goofy sense of humor.

Twitter Tags: @JM_Gariepy @RRBookTours1 #RRBookTours #Books

Book Blitz Organized By:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Children's Fantasy Author J.A. Culican: How to be a kickass dragon slayer… in 3 easy steps!

How to be a kickass dragon slayer… in 3 easy steps!

Step 1: Armour- it’s all about style not function. Cover your bits and nothing else. Your skin will distract the dragon as you go in for the kill.

Step 2: Weapons- are useless but pretty. There is no weapon that can kill a dragon; however, a bow and arrow looks really impressive and when fitted against your back still shows all that skin you need to distract a dragon.

Step 3: Don’t fall in love- this is the hardest step. Dragons are irresistible and have been known to take down even the strongest dragon slayer with nothing more than their smoke and swagger.

New title: How to Get a Dragon to Fall in Love with You: Dress as a Dragon Slayer

by J.A. Culican 
April 29, 2021
254 pages
Genre:  Children's Coming of Age, Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery,
Dragons & Mythical Creatures
Her bloodline says they should be mortal enemies. Her heart swears otherwise. Will her torn loyalties leave her vulnerable to a rising evil?
Minx’s hunting and fighting skills are legendary. But when adversaries trespass on the royal Fae lands, she’s nervous about her mission to restore the defense wards by slaying a dragon and returning with its powerful hide. And the ferocious warrior grows desperate when neighboring clans demand that she defeat not one, but two of the fearsome beasts in fights to the death.

Angered by the coercive demand, Minx tracks down her first red-scaled monster—only to be stunned when it shifts into a stunning young man. And when her handsome foe claims they share a common adversary, her attraction tempts her toward an unheard-of alliance against a dark new threat.

Will Minx’s quest to save her species drag them into a bloody war?

How to Kill a Dragon is the breathtaking first book in the Heir of Dragons epic fantasy series. If you like fierce heroines, forbidden romance, and magic gone awry, then you’ll love J. A. Culican’s fiery tale.

Buy How to Kill a Dragon to battle the demons of destiny today!

“It sounds like the Fae are going to have a big fight on their hands,” said Kaleb, arms crossed. “We'll find some way to protect the realm—”
“I'll say we will,” interrupted Minx. “I'm going to find myself a dragon's hide and get it to the elders before time runs out. That's the mission. Nothing's changed.”
The dragon shifter sighed, kneading his brow with a few fingers. “We're going to find a way to protect the realm,” he repeated. “Another way.”
“If we don't reset the shields, then—”
Kaleb raised a hand to silence her. “You want to protect your home, your people. I understand that. In fact, I respect it.” He donned a genuine smile, motioning at the chair she'd just abandoned. “You know, that's what I was raised to do, too. To defend my kind at any cost. You only get one homeland, one people. Only a coward wouldn't risk everything to defend their own. But what you're asking for...” He shook his head. “There has to be another way. And together, I think we can find it, Minx.”
Watching the movements of the sword very closely, he'd managed to reach out and grab the Fae's thin arm before she could connect with her weapon, and applying his forceful grip, the dragon shifter put pressure on her forearm till she cried out in pain and the sword fell from her grasp. She fell to her knees, tugging and panting but ultimately unable to pull away from him.
He heard the smooth nocking of an arrow, the drawing of a bow. “No!”
Minx had wasted no time. With her opponent disarmed by the dragon shifter, she'd loaded a fresh shot and prepared to deliver a point-blank coup de grace. The arrow had begun to fly, only to meet its terminus in Kaleb's waiting hand. The sharpened tip of the arrow sheared the skin of his palm neatly, but he was able to stop the thing before it reached its intended target, and he cast it away with a wince.
“What are you doing?” demanded Minx, pulling another arrow from her quiver.
At this, he reached out and took Minx by the arm, pulling her close with such unexpected force she dropped her bow. A wide-eyed rag doll in his furious gaze, she found herself nearly nose-to-nose with him, his hot breath streaking across her reddening cheek. “No more. You can't kill her, Minx,” he ordered. “The fight is over. Understand?”
They remained in this way for several beats, the race of her pulse felt clearly against his wounded palm. From this distance—closer than he'd ever been to her before—he couldn't help taking in the faint quiver of her soft lips, the innocence of her wide, watery eyes. Sure, she was a Fae—but he couldn't deny her loveliness. She didn't pull away from him, didn't make an immediate effort to break free, and the quickening of her pulse almost gave him the impression she liked being in his grasp.
Get ahold of yourself, he thought, letting her go gently when he was sure she would no longer lash out. He shook his head, sporting an almost embarrassed grin. There are more important things to worry about. Are you really going to let yourself get carried away with this girl? She's a Fae, after all! What are you thinking?
Minx's face had taken on an uncharacteristic flush. She drew away from him, lowering her gaze and slowly picking up her weapon. Running a hand through her dark, tousled locks, she couldn't seem to find her voice and stood silently beside the cage where Mau watched in silence.
He had to force himself to look away from Minx, to distract himself and quiet the thumping of his own heart. A Dragon and a Fae? You're really losing it, aren't you? But then, maybe...
Kaleb, having regained his breath, struggled to his feet. “You're not taking her anywhere, you understand me?” He stood upright with a pained grunt, arms hanging at his sides.
Torrent pointed at the dragon and shot Alla a sharp glance. “I'd love to leave them out of it, but they insist on butting in. I suppose I have no choice.” He thrust out an open palm, fingers arrayed rigidly like claws, and turned toward Kaleb. “You should have stayed down the first time.”
There was, in the next instant, a flash of blinding light.
The sound of splitting metal and splintering trees sounded, and Minx felt a powerful burst of wind wash past her. It came so intensely that she fell onto her back, unable to remain seated on the ground, while Kaleb was hurried off his feet entirely and thrust against the nearest tree.
When the dust had settled and her eyes had adjusted after the brilliant flash, Minx turned to Kaleb and began crawling toward him.
And then she halted, heart seizing and guts churning.
Slack-jawed and moaning, Kaleb had been pinned to the massive trunk of the tree—not by any invisible force or psychical trick, but by arrows. Three stone-colored arrows, conjured by Torrent, had penetrated Kaleb's dense armor and impaled him at various points through the chest and stomach. The tips of said arrows had passed straight through him, and were buried in the trunk of the ancient tree, which had rattled and creaked as though a mere sapling.
It was impossible. Everything she'd witnessed was impossible. No normal arrow could hope to pierce Kaleb's thick plate armor. But Torrent had stuck the dragon shifter with three at once, summoning them from thin air. He remained pinned to the tree, bleeding profusely. His end was very near. No one could sustain that kind of damage and hope to recover.

I've not only disgraced my father, but my entire people. I'm not worthy of the title of Dragon Hunter—or Royal Fae, even. I feel like I've betrayed them all...

“What are you talking about?” blurted Minx. “He very nearly killed you, Kaleb! We need to be careful around him.”

“You're right,” he conceded, “but he faced me this way, man-to-man. Let's see how he fares man-to-dragon.”
*** Minx had been waiting for this day. The wait had seemed to her an eternity. Journeying across the land with Kaleb and Mau, finding herself in one mess after another, she had begun to wonder whether the fateful clash would ever arrive. Now, as Kaleb lumbered on with her on his back, the wait was over. She squinted into the distance, spying untold hordes bearing down on her precious homeland. There were more marchers flooding in from the horizon than she could hope to slay with a hundred full quivers, and she felt almost dizzy at the immensity of their ranks. It's like a dream, she thought absently, clinging to the dragon shifter's scales. Minx knew what it meant to fight in a battle; this, however, was a war.

About the Author
J.A. Culican is a USA Today Bestselling author of the middle-grade fantasy series Keeper of Dragons. Her first novel in the fictional series catapulted a trajectory of titles and awards, including top-selling author on the USA Today bestsellers list and Amazon, and a rightfully earned spot as an international bestseller. Additional accolades include Best Fantasy Book of 2016, Runner-up in Reality Bites Book Awards, and 1st place for Best Coming of Age Book from the Indie book Awards.

J.A. Culican holds a Master's degree in Special Education from Niagara University, in which she has been teaching special education for over 13 years. She is also the president of the autism awareness non-profit Puzzle Peace United. J.A. Culican resides in Southern New Jersey with her husband and four young children.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Movie Review: The Paper Tigers (2020) on Amazon Prime

The Paper Tigers (2020)
May 7, 2021
Director: Quoc Bao Tran
Writer: Quoc Bao Tran
Cast: Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Matthew Page
Rating: PG-13 (Offensive Slurs|Violence|Some Strong Language)
Genre: Sports And Fitness, Action, Comedy
Runtime: 1h 48m
Three martial artists--notorious in their prime as "the three tigers"--have grown into middle-aged men one kick from a pulled muscle. But after their teacher's murder, they must juggle dead-end jobs, dad duties, and old grudges to avenge him.

I think it's important to understand some background on this film to really appreciate what they have done. All the info from:

The director and producers had a strong admiration for martial arts and old-school fun martial arts films. Bao Tran used his friendships and classmates from when he studied martial arts as inspiration.

They had a male Asian-American main character in mind with a minority leading cast but they were worried about whitewashing by a studio...and guess what?! Hollywood producers offered them 4 million dollars BUT there could be no Asian lead character and suggested that Bruce Willis be the lead and a part for Nicholas Cage had to be added... 

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in...

Bao Tran and company said no and crowdfunded their movie. They raised $124k on Kickstarter in 2018 and then some private investors (including someone who learned under Bruce Lee) added one million dollars more. They made the indie movie in Seattle's Chinatown-International District. The local businesses offered free food and lodging and production studio space for the cast and crew.

Okay, history lesson over...

 The Paper Tigers is a movie about childhood friends, growing up and growing apart, and reconnecting. It switches between the three main characters' childhood martial art lessons with their shifu (Kung Fu master) and present day. The whole murder mystery is kind of flimsy. It is just a device to bring the three together. And it has a definite indie feel. The humor is predictable and cliche but the inclusion of Matthew Page's stereotype character is hilarious. There is also some great Kung Fu fighting. 

WARNING: This part is my personal opinion and doesn't represent other members of the I Smell Sheep staff.
If the director had had a studio budget and resources would the movie have been better? I some ways, yes. But in the most important way, no. Whitewashing is a systemic problem in more than just the entertainment industry and it makes me angry.

My husband and I enjoyed The Paper Tigers and give it
3 1/2 "poison fingered" Sheep


Monday, May 24, 2021

Double Book Review: Shadow Storm (A Shadow Riders Novel Book 6) by Christine Feehan

Shadow Storm (A Shadow Riders Novel Book 6)
by Christine Feehan
May 25, 2021
Book 6 of 6: The Shadow Series
Publisher: Berkley
432 pages
'The queen of paranormal romance . . . I love everything she does' J R WARD

The No. 1 New York Times Bestselling author Christine Feehan is back with another explosive, heart-pounding read in the Shadow series . . .
As the youngest member of the Ferrao family, Emmanuelle has watched each of her brothers find happiness in love while her own heart was shattered by a lover's betrayal. For two years she's stayed as far away from Valentino Saldi as possible - until she learns that he's been shot during a hostile takeover of his family's territory.

Emme's first instinct is to call her brother Stefano for help, and soon the entire Ferraro clan arrives to bring Val back from the brink of death and protect the Saldis from further attack. With one choice Emme has re-exposed herself to Val's intoxicating pull and dragged her family into the Saldis' private war.

A deadly storm is brewing, and only time will tell who survives...

Reviewer: Mary Kirkland - Dark Thoughts Blog
I give this book 4
I was given an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley but all thought and opinions are my own.

As the youngest member of the Ferraro family, Emmanuelle has watched each of her brothers find happiness in love while her own heart was shattered by a lover’s betrayal. For two years she’s stayed as far away from Valentino Saldi as possible—until she learns that he’s been shot during a hostile takeover of his family’s territory.

Emme’s first instinct is to call her brother Stefano for help, and soon the entire Ferraro clan arrives to bring Val back from the brink of death and protect the Saldis from further attack. With one choice Emme has re-exposed herself to Val’s intoxicating pull and dragged her family into the Saldis’ private war.

A deadly storm is brewing, and only time will tell who survives…
Emme has always loved Val but their families don't get along and her brothers have never really listened to her when she tried to tell them her feelings for Val. But Emme goes to him when she finds out he's been shot and when she calls her brothers for help, they don't hesitate to help Val and his family.

Val loves Emme but he said some things about her that really hurt her and even though he tried to make it right they are no longer together. So he's shocked to see her and her family after he wakes up after surgery for the bullet wounds he sustained.

After Val's uncle tries to kill him and his adopted father and he's gotten through surgery, his uncle comes back with his men to finish the job but by that time Emme's family is there to make sure they don't succeed. There's a huge fight but the Ferraro family is really good at killing the bad guys. Val is more than mad when he finds out that his uncle has been selling kids and women to the highest bidder and has horrible dungeons in some of his clubs where really bad things are going on. After finding out all this information and more he enlists Emme's family to help him rescue the kidnapped kids and women, shut down the clubs, and make the responsible people pay for it all. There's a lot of bloodshed and a lot of action in this book but it was great to see the Ferraro and Saldi family's working together to get it done.

There was one heck of a twist at the end but I really liked seeing Val and Emme finally come together. Sure they had a lot of things to work through and the whole shadow binding thing was just weird but I was glad to see Emme happy at last. All of the brothers and their wives are in this book and I really liked seeing all of them again. This series is best read in order because there are so many characters to get to know.

Reviewer: Bianca Greenwood
Four Sheep
The sixth entry of Christine Feehan’s Shadow Riders series is Emmanuelle’s tale. The sole sister of the Ferraro family finally gets her own book after being featured in all previous installments. Readers know Emmanuelle is hopelessly in love with the forbidden and dangerous Valentino Saldi, the heir apparent to the Saldi crime family. The Saldis and Ferraros are locked in a generations-long feud and have long been at odds. Fiercely protective of their sister, the Ferraro brothers have tried to keep their sister safe and out of Val’s clutches. Recently Emme is willing to comply. She believes Val has betrayed her and was using her as a pawn in his family’s quest for power. But when Val’s family faces real and mortal danger, Emme is powerless to resist. She and her family swoop in to join forces with their enemy to defeat a larger, more nefarious foe.

Throughout the series, I was intrigued by Emmanuelle and Valentino’s story. We knew we’d eventually get the dirty details and were teased forever. As always, miscommunication is at the heart of Emme and Val’s strife and they must work together to build trust in business and love. The book is fast-paced and characteristically sexy as hell. Given Emme and Val’s tumultuous past, the tension between the two is simmering and deep. This was one of my favourite entries in the Shadow Rider series. Like other books in the series, there’s a HEA formula, so don’t expect anything completely novel.

All our favourite Ferraro heroes return in this book to mete out their lethal brand of vigilante justice. A new character, Val’s cousin and right-hand Dario Saldi, is fleshed out in this installment. As it turns out the Saldis have their own curious secrets and are more closely linked to the Ferraros than anyone imagined. I predict Dario will return in the series with his own story to tell. His dangerous persona and rough possessiveness will make him appropriately alpha enough for his own book.

About the Author:
I write every day and have done so since I was old enough to pick up a pen. (I spent a lot of time getting in trouble at school for writing instead of doing the things I was supposed to do.) Once I create my characters, I try very hard to have them react to situations as they really would. Sometimes I have preconceived ideas of what I would like them to do, but they don't mind me, because it would be out of character for them. They take on a life of their own. Sometimes when I throw difficult situations at them in the hopes I'll get a certain reaction and they don't do what I want, I complain bitterly to my husband and he laughs at me. Still, it is important to me to have them be real, not perfect people, so they make mistakes we lesser mortals might make.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Book Review: Westwood University (Westwood Chronicles Book 1) by Alexandria James + giveaway

Westwood University (
Westwood Chronicles Book 1)
by Alexandria James
April 29, 2021
325 pages
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Fantasy Romance
I needed a change. A break from life In my hometown where I am forced to watch those around me have their lives come together, while mine—mine just stays the same.

Little did I know that my acceptance to Westwood University, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, would change my life forever.

It started off wonderful, until I found out that the campus was supposedly haunted. I made a stupid choice, ringing a bell that they said would open the gates of hell and inducing chaos.

Everyone hated me. Everyone told me to go home. Except for him.

I never expected to fall in love. Up until now I was sure that the supernatural didn’t exist. But he wasn’t human and I wasn’t crazy....

Ezlynn decides to leave her home in Florida to attend grad school at Westwood University in North Carolina. Once she arrives, she learns via a Google search that the university is considered the most haunted university in North Carolina. She doesn’t believe in ghosts and the supernatural, so during a campus tour, she rings the sacred bell said to open the gates to hell. The last time the bell sounded was 1873, and the town was almost completely slaughtered by demons.

After becoming an even bigger outsider than before, she befriends Phoenix, a good-looking, mysterious male student who has a secret. They get closer as the semester goes along, and he seems to become a guardian of sorts to her.

Okay, so Ezlynn rings the bell at the beginning of the semester. After the professor had hyped up the slaughter the demons had caused their last time around, I was expecting all sorts of bloodshed and chaos. But nada. I read on, thinking maybe the demons were in hell warming up and doing stretches since it’d been so long since they’d been released. No one likes pulling a muscle. Spoiler Alert: the demons never really show up. There is no terror and destruction.

This is basically a girl-meets-boy, girl-falls-for-boy, boy-is-not-human, we-shouldn’t-be-together-but-can’t-help-falling-in-love story. It’s been done much better in other books. Ezlynn and Phoenix come off as selfish and whiney through most of the story, and it was hard to get through at times. I should also state there’s a scene in the book that comes off like a sexual assault between the main characters, and I think it could have been handled in a much better way,

This is touted as book 1 of the Westwood Chronicles, and I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to read anymore. I’m still waiting for the damn demons.

I give this book 3 sheep out of 5 because it was kind of amusing at the beginning.

RJ Lowe

I’ve never believed in the supernatural. Ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies all make for good television. But none of it is real life.

My dad always said I was an old soul. Until I turned twelve and had a lapse in judgment, becoming friends with a couple of Twihards—girls who are obsessed with vampire books and want to die by being bitten. I secretly read the book series too, but I was always team Jacob.

I’ve spent the better half of my life on a mission to become a biochemist and had no room for fluff or love triangles. My long-term goal is to find a cure for breast cancer, so that no one else will have to lose their mother at fourteen—like I did.

So, when I finally found a grad school that met the criteria I was looking for, I immediately applied and got in... just to get kicked off the campus tour for mocking their belief in an absurd legend. I rang a bell, big freaking deal.

Little did I know that that bell would alter the course of my life forever. My name is Ezlynn Mitchell, and this is the story of how one bad decision made me believe in the supernatural and love.

About the Author
Alexandria James was born in California, but raised all over the US due to being a child of the military. She loves to laugh, sing and write-- when not spending precious time with her family. Alexandria lives in South Florida with her husband and two sons.

$15 Amazon
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Saturday, May 22, 2021

Movie Review: Army of the Dead (2021)

Army of the Dead (2021)
May 21, 2021
Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold
Stars: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera
Runtime: 2h 28m
Production Co: The Stone Quarry
Rating: R (Some Sexual Content|Gore|Language Throughout|Graphic Nudity|Strong Bloody Violence)
Genre: Horror, Action, Adventure, Crime
Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

Well... Army of the Dead has all the predictable bank heist/zombie movie troupes they could shove in and delivers action/horror movie goodness with a dose of snark. It has one hell of an opening credit scene--a music montage of the fall of Las Vegas to a zombie horde.

You can watch it here:

I just don't know how I feel about Zack Snyder's vision...I've seen Justice League and Army of the Dead and I see his brilliance but also his I'm pulled in two different directions. Which makes it hard to review Army of the Dead.

I'm really on the fence about what I think. My husband and I agree, it has some great scenes but I can't tell you what we had issues with because it will spoil the ending. If you want to know you can highlight: all but one person seemed like such a waste. I know most horror movies end that way but this time it bothered me.  But there is also some clever storytelling going on...there is going to be a prequel and possible other spin-offs.

It is 2 1/2 hours long, but there is enough action to keep your interest. If you love zombie movies and willing to jump over some plot holes (some might be intentional), you'll want to catch this one.

The zombie-killing action is at least 4 1/2 "zombie baby" sheep!

The story gets 3 1/2 "Easy peasy" Sheep