Saturday, June 25, 2016

REVIEW: Billy and the Clonesaurus

"The Whirling Fan of Death abruptly stopped spinning the instant it struck William 789-6's abdomen.  The chalky-white, pain-wracked face of 789 stared at them accusingly for about fifteen seconds before he finally succumbed to blood loss.  (Intestinal loss was also, no doubt, a contributing factor to the poor clone's death."

Billy & the Cloneasaurus
By: Stephen Kozeniewski

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication date: 6.22.2014
Pages: 166

Date read: 6.16.2016

Can you imagine what it's like to live in a world full of 6 million people just like you?  I mean literally - a world of clones, each a balding, middle-age man named William.  Add to that the fact that you live for only one year before you're sen to a machine that chops you up and feeds you to the next group of Williams being "born" that day.
            Things change, though, when something goes wrong and 790 lives past his death date due to an accident that leaves the machine in need of repairs.  That one moment leads to a series of moments - and questions - that change THIS William's life completely.

Having read Stephen's book, Braineater Jones, I went into this book with thoughts in mind, but really having no idea where this story was going (I will admit that I didn't even read the book description, but had stared at the cover for weeks on my Kindle... curious).  This definitely wasn't what I expected, but should have been, considering the off-beat humor that he has throughout Braineater.

I really enjoyed this book.  I like Billy and the other characters, and seeing how, even though they were clones, they had their differences.  There were parts that made me laugh, and other parts that made me just sit there at the Kindle and stare... or maybe glare is the word I'm looking for.  I also like how the story came together in the end.

If you're looking for a fun book that doesn't take long to read... or much brain use... and like a good chuckle, you should check this book out.  (And Braineater Jones, too.)

About the book:
Six billion identical clones make up the entire population of Earth, and William 790-6 (57th Iteration) is exactly like everybody else.  In his one year of life, he will toil in suburban mediocrity and spend as much cash as possible in order to please his corporate masters.  When 790's first birthday (and scheduled execution) finally rolls around, a freak accident spares his life.
            Living past his expiration date changes 790 profoundly.  Unlike other clones, he becomes capable of questioning the futility of his own existence.  Seeking answers in the wilderness, he discovers a windmill with some very strange occupants, including a freakish, dinosaur-like monstrosity.  Which is especially strange since every animal on earth is supposed to be extinct...
            Dark, haunting, and blisteringly satirical, Billy & the Cloneasaurus is the story of one "man's" attempt to finally become an individual in a world of copies.

About the author:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie.  During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star.  He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's is in German.

REVIEW: Splintered Souls

"A chill cut through her, and Lady Catherine Fairchild melted into her cloak.  She forced herself to keep to the shadows as she followed her maid along the darkened path to the stables.  Even with no moon to light her way and wearing a pair of borrowed boots at least two sizes too large for her feet, she lost her footing only once."

Flames of Time 1:
Splintered Souls
By: Erica Lucke Dean

Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Publication date: 8.29.15
Pages: 244

Recommended by: Read 2 Review
Date read: 6.21.16

Every woman, at some point in her life, dreams of finding her soulmate and living happily ever after. It's been said that the physical draw between you and your "other half" is something that you cannot deny... and cannot break.  In life, though, nothing is ever perfect, and so often things do not go the way you dream them.
            Ava had her life planned out, but after her father's death, she chose to move to Maine with her family and start her life over.  She enrolled in a small college and they moved into her grandmother's summer home.  Her family seemed to be getting better and she made some friends, even met the man of her dreams (that was a bit of craziness right there), but because of events from the past, Ava's life begins a crazy spiral that she never expected... one she has no idea how to handle.

Anyone who has discussed books with me in any way KNOWS that I am not a fan of romance.  I'm not completely opposed to there being romance IN a story, but the novel has to have a compelling storyline that will keep me hooked, something unusual, with a nice balance between romance and the rest of the story.  
            Not long ago, I had the pleasure (and I say that sincerely) of reading another book by Erica (Ashes of Life), so when I was asked to read this one, and having read the book description, I decided it was one I was willing to give a try to.
            I knew halfway through that I had made the right decision.  It was almost impossible for me to put this down, and I only did so because I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  

This story had so much of what I love in a book, including adventure, and the romance, though a major part of the story, was the conflict, which actually made it even more interesting to me.  
            There's a lot to take in - every bit important.  She manages to tell a story that takes place in two different times (the present, which is affected by the past) and does so smoothly.  Her use of flashbacks is perfect, and the research that she has done on so many things throughout the book (including Tudor history, Lady Catherine, witches, curses, and spells) is spot on.

She has a way with characters that I find absolutely amazing, and anyone who is looking to improve their characters should take a look at the way she does it.  Each one is so real, which is quite refreshing.  Her characters have both a good and a bad side, sometimes making it hard to decide whether you like or dislike them... and sometimes you both hate and love them at the same time, but can't figure out why.  I get gut feelings about her characters, as if they were real people, which says a lot about her writing ability.
            My absolute favorite character is Josh.   He is Ava's little brother, and is the perfect representation of an eleven-year-old.  He can be such a jerk, and yet turn around and be completely loving, and I was so happy with the fact that he was willing to stand up to his sister when he knew she was wrong, defending the choice he made along with his friend.
            My least favorite character was Ava.  I just get SO tired of the "perfect female" character.  I'm not saying that she was all bad.  I just have a hard time relating to the whole "perfect" thing - she's so pretty and has a great body, the popular girls want to hang out with her, she easily fits in, and the guys are all chasing her.  Despite her father's death and the grief they are feeling, her life is still pretty perfect, even though there are things going on in the story that rocks her "perfect" world.  I think that's all just a personal thing with me, though, so I don't hold it against the author at all.

The ending was pretty amazing, and I can't wait to get my hands on book two.  It definitely was not the way I was expecting to things - not the direction I had fully expected things to go in as the events unraveled - but it ended perfectly.  In fact, I don't think there's any other way it could have ended - and I usually get really ticked off about cliffhangers.  It answered quite a few questions, but also left it open to SO many possibilities.

Definitely a book I recommend to others, including people like me who aren't fans of romance, and I can see this being in my top favorite reads of the year.

About the book:
When Ava Flynn walks away from a scholarship to Georgetown and moves into her grandmother's abandoned summer home in coastal Maine, she steps into the center of a centuries-old curse.  On her first night, she notices a mysterious leather-clad stranger looking up at her third-story window.  For weeks, everywhere she goes, Ava catches more glimpses of him, but she can never get close enough to find out who he is.  
            Over three hundred years ago, Lady Catherine Fairchild risked everything to protect her unborn child, sending a ripple through time that would change Ava's future.  As the mystery unravels, the horrifying consequences of Lady Catherine's choices drag Ava deeper into a world she never knew existed, trapping her in a conflict that's been raging since before she was born.  A winner-take-all battle for her souls.

About the author:
After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.
            When she's not busy writing or tending to her collection of crazy chickens, diabolical ducks, and a quintet of piglets, hell bent on having her for dinner, she's either reading bad fan fiction or singing karaoke in the local pub.  Much like the main character in To Katie with Love, Erica is a magnet for disaster, and has been known to trip on air while walking across flat surfaces.
            How she's managed to survive this long is one of life's great mysteries.

REVIEW: Mirror Image

"Silver eyes, sharp as blades, tearing through him, leaving his body shredded and bloody."

Mirror Image
By: Michele Pariza Wacek

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Love-Based Publishing
Publication date: 5.27.16
Pages: 274

Recommended by: Worldwind Virtual Book Tours, Read 2 Review
Date read: 6.8.16

Linda grew up in an abusive household along with her four brothers and little sister, Elizabeth, who committed suicide six months ago.  Everyone in the family has handled the death differently, and it (as well as behavior by her family) hit her hard.  Lately, though, she's been having dreams about Elizabeth - and is even sure that she saw her one day while she was on her way home from work.  
            Maybe it's the fact that Steve, a guy she once knew, has come back into her life, investigating a string of murders and believing, at least on some level, that Elizabeth did not die.  Maybe it's the stress of the first family dinner (and holiday) since Elizabeth's death, and the fact that at least one of her brothers blames her for what happened.  She's unsure, but things keep happening - time she can't remember, nightmares, and police officers that act like she's hiding something - all leading her to feel (and act) more guilty.
            Can she be the murderer?  Or is Elizabeth still alive?  Who would go through all of this trouble to make Linda look (and feel) guilty?

I am a big fan of psychological thrillers, so when this was suggested to me, I decided to give it a go.  The book description drew me in and the title of the novel had my brain working from the very first page, wondering how the two go together.  As the story went on, though, it felt more like a cozy mystery with a little bit of paranormal thrown in, and the way things worked out just seemed a little too easy with "facts" that, up until the end, were just things Linda believed without much question.

The characters are written well, and I enjoyed the fact that sometimes I wasn't sure if she should be trusting the person or not.  (I went back and forth several times with who I thought was behind everything.)
            The two characters I liked the most were Mrs. Jensen and Don Shimon.  Unfortunately, they were not actual characters in the story, but more like side people who had known the family once upon a time.  I'm still not really sure what they were there for, other than the fact that we find out a lot of the background on the family - through memories and observations - from these two.  For some reason, the family popped into their heads at some random time (or at least that's the way it seemed), and through that, we find out answers to some nagging questions, things that didn't make sense.  Had they been actual characters in the story, I would have thought this was a great idea, but to just throw in two chapters (one for each) where they share all this information about what has happened in the past just seemed a little too easy.
            The two characters I disliked the most were the cops that questioned Linda.  They really had no part in the story either, other than to play bad cop to Steve's smitten cop, and were also the cause of things being put into Linda's head, making her believe that she had done this.  The attitude and behavior of the female one just seemed really off and uncomfortable... and, as the story continues towards the end, they seem like VERY secondary characters.  (In fact, I was pretty convinced when we first meet the female cop that she was framing Linda - possibly being jealous about Steve's feelings for her - because the hatred of her seemed SO extreme that I couldn't think of any other reason why she would loathe someone she didn't even know.)

The story itself has a lot of good points.  Most specifically, the information dumps I spoke of above.  They didn't feel like information dumps, even though that was what they were, and gave us a different look at Elizabeth, all from things that they had noticed from afar.
            I also enjoyed the way the story worked itself out at the end.  

I would recommend the book if you want some light reading with a little bit of suspense, and it would be nice to see the author do an additional story with some of these characters - I think Terri would make a great private investigator.

About the book:
Which would be worse: knowing that your dead sister has come back to life and is now a serial killer, or that someone else is the killer... and that person is you?
            Six months after Linda's sister Elizabeth killed herself, Linda has finally gotten her life back to some semblance of normalcy.  Until a killer appears who is stalking men... a killer who resembles Elizabeth... a killer who seems somehow familiar to Linda.
            And to make matters worse, Detective Steve Anderson, her old high school crush, is assigned to the case.  He's asking Lina all sorts of questions - questions she couldn't possibly have an answer to.
            There's no reason for him to be investigating Linda.  She couldn't possibly have anything to do with this.
            Could she?

About the author:
When Michele was 3 years old, she taught herself to read because she wanted to write stories so badly.
            As you can imagine, writing has been a driving passion throughout her life.  She became a professional copywriter (which is writing promotional materials for businesses), which led to her founding a copywriting and marketing company that serves clients all over the world.
            Along with being a copywriter, she also writes novels (in fact, she just published her first novel and second novels called The Stolen Twin and Mirror Image, both in the thriller/suspense/mystery genres, and she is also the author of the Love-Based Copy books, which cover both business and personal development.
            She holds a double major in English and Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Currently she lives in the mountains of Prescott, Arizona with her husband, Paul, and her border collie, Nick, and southern squirrel hunter, Cassie.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


I want to take a moment, before I get all into this interview, to say something about the above author photo.  Oh. My. God.  Isn't that just perfection?  Whenever I speak to an author, I tell them that I need their author bio and to make sure they send me a photo.  My blog is NEVER boring, and I always always ALWAYS love it when the author sends me a photo that is far from boring.  (Great job, Kelley.  I knew I liked you haha.)

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Kelley.  Welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask.  It's a pleasure having you here today.  (Thank you, Stephen Kozeniewski, for introducing us.)
            Let's start with something "easy" - Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kelley Kaye:
I'm a little bit country... a little bit rock-n-roll... Oh, wait.  That's Donny and Marie.  My name is Kelley.  I live in California, but I grew up in Colorado.  I am obsessed with books - now I'm writing them, but I apparently started reading them very young.  My mom always tells a story of the book - a real storybook, not a See-Spot-Run kinda thing - that my grandmother gave me when I was three.  I asked my mom to read it to me and she said, "Why don't YOU read it to ME?"  So I did.  When she asked if Grandma had already read it to me and such, I got huffy in my three-year-old way and said, "Mommy, you asked me to read it so I did."  Reading has been part of my life - kinda at the expense of a lot of other stuff - ever since.  (And, by the way, mom attributes my hyperlexia to The Electric Company, which was a 70's reading show on PBS that was THE BEST.  I got all the seasons on DVD for my kids because I don't think the new one is as good.  Plus, that one doesn't have Morgan Freeman or Rita Moreno.)  I am married - just had my 10 year anniversary - and I have these two really cool little boys!  They play baseball, soccer and basketball, but since I'm so into well-roundedness, we also drag them to the symphony and the Globe Theater and they play the piano.  We love the beach and the park and the movies.  I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 1994, which I can say in the same breath totally SUCKS and is the greatest gift I ever got.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Kelley Kaye:
1) I equally love heavy metal music (Metallica, AC/DC, Guns-n-Roses) and Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr, Frank Sinatra and Brian Seltzer Orchestra.  All that stuff.  2) I hide mini York Peppermint Patties under my bed.  3) I often still get advice from my father, even though he died in 2012.  4) When I had bunion surgery in 2005 and had to wear one of those CAM boots for six weeks, I didn't  tell students it was bunion surgery.  Instead, I told them I'd stopped a would-be rapist in a Las Vegas alley using a roundhouse kick.  5) I rehearse what I'm going to say, in my head, before I say it.  All the time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Kelley Kaye:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Kelley Kaye:
I just finished a new YA called Complicit.  It was very disturbing, so read it if you feel the urge to have your head messed with.  Also, just finished a book club book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Fascinating!  Everyone should read it.  Right now I'm on a Nancy Pickard cozy - she's one of my favorite cozy writers - called No Body.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Kelley Kaye:
I've always wanted to.  Earlier I alluded to my obsession with books and words - have always been that way.  It's a natural progression, I think, to want to be able to create something of your own, when words are so important to you to begin with.
            I've always loved it, but when I was younger it was more about creating captions for the yearbook, stuff like that.  I took a Creative Writing class in college where the professor liked a Science Fiction story of mine so much he had me enter it in a contest!  I think that was the point I started feeling like, hey, I already know I love this, but maybe I can really ado it??!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Kelley Kaye:
I have a chair in the corner of my bedroom, where I sit next to a picture of my late father, inventor of the used bookstore, with a laptop and a cup of coffee.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Kelley Kaye:
A few years ago, I went to a conference called "Write Your Book in a Weekend."  They gave me this music file with an hour-long piece of music supposedly good for those brain waves you are accessing when you write.  It has coyotes in it.  I put it on repeat and that is what I play when I'm pounding the keys.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Kelley Kaye:
The marketing is most challenging to me because I like it the least.  I love interacting with people, but I'd rather do it face-to-face, so this endless loop of social-media-queries-requests-look-at-me-know-me-love-me-please-please-listen-to-my-story is challenging and exhausting.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Kelley Kaye:
To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book, in my opinion.  But there are so many others - book inspires me because of the way the author turns a phrase, paints a picture, or makes me hungry for the next moment.  East of Eden.  Something Wicked This Way Comes. Who are some authors who have inspired my writing style?  Harlan Coben is the one who inspired me to write a mystery - I wanted to write something where the reader laughed a lot and didn't know how the book would end.  Dean Koontz has always inspired me because I think he's such a great storyteller.  My friend Shawn told me once to read Tick Tock because the rapport between the two main characters sounded a lot like my voice as a writer.  I read the book and was so flattered to have a comparison made like that!  Stephen King is, also, in my mind as a genius storyteller.  11/22/63 has so many moving parts to it and he made them all come together in this amazing machine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Kelley Kaye:
Interesting characters with difficult decisions to make.  I like it when I'm constantly asking 'why did THAT happen?' 'who the heck is THAT?' 'why did that guy choose THAT path?'  The questions are what keeps me reading, and the people in the story make me care what's going to happen as a result of those questions.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character and how do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Kelley Kaye:
I need to believe their actions are true to their belief system and history.  I ask that question of myself whenever the character decides to do something.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Kelley Kaye:
All of my friends who've read Death by Diploma say they can see me in Emma the most.  Especially those who knew me in my early teaching career.  But I feel like there's parts of me in all of my characters, even the icky ones...

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Kelley Kaye:
I know the importance of a striking cover to readers who are browsing.  I don't pay attention to covers personally because I'm always looking for books based on authors I like or peoples' recommendations, but that's just me.  For those browsing readers, I LOVE the cover of Death by Diploma!  The cover artist, Glendon Haddix, took a synopsis of the story, plus what I saw as the perfect chalkboard for the Chalkboard Outlines trademark, plus a few ideas that I had for the school setting, and created this beautiful, colorful, eye-catching cover.  I hope he'll do it for the next one!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Kelley Kaye:
I've learned that I want to do this forever.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Kelley Kaye:
I'm actually working on a non-fiction humorous kind of self-help medical memoir right now, and writing scenes about dealing with my MS diagnosis and years of infertility have been the hardest.   For the cozies, the scenes describing the dead bodies are the hardest for me because I've never seen one and I want to get it right.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Kelley Kaye:
I think the Shakespeare hook, with all the quotes Emma and Leslie use, plus how they all relate directly to whatever events are happening to the story at that time, plus the quotes at the start of each new day in the novel, are all really fun and unusual.  I think this is a 'not normal' American cozy, as far as I can see, because it's a 3rd person attached point of view, and a lot of American cozies are 1st person point of view.  It's pretty goofy and irreverent all over, which I think some writers are hesitant to do.  I don't know any other way to do it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Kelley Kaye:
The original title was, of course, from a line in a Shakespeare Play, but it was determined to be not very 'cozy.'  The formula for a cozy mystery needs to have a reference to the occupation of the amateur sleuth, which in this case is high school teachers, and it also needs to have something about murder or death.  I, as the aforementioned word lover, also love wordplay.  So alliteration was the soup du jour!  I and my friends tried a whole list of alliterative titles which I'd love to share, but I'm saving them for future books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Kelley Kaye:
I like novels because I'm long-winded by nature.  Brevity is not my strong suit.  This is probably the shortest answer you'll ever get from me.  Ever.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Kelley Kaye:
My target audience is anyone who likes mysteries.  Any age because there's not much in the way of sex or violence (even though, like, some people get killed).  I want readers to feel like they just finished with a really fun afternoon with a friend.  Maybe at Disneyland.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Kelley Kaye:
The original draft had diary entries from the point of view of the killer.  They were cut, so I put them on my blog as we got closer to the release date.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

 Kelley Kaye:
Jeezus Pleezus - my trunk is jam-packed.  I have two YA Paranormals - one the start of a series - that needs revamping.  I have an educational book on literary analysis I haven't been able to sell, but it's the most awesome book.  I need to go back to that.  I have a boatload of homemade lesson plans I was very successful with that I need to organize and put onto that teacher website.  I signed up to do that and just got lost along the way.  I have a bunch of poems I wrote when I was teaching high school Creative Writing I'd like to revisit.  I signed up to take an online class on Forensic Science at a Scottish University, but the sixth week was just sent to me and I've only done week 1!  I thought I could learn something new, plus it sounds like something Emma would want to do too... I have to stop now because if I don't, this to-do list is gonna make me cry.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Kelley Kaye:
I love telling stories.  I'll keep telling 'em, in any way possible, for as long as I'm able.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know - STaLKeR links.

Kelley Kaye:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Kelley Kaye:
Please review your books!  Especially for Indie authors.  The number of honest reviews, good or not so good, is what helps the most.

About the author:
Kelley Kaye taught High School English for twenty years, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook.  Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken - whatever the case, the love's been around for a long time.  Kelley is married to this amazing man who cooks for her, and they have too funny and wonderful sons.  She lives in Southern California.

About the book:
Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.  There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become best friends.
            Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her later father.  When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder.  Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma's new love interest.
            As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.