Uncaged Book Reviews

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ISSUE 71 | May/June 2023


We’ve had a late Spring here in Wisconsin. As of this publication, the temperatures are still struggling to get out of the 50s and into warmer weather. We will be moving this month, so things will be getting very busy and chaotic before it gets better. I will document all the new gardens and stuff we do inside to make improvements. During this time, I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. I’ve already been able to control it with diet and Metformin, and my goal is to completely control it with diet in the near future and get off any medications. I’ve adopted a mostly keto diet, but tossing out the bad fats, since my cholesterol levels are good.

Life in Motion column will continue with new content next issue if all goes well. I’ll share my meal prep where I cook one day and feed three people for a week, with some new healthy, keto-friendly - diabetic friendly recipes. I’ll also share my journey into the new house gardens, freezing and canning and our journey will continue with our horses. I also plan on putting up a small chicken coop and getting a few chickens. So even though we are moving, it’s still considered semi-rural, just on a smaller space.

Once life settles, I’ll be introducing new features and adventures for Uncaged Book Reviews. Lots of fun ideas (including parties!) are trotting around in my brain, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

We will be continuing with the “Buy 2, Get 1” promotion we’ve been running, with some changes for 2022/23. The promotion will only be for Full Page Ads, so if you buy 2, you will get one free. No other advertising will be eligible. With the issues selling out advertising more frequently, this gives more opportunities for all in advertising in the magazine. It really does help from a marketing standpoint, to have an advertisment run three months in a row to repeat in the readers mind. You don’t just see a commercial on TV one time and remember it, right? So we will continue to try and provide the best bang for your buck and get the most eyes we can on your work.

Enjoy the May/June issue of Uncaged Book Reviews and I wish for 2023 to be a great year for all.

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X cyr ENE n OTE
contents 14 Laurel Richards 28 Marilyn Kriete 40 Sara Staggs 74 John Netti 62 A.E. Nalle scifi romance memoir medical fiction suspense erotica suspense FEATUREauthors 92 Kodie Van Dusen dark fantasy 114 Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas self-help 124 Carole Ann Moleti 136 Caleb Smith paranormal romance ya fantasy
5 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 | Issue 71 | May/June 2023 4 Note from the Editor 7 Contributors|Partnerships 156 Uncaged Reviews - FangFreakinTastic Reviews 162 Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews 84 authors and their pets Uncaged’s Feature Authors introduce you to their devoted writing buddies, and the devotion goes both ways. 54 3 Page Promos Uncaged on Instagram 2 Page Showcases Mastering Experiences through Humor G.S. Gerry Circus Acts 10 GUESTcolumns 104 The Horror Movies and True Crime That Inspired The Golden Girls Kelly Florence Bobbie Hazelton 26 Jennie Parks 36 T.K. Moore David Zini 58 56 John Mazur Cover by Cyrene Inspired by a tutorial from PSD-Dude To Capture a Heart Kayla Johnson 70 Honor Lost Jason Kyle 86 It May Be True Robert L. Snider 100 Words I Wrote Keith Ricketts 110 A View Through the Speculum Judy Warrenton 130 Don’t Tell Judith Flynt 143 Road Trip Lisa Musall 48 Marilyn Lee 80 90 Patrick Hardy 98 Sherri Lin Roderick 108 Marianne Nettina 120 D.J. Clary John Hewitt M.D., ABEM 122 John A. Corona, M.Ed 134 H. Doyle Smith 146

Contributors | Partnerships

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Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

7 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 |



will watch for any cancelations or modifications for the


season. Please watch their websites for information as the dates get closer.

The Imaginarium Book Festival

May 20-21, 2023; Washington, D.C.


Wild Deadwood Reads

June 17, 2023; Deadwood, SD


Book Lovers Con

June 1-4, 2023; Houston, TX


Texas Book Festival

June 23-24, 2023; Grapevive, TX


Reader & Author Get Together (RAGT)

June 7-10, 2023 Cinncinnati, OH



July 6-9, 2023; Boca Raton, FL


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feature authors

non-fiction | medical fiction
n athalie
PlamondonThomas Sara Staggs Marilyn Kriete

Nathalie Plamondonthomas

You’re not good enough!” 70% of our thoughts are negative. Statistics show that 85% of people suffer from a lack of self-confidence which causes imposter syndrome, resistance to change, low performance and ultimately not working – or living – at full potential.

2021 Canadian Presenter of the Year Nathalie PlamondonThomas is a Confidence Expert. She is international Bestselling Author of eighteen books, including 12 no.1 bestsellers and a book co-written with Kevin Harrington from the Shark Tank, endorsed by Tony Robbins. She is the Founder and CEO of the THINK Yourself® ACADEMY, offering keynotes and trainings, leading-edge online courses, laser-focus business strategy and one-onone transformation coaching.

Along the past 30 years, she has inspired over 100,000 audience members and empowered thousands of clients internationally to get rid of their negative self-talk. She combines over 10 years of experience in human resources, 25 years of experience in sales and over 30 years of distinguished service in the fitness industry. She is on the board of directors of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and recently received the 2022 President’s Award.

Uncaged welcomes Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas

Welcome to Uncaged! You’ve written a few books in the Think Yourself series, such as Think Yourself Confident and Think Yourself Thin. What inspired you to write these self-help titles?

The book idea goes back almost 20 years. Let’s go back to the days when I was just starting out teaching fitness, at a gym in Toronto. I was not super confident; I’m sure you’ve been there before, maybe not in a gym but in some other setting where you were brand new and a little out of your element. You’re not sure what you’re doing, you’re not popular, you don’t know anybody, or you’re new in the area and haven’t really found your feet yet. That’s where I was in my first few months at this gym. So what happened between me begging my

boss not to remove my class from the schedule because of the low numbers, and being awarded fitness instructor of the year for the whole country, less than a year later?

The gym was introducing a new dance program. We put together a group to demonstrate it at the next instructor’s meeting of the Greater Toronto Area; there were about 100 people in the audience, all local fitness pros. So picture this: You are on stage in front of 100+ fitness pro, all much better than you, you are really intimidated but you are “giving your all”. You are starting to feel pretty good and you can just feel all the eyes in the crowd turning towards you. You know you are drawing attention and everyone has this shocked look on their faces! You are thinking “Oh my gosh, they’re so impressed

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with my dance skills! They had no idea I was this good at dancing!” You’re having the best time on stage and can really feel all the energy coming from the audience.

I don’t know what this would do for you, but for me, it made a huge impact on my life. It was a real turning point. We finished the number, and I was amped. My confidence was through the roof! That performance totally changed me. I started strutting around in the gym and putting my hand up to become team leader, I was so confident that my teaching style exploded, and my classes started to get packed. Everybody was so impressed with how I well I was doing.

Much later, I was chatting with one of my colleagues in the locker room, and she said to me: “I’m so impressed with you, Nathalie. Even after what happened to you that day, you’re still so confident,

and you’ve been acting like you own the place instead of being embarrassed. Everybody really respects you because you didn’t let it bother you at all.”

Um, record scratch! Excuse me?! What was she talking about? Well, it turned out that, unbeknownst to me, I’d had a wardrobe malfunction that day, and my breast was sticking out during the whole performance. That’s why people were looking at me with shocked looks on their faces. They were looking at me in amazement, alright. But for a very different reason than I thought!

But I had no idea, and for weeks afterward, I was this super confident person. Once I heard about this, of course, I kind of wanted to disappear, but only for a few minutes; by then, it was too late, I was already the queen of the gym, boob malfunction or not. Because, honestly? I still felt absolutely amazing. Although the story I’d had in my head was not the right one, it completely changed my mindset, and it just hadn’t mattered.



One of the most embarrassing moments of my life had a much different impact for me than it might have, because of that story of success I had in my head. What mattered most was my mindset around it.

The book came from this lesson. That is when the system started to take form and I was able to create a process to apply it to your daily life. It took many years and many books in the THINK Yourself® SERIES to really gather case studies, testimonials, facts and to perfect my system to create my signature THINK Yourself® CONFIDENT book. It is a cumulative of everything I have learned from the past 15 years working with my clients and learning from my audiences around the world.

I’ve also noticed that many of your titles are also written and released in multiple languages. What type of process does it take for that to happen?

Interestingly enough I write my books in English and then I use a professional translator for the French version (even though I am French). As most of my work as a professional speaker is on English stages at events and in the corporate world, my material is usually born in english, tested on stage and in online courses and then becomes a book. I believe that one day I may do the reverse and write in my mother’s tongue and then get it translated in English. Future will tell.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

I am always working on adding extra online courses to my Academy. The next one coming up shortly is: THINK Yourself® INTO ACTION covering stress, overthinking and procrastination. And as per my system mentioned in the previous question, I will more likely turn the online into a book, once I have added testimonials, case studies, etc.

What do you hope that readers can take away from these books?

readers is for them to realize that if a small town girl like me can do it, everybody can. The THINK Yourself® SERIES teaches how the brain works, how people use it wrong, and what to do to make it work for you.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

Firstly, I must mention the elephant in the room. Picture yourself as a French Canadian with very broken English. The idea of writing a book in English or having a “career in writing” was really not part of what I thought could be possible. The voice in my head was telling me: “What? You want to write books, in English? It’s never gonna work, you’re not good enough!” And unfortunately, I know I am the not the only one. Research shows that 70% of our thoughts are negative and that 85% of people lack of self-confidence in at least one area of their life. So back then, I did not know what I know now about neurosciences. I was a personal trainer, fitness instructor and nutrition and wellness specialist in the fitness industry. I realized that my clients would have better results if I was able to give them a more global approach and deeper advice than the ones that can be shared while doing bicep curls. I started a series of conferences which were very popular and well attended. Many were asking to receive my power point presentations and my notes after participating in a conference so I thought that having a book on the topic would be a perfect complement for them to get to the next level. But first, I had to get rid of the negative voice in my head. I studied neurosciences and created a system to transform negative self-talk and limiting beliefs so that I could tackle my first book. Fasttrack 17 books later, I now share that system in my books, in my online courses, on stages around the world and with my one-on-one coaching clients.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

I have been there. I know how it feels to hear the negative self-talk trying to ruin our dreams. My hope for

About 7 years ago, I hit a wall. I was really successful, business was booming, I was hosting events

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bi-monthly in major Canadian cities with trainers working for me, money was flowing in, etc. I would see my friends going away on holidays and I was thinking: “How are they doing this? I can’t even take a day off! Is that it? My dream of becoming an entrepreneur? I never spend time with the kids nor my spouse and I am working all the time! That is when I decided to reorganize my life and become friend with technology to move my business online, automate my processes, start online courses and enter the virtual world. Fast-track 8 years later, I now only work 9 months a year, we spend two months in California during the winter where we do lots of hiking, running, circuit training, dancing and of course, suntanning! The rest of the year, I also paddleboard a lot as we leave on the west coast of Canada on the Pacific Ocean.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

By far, I prefer audiobooks. I am constantly listening to a book while I walk, hike, run, train, grocery shop. I am listening to Gabor Mate right now: When the Body Says No.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

Have you ever heard of the Mind Sports Olympiad? It’s an annual event where people from all over the world compete in brain games, like creative challenges and memory tests. One player memorized a sequence of 5,040 zeros and ones! Another perfectly recalled the order 17 shuffled decks of cards! So the reason why I am mentioning that is because they did some research on the brains of those who win these games. Do you know what they found out? Their brains are perfectly average.

These people are operating with the same brains that the rest of us have. They’ve just cracked the code of how to make them work for them. So if you have a brain, you have an astonishing power at your service. Learn to use it! You are Awesome!

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Stay Connected thinkyourself.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Think Yourself Confident

Think Yourself Confident

Nathalie PlamondonThomas Non-Fiction/Self Help

THINK Yourself® CONFIDENT – 15 Keys to Increase Confidence, Ignite Performance & Unlock Your Full Potential

thinking around one major obstacle will unlock potentially millions of dollars in revenue.”

“It’s never going to work. You’re not good enough!” Are you tired of hearing that nagging voice inside your head? And what if you could do something about it? Do you have a dream or a project that’s been on the back burner for too long? Even with all your accomplishments, do you still doubt yourself sometimes?

Statistics show that 85% of people suffer from a lack of self-confidence in at least one area of their lives. Draining negative self-talk creates procrastination, stress, anxiety, and burnout. People know what they want or need to do, and yet they do the reverse—they resist change and can’t adapt to the fast world we live in. That makes them feel powerless, frustrated, and insecure. In a work environment, this can lead to a demotivated and unhappy team, low overall performance and a high employee turnover rate. With the layers of stress people are already buried under, important decisions are clouded by emotions or limiting beliefs, instead of being based on skills and experience. Bottom line: whether on a personal or professional level, most people admit to not working—or living—at their full potential.

Through Nathalie’s D.N.A. System, you will discover 15 proven Keys to Confidence, real-life, simple skills and strategies to transform your inner thoughts and beliefs into a serving force that will empower you to be your best. Get ready to ignite performance and get the tools you need to THINK Yourself® CONFIDENT.


“The way Nathalie explained how to reframe my



19 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 | NATHALIE PLAMONDON-THOMAS


Let’s go back to the days when I was just starting out teaching fitness, at a gym in Toronto. I was not super confident; I’m sure you’ve been there before, maybe not in a gym but in some other setting where you were brand new and a little out of your element. You’re not sure what you’re doing, you’re not popular, you don’t know anybody, or you’re new in the area and haven’t really found your feet yet. That’s where I was in my first few months at this gym. In fact, things were going so poorly that I was afraid I was going to lose my job—I know, me, right? So what happened between me begging my boss not to remove my class from the schedule because of the low numbers, and being awarded fitness instructor of the year for the whole country, less than a year later?


The gym was introducing a new dance program, and I was involved. We put together a group to demonstrate it at the next instructor’s meeting of the Greater Toronto Area; there were about 100 people in the audience, all local fitness pros, all people I really wanted to impress. And I was feeling pretty good, because what people there didn’t know about me was that I had a dance background; I’d spent years already teaching dance classes in Quebec and had even toured in Europe. But Toronto folks didn’t know this yet. I taught very intense, high-cardio fitness classes at the time, so I was exclusively known for this specific hard-core style of fitness. I knew that no one would suspect that I was a highly trained dancer. I’m not gonna lie: I was pretty excited to knock everybody’s socks off.

you are off to the side, and all heads are turned your way, and everyone has this shocked look on their faces! You are thinking “Oh my gosh, they’re so impressed with my dance skills! They had no idea I was this good at dancing!” You’re having the best time on stage and can really feel all the energy coming from the audience.

I don’t know what this would do for you, but for me, it made a huge impact on my life. It was a real turning point.

We finished the number, and I was amped. My confidence was through the roof! That performance totally changed me. I started strutting around in the gym and putting my hand up to become team lead for this and team lead for that. I really thought I’d earned everyone’s respect and I started acting accordingly. Even better, I was so confident that my teaching style exploded, and my classes started to get packed. Everybody was so impressed with how I well I was doing.


Three weeks later, I was chatting with one of my colleagues in the locker room, and she said to me: “I’m so impressed with you, Nathalie. Even after what happened to you that day, you’re still so confident, and you’ve been acting like you own the place instead of being embarrassed. Everybody really respects you because you didn’t let it bother you at all.”

So, I’m on stage with these 15 other instructors, and just to drive home this moment, try to picture this scenario: you’re giving your all, really showing off your dance skills, and you can just feel all the eyes in the crowd turning towards you. Even though you are not front and centre, you know you are drawing attention; you can tell because

Um, record scratch! Excuse me?! What was she talking about? Well, it turned out that, unbeknownst to me, I’d had a wardrobe malfunction that day, and my boob was sticking out during the whole performance. That’s why people were looking at me with shocked looks on their faces. They were looking at me in amazement, alright. But for a very different reason than I thought!

But I had no idea, and for weeks afterward, I was this super confident person. Once I heard about this, of course, I kind of wanted to disappear, but only for a few minutes; by then, it was too late, I was already

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the queen of the gym, boob malfunction or not. Because, honestly? I still felt absolutely amazing. Although the story I’d had in my head was not the right one, it completely changed my mindset, and it just hadn’t mattered. One of the most embarrassing moments of my life had a much different impact for me than it might have, because of that story of success I had in my head. What mattered most was my mindset around it.

Apply this lesson to your daily life. What elements of your current mindset might be holding you back? What negative stories are you telling yourself? Try making up new ones that serve you. I’m not talking about lying to yourself or being in denial, but most of the time we don’t really know what “true” is, anyway. So why not choose to make up a story that makes you feel good, confident and empowered?

It all starts with your mindset. The beautiful thing is, it’s the one thing that is completely under your control. In this book, I’m going to teach you how.

Well, I’ve got some news for you: that ground? It’s not there anymore. Not the way it was. I know we’re all tired of hearing about “the new normal”, but that’s what I mean when I say that old solid ground you’re waiting for isn’t coming back. “Once everything goes back to normal.” How long have we been saying that now? There have been fundamental changes to the way we do business, on all levels.

Let’s do an image review of some of the ways our careers may have been disrupted.

Some industries completely shut down.

And re-opened.

And shut down again. And re-opened.

And shut down again.


To say we’ve all been through the wringer would be an understatement. Who would have thought, back in 2019, that we were about to walk into a world-wide pandemic that would change everything? I mean, there are some things that have gone back to normal, sure. But there are many, many more that will never go back to how they were in the “before times”.

I’ve heard it called “The Great Pause”, which I think is apt. Whether you’re in the corporate world, management, sales, service, self-employed or unemployed, there is no way your life has not been affected in some significant way by COVID-19. In fact, I’m willing to bet that some of you have had your professional lives turned right upside down, and you’re still waiting for your feet to land firmly back on the ground.

And re-open. But at what cost?

You started bathing in hand sanitizer.

Some of you had more alcohol on the outside of your body than on the inside.

You became full-time professional cleaners.

Plexiglass mania!

Directional stickers that most people completely ignored!

Service staff becoming “front line workers” to deal with people like Mrs. Bolton here, the big “rule follower”, starting fights to enforce the directional stickers!

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Short staff. Oops. No. Not “short” staff. There is nothing wrong with short people, they are just concentrated awesome! I mean shortage of staff.

Of course, we remember the big toilet paper rush of 2020.

. . . and we had to deal with all of this, without breathing! Breathing is overrated right?

And then when we did close, we had to deal with that new monster, the “online beast”.

Your living room became a public place and you had to reorganize your whole space in order to work online.

You witness some very weird stuff during your online meetings.

Some very bad camera angles.

You heard some things you should not have…

You had to become a professional DJ to figure out how to mute and unmute yourself.

Some of you ventured into online fitness, being very creative with gym equipment.

And, it just kept going and going. So, fun times right?

These examples are just a funny way to illustrate 2020 to 2022. Yes, the list also includes:

• Supply chain issues.

• Staff jumping ship and never returning.

• Inflation making overheads impossible.

• Barely being able to pay the employees we do have.

• Lockdowns, lockdowns, lockdowns killing our bottom line.

• “Pivoting!” Isn’t this a fun new word, that we all hate by now? We’ve all been pivoting so hard that we don’t know which way is forward


• Not to mention moving part of or our entire operations online, working from home in less-thanideal conditions, and dealing with all the personal problems that occur as a result.

The list goes on and on, and many businesses didn’t make it. Even some decades-old establishments crumbled under the pressure of the “new normal”. But you soldiered on, and you are still here. In the meanwhile, what do all these small changes result in?

Yeah, you got it. Stress! All the small hassles and big obstacles requiring us to rise to the challenge of getting through daily life under extenuating circumstances. And of course, as the hard-working achievers that we are, we all strived to show up everyday with a smile on our face, right? Pretending that everything was a-okay, when actually, you were freaking out inside?

I bet there were many, many times when your confidence wavered, when you lay awake at night worrying about whether you would make it through, how you would deal with a decrease in income or less employees, or what regulations would be announced the next day. A new hurdle for you to jump over.

But, as of the writing of this book, anyway, we’ve— for the most part—come out the other side, and things are somewhat stable again. At least there are no more daily announcements that could throw your life into turmoil or cause you to lose your job or your business. You made it through and are well enough to be looking towards the future.

So, let’s just take a moment to celebrate that, because maybe you haven’t, yet. YOU GOT THROUGH IT! Give yourself a big pat on the back, okay?


Now that we’ve acknowledged that, let’s take a look at where we are now.

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We’ve come through a pandemic. We’ve dusted ourselves off and are ready to move on. But wait a minute! Things are still changing. It’s ... not ... over. Not only at home, but around the world, too, markets have drastically changed and continue to change. Mergers, conglomerations, rising prices on less-available products, not to mention rising wages on less available staff; we must constantly be evaluating our business practices, and re-inventing the wheel if we want to just break even and stay afloat, let alone make a profit!

As fast as things are going right now, they will never be this slow again.

So, how are you feeling? Are you feeling confident?

The truth is, change is not going anywhere, and the pace is only going to quicken. I can’t teach you to magically avoid what’s coming; there’s no secret formula to somehow walk around an obstacle and keep going unscathed. And that’s okay. Change isn’t a bad thing. In fact, change can turn out to be a very good thing indeed. The difference between being sunk by a sudden change and navigating past it successfully, is the confidence to know how to do it.

That’s what I am here to show you: how to access your full confidence, so you have the tools to face the changes that are going to keep coming in this “new normal” we live in now.


So why is confidence so important? What does it have to do with you staying ahead and reaching your goals, whatever they may be?

Well, here’s why.

At least 85% of people suffer from a lack of selfconfidence in at least one area of their lives. Thinking that we’re not good enough is directly connected to our ability to focus, concentrate, perform, stand up for ourselves, and say “yes” to change. Confidence is where you start.

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Marilyn kriete

Marilyn Kriete is the author of the multiple award-winning memoir, PARADISE ROAD, the story of her adventurous early life and the loss that resurfaces in THE BOX MUST BE EMPTY. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, and she’s been the happy winner of several writing contests. She has lived in four continents and 16 cities, and currently lives in British Columbia, Canada, where she writes and hikes and tries to imagine the next twist in her unpredictable journey. A third memoir, set in India, awaits publication. For Marilyn, memoir blends the magic of memory, musings, and misadventures---always true, and better than fiction.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Welcome to Uncaged! What was the event/reason that inspired you to write the memoir, The Box Must Be Empty?

In my early 20s, I lost my fiancé to cancer, and because the loss was so overwhelming, I ended up running from my grief rather than going through it. 20 years later, my buried grief resurfaced, and it was as raw and intense as the day Jack died. It was also tremendously ill-timed, as I was a hardworking wife and mother of two by then. As I grappled with this unexpected, enormous trauma, I desperately wanted to find other people---even one person---who had experienced such a long-delayed grief. But no one could relate, and I couldn’t find a single example in books, either. (This was years before I could go looking online.) I promised myself that one day I’d write the book I needed and couldn’t find. My hope is that grievers will find The Box Must be Empty at just the right time in their lives. I believe many people carry buried, unprocessed grief, but it’s not something you hear about. And unprocessed grief takes a huge toll on our mental health and well-being. It nearly capsized my own life.

I have a third memoir up next for publication, about two life-changing years in Mumbai, India in the late ‘80s, and a fourth memoir, currently under construction, about six years in Africa. (My debut memoir, Paradise Road, has won several prizes and found lots of fans. Let’s just say my life has been unconventional, not always easy, but packed with great stories!)

What do you hope that readers can take away from this?

Hopefully The Box Must be Empty will not only be a fascinating read, but will help readers better understand complicated grief and spiritual trauma, and how to support themselves or others who are going through similar seasons. It’s also a close-up look at life in the fulltime ministry and some of the challenges that come when you give yourself unreservedly to a group or organization that expects total commitment…and then life catches up. It also ex-

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Uncaged welcomes Marilyn Kriete

plores starting over when you never expected to change course, and dealing with the huge upheaval known as perimenopause (or midlife crises, for men).

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I’ve had many jobs and careers, but these days I support our household by cleaning other people’s homes. It’s a good fit with writing and usually pretty low stress. But my clients are often surprised to learn I’m an author, and my writer friends are surprised to learn I clean houses!

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

I’ve always loved to run or take very long walks/hikes. These days my knees won’t let me run anymore, but there’s a nearby mountain where I hike to the summit a few times a week. In the warm months, I add cycling to the mix. To relax in the evenings, I’m always on the lookout for great movies, documentaries, or series to watch with my husband.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I love audiobooks on long car trips, and physical books the rest of the time. I usually have more than one book on the go, but don’t always finish the books I start. (If I don’t’ fall in love with the writing, I usually bail.) Fortunately, I’m a library girl, so the unfinished books are free!

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

To fans: Thanks for finding and reading my books! Please recommend the titles you love to other readers, and remember that authors love getting good reviews.

To possible future fans who don’t usually read memoirs: Please check out the reviews for Paradise Road: A Memoir and The Box Must be Empty---on Goodreads or Amazon. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Great memoirs are just as compelling as novels, and there’s the bonus of knowing it’s all true!

You can follow me through my website www.MarilynKriete.com. Thanks for reading this interview!

Stay Connected

Enjoy an excerpt from The Box Must Be Empty

The Box Must Be Empty Marilyn Kriete Memoir

What happens when buried grief rises two decades late, upending the life you’ve built on its coffin? When you add loss upon loss by constantly moving, serving a church organization--and possible cult—that expects unwavering sacrifice? How do you restore a devastated marriage, a crushed faith, and an endlessly broken heart? This is the crux of Marilyn Kriete’s crisis. After losing her fiancé and first great love to cancer, she becomes a Christian and marries Henry, joining him in a worldwide ministry that leaves little time for family or personal reflection. When her old grief resurfaces, she’s shocked by the tsunami that rips through their lives. Intensive counseling fails to bring healing, and when Henry writes a public letter that decimates their churches and spins them out of the fellowship — and lifelong employment — she faces an emotional and spiritual reckoning that challenges her to the core. In this follow up to her multi-

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award-winning debut memoir Paradise Road, Marilyn explores delayed and complicated grief in all its many disguises—dashed dreams, disenchantment, family troubles, and the guilt of being a former faith leader, now grappling with depression and dismay. With unflinching honesty, Marilyn shares the missteps and keys to recovering her battered heart, her faith, and her self- esteem. Multilayered and compelling, Marilyn’s story will resonate with anyone who’s stuck in grief, navigating a mid-life career crisis, or struggling with a spiritual life that’s lost its luster or lost its way.


Chapter 1: Old-Lady-Rose

There’s a new movie playing. It’s called Titanic. My husband, who loves films and early buzz, goes on opening night, along with our nine-yearold son, Daniel, but I stay home. We’ve recently adopted our almost-two-year-old daughter, and I’m happy to hang out with her. After a rough, emotionally-starved infancy, she’s attached to me, hard, and I’m equally besotted. We’ll get a full review when the men come home.

They love it, of course. It’s thrilling and actionpacked; the special effects are awesome. In terms of plot, there’s passing reference to a love story, but it’s almost tangential. The Titanic they’ve just seen is a glorious spectacle of stupendous sound effects and visuals. Epic, heart stopping adventure and overwhelming scale: everything you want from a December blockbuster.

Two weeks later, I take Daniel for a second viewing, but it’s a different movie with Mom. Within the first hour, I’m weeping to the point of meltdown, and Daniel, pulled out of the story by my tears, is perplexed. Nobody’s died yet; in fact, Jack and Rose, gallivanting aboard the massive ship, are living the life of Riley. But I know where this plot’s headed, and I know the lovers are doomed. By the time Rose watches Jack slip into the sea, I’m a quivering wreck, and when old-lady Rose,

still dreaming of Jack in her dotage, imagines their reunion in the ship’s ballroom, I’m beyond recovery. As the credits roll and the theatre empties, I’m weeping convulsively, unable to leave my seat or stop crying. Daniel panics. This was supposed to be a fun matinee with Mom. What’s happened to his steady-Eddie mother?

What’s happened is a cataclysm. She’s been swallowed by a volcano that’s been simmering, underground and undetected, for half her life: a grief volcano, with a man named Jack still living in its core. The simple trajectory of Jack and Rose’s relationship – Jack rescues Rose, Rose rescues Jack, Rose loses Jack, forever and irrevocably – mirrors her brief and intense relationship with her own lost-forever Jack, and it’s as if this semblance has tripped a magma-erupting switch. And Rose never forgets Jack: that’s the final twist of the knife. In the darkness of the theatre, newly-awakened grief shakes its hoary head, and a chilling realization fills my heart. It’s this: as much as I’ve tried to repress all conscious thoughts of Jack, to move on and live my post-Jack life, to leave the distant past where it belongs, to play the hand that’s dealt me, to inhabit the here and now -- he’s never left. He’s simply been hiding, waiting in ambush, until now, January 1998, two full decades after his apparent death.

I manage to drive in the midst of my deluge, but the tears won’t stop, and when I get home, I leave Daniel to play with his little sister and close myself in the upstairs office with Henry. He’s the man I married two years after Jack died, in a tiny, beautiful outdoor wedding with seven souls in attendance. Maybe eight, now that I think of it. Henry has many fine qualities – passion, zeal, intelligence, and originality among them – but it’s his compassion that first drew me, and it’s his compassion that enfolds me now. I weep it all out, Jack and Rose, Jack and Marilyn, the massive eruption that’s still exploding in my heart. He listens, and holds me. It’s a tender, perfect response to despair, deep calling deep.

The next day, or maybe the same night, he writes a poem, “I Love the Man Who Loved my Wife”. Every five or ten years, when something huge grips his soul, Henry writes a poem. This is a good and noble one. As

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the words pour out of him, he means every word. He reads it aloud, and we both cry. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking sentiment. A few months later, he’s going to loathe the poem, loathe the eruption, and loathe the aftermath. Understandably, because this thing is not going away.

But for a while, I think it has. The hot magma cools, and floating ash becomes the new sky. I won’t go to that place of pain again, not willingly. But now I’m crying a lot, in secrecy and confusion, over everything and nothing. Mostly over nothing; the tears come unbidden and life seems hopeless, even though I have a fulfilling ministry, a loving husband, a bestbuddy son, and, at long last, the daughter I’ve longed and prayed for. I have good friends, too, almost too many, and a cozy, beautiful five-bedroom house on a little azalea-and-bamboo-fringed lake, which we share with two friends, sisters in Christ. I’m healthy, fit, and energetic. After years of moving from one country to another, we have a place in Virginia Beach, a place we dare call home. Yet I’m utterly unmoored. I don’t talk about my crying jags with anyone. They baffle me; they don’t reflect my life, and I don’t connect them with Jack or the Titanic episode. Perhaps they’re a symptom of post-partum depression; adoptive mothers, I later learn, are prone to the same postjoy despair.* This adoption has been far more challenging than our first. Daniel came to us in Bombay, on Father’s Day, his birth day, and that same day we carried him home from a hill station hospital by train, taxi, and rickshaw. From the moment we held him, we flooded his senses with love, buttressing him from his first loss. Apart from nightly colic, he was a cooing, happy baby who made us feel like parenting experts, experience be damned.

*There are hidden losses entwined in every adoption, which may include the following: grieving the infertility which led to adoption; grieving past mistakes which may have led to the infertility; grieving the biological children who will never be; grieving the missed days or years between the adopted child’s birth and her adoption; grieving the loss experienced by the adoptee; grieving the damage done in the family (or orphanage) of origin, and wrestling with fears that even the greatest adoptive parenting will never


be enough to mend this little stranger’s heart.

Adopting our daughter was different. She joined us as a toddler, surrendered at 14 months by a troubled young mother who’d struggled with three unplanned babies born within 32 months. Whatever had or hadn’t happened to Tassja during those first months lay thick on her psyche. She needed love – maternal love, paternal love, remedial love, miraculous love – by the truckload, and her invisible wounds made her hyperactive and insatiable. I was pouring all I had -- plus all I hadn’t had, all the maternal love I’d missed as a child – into loving her, hoping it would fill the cracks and holes. In many ways, she was finally thriving; she’d come to us woefully undersized, without teeth and practically non-verbal, and now I was filling notebooks with her burgeoning vocabulary while her teeth emerged and her body filled out. She never stopped moving. Our beautiful, busy daughter enthralled and exhausted me. Now I was being urged to leave her with babysitters, to put her in day care, to leave her for days while we traveled, so I could immerse myself back in the ministry and function like the mother of a ‘normal’ toddler. This was less than six months after we got her, and the ministry expectations were tearing me up. She needed more; I knew that. But we’d been trained to put the church and the mission first, back in the days when few of us had children or knew what a baby needed, especially an adopted one. Now every forced separation triggered tears and desperation in her, and as a mother I was chided for having a clingy child. Perhaps this was the source of my tears, springing from a deep well of frustration and conflict. I try to do what I’m told, but it’s not what my heart says.

I don’t talk about any of this. I know I should be grateful to finally have a little girl after seven years of attempted adoptions and disappointments, and I am. But there’s a thorn. Is there room, in the midst of gratitude, for fear and anxiety? My mentors, the older women who advise and supervise my life, admonish me to be ever

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grateful for the ministry, regardless of the emotional toll our frequent moves--four intercontinental moves and nine cities so far--are taking. None of them have moved as much as we have, at the beck and call of church leadership. This toll, too, goes largely unrecognized. With every move we’re expected to be all-in, excited, forward-looking, embracing each new group as if it’s to be our permanent homeland, though it never is. Looking backwards is a sin--remember Lot’s wife!--and the chain of losses, though deeply felt, is never acknowledged. We’ve taken up the challenge to go anywhere, do anything, for Jesus--our organization’s mantra. At first it’s thrilling, but the cost keeps climbing. In every place I need to be an exemplary church leader, a role model for the church in marriage, motherhood, and ministry. This is crucial. The health of the entire congregation depends on how Henry and I are doing, or so we’re told. So I strive to be grateful, to look forward, to bury my sorrows. I’m queen of holding it together, or at least I used to be.

In our new neighborhood are hidden pockets, little coves and parks I discover, where I can secretly go and cry. When the tears push through, I slip on my New Balance running shoes, grab my daughter, and run for cover. With Tassja asleep in her baby jogger or playing on the ground beside me, I water the sand and flowers and bramble with longing and regrets before running us back home. I’m keeping it together by secret emotional purging. Now I’m grateful for hidden corners. I’m also grateful for recent signs of stability. Henry and I have moved 16 times in the 17 years we’ve been married. I know how to pare, purge, pack, and unpack a house in days, how to dive fresh into a new city and culture, and how to make new friends in record time. In every place, I’ve given my heart completely before scraping out what’s left to start over. But the shards are getting smaller with each move, and the residuals darker.

The moves have been erratic and often sudden. Many blindsided me. Shortly after Daniel’s birth,

we left Bombay for Canada to get a new visa, only to be blocked enroute from ever going back. Instead of returning to India, we found ourselves marooned in London, which became home for the next six months. In Africa, our next stop, we’d been asked to switch countries for four to six months, only to be informed later that the move was permanent and there’d be no going back for goodbyes. Even that “permanent” move had ended abruptly with a sudden decision to move us back across the ocean. Now, after several more moves, we’d been promised a long stay in Virginia Beach and encouraged to buy a house and grow roots. We bought the first house we looked at, a small lake waterfront with a huge back porch. The prospect of settling in, of hanging pictures that would gather dust and watching seasons change through the same windows, seemed a gift from heaven. I looked at the children in the church and thought, “I get to watch these kids grow up!” The thought dazzled me; till now, I’d passed through countless lives like a restless train, never knowing where the next station lay. After less than four years in any place--more often, two years or less--this was a novel prospect. I let myself exhale and imagine the promise was true.


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Sara Staggs

Sara Staggs was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Oregon for law school. She practiced civil rights litigation for several years, and now writes fiction and creative nonfiction. Her pieces have been published in The Huffington Post, several literary journals, and the BrainAblaze blog. Her debut novel, Uncontrollable, is coming out in May 2023. She is an advocate for people with epilepsy and LGBTQ+ rights, and has appeared on television and podcasts discussing both issues. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. Sara lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children. Follow her on Instagram @sarastaggswrites, on Twitter @SaraStaggs, and through her website www.sarastaggswrites.com.

Uncaged welcomes Sara Staggs

Welcome to Uncaged! Your debut novel, Uncontrollable, releases in May. Can you tell readers more about this book?

This book is inspired by my own life experiences as a person with epilepsy. Casey Scott seems to ‘have it all’ –a career as a civil rights litigator, a loving husband, and two beautiful children. But she also has epilepsy, and her worsening seizures threaten to destroy the life she toiled so hard to build. When her doctor says she could die if she doesn’t get her seizures under control, Casey is at a crossroads: will she choose her dreams, lifelong aspirations, and career, or her family and health? The decision she makes affects her marriage, children, and future in ways she could never have expected.

It’s a book that examines what happens when the life we planned to live may not be available to us anymore, and the compromises that we make to survive in the face of adversity.

The medical scenes are based on things that I’ve experi-

enced, so in that way the book is part auto-fiction, but the personal journeys of Casey and Jonah are pure fiction. The chapters go back and forth between Casey and Jonah, so readers will get insight into both characters’ experiences navigating the challenges before them.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

I am currently working on a YA LGBTQ+ novel about a trans teen who has to move from a small Texas town when it becomes unsafe for him to live there. He moves to Portland, Oregon, and no one in his new school has ever known him before he transitioned, so suddenly he has this new lease on life – he is passable as a boy, he finds a love interest, makes friends, but is also haunted by his experiences in Texas, so he wrestles with how to tell people about his gender identity and is terrified about what will happen if and when he does. I should have it ready to query in the fall!

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

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Uncontrollable started because I kept a journal when I was in the hospital going through testing to see if I was a candidate for brain surgery. When I came home, I was experiencing a lot of PTSD, and so I turned to writing as therapy. I wrote down what had happened in the hospital and then looked at it and thought, “I wonder if I could make a book out of this?” So, the easiest scenes to write were the ones that came from my experiences. The hardest scenes to write were some of the scenes between Jonah and Casey – they aren’t always their best selves in the novel, and while writing some of their interactions, I had to really go inside their heads and feel what they were feeling, and that wasn’t always pleasant.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

Sometimes I’ve used last names of acquaintances, but usually once I find out who my character really is – their background, their age, their geolocation, who they are as a person – a name or two will come. I do a lot of background work to get to know my characters before I start really writing. A little behind the scenes: in the very first draft, Jonah’s name was Josh and his backstory was completely different!

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I write at my dining room table, and I need silence to work. I’ve written two books at this table, and there is a hole in the rug from where I’ve slid the chair back and forth while thinking! (We really do need a new rug at this point.)

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

I suppose the plot, as I tend to work with “What if?” ideas for books. For example, in the upcoming YA novel, the question was “What if a trans teen moved from a small town to a city where no one knew that he was trans or had seen him transition? What if he was passable as a cis-male and now it was his choice to tell people or not?” Working with that, I already

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know that I need a teen protagonist, he needs a family, we will need some bullies, some new friends, and so on. I plot out my books quite a bit, so I have an idea of the arc and character development when I start.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

I love to read, road bike, get outdoors – in the Pacific Northwest there are a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities – and spend time with family and friends. Last summer, my husband, two boys, and I took a two month road trip around Canada in our Sprinter van – mostly camping and staying in pretty rugged AirBnBs. It was a memorable time!

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks, or physical books? Are you reading anything right now?

Physical books, definitely! I have run out of room on my bookshelves, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from buying books from my neighborhood bookstore, Wallace Books. I love that place. Portland has so many indie bookstores that I want to support: Annie Blooms Books, Broadway Books, the list goes on and on. I think that I’ll always love physical books best. Right now I’m reading The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune. I’m reading a lot of YA right now - especially queer YA - to get the tone, and find some comps.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

First of all, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who buys Uncontrollable! You are in for a real ride!

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The book will appeal to those outside the epilepsy community as the overarching theme of “What happens when your life may not go as planned, and you didn’t see the change coming?” is something that many people can relate to. It’s a book about careers, marriage, family, and making hard choices. The early reviews have been so positive, I didn’t expect the reception that Uncontrollable has had in the literary community, and I hope that spills over to readers.

Everyone can follow me on Instagram @sarastaggswrites, Twitter @SaraStaggs, GoodReads @SaraStaggs, and on my website www.sarastaggswrites. com. Please sign up for my twice a month newsletter to keep updated on new blog posts, book recommendations, and events that I’m doing!

Enjoy an excerpt from Uncontrollable


Sara Staggs Medical Suspense Releases May 25

At 36-years-old, Casey Scott appears to have it all: a booming career as a civil rights litigator, a loving husband, and two sweet young children. But she also has epilepsy, and her worsening seizures threaten to destroy the life she toiled to build.

When her doctor says she is likely to die if her seizures are not controlled, Casey is at a crossroads: will she choose her career and lifelong aspirations, or her family and health?

The decisions she makes affect her marriage, children, and future in ways she could never expect. Excerpt



Sitting on the floor of the playroom, there was no way to get comfortable. I’d shifted from one hip to the other on the thinly carpeted area, my wrist holding most of my weight, and had finally chosen the left side, but because of restrictions in movement from the cut of my skirt, my left leg was now numb. With a grimace and a bit of effort, I slid back to my right side, avoiding the jumble of square and rectangular blocks in front of me: the children’s extremely precarious wooden ‘castle.’ My discomfort added to my irritability, and I took a breath to temper my patience. Jonah, my dear, sweet husband, was late. I stole a glance at my watch and rolled my eyes.

“Here, Mommy,” Sam said, passing me a smooth, curved piece, shaped like an arch. “You do one.” I smiled slightly, knowing that if I added this block to the already unstable wall, the structure would likely crumble, and I didn’t want to deal with the aftermath: I just wanted to get to the office.

“You do it, Sammy,” I said. “Where do you think it should go?” I stroked his soft brown curls and kissed the top where, five years ago, he had a soft spot instead of hair, and I was, as a new mother, terrified to touch him. Sam took his time coming into the world, waiting three days past my due date to make his appearance. He finally emerged after the doctors used an instrument resembling salad tongs to pull him out. Evidently, his head was in the 99th percentile of births. Still, when he finally agreed to join us, he looked perfect to me—even with the slight bruises on his rounded temples from where the salad tongs helped him along. “Look how big the castle, Mommy!” Sadie squeaked in delight. Now almost three-years-old, her birth had been quick, as if she had somewhere to be and wanted to get there yesterday. She had rushed through the large path her brother left in my body, like a person riding a motorcycle down an empty six-lane highway, and arrived eager to start living and to do it her way.

“It’s very nice,” I said. Stretching out my legs, I

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switched my weight onto my sitz bones and leaned back on my aching wrists. My eyes flickered up to the entranceway and back to the children.

Where is he?

I heard the front door open, and pushed myself up from the carpet, adjusting my gray skirt suit and rubbing my left hip to massage out the pain.

“Daddy!” Sadie ran ahead, and I followed through the open-concept kitchen/living room/dining room: a modern inside that did not match the traditional Northwest craftsman outside of our home, but worked for our family.

Jonah bent over by the entranceway, untying his Nikes, back from his run. He glanced up, beaming, full of post-workout endorphins. With his thick, darkblond hair streaked with sweat and his face flushed, he looked the pinnacle of health. I swallowed my jealousy at his ability to just throw on sneakers and raise his heart rate without a second thought. The last time I tried to run, I had a sudden seizure, ended up in the emergency room with a broken wrist and a cement burn down the left side of my face. The burn and wrist had healed. My bitterness had not.

Keep your heart rate down, my neurologist told me. No more running.

But that wasn’t Jonah’s fault, I reminded myself, glancing at my watch again, and then back at him. His movements were entirely too leisurely for my liking. He’s going to make me late. My patience broke. “What took you so long?” I snapped.

Jonah’s grin faded, and he looked at his Fitbit. “Long? It was just an hour.”

“Jonah, you know I wanted to get going early—” “And, I’m back. What do you need, darling?” He released Sadie, stood up and held out his arms with a mock bow, the gesture made more effective and endearing with his British accent.


I took a deep breath, torn between wanting to stay angry and punish him, and wanting to laugh. The internal struggle frustrated me even more.

“I need you to take Sam and Sadie to daycare today. They’re all dressed, diaper bag ready to go. I have to leave now for my meeting with Harold.” Jonah frowned at the mention of my boss, and moved past me into the kitchen. He turned on the electric kettle for his morning tea. I grabbed my keys and briefcase, and bent down to kiss Sadie on the cheek.

“Be good today and have fun,” I said, smiling at her.

“I will, Mommy.” She ran off to join her brother in the playroom. I heard a crash and knew it was time to make a quick exit.

“Case, we talked about this meeting last night,” said Jonah, following me to the door. “You don’t even know what it’s about. It’s so ridiculous.”

With my hand on the doorknob, I turned to face him. “Jonah, it could be a million things, but I think it’s going to be a good meeting.”

“He’s so unpredictable. What sort of man just summons his best associate to a meeting at the last minute with no indication of the topic? You’ve been so stressed this entire weekend. I’m really losing patience—”

“Jonah, I know that Harold’s a crazy man, but other than him, I love my job. You know that. It’s everything I wanted to do, always, and—”

“And that was fine when we were younger, no children, and could just focus on our careers,” he replied. “But now things are different.” He gestured with his head to the open playroom door. “You know that you can’t keep going at this pace, right?”

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“No, I don’t know that. Not right,” I shot back. “I can. You’ll see.” I opened the front door, and he continued to follow me to the porch.


“Jo-nah,” I said sarcastically. “I can do this. I can do it all.”

“Not without having seizures, you can’t. It’s too much stress. How many seizures have you had in the past six weeks?”

“I dunno,” I lied. I took a deep breath and looked up at the porch ceiling. The blue paint covering the wood had peeled a bit. We need to fix that. Four.

“Four,” he answered. “Something has to give.” I sighed and pursed my lips. Shaking my head, anger rose like a bubble in my chest, then morphed into silent resignation.

“Jonah, you can’t understand. My perfectly healthy husband, who doesn’t have to walk around all day every day with a brain that might not cooperate, how can you—I don’t want to give.” Realizing I sounded like a child on the verge of throwing a tantrum, I blinked back tears and turned away, walking down the wooden porch steps and towards my car.

Jonah continued to follow me, and I stopped to face him before opening the car door. His eyes held that deep pleading expression that was so common as of late.

“I’m sorry, Jonah. I’m doing the best I can. I can’t be everything to everyone and still get by.”

“That’s just it—I am not asking you to be everything to everyone,” he said, his voice growing hard. “I am asking you to take care of yourself so that you can take care of our family. Before, it was just us, wasn’t it? We could be selfish—career before everything if we wanted.” He pointed to the house; through the open door, I could hear Sam

and Sadie’s voices singing somewhere in the background. “It’s not just us anymore.”

I felt my eyes narrow and my fingers tighten around my briefcase straps. “Jonah, I’m not the little woman who sits around and waits on her husband and children. We’re a team, remember? And I went to school, I have a career—yes, sometimes it’s stressful, but—” “Most of the time it’s stressful,” Jonah interrupted, his voice stern yet emphatic. “I know we’re a team, Case. I’m not asking you to sit around and wait on us. It’s not just the work I’m talking about. It’s Harold. He treats you like a slave. I know you see it, Case. It affects you, and it affects us. Maybe your brain could handle litigating full time, but somewhere else. Not for him.”

“Daddy!” Sam’s voice wafted through the air. “Your kettle’s popped!”

“Look,” I said, making a last attempt to salvage the morning, “eight years ago, Harold hired me—out of all the attorneys that wanted my job, he hired me. He’s the best civil rights attorney in the state. Is he crazy, unpredictable? Yes. But now, I get to practice the kind of law I love, and if the price I have to pay is dealing with an undiagnosed bipolar psychopath daily, so be it.”

Jonah shook his head slowly, his eyes grim and his jaw tense. “That is not the price you’re paying, Case, and we both know it.” He strode back into the house and slammed the door.

Alone, with no ready retort, I plopped into the driver’s seat of my Subaru Outback and backed out of the driveway, furious with my husband for his lack of understanding, but also because I suspected that he was right.

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Mastering Experiences through Humor

column by G.S. Gerry


Guest Column

Mastering Experiences through Humor

Can you really use humor as an instrument to navigate life experiences ?…

Of course you can! Life tends to find a way of just happening. Life is good and bad. Sometimes easy and other times difficult. You’ve heard the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And I couldn’t agree more. One way of doing that is by using humor to laugh off the difficult circumstances and bad, that life throws your way. I would only recommend this, or anything else, if I have personal experience using it as a tool for good.

the bed !


If you were the real estate agent what would be your immediate reaction? Would you call out to the body under the bed? Would you say, “hey, who is that under the bed? Or, would you scream and run out of the house and proceed to call the cops on the homeowners?

If you identify with option 3, you might be a Dawbee Snobby because that is exactly what happened. The real estate agents ran right out of the open house, screaming in terror, and proceeded to call the cops on the homeowners. They then decide to tell the cops that the homeowners must have murdered someone and hid the body under the bed and THAT is why they “went on vacation.”

Question: which of you reading this article thinks that is a logical explanation? In that the homeowners are murderers and had to flee the state in order to get far away from the body.

Let me paint you a picture to learn from my experiences. The setting is, You are attempting to sell your first house. You’ve hired a real estate agent whom you trust and that you have a great relationship with. But, he ends up lying to you and doesn’t do his job. You find out he is actually living in a different state. How many chances does one realtor get? That’s right, this is grounds for termination. You brush it off and just hire another real estate agent.

Now you’re on to real estate agent number 2. Except this time, this real estate agent is not what they seem and they accuse you of something diabolical. You and your family leave the state to go on a family vacation. You need some relaxation and some personal time away from the real estate transaction. Well, while you’re away on vacation you have an open house. During that open house, the real estate agents show up early to get the home show-ready for prospective buyers. They check the house, starting with the basement. No issues in the basement, so they move on to the main living area and everything is in fine working order. Next they go upstairs to the guest bedroom. And when they open the door to the guest room, they see a leg hanging out from under

The story gets more unbelievable from here. The real estate agents don’t stop at murderous accusations. A few days later they mention to the home owners that they smelled the aroma of burning plastic in the garage during the open house. And burning plastic means METH! So the real estate agent accuses the homeowners of cooking meth in their garage.

There are a few different ways to handle this type of situation. You can scream, cry, get furious and just give up

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on selling your home. Or you can weather the storm, find the humor in it all, hire a new real estate agent and ultimately sell your home. And move far, far away from this real estate madness and perplexing situation.

I chose option 2. I fired the real estate agents that accused me of murder and making meth. I hired a third real estate agent who eventually sold the home. I ended up completing a 6 month journey involving buying and selling homes, with a story for the ages.

When life gives you lemons, make some sweet lemonade. And that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do throughout my life. When life happens, I find the humor in it all and use that humor to overcome the situation. It also led me to become an award-winning author.

How many of you would turn this disastrous real estate transaction into a legitimate book? And to recreate the experience, you would infuse humor throughout the story instead of using seriousness, doom and gloom, or dramatics to get your revenge? The next time life happens, rather than letting life get you down and keep you there, flip things on it’s head and find the humor in it all. It’s a lot better laughing at everything than being upset and letting it further impact your life in a negative way.

Master your Experiences through Humor and make your world a better place!

©Copyright 2023

Uncaged Book Reviews


Published with Permission

G. S. Gerry is the award-winning author of Meth Murder & Amazon. He is a father of 5, Navy veteran, cybersecurity expert, and tattoo enthusiast that is reinventing the art of storytelling and writing wrongs along the way. Gerry’s original writing style has been compared to the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk and Lemony Snicket. His books are quirky and utterly unique, jam-packed with humor, suspense, and satire. Gerry grew up in the world of books working for his father’s book bindery business when he was just a child. Little did he know the literary universe had something more in store for his life.

G. S. Gerry’s creations offer an escape from life’s harsh realities by providing a hilarious perspective in turning lemons into lemonade. Constructing a world where the unbelievable seems made up and yet, oddly relatable. Gerry’s visionary approach towards life, laughter and entertainment bridges comedy and originality with memorable creations, leaving no stone unturned to help others laugh their way to a better today.

Check out G. S. Gerry and exclusive Meth Murer & Amazon content on https://grakeden.com

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feature authors

suspense | dark fantasy
A.E. Nalle Kodie Van Dusen John Netti

A.E. nalle

Ilive in a tiny rural town in the middle of nowhere with my husband, two kids, and a multitude of plants and furry children. I began writing when I turned 30 after what felt like a lifetime of searching for what made me truly happy in this life. I have loved reading all things romance for as long as I can remember and although my career as a writer is still new, I finally feel as though I have found my place writing spicy books that make you want to swoon while also leaving you gasping for more.

I believe that everybody deserves a happy ending, no matter how dark your story begins.

Uncaged welcomes A.E. Nalle

Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book, Wickedly Tainted is the second book in The Wicked Series. Can you tell readers more about this series?

The Wicked Series is an interconnected romance series that follows a group of women who are intertwined in each one another’s lives. You will see main charters from prior books make appearances in all the books. All of the women have an inner struggle that they fight with daily, ranging from past trauma surrounding terrible relationships to fighting that inner voice that tells us we aren’t good enough. They fight these inner demons and discover that they truly are worthy of love all while navigating white-hot passion with their love interests. The men are HOT, but not at hot as the spicy scenes they provoke. All of these books have a flare of mystery/thriller as well.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

I just finished the fourth book in the Wicked Series,

Wickedly Innocent. It is with the beta readers now. I did just start on audio production for Wickedly Trapped and hope to have that released in April.

I am also currently working on the first book in my new series, The Insidious Seven MC. This book features Liam Santos, Damon’s, from Wickedly Tainted, brother. These books will follow all the misfit members of the motorcycle club in a 50/50 POV as they face their own trials and tribulations while also finding their own spicy-ever-after with their equally as alluring women.

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

Honestly, the most difficult scenes to write are the filler scenes that help thicken the plot but are not completely necessary for the story to continue. The easiest scenes to write are by far the love scenes as well as the action scenes. Those just flow right out of me!

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How do you come up with names for your characters?

I try to keep my names relatable and easy to remember. I think a lot of people would have trouble remembering big unique names, but not many people would forget a name like Jill.

Do you read reviews? What do you take away from them?

Yes! I know I probably shouldn’t but I can’t help it. I use them as helpful criticism and/or as a moral boost.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I am actually dyslexic. I always had trouble with my phonics as a child but never let it stop me from loving reading and writing. It can be most challenging under times of stress as that can make it worse.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

Characters are ALWAYS first in my mind. I try to plot but then when I’m writing my characters take the reins in their own unique way and change everything.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Not a whole lot of time for relaxation but when I do happen to be lucky enough to relax I read a lot. I also make time for my friends once a week and enjoy mom’s night with them on Friday nights. The thing I do that is the most relaxing is take some me time in the hot tub. Nothing quite compares to washing away a hard day in hot water under the night sky.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I LOVE my Kindle but I greatly prefer physical books. The last book I read was Praise by Sara Cate, so I will be starting her next book in that series soon.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

I appreciate and adore each and every one of you! You guys are a huge part of why I keep writing! I look forward to keeping you encaptivated with my stories. You can find me on TikTok, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.




Wickedly Tainted

A.E. Nalle

Erotic Suspense

One brutal night in her past changed her life forever. Now, sixteen years later, Jill feels as though she is still stuck in the past as new trauma encompasses every waking and unconscious moment. One strong panic attack and a phone call later, Jill’s already chaotic mind is thrust even further into disarray as Damon Santos enters her life yet again.

The one passionate encounter they had nearly put Jill on her knees. She had wanted to relinquish her tightly coveted control for the first time in years. With his crooked grin, dark eyes, and unique brand of domination, Damon slowly breaks down every wall she has built around herself to show her what it means to be truly healed.

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an excerpt from
Wickedly Tainted

But when her past rears its ugly head she must find the strength within herself to fight back and reclaim her life.


“Hey, I have an idea. Come with me.” Damon’s low rumbled words broke the fog my mind had slipped into. He nudged me until I slipped from his lap and settled on my feet in front of him. I stepped back as he stood, and he looked down at me with a jaunty grin before taking my hand in his again, leading me away from the park.

“Where are we going?” A rush of nervous energy shivered down my spine as I let him guide me. We made it past the dimly lit park and were now traveling down what looked like a residential jogging path. Every so often we passed the low glow of a light post. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to jog out here at night. With all these trees, anyone could jump out and grab you. I shook off the unpleasant thought.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he replied, glancing back at me with that same carefree look in his eyes. What I wouldn’t give to have that same look.

A thought struck me as we walked. “So, how long have you been a detective?” I asked, genuinely curious.

He looked down at me and answered, “For about eight years now. I’ve worked for the police station since I was twenty-three and worked my way up over the years. I put in my time as a beat cop for almost five years before I was promoted.” He grinned at me like he found my question humorous.

who do?” I asked.

He squeezed my hand as we came to a dip in the path, slowing to make sure I didn’t tumble down the short hill. Houses on my left were becoming fewer and far between. In some recess of my mind alarms were going off. We were on a secluded part of the path. Out here it wouldn’t be hard for someone to attack. I doubted anyone would hear me scream.

My breath was coming in deeper pants the longer I thought about it. I was looking all around us, the intrusive thoughts of someone watching me running wild. I could almost feel them waiting. I didn’t realize Damon had stopped walking until I bumped into his chest with a huff. He brought one arm around my lower back and then lower still. I looked up at him as he squeezed and kneaded my a** with his big hand. He brushed his lips against mine in a sensual dance that had the rest of the world falling away.

“I’d never let anything happen to you, Red,” he muttered over my parted lips. It was like he read my mind. He knew I was starting to freak myself out and stopped the panic from truly setting in.


“You’re squeezing my hand so hard I’m not sure I’ll be able to feel my fingers later.” He chuckled.

I sucked in a startled breath and tried to shake his hand out of mine.

“Don’t,” he commanded as he brought our joined hands to his mouth. He kissed each finger before sucking my pointer finger in and giving the tip a sharp nip. I hissed as the sting turned to heat, making my n*****s hard.

I frowned despite myself. “You have seen people at their worst, their absolute lowest. You’ve probably seen some true evil in this world, right? How do you still feel secure enough to wander down dark paths when you know bad shit happens to people

“I like it,” he rumbled while still keeping my stare. He’d taken his hair out of its restraint earlier in the evening so it hung like a curtain, secluding us both in our own world. He let go of my a** taking his heat with him. He didn’t release his hold on my hand as

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we continued down the path.

“We’re almost there, just around this corner,” he reassured.

And then I saw it. It wasn’t huge by any means but it was still impressive. The rustic cabin was something one would see in a dream or on the cover of a magazine. It sat in a clearing amongst the trees, surrounded by well-manicured grass. The front of the home sat facing the bay with its huge floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing a beautifully lofted ceiling. I couldn’t help but think it would be an amazing place to watch the sun rise and set. It was situated uphill from a large boathouse that sported a big floating dock perfect for fishing and swimming. A few chairs surrounded a firepit that beckoned for one to come and waste the night away with friends and family.

With the seclusion in the area, it wasn’t surprising that we couldn’t see any other houses from this little carved-out cove. I watched the moonlight shimmering off the gentle waves of the bay and one word came to my mind.


“Wow,” I muttered.

Damon released my hand and started walking toward the dock.

“Follow me,” he whispered.

Alarm bells rang again. “Why are you whispering?”

My hushed voice sounded harsh in the quiet night. “I don’t want to wake up the guy that lives here and get in trouble.” He waved for me to follow him with that stupid grin again.

“What!” I screeched before slapping my hand over my mouth. I looked back at the house before I jogged to catch up with Damon, who was currently laughing quietly.

“What do you mean? If we aren’t allowed to be here, then let’s leave. I’m not some teenager who enjoys breaking and entering,” I whispered harshly at his back.

He just continued walking onto the floating dock. I was still on the grass in front of the dock when he faced me again with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Come on, Jill. Old man Boone sleeps so heavily, he’ll never know we were here,” he teased before he grabbed his shirt and brought it over his head. My mouth dried as I watched him strip. He held my stare as he hooked his fingers into his shorts. He smiled at me before turning from my view and lowered the garment. He stood with his back to me in all his glory. My eyes ate up the sight of his strong thick legs, up to his deliciously toned a** I’d love to sink my teeth into. His tapered waist led up his muscular back to his broad shoulders. The shine from the moon left a luminescent glow against his olive skin. He was absolutely stunning. Without saying a word, that dumbass ran straight to the end of the dock and plunged into the bay. I was left there with my mouth hanging wide open as he resurfaced with a splash.

“Come on, Roja. The water is so cool this time of night,” he coaxed.

I half-ran to the end of the dock to look down at him. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing?” I chided him like he was a small child. Even though there was nothing small about him.

I shook my head to clear the lusty thoughts that filled my mind. Looking back at the house, half expecting lights to come on at any moment.

Damon laughed as he looked up at me. One of those deep belly laughs that made my stomach twist into knots.

“Are you afraid we’ll get caught? Come swim

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with me.” He seemed to be amused with himself. “Unlike you, if I get arrested for trespassing, I won’t be able to get that off my record by asking a few friends for some favors. Get out now! I’m not going to swim with you,” I scolded. Wasn’t this man older than me? Why was I having to be the grown-up in this situation?

“What’s wrong? Scared to get your hair a little wet?” he teased as I glared at him. “Chicken Shit.” As much as I would’ve liked to show him that I was not a chicken, I wasn’t going to play his game. “No, I’m not. I just don’t want to swim with you. Now let’s go before you get caught.”

He laughed. “I think I’ll stay right here. When you decide to not be a fun sponge, let me know,” he baited. I rolled my eyes. Fine, I wasn’t going to stick around to see him get caught.

I turned to march off the dock when I heard a loud splash right before I felt a huge amount of water hit my back. When I turned around to face Damon, he was looking everywhere else except at me. The mischievous look in his eyes had me stifling a smile.

F**k it, I thought to myself as I brought my shirt over my head and stared him down. “You’re in for it now, f****r,” I said as I stripped.

Never taking my eyes off him, I brought my sports bra up and over my head, exposing my breasts to the chilled night air. I watched as his gaze went from humor to hooded as I hooked my thumbs in my leggings and pulled them down, removing my shoes with them. Soon, I stood in front of him naked as the day. He stayed where he was, treading water and scorching me with his gaze.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I took off at a run and jumped into the water right next to him. The water was cool and refreshing against my hot, too-tight skin. When I resurfaced, Damon was wiping water from his face with a smile.

“There, happy now?” I asked. The look he gave me could have thawed the polar ice cap.

“Extremely,” was all he said before he lunged for me.

Don’t miss these titles

68 | UncagedBooks.com FEATURE AUTHOR
Coming soon

John netti

John spent the early years of his career as a rehabilitation counselor offering a hand to people in need. Some took it, and it privileged him to share their journeys with them. He learned of real human suffering, tragedies, and life’s victories. But most of all, he realized we share a never-ending quest to be known. John is dedicated to making his characters known to his readers, even for a little while. He now writes full-time and has published Cupid, The Glades, The Ledger, and Jacobi Park. He plans on several other novels.

Uncaged welcomes John Netti

Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book will release in June called The Ledger. What can you tell readers about this mystery/suspense?

The ledger is a document with the names of men who purchased sex slaves at The Glades. Everyone thought the fire that leveled the place destroyed it years earlier, but a congressional probe into sex trafficking reveals it still exists. A U.S. senator named in the ledger wants it destroyed and pressures his mob friends to find it before it becomes public, landing him in prison. He has leverage over them; they will do anything to find it. Retired detective Maddy Reynolds was involved with The Glades’ demise and becomes a target. Maddy does not know that she’s in the crosshairs of vicious people until things start happening. First, she must figure out the reason for the onslaught against her and then find the ledger.

The novel takes place in the Adirondack Mountains and is rife with beautiful scenery, interesting characters, and non-stop action.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

I am currently working on Pieces, another in the Maddy Reynolds series. Maddy thinks she found happiness with Adam, the only man she ever truly loved. But like in the old west, the fastest gun attracts other gunslingers to prove themselves, and the serial killer Amos Whitfield comes to Maddy’s town to take her down.

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

The most difficult scenes for me to write involve the passage of time. A transition must seem natural, not lose the reader or disrupt the pace, whether it’s a few weeks or months. I’m still working on it. Scenes that feel inspired are the easiest for me to write.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

That is a fascinating question; I often wonder about that myself. Sometimes a name comes to me in a flash, and I know it’s right. Amos Whitfield, the serial killer in Pieces, for example. Other times I’ll spend hours on the internet searching for a suitable name for a character.

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What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I was a counselor early in my career. I believe those years have had the most significant influence on the way I approach character development. I write from multiple points of view and try to make the characters known to the audience without compromising the pace of the narrative.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

I write genre and try never to veer off into other forms of literature. Therefore, the plot comes first, then the characters. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to go deep into the characters; as I said, I do.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

I am raising my granddaughter. She’s fifteen, and I spend much of my time driving her to theater rehearsals, cheerleading practices, sleepovers, etc. I love watching her grow up; she is my greatest joy.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I am a bit dyslexic, and I am a slow reader. I prefer audiobooks. I am currently listening to The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

I want to thank anyone who reads my books. I love constructive feedback, and I can be followed at https://johnnettiwriter.com or on Instagram at author_john_netti.

Enjoy an excerpt from The Ledger

The Ledger


Releases June 8

Maddy Reynolds can’t escape the world of criminals and harm’s way, no matter how hard she tries. After leaving her job in Upstate NY, the retired detective moves to the Adirondacks, but the humpback mountains and endless beauty can’t keep evil out.

A guy follows her at the airport, a car takes off after killing the man she’s meeting with for lunch, a woman calls, begging for help, and Maddy knows something’s amiss, but she doesn’t know what. Powerful men who purchased sex slaves send Naomi White, Maddy’s long-time nemesis, for a ledger that contains their names. Naomi believes Maddy has it; she knows they’ll kill her if she doesn’t find it.

Maddy must resurrect her detective skills and reach deep for the strength to endure a relentless onslaught by Naomi and others to survive the ordeal.



Each day after Kim’s death felt like plodding through quicksand with a fifty-pound backpack. Maddy couldn’t get the girl off her mind. Sometimes she’d sleep until late afternoon, and sometimes she’d get up before four o’clock in the morning. Then there were nights she didn’t sleep at all. The only thing darker than her thoughts were the clouds that hid the sun over Berry Lake.

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One morning, she brought a garbage bag to the basement and could not stuff it in a bin. She was overdue for a trip to the landfill, but wasn’t up to it. “Screw it,” she said. When she picked up her Stephen King book, she read a few pages and put it back down. She pulled out a puzzle from the cabinet, but her mind wasn’t working right; she couldn’t concentrate, and she put it back.

Naps worked, at least on some days. On other days when she tried shutting off her brain with a quick snooze, sleep wouldn’t come, and she felt like jumping off a mountain. It got to where even writing in her journal was an effort. She’d start a sentence, scratch it out, and start again. Sometimes she’d forget how to spell a word. One day, trying to spell ‘Wednesday,’ she thought it didn’t seem right. She spelled it differently. After three efforts, she slammed the journal closed and threw the pen across the room. What is going on with me?

Each day was an eternity. She had built a wall around herself so high that even her friends couldn’t scale it. Jodi left messages, but they went unreturned. The last time, she said, “I’m worried about you, Maddy. Please call me. I’m your friend, remember? There isn’t anything you can’t tell me. I love you, bye.”

Maddy couldn’t face Amber, either. Her voice quivered when she said, “Mom, why aren’t you returning my calls? I want to discuss what’s going on with Todd and his family. Are you okay? Please call.” She also avoided Rose, fearing she’d bring her into the treachery encroaching on her world.

A single thought became so prominent in her mind that she’d spend hours ruminating over it: the look of bewilderment on Kim’s face as her heart exploded through her chest. The image had burned itself into Maddy’s brain. It was like watching a child being told there were no gifts on Christmas morning.

It was too much for the hardened ex-detective.

Maddy had come out of the safe place on her mountain where she’d spent three years, only to have her serenity torn away and replaced with a young girl’s dying eyes. She fell further into her own darkness. She didn’t shower, eat well, or keep up her place.

Though she kept her weapons nearby, she did so with little vigilance. Part of her wasn’t eager to fight anymore. She even wondered if it was worth it. She was losing any sense of hope, believing she drew in vicious people and that it was only a matter of time before someone made it through her defenses and took her out.

On a cloudy morning, she went to the pantry to start a pot of coffee, but the coffee can was empty. She looked through the cupboards; the wine was gone, and the refrigerator had no food. What day is today? She looked at the calendar; it was Saturday. The grocery store in Berry Lake was closed on Sunday, so she had to push herself to go into town.

She stood before a mirror, putting on her coat. Oh, my God. Her hair was matted, she wore sweat clothes she’d had on for three days, and the dark circles under her eyes reminded her of a guy who’d gone fifteen rounds with Joe Frazier. I look like a psych patient.

Maddy realized how far down a hole she’d let herself go; she wanted to die. She leaned against the wall weeping, and as if watching herself from above, she saw her life play out before her. The pain came into her from places long forgotten.

She saw herself at twelve, sitting beside her father in the ICU as he lay dying, looking foolish in a Halloween costume she’d put on just for him. They were to go trick-or-treating together. But you never made it home. Our tradition ended with the knife Cupid thrust into your neck.

The night in the stone quarry flashed before her. The same man returned years later to kill her, and they fought to the death in disgusting leachate from unmaintained portable toilets. There was no relief when I escaped that misery and came to Berry Lake. No, then came young women at The Glades, who, as a sideshow in a circus, were the entertainment for evil men want-

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ing to fulfill their lust. Pain ripped at her guts; the ugliness she’d endured was pressing down upon her, and it was all too real. She cried out from the depths of her being, “Why me?”

Alone and feeling abandoned, she pushed herself away from the wall, dragged herself to the bathroom, undressed, and stepped into the shower. When she finished, she forced herself through the motions of combing her hair, brushing her teeth, and putting on clean clothes. She left her house and headed to town for groceries, feeling numb. The wind picked up as she carried her burdens, and a few snowflakes hung in the air as she drove.

Preoccupied as she pulled into the Tippy Top grocery store parking lot, a vehicle not typical to the area penetrated her gloom. A black BMW Coupe cruised Main Street. A man with red curly hair sat behind the wheel. That’s the guy from the airport!

Zapped with adrenaline, her heart raced, and Hannah’s words popped into her head; They’ll be coming after you next.

The car headed down Route 3 toward her house. She reached for her weapon and placed it next to her on the seat. She gave him a good head start, then followed. The guy slowed as he approached her driveway, and sure enough, he turned up her road.

She drove halfway up, turned the vehicle, and blocked the road. The son of a bitch will wish he hadn’t gone up there because now he can’t get out. She grabbed the Glock and slid into the tall brown reeds. The snow was hard-packed, and she moved unimpeded. As she neared the end of the high grass, she stopped, remained hidden, and saw the redhead darting around inside her home.

That shithead is trashing my place trying to find the ledger, she thought when she heard furniture scraping her hardwood floors. His silhouette drifted toward the basement door, and she heard trash cans tossed around. After an hour, the guy walked out and got into the Beamer. He turned and started down the road; when he

reached her Jeep, Maddy was waiting. He got out, holding a handgun, and started for her vehicle.

“Put it down,” she shouted, hidden in the reeds. The guy turned his head in different directions, unsure where the voice was coming from. “Put it down, or I will put you down.” The guy put the weapon high over his head and walked it to his car, placing it on the roof. He kept his hands high.

Maddy came out of the reeds. The guy stared at her, his face seething with anger. “Move to the front of the car and keep your hands high.” He moved, but his face flushed as though embarrassed to be outsmarted. She took his weapon and slid it into the back of her pants. “Now, start walking up toward the house.”

He dropped out of sight in front of the car in a flash. Maddy got low and disappeared back into the reeds, realizing he must have had a second weapon. I should have checked. Several minutes passed before she heard crunching snow; the guy was heading for the main road through the woods, and she followed. He halted, turned, and fired two shots about forty yards in.

Maddy didn’t follow when the guy started running again; instead, she steadied herself, aimed for his leg, and fired. The redhead dropped. She ran toward him, and he started shooting from the ground. She screeched when her calf felt as if it were on fire. Shit, I’m hit. She stopped and fired twice more, both rounds finding their target. The guy fell backward, blood gushing from two holes near his heart. She limped to him, ready to fire, but he lay with his eyes wide, mouth open, tongue protruding. The man was dead. Leaning against a tree, she shrieked,

“When will this end?”

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CAROLE & Diego

Lola is my big scary pitbull that is actually afraid of her own shadow. She is a nervous Nelly and half the time reminds me of Eeorye from Winnie the poo.

Ozzy is my cuddly Frenchton. He is my protector from my big bad husband, or at least he thinks he is.

Lucy is my long-haired Calico cat. She is beautiful to look at and lovey when she wants to be but God help you if you touch her when she doesn’t want you to. She is my spirit animal!

Diego is a nine-year old rescue cat we got as a nine-month old kitten. He’d been kicked and had a fractured hip so the vet cautioned he needed to be kept inside and probably would not be able to jump. Well, he often escapes outside to chase away the feral cats I care for to defend his territory. He climbs the backyard tree, and gets down in one piece. And he considers the kitchen counter a snack bar, to dip his paw into the warm milk I’ve just frothed for my coffee or grab meat off the sandwich I’m making.

A.E. & Ethal, Lola, Lucy & Ozzy

Ethal is actually my daughter’s cat. She is the notso-little hermit of the house as she never strays too far away from my daughter. I’m amazed that I got a picture of her honestly.

JOHN & Rascal

Rascal is my granddaughter Alexis’ cat. She picked him from the litter and aptly named him; he’s always in trouble.

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Pets and companions come in many shapes and sizes. From furry to feathered to hairy and scaley - there is a place for all of them. Authors have a special relationship with their pets - whether they remind them to get up and take a break or they inspire their writing. Meet the critters that share their love and devotion to Uncaged Feature Authors.

SARA & Sandy

I have a goldendoodle named Sandy. Or shall I say “We” have a goldendoodle named Sandy –the kids just adore her. She is about two years old, and is very patient. She sits/sleeps next to me while I write. She is a “pandemic puppy”, so she is a bit shy, but very smart. I’m trying to train her to be a therapy dog to take to hospitals and nursing homes. We’re getting there!

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Kodie vAn dusen

Kodie Van Dusen resides in Southern Ontario with her husband, daughter, and three fur babies. She began winning awards and publishing in poetry anthologies from a young age. Her manuscripts have since been shortlisted in multiple competitions, including the 2022 Braun Book Awards. Kodie holds a degree in psychology and spent several years incorporating storytelling into her private practice counseling business, helping clients overcome personal problems through the power of narrative. For news, promotions, and the chance to beta read Kodie’s upcoming works, subscribe by visiting www.kodievandusen.com

Uncaged welcomes Kodie Van Dusen

Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest release is a dark fantasy/horror novel, Birds in the Dark Water. Can you tell readers more about this book?

Birds in the Black Water was a labour of love for me. I heard somewhere that the stakes in the stories most worth telling are a matter of life and death, and this story was exactly that for me. A close friend of mine took his own life back in 2017, and this novel was a process of working through the pain and guilt that came in the aftermath.

It closely follows my protagonist, Neviah, a counselor who can literally see peoples’ demons, as she tries to help her clients, her family, and a young boy caught up in the aftermath of a mistake she made years earlier.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Well, I haven’t actually started teasing my new book yet…but since you were kind enough to reach out to me for a feature, your readers can be the first to hear what I’m working on! My new project is being described

as the Exorcist meets Gone Girl. We’re talking demons, marriage problems, and a strong female lead who has had just about as much as she can take. It won’t be out for awhile yet, but in the meantime, I’ll be dropping some short stories to Kindle Unlimited throughout 2023.

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

The hardest scenes for me to write are ones involving longer chunks of dialogue that reveal important information to the reader. I learned a lot of my storytelling from screenwriting, but what works as dialogue in a screen play doesn’t necessarily work in a novel, so I have to be careful. The easiest scenes to write are the emotional ones where the characters’ feelings drag the reader kicking and screaming into the next chapter.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

I like to find names that are meaningful to the themes in my stories, which means spending a lot of time on name meaning websites. Birds in the Black

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Water was a bit of an exception because the story was drastically different in the earlier drafts; some of the names were meaningful in the original story but had no deeper meaning by the final draft―at that point, I had gotten to know my characters with their earlier names and didn’t have the heart to start changing them.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

Probably that I published Birds in the Black Water while on maternity leave while I was supposed to be on bed rest from severe blood loss. Prior to giving birth, I was still in the final stages of editing and formatting to release the book. I’d given myself a couple weeks of leeway after the birth for recovery, but it was a difficult birth and recovery took longer than anticipated. I could barely make it to the bathroom and back without fainting for months, yet I still managed to pull off a very successful indie book launch, which is a testament to how badly I wanted this story to be in the world.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

I would say the protagonist usually comes first. I use my writing to explore real life problems through the lens of fiction, so really, it’s my protagonist’s needs that come first. Before Neviah existed for Birds in the Black Water, it was just me at a computer trying to make sense of my friend’s suicide and wondering if I could have done anything to prevent it. I created Neviah as a vessel to explore that question.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Relax? What is that?

*Laughs nervously* Honestly, I’m not great at relaxing, as you can probably tell from my answer to question

5. When I do relax

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though, it usually involves a good book, whiskey, or being in or on the water. I love a long day of kayaking.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I was a stickler for physical books until I had my first child. Now it’s a lucky day if I can sit down to read anything that isn’t on my Kindle. It’s just too convenient to have all my books in one place, and it makes it far easier to read wherever I’m at whenever I can sneak it in. Unfortunately, I haven’t been reading as much lately as I try to hammer out my next book; Grady Hendrix and Steve Stred are at the top of my TBR pile though.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

To fans, I would say, first and foremost, thank you for your support. My writing style isn’t always traditional―I tend to break rules, cross genres―and I’m always humbled when people see value in it. Second, I would like to say that I hope you stick around. I am committed to continued improvement and believe the best is yet to come!

You can connect with me in a few different ways: on Twitter where I post most frequently or on my Facebook page (I do my best to respond to comments on both), through the mailing list on my website for monthly updates and blog posts, and/ or by signing up on my Patreon to support future writing by funding a coffee break.

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Connected linktr.ee/kodievandusen

Enjoy an excerpt from Birds in the Black Water

Birds in the Black Water

That was the second time in my life death lied to me. I wanted it to lie to me just once more.”

Neviah has seen the Other Side since she was a child, a dark world trapped somewhere between past and present where shadowy creatures ominously keep watch. Though she uses her connection with the supernatural to build a thriving counseling practice, she is racked with guilt over a professional decision that landed a former client, Martha, into protective custody almost ten years ago. When a little boy arrives alone at her clinic with a letter identifying himself as Martha’s son, Neviah has a chance to redeem herself. Having suffered enough loss for one lifetime, Neviah must locate the boy’s mother before time runs out and she loses the chance to right her wrongs once and for all—and before the shadowy creatures that have plagued her since childhood do more damage to her loved ones than they already have.

Birds in the Black Water is dark, paranormal drama at its best. Van Dusen isn’t afraid to cross genre lines as she explores the intersection of mental health, maternal instinct, and grief.

Excerpt Prelude

She stared at me from the other side of the mirror, its surface cloudy with age. She lifted her hand as I lifted mine; touched a finger to her lips in tandem with me. And when I touched the surface of the

glass, her hand reached out to clasp mine, holding it so bone-crushingly tight I thought it would shatter. Her face transfigured into a wraith, a phantasm, a dark spirit so black she absorbed and crushed what little light trickled in through the bedroom window. Her fingers were suddenly long, black tendrils that wrapped around my wrist like a hot, metal bracelet, burning the skin and yet cold to touch as I tried to squirm away.

When I jolted upright in bed, the skin around my wrist felt raw like it had been chafed by rope where the creature touched me. A welt formed on the skin, still clammy and pale from the night terror. My pillow was wet, long hair matted and soaked with sweat. “The dreams are back,” I spoke to the man keeping careful watch of me from the corner. The vibrant yellow and red plaid of his button up was muted and grey in the dark as he rocked alone in the chair. My vision swam with fatigue, pulse quickening when a hand touched my back, jarring me fully awake.

“It’s okay. I’m here,” a man’s voice, slurring with sleep, uttered from beside me in bed. In the time it took to register my husband’s voice, the figure in the corner fled the room, replaced by shadows. I stared wide-eyed and trembling into the darkness. The darkness stared back.

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The Horror Movies and True Crime That Inspired The Golden Girls

Guest column by Kelly Florence

Guest Column

The Horror Movies and True Crime That Inspired The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls was on air from 1985-1992 and pop culture references abound throughout the series. From films like Psycho (1960) to books like ones from acclaimed mystery novelist Agatha Christie, the show and its characters were aware of the spooky stories that pervaded America at the time. They were even affected by these tales in particular episodes. This essay will explore the horror movies and true crimes that were at the forefront of the minds of The Golden Girls and delve into how these genres played a role in the series as a whole. From cultural lore passed down through oral storytelling by Rose (Betty White) and Sophia (Estelle Getty), to the plots ripped from the headlines, The Golden Girls reflected how horror and true crime were viewed by women and, in turn, affected these characters’ actions, ways of thinking, and navigating as single women during this time period.

Horror and true crime have been a part of our society for generations. Whether it was a ghost story told around the campfire or a tale told to warn of potential dangers, scary stories have a way of sticking with us. They allow us to experience empathy and think about what we would do in unlikely scenarios. Danish professor Mathias Clasen has extensively studied horror fans and believes “watching scary things allows us to trigger our fight-or-flight response while feeling safe, which in turn lets us feel as if we’re overcoming our fears and anxieties.” The characters in The Golden Girls may not have been big horror

fans but were undoubtedly aware of the genre and its impact on their lives.

Early in season one, the girls come home from a Madonna concert to find that their house has been broken into. “The Break-In” balances the humor and hopelessness of the situation while giving each character their own journey through the process of recovery. Looking for a solution to feel safer, a home security system salesman stops by to sell them a unit. He claims “one out of every three people will be the victim of a violent crime.” Is there any truth to this? Break-in statistics for the United States show that during the 1980s, burglaries were over three million per year while in 2019, the number went down to near one million. Older individuals are currently targeted in crimes pertaining to money including fake prizes and sweepstakes, investment scams, and insurance fraud. It would seem that with the advent of technology these crimes are on the rise but a study in 1979 showed that even then, burglary, robbery, and fraud were the crimes most frequently committed against the elderly.

Rose says, “You know why this happened? Because we’re without men.” This purports that the presence of men deters criminals from entering a home. Is there a basis to this? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Households composed of single males were more likely than those composed of single females to experience a burglary while no one was home. However, households composed of single males and single females were equally likely to experience a burglary while the residence was occupied.” Another key point to note is that most burglaries took place during the day while people were out of their homes versus during the night when residents would likely be home sleeping. The girls may have felt safer with a male presence around but it wouldn’t have necessarily prevented the crime.

Blanche (Rue McClanahan) says “It’s karma…. Crime is caused by karma. Some people give out an energy that attracts misfortune. They become victims.” This theory often leads to victim blaming in crime and is an unhealthy way of looking at these situations. In the study of communication, this is seen as the “just world hypoth-

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esis.” People will tend to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people therefore, if something bad happened to you, you must have done something to deserve it. According to Professor Barbara Gilin at Widener University, “many people tend to default to victim-blaming thoughts and behaviors as a defense mechanism in the face of bad news…while people tend to be able to accept natural disasters as unavoidable, many feel that they have a little more control over whether they become victims of crimes, that they can take precautions that will protect them. Therefore, some people have a harder time accepting that the victims of these crimes didn’t contribute to (and bear some responsibility for) their own victimization.” We should instead look at situations objectively and not pass judgment on victims for their perceived role in a crime.

Rose resorts to purchasing mace and even a gun for home protection. How often is this the case? According to a Gallup poll, 14% of Americans say they carry mace or pepper spray for self-defense while 12% carry a gun. The poll also found that those who were a victim of crime were more likely to take measures to try to prevent further occurrences in the future. What about gun ownership? Was it realistic that Rose purchased a gun? It was, although she would have been in the minority of women. “Personal ownership of firearms has not appreciably changed for women from 1980 through 2014. Between 9% and 14% of women personally owned a firearm during those years and there is no meaningful trend in the level of personal ownership. In 1980, 10.1% personally owned a firearm and in 2014 11.7% did. Men are much more likely to personally own a firearm than women are, but the gender gap has narrowed due to a decline in personal firearm ownership among men.” With modern home security systems becoming more common it will be interesting to follow crime and burglary trends over the coming years. A 2021 study by the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice found that “an increase in security alarm installation caused a decrease in burglaries over five years.”

The girls convince Rose to see a psychiatrist to confront her fears. The psychology of feeling violated after a break-in occurs is a real trauma for people that may take quite some time to recover from. There is a serious

psychological effect of being the victim of a break-in that can cause feelings of fear which can affect sleep and other routines. Some people may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can include nightmares, flashbacks, and even physical pain. “It’s estimated that one in five people who experience a traumatic event go on to develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. A report published in 2016 by the Office for National Statistics found that 81% of domestic burglary victims described being emotionally affected by the incident, of which 21% were significantly affected. Allianz Insurance research demonstrates that it takes around eight months for victims of burglary to feel safe at home, whilst a UIA Insurance survey found that 60% of adults surveyed ‘never feel safe in their homes again’.” Treatment for PTSD can vary from therapy to medications and the Mayo Clinic recommends getting enough sleep, following your treatment plan, and seeking the support of others. Rose certainly did this to try to overcome her fears.

The girls reference many incidents of true crime throughout the series. “The Auction” in season four contains a line about Rose consuming too much sugar before bed and Dorothy exclaiming “I’m surprised

you didn’t try to kill the mayor of San Francisco” which refers to the 1979 trial of Dan White who assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and his Supervisor Harvey Milk. White used what became known as “The Twinkie Defense,” a phrase coined to explain his mental state at the time of

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the murders. White purportedly consumed a large amount of sugary drinks and foods, like Twinkies, so his legal team argued that this caused him to have diminished capacity. The jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter instead of the more serious charge of first-degree murder and Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist and critic of forensic psychiatry, called the verdict a “travesty of justice” which he blamed on the diminished capacity defense.

Why are women so drawn to true crime? In “The Break-In,” Sophia quotes the psychiatrist saying, “We’re afraid because our mothers taught us to be

of social and legal systems that work tirelessly towards women’s safety and protection.”

Rose ultimately overcomes her fear in “The Break-In ‘’ by kicking a perceived attacker in an off-screen retelling of the ordeal. Through this, she realizes, “I can take care of myself.” May we all feel empowered, safe, and confident in our own bodies and surroundings!

©Copyright 2023 Kelly Florence for Uncaged Book Reviews

www.uncagedbooks.com Published with Permission

afraid.” A study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found, “when given a choice of violent reading material, women overwhelmingly opted to read true stories about the death and dismemberment of victims much like themselves. Men, however, were more likely to choose nonfiction books about war or gang violence than those in the ‘true crime’ genre.” The researchers thought this could be due to women wanting to learn more about true crime so they can try to prevent it from happening to them in the future. Psychotherapist and counselor, Rhea Gandhi said, “In reality, women are often the victims or survivors of crime, rather than perpetrators. Perhaps we are drawn to this genre in search of a sense of justice…As women living in a deeply patriarchal society, feeling unsafe and frightened is almost a constant state of mind, and perhaps, our deep desire to feel safe and protected by legal systems is sublimated when we watch stories where justice prevails. That sense of justice we feel at the end of a true crime film or series reflects our desire to be a part

Kelly Florence teaches communication at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN and is the creator of the Be a Better Communicator podcast. She received her BA in theatre from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and her MA in communicating arts from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has written, directed, produced, choreographed, and stage managed for dozens of productions in Minnesota including Carrie: The Musical through Rubber Chicken Theatre and Treasure Island for Wise Fool Theater. She is passionate about female representation in all media and particularly the horror genre. She is the co-author of The Science of Monsters, The Science of Women in Horror, The Science of Stephen King, The Science of Serial Killers, and The Science of Witchcraft with Meg Hafdahl. They co-host the Horror Rewind podcast and write and produce horror projects together. Kelly is repped by Stacey Kondla (Literary Agent) at The Rights Factory and Karmen Wells (TV/Film Agent) at The Rights Factory.

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107 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 | Check out these titles:

feature authors

scifi | paranromal | fantasy
Laurel Richards
Caleb Smith Carole Ann Moleti

Laurel richards

Laurel Richards is a fiction author with a passion for shifters, space travelers, and other memorable characters. She has gathered inspiration from lots of different sources throughout her life and is here today to share her imagination through storytelling. Laurel writes sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, and funny mysteries, with various degrees of romance mixed in.

Uncaged welcomes Laurel Richards

Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest release is the second book in the Colonial Expansion scifi series called The Frontier. Can you tell readers more about this series? Can each book be read as a standalone?

In this series, humans can inhabit other planets at different stages of development as part of a colonial expansion program. In the first book, The Colony, Dr. Elisa Everett is a scientist studying the wild jungle planet of Jangala. When her fellow colonists are wiped out in a single night, Officer Alexander Valerian and his team are sent to investigate. He finds Elisa injured and hiding in a ventilation shaft. Her account of killer monsters only raises more questions. Were the colonists attacked by bloodthirsty beasts, or did they succumb to a powerful hallucinogen that made them turn on one another?

The second book in the series, The Frontier, is set within the same universe but can be read as a standalone novel. Lilah Reiss is a biologist who monitors and studies the wildlife on the forested planet of Silveira, which has been colonized by humans for decades. The colonists are busy installing infrastructure for the next phase of civilization when a man-eating predator goes on the attack. As Lilah investigates with

the help of Darren, her outpost’s medical doctor, she discovers something is very wrong with Silveira’s apex predators. She and Darren need to uncover the source of the problem, especially when whatever is affecting the animals’ behavior threatens to spread to the colonists.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

My current WIP is a paranormal romance with an intriguing mystery. I’ve only outlined the book at this point, so even I don’t know exactly how it will end.

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

I have a poor sense of direction in real life, so writing scenes that require orientation within a space or setting can be challenging. I usually create little maps for myself so I don’t have places jumping from north to south or characters taking four right turns. I enjoy writing action scenes. While I wouldn’t call them easy, they can be a lot of fun.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

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I find popular naming websites and baby name guides to be very helpful when coming up with character names. I try not to have multiple names that begin with the same letter or sound alike. I don’t want readers to have any difficulty following who’s who.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I write on both hardcopy paper and on the computer when composing my first drafts. The ideas come fast and furious at this stage, and I find the combination of writing methods helps me unlock my creativity and record my thoughts more quickly.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

I usually think up my characters first. My stories are most often character-driven.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

I love to walk, whether it’s on city sidewalks or out on nature trails. I enjoy being outside and seeing new sights.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I have a soft spot for physical books. In fact, I own a whole bookcase full of hardcopies. Ebooks are excellent too, especially since I can get a new book in an instant in that format. My Kindle is certainly loaded. I prefer audiobooks on long car trips.


What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

Thank you to all the readers who have given my stories a chance and supported me. It makes me so happy that fans enjoy the worlds I’ve created in my imagination.

Stay Connected


Enjoy an excerpt from: The Frontier The Frontier

The planet of Silveira has been colonized by humans for over twenty years. When wildlife biologist Lilah Reiss is sent to hunt down a maneater that is attacking her fellow colonists, she assumes she’s after one sick animal. Instead she discovers that something is very wrong with Silveira’s top predators. The animals are moving oddly, and they’ve begun to target humans. Her budding relationship with Darren Jayr, her outpost’s medical doctor, is put to the test when civilization and nature collide. As the number of attacks increases, she and Darren must find out what is causing the change in behavior…and how to stop it from spreading to the colonists.

Content: m/f romance, love scenes, animal attacks, medical drama, hunting alien animals, euthanasia

of alien predators that have attacked humans, no cliffhangers, can be read as a standalone novel (set in the same universe as The Colony)


Every couple of minutes, Lilah made sure to glance up from the ground to scan her surroundings. About the tenth time she did so, something caught her eye. A darker patch about forty meters into the woods suddenly moved, proving it wasn’t a tree stump or rock. She had a brief glimpse of the bear’s scarred face before the sow lowered her head again. The underbrush obscured the front half of the animal, but the hind end was broadside to them.

Lilah gripped Tyrone’s arm to get his attention and pointed. They had a decent shot if the bear didn’t walk deeper into the vegetation. Although the neck or shoulder would have been a better target, the rump or hind leg could work if the sow had lost enough weight to diminish the fat layer. The anesthesia drugs needed to be delivered via intramuscular injection.

Tyrone nodded to indicate he saw the bear too. He checked and loaded the dart, adjusted his rifle, and lifted the gun to take aim. She and the officers went still, not wanting to alert the sow to their presence. The rifle was nearly soundless when he pulled the trigger. The trajectory was good, and the dart hit its target…and bounced off.

The syringe failed to penetrate the fur and thick skin. Instead, it startled the sow and caused her to lift her head. The bear’s gaze landed on them. Those golden-brown eyes turned almost mirrored as the nictitating membranes blinked into place. That was all the warning they got.

The seemingly slow, lumbering gait of the masked bear was deceptive, and the motion ticks of this particular animal further disguised her celerity. She barreled toward them so fast that Lilah didn’t have time to flinch. At a top speed of over fifteen meters

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per second, the bear took less than three seconds to reach them. This was no mock charge, either. The bear didn’t growl or snarl.

Keith and Olivia, who were likely used to practicing on stationary targets, had no chance to line up their shots. The sow was also partially concealed by the thick underbrush she crashed through to get to them. Both officers squeezed the triggers, but in the heat of the moment—with adrenaline pumping—neither managed to hit their mark.

Grouped together as they were, Keith and Tyrone took the brunt of the attack when the bear reached them. In their attempt to limit motion and not make the bear aware of them, they had all kept their backpacks on. This made them top-heavy and slower to move. Tyrone fell onto his back when the sow struck him, which left his stomach and neck exposed. He lifted his rifle between him and those powerful jaws, but the animal ripped the gun out of his hands with one swipe of her enormous paw. He screamed as she bit his shoulder and head in rapid succession.

Olivia had backpedaled to keep from getting tackled too. She tripped and fell to the side but swiftly recovered. In the next instant, she was back on her feet and shouting at the animal. She had her gun ready but needed a clear shot that wouldn’t jeopardize Keith on the other side. The bear lunged toward her as she fired. A glancing strike across one shoulder filled the air with the smell of singed fur.

Before Olivia could dodge, the sow batted at her. Those long claws caught the woman in the side of her ribcage and sent her into a hard spin. The animal then turned on Keith before he could shoot. Lilah heard his bone snap when the bear clamped down on his dominant arm with her teeth. He howled and dropped the weapon.

The beast and Lilah’s injured colleague were between her and the gun. She had no chance of reaching the weapon, and the dart gun was useless dur-

ing such an attack. Keith tried to kick the bear off of him, but the sow dug her claws into his leg and yanked him farther beneath her.

Lilah felt like she was moving at half speed as she holstered her dart pistol and grabbed her spray canister. Although she risked hitting Keith with the repellant too, she aimed at the bear’s head. She released a stream toward the animal’s left eye, which was the only one currently facing her. The bear grunted and jerked away. Keith bellowed, although Lilah didn’t know if he’d been clawed again or if she’d burned him with the spray. The repellant had several times the capsaicinoid concentration meant for use on humans. Better that she accidentally hurt the officer than let him die, though.

She expected the sow to run away or at least paw at her burning face. Lilah felt all the hairs on the back of her neck stand up when the bear instead turned on her. She fired another stream of spray as the bear charged her. Although the sow tossed her head back and forth, her legs never slowed.

Lilah barely had time to put the nearest tree between her and the bear. The trunk shielded her enough to keep her from being smashed to the ground, but the animal’s long reach allowed the sow to swipe around it. Although Lilah recoiled in time to avoid being eviscerated, the claws ripped through her shirt and raked lines of fire across her stomach. On the follow-through, the tips snagged her backpack strap. She was jerked to one side and then yanked forward.

Fighting to stay on her feet, she tried to catch herself on the tree, but the violent motion unbalanced her and toppled her sideways. She immediately rolled onto her stomach. The air was knocked out of her lungs when the beast’s weight landed on her back. Instead of biting her neck or head, though, the bear chomped down on the top of her pack. Lilah could smell the animal’s hot, stinking breath, and the sound of rending fabric filled her ears as

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she was jostled. Then she heard the telltale sound of gunfire.

She didn’t see the shot, but the bear reared back and took off running. As soon as the weight lifted off her spine, Lilah pushed up on shaky arms. She sprang to her feet and looked around for a weapon. Tyrone’s dart rifle lay on the ground a short distance in front of her. Although it was unloaded, it would still make a better club than a rock or stick. She lunged for it.

Additional shots were fired. She was relieved to see the sow was still retreating. The animal had taken some damage to her hind end, but the limp didn’t slow her down. If any of the other shots struck the animal, the hits must have been too superficial to do any harm.

When Lilah turned back toward her companions, she found Olivia standing with her weapon trained in the direction the bear had fled. Keith was likewise balanced on one knee with his gun in his left hand.

“I got her in the hind leg,” Olivia stated.

Lilah didn’t tell her that a wounded bear could be even more dangerous. They needed to get out of here fast.

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Carole Ann moleti

Carole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-practitioner/midwife in New York City. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women’s issues. But her first love is writing fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.

Carole’s Paranormal Romances in The Unfinished Business Series include Breakwater Beach, The Widow’s Walk, and Storm Watch. All were inspired by her seafaring upbringing, love of ghost stories and Cape Cod. The Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams Series was inspired by Carole’s life, and her life’s work, while she roamed the streets of The Bronx as it morphed from an emblem of urban blight to a vibrant and ethnically diverse borough in New York City.

Her short stories have been featured in the Ten Tales Series: Haunted, Seers, Beltane, and Bites, as well as in Hell’s Kitties, Hell’s Mall, and Hell’s Heart.

Her first contemporary women’s fiction novel series (in progress) The Bar None Ranch weaves current events and fiction into the saga of a family torn apart by jealousy and battered by the dual immigration and environmental crises in California.

Excerpts of Carole’s memoir Someday I’m Going to Write a Book: Diary of an Urban Missionary, which range from sweet and sentimental to edgy and irreverent, have been published in a variety of literary venues. Carole received the Oasis Journal award for best nonfiction in 2009. She has also contributed to the award winning feminist anthologies Shifts and Impact.

Uncaged welcomes Carole Ann Moleti

Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest Soulmate Publishing book that was released is Storm Watch which is the third book in the Unfinished Business series. Can you tell readers more about the book and the series?

Sure! The series is a ghost story/paranormal romance set on Cape Cod. Book One, Breakwater Beach, is a a past life story with historical elements. Book Two, The

Widow’s Walk, continues along that theme, with the addition of sinister romantic suspense elements. Book Three, Storm Watch, has a paranormal thriller vibe as a Category Five hurricane bears down on the characters trapped on the Cape to battle both the ghost and the elements.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

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Void of Course: Book One in the Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams, a very dark urban fantasy, was recently released. Besides plotting and planning on Book two in that series I’m working on a contemporary Women’s Fiction/Western Romance series that I’m really excited about. It was inspired while hiking with my family in Pescadero Marsh in Northern California. I’ve always loved horses, and the scenery there is right out of the 1960s Westerns I loved as a young child. All my fiction intersects with real life events, and the wildfires and more drought and flooding rains all factor into this series. COVID 19 and the immigration crisis, which I have been deeply immersed in with my job, figure heavily into the plot as well.

character perfectly.

Do you read reviews? What do you take away from them?

I read all the reviews. Fortunately, most have been positive, but I do consider those who did not find the book to their liking important. Whether it’s dislike of a character or characters or the writing style, comments give me pause to consider if I could have, or should have done something different. Most of the time it’s just the reader’s taste which I respect but I keep that in mind for the future.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

I spent a lot of time with my father, grandfathers and uncles in a waterfront community that frequently weathered coastal storms and hurricanes. We had sail and motor boats and often encountered rough seas. As a teenager, I worked as a beach guard and completed Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary “Power Squadron” training. Once I rowed out to rescue boaters stranded after their motor failed. Got a Bronx Juror’s Award medal for it! I think I was about 13 years old.

What is the most difficult scene for you to write?

The opening scene for sure. I always start too early, then have to go in and remove all the backstory. What is the easiest? The final scene in the book is the easiest for me. By then, I am as relieved as the characters to have made it through the struggle.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

As I concoct the characters, their personalities trigger memories of people I have known (both loved and not so loved). For the Unfinished Business Series, I used the names of two friends and one fellow writer/crit partner whose personality fit the

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

Usually there is a scene that comes to mind—inspired while hiking or walking, or even working or on my way to work. I then imagine a character in that scene, then fill in the rest. I love to invent characters and do very detailed sketches, including astrological charts

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and Tarot readings for them. I am not a plotter, so those sketches help me develop their personalities and points of conflicts with the other characters.

What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Reading, and I have very eclectic tastes. My favorite thing is to go to the library and check out several books. I pick whatever jumps out at me: fiction, nonfiction, biography, even young adult. Then I take my time reading, often renewing them if reading time is cut short by my other responsibilities.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books?

I prefer to hold a book in my hand, hardcover, if possible.

Are you reading anything now?

Right now I’m reading classics by Jane Austin and EM Forster, and new classics books by Louise Erdrich. I’m also a big fan of Deborah Blake, from whom I learned a great deal about magic and witchcraft that figure heavily in my paranormal plots. The book I was reading before the pandemic was Station Eleven, and I decided it wasn’t the best choice as things got worse. I’m a nurse practitioner/midwife and there wasn’t much time for reading during 2020 and 2021. Work was too stressful and demanding, and I needed to sleep when I could. During that time, I found WATCHING historical shows, like Masterpiece Theatre and Call the Midwife

on PBS helped me escape reality and gave me a sense of perspective as the characters navigated through Victorian woes, World Wars One and 2 and the turmoil of the 1960s.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

I always appreciate reviews, whether positive or negative. I love to converse with readers on Goodreads, or on Facebook and Twitter. I have not mastered the art of Instagram yet, still trying. Links to everything are on my website.

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caroleannmoleti.com CAROLE ANN MOLETI

Enjoy an excerpt from Storm Watch

Storm Watch

Paranormal Ghost Romance

Mike and Liz thought they’d gotten control of the specters haunting the Barrett Inn. But things get very complicated when they are the ghosts from your past life. The Category Five Hurricane bearing down on Cape Cod appears to be headed directly for them—or has it been spawned from inside them? Knowing it’s their last chance to end the hauntings, Mike and Liz must decide whether to run or to defy evacuation orders. Will they survive the storm?


familiar gut twisting visions and intrusions had resurfaced. That spectral fog, invisible to those who had not had the dubious pleasure of a ghost living inside them, mocked him from above while he tromped across the still damp sand. Ripples carved by the outgoing tide massaged his bare feet. The detritus of seagull breakfast: an odd crab claw, a gnawed fish, cracked, ravished quahogs, their guts picked clean and bleached bone white, crunched with each step. They were all dead and gone.

Storm Watch

Chapter One

Either it was age or too much on his mind, but forgetting your morning routine was like getting lost in your own back yard. Mike was in the parking lot before he realized he’d forgotten to stop for tea. There was some water and soda aboard the Boston Whaler-warm of course-some stale snacks, too. The sun peeked through a bank of puffy white clouds, giving the hint of a beautiful day to come. In the west, a dark expanse rolled over itself like a giant octopus, its tentacles undulating, slapping the sky.

“Damn ghosts.”

Just when it seemed they were under control, the

Why couldn’t human ghosts go quietly? The entire town of Brewster was a graveyard full of souls clinging to life, haunting the living and breathing inhabitants of the Barrett Inn--and Breakwater Beach. Mike focused on fronds of green sea grass waving hello in the morning breeze. Pungent sulfur fumes swirled around him, something he’d always found pleasant even though it stank like flatulence after a basket of fried clams with a sweet potato fry chaser. The sun prevailed, but the specters lingered in a dark cloud over the entire western horizon. Cool water splashed over his legs at the ebb tide line. The boat, beached like a dead whale, listed so hard to the left on its keel that the gunwale was only a foot off the mud. Sweaty and itchy inside and out, Mike stripped off his mackinaw and stowed it under the front seat.

Early morning beachcombers, at least a mile off shore, skim boarded, fished, and tended oyster farms. The golden glow of early morning glinted off water so blue it blended into the sky, with just a touch of whipped cream clouds to provide some perspective. Mike walked around the boat, trying to ignore the ominous counterbalance in the west as a nor’easter gathered strength over the open ocean. He pulled some seaweed off the bottom of the boat, lovingly replacing it in a tide pool. He not so lovingly scraped off the barnacles with the putty knife he kept in his pocket for such occasions, and they retaliated by ripping a gash across his knuckles.

Damn bastards. What the hell were they doing attaching to the hull of a boat beached in the middle of the flats on Breakwater Beach, Brewster, Massachusetts

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as two Category 5 hurricanes swirled far off in the Atlantic?

Mike’s bare toe knocked the carapace of a dismembered spotted crab, gutted and so old it was dotted with mermaid’s toenails heaped on its once mighty back. Like him, the old timer was no stranger to heavy loads but had finally met his match: a kid who’d caught and kept him a bit too long in the bucket before letting him go. Would his wife and his kid—and all their ghostly baggage--do him in this time? They’d survived the first round, and had been hopeful that the specters would settle down, but there was just enough unfinished business for any cosmic disturbance to rile them up again. This storm watch was more than just a minor blip on the radar.

Noisy seagulls soared high in the sky, still hunting as the storm with enough power to blow them to Rhode Island threatened. Mike rolled his shoulders, flexed the stiff muscles in his back, trying to imagine he could shed his wife and his son and the gaping jaws of Captain Edward Barrett’s legacy, which, though a vacant, empty threat, rubbed him raw at moments like this when he had nothing to do but wait for the bay to come in around him so he could go out and make a living. He rinsed his hands in a tide pool; the shadow sent hermit crabs scurrying. Brine stung his knuckles for a minute, but stopped the oozing, depositing that invisible layer of stickiness every saltwater fisherman learns to love. An incoming tide rolled across the flats as the storm gathered into a gray mass.

Mike climbed into the boat, and it teetered on the keel until he settled into the seat, reassured by the glimmering water rippling in to release him from bondage. He took out his fishing gear swaying on the teeter-tottering craft in time with the voices of the ladies chanting ohmmmmm during morning beach yoga that carried in the breeze. At least that was connection with living spirits, as opposed to the dead, stale vestiges of lives ended too soon who were unable to give up and let go.

A spandex shorted, workout top clad woman out for an early morning walk grew larger and larger. Her

broad brimmed hat dipped so low over her eyes he couldn’t see her face, though her skinny legs, matchstick arms, and pigeon chest were unmistakable now that she’d emerged from the glare. “Good morning, Mike.” Always oppositional, Sandra was headed out when everyone should be on their way back.

“Where you going, Sandra? Tide’s coming in.” She flipped up the floppy brim and grinned. “Just headed up toward Wing Island to check on Harley.”

“I’ll give you a ride over. Should be ready to roll in about twenty minutes.”

She didn’t break stride. “That’s okay. I’ll be sitting on the beach with the old buzzard before you even pull up anchor.”

They were both oddballs: He, wearing a Red Sox cap, a raggedy beard, a black tee shirt, showing a bit of belly, sitting like a bum in a beached boat; Sandra, like an escapee from a Harry Potter novel, headed over to check on a ninety-six year old hermit who lived on a dune that was cut off from the mainland at high tide.

She had to know he was anxious to get out, empty and secure his traps, and get the Whaler to Paine’s Creek on the high tide, and out of the water in the event even one of those storms took the predicted track. And he knew she was trying to convince Harley to get to safety before the storm. If these hurricanes were as strong as they were predicting, all of them and their tragic past lives legacies would be broken apart and buried in the mud like a bunch of poor, old crabs.

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Caleb smith

Caleb Smith, an author from Bangor, Maine, holds a passion for nature, reading, family, poetry, art, and golf. Honesty, simplicity, and a hard work ethic are the things that best shape his day.

“I think it was in the summer of 2001 while painting a house on West Broadway in Bangor. In the sweltering heat, up on staging, I worked with two high school buddies when he drove by in a classic convertible. He looked our way and as we watched him cruise by, I told myself then that I wanted to tell stories like that guy........”

Uncaged welcomes Caleb Smith

Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell us more about your YA Fantasy, Longevity: The Awakening?

A prequel to my debut, Longevity: The Wardens of Time. The Awakening takes place during the late 12th century Scotland. A young man is forced to find his inner most self after abruptly meeting his spirit guide in the Akashic records. It’s there he must relive the lessons of his past during a time of war, strife, and spiritual awakening. While reliving the past and processing the brutal death of his father, Alastair is hunted by English invaders and flees to the mystical forests for cover. In the forests he connects with the elementals of nature who guide him into the elemental kingdom of Aka-

sha where he discovers his spiritual abilities. It’s ultimately up to Alastair to find a way back to the physical world, and use his gifts to help his countryman fight a war that will question their existence.

What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Longevity: The Sacrifice. This third installment is currently in the editing phase. I also have another historical novel; The Braga Legacy. One that I co-wrote with a friend, currently in the pre-editing phase.

3) What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? Battle scenes can be hard to write. You have a lot going on in one scene with action sequence and details.

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You want to make sure each character is receiving adequate coverage to help their side story develop, while trying to mesh it all together. I don’t think any scene is easy to write, but if I had to pick, it would be a romantic par for the course scene.

How do you come up with names for your characters?

I don’t, the names come to me. Don’t ask from where, I’m still trying to figure that out.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life

would probably surprise your readers the most?

I was born and raised in Derry, ME and have battled with Pennywise along the banks of the Kenduskeag Stream.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages?

The protagonist and supporting cast usually come first. There is always a direction as each character fills in the world around them.

What are some things you like to do to relax

when you aren’t writing or working?

I like to read, meditate, walk my dog, play golf, and most of all spend down time with my family.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

I like physical books. I grew up in the 80’s/90’s and in this case, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I just finished the first book in Cormac McCarthy’s latest box release, The Passenger. Now moving on to Stella Maris.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

I appreciate everyone taking the time to read what I have to say. Time is the most precious commodity in life, so the fact that you choose to hang out in my creative mind for hours at a time, really means a lot. Thank you. You can follow me at my website: ctsmithwriting.com and Facebook @CalebSmithAuthor

Enjoy an excerpt from Longevity: The Awakening

Longevity: The Awakening

Caleb Smith

YA Fantasy

Alastair Ramsden, a youth in medieval Scotland, abruptly meets his Spirit Guide David to view his early life unfold from the Akashic Records. There, he pro-

cesses the incredible journey he took from child to young adult, reliving hardships during a time of war and incessant tribulation that conditioned him and led to this ultimate crossing.

From the brutal death of his father, his own survival in the face of adversity, plus the many extraordinary events that occurred before entering the 4th-dimensional kingdom of Akasha, all of them combine to deliver an extraordinary tale of against-the-odds, self-discovery and spiritual awakening.


They next came to a large opening surrounded by pines and a forest floor piled with generations of sharp, brittle pinecones. Tarji could smell pitch oozing from the trees and felt the acidic terrain of fresh and decomposed pine needles underfoot. The opening brought them to a slowed stop as a tall wall of thick pines gathered like a back stop.

Alastair turned to face the open space, slowly backing up to a towering pine as the lunar creatures closed in silently from multiple angles. The moon light above illuminated an opening within the thick forest growth where they stood. Multiple entities circling near finally came to sight. They were dark elementals of the night, some dwarfed and some taller like men, while others stood like giant caliginous creatures with disturbing features. The shorter figures appeared similar to Tarji, but wore

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gnarled faces with warts and skin knots covering their gaseous complexion. They exposed large teeth and sharp nails shooting off their stunted fingers. Ghastly eyes of these wicked elementals glowed green, and they dressed their heads with black cone hats.

The taller variety of beings stood erect with long arms flopping down below their knees and large mitt hands stretched out and retracted on command. Their appendages appeared more like a network of thick pointed roots that could extend and latch onto prey. Pieced together in matching fashion; their extending arms and legs had multiple facets connecting to a solid body constructed of a roughed bark complexion. Square heads ran off their shoulders like a solid block, holding faces dark and featureless. The mouth was a gaping black hole lined with sharp wood chipped teeth, some pointed and some flat, each tooth with its own cutting or grinding specialty while patterned to bite and rip the sweet tasting light right out of the treasured boy. Their eyes were laser red and sunk in like ambers, burning a pair of holes in their forehead.

The giants stood twelve feet or more with callosal arms, wrecking ball fists and eyes blazing yellow. Dressed half in moss covering a gray stone-like skin, their legs were exceptionally thick, extending to calves with feet platforming out even wider. With arched backs, no necks, and bald heads, a patch of bristled grass hung from their chins, connecting mouths extending from

ear to ear. The rock beasts had stone dagger teeth and lacked ears to listen, but a wide chiseled nose for an excelled sense of smell. Precisely designed killing machines, Alastair figured.

Amongst the gathering group of ghouls buzzing viciously like hairless bats, were dark fay of the moon. Perhaps they were spirit bodies of a poisonous plant, Alastair contemplated. Their thin bat shaped wings kept them propelled in the open air with tiny bodies intact, but the mouths were like that of a piranha or a small sharp toothed fish with triangle teeth jutting out past their paper-thin lips. With all their features tying into a dark complexion, bald head, and glowing deep indigo eyes, they appeared to look anything but friendly.

Tarji held an arm out in front of Alastair, backing them away from the mutinous group slowly closing in. It wasn’t until the pair’s backs bumped into a large pine wall when Alastair realized he was in trouble. The night owl swooped back in and skimmed the tops of the day-trotters heads, driving them down like cowering prey.

Finally, the stout goblin-like gnome raised the first question.

“The night belongs to us day trotter. What are you doing in our fffforesssst domain at this hour?”

With gumption, Tarji held no hesitation. “The forest belongs to the Queen Mother, night and day.”

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The creatures hissed and groaned until Tarji’s morose opposite retorted.

“We have set the laws. The light of the moon belongs to ussss, so why are you here?” He snarled.

“We seek to find Neldor Aldaval. The Mother’s Ranger of these lands!”

The creatures gasped, unexpecting to hear a name that they could not deny.

“The Ranger has been absent, nor will you find him at this hour, and what we uncover scurrying around under the light of the moon, belongs to usssss!” He hissed.

They all growled in pleasure, pushing forward now only twenty feet away.

The shifting tree man in front with red eyes, gargled out! “What is this, a human boy!!? He has no place here!! We shall feast on his light, just as his kind cuts and burns ours.”

Its arms stretched out for Alastair in clumps of fast-growing vines as the creature’s sharp grooved teeth spun wildly like drill bits around the base of its mouth. Behind the rows of spinning teeth, a hole to hell awaited.

“Tarji!! What do we do!!” Alastair bellowed. Just as the sharp root fingers came to latch on, two giant hands grabbed the gnome and the boy by the arms from behind and said, “Come in, you will be safe in here!”

Before thinking about what happened, the


mammoth hands pulled the boy and gnome inside of the enormous pine tree that was a wall to their backs not a moment before. They fell down into a large home within, looking up at the giant who brought them to his safe keeping. He was considerably colossal, standing just under fifteen feet.


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Uncaged Reviews

Faerie Magic Anna

Coraline Fray’s escape from foster care is about to turn into a fight for her life.

After Cora’s utter clumsiness lands her in a strange world, she’s immediately hauled off to jail by a Fae guard. Now the freedom that had been so close is a distant memory….because humans who learn of Faerie can never go back.

Uncaged Review: Cora is a foster kid, almost ready to age out of the system and get away from bad foster homes, when she falls into a lake and wakes up in the land of Faerie. Not knowing who she is or anything about this world, she is taken by the guard and delivered to the palace as a feeder/servant.

As Cora learns her new place, and gets to know other servants and the Royal Unseelie family, she learns more about the world she’s found herself in, especially the Prince, Noah, whom she’s been assigned to.

This is a nice start to a new series, and Cora is a strong woman, who learns that her own self worth is enough with courage and tenacity. Her friend Nicole is a trip. My one gripe is the romance between Cora and Noah seems very slow and one-sided, which I suppose will continue to grow in the next books. Good series start. Reviewed by Cyrene

Jexter Bladebrace & the Exalted Kingdom Jamie

Fantasy Short

In the year 2080 AD, the asteroid Ominoulada strikes the Earth, shaking the planet.

Jexter Bladebrace finds himself stranded on an island. The spaceship Spectrovor arrives to help the Earthlings. Joining one hundred survivors on the island where Spectrovor lands, Jexter, Shelly and Mac try to prevent their island from sinking into the ocean.

Uncaged Review: The concept of this book is good, but the execution needs some help. After an asteroid hits Earth, it takes away all the land masses and an alien race known as the Spectropeans help the remaining humans to survive, by turning them in to half human, half merpeople so they can survive under water. The adventures of the humans adjusting to their life under water is an interesting read.

Some short stories are terrific in how they can pack a lot of action into a small amount of space, but still able to take you on a great journey. This one misses that mark, mainly because of a lack of editing in the book. I never got a good feel for the characters, descriptors were almost non-existent, and there were a lot of short choppy sentences that could have been easily combined or omitted. This was so distracting, that I was never attached to the story. I think this author has a bright future, just need to get a good editor for future projects. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Psycho Therapy

Tucson Police Officer James McCabe, traumatized by his past, must come to terms with an alien invasion.

Uncaged Review: It’s hard to write a review for a very short story, but even though this is a very short story, I actually got a decent handle on the characters and the world. Aliens are in the form of a type of killer doglike beast and instead of killing all of the aliens when they could, the government captures and experiments with them. How is that ever a good thing? So this is a couple days in the life of one cop, who was traumatized during the invasion as he was enlisted as a marine in San Diego during the initial invasion.

Overall, the author does a great job with 27 pages, pulls the reader in and leaves us wanting to read more in this world. Great job. Reviewed by Cyrene

Big Balls and Brass Knuckles

SciFi Suspense/MM Romance

A dedicated detective meets a rich inventor who wants to play cop. Even in the future, money can get you everything…

Detective Brett Knucks is trying to find a killer. The last thing he needs is to be saddled with the legendary Chris Genius, aka Big Balls. But someone is using one of Genius’s inventions, the cook bot, to commit murders, and Brett has more questions than answers

Uncaged Review: This is a good story that brings you into the action right away. People are being murdered by a cook bot, invented by Chris Genius. This is a good suspense with some decent intrigue and a slow burn romance between Brett and Chris. When we first meet Brett, he has a boyfriend, and this book jumps into some hard core sex scenes pretty fast, but the boyfriend gets tired of taking a back seat to Brett’s job, which is fine by me, he was a bit immature to me anyway.

This is the first book in a series, and I’m sure the slowly maturing romance between Brett and Chris will get hotter and hotter in the books to come.

Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews

The Chieftain Maeve

No home. No clan. No need of a wife. Until her. Alexander MacCoinnich fights for hire if the cause is worthy and the price is right. Life as a mercenary suits him—until a fierce beauty snatches him from death’s door after the massacre at Glencoe. Though he has nothing to offer her but himself, he can’t leave behind the sweet lass who risked everything to save him.

Uncaged Review: Alexander and his men live their life as mercenaries, since illness took away most of his clan. When he is on one of his missions, he is shot and taken to a clan where Catriona mends the injured and gives them sanctuary. But Catriona’s brother is evil, and as the next in line to be chieftan, with a fast ailing father wants them gone.

This is a nicely paced Highlander, and it’s been a minute or two since I read one. The romance between Catriona and Alexander is one that they must face danger and loss to get to their HEA. The secondary characters will each get their own turn at a story in the series and I’ll keep reading. Eventually you come to a point in this book where you just want to read it all the way through, so make sure it’s not a work day the next day.

Reviewed by Cyrene

Bear’s Dream Christina Lynn Lambert

Shifter Romance

She had every reason to hate him. Aiden “AJ” Shepherd’s mistake during a Shifter Army Enforcement rescue mission cost Ellie Ortiz’s brother, Marco, his life. Ellie hates AJ with a burning passion until a chance encounter with him on New Year’s Eve reveals he’s not the cold, heartless man she once thought him to be. Her attraction to him takes her by surprise, and she vows to ignore her feelings.

Uncaged Review: This first book in a series is a good start, and the main characters are easy to like. Ellie leaves her job as she is being undermined in her work by a spiteful co-worker. A chance meeting with A.J., the shifter who killed her twin brother in a special op, shows her that he isn’t the heartless man she always thought him to be. When A.J. offers her a job at a shifter resort that his brother and him are opening, Ellie takes the job because of being blackballed in her town.

This book has a good amount of danger, bad guys you will truly hate, and the romance heats up between A.J. and Ellie. As they come to know each other, their feelings grow stronger. But A.J. will find out the dark path Ellie’s brother was going down before he was killed, will it destroy the relationship? Nice story with some fun moments, danger and hot sex scenes.

Reviewed by Cyrene

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The Infidelity Curse Barbara Monajem

Historical Regency

The death of her cruel husband means freedom at last for Lucretia Tifton—until she learns that the guardian he chose for her longedfor baby is the latest in a line of earls known for separating their children from unfaithful wives. The elusive new earl is certain to hear the gossip about Lucretia. Will he believe it and prove to be as heartless as his ancestors?

Uncaged Review: Lucretia was married off to an older, cruel man, and she endured his abuse for years before he died. Lucretia being pregnant, is fearful that the new guardian will try to take away her baby. But what she doesn’t know, is that the older earl that Lucretia’s dead husband, Sir Matthew had arranged had died before he did, so the guardianship went to his son, Giles.

This is a slow burn romance, and a lot of things come to light within the pages. There is romance, mystery and even danger. Lucretia and Giles will need to learn to trust each other and to love each other without curses or secrets. Secondary characters are engaging, and even the children in the story are likeable. Leave it to this author to come up with an original story and just the right amount of danger to sweep you deeper into the story. Reviewed by Cyrene

There is no God waiting for you in paradise. No afterlife where friendships severed by death are reformed and family members reunited. There is only the Aether. A dimension of insatiable hunger, it will possess you no matter your beliefs or the life you led. Who knows?

Uncaged Review: This book is very addicting, in a dark twisted way. The blurb has you thinking the Archivist is a type of salvation to an afterlife, that you can spend with your loved ones after your body gives up the fight. And it is that in a way, but it can also be a tormenting and a suffering. If your family can’t afford the Archivist, then your essence is sucked into the Aether, which I never really got a handle on, to be honest. The book is very dense, and you need to pay attention. It’s like one of those movies that if you look away for five minutes, you’ve lost a chunk of plot.

All in all, this is very original, but does border on more of a horror than just a fantasy. The relationship between the Archivist and Sun, and her sister Laure, is a something of a surprise to both him and to the reader. This is a good suspense entangled in this book, but I’m not going to describe it because I don’t want to give anything away, and I’m not so sure I could describe it properly. But it’s an addicting read, with a good suspense woven in, and hard to put down at times. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews


Dark Fantasy Horror

Psychic. Superhero. Spy. Detective. Bounty Hunter. Ashley Morgan has been many things and failed at all of them. The twenty-eight-year old has her whole life ahead of her but has already resigned herself to working a dead end job bringing in the debt-ridden supernatural criminals of New Detroit. A chance encounter with the vampire sheriff reveals a secret that motivates her to change her life forever: her long-missing brother Arthur is alive (in a manner of speaking).

Uncaged Review: This is a start of a series that is a spin-off of sorts from others, set in the same world. I didn’t read any of the other series, and had no trouble keeping up with this one. Ashley is a psychic with telekinetic abilities, and is working as a bounty hunter when we first meet her. In this world, Detroit has been taken over by the vampires and it’s now known as New Detroit. The jobs in this supernatural underbelly are not career boosters by any stretch. As she works as a bounty hunter, she really sets out to find her missing brother, and along the way, she gets involved in a scheme to raise a vampire and get a magical wand that can cure vampirism. The supernaturals in this book are not the romanticized versions you see in other books, but they are also not complete monsters.

The cast of characters are well done, and for the most part, developed well enough that I could get a decent handle on them. My favorite has to be Zadkiel, Ashley’s magical sword that has an angel embedded. Overall, I like the action and the series and am interested to see where it goes from this book. Reviewed by Cyrene

The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven Jennifer Ivy Walker Fantasy Romance

In this dark fairy tale adaptation of a medieval French legend, Issylte must flee the wicked queen, finding shelter with a fairy witch who teaches her the verdant magic of the forest. Fate leads her to the otherworldly realm of the Lady of the Lake and the Elves of Avalon, where she must choose between her life as a healer or fight to save her ravaged kingdom.

Uncaged Review: This is a great beginning to a series. I was awed by the amount of research that had to go into writing this, especially about the herbs, and plants and all their uses and research about the Celtic lore that was done so well. When I first started reading, I thought of Cinderella meets the Knights of the Round Table meets Middle Earth, and it has a lot of similarities of mixing in fairy tales with the lore. It’s done so well, that you become absorbed in the tale.

The cons: The different perspectives didn’t line up time wise, so when you are reading about Issylte in one chapter, the timeline jumps or goes backwards when they switch to Tristan or Morag. Also, this book started slow for me, but even though it was, I don’t feel like anything should have been left out either. The pros: This is well written story with characters you know from old lore, and new ones that you come to embrace. And the villians – are OMG villians that you will despise.

So if you don’t read fantasy or you want to jump in, this is a good start. I’m really looking forward to book two. This does not end in a cliffhanger, but sets up well for the next one. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Of Demons and Dragons Bil Richardson Fantasy

A demon leads a frightening army that is destroying everything in its path. King Agar has presided over decades of peace and prosperity. But no one remembers kings who rule in happy times. They only remember those who do brave deeds and overcome great challenges.

Amy’s Review: Very impressive story telling!

Bil Richardson writes an epic fantastical tale with Of Demons and Dragons: An Illustrated Epic Fantasy. This book is filled with beautiful artwork, that also tells a story, and is remarkably inserted into the right places in the story. The art and story mesh together, making it one detailed world. The reader is introduced to King Agar. His kingdom is now full of peace and prosperity, but it wasn’t always that way, and Agar is disturbed, and contemplates what would happen if that peace was destroyed. And the Demon is thinking the same thing, only to be the cause of the destruction. This is one of those books that grabs you from the start and pulls you in. The characters are so real, it’s like being with them within the story. The story brings in the believable, even if almost impossible. I am a huge fan of Bil Richardson’s work. I have read everything that he has written and am so honored when he asks me to read anything that he’s written. I have read for hundreds of authors and thousands of books, and there are some that stick out in my mind more than others. Bil Richardson is one of those authors.


Bruce Wessell Thriller

Cody Panther’s mother raised him to be a gentleman. She had told him to ‘never hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve to be hurt.’ He tried to abide by her words while growing up in Texas. On the outside, Cody’s life seemed idyllic.

Amy’s Review: Action Packed!

Bruce Wessell writes a thrilling tale with Rip. If you haven’t heard of Wessell yet, you should read his books, and they are very well written, and he is a grand storyteller. With Rip, the reader is introduced to Cody Panther, your typical nice guy, raised right by his mother, and even an all-around popular guy in high school, a great athlete, preparing for a wondrous future ahead with his girlfriend and football scholarship. As always, things are not always as they seem, and what you see in public can be totally different than what is happening behind closed doors. Wessell shares Cody’s story, in a way that paints the picture of what is public and what is private and dangerous. Cody and his mother are victims of domestic abuse by his father. Then, the tables turn, and Cody’s life, as is his mother’s life, are turned upside down, and the future of their lives, are not what they planned or expected. Cody didn’t realize that fear and intense hatred, could change his destiny, but it did. Life will never be the same for this grand young man who turned killer. Sometimes you have to make the hard decisions just to survive. Cody is one of those unforgettable characters, and this story is definitely unforgettable. Absolutely chilling, with death around every corner. Whatever this author writes, I want to read. An emotional rollercoaster. This book is un-put-downable! The title drew me in, but the story made me stay. The author’s technique of raw, magnetic characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. The reader gets to see all sides of Cody. Sometimes you have to put the book down, just to take a breath.

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The Dream Realm

Christie Valentine Powell Fantasy

A princess with a forbidden power.

A man asleep for a hundred years.

Princess Lilac can’t let her family find out that she’s a dreamrover. Her father and her kingdom forbid the ability, but it’s the only way to meet Vireo, her best friend from the dreamscape

Amy’s Review: Enjoyed this story!

Christie Valentine Powell writes a fantastical young adult tale with The Dream Realm. If you haven’t read anything from this author yet, you should. The Spectra books, and now, the Spectra Crown tales are wondrous stories with fascinating tales. Dream realms, dreamrovers, and dreamscapes, interesting places and beings, and they bring unique and exotic stories. The reader is introduced to Princess Lilac, a dreamrover who has to hide it from her family, especially her father. This is an ability that is forbidden, so how do you hide your abilities, when they are just part of you? Princess Lilac is tenacious and a very strong person, and then, she finds Vireo in her dreamscape. His status is that he is stuck there, while his body is still asleep. The author weaves a tangled web of story and captures the reader. I’m a big fan of this author! Whatever this author writes, I want to read. A definite attention grabber, so much I couldn’t put it down.


Christy Breedlove

YA Paranormal

Jory Pike and the Badlands

Paranormal Society get a strange and frantic call from a woman who claims her property has been invaded by unknown trespassers who have terrorized her and her husband and killed their two dogs. She says her husband has gone hunting for the culprits and disappeared. The Sherriff’s office performed a routine investigation and mysteriously quit.

Amy’s Review: Enjoyed this story!

Christy Breedlove writes a YA fantastical thrilling tale with Screamcatcher: Sa’be Most Monstrous. This book is part of The Shimmering Eye series, and this is volume four. I recommend reading the four books that came before this one, as I do with all series. I enjoyed reading each one in the series, and that brings me to this one. Breedlove is one grand storyteller. It’s a very exciting story as Jory and the Badlands Paranormal Society have something new to investigate. Little did they know, Jory’s grandfather insists on helping find out what happen to her husband, and what caused the death of her dogs. It’s not a typical investigation for these four teens, but it’s something that they always try to help figure out and investigate. No one else wants to find out the truth, except Jory and his friends, and grandfather. Especially when everyone involved gives up for no apparent reason. I’m a big fan of this author! It’s full of twists and turns, and you never know what will be there, beyond the shadows. The story brings in the believable, even if almost impossible. It is always an honor to read Christy Breedlove’s books. The reader just embarks on a interesting journey. Jory is determined and tenacious and determined to get the job done no matter what.

157 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 |

Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Lethal Blues R Weir

Hard-Boiled Mystery

Blue Pills flooding the streets of Denver Fentanyl ruining lives; friends and loved ones dying from the synthetic opioid A football star in search of answers to why one friend is dead and another missing Dennis Gash reaching out to Jarvis Mann whose gumshoe days are in the past

Amy’s Review:Jarvis Mann is magnetic. R Weir writes a thrilling crime investigatory tale with Lethal Blues. The minute I read the first Jarvis Mann book, I knew I would want to read more of his escapes, wit, and clear-headedness and a mind for solving crimes dropped in his lap. Mann is one hell of an investigator, and this one, all I can say is wow. The fight this time, is drugs. It relates well to the sign of our times, where opioids and fentanyl are killing people, and the addiction rate is rising, almost as high as its death rate. This book is part of the Jarvis Mann series, and this is volume nine. Though each book is its own case, I recommend reading all of them from the beginning. You get to see Mann go through his cases, you learn about his quirks, and intuition, and even some of his private life. Nothing ever goes as planned, and just when I thought Mann’s stories couldn’t get any better, I read this one. R Weir shows his character’s growth, and his own imagination that we are lucky he puts on paper for us to read and enjoy. Weir’s passion for his characters leap off the pages, and that is what a true storyteller can do.

The Connection Game SS Turner Humorous Fiction

Benny Basilworth makes connections. A rare intellect, he sees things that others don’t see and draws conclusions that others completely fail to grasp. He has the kind of mind that can make a person a national sensation on the television gameshow “The Connection Game”– and the kind of mind that can be the target of predators.

Amy’s Review: Brilliant writing!

SS Turner writes a dramatic tale with The Connection Game. I haven’t read anything by this author before, and what a hidden gem. I enjoyed it so much, that I have now followed the author and look for more books to read. The reader is introduced to Benny and his family. Benny is highly intelligent, and he can see things others don’t. It helps him in his life, and yet can also be detrimental. The Connection Game is a television Game Show. Benny is smart enough to be on it, and then, things turn around for him and his family. Living in a very small apartment, that only has one window, Benny starts making connections with this new perception of people, even if he only can view their feet. It’s the kind of story that makes you think, and in ways, it’s humorous, and very perceptive, making this reader think of things in different ways. I found it to be an inspirational story that can show us other perspectives of the human behavior. This is one of those books that grabs you from the start and pulls you in. A definite attention grabber, so much I couldn’t put it down. Both thrilling and intriguing, all the way to the end. I just love, love, love this story. Compelling!

158 | UncagedBooks.com

Music Boxes

Tonja Drecker


Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay’s biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.

Amy’s Review: Enjoyed this story!

Tonja Drecker writes a young adult fantastical tale with Music Boxes. I haven’t read anything by this author before, and what a hidden gem. I enjoyed it so much, that I have now followed the author and look for more books to read. The reader is introduced to Lindsey, whose dream is to be a famous dancer, ballerina to be exact. However, her new dance teacher is hiding a huge secret, huger than she can ever imagine. Lindsey is 12, and estatic when she meets Madame Destinée, and gets to dance in her class for free. She was unhappy with her previous teacher at the community center. Lindsey is strong and brave, and this is one of those dramatic stories, where you realize what is happening, and you’re hoping for Lindsey to discover the truth before it’s too late. It’s a compelling story, and it is written, even though it’s fantasy, and there is sorcery and disappearing dancers, it’s written in a way that young adults will enjoy. This author is a great storyteller. Anyone who reads this won’t look at their music box the same again!

Corporate Policy Robert Gately Drama

When greedy executives implement an illegal downsizing process, they almost get away with it, but they don’t count on a desperate employee who needs his job to help his daughter battle leukemia, proving his courage and family loyalty is stronger than any of their corporate policies.

Amy’s Review: A Great Read

Robert Gately writes a dramatic tale with Corporate Policy. This book is definitely a hidden gem. The sense of drama and urgency runs though the story. Kit is introduced to the reader as a pediatric cancer patient, with her parents, Rodney and Maria, by her side. Both are praying this second occurrence of leukemia will go in remission as the other one did, but her body was attacking her on the inside by creating unhealthy blood cells. Their family has their ups and downs, and lack of communication. Her brother, Jacob, was a bone marrow match, but was afraid he’d die. Their uncle Darin likes to tell stories, and doesn’t always understand the consequences of his actions on his nephew and niece. Rodney is also facing something at work, that he can’t deal with. Layoffs. Which not only takes away his salary, but health insurance as well. He decides he’s not going to just let it happen to him. This is one of those books that grabs you from the start and pulls you in. I’m a big fan of this author! The reader just embarks on a superb journey. Rodney is determined to take care of his family no matter what, and fights against his family’s suffering. Anyone who has been laid off, especially based on their salary, so a company can save money, they can relate to this story.

159 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 |
“I only desire your talent...”

Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Miller’s View: A Trilogy Marlene Potts Mystery

In the town of Hammond

Amy’s Review: “Unburyin’ the past sometimes wake up ugly things.”

Marlene Potts writes a trio of thrilling tales with Miller’s View: A Trilogy. I read three of the volumes in this story a while ago, and was recently contacted by the author, stating that she put together a trilogy and made some changes. So, since I have read it and reviewed it before, I pretended that it was a totally new story, so I would not be biased against my own opinions. One of my opinions that has not changed, is that Marlene Potts is one heck of a storyteller, and she brings detective Jonathan Miller to life. The reader is introduced to Jonathan Miller, a detective with the local police in the town of Hammond Louisiana. The story starts out with Miller being called to a new crime scene, a murder of an unidentified man, perfectly dressed. Miller may be young, but he is determined, and very intelligent. He knows the behavior of the locals, and how best to try and identify the man. It may be another dead body, but each case is important, and Miller is determined to solve. And of course, he has his special “rose tinted glasses” that help him see what others may not. Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses takes on an entirely new meaning, especially for Miller, who gained the literal glasses. An amazing view of situations past and present, life and death helps Miller see the truth about many things, but he doesn’t always see the truth about who he can and can’t trust. I love that. No story should have all the answers. “Unburyin’ the past sometimes wake up ugly things.” I find the story very magical and thrilling! The characters have a great chemistry, especially Jonathan and Callie. I thoroughly enjoyed the story that brings a sense of romance, suspense, and intrigue -- especially when it comes to Daeva, who is creepy yet very interesting. The story is well-written and compelling, leaving me intrigued from cover to cover. The characters have intense connections and his “visions” play a major part in Miller’s need to seek the truth. His loyalty to his duty and himself keeps him dedicated to his cases, and he is determined to solve each one. Highly recommended to those who love a good “visionary” and intriguing mystery, and the mystery is not just about how the case will be closed. All three stories are wonderfully told, and each one deserves 5 stars. The reader just embarks on a superb journey. This is a magnificent plot that kept this reader turning the pages.


Mehreen Ahmed

Literary Fiction

“Radiating the Incandescent: Reading Ahmed and Remembering Tagore.

Amy’s Review: Simply awe-inspiring Mehreen Ahmed writes a grand and inspiring collection of stories with Incandescence. The reader is introduced to many characters from different stories. The stories include café, lake, interlude, southbound, nighthawk, bibi-wife, awakening, waves, love, memory, roof, silence, change, meeting, proposal and many more, including the title of the book. The character, Prema was in many stories, and when I read them, I realized these were part of her life, it just wasn’t another story, with characters that share a name. I enjoyed each story, but one of my favorites was “bibi-wife.” In Islam, the word bibi means wife, or mistress of the house. The stories revolve around House of Chowdhury, and its generations of falling in love with someone who may not have been the best choice, but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. I am really big fan of Mehreen Ahmed, and I love how her culture weaves in and out of her stories, and she has this mind that we are so lucky that she shares it with her readers. In bibiwife, Prema is pregnant, and still has to help her husband selling fruits and vegetables on the street to ungrateful customers. Prema’s thoughts are shared with her husband, Ashik, “Regarding the prophet, of all the bad things we hear about his multiple marriages, or rather, promiscuity, he only just had one son and one daughter.” But Ashik is too tired to listen. Whatever this author writes, I want to read. This author brings the story to life. Mehreen’s passion is shown through every word, every character, every story.

160 | UncagedBooks.com
Louisiana, a young detective, an unidentified body, and a string of bizarre events are interlocked.

Lily Upshire is Winning

John Holmes


A young teenager without parents or siblings, Lily Upshire takes the world on her own terms. When she finds something wrong with her favorite drink, she just wants the big company that made it to say sorry to her. But the adults in her life have other ideas, seeing everything in terms of money. As the company makes ever more extravagant overtures to avoid apologising to her, she remains unmoved.

Amy’s Review: Great Read!

John Holmes writes a YA satirical tale with Lily Upshire is Winning. I haven’t read anything by this author before, and what a hidden gem. I enjoyed it so much, that I have now followed the author and look for more books to read. The reader is introduced to Lily Upshire, a young orphan without any support at all. She is strong-willed, and has to deal with a lot of issues that can affect any teenager, adults not paying attention to her, school bullies, and teachers. Lily doesn’t have a lot in her life, but here, she finds out that something is wrong with her normal drink that she loves. She lets the company know, to no avail. She knows what she needs to do to pull out her inner strength. She is a tenacious young woman, who is the only one in the world who will take care of her. This author brings the story to life. The characters are so real, it’s like being with them within the story. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. Lily is one character I won’t soon forget.

Flood of the Fire Evelyn Puerto YA Fantasy

An ancient prophecy, now an outlawed myth. A young girl who was never meant to be born. An empress determined to bring peace at any cost.

Amy’s Review: Brilliant writing!

Evelyn Puerto writes a young adult fantastical tale with Flood of the Fire. I have read all the books in this series and liked each one. This one is a grand conclusion to this four volume fantasy series, The Outlawed Myth. Tereka is a very strong character, who believes that she wasn’t even meant to be born. She knows what she’ thinks she should know but doesn’t. She doesn’t realize how powerful she is, and I don’t think she wants to believe it. She feels alone, even when she’s not. She knows that people are against her, but she tries to hide it. “A stone struck her between the shoulder blades. She huffed and kept running ... Warmth flooded her face, a heat not solely driven by her exertion. How could the traders be so blind?” Everyone else seems to know their place, but Tereka is unsure. She isn’t the Desired one. At least that what she believes, and why not, that’s what everyone tells her. It’s an intriguing read, that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. I also recommend that anyone who wants to read this book, starts with the first one, and works their way through. They each get better and better, and the reader can understand the story about Tereka and Damira. This is one of those books that grabs you from the start and pulls you in.

161 Issue 71 | May/June 2023 |

Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Animals of Undetermined Significance

Hoda Z. Amer Medical Fiction – Audiobook

Meet the pathology residents!

Marla is a new mother looking for a place to “pump”; Sana is a firstyear resident looking for a place to “pray.” Neil is a good-looking Instagrammer with lots of admirers, while Pixie is an ambitious resident with almost no admirers.

Amy’s Review: Enjoyed this story and it was very entertaining

Dr. Hoda Z. Amer tells a contemporary medical story in Animals of Undetermined Significance. I haven’t listened to anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. I did read the print version of the story, and enjoyed it, but I also really enjoyed this audiobook. If you listen to the audiobook, I also recommend reading the print book, as it’s a whole experience and perception of the story. The reader is introduced to five pathology residents. It’s not just about them specializing in pathology, but also their personal lives, and how a personal life can affect one’s work, and how they manage juggling their work. Marla is a new mother, Sana wants to be able to pray, Neil is handsome and has a lot of admirers, where Pixie is ambitious, and others perception of her, make them not like her. Jiang is the Chief resident, with secrets all his one. It’s a fun read, and many parts are humorous. It’s an interesting look in a residency program, especially in pathology, which is the study of the cause and effects of diseases and injury. An embraceable story. An emotional rollercoaster.

Forbidden Love

Dee Rose

Gay Fiction

Mark and Jesse have been friends since they were kids and became best friends – like brothers in high school. However, Mark slowly begins to develop romantic feelings for Jesse, which puts a strain on, not only their relationship, but all other relationships they’d ever have. Fast forward twelve years later, and Mark’s feelings have only deepened because of their proximity in Salt Lake City.

Amy’s Review: Provocative!

Dee Rose writes a romantic, erotic, and yet, compelling tale with Forbidden Love. I’ve read work from this author before, but this is the first of this genre of this author’s that I’ve read, and it is very intense, full of emotion, and you find out the true meaning of the title. The reader is introduced to Mark and Jesse, best friends since they were kids, but Mark has always had a big crush on his best friend, but always too afraid to say something. They are very close, but while Mark is pining away, Jesse, he, is in love with Annika, his girlfriend. Time passes, and Jesse and Annika get married and have a child, and Mark, his feelings are growing by the minute, and when tragedy strikes him, he isn’t sure what he wants to do, he doesn’t want to hurt his friends, both Jesse and Annika. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, and a wonderful take on LGBTQ love and romance, and what can be the truth, where someone hides who they love, if only not to hurt those around them. I like this story, and it wasn’t a predictable boy loves boy story. This author brings the story to life. The characters are so real, it’s like being with them within the story. It’s a wellwritten plot and an embraceable story.

162 | UncagedBooks.com

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