Uncaged Book Reviews

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ISSUE 18 | January 2018

cont featureauthors Regan Walker



Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Fluidis Rising • Review

Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Echo in the Wind • Review


Emma Prince


Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Bastard Laird’s Bride • Review


Maria Riegger

Rena Marin Interview • Excerpt from The Guardians • Review


Stephen Bentley Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Who the F*ck Am I? • Review

Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Miscalculated Risks • Review


Margo Ryerkerk

S.J. Francis Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Shattered Lies • Review

2| uncagedbooks.com


Issue 18 | January 2018







DAnger-Road closed Ahead JB Woods Pt3c,4A

Book Cover Photographer



19 Book Adaptations to read now before they hit the big screen in 2018

2018 comes bearing gifts!

Paul Henry Serres Be inspired!

sneakpeek 08

A first look at Witch Hunter by J.Z. Foster



In-depth review of Sword of the Butterfly by Scott Carruba from Kaitlin

4 5 90 100 104 108 112 116

Editor’s Desk Blog Roll Call Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Jen’s Book Reviews Sweet Southern Book Reviews

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


from the

editor’s desk

Welcome to Issue 18, January 2018 - Uncaged Book Reviews! Do you believe it’s already 2018??? It’s been a tremendous year for Uncaged, and we are just getting started! This month we welcome Regan Walker, Emma Prince, Maria Riegger, Margo Ryerkerk, Stephen Bentley, Rena Marin and S.J. Francis! We are continuing our short story from JB Woods, Danger - Road Ahead Closed. Authors - be inspired by the fantastic book cover photography of Paul Henry Serres. Uncaged talked to Paul, and he’s left us a treat for the eyes for your enjoyment! Kaitlin has returned with a Comprehensive Review of Sword of the Butterfly by Scott Carruba. Keep ‘em coming Scott!

also opening slots for feature authors all the way until June 2018, so get your slot today! The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors.

All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or cyrene.olson@gmail.com So thank you and enjoy the January 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!

We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, Amy’s Bookshelf, Jen’s Reviews and Sweet Southern Book Reviews. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. The Uncaged website now has a video playlist of some of the tunes I listened to as I put together the magazine, be warned, I have eclectic tastes in music. :) Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here.

Uncaged Book Reviews hopes everyone has the best year possible in 2018!

We are now back to serving seven authors per month in the features and will continue to until May. I’m


Blog Roll Call Contributors, Advertising Swaps

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

Cozy mysteries, suspense and romance. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 18 | January 2018 |


showcase J.Z.Foster

Witch Hunter Witch Hunter

J.Z. Foster Horror/Paranormal The world is lying to you. Is that news? It must be very upsetting. Richard Fitcher found it upsetting. He’s a witch hunter who doesn’t believe in witches, and tonight he’s taking a reporter and her cameraman on a witch hunt. He’s all ready to jazz it up with spooky noises and a gimmicky magic ritual that locates witches. People like that kind of crap, right? But there’s a problem. It worked this time. So now Richard is forced to call up old knowledge and power he didn’t believe to be real, challenging things that crawled out of the pit, if he has any hope of surviving the night. But this loser might actually find some value—the pit does have a tendency to shave off your uneven edges—if it doesn’t kill you. Either way, it’s a lovely night for a witching.

Excerpt “I’m hurt,” The pitiful, childlike voice whimpered from the shadows. “Help me, it’s hurting me.” Beth took a step forward before Richard grabbed her hand. “Wait, just... just wait.” Fear the dark. 8| uncagedbooks.com |

“Please! It’s trying to find me!” A childlike shape formed near the main hall of the library. The light didn’t stretch that far, but the moon’s light cast her shadow down. “Help me!” It dashed away on its small legs to hide behind something. “Help us!” Another voice said from the above them. A third voice cut in. “I’m hurt, my leg is stuck!” The voices cried out and sobbed in the dark. Moving and darting about unseen, each pleaded, asking them to come farther out of the light to help them. Beth let out a breath and took a step forward. “Let’s all just go together?” “No!” Richard shouted at her as he scanned the dark. “Just give me a minute to think. I need a minute to think.” He licked his lips again and his breathing grew rapid. He mumbled words to himself as he kept scanning through the pages. “Help us!” A girl’s voice shouted again. A young boy’s voice joined in, “I’m hurt, I’m hurt!” Another girl’s voice cut in from behind them. “My leg is stuck!” More voices joined in from other places.

How many of these damn things are there?

“No!” Ted stepped forward and yelled. “Shut up! Shut your damn mouths! Be quiet!” He raised his pistol up and aimed into the shadows; Richard could see nothing. The voices went silent for a few moments. Eventually one started to giggle and the rest joined in, their laughter rapid and unnatural. The voices changed from children to something deeper and more vicious. It echoed through the halls of the library. Richard’s finger landed on a line, scribed in faded ink. Infernal illusions, it read. “I cast you out!” Richard roared and stepped forward. He held the book up while reading from it. “In the name

of Christ! In His name I cast out thy tormentors and demonic illusions! Into the pits of darkness, through the gates of hell! I rip away your façade and cast you down!” Richard’s voice shook as he spoke. “Latitudo autem ante faciem perdere! Revelare verum!” More strings of Latin followed, practiced from his times in trial. He held his voice as resolutely as he could. As the last of his words echoed among the dark, a shape took form in the front of the lobby. Its feet patted the ground as it moved forward. Though it moved feverishly, its childish legs could not carry it quickly. How? How did they know we were here? Ted grabbed his camera and focused on the creature. It stepped into the light, holding the shape of a young girl. In the shadows, its face might have resembled something human, but now its facial features were burning away into something horrid and maligned. It had the snout of a pig and the yellow, slitted eyes of a cat. Smoke poured off it, burning away the last of its human features to reveal the monster beneath. All I could do was burn away its illusion. The smell of something terrible cooked in the air. The small creature’s maw dragged up and spittle slid out from the ragged edges of its mouth, reflecting what Richard could only assume was excitement.

JZ Foster is an Urban Fantasy / Horror writer originally from Ohio. He spent several years in South Korea where he met and married his wife and together they opened an English school. Now a first time father, he’s moving back to the states - and his hometown roots. He received the writing bug from his mother, NYTimes best selling author, Lori Foster. You can follow his writing progress on his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/JZFosterAuthor/ If you enjoyed this Witch Hunter preview and you’d like to know what else is happening in Richard’s world, write him directly - and he may just write you back! You can reach him at Boogeymancomes4u@gmail.com


“We’re going to have so much fun together!” Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Special feature

Be inspired by book cover photographer

Paul Henry Serres

Uncaged talks with

Paul Henry Serres


aul Henry Serres has a creative vision, and his book cover photography can inspire many genres. From romance, to MM - this photographer from Montreal can bring the vision to any book cover. Uncaged talked with Paul Henry and be sure to check out his online gallery, but make sure you have some time, as you’ll probably be there for awhile. First off, thank you so much for taking the time for the interview! Well, thanks to you for giving me the opportunity to talk about my work, or should I say, my passion. Uncaged: Can you tell us something about yourself and how you got started in book cover photography? How long have you been a professional photographer?

| PAUL HENRY SERRES | I started very young, maybe 10-12 years old with my Father’s camera. Ever since then, photography became my passion. I’ve been working professional in the business for about 10 years now. I did many different types of photography…landscape, sport photography, portrait and some wedding. Uncaged: When authors contact you for custom photoshoots, how much information do they give you for the look and feel of what they are looking for? The more information I get about the story, the hero and the characters, the better it is for me. I ask the author to tell me as much as possible about the hero and the attitude he should have on the image. And details like clothing, props…etc I also ask the author how the cover artist will work on the picture, what kind of background will be

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


ŠPaul Henry Serres

www.paulhenryserres.com Used with permission

| SPECIAL FEATURE | added. Uncaged: There is an artistic beauty to your photoshoots. Where do you find all your models? Facebook, Instagram, ModeMayhem at the beginning, and more and more the word of mouth. I also try to find new faces. Working with nonprofessional models is not a problem for me, since I give lot of directions on a shoot…I guess my filmmaking backgrounds! And I find that Authors like to have new faces on their cover. When I do couples (M/M or M/F) I prefer working with real couples; the connection and the emotion is more real and genuine and they are more comfortable… Uncaged: What is the most popular category you sell? Do you have a series of images that was your favorite to shoot? Solo male models and MM couples. Each series I do, each photoshoot is a great experience and always fun as it should be. I think my favorite series would be the Gladiator/Spartan series. Fitness male models love to play that kind of role. Very masculine and an artistic way to show the hard work they’ve put on their body. Uncaged: You sell Exclusive Image Licensing for book covers. Can you explain what that licensing means and what it includes? Do you know how many book covers are out with your work on the cover? 16 | UncagedBooks.com

The license gives you exclusive rights to use the picture for one book cover and all other promotional material related to the title (Teasers, bookmarks, post cards ...) The Exclusive License is for unlimited numbers of prints for unlimited period of time. The picture is delivered to the author via WeTransfer in high res. 300 DPI and uncropped Once a picture from my galley is sold, it will be

deleted from the gallery. All similar images (same clothes / similar poses) will be deleted from the gallery as well


So far since I started in the romance novel industry , I have a total of about 250 covers published and to be published. Uncaged: I’ve read that you also photograph landscapes, architecture and sports. Did you change your focus to book cover photography? I still do architecture and landscapes, but my main focus for the last 2 years is book covers. I was the official photographer for a Rugby team here for 3 years; it was an amazing experience. But since a day only has 24 hours, at a certain point you have to choose what you want to focus on. Uncaged: Finally, where can authors and designers connect with you if they want to keep up to date and in contact with you? They can contact me via my website or on Facebook http://www.paulhenryserres.com/ https://www.facebook.com/BookCoverPictures/

Based in Montreal, Canada, find your next book cover’s image, from military and firefighters to gladiators and rock stars, Paul Henry Serres does it all. Check out the online gallery at http://www. paulhenryserres.com/ galleries

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


ŠPaul Henry Serres

www.paulhenryserres.com Used with permission

feature authors









feature author Regan Walker is an award-winning, bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. A lawyer turned full-time writer, she has seven times been featured in USA TODAY’s HEA column and nominated six times for the RONE award. (Her novels, The Red Wolf’s Prize and King’s Knight, won Best Historical Novel in the medieval category.) In 2017, her novel The Refuge: An Inspirational Novel of Scotland won the Gold Medal in the Illumination Awards. To Tame the Wind won the International Book Award for Romance Fiction and the San Diego Book Award for Best Historical Romance. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government have given Regan a feel for the demands of the “Crown”. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for special assignments. Each of her novels features real history and real historical figures. And, of course, adventure and love.

Stay Connected

reganwalkerauthor.com 20 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged welcomes Regan Walker! Uncaged: You started your career as a lawyer, what prompted your change to writing? Was being an author always a dream you had? I was always a writer but did not always write fiction. In a hiatus in my career, I began reading romance for the first time. One day, I was speaking with my best friend about a story, the ending of which I did not find satisfying. She told me I needed to write one. So I did. By that time, I had fallen in love with historical romance and had my own review blog (Historical Romance Review). The rest is history. Uncaged: You weave real historical facts and people in with your fictional characters to bring life to your books. How much research do you do for each book? Hundreds of hours. I read history, original journals and delve into the biographies of the historical figures I want to use. I also look up historic inns, clothing, food and weather, etc. I try to get it “right” and put the

reader in the time. It’s what my stories are known for. Uncaged: The Donet Trilogy, the first two books, To Tame the Wind and Echo in the Wind are out now. You also have a couple other series out also, can you give us a rundown on the different series that are available? Sure. So far, my Regency series, the Agents of the Crown, has the most books (4 to date, for which To Tame the Wind is the prequel, and 3 related novellas, all holiday stories. The Donet Trilogy has 2 so far and I’m writing the 3rd to be released in 2018: A Fierce Wind… set in 1794… love in the time of the French Revolution. And my award-winning Medieval Warriors series has 4 novels, all related. It’s now in a boxed set, too. You can see them all on my website and on Amazon. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

As a reviewer myself, I try to be balanced, to always find the good and what was done well. We writers try hard to deliver a good story. I try not to be negative in my reviews of other authors’ work unless the issues are glaring and I know my followers would want to know. If someone writes a negative review of one of my stories without finding any good, I just ignore it, particularly if the other reviews are all praising the story. But if one or two things are noted that I can fix, I will. Often it’s just one person’s perspective not shared by others. The real takeaway for me is if the readers like the story. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I may be relocating in 2018 so this is tentative but I have planned two releases: A Fierce Wind, book 2 in the Donet Trilogy (the trilogy books are all Georgian romances set in the late 18th century) and Rogue’s Holiday, book 5 in the Agents of the Crown, my Regency series. Then I plan to head to medieval Scotland for the Clan Donald Saga. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? Six months from start to release. But that includes beta readers and editing. I always write to the Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | cover so my covers for the next two books are done. (Don’t you hate covers that aren’t accurate for the characters or the story?)

Echo in the Wind Regan Walker Historical Regency

Uncaged: What are your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?

England and France 1784

I love the research and developing my characters. Bringing it all together for a fast-paced story that readers will love is like pulling weeds. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Long walks with my dog; dinner with friends; reading (I read historical romance all the time for my blog). Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? It depends on the book. Sometimes the beginning comes easy; sometimes it does not. Right now, I’m struggling with where to begin A Fierce Wind. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love my readers. They are the reason I write. And they influence my stories. For example, they asked me to make Freddie West, a character in Echo in the Wind, the hero in A Fierce Wind, so I’m doing it. It’s Zoe Donet’s story. You can find me on Facebook (I’m there every day), my Website, the Regan Walker’s Readers Facebook page, on Goodreads, and on my blog, Historical Romance Review (which also has a Facebook page!). Oh, and I have Pinterest storyboards for my books, too!

Enjoy an excerpt from Echo in the Wind

22 | UncagedBooks.com

Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart. As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted. Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge. Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet? Excerpt Bognor, West Sussex, England, April 1784 Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling

| REGAN WALKER | run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger. Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck? The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal. Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns. She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds. It had been tried before. “You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become. “I’ll fetch him,” Freddie said in a hushed tone, “and you can ask him yourself.” He disappeared into the shadows where her men waited among the trees. Zack appeared, squatting beside her, a giant of a man with a scar on the left side of his face from the war. Like the mastiffs that guarded the grounds of her family’s estate, he was big and ugly, fierce with enemies, but gentle with those he was charged to protect. “Young Frederick here says ye want to know about this ship, m’lady.” At her nod, Zack gazed toward the brig. “He used to come here regular with nary a con nor a cheat. He’s been gone awhile now. I heard he might have worked up some other business— royal business.” He rolled his massive shoulders in a shrug. “In my experience, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. He’s a Frog, aye, but I trust the Frenchie’s one of us, a free trader still.”

She took in a deep breath of the salted air blowing onshore and let it out. “Good.” Zack’s assurance had been some comfort but not enough to end her concerns. What royal business? For tonight, she need not know. “Give the signal,” she directed her brother, “but I intend to see for myself if the cargo is what we ordered.” Without seeking the position, Joanna had become the smugglers’ master of the beach, responsible for getting the cargo ashore and away to inland routes and London markets with no revenue man the wiser. She took seriously her role to assure the villagers got what they paid for. Their survival depended upon it. “Zack, will you row me to the ship?” “O’ course, if ’tis what ye want.” The frown over his hazel eyes revealed his displeasure, but Zack knew an order when he heard one, no matter how politely it had been phrased. He would never question her authority in front of the men. Freddie lifted the lantern from the pebbled beach and slid open the metal cover on one side. A small flame flickered into the Channel, alerting the ship the coast was clear of the Riding Officer. The dying rays of the sun still danced on the rippling water, but the lantern’s light would tell the ship’s captain all was well. Joanna got to her feet, tugging her felt hat over her ears and tucking strands of her long red hair beneath the brim. The hat and Freddie’s borrowed shirt and breeches rendered her one of the men. Even though his jacket was a bit short, she dare not borrow clothes belonging to her older brother, Richard. He knew nothing of her nightly pursuits and would not approve. “I’m going with you,” said Freddie. “All right, but stay in the boat.” When she’d decided to help the villagers in smuggling goods that kept brandy and tea flowing to England’s wealthy and food on the tables of Chichester’s poor, her younger brother had insisted on becoming her partner. Still, she tried to keep him from danger. Out on the water, the ship’s crew lowered three longboats into the water, then scurried down manropes slung over the side. Dropping into the Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | boats, they began to accept barrels and chests lowered from the deck. With a word to her men, Joanna climbed into the small rowing boat at the water’s edge. Her two companions followed, and Zack pressed his strength to the oars. With the first of the longboats loaded, the French crew pulled away from the ship, rowing hard toward the beach. Their boat passed her smaller vessel and she gave them a studying perusal. Their bright neck scarfs and knitted jerseys, coupled with the set of their caps, rendered them decidedly French. To a man, their hair was long and loose rather than plaited in pigtails as an English sailor might wear. The knives at their belts, their narrowed eyes and sneers made them appear cutthroats. Of course, to them, she and her brother were no more than young English “rosbifs” who had no understanding of a ship like the one on which the Frenchmen served. In that, they would be right. She shivered and turned away from their harsh glares to fix her eyes on the ship and her mind on the task ahead. The French brig loomed large as they drew close. A frisson of fear snaked down her spine when she looked up to see an ominous figure standing at the rail. Like an apparition, he was dressed all in black, his features lost in the shadows beneath his tricorne. Even his hair, tied back at his nape, was black. One side of his coat was pulled back to reveal his hand resting on a pistol. From his waist hung a sword with a golden hilt. She could not see his eyes, but she felt his penetrating gaze and shuddered. He appeared more pirate than merchant.

Uncaged Review Most of the time when I read a series book, the first book in the series and the couple in that first book, remain my steadfast favorites throughout the series. This isn’t to say that I’ll not fall in love with characters in following books in the series, but the original couple normally remains my 24 | UncagedBooks.com

favorite. This did not happen this time. In To Tame the Wind, we met Claire and Simon, and against all odds, with him kidnapping her, I still cheered them on. They became a favorite story couple for me. With Echo in the Wind, they’ve been toppled from the pedestal that I put them on. “Like an apparition, he was dressed all in black, his features lost in the shadows beneath his tricorne.” I fell totally head over heels for Jean Donet, Claire’s father. This is his story, who finds love for the second time with Lady Joanna. Once again, we are treated with Ms. Walker’s writing, and the seemingly effortless way she weaves her fictional characters in with real history and real figures from our history. I almost feel like I’m going to have to take an exam when I’ve finished. After reading one of Ms. Walker’s books, I have to stop and let my brain process the story before starting a new book. This author is highly recommended, I can’t even give her enough praise to do her writing justice. Reviewed by Cyrene

2018 Promotion Special Purchase any ad valued at $20 and up in 2018 (starting with the February Issue of Uncaged Book Reviews) and receive a FREE rotating footer ad on the website the following month! The rotating ad will be seen on all pages of the website, and not be subject to ad blockers and remain onsite for 1 month! Uncaged can design! Ad is 300px tall x 250px wide and linked to your choosing! Uncaged website has an average of 10-30,000 visitors per month!

feature author

Emma Prince is the Amazon All-Star and Bestselling author of steamy historical romances jam-packed with adventure, conflict, and of course love! Emma grew up in drizzly Seattle, but traded her rain boots for sunglasses when she and her husband moved to the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Emma spent several years in academia, both as a graduate student and an instructor of college-level English and Humanities courses. She always savored her “fun books”—normally historical romances—on breaks or vacations. But as she began looking for the next chapter in her life, she wondered if perhaps her passion could turn into a career. Ever since then, she’s been reading and writing books that celebrate happily ever afters! Visit Emma’s website, www.EmmaPrinceBooks.com, for updates on books, future projects, inspirations, newsletter sign-up, and more! You can follow Emma on Twitter at: @EmmaPrinceBooks Or join her on Facebook at: www.facebook. com/EmmaPrinceBooks

Stay Connected

emmaprincebooks.com 26 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged welcomes Char Chaffin! Uncaged: What got you started in writing, especially historical? Have you ever thought of writing in other genres? Ever since I was fourteen and discovered my first ever medieval romance (Almost Innocent, by Jane Feather) I was hooked on historicals! I loved the combination of a larger-than-life romantic tale blended with rich historical detail, so I felt like I was not only escaping to another time, but also learning something while getting swept away by the love story. Because I’ve always been fascinated with Scottish culture, Scottish romances were always a favorite of mine. Then back in 2012, my sister (historical fiction writer Sylvia Prince) encouraged me to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where you try to write a 50,000-word novel in a month). I decided that since I loved Scottish medieval romances so much, I would write one just for fun. So I wrote the book of my heart, never expecting to let another soul read it (not even my husband!). I reached the 50,000-word mark, but the story was only about three-fourths of the way done. I left it sitting on my computer, hoping to come back to it one day. Then in 2014, the hubby and I took a dream-of-a-lifetime trip to Scotland just for fun. I was so inspired and moved by the visit that I decided it was time to finish my novel, which became Highlander’s Ransom (Sinclair Brothers Trilogy, Book 1). I’d recently learned about self-publishing, so I thought I’d give it a try, and to my surprise and excitement, people started buying my book! Ever since then, I’ve been lucky enough to write

historical romances full-time. I do dream of writing in other genres—I have more book ideas that I could write in one lifetime! I have an idea for a 3-book historical western series based on some amazing stories I’ve learned about living out here in the American West. I also have an idea for a paranormal/shifter series, plus other historical subgenres, including Regency and Victorian. Now I just have to find the time to write them all! Uncaged: Can you give the readers more information on the different series you have out now? I have a complete series, the Sinclair Brothers Trilogy (the first book is Highlander’s Ransom, the first novel I wrote), set in medieval Scotland. I also have a series of Viking romances called the Viking Lore series. When I was researching medieval Scotland for the Sinclair Brothers Trilogy, I learned about some of the fascinating Viking influences on Scottish culture, so I knew I wanted to delve deeper into that world with Viking romances! Now I’m back to medieval Scotland for my latest series called the Highland Bodyguards, about—

you guessed it—Highlanders sworn to protect Robert the Bruce and the women who steal their hearts. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I do read all my reviews, because I really value what readers have to say about my stories. Reading negative reviews can be hard, but I’ve also learned a lot from them! I look for patterns, so if a lot of people say a particular section is slow, or they didn’t like a character as much, I take that into account as I’m writing. I always strive to improve my craft, and reviews can be really helpful in that way. And of course when they are positive, it totally makes my day! It’s such a strange and wonderful thing to imagine a stranger reading something I cooked up in my imagination and wrote down in my living room, and enjoying it or being moved by it enough to share that publicly. It’s deeply humbling, and also incredibly thrilling. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Right now I am writing the seventh book in the Highland Bodyguards series, Surrender to the Scot. It tells the story of Jerome, a Highland warrior who has been sent on an important mission by Robert the Bruce, and Elaine, and English noblewoman Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | who has led a sheltered life but who longs to join the Bruce’s cause for Scottish freedom. When their paths cross, romance—and adventure—ensues! I’ll be releasing this book in early 2018—I’m shooting for February if all goes according to plan. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? It normally takes me about 3 months total from start to finish to get a book published. The first few weeks of that time is spent researching and outlining—I like to have a clear idea of the characters and where the story is going before I start writing. The actual writing time takes 4-5 weeks. I work Monday through Friday, roughly 8am to 5pm (since those are the work hours my hubby keeps, and I like to make sure I have downtime and non-working time). I aim to write about 4,000 words when I am in “writing mode.” Once the first draft is done, I do two rounds of edits myself—the first one I do on my computer, and I’m looking for larger issues like plot holes, inconsistencies, cutting repetitive sections, pumping up the tension, etc. When I’m done with that (usually it takes about a week) I print the entire book and read it on paper. For this round I’m editing more for flow, sentence structure, wording, etc. Then I send it to my wonderful proofreader, who does her own two rounds of edits to make sure it’s as clean as possible. And then it’s ready to go live! Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? There are so many favorite parts, I can’t choose just one. I love getting to linger in my own imagination as I come up with story ideas and write. I never cease to surprise myself as I’m writing, because something I wasn’t expecting always comes out, whether it’s something funny, heartwarming, thrilling, steamy, or emotionally moving. I also absolutely love interacting with readers. I know how 28 | UncagedBooks.com

much some of my favorite books mean to me, and how much I adore those authors. It is truly amazing to get to give that back to readers—to give them entertainment, excitement, escape, adventure, and ultimately a story that celebrates the power of love. I also love getting to work in my pjs and hang out with my cats all day. :) One of my least favorite parts about being an author is that I wish I could write faster. As I mentioned, I have so many stories to tell, but my fingers can only go so fast, and my brain can only work so well. I wish I could transpose everything in my head into a word document—but then again, I would still probably just come up with more story ideas. Also, I need to find a way to not hunch over my computer so much, because it can really throw my neck and back out of whack. :) Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I love to do yoga, go hiking, backpacking or camping with the hubby, travel, hang out with our cats (Bean and Oban), Facetime with my family, and read. Oh, and drink wine. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? The hardest part for me is always the middle—it’s where things need to get really tough for the characters, and sometimes that’s hard because I like to baby and protect my characters instead of put them through the wringer. I find the beginning, when everything is getting set up and the characters are just getting to know each other, and the end, when they have to fight for their love and find a way to overcome the fact that everything has gone wrong, both go faster for me. By the end, my fingers are normally flying, because I can’t wait to give the characters their happily ever after. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love connecting with readers! Probably the best way to keep in touch is to join my newsletter (which you can do at www.EmmaPrinceBooks.com). I share

| EMMA PRINCE | special content like cover reveals and excerpts, plus new release info, sales, and lots of giveaways with my newsletter subscribers. I also love posting on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/EmmaPrinceBooks/) with pictures and updates on my writing, the cats, my research and inspirations, and more. Speaking of inspirations, I make a pinterest board for each of my books with character inspirations, settings, research, and more, which you can find at https://www.pinterest. com/emmaprincebooks/. Most importantly, I want to say THANK YOU to my fans—it is such an honor to get to share stories with you!

Enjoy an excerpt from The Bastard Laird’s Bride The Bastard Laird’s Bride Emma Prince Historical/Medieval A forced marriage… A desire that can’t be denied… To thwart a marriage alliance, Laird Reid Mackenzie kidnaps an English noblewoman en route to her fiancé. But to Reid’s horror, King Robert the Bruce orders that he now marry the bride he stole. With his legitimacy already in question, the last thing Reid needs is an English wife who will enrage his allies and embolden his enemies. Yet despite his opposition to marrying Corinne, her fiery spirit and matching beauty threaten to burn away his resistance and bring him to his knees with desire. Corinne wants nothing more than to work as a scribe. With her wedding to a cruel fiancé looming, she decides to take matters into her own hands. But just when she initiates a daring escape, she is thrust into the arms of a dark Highland Laird whose stormy gaze leaves her breathless. Though she is desperate for freedom, her resolve begins to crumble under Reid’s

heated touch. As she struggles to make a home in the Highlands—and in Reid’s heart—their union pushes the clan to the brink of war, forcing Reid and Corinne to choose between peace and their budding love. Excerpt “Where is she?” Reid demanded in a loud, cold voice. “Where is the de Reymont lass?” The English guard’s eyes widened on Reid’s bloodied blade where it pointed at his neck. “I-I…she is in the wagon, milord.” “Nay, she isnae,” Reid snapped. “I’ll ask ye again—where is she? Tell me now, man, or answer to my sword.” The man moaned in terror, his eyes nearly bulging from his head. Reid resisted the urge to spit. This was the sort of man Lord de Reymont had sent to protect his only daughter? “I-I-I swear, milord,” the man stuttered. “Last I saw her, she was in the wagon.” “I’ll give ye one last chance,” Reid managed through gritted teeth. “Tell me where the lass is.” When the Englishman’s gaze shifted back to Reid’s blade, his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were about to faint. Reid lowered his sword with a frustrated exhale. “Bloody Englishmen,” he muttered as he turned his back on the spineless guard. “Ye men, search the northern slope,” he said, letting his eyes sweep the dark forest. “And ye lot, take the southern side. The damned lass is somewhere.” Just as he was about to turn and remount his horse, a rustling of leaves and a clattering of pebbles had him snapping his head toward the hill enclosing the southern side of the valley. A little tumble of leaves and rocks was sliding down the hillside. A flicker of movement higher up snagged his eye. Through the trees, a shadowy figure stood frozen—and staring right at Reid. The weak light of the moon caught on the figure’s head, illuminating the thatch of cropped orange hair there. Was that a lad staring back at him? The lad was Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | slight and narrow-shouldered beneath his cloak, yet there was no mistaking that shorn flamecolored hair. Now was not the time for puzzling the mystery of the lad’s appearance. Reid let his body take over, bolting directly for the base of the hill. “Follow me,” he ordered his men. He pointed first to the left and then to the right, indicating that his men should fan out to flank him. They spurred their horses, instantly following his command as he charged straight for the fleeing lad. He didn’t bother remounting—a horse would move just as slowly as a man over that steep, rocky, densely forested terrain. Besides, the surge of battle lust still ran in his veins, now transforming into the thrill of a hunt. Whoever the lad was, there would be no escaping Reid. And he would be made to answer for the de Reymont lass’s whereabouts. Reid drove himself up the hillside at a sprint. His legs devoured the distance between him and his quarry, who still scrambled upward ahead of him. At the edges of his vision, he saw his men urging their horses over the uneven ground. This wee fish would not escape his net. In another three heartbeats, he was nearly within arm’s length of his prey. Reid dove forward, snagging his hand around the lad’s ankle. A high scream cut the night as the lad tumbled forward and landed hard on the sloping forest floor. Before the wee fish could wriggle away, Reid yanked forcefully on the ankle in his grasp, dragging the figure toward him. But the lad was lighter than he’d expected. Instead of simply pulling him to a halt, Reid dragged the wee lad straight into his arms. The lad screamed again, high and piercing, as Reid tightened his hold to keep him from escaping. But as the lad writhed in his grasp, Reid began to notice things. The tangle of skirts beneath the lad’s cloak as he tried to lash out and kick Reid. The faint softness of the lad’s chest against his. And the distinct fragrance of lemon. Just as Reid was about to abruptly release the 30 | UncagedBooks.com

lad—or rather, lass—the little hellion sank her teeth into his shoulder. Reid roared as her teeth broke the skin. Before she could do more damage, he rolled on top of her and sprang up so that he straddled her hips, pinning her to the ground. With one hand around each wrist, he held her down. She thrashed wildly, screaming and bucking against him even though he had her completely restrained. Just then, the yellow glow of torchlight fell on him and his struggling quarry. “What in the bloody…” Alain mused, reining his horse beside Reid. “This,” Reid said, tightening his grip on the writhing lass, “is de Reymont’s daughter. Isnae it, lass?”

Uncaged Review This is the 6th book in a series, but I had no issues reading this one without reading the first books, it stands well on its own. Corinne is determined to escape her cruel father and his arranged marriage to another cruel man when she is kidnapped by the Highland Laird, Reid, on orders from his Scottish King, Robert the Bruce. With the war on the borders of England and Scotland, stopping the alliance that Corinne’s father was going to accomplish with her marriage, will help to weaken their stance on the borders. After Reid delivers Corinne to the King, he orders Reid to marry her. Already a Laird but not by blood, an English wife may have his own people turn on him, but Reid will carry out his orders. This is a nicely paced Highlander, and the characters are engaging and endearing. The suspense knits tightly, and even though I was expecting something to happen, a couple things caught me off guard and I even fell in love with some of the secondary characters. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but definitely won’t be my last. Reviewed by Cyrene

comprehensivereview ScottCarruba

Sword of the Butterfly Sword of the Butterfly Scott Carruba Dark Fantasy

The tale continues in Sword of the Butterfly, book two of the series, as Lilja and Skothiam continue to fight demons within and without. The infernal forces make a grand play, hoping to stab the world in its very heart. Casualties mount as further tensions rise in the City, threatening the vigilante with a loss of freedom and life. Children become victims of a madman’s design while the hunt is on for a powerful creature wreaking havoc across parts of the U.S. Lilja begins to question herself and her place in Skothiam’s life even as the very treasure they must protect comes under danger.

Uncaged Comprehensive Review (minor spoilers) by Kaitlin Sword of the Butterfly by Scott Carruba is the sequel to his debut novel, Dance of the Butterfly. Like its predecessor, Sword is not for the faint of heart nor is it for a reader with commitment issues. Scott is, as ever, a master of rich imagery and description as well as exceptionally talented at character building. Each one of the perspectives he plays feels like a distinctly different person, and that’s something I have not seen done quite as well as Scott somehow manages to do it. Many authors write their charac34 | UncagedBooks.com

ters as exhibiting different personality traits through the same lens, which gives them a similar feel no matter their role. Instead, Scott changes the lens itself, and even characters who share traits with one another don’t suffer a same-y kind of vibe. Character building is one thing, and character development is another. Scott has always portrayed Lilja as being independent and strong, and I’m glad that her goals were not overshadowed by those of her partner. She comes to terms with the new realities of the world she’s faced with and struggles with anxieties regarding the importance of her independence. She makes a few mistakes, but she learns from them, and she is never an accessory for her partner. Skothiam, the aforementioned partner, is exactly as wise and calm as I would expect of an older and more experienced character. He is thoroughly supportive of Lilja as she processes everything, and while the reader knows that he possesses some impatience and flaws of his own, he does not act foolishly on them and never loses his temper. He does what he can to be there for Lilja and to help her without forcing his involvement, which is a very important brick in a relationship’s foundation. Overall, I found that Scott did a great job building and writing a mature relationship between two characters who have their differences but can overcome them. I often find myself irritated while reading romance novels that resort to contrived conflicts borne of juvenile drama and ignorance, and I was relieved (but not surprised) that Scott had a much more natural approach to giving the relationship dynamic. A trap many authors fall into is that of dull domesticity, where characters too-quickly reach a plateau of happiness and are content playing house together for the rest of their story, losing individuality in the process: this is what happens when authors do not want to create conflict in their romance, but not something I am particularly worried about from Scott Carruba.

I was glad to see the return of the background characters from the previous book, but be warned that the end of this book results in quite a bit of spring cleaning. It took me by surprise how many dead ends there were, and I was sad to see at least one of the characters die. I’m glad that Scott isn’t afraid to bump off characters, though some of them were not on-screen long enough to develop much attachment to. Something else I appreciate in Scott’s books is that despite the inclusion of what are essentially demons, they are not overtly religious in theme. There are plenty of authors who artfully include Christian mythology in the worldbuilding they do for their stories, but there are also plenty who (especially to a non-Christian audience) do so in a much more abrasive or hamfisted manner. One thing I will say is that I am still torn about the ending of the book. While I liked how some of the plots were tied up, I found a few of the plot points to be underutilized and one thing in particular to feel out of place. While Scott does a good job throughout the book with integrating the paranormal theme that was largely absent in the beginning of the first book, there was an instance in the library involving the male protagonist’s sister arriving just in the nick of time with reinforcements, and I thought this was a bit of a cop-out. It made a battle that there was a lot of build-up for quite easy for the protagonists in my opinion, and I think there could have been a more clever way to handle it without the involvement of the wolves. The wolves seemed too convenient, and as though they were thought of at the last minute from a writing perspective. Even a small scene or two earlier in the book that talked about them or hinted at their existence would have helped immensely, but the suddenness of their arrival was immersion-breaking for me.

with did not really have as much weight in the grand scheme of things as I had expected it to, seeing as it was given the entire prologue. In the previous book, many subtle hints were dropped throughout the book that had meaning later on-- but this one felt underwhelming to me, and like a tool that was not used to its fullest potential. Despite my few gripes, I still found Sword of the Butterfly to be an excellent book, and while there were a few small errors here or there, I was not disappointed by Scott Carruba’s writing ability. His ability to describe scenes is still, as far as I’m concerned, unmatched. Likewise, I continue to be impressed by his ability to portray all of his characters so uniquely, even minor characters. I would definitely recommend others to pick up Dance of the Butterfly, and I think that Sword is a worthy sequel even though I believe it would have benefited from a bit more length.

Born in Houston, Texas into the temporary care of a bevy of nuns before being delivered to his adopted parents, Scott discovered creative writing at a very young age when asked to write a newspaper from another planet. This exercise awakened a seemingly endless drive, and now, many short stories, poems, plays, and novels (both finished and unfinished) later, his first book, “Dance of the Butterfly”, has been published.


Additionally, the plot point that the book starts out Issue 18 | January 2018 |


feature author Maria Riegger is a banking/corporate attorney in Washington, DC by day (please don’t hold that against her), and a fiction author by night. She is a Gemini whose head has always been in the clouds. Indeed, from a young age, her mother scolded her for not paying attention. An irreverent Gen X’er, she writes gritty contemporary romance, with plenty of sarcasm.

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Uncaged welcomes Maria Riegger! Uncaged: You are a lawyer by day, does the office you work in know you are also an author? --Yes, my coworkers all know. I use my real name, not a pen name. Uncaged: Can you give readers some information about your Law School Heretic series? --The series is about a law student who feels like a fish out of water. She doesn’t behave how people expect; she doesn’t like the things that most of her peers do. I enjoy taking flawed characters and putting them in situations that make them extremely uncomfortable. It leads to conflict, bad decisions, and sometimes redemption, which I think make for good stories. Uncaged: There are two books available now in the series, how many do you have planned?


I plan to write at least one more book in the series, possibly more. I’ll see where the third book takes me. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I read most of the reviews my books receive. Some reviewers have included constructive criticism that I have

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taken into account in future writing endeavors. That was extremely helpful. My books have resonated with a lot of people. It makes me feel incredible knowing that others have gone through similar experiences as I have since, after all, there is something of myself in all my main characters. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I’m currently working on rewrites of Thunderstruck, a contemporary romance set during a fictionalized political campaign (to be published in March 2018). I’m also working on a nonfiction book, Your Scorpio Child, which is a sort of handbook for parents of Scorpio children. In addition to being a lawyer and author, I’m also an astrologer. I’m also writing Chaos Theory, a contemporary action/ romance in which the main character is a reclusive author who is also psychic. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? It takes about a year from start to finish, since I schedule writing time around my day job and family time. I outline and then fill in scenes. I have a general idea of

the plot and fill in details as I write. I constantly take notes on ideas, wherever I am, and work them into the main book outline when I get home. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I love having total creative freedom; I write what I want, not what I think people want to read. I love creating something. My least favorite thing is not having the time I would like to devote to writing. But that’s life. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I’m an introvert shut-in most of the time. When I’m not working at my day job or writing, I’m spending quality time with my family and traveling. I’ve lived overseas and have traveled extensively, and want to see as much of the world as possible. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? For me personally, I love writing dialogue. I could write scenes involving dialogue all day long. The most difficult part for me is usually working on character development. I want to delve right into the action, but it’s important to the reader to know Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | why characters behave the way they do. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I can’t thank my fans enough for all the support they’ve given me. There is no better feeling than when a fan contacts me out of the blue to tell me how much he/she enjoyed my books. Taking the time to contact an author to tell them this means a lot. I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lawschoolheretic , Twitter at @RieggerM, and LinkedIn. I also blog on writing, reviewing, legal history, and constitutional law issues at www. lawschoolheretic.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Miscalculated Risks Miscalculated Risks Maria Riegger Contemporary Romance What would you do if you met someone who defied all of your stereotypes? Outspoken and abrasive, law student Isabel enjoys arguing with just about everyone, including her friends. It’s 2010, and her strained relationship with her mother, less-than-stellar job prospects and frustrations with the conformist political culture of Washington, DC have left her resentful and unfulfilled. Only her sisters and a few good friends are able to keep her semi-grounded. When she meets a new fellow student who dares to challenge her, she is intrigued but skeptical. While Isabel is risk-averse where her feelings are concerned, she is also becoming increasingly curious. She’s afraid to get close, because being 38 | UncagedBooks.com

vulnerable always lead to being hurt, doesn’t it? Excerpt Second week: Monday I was at the law school, feverishly reading for my Criminal Procedure class, which would start in about fifteen minutes. I had read the last two cases rather quickly the day before, and I was going over them again, highlighting and typing up notes. I tapped my pen on the book as I read, admiring the contrast with my almost-black nail polish. I didn’t usually do frou-frou things like paint my nails, but I liked them dark. It had been a decent study break last night. After spending time with my sister Lara and her husband, I had studied a little more after dinner. Lara had given me another huge hug when I had left her house the day before. I could tell that she wanted to spend more time with me, that she was worried about me, but her schedule was so crazy that we could only see each other once in a while. I don’t know why everyone is so worried about me, I thought then. I’ve been able to manage for thirty-four years. Jesus. Sometimes I thought that my mother treated me like I was six years old. Why did she call Lara to complain about me? If she has something to say to me, then she can freaking call me and say it to me directly! I sighed and pushed all thoughts of my mother from my head. I needed to concentrate. I didn’t have time to be pissed off about her right now. There was plenty of time to be pissed off later. Today I was wearing all black. I decided that I was mourning the decay of civilization as I knew it. I had on black skinny jeans and a black silk, sleeveless blouse with black flats. We didn’t really have a dress code at work, and wearing jeans was acceptable. However, I usually tried to dress at least business casual. Today I had woken up late and had been in a rush. I hadn’t slept that great the night before. I was rather successfully tuning out all the chatter

| MARIA RIEGGER | around me, people making plans for the upcoming weekend, showing each other Internet videos and engaging in vapid conversations. I heard a female voice say, “Are my breasts too big?” No, breasts can never be too big, I thought, not if you’re asking a guy. “Hey, John!” some guy said into his phone, “Where are you at? We’re waiting for you!” Where are you at?! I thought. The at is totally unnecessary. Oh my God, just strike me down right here with a ray of lightning or something. Then suddenly a soft voice cut through all the chatter. “Hey, Isabel.” I whipped my head up, looking over my open laptop. It was Tarek. Jesus, I thought. I hadn’t even heard him approach. It was the first time that he had really addressed me directly. We had had several drive-by sightings, but had never really had an actual conversation. I decided to take in the entire sight of him, since I finally had an excuse to do that. I decided afterward that it was kind of a mistake. Taking in his entire body, I could feel my nipples become instantly tender. Oh my God, I thought. He was wearing a black T-shirt with dark jeans. His T-shirt hugged his chest, which, like his entire body, was lean and muscular. His short beard and goatee were neatly trimmed. He was certainly dark enough to be what Lara called “my type,” although I usually went for Latin men. I guessed his age to be about 28, but his eyes held an experience that made him seem more mature. He wasn’t super-tall. I guessed that he was between 5 feet, 8 inches and 5 feet 9 inches. I was 5’6” so I more or less did a quick comparison. His curly black hair hung in carefully groomed, tight tiny ringlets around his face and almost down to his shoulders. He was incredibly sexy. I thought that he probably had to spend a lot of time on his hair, moussing it up, and that if he just let it go it would probably be frizzy. His curls reminded me of Lara and her unruly hair, although

her ringlets were more tousled and larger, and always framed her beautiful face perfectly. She was forever straightening it, but I kept telling her it looked gorgeous in ringlets, just like Tarek’s curls did now. I felt myself softening a little at the thought of my sister, but I steeled my reserve and plastered a semi-scowl on my face. My scowl and general surly attitude were my defense mechanisms. After enough unpleasantness, people generally left me alone. I liked it that way. My friends Eric, Josh and Dinesh were somehow building up a tolerance for it. It was starting to piss me off. Lately, everything was pissing me off. I had to admit, however, that I was intrigued as well as annoyed. Few people had the nerve to just come and talk to me like this, with no warning. I decided not to say anything at first. I just stared at him and raised my eyebrows. He waited a good three to four seconds before he spoke. The left corner of my mouth started to go up into a smirk. Invariably, there were only two reasons a guy like this, a semi-stranger no less, would deign to talk to me. If he was going to miss class and wanted to get my notes, he was shit outta luck. And if he wanted a booty call, well, I wasn’t quite sure yet how I would handle that. Little did I know, he wasn’t going to ask me either of those things. “Hi,” he began, a bit shyly, I thought, “I’m Tarek. I’m in class with you.” As if I didn’t know that, I thought. He had a deep voice. I also listened more closely to his accent than I ever had before. It was French, but like French “light,” not the heavy French accent of someone who had lived in France his entire life and learned English in a classroom. But there was a hint of another accent, too, that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. That must be the Arabic accent, I thought. I was a linguist, and this piqued my interest just a hair. Still, he wasn’t the first foreign guy I had ever met. “Do you honestly think I don’t know who you are?” I asked without smiling. I was annoyed, at his brazenness at approaching me and at the fact Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | that my nipples were so tender. God, I hope they’re not standing at attention right now, I thought. I couldn’t risk looking down at them because then he would notice. He paused for a moment, as if he hadn’t expected such a surly response. He looked at my laptop, then back at my face. “Do you mind if I—“ I kicked the chair opposite me out from the table before he even finished the sentence. He seemed surprised but didn’t lose his composure. I was grudgingly impressed by that. He sat down opposite me in one quick, fluid motion. I would soon learn that he always moved like that, like he breezed through life always in a hurry. We were alike in that way. But I would have sat down more clumsily, moving the chair around, scooting it into the table. Not him. It was a small table and we weren’t that far away from each other. I closed my laptop without taking my eyes off him. “Are you reading for Crim?” he asked. “Talk,” I said. “What do you want?” “It is Isabel, right?” I didn’t see the point in refusing to tell him my name. He could just look at the law school’s student directory, and look at the people in his classes, and figure it out. I crossed my arms. “Isabel Vilanova.” I said my last name properly, with a Spanish accent. I couldn’t stand Anglicizing foreign names. “Are you Spanish?” “Yes.” In my experience, in the U.S. when most people say “Spanish,” they meant “Hispanic.” Either way, in my case the answer was yes. He continued looking at me. A less secure person would be unnerved by it. However, this was not my first rodeo with a Middle Eastern man. I knew how direct they could be. His next question was audacious, and surprised even me. “So what’s with all the black?” He was trying not to smile. I almost smiled, a little smile, but caught myself 40 | UncagedBooks.com

just in time. “What do you mean?” I asked back. “That’s very lawyerly of you,” he continued, “answering a question with a question.” “Well, I am studying to be a lawyer, so...” I let the sentence trail off. He continued. “The dark clothes, dark nail polish, dark lipstick-” “Look who’s talking,” I waved a hand at his black shirt, interrupting him. “You even dye your hair,” he continued, ignoring me. “No, I don’t. I’ve never dyed my hair.” That wasn’t entirely true. I occasionally had it highlighted, but hadn’t done so in a long time. “That’s your natural color?” He was incredulous. “Yes.” Where the hell was he going with this? I thought. “It’s almost as dark as mine.” “Yes.” “Are you always this—“ “Peeved off, surly?” I interrupted him. “I was going to say hard to reach, but you’re those things too.” I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was intrigued. I realized then that I was enjoying this repartee. It made me afraid. If I continued to talk to him, then maybe we would become friends. And if we became friends, then maybe I would end up liking him. And who knew what would happen then? I didn’t want that. I would rather remain closed off. Besides, I figured the four friends that I had plus my sisters were enough. I decided then that this small talk had gone on far enough. There were only about ten minutes until class and now there was no way I was going to finish my two cases in time. The thought made me beyond annoyed. I leaned forward on the table, still crossing my arms, closer to him. “Look,” I said slowly, “If you’re going to ask me out, why don’t you just do it, so that I can say no?” He laughed softly and shook his head. At this point, almost any man would turn and leave in a huff. The fact that he didn’t, and that he didn’t seem put off, intrigued me more than anything

else so far. “I wasn’t going to ask you out.” “Really? I’m disappointed,” my voice dripped with sarcasm. Then I changed my tone. “Out with it. What do you want?” “I wanted to know if you wanted to study together.” Well, that was a surprise. I honestly had not been expecting that. Everyone here knew me, or didn’t know me. They either knew I was a loner and studied on my own or didn’t notice me, and therefore wouldn’t ask me to study with them anyway. “What, like a study group?” “Yes.” “Just me and you?” “Yes.” “No.” I said it without thinking, on automatic pilot. If I started to think about it, I would say ‘yes’ only because I was horny. “No what?” “You’re slow today,” I said. “No thank you, I’m not interested.” Why would he think I would be, anyway? “I’ve noticed you in class,” he said then. Of course he had. Who hadn’t? I was on top of my game. I lived law school. I loved to argue. I craved the intellectual stimulation. I just continued to stare at him. “You’re really smart and I thought that-we could help each other.” You mean I could help you, I thought. “Flattery will get you nowhere,” I said icily. It was a half-lie, though. I responded fairly well to flattery. “I just transferred here,” he said then. “I know,” I said. “How would you know that?” he asked, a bit confused. “So you think I’m a damn moron?” “I didn’t say that.” He was surprised, either at my tone or at my cursing, I didn’t know. Now I felt like I had to explain how I knew. “This is my third year here. I’ve never seen you before. And I would have noticed you,” I added the last part without thinking. Smooth, idiot, I said to myself. “But you’re not taking first-year

| MARIA RIEGGER | classes, which tells me you’ve already taken them. Add that all up, and it leads to the fact that you transferred here.” He nodded slowly. “Very good.” He’s arrogant, I thought. What a novel concept, an arrogant Washington, D.C. law student. Yeah, well, I thought, that’s what happens when you’re by yourself and you have all the time in the world to just think about things. He continued. “Look, I’m a good student. I’m-” he was struggling for the correct word and I felt a little bad for him for just a split second, “-studious.” “I don’t know that. I don’t know you.” I got the feeling that he was a loner, though, like me. His eyes twinkled just a little bit. He was thinking about something. I had the feeling he was still trying to convince me. It wouldn’t work. “Would it bother your boyfriend to study with another man?” Jesus, who did this guy think he was? I smiled. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” “Would it bother your husband?” “Don’t have a husband.” I sighed. What the hell? It was time to cut this off. “Look, I study better alone. Thanks but no thanks.” “Are you sure?” he smiled again, flashing white teeth. He had exceedingly long eyelashes, and dark eyes, and he knew how to use them to his advantage. I got pissed off then. “Look,” I said, tossing my pen on the table. “You think that just because you’re gorgeous you can come over here and convince me to do whatever the hell you want? Nice try, but I wasn’t born yesterday. You can flash your eyelashes at me all you want, but the answer’s still no.” He looked genuinely surprised. “Wait, you think I’m-gorgeous?” “Of course. Any woman who thinks otherwise is a fool, and I don’t suffer fools. Not in law school, not anywhere.” He didn’t say anything. “Speaking of fools,” that may be a little harsh, but I had let this conversation go on far too Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | long, “I need to finish these cases. Look, sorry, but I don’t have time to babysit Millennials. We’re done here. I’ll see you in class.” To his credit he didn’t looked pissed off or angry. He just looked…intrigued, like he was trying to figure me out. Good luck, I thought. You’ll need it. He rose from the chair then. “See you in class, Isabel.” He smiled and left. I watched him go. When he got back to his table, where he had been sitting alone, he caught me looking at him. As he had been standing there, I had been raking my eyes over his body, from his shoes, very slowly over his lean legs, his stomach, his chest, his neck and his face. As my eyes reached his face, I noticed that he was looking at me. He had been looking at me the entire time! He smiled a broad smile. I looked away quickly but it was no use. He had seen me eye him like a piece of meat. Damn! I thought. Damn him and his black curls and sultry smile. I buried my head in my Criminal Procedure book. I couldn’t help thinking that he was indeed as smart as he tried to make me think he was. In a short amount of time, he had discovered a good amount of information about me, including that I was a loner, and that I wasn’t married and didn’t have a boyfriend. Well played, I thought. I couldn’t lie to myself. He frustrated me. But I was intrigued.

Uncaged Review Isabel is a 34year old law student at evening college. She works hard and plays hard. Taking no responsibility for her sharp tongue most people - don’t like her. When a new guy joins her course she feels like she has met her match. This was a okay read. I liked Isabel even if I didn’t find her views on politics or law the same as hers. Some more romance in the story would have been nice. I know this is only book one in the law series. Not sure what I feel about reading book 2 yet. Still to be won over by this series. Reviewed by Jennifer

Book Two Available Now 42 | UncagedBooks.com

Special feature

Book Adaptations

19 books to read now before they hit the big screen in 2018



s one of your favorite books going to be made into a film? 2018 is going to be a banner year for adaptations, here are some of them to keep a watch out for and if you like to read the book before the movie comes out, now’s your chance. As alwasys, release dates are subject to change.

Luckiest Girl Alive Jessica Knoll Suspense Starring: Not yet cast - Reese Witherspoon is producing. Release date: TBD

Boy Erased Garrard Conley LGBT Biography

The Aftermath Rhidian Brook Post WWII

Starring: Nicole Kidman & Russell Crowe

Starring: Jason Clarke, Keira Knightly, Alexander Skarsgard

Release date: TBD

Release date: TBD

The Girl in the Spider’s Web David Lagercrantz Suspense/Crime

In a Dark, Dark Wood Ruth Ware Suspense/Supernatural

Starring: Claire Foy taking over Rooney Mara’s role of Lisbeth

Starring: Not yet cast, Reese Witherspoon is producing.

Release date: October, 2018

Release date: TBD

Into the Water Paula Hawkins Psychological Thriller

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle Time Travel

Starring: Not yet cast

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey

Release date: TBD

Release date: March, 2018

The Bookseller Cynthia Swanson Contemporary

Ready Player One Ernest Cline Science Fiction

Starring: Julia Roberts

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Steven Spielberg to direct.

Release date: TBD

Release date: March, 2018 44 | UncagedBooks.com

Where’d You Go Bernadette Maria Semple Contemporary Humor

The Son Jo Nesbo Crime/Suspense

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudup, and Judy Greer

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal Release date: TBD

Release date: May, 2018 Fifty Shades Freed E.L. James Contemporary Romance

The Black Hand Stephen Talty Historical/Crime

Starring: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio

Release date: February, 2018

Release date: TBD

The Silent Wife A.S.A. Harrison Suspense

Annihilation Jeff Vandermeer SciFi/Post-Apocalyptic

Starring: Nicole Kidman

Starring: Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson

Release date: TBD

Release date: February, 2018 All the Bright Places Jennifer Niven Young Adult

Love May Fail Matthew Quick Contemporary Humor

Starring: Elle Fanning

Starring: Emma Stone

Release date: TBD

Release date: TBD

Bel Canto Ann Patchett Contemporary

The Devil in the White City Erik Larson Historical

Starring: Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio Martin Scorsese will direct.

Release date: TBD

Release date: TBD Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Short story Danger - Road closed Ahead, PT 3-B by JB. Woods


This short story will be brought to you differently than in the past. Each month you will receive a chapter, so come back each month to read the full story.

Danger - Road closed Ahead pt 3-C, 4-A JB. Woods He heard her whimper before she exhaled and he watched helplessly as she began to drift away. ‘Anna!’ Ignoring his fear he slid off the pallet and holding on with one hand reached out with his good arm and grabbed her. At the same time he said a big, ‘Thank you,’ when a cloud blanketed the moon’s rays and cast them into darkness. He pulled her closer in the gloom and allowed the current to take them downstream and away from the danger. He guessed they were about halfway across which meant they were in Austria but he was helpless to do anything about their situation as the current was keeping them firmly away from the opposite bank. Fearing the worst he tried many times to push her inert figure onto the pallet but the cold and the pain in his arm prevented him and in the end he gave himself up to the whims of the river. He guessed that the authorities further down would have been alerted and he prayed that the currents would keep him away from danger. Half an hour later he realised that they were being swept into the main channel of the River Danube and he felt the temperature rise slightly and the current was quicker but inch by inch it was edging them towards the outside bank as it swept around the Austrian curve. They drifted past the huge Lamac stone quarry which shone white against the wooded back48 | UncagedBooks.com

ground and he knew from the map there was only a few kilometres before the river bent back towards Czechoslovakia. He estimated they were being pulled along at around three knots and he had to do something quick if they weren’t to drift into the wrong hands again otherwise a long term in some place of incarceration awaited him. With numb fingers he pulled Anna around to the front of the pallet and hooked the straps of the bag around the end of the cross members and using Anna as a counter weight, hand over hand, he dragged himself aboard and began paddling with the piece of driftwood the way he had seen gondoliers do it. He gave a silent cheer as he realised that his efforts were paying off. With the help of the current they were edging towards safety. How he was going to get ashore was something he didn’t want to contemplate. Finally they bumped the far bank and he cursed in desperation as he was unable to grasp anything until nature once more came to his rescue in the shape of a shingle beach which floodwaters had shaped below the tree-line. He jumped in and unsteadily, occasionally stumbling on hidden stones, he dragged the pallet to the edge. He unhitched Anna and let the pallet drift away before pulling her onto the tiny beach. Exhausted he flopped alongside her and his numbed brain registered the first signs of panic when his body began to tremble uncontrollably and he couldn’t recall what had happened. In a moment of lucidity he tried to check Anna but he was too weak to move. In one last desperate effort he reached out and squeezed her hand before slipping into unconsciousness. — His first impressions were of being wrapped in a warm cocoon with lights swirling above his head and voices speaking in a familiar tongue. Someone bent over him and he was aware of gentle perfume as a light shone into his eyes. A cool voice spoke to him in a German dialect he didn’t comprehend and he mumbled through the thinning fog, ‘Nichts furstein, me English.’ ‘Well, hello, Mr English. Welcome back to the land of the living. What’s your name?’

| JB WOODS | ‘Err… Where am I?’ ‘Austria.’ He smiled and then a dark recollection seeped into his brain. ‘Where’s, Anna?’ The nurse took his hand and squeezed it gently. ‘Tell me who you are first. I don’t like talking to people I don’t know.’ ‘Sorry. I’m Hunter. Where’s Anna?’ ‘Have you got a first name, Hunter?’ ‘Yes, it’s George. Now what about Anna?’ ‘Was that the lady they found you with, Mr Hunter?’ ‘Yes.’ She squeezed his hand again. ‘I’m sorry, Mr Hunter, but Anna is dead. She had been shot through the back of the neck.’ Hunter closed his eyes and cried unashamedly. The nurse left him only to return a few minutes later with a Police Inspector. He put his hat on the end of the bed took out a notebook and looked at Hunter with the typical inquisitors unbelieving gaze. ‘Mr Hunter?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And the lady with you, Mr Hunter. What was her name?’ ‘Anna Kasynski.’ ‘Your nationality, Mr Hunter, you had three passports in your pack?’ ‘We’re both English and I would like to speak to the British Consul, please.’ ‘Okay, in good time. Firstly, what were you doing in the river and why were you carrying guns?’ Hunter thought for a moment before answering. ‘We work for the British Government and have just escaped from the East zone. Now can I see the Consul?’ ‘You were spies?’ ‘Not in so many words but we were working undercover. We have travelled down from East Germany, through Poland and Czechoslovakia and jumped into the river north of Bratislava.’ ‘You’re lucky to be alive.’ Hunter glared at him. ‘I didn’t mean it like that. Your partner. She has an eastern name.’ ‘She is, was English. She had Polish parentage.’ ‘How did she get shot?’ Hunter gave him a quick run down of their adven-

tures over the last twenty-four hours. The Inspector stood up. ‘I’m sorry about your loss, Mr Hunter. I’ll arrange a phone for you but I’m confiscating your weapons.’ He acknowledged the nurse and left. ~~~~~

Charles James.


The walk from the Embankment did nothing to improve Hunter’s humour. His hair was plastered to his head and another trickle of water ran down his neck as an inconsiderate September low pressure system hung over London. Taxis were an option but department expenses didn’t cover those if you weren’t actually deployed. He looked up at the top floor of Admiralty Arch and wondered if it had been chosen deliberately because there wasn’t a Tube Station near enough to avoid such weather and he hated umbrellas especially the golfing variety or was it their owners. Dabbing his face with a soggy handkerchief he turned the corner into Cockspur Court and followed it around to the back of the building. With a quick glance left and right he slipped into an incongruous doorway which led to a hallway where he was confronted by a steel door. He punched an eight number code into a keypad and began the tortuous climb up three flights of stairs. Halfway up he shed his wax jacket and by the time he had reached the top he was breathing heavily. Pausing for a moment to compose himself outside the only plain door he punched in another five digit security code, letters this time instead of numbers, and walked in. His first action was to hang his coat and while he was doing so a quiet voice said, ‘What can we do for you Mister...’ He turned to face a trim middle-aged lady whose greying hair was tied back in a French pleat. ‘Oh, it’s you, Hunter. Are we expecting you today?’ ‘No, Maggie, yesterday. Is Brian in or is he still in the Home counties enjoying a late breakfast and have you got a towel handy?’ ‘In the bathroom. Hang it on the radiator when you’re finished.’ Issue 18 | January 2018 | 49

| SHORT STORY | He looked at her to see if she was serious or being facetious and decided she was serious before going through a side door and along the short corridor to the washroom. He returned five minutes later feeling much refreshed. Heated hand-driers were useful for many things and T drying hair was one of them. Maggie was ready for him, ‘Go through, Hunter, he’s waiting in the Conference Room.’ He went in the opposite direction this time along a corridor past several offices and knocked on the door facing him when he reached the end. ‘Come in.’ He didn’t know why but he straightened his tie before stepping across the threshold into a long wood panelled room overlooking the Mall. Down the centre of the room was an extended mahogany table and what Hunter thought were a set of Sheraton chairs but actually attributed to William Hamilton of Edinburgh around 1790. Waiting at the far end with two other gentleman was Brian Warren the Assistant Director of SIS, his boss. Brian came forward to greet him. ‘Morning, Hunter, I’d like you to meet the Home Secretary, Mister Brittan and I believe for the first time—C.’ He shook hands with them and they remained standing around one end of the table. By way of reprimand Warren said, ‘Took your time, Hunter.’ Hunter shrugged. ‘I’m sorry but you know the vagaries of our weather or maybe not, secluded as you are South of Watford Gap. I had so many call outs to repair damage caused by the high winds I couldn’t get away, but here I am.’ ‘Right, Hunter, down to business. you expressed the desire to get the man responsible for Anna’s death.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘We know who it is, and you were right, it was James. We weren’t sure who the leak was but your last job pinned it. It would have been difficult to prove had you been caught but the fact that no one else knew apart from you, Anna and we three, it could only have been him.’ ‘What about the people who had your Russian in custody. Wouldn’t they know?’ ‘C’ coughed politely before butting in. ‘That’s 50 | UncagedBooks.com

the reason we have different departments, Hunter. Department ‘X’ had our General and put in a request to get his wife. Department ‘Y’ which is Brian, plans her rescue and then there is our German Operations organiser, in this case, James. Therefore, as we have suspected for some time it must be him. That is a simple way to explain facts. It is far more complex in reality.’ ‘Thank you, sir. What do we do now?’ Brian continued the explanation. ‘James is lying low, Hunter, but we are giving you a free hand to find him and bring him in.’ Hunter paused for a moment in thought before he said, ‘If you don’t know where he is exactly, how do you expect me to find him?’ ‘That’s why we’re giving you a free hand. New eyes may come up with something different. Consider it promotion, Hunter, and your salary will reflect this.’ ‘Okay, I’ll need all the bumf you have on James. Is he married?’ ‘No, he’s divorced, but he does have a daughter who’s living with his parents in Tunbridge Wells.’ ‘I’ll make a start there. I want ID, visas and travel warrants in the name of Adam Byewater in my Garden business guise for movement in the GDR and I want a Stasi issue Makarov (PM) pistol and suppressor.’ ‘No problem. Because James knows you, we’re changing your codename from Orion to Venator. Any questions?’ ‘No.’ Hunter acknowledged ‘C’, nodded to the Home Secretary, and left the room. When the door had closed the Home Secretary spoke for the first time.’ ‘Do you think he’s the right man for the job, Brian.’ ‘Yes I do, sir. He’s a free spirit not bogged down with protocol. Tell him what we want and leave him to it. He thinks on his feet and if anyone’s going to find our man, he will.’ ‘I’ll take your word for it, Brian. I’ve got to go, the Iron Lady’s waiting.’ ‘Is she involved?’ ‘Nothing moves in this country that herself doesn’t know about.’ Hunter spent the better part of the afternoon going over old cases involving James while taking advan-

| JB WOODS | tage of civil service catering. The file contained mainly Foreign Office telegrams, press cuttings and articles on the rehabilitation of blown agents and a post-mortem of his escapade with Anna which showed interestingly an increase in open phone traffic from both East and West Germany in the latter months. ‘Not very clandestine,’ he muttered, ‘nothing like letting the other side know what you’re doing, or was it a decoy?’ He made a note of the most commonly used numbers before he caught a taxi to Waterloo station and he cursed his timing as he joined the queue at the ticket kiosk. When he finally managed to purchase a Peak-Period single to Tunbridge Wells he joined the scrum for the train about to leave. The train guard in full knowledge of his power to cause panic blew his whistle with added vigour and Hunter grabbed for the nearest door handle to be immediately knocked sideways amongst a cascade of files and paperwork and a screaming young woman fell to her knees alongside him. ‘You stupid shit,’ she shouted, ‘why don’t you look what you’re doing?’ ‘Whoa, there, miss. Apart from not recommending your finishing school I’m catching a train just like you so practice what you preach. Too late, it’s leaving. Pick up your stuff.’ He put down his overnight bag and collected assorted paperwork and files and when he stood up to give them to her he was struck by her clear blue eyes and long straight red hair. He guessed she was about mid-twenties and from her black suit and white blouse and the logo on the papers he deducted she was something to do with the Law. ‘There you are, love. I hope they’re not to mussed up.’ She glared at him and said rather stiffly, ‘And don’t call me—Love.’ ‘Nothing personal, love. It’s a term of endearment where I come from. Can I buy you a cup of coffee by way of compensation? We have half an hour.’ She stood for a moment pondering. Hunter cocked his head slightly to one side and raised an enquiring eyebrow. She smiled. ‘I’ll have a Vodka and Tonic. Nothing less.’

Always a sucker for a female smile he stammered, ‘Ha... Have two,’ and immediately regretted his generosity. They walked back up the platform and the spring freshness of her perfume wafted across to him. He braved a sideways glance and noted the pale freckles against her porcelain skin. ‘What are you looking at,’ she said. ‘I... I was thinking we haven’t been properly introduced.’ She stopped, tilted her head slightly and looked him disconcertingly in the eye. ‘Are you chatting me up whoever you are?’ ‘Hunter, and I’m just being friendly. I like to know who I’m lavishing my hard earned wealth on.’ She started walking again. ‘In that case Mister Hunter, the name’s, Naomi.’ They found a comfortable isolated table in the Lounge and Hunter prepared to go the bar while Naomi sorted her files and folders. As he turned to leave she said, ‘Make that a double, Hunter.’ He was about to retort and thought better of it but mentally added it to his expense sheet. He returned a few minutes later to find her putting away the last piece of A4 and sat opposite enjoying the first sips of lager before he spoke. ‘Are they all there?’ ‘I think so. It’s my homework so I’ll soon find out.’ ‘If you don’t mind me saying so you look a bit too old for school.’ She laughed. ‘If only. I’m in my final year as a wannabe Barrister and these are cases I have to swat up on.’ ‘I’d better watch myself. You maybe prosecuting me one day.’ ‘No, I’m going to be a defence lawyer. It’s much more interesting. What about you?’ ‘Oh, me. I run a garden business.’ ‘I know you’re from the north but what are you doing down here?’ Hunter hesitated before replying. ‘I’m taking a breather. I’m looking up old Army pals to fill in my memoirs. I may write a book one day.’ ‘Are they in the area these pals?’ ‘Yes, one’s in Tunbridge Wells, at least that’s where he came from, and that’s where I was going when Issue 18 | January 2018 | 51

| SHORT STORY | we met.’ ‘What’s his name this old pal?’ Hunter glanced at his watch. ‘Oye, look at the time. We’ll miss the next one if we don’t hurry. Let me carry your files.’ ‘Okay. I’m going to Tunbridge Wells so we can chat on the train.’

clothes in the office for just such an emergency.’ ‘Does this Hotel have enough rooms for the two of us?’ ‘I’m sure they will.’ ‘Good. We’ll book in and then I’ll fetch my suitcase. I left it with a friend in the City. We’ll meet in the lobby at seven-thirty.

He walked with her to the train and as they were about to board he made a snap decision. ‘Naomi, I’ve decided it’s too late. I’ll stay over in London and go tomorrow. I’ll take in a show or something.’ She hesitated one hand on the door handle. He saw a flash of disappointment in her eyes as she pondered her reply. ‘Hunter, can I join you? I haven’t been to a show in a long time?’ Caught in two minds he stood paralyzed holding her files balanced on one hand while at the same time trying to find the right way to put her off. He had avoided a train journey in an attempt to evade further questioning and now she was offering to become his companion for the evening. ‘Well if you don’t think I’m suitable I’ll go. I don’t offer myself to every man I meet however cumbersome he is.’ Once again he was caught off-balance. ‘Yes... Yes, you can come. By all means. I was deliberating where you would stay tonight. I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking straight. It’s not everyday a guy gets an offer like that.’ She released her grip on the carriage door and ignoring the files Hunter was holding out she turned and walked purposely back up the platform. He swivelled on his heel and followed a couple of paces behind. For a moment his mind was distracted by earthier things as he watched the sway of hips accentuated by high heels resisting the restrictions of a pencil skirt. ‘Behave yourself, Hunter,’ he admonished himself and hurried to catch up while he pondered where he was going to rest his bones that night. At the taxi rank he asked where she was staying to which she relied, ‘Our firm has an understanding with a family hotel close by the Inns of Court in case we have to work late and I keep some spare 52 | UncagedBooks.com

— Hunter didn’t have an adjective to describe her as she descended the stairs. Her knee length button through silver lamé dress followed her contours and the lights glinted off her evening sandals. When she stopped a few feet from him he noticed her emerald earrings and pendant necklace contrasted perfectly with her hair. ‘Close your mouth, Hunter. Do I pass muster?’ ‘Yes, with a capital—Y.’ She fingered the lapel of his light grey suit. ‘Nice,’ she said, ‘no expense spared.’ ‘Shall we go, Miss...’ ‘Mrs—Mrs Anderson.’ Hunter took a half step back. ‘Oh, you’re married.’ He had visions of an unwelcome visitor some time in the future. ‘Relax, Hunter. I’m divorced and living with my Grandparents.’ ‘I’m glad about that. We’d better go, I’ve booked tickets for that new show ‘Starlight Express.’ ‘A good choice. I’ve heard such a lot about it.’ such a lot about it.’ — They arrived minutes before the show started and she was surprised but said nothing at being shown to the best seats inside the horseshoe jutting out from the stage which meant the show was all around them. Later she suggested a small fashionable Restaurant where they wined and dined and despite Hunter’s best arguments she insisted on going Dutch. She didn’t refuse his offer of Champagne later and he hoped this rush of blood would be covered by his expenses. They laughed and giggled their way to the end of the bottle and it was past midnight before they ordered a taxi to take them back to the Hotel. They sat close and Hunter kept his thoughts to him-

| JB WOODS | self when she suddenly flung herself across him and kissed him ardently. Initially startled he responded and they were encased in each others passion until they arrived at their destination. She didn’t wait while he paid the taxi and he caught up with her outside of her room. She stood with her back against the door breathing heavily. He put an arm either side of her head and leaned forward. She responded by giving him a quick peck and whispering, ‘Goodnight, Hunter. It was a lovely evening.’ With a swift movement she opened the door and slipped inside. Dumbfounded, he shook his head as he heard the lock click over. ‘Err...What the hell was that all about,’ he muttered, ‘something I said?’ He walked slowly down the corridor to his own room bewildered by the turn of events. His mind wrestled with his libido and he went to sleep dreaming of what might have been. — He was disappointed to find she had checked out early the next morning but he felt better when he read the note she left. It contained just one word— Homework. He checked out and returned his suitcase to the office before he took a taxi to Waterloo and caught a mid-morning train to Tunbridge Wells. Opting to walk it was a little after eleven-thirty when he stood admiring the Victorian houses in Calverly Crescent. It didn’t have the grandeur of the Crescent in Bath but it was nevertheless impressive. He wandered across and gave the 19th Century bell pull a yank and didn’t have long to wait before the door was opened by a distinguished military gentleman of advanced years. ‘Good morning, and if you’re selling anything I’m not interested.’ He went to close the door when Hunter held up a hand, ‘No, sir, I’m not selling, I’m looking for Charles Anthony James. I’m an ex-army pal from years back and this is the last known address I have for him.’ ‘Oh, sorry. I’m his father, you’d better come in.’

Retired Colonel James showed Hunter into the living room and suggested they should have some coffee before they got started. He disappeared only to return a few moments later. ‘My wife’s bringing it through in a moment. You like proper coffee, Mister, sorry I didn’t catch your name. I don’t hold with this instant muck personally.’ ‘The name’s, Hunter, sir, George Hunter, and I liken instant coffee to muddy water.’ ‘Good, that’s settled. What can I do for you, George? Oh, sorry, my manners, please take a seat.’ Hunter quickly assessed which was the favourite armchair and selected the one opposite. ‘Your son, Charles, sir. He was one of a group of five guys who hung around together and I would very much like to find Chas, as we called him. I’m trying to organise a reunion as well as pick his brains because I want to write my memoirs.’ The Colonel’s wife entered, greeted Hunter and then left after placing a silver tray and coffee set on the centre table. Colonel James poured two cups before he continued. ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, George, but we haven’t been in touch with Charles for some years. I disapprove of the choices he made with his career. However, his daughter lives with us and they regularly keep in touch.’ ‘I see, is she at home, sir?’ ‘No, she works in the City and didn’t come home last night. She rang to say she went to a show or something but she is coming home this evening.’ An alarm rang at the back of Hunter’s mind but he dismissed it as coincidence. ‘Would it be in order for me to visit her here, sir?’ ‘Why don’t you come to dinner. Have you got somewhere to stay?’ ‘I won’t inconvenience you, sir. I shall have dinner at my Hotel and call later if that’s alright, sir.’ ‘By all means. About eight-thirty then.’ They stood and shook hands. ‘Goodbye, sir. Until this evening.’

Watch for the next chapter in the next issue! Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Author’s Amazon Page

feature authors

dark fantasy paranormal suspense





Stephen Bentley

S.J. Frances

feature author Margo Ryerkerk is the author of The Ardere Series, a YA paranormal series about magic, love, coming of age, and friendships. After completing a BS in Psychology, a MS in Marketing, and a two-years stint in the fashion world, she became a full-time author and can’t believe she gets to spend her days creating stories. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, travel, and dance to pop anthems. Raised in Austria, Margo now lives in the USA with her husband and her Pomeranian.

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Please welcome Margo Ryerkerk to Uncaged! Uncaged: How did you make the leap to author from the fashion and marketing world? What inspired your writing? I always loved writing, I even wrote a screenplay that was performed at my junior high or Gymnasium as we say in Austria. However, I grew up in the nineties in Austria and saying you wanted to be an author was akin to saying you wanted to be a unicorn back then. In my mid-twenties, I realized that the corporate world simply wasn’t for me, and that I missed being creative and having autonomy. These reasons led to me writing again. Amazon and the opportunities it provides for indies, finally allowed me to make the leap into self-publishing. As for what inspires my writing—everything. I know that’s such a cliché, but I really do get ideas while walking, taking a shower, watching people, as well as from other books, movies, and TV shows.


Uncaged: Fluidis Rising is your debut novel, is that correct? It’s the first book of The Ardere Series, can you tell me how many books are planned for the series? Yes, it is my debut novel. Five books are planned in the series. Fluidus Rising is already available on Amazon, the second book Mirror Sacrifice will be published in February. The complete series will become available in 2018.

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abilities as well as the snobbish elite in London. She and Gavin drift apart, and there’s a new leading man in her life. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? Two weeks to outline. Two months to write and edit. Then it goes to my betas. This is followed by a rewrite and sending it to my editor.

Uncaged: Can you give readers more information about the book? Absolutely. Sierra Reeves thought her whole life that she was a normal girl, but on her eighteenth birthday she’s thrown into the supernatural world. She must learn in a short time a lot about this secret society and how to control her growing telekinetic powers. To stay safe from those that want to harm her, she teams up with Gavin, who is as stubborn as he is handsome.

My writing process starts with the question: where do I want the story to go? Once I know the ending, I do a chapter by chapter outline. And then it’s time to sit down and type word after word in my Word Document. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Favorite is to create characters and a universe and writing high-stakes, tension-filled scenes.

Sparks fly, and tension rises, especially when a serial killer targets Savannah.

Editing can be hard. You feel like you’re that close to the finish line, but it always takes five times longer than you expected it to.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Yes, I do, every single one. Reviews are great. Writing is such a solitary experience, you can go for weeks creating something without any feedback. Then you get betas who might be great writers, but not necessary your target audience. When the reviews start to trickle in, you really get some feedback regarding whether you achieved what you wanted to, and if readers are connecting with your characters and the world you created.

Traveling and exploring the world. I went to Cuba recently and hope to see Asia in the next few years. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? The hardest part are the transitioning scenes, which are necessary but have low tension and can be boring to write.

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?

The easiest for me is dialogue. It’s like a ping pong match that escalates with every hit.

Mirror Sacrifice is coming out in February. This is the second book, and Sierra has to tackle her elemental

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | where can they follow you? Thank you so much for your support! Without you I wouldn’t be able to live out my dream. Please sign up to my newsletter to get the latest updates and be notified of giveaways and other goodies: https://margoryerkerk.com/contact/ You can also follow me on Instagram (MargoRyerkerk), Facebook (Margo Ryerkerk), or Twitter (@MargoRyerkerk)

Enjoy an excerpt from Fluidis Rising Fluidis Rising Margo Ryerkerk Young Adult/Paranormal

a lie.

Magic. Romance. And a fight to the death. Torn away from her high school graduation, Sierra Reeves discovers that everything she thought she knew is

In a flash, she’s no longer a normal girl preparing for college, but a Fluidus—a rare supernatural with telekinetic powers. Her new abilities attract the attention of both the Ardere regency and the Culpatus, a group that wants to overthrow the supernatural government. Fearful for Sierra’s future, her grandmother decides to leave their home state Vermont and hide out in Savannah, Georgia. In Savannah, Sierra forms an alliance with the 58 | UncagedBooks.com

overprotective and handsome Ardere marshal Gavin McLoughlin. With his help, she slowly accepts her new powers and that she’s a part of the supernatural community. Just when Sierra begins to settle into her new life, her world is rocked again. In addition to the Culpatus discovering her location, a serial killer is on the loose in Savannah. Fighting to control her developing power, and facing danger on multiple fronts, Sierra will have to use all her resources to stay alive. Excerpt Sierra Reeves had expected the day of her high school graduation and eighteenth birthday to be a joyful event. It signified the end of her overly protected and boring existence and marked the beginning of her actual life. Yet, here she stood in line to accept her diploma, pulling at the ends of her chocolate-brown hair and feeling nervous instead of joyful. A layer of sweat coated her back, and her forehead itched underneath her graduation cap. She kept glancing back at the parents in the bleachers. The ceremony had started over half an hour ago, and Dad was still a no-show, the seat next to Gran unoccupied. Despite being in her seventies, Gran Waldeburg had a vitality about her that many teenagers lacked. Instead of sitting at home and knitting or complaining about modern life, she stayed active by gardening, cooking, cycling, and acquiring unusual clothing. Today she wore a floor-length, paisley dress with bell sleeves adorned by half a dozen multicolored necklaces, making her stand out like a beacon in the mass of neutral suits. Normally, Sierra didn’t mind Gran’s eccentric style, but today she wished Gran would’ve gone with something more subdued. Noticing Sierra’s stare, Gran arched an eyebrow, which matched her unruly winter-white curls. Sierra whipped her head back, redirecting her attention to the podium. One after another, the students accepted their diplomas and shook hands with the principal. “Fifteen more to go, and then it’s our turn,” Tammy

said. The minuscule size of Manchester, Vermont and their high school resulted in Tammy Scott standing next to Sierra Reeves. So far, this was the only good thing about June eighth. Tammy tapped Sierra’s shoulder. “Did you ask about Burlington?” “Yes. The answer is still the same. I can’t go.” Sierra chewed on her lip. “Why not? It’s only two and a half hours away, and you’re eighteen now. She can’t tell you what to do!” In front of Sierra, Becky whirled around, the golden tassel on her cobalt cap swinging, and put a finger to her lips. Tammy smiled sweetly at her, then jabbed Sierra. “It’s just for the weekend. You deserve to celebrate graduation and your birthday.” Sierra sighed. “I tried everything. Gran won’t budge. You know I want to go.” “That’s what you always say.” “This time is different. She’s not just being overprotective. Dad’s coming back from business. He wants to spend the weekend with me.” “I see. And where was he for your last five birthdays?” Sierra pressed her lips together until her molars touched. Tammy’s brown eyes turned apologetic, and she tried to reach out. Sierra leaned away. Gran always said, “You can’t take back words.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.” Sierra nodded, acknowledging the apology. “It’s our turn.” She made her way to the podium, taking care not to slip on the shiny, parquet floor in her threeinch black pumps. Her nerve endings grew tauter with each step. She swallowed, trying to get some moisture into her mouth. Her gaze swiped one last time over the parents in the bleachers to confirm that the seat next to Gran was still empty. Despite his promises, Dad hadn’t made it after all. Principal Carr smiled encouragingly. A tall and puttogether woman, her graphite pantsuit fit her to a T. Sierra swallowed hard. With all eyes on her, and while her dad was missing, she wanted to get this over with. The principal said words of congratulation. Their exact meaning escaped Sierra, the syllables melting into white noise. Finally, the principal

| MARGO RYERKERK | reached for the diploma. Eager, Sierra extended her hand, and then the strangest of things happened. The diploma floated into her palm. It didn’t fall into her palm. It wasn’t blown into her hand. No. It floated. As if it had obeyed her will. The principal gave a nervous laugh. Sierra blinked in rapid succession and then hurried from the podium, furtively glancing at the students and parents surrounding her. No one seemed to have noticed. She shook her head. Of course not, objects didn’t just up and fly through the air. She must’ve imagined it. Nerves. Then she noticed the frown on Gran’s face and something else. Gran’s whole body was outlined in a green hue. Okay, now she really had lost it. Sierra sat down in her seat and kept her gaze trained on the podium, not daring to sneak another peek at Gran. Fortunately, Tammy didn’t speak or try otherwise to engage Sierra until the end of the ceremony, giving her plenty of opportunity to convince herself that the stress of the day was responsible for the mirages. Take deep breaths. Try to relax. How did Gran’s technique work again? Ah, yes. My breath travels from the top of my head to my toes. Oxygen to the brain, neck muscles soft and pliable, unknotted belly, calmness in my feet. “Are we still on for six?” “Hmm?” Sierra turned to Tammy to discover the graduation ceremony was over and everyone was clearing out. “Sorry, yes, of course. Do you want me to bring something?” “As if you could sneak anything past your Gran.” Tammy chuckled. “Don’t worry. I’ve stashed away a cherry vodka bottle. Plenty for the two of us until we get to Rick’s party. Your job is to secure a curfew past midnight.” Sierra sighed. “I can’t make any promises. It depends—” “On your dad and Gran. Yeah, I know.” “I’m glad to hear you understand,” Gran said in a calm yet firm voice, joining them. Tammy jerked. Recovering quickly, she said, “Of course, Mrs. Reeves.” Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Sierra pushed her lips together, suppressing a smile. As much as Tammy enjoyed giving advice to others on how to stand up to authority, she didn’t adhere to it herself. “We must go.” Gran placed her hand on Sierra’s arm. The green glow was still there. “What do you mean? There are drinks and paninis outside.” Sierra pointed toward the hall. “I’m sorry. We can’t stay.” “Umm, I’ll catch you later,” Tammy said. She pointed to her cell and mouthed, “Text me.” “What’s going on?” Sierra asked. “I’ll tell you once we’re on our way.” The urgency in Gran’s voice and in her face temporarily drowned Sierra’s further protests. She pushed past her classmates, praying no one noticed her leaving early. She swallowed hard when her gaze fell on Ben and a raven-haired girl. Two months had passed. She should be fine. But she wasn’t. Ben had been the one to break it off after two years, saying it would be too hard for them to make it work—what with him going to college in Boston, while she remained in Vermont. Now it looked as if distance hadn’t been his only motive. “Go to the passenger side. I’m driving,” Gran instructed. Deciding to pick her battles, Sierra acquiesced. She buckled up, her pulse accelerating. “What’s going on? You’re freaking me out!” Gran’s veiny hands, bedecked with chunky antique rings quivered. “You’ve already noticed the changes, haven’t you? I’ll explain everything in a bit—” “What is it?” Did it have to do with Dad? Panic unfurled in Sierra. What if something bad had happened, preventing Dad from attending her graduation? An accident? A heart attack? Dad ran daily. He was in good shape. But diseases struck even healthy people…so did drunk drivers. No, it couldn’t be. Dad was fine, most likely delayed by an important last-minute meeting. At least that’s what Sierra kept telling herself during the short drive it took to reach their home. “You have ten minutes to pack. Bring only neces60 | UncagedBooks.com

sities. I’ll handle the passports and other documents. I promise I’ll explain everything. Please be patient.” Gran killed the engine and made her way down the gravel leading to their two-story brick house. The last time Gran had used her “I’m very serious” voice was when a ten-year-old Sierra had swiped painting supplies from a store without paying. Whatever was going on now, it was serious. Her pulse accelerated, drumming loudly, until it was all she could hear. How bad could it be? Was Dad alone in a hospital somewhere? Was he in critical condition? She needed to hurry. Rushing up the wooden stairs, she felt nausea at the scent of cinnamon and applesauce, which normally calmed her. She breathed through her mouth and forced herself to keep moving. From underneath her metal-framed bed, she pulled out a suitcase and threw in clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, and her sketchbook before forcing the zipper shut. About to leave the room, she realized she didn’t have her mother’s bracelet, which she had misplaced the day before. “Hurry up!” Gran called. “Just a second.” Sierra darted around the room, digging through drawers. Nothing. She threw the cerulean cover back, hoping to find the bracelet in her bed. Tears stung her eyes. She couldn’t lose the only heirloom she had from her deceased mother. Something crunched below her high heel; she kneeled to retrieve it, relieved to find the bracelet. Strange…she could’ve sworn it hadn’t been there a second ago. Pressed for time, she hauled her suitcase up and hurried down the stairs. While Gran locked the house and started the Chevy, sickening scenarios raced through Sierra’s mind. Only a horrific event would’ve made Gran pull Sierra out of her graduation celebration. The not knowing drove Sierra insane. In a whisper, she asked, “What is it? Did Dad get in an accident?” “Sierra, your father is dead.”


Uncaged Review One of my favorite genres to read is paranormal and this is a great start to a new series and a new author. Sierra is whisked away by her Gran after her graduation, and in all the turmoil of losing her father and finding out the magical world is real and she’s a part of it and part of the Ardere world, Sierra is expectedly lost and confused. As she learns her powers have unlocked and tries to manage them, she’s become a target, as a Fluidis, a rare type of Supernatural that a lot of people want a part of. When they get to Savannah, Gavin – the lead Ardere swears to protect her, even against other Arderes. I’m not going to lie, there are still a lot of unanswered questions with this supernatural world that I have not fully grasped. But even with that, the book is fast paced, especially from the mid-point on. A little more development in the magical part of the book would do wonders, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Reviewed by Cyrene

Sign-up for Margo’s mailing list and get a FREE copy of The Fracture, a prequel short story for the Ardere Series. Sign-up HERE.

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


feature author

Rena Marin is happily married to her soul mate, Daniel. They have two children, Cody and Amber. She was born and raised in Newport, Tn. The family still lives in the beautiful, mountain town today.

As a young girl she discovered a love for reading. By the time she was in middle school, she realized that love also included writing. Rena began writing short stories and never stopped. She still has notebooks filled with stories from back in those days. It has been a long time dream of hers to have published works. Rena has always loved reading and writing anything supernatural, paranormal, or fantasy. She is also a bit of a horror buff so to be honest there is no telling what genres she may find herself attempting.

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Uncaged welcomes Rena Marin! Uncaged: How was the writing process with S.C. Storm for the book, The Guardians? Did each of you write specific parts? It started out that way but by the time we found ourselves half way through the first draft the process completely changed. We found ourselves more comfortable with the characters the other had created and suddenly it just took off. Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series?


As of right now the plan is 5. Uncaged: Can you give readers more information about the book and series? The Guardians is a lot of ways, is the introduction to the

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Tempest World. The Guardians are the protectors of the Goddess Selena, and everything she has created. The Reapers, their mortal enemies, are part of an army that strives to release Silas, a God who controls the darkness of the Exodus. The vampire community has slacked in their duties to the Goddess while the werewolves have had to carry the load. When the book opens, the vampires are finding out their many years of neglect now has them all in trouble and it’s time for them to embrace their destinies. As the series unfolds we will find out if the races can work together to keep the evil from being unleashed as well as deal with one another’s egos and personal issues for the protection of the world. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? With this being my first release, I am constantly stalk-

ing the reviews. I want to know what others think about the world we’ve created and if they are enjoying the ride we are taking them on. If a reviewer is unhappy with the book, I want to know what I can do to improve the storyline as well as my writing. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? On December 30, 2017 we will be part of the Madame Scarlet’s Carnival anthology hosted by Zombie Cupcake Press. I am also awaiting edits on a Y/A horror series, Dead Oaks Terrors, which is co-written with Skylar McKinzie. We also plan on having The Gathering, The Tempest Isle Series Book 2 ready early in the year for release during the summer, hopefully. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing proIssue 18 | January 2018 |



when I get to add those in.

Our Tempest Series has been talked about for quite a while. We wrote one version of the story a few years back but scrapped it and wanted an entirely new concept. When we started on the new one, it took almost a year for it to come completely together. The co-write with Skylar McKinzie was finished in just a few months. Honestly, it truly just depends on how many times I come up with something else to add or get discouraged and start over. LOL.

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

Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part is hearing people talk about loving the stories I help create. It’s a great feeling when someone asks you questions about what will happen and show a genuine like for your work. The least favorite part has to be the marketing. I had no idea just how much of it would be involved, therefore I didn’t have a marketing plan in place. Now, I do and constantly feel like I’m trying to play catch up in that aspect. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love to read. I always have. I also spend time with my family. I am married with both a son and a daughter, so they keep me on my toes. I’m also a TV and movie buff. I have certain shows I cannot miss each week and movies I must catch in theaters. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? The opening is the hardest part for me. I usually know what I want to say but making sure to say it right, and catch a reader’s attention can be difficult. The easiest part of it to me is the conversations. I love character interaction and enjoy it 64 | UncagedBooks.com

I would like to thank all of them for taking the time to read my work and follow me on social medias. I’ve made a lot of wonderful new friends throughout this entire process and it really means the world to me. I hope everyone enjoys the stories I’m involved with and sticks with me through the journey.

Enjoy excerpts from The Guardians The Guardians S.C. Storm & Rena Marin Dark Fantasy Hidden in the beauty of a cluster of islands, unbeknownst to humans, a supernatural war rages. The Guardians, protectors of the Nexxus and the Goddess Selena, fight daily to ensure the survival of all races. Hidden agendas, supernatural politics, and sins of the past threaten to endanger the very world they all strive to protect. Led by two families who must embrace their destinies, the Guardians of Tempest must now step up to lead their races to victory. Excerpts The feel of the sand sliding between her toes brought a smile to her lips. It had been ages since she had walked on a beach or swam in the ocean. It seemed odd though. For Jasmyn O’Connor, this was in her blood, having been raised on an island off the coast of North Carolina. This, however, was completely out of her league. Since her first shift when she was a baby, the need to be near her home of Tempest had grown. She knew what she was. There had been no secrets in

| RENA MARIN | her family. She and the other O’Connors of Tempest Island were born and bred for one thing: Protection. Luckily for herself and the rest of her family, they were not meant to be alone in their responsibilities. No, there were others, which is why she was here doing what most werewolves despised. She was away from her territory, her pack, and everything she cared about to help Lexi locate a couple of happygo-lucky vampire asses who wanted to party and play with cute little college coeds instead of facing their destinies. F*ck that. If she and the rest of her family had to buck up and live their lives fighting the enemy and protecting their kind’s existence, these pricks did too. Still, in some ways she could understand their need to keep their freedom. They were old-ass vampires. Not elders. No, these dudes were as old as dirt. The Athertons were over seven hundred years old. That thought alone gave her a chill. These dumbass girlies were falling flat on their backs for two guys who were just slightly younger than dirt. Scanning the beach, it was easy to see why they were here. Bodies were literally everywhere. Why wouldn’t they be though? Cancún in the summerwhat better place? Making her way through the sea of people, she tried to keep her senses on alert, but of course, there were more than humans on the beach. Vivid, acutely aware eyes caught hers quite often. By scent she could tell who was like her and who was a vampire. Since there were no real issues between the species, except for the occasional pop-up rifts that were bound to happen, no one approached her or seemed upset by her presence. That was the way she liked it. Playing buddy-buddy with other supes she didn’t know was not her thing. Maybe it was a werewolf trait, or maybe it was just one of her own traits. Either way, chit-chatting about the history of the species and the things required of her were not her usual lead-ins to conversations. No, in all honesty she would prefer others not to knowabout her being a guardian. She hated seeing all the expectations in their eyes.

vampire who was watching her over his shoulder was none other than one of the Athertons, and he was no normal fanger. Hell no, he was, damn… He had to be at least six foot six. His body was chiseled, muscles everywhere. His light brown hair hung to his shoulders. She couldn’t help but bite her bottom lip when it swung slightly in the breeze. His deep eyes bore into her. It was as if he was reading her like a personal road map. She finally exhaled, letting out the breath she had been holding. Then she saw that smile, that shiteating grin that slid into place when he realized he had gotten her attention. “Arrogant bastard,” she growled. She was starting to turn away until she saw who he walked up to. A mirror image of himself stood between several females, all of whom were eating the brothers alive with their eyes. “F*ck,” she muttered, realizing the picture Lexi had shown her didn’t do them justice. She sighed, realizing what they were in for. Without any other options, she made her way toward the bar. There was no way they could approach them in this setting, so all they could do was watch and wait. Alexandra smiled as Jasmyn approached the bar. Taking off her sunglasses, she gave her a smile. “I see you found one.” She grinned. “You saw?” Jasmyn asked. “Yep, ran right into him, didn’t you?” Alexandra smirked. Jasmyn gave her a look. “Literally. Did you see the way he acted? It’s clear he’s arrogant. His brother must be the same way.”

“Watch your step, wolf,” someone muttered as they brushed past her.

“I’d say he is, at least from what I’ve seen of him.” She eyed both vampires. “Their looks are identical, just like the pictures. I wonder just how identical they are.”

Her mind had been so preoccupied, she hadn’t realized a vamp was near her. “Sorry,” she muttered as she glanced around.

Jasmyn shook her head. “Damn, Lex, you never change, do you? How long have you been watching this one?”

What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks. The

“I sure as hell hope not.” Lex chuckled. “I spotIssue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | ted him not long after I came out here. As you can see, they’re both surrounded by bimbos.” “And I think I’ve been added to that list,” Jasmyn said darkly. Alexandra burst out laughing. “I’m sure you’ll let him know differently.” She turned to the bar, ordering two shots of tequila. Alexandra and Jasmyn received their drinks, killed them, then turned to watch the twins. After leaving Florida, they had gotten a lead that the vampires were in Texas, so that’s where they had gone next. By the time she and Jasmyn had hit several coastal areas, they found out the Athertons were heading for California. After striking out there, another lead had brought them to where they were now, Cancún. Alexandra smirked to herself as she thought of how she had flirted with the guy at the hotel they were staying at for info. With a smile, a little show of cleavage, and a vague promise of meeting for a drink, she had him eating out of her hand. He’d not only told her they were registered there, he had also given her their room number. She shook her head as she put her sunglasses back on. Sometime later, she let out a low whistle as they both came out of the water. “Damn,” she mumbled. If they were hot in the pictures she had seen, right now they were downright gorgeous. Both were the same height, over six feet tall, and from what she could see, they were identical in every way. She watched the water drip down their abs and whistled again. Alexandra heard a woman’s voice near her. “They’re hot, aren’t they?” She turned. “Yeah they are.” “Well, get in line if you’re thinking about wanting them, but don’t expect more than a one-nighter,” the human said. Alexandra raised her brow at the sound of her voice. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.” 66 | UncagedBooks.com

“Yeah, those two around them are the flavor of the day. I was one of yesterday’s.” Alexandra ordered another drink. “Well I’m not interested in being one of their flavors, are you, cuz?” Jasmyn shook her head. “Count me out.” The human gave them a look. “Yeah, right,” she snapped, then walked off. Alexandra shook her head. “Bitter much?” “I’d say so,” Jasmyn replied. ********* Seeing the smirk on Ryden’s face, Ryder followed his eyes to see the wolves still sitting at the bar. “I would have thought they would have given up by now,” he said, absently grabbing the towel that was handed to him. He looked at the blonde, her arm still held out, and smirked seeing her face break into a wide smile. He shook his head at her reaction when he heard her heart beat faster. “No, they’re determined to wait us out, but I can feel one of the wolves’ patience wearing thin,” Ryden said, sitting down. Ryder looked over at the wolf he had bumped into and the one with her. They were both something to look at. Eyeing the wolf from earlier, he again took in her dark hair, which was down to her waist. Her piercing blue eyes put the sky to shame and stared at him, contrasting perfectly with her tanned skin. She had long legs to die for, which were attached to a body that curved in all the right places. “Damn,” he muttered, licking his lips. Hearing laughter, he glanced over at his twin, giving him a look that promised retribution. “Legs to die for? I would imagine you’re wondering how they’d feel wrapped around you,” Ryden smirked and looked toward the bar. He studied both wolves, mentally agreeing with his brother on the one he had been staring at. He looked the other wolf over. She was taller but just as built. Her dark hair was pulled back, but he figured it was just as long. He

| RENA MARIN | couldn’t see her eyes behind the sunglasses she was wearing, but her lips were lush and full, clearly made for kissing. Going lower, his eyes took in the rest of her curved body. “All that body, and all you notice are her lips?” His laugh was cut off as the blonde that had been hanging on Ryden all day plopped herself into his lap. “What’s wrong with you two? You haven’t said a word since you came out of the water.” The whiny tone of her voice and the irritated look on her face was in complete contrast to the pouty, sultry look she was trying to give.

already?” He smirked. “No, I’m going to get a drink.” Ryden looked pointedly at the bar. The taller wolf had taken off her glasses and met his gaze, holding it. He grinned at her. “I might find something new.” With that, he walked off, ignoring the blonde who called out for him to wait for her. Ryder caught her hand, holding her back. “Why don’t you just wait here for him?” “But I want a drink too,” she whined.

Ryden kissed her pouty lips, inwardly rolling his eyes at her giggle. “We’re just admiring the view,” he said, seeing her preen. Like the one you were admiring earlier, Ryden silently smirked.

Ryder reached down and grabbed a beer. “Here.” He shoved it into her hands. He saw her sit back down and heard the can open as he watched his brother approach the wolf.

That one was better, Ryder silently told him.

Watching the vampire make his way over, Alexandra knew what he was doing. She had felt the tug in her head that told her he was reading her mind, they both had. Instead of blocking him, she let him, knowing how important it was for them to head to Tempest. Growing up around vampires, this little trick was nothing new to her.

“That’s what I thought.” She giggled again, not realizing he wasn’t talking about her. Ryder shook his head, then looked up as a shadow came over him. Seconds later, he grunted as the human he had been flirting with earlier dropped into his lap. “She’s right, you know. You two don’t talk much.” “Talking is overrated,” Ryder said, running his hands over her. “I can think of other things more important.” He grinned and kissed her neck. Her body shuddered at his touch. Predictable as always, Ryder thought, hearing Ryden chuckle. He caught his brother’s eye and shook his head as they both grinned. The human in his lap looked between them. “What’s with you two? Half the time neither of you say much, and then sometimes you both look at each other and laugh. What’s up with that? It’s as if you do that twin thing I’ve heard about where you know what the other one is thinking.” That’s because we do, he thought. From the time they were babes, he and Ryden usually had communicated telepathically. All vampires could read minds, but being twins gave them an edge. He could see the human waiting for a response and just shrugged his shoulders, ignoring her question. He looked over seeing Ryden push the blonde off his lap. “Leaving

“He’s fucking trying to read our minds,” Jasmyn angrily told Alexandra. “Yeah, block him if you want, but I’m not. We need them to get their asses to Tempest as soon as possible,” Alexandra said. Reaching the bar, Ryden ordered a drink. “Whiskey and another for the ladies,” he told the bartender. “And what makes you think I want another one?” Jasmyn asked. “Drink it or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s there.” Ryden shrugged. “You’ve been following us.” “I felt you and your brother in my head, so you know why.” Alexandra turned toward him. While Ryden waited for their drinks, he took in the unusual color of her eyes. One minute they looked blue, the next they were green. She was tall for a woman, but standing next to him, she barely reached his chest. Once the bartender was Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | gone, he spoke. “You’re wasting your time, wolf. Neither my brother nor I are interested in ascending, so it looks like you came all this way for nothing.”

there around midnight. It should be empty of humans by then.”

Jasmyn felt a spark of anger at his words but kept quiet.

“All right,” Alexandra said. After a minute, she followed Jasmyn.

“Normally I would say you’re right and just leave, but I was hired to do a job. I can’t go until it’s done,” Alexandra told him.

Jasmyn had stalked off toward the edge of the water. She pulled her shirt off, took off her shorts, and dove in, needing to cool off—and not because of the heat.

“You were sent to find us, and you have, so your job is done,” Ryden said.

Feeling a gaze on her, Alexandra turned around, meeting the vampire’s eyes. Breaking the eye contact, she turned, untied the wrap around her waist, dropped it, and went into the water.

“Look deeper next time you’re in someone’s mind, honey. Yes, I was sent to find you and to bring you back. Your race is dying. More importantly, your friend is, or don’t you care? Alexandra said. Ryden’s gaze stayed on hers, and she could feel him in her mind again. This time she blocked him. “You were sent by a Langford.” “Yes, Mileena. It’s her grandfather, Arthur.” Alexandra looked around, noticing they were getting looks from the humans around them. “Look, if you want to know more, meet us later, and we’ll tell you everything we know.” “And if we don’t?” Jasmyn looked at the vamp. “I had heard you two were arrogant assholes who didn’t care about anyone but yourselves. I didn’t believe it until now,” she said as she got up to go. She felt a hand on her arm and snapped her head in the vamp’s direction. “Let go unless you want to lose that hand.” She growled low. Ryden let her go. “I wondered if there was any fire in you.” “There’s a lot more to me than what you see, vamp.” “I look forward to finding out.” Ryden turned to Alexandra. “You said you wanted to meet us, where?” “There’s an old dock south of the hotel. We’ll be 68 | UncagedBooks.com

“My brother and I will be there,” Ryden stated.

Ryden watched for a few minutes, noticing his was not the only gaze on the she-wolves. He had to admit they were both stunning. He smiled as he thought of the smaller wolf’s eyes flashing her anger. Thoughts of their old family friend invaded his mind as he glanced at his brother. He wondered what other news the little wolf had hidden in that head of hers. He paid for the drinks and headed back to his brother. Sitting down, Ryden looked at the humans. “Give us a minute, ladies.” They looked at him as if he were crazy. “I’m not asking again,” he said. “Are you serious?” the one on Ryder’s lap said. “He’s not serious, is he?” she asked him. “As a heart attack,” Ryder responded, giving her a push. Both the women got up and stalked off. He tuned out their bitching as he turned to Ryden. “Do you believe her? About Arthur that is.” Ryden shook his head. “I didn’t catch that she was lying. She doesn’t know him, though. It’s what was told to her.” “By who?” “Mileena. She’s the one who contacted the wolf,” Ryden said quietly. Ryder let out a low whistle. “So she’s a tracker.” “They both are,” Ryden said, looking off toward the water. The she-wolves were waist-deep in the water talking quietly. “They want us to meet them at midnight.”

| RENA MARIN | “Why? What else do they have to tell us?” Ryder asked. “I don’t know. I could have probed deeper, but they’re from the island. You know they’re trained to block as much of their thoughts as they can. To go deeper could be dangerous.” “Bloody hell.” Ryder hissed, running his hands through his head. “If it’s true about Arthur, you know what that means.” Ryden nodded. “Yes, we can’t ignore it anymore.” He sighed.

Uncaged Review This is a fast paced start to a new series that is engaging and well thought out. The Supernaturals in this book – work together to fight one common enemy, the Reapers. Keeping humankind safe from the Reapers, the Guardians are shifters, vampires and witches. This book does not focus on one set of characters, and there is quite a large cast, but the authors do a good job with the cast. The one con that I have with the book, is that sometimes I was a bit confused on who I was reading about, but the authors drew me back in quick enough. Even though the book is written by two authors, the writing is cohesive and consistent, and you can’t find any wayward seams that would separate the two authors. Looking forward to the next book in the series. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature author Stephen is a former UK Detective Sergeant, undercover cop and barrister (trial attorney). Now a writer, author and Huffington Post UK blogger. Stephen’s memoir Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story was published in September 2016 and rapidly became an Amazon UK #1 Best Seller in two categories. It tells of his undercover role in infiltrating one of the world’s largest ever drug rings. Keeping in tune with the undercover theme, Stephen has now published the first book in a trilogy based on his undercover cop days. When he is not writing, Stephen follows Liverpool Football Club from afar and enjoys the beaches of the Philippines. He is often to be found on the beach with a book and a cold beer.

Stay Connected


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Uncaged welcomes Stephen Bentley! Uncaged: You were a former police sergeant and an attorney in the U.K, and now retired living in the Philippines. Have you always had a passion for writing? “Always had a passion” is perhaps the wrong phrase. I now have that passion but owing to my former careers, my liking for writing took a back seat for many years. One of my first career choices while still at school was journalism. However I ended up as a police officer instead. Uncaged: Your background in police work obviously influences your writing, but can you give readers an overview of Who the F*ck Am I? - the Steve Regan Undercover Cop series? Is there a set amount of books for the series or is it open-ended? Let me answer the last question first - it is the first in a trilogy. I really do not anticipate Regan to last beyond three books but one never knows. I have wanted to write fiction for some time so the Steve Regan series was a natural for me because it is a spin-off from my undercover cop memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story.’

Back in the 70’s, during Operation Julie, which is still the UK’s biggest drug bust, I met two real Mafia type gangsters who wanted me to help them import huge quantities of cocaine from Bolivia, via Miami, into the UK. ‘Who The F*ck Am I?’ is a figment of my imagination where I explore the possibility these two gangsters were in fact undercover law enforcement agents one of whom was a “dirty cop.” Though fiction, the book also deals with a theme of the real temptations to “cross the line” by undercover cops and the identity confusion caused by this type of infiltration work. Hence the title ‘Who The F*ck Am I?’

Let me give an example to illustrate my point: one Amazon reviewer gave my memoir only 2 stars. He said he liked it but it was badly written owing to the fact it had not given a “flavor of the times.” What the reader failed to take into account was it was a true story about me and my undercover role. It was not a book about “the times.” It was not about hippies, free festivals, and the changing times. The book was never intended to be a social commentary.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

I am still writing Book 2 in the Steve Regan series. I hope to finish and publish it by March 2018. I also have a full autobiography as a WIP that deals, among other issues, with my days as a barrister (attorney) as a criminal trial lawyer in London. Then I plan to write some historical fiction based on true events during WW2.

I do read them and I always get a little excited when a new review appears. Sometimes the excitement is short-lived if it is a bad review but I am lucky in that the overwhelming majority of my books have received either four or five stars. I never mind constructive criticism, in fact I welcome it. It is the silly criticisms that are hard to ignore though I now laugh at them.

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?

Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? On average I would say 9-12 months from conception to publishing including all the stages such as Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | editing. That time span could be shorter if I was more disciplined in my writing. Most of the time I write when I feel like doing so not because I feel I must. My writing process starts off with an idea for a book then the hard work begins. I am a plotter not a pantster so I plot it all out in great detail. Once I am satisfied the extended outline is right, I write. That is often when the story changes as I write because sometimes the characters take over or an unforeseen plot twist occurs to me. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Favorite is seeing the final product listed on Amazon especially when the first review appears. Least favorite is marketing! It is so time-consuming. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I enjoy the beaches of the Philippines with my family. It is a tropical climate so a cold beer is also “mandatory.” I also enjoy reading and occasionally watching British sports on TV. Oh! And I love karaoke :) Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? The start of the book is the hardest for me. I need to get that hook in early and keep the reader’s interest. Dialogue is the easiest for me. I love writing dialogue. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would say a huge thank you to you all for taking an interest in my writing, for buying my books, and a huge shout-out for those who left a review. 72 | UncagedBooks.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Who the F*ck Am I? Who the F*ck Am I? Stephen Bentley Suspense/Crime This surely has to be a first? Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop! From author, Stephen Bentley, comes a fictional undercover cop, Steve Regan, following on the success of his true crime undercover cop memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story.’ In real life and while undercover, the author met a Mafia-connected gangster who involved Bentley, the undercover cop, in a conspiracy to import huge amounts of cocaine into the UK from Bolivia via Miami. The gangster was reported to have been dealt with by the DEA and sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence. But was he? And was he all he was supposed to be? This is where the author moves from fact (memoir) into fiction (this book). Reading this book gives you some insight into the shadowy world of drugs and undercover cops. It’s a world many simply don’t know about. Steve Regan, undercover detective, is tempted by the riches of drug smuggling so he can be free of debt, police bureaucracy, and help a loved one. He wonders whether he can go ‘rogue’ and cross the line. Regan gets involved in one deal with a Miami-based drug lord. But is everyone who they say they are? Excerpt Excerpt

| STEPHEN BENTLEY | “Boss, I need a passport and need it double quick.” “What for? Where are you going?” asked Green. “Miami, Florida, the United States of A!” “Over my dead body!” “Bang! Bang! You’re dead,” Regan pointed a makebelieve gun and pulled the make-believe trigger twice. Three days later Regan held his new passport in his hand. “Hey boss, I don’t know how you do it but that was rapid.” Rick Green fired back, “You don’t want to know. Come in my office, Steve.” As Regan eased into the leather high-backed chair and stretched out his long legs, Green closed the door behind them. “Uh uh! I’ve seen that look before. I could be in for a bollocking.” “No bollocking, but I do want a serious chat.” “That’s even worse. A bollocking I can take, but seriousness …” “Steve, shut the f*ck up … please. And take off those sunglasses. I bet you sleep with them on.” Regan removed the Aviators and said, “Sorry boss. Go ahead.” “I’m concerned about this trip …” Regan’s mouth started to move … “Shut the fuck up.” Green cut off Regan before he could utter a word. “These guys are serious players. Fucking Colombians ….” “Bolivians actually, boss.” “Same f*cking thing. They don’t f*ck about. This isn’t our guys making acid here. These are the real deal. Nasty f*ckers. What really worries me is you are going in alone now that Red is off the scene.” “In some ways that’s better.” “How so?” “These guys are gonna be wary of a twosome. It’s kinda like classic Starsky & Hutch stuff, don’t you think? Besides less chance of cock-ups if I go alone.” “Yes, there is that to be said for it but how are you going to keep in touch?” “I’m not. Too risky.” “Take a wire with you,” Green said.

“No f*cking way, boss. Those things are the size of house bricks. I’m dead if they pat me down and find that thing and the wires. Besides you need half a ton of sticky tape to stop it falling and hitting the floor with an almighty bang. ‘Oh fuck me!’ says I – ‘where did that come from?’ No way!” “I have to agree with you on that one. Promise me this – as soon as you land back at Heathrow, call me.” “Promise.” “And don’t do anything stupid.” “Such as?” “Just behave, is all.” “You sound like my dad,” laughed Regan. “F*ck off, Steve. Who would want you as a son?” “My mother?” Green erupted in laughter, “You have always got an answer.” “Let’s hope that is always the case. It may just keep me alive.” “Bon Voyage, Steve, bonne chance.” “Ca Va! Et au revoir.” *** Miami, October 1976 The Mercedes whispered along the boulevards. The hush was sustained all the way to a pastel pink coloured high wall topped with razor wire and bristling with cameras. The driver honked the horn twice, one long and one short. The solid metal gates slid back on their runners ending in a ‘clang’ as the gate struck the stop point. The car inched forwards at the same time as the driver powered down his window. “One guest,” said the driver. The security guard gripped his machine pistol with one hand and saluted with the other. It wasn’t a formal military salute but more of a mock salute as between amigos. Regan felt his buttocks tighten. This is serious shit, my man, he thought. It was about one hundred yards of gravelled drive before reaching the large, pink Frank Lloyd Wright inspired house. Regan saw the Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | three Dobermanns and the armed security in the grounds of the house. There were more cameras adorning the front of the building, no doubt all relayed to a central bank of monitors within. A glimpse to his right revealed a helicopter landing pad. Shit! This is real heavy. The Mercedes came to a stop outside the front door. The door was huge and made up of two identical solid hardwood doors. One of them opened and a familiar face appeared. “Steve! So good to see you again.” “You too, Bill.” Both men hugged for a moment until Bill spoke again. “Follow me. I will introduce you to the team, as I call them. By the way, glad you smartened up some.” Regan nodded and brushed his hair back with his hand to check the new length. He followed Bill down a large hallway. On the right was a wide spiralling staircase. To the left more rooms. They went through an open plan kitchen area leading to a three paned sliding door that led out to the pool at the back of the house. Poolside sat three large round glass topped tables complete with parasols. Each table was surrounded by six comfortable padded high-backed chairs. Further down the pool were several loungers with topless female bodies draped on each one, some showing white cheeks, and some who were gazing upwards, showing tanned tits. Bill’s voice made him snap out of his thoughts. “How is Red?” “Lost his f*cking arm so I guess he’s pissed-off.” “Better than losing his head,” someone interjected. Regan wheeled around towards the direction of the voice. There were three men sitting at one of the round tables. All looked dark skinned with olive complexions and shoulder length black hair. All three wore near identical clothes, white loose linen trousers and wildly loud Hawaiian shirts. Gucci loafers were the footwear of choice. All three men were bedecked in heavy gold – bracelets 74 | UncagedBooks.com

and neck chains. It appeared they all wore Rolex wrist watches. The fattest of the three was facing Regan. He was about to insert a lit, fat Cuban cigar into his mouth after addressing his newly arrived guest. His jaw dropped when he heard what Regan had to say. “That supposed to be some kind of a joke, my fat friend?” “Sit down, Carlo!” Carlo was about to respond to Regan’s jibe until commanded to remain seated by the man next to him. Regan looked at the last speaker who by now had stood. He ambled rather than walked towards Regan with an outstretched hand. “I am Enrico. You are a welcome guest in my home. Take no notice of Carlo. Sometimes he’s an asshole.” Everyone present laughed, except Carlo. Regan accepted the hand. They not only shook hands but embraced for a fleeting moment. It was long enough for Enrico to whisper, “Be careful, my friend. He will not forget that.” Bill interrupted, “Guys, this is Steve Regan, the Brit I was telling you about. Steve, you have already met Carlo and Enrico. This is Marvin. He is our man in Bolivia.” “Hi, Marvin.” Marvin did not respond except for the smallest wave of his right hand as a gesture of salutation. Regan knew who called the shots as Enrico ordered the girls to go do something even though they weren’t in earshot of any conversation. The tallest of the girls stood, smiled and said, “Enrico baby, it’s too hot to play tennis.” Enrico smiled back, “I hear you Laurie, here baby.” He beckoned Laurie towards him. Regan took her in. All of her from head to toe. Laurie was about five feet ten inches tall and slender, but with large tits. She wore nothing but a G-string. Regan thought, Yes. Yes, I could. Enrico spoke to Laurie again, “Take the girls to the mall. Buy some clothes or something.” He peeled off a handful of one hundred dollar bills and gestured for her to come get it. She walked like a model and took the money. Enrico smacked her arse as she walked away giggling. The girls went inside to get changed leaving Regan, Bill, Carlo and Marvin seated at the

| STEPHEN BENTLEY | round table. Enrico pressed an intercom buzzer, “Bring more ice and the liquor cabinet.” He turned to the men at the table and said, “Okay, let’s start again. What happened to your buddy, Steve? “He had an accident with a chainsaw. Cut off his arm and nearly died.” “Carlo, apologise to the man,” snapped Enrico. “Yeah. Sorry … didn’t mean anything ….” “Okay, apology accepted. You’re not fat. Just need to go on a bit of a diet,” grinned Regan. Three men laughed. Two did not, but stared at each other – Carlo and Regan. The liquor cabinet arrived. It was wheeled down from the house by a waiter dressed in a white top and black trouser uniform. He looked immaculate. The cabinet was similar to those on an airliner except it was gold plated. The waiter opened it up and removed an ice bucket, tongs and an ice pick along with a large bag of ice. He used the ice pick to break up the ice then tipped it into the bucket. Six bottles were placed on the white linen table cloth covering the table. Regan could see they were the finest single malt Scotch whiskeys, an Irish whiskey and some bottles of bourbon. The waiter went about his business in silence and was the epitome of efficiency. He was then dismissed by Enrico. Enrico spoke first after the drinks had been poured and ice administered. “Let’s talk business.” It wasn’t a request, more of a command. “Before we do may I ask something,” Regan said. “Sure,” replied Enrico. “Bill, where’s Blue?” “Back in the UK. He stayed to fix the connections over there in case, and in the hope, you decide to join our venture.” Before Regan could open his mouth, Enrico spoke, “We can get to that later. First, we need to know if you are in. To answer that you have to know what you are getting ‘in’ to.” “Sounds about right to me,” replied Regan. “Excuse me?” Enrico asked. Bill interpreted, “Just a Brit expression, Enrico. Means he’s agreeing with what you just said.”

“Why didn’t he say that then?” “I did,” laughed Regan. Enrico showed no emotion, for a second, then burst out laughing. “You Brits crack me up.” Enrico Bruno spoke with a strong New York accent. He was second generation of a Sicilian immigrant family. Carlo Vitale was his cousin and a trusted consigliere. He also acted as an enforcer when required. He and Enrico had been inseparable since they were kids in Little Italy, Manhattan. Marvin Ledesma was Bolivian. He procured the virgin cocaine from the farmers’ cooperative in Bolivia and was the conduit to its supply to the Bruno family. The supply route was initially from Bolivia to Miami by small light aircraft. The cocaine parcels, wrapped in oilskin, were fished out of the sea by small fast boats which soon disappeared into the myriad of marinas and docks scattered all around Miami. These men never went near the product. Nor did they physically handle the money. It was laundered through legitimate businesses. They organised it, controlled it, took the profits and got rid of any obstructions in their way. They were never content, always looking to make more money, find new outlets and satisfy an evergrowing worldwide demand for their product. Enrico knew Europe and the UK were hungry for his product. He saw Regan as the answer to his man in the UK, never quite having trusted Blue. Enrico knew he needed Bill for other things. Bill was busy enough with the supply lines into Miami and Vancouver. Bruno’s crime syndicate was the kind of thing Regan aspired to combat even in his earliest days on the job. He was an idealist when he first became a police officer, thinking he could help change the world by fighting crime. He saw himself as a kind of superhero without super powers or a cape. He knew society needed laws and it needed the likes of him. Over time he became disillusioned. He was surrounded by incompetents, lazy uniform carriers and some corrupt officers. Moreover, he was surrounded by paperwork, the bane of his life. He soon noticed that Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | many of the incompetents were moved out of the field but upwards, a promotion and more money. Money or lack of it was a constant problem for Regan. His rapid rise as a star among the detective ranks saw him recruited for undercover work. There was no training, no assessment. Someone thought of him and he was asked. Regan loved the adrenaline rush so it took no time at all to agree. At first they were mundane undercover tasks, more like surveillance than deep undercover work. Then he was asked about the infiltration work. Once more, not much thought was needed despite the inherent dangers. He was a natural. Regan had an ability to blend in. He was a human chameleon. He stood six feet two inches tall but despite his height still merged into the background. Regan had those hooded ‘Robert Mitchum’ type hazel eyes that constantly gave off an aura of chill, as in relaxed. Many women found his looks attractive with his fine chiselled features and especially since his hair grew longer commensurate to the time he spent undercover. Regan’s real family name was also Irish. He was brought up in Liverpool by an Irish Catholic family. His mother Khaterine and grandmother Janet were the driving force behind the family’s Catholic values. Both saintly women but tough as old nails. Steve, for that was his real given name, never gave much thought to his faith when growing up in the bosom of the family. It wasn’t a subject for discussion but was there, always there, and part of his fabric as a human being. In spite of that, faith did depart him at one stage of his life. Steve Regan in his private life had once been married. He married his childhood sweetheart, Sarah, when they were both twenty-two years old. One year later Sarah gave birth to Rose. Another year later Steve was a widower. Both wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident on the outskirts of Liverpool. He ranted and raged at the world and denied the very existence of a god. Regan threw himself deeper into his undercover 76 | UncagedBooks.com

world. He became more committed than ever to right the wrongs of the world. His undercover world was where he hid. Regan did his best to isolate himself from reality and became more like the Regan he portrayed than his real self. As much as he tried to hide from reality, once more his real self was threatened when he received news about his mother’s illness. She had a tumour on her brain and it was said to be inoperable. The doctors gave her six months to live. Khaterine turned to her faith and enlisted her son’s help. He, reluctantly, agreed to accompany her on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in France. Regan was given compassionate leave. It was during his time at Lourdes Regan regained his faith. It took him by utter surprise. He had taken on board all the doctors had told him about his mother’s tumour. He was resigned to losing her as an inevitability. His place was to be with her, to offer support and comfort. A mass was held every day during the week long pilgrimage. Prior to one of them, his mother’s parish priest, Father Desmond, asked her if she wished to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Naturally, she said “Yes.” The priest turned to Regan and asked the same question. “I’m not sick or dying, Father.” “No, son I’m sure that is correct but you don’t have to be. As a carer for your mother you are in need of the Lord’s succour and the sacrament also reminds us that God wants to give comfort to the suffering and wants us to relieve suffering where we can.” Regan shrugged and said, “Okay.” The ten o’ clock mass was said and both Khaterine and her son were called over to the side of the church. There were ten in the group. To each in turn Father Desmond anointed them by making the Sign of the Cross on the forehead with the Chrism and said, “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” He then anointed all on the hands, saying, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. Amen.” Regan experienced a feeling he had never known previously. One moment he was aware of his surroundings. He had been staring at the church walls and the Stations of the Cross. Next moment he was

| STEPHEN BENTLEY | in another world. Regan lost focus. He couldn’t see. There were only vague images and they were out of focus. It was an out of body experience in which he seemed to regress to the womb and felt utterly cleansed. He felt brand new, clean. The experience also had an impact on Regan’s mother. Within three months of arriving home from Lourdes, the doctors had no scientific explanation why her tumour had shrunk to the size of a pea. Khaterine turned to the open mouthed doctors and said, “Faith cannot be explained by science.” The medical team advised a further scan six months ahead. That scan revealed it had disappeared with no trace. That was two years ago. Regan concentrated on the here and now of Miami. He reminded himself where he was and who he was surrounded by.

Don’t miss: Undercover - Operation Julie Stephen Bentley True Crime

of the war on drugs.

Uncaged Review This book has something going for it in that an exundercover officer wrote about crime, so I think that is partly what made this very believable, even though I found some of their actions a bit on the shocking side. Pros – the characters are original and engaging and the plot is well thought out. The world is described well and it’s easy to picture the scene as you read along. Cons – this was a real slow starter. If you get through the first few chapters, you will be in for an engaging read. I like when a book starts out fast and peppers the action with the descriptions as we go, this one did not. But don’t let that hold you back – the real-life experiences of the author does the book justice. Reviewed by Cyrene

Operation Julie is still today the point of reference for all British undercover operations and training. In 2011, the BBC claimed this massive and unique police operation was the start

Stephen Bentley was one of four undercover detectives engaged on Operation Julie, one of the world’s largest drug busts. Together with his undercover partner, he infiltrated the gang producing around 90 percent of the world’s LSD and uncovered a plot to import huge quantities of Bolivian cocaine into the UK. The underworld knew the author as Steve Jackson. How did he successfully infiltrate the two gangs? Did he have to take drugs, and how did ‘living a lie’ affect him? Discover the answers and get inside the mind of Steve Jackson, undercover detective.

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


feature author S. J. Francis was born to be a writer, but not until high school did writing take over. Always ready to take on any writing project when assigned one as a child, Francis wasn’t aware, yet that it was a love for writing burning within the soul that welcomed the projects. It all started with the publication of one short story that had been rejected so many times, that Francis lost count that the writing bug awakened. S. J. Francis is a long time freelance writer, a University Professor, bibliophile, and most recently, a novelist. Writing keeps Francis sane even when life around isn’t. An active voice for causes that involve animals, and military veterans, Francis is never at a loss to help others, especially the underdog, cat, and other writers. With over three hundred publication credits, Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to local newspapers. Francis’ background also encompasses working as an executive producer for network and public TV. When not writing Francis can be found reading a good book, or spending time in the outdoors with the pets. As in all the stories Francis writes, in the end, good and bad, it’s all about family. NOTE: 10% of this book’s sales will be donated to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation to help fight this insidious disease that strikes both adults and children. For more info about this disease see: www.pkdcure.org/


78 | UncagedBooks.com

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Uncaged welcomes S.J. Francis! Uncaged: First of all, I want to thank you for your service. You are a veteran, but you also have quite a varied background and you wear many hats. Where did the inspiration for Scattered Lies come from? SJ: Thank you so much! That is much appreciated. Those who serve in the military make a huge sacrifice that is often overlooked. Military veterans are all around us and I wanted to show that, which is why one of the characters in Shattered Lies is an Army Veteran. Your question is the most often posed to me. My mind is always at work. It all came from a one line thought of “What if”. What if a young woman from a good family found out everything she knew was a lie. The idea evolved from the “what if” occurred in July 1999. It then went into hibernation. It didn’t come to life until I moved from up North down to Mississippi. Uncaged: You are donating 10% of the proceeds of sales from this book to the Polycystic Kidney Foundation, is there a specific reason you chose that charity? SJ: Polycystic Kidney disease is an insidious disease that affects both children and adults yet, very few people have heard about it. It takes too many lives. Babies are born and doomed with it. Others are born with it and

don’t find out until mid-life that they have it. I found out that Polycystic Kidney Disease runs in my family, many families, in fact, which makes it a cause close to home. Uncaged: Can you give readers more information about the book? SJ: Shattered Lies is about life, a reflection of it and the world around us. The families in it spoke to me. I had no choice but to write it. No more so than when I moved down south to Mississippi. That is when the story really evolved. After considering several states where to set Shattered Lies over the years, Mississippi was the place to set it. There was no other place. Down here, I saw the book come alive. There was no other place. Shattered Lies could happen in any family. The story is purely fictional, but what happens to the family could happen to anyone. Best part about this story is that it could appeal to anyone. Some have called it a suspense novel while others counter that. I actually had one reader say it could work as a Young Adult novel. Whatever you call it, I just hope the readers enjoy it. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? SJ: Yes, I do read reviews for Shattered Lies. Some are enlightening while others are flattering; some don’t say anything at all, but everyone is valuable in one way or another. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and fact is, not every book is for everyone. No matter how bad or good a book is, someone is going to hate or love it

and I can accept that, as long as someone takes the time to read it. I’m always humbled by those that not only read my book, but take the time out of their lives to actually leave a review says a great deal. Authors are nothing without readers. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? SJ: I’m working on a sequel to Shattered Lies. I already have a draft written up waiting to be brought to life. I also am editing a new novel entitled Body and Soul, which examines the dynamic relationships of those behind the scenes in Hollywood. Uncaged: How long on average does it take you to write a full book? What is your writing process? SJ: Shattered Lies took me three months to write and edit. My work in progress, Body and Soul is taking considerably longer. My process is to write a draft. Set it aside for a week and work on something else, an article or a short story or a break. I then go back to it as many times as necessary until it feels right to me. If it doesn’t feel right, the book isn’t done yet. That is why Body and Soul is taking so long because it just doesn’t feel right, yet. If a project doesn’t feel right to me, it most likely won’t feel right for readers. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | SJ: My favorite parts are writing, creating a story and bringing it to life. I love hearing from readers who take the time to write me and tell me how much they like my stories. That makes it all worthwhile. My least favorite part about being an author is promotion and marketing. All I I want to do is write. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? SJ: After finishing a project, I like to take some time to just kick back and relax. I’ll read, watch TV, and listen to music. I love the outdoors and do many related things: Hiking, kayaking, swimming, and spending time with my rescue cats and dogs take up most of my time. I always try to walk my dogs every day. They demand it and its good exercise for all. Aside from that, I’m always advocating for animals. One way is through my blog for animals: http://onefortheanimals.blogspot.com where I share all and any kinds of stories about animals, rescue stories, advice and more. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? SJ: For me, it’s the endless editing that is the hardest part. The easiest part is the book itself. Once I get an idea, I just write it and let it flow to where it ends. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? SJ: Thank you so much for visiting here today. You’re wonderful. Thanks for your emails about how much you enjoyed Shattered Lies. Thanks for reading and reviewing Shattered Lies. You’re all awesome! If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you take the time to do so, whether you buy a copy on-line, or at a book store near you, (If they don’t have it, ask them to order it for you.) or borrow 80 | UncagedBooks.com

a copy from someone you know, or from your local library, please, please, good or bad please do take the time to leave a review. Authors are nothing without readers and sometimes the only way we hear from you is through your reviews. Thank you so much!! For those in Mississippi, you may locate a copy of Shattered Lies at one of the several branches of the Jackson-Hinds library, or the Ricks Memorial library in Yazoo City. Feel free to visit me at my website where you can contact me or sign up for my short seasonal newsletter: www.sjfranciswriter.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Shattered Lies Shattered Lies S.J. Francis Women’s Fiction/Suspense What happens to a family when age old secrets and lies are revealed? She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone… Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen. Excerpt Kate awoke with a start. It was a feeling she couldn’t shake and had no idea why. She didn’t know it yet, but a tide was turning close to home and, with it, a treacherous page in the book of her life. It was a revelation that she could never see coming. It was an insidious act that no one could ever expect and

| S.J. FRANCIS | it would forever change her life as she knew it. The beginning of a rip current was in motion and nothing could divert it or stop it now. Kate didn’t know it yet, but she was caught up in the middle of it all without a life jacket of any kind. Would she swim, or would she sink deep into the bowels of it? Only time would tell. Uncle Lincoln’s words of yesterday were still fresh in her mind. Was he accurate in his supposition, or was he merely being paranoid? It didn’t matter. Today she was going to do something she’d been meaning to do for ages but never had the time or inclination to do. With hands on her hips, she tried to decide where to start first. From the size of it all, she decided the best thing was just to plunge in and see where it took her. Light filled the attic from incandescent bulbs hanging from the bare ceiling fixtures. There were a few burnt-out light bulbs near two of the four dormer windows. She scurried around the maze of boxes, furniture, and trunks when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move. It moved again. She jumped back and then, looking closer, realized it was just a mouse. She sighed and shook her head at her reaction. Four years of veterinary school and she’d reacted so silly. It was obviously more afraid of her than she was of it. “Go on,” she said to it. “I won’t hurt you. Just don’t do anything and don’t let Gran see you.” After shuffling through piles of aged boxes of various sizes for a few hours, Kate found one small box under larger ones. The box was completely worn out and smashed in from the weight of the others. All were covered in dust. Curious, she reached into the small box and pulled out the smashed-in pieces of cardboard. Inside the box were loose paper clippings of nothing significant. The clippings were yellow, worn, and fragile to her touch. She took them out, flipped through them, and found articles about Mississippi and Yazoo County. She placed the pile of clippings to the side. Underneath the pile, there was a little book. It was pale blue in color about the size of a small paperback. The cover was made of cloth and there were tears in the fabric on the corners. The cover was blank with nothing written along the spine. “Miss Kate.” It was Elsa’s light voice mixed in with the creaking of the stairs. “Are you up here?” “Yes, it is I, Elsa, and I’m fine,” Kate said, anxious to go through the book she found. Her back was a little bit sore and she could feel the beginning of a headache coming on. Elsa coughed and let out a sneeze as she came to the top of the stairs and glanced around. Her bright

blue eyes were as wide as silver dollars. “Do you need anything?” “No. I’m fine. Go on now.” Elsa gave it one quick go over and moved to go back downstairs. “You sure? It’s a bit spooky up here.” The older woman had been employed with them for two years and Kate appreciated her levelheadedness and efficiency, and her quirky sense of humor. “Don’t you need some company or anything?” She wasn’t from the South and found everything fascinating. Kate laughed. “No. Go on now.” She just wanted to be alone. She heard the creaking of the stairs as Elsa disappeared out of sight. Kate should have come up here sooner. She had a sense that there was a great deal of history up here, but there were always other things that preoccupied her time. Things happened on a working horse farm. There was always something to do. There were fences to mend, crops to plant and harvest, trees to plant or trim, brush to burn, chores to do, and animals to vaccinate and tend to. She always took charge personally. Life was never boring at Magnolia Lane Farm. It was anything but that. *** Elsa hurried down the stairs and right into her husband. “Whoa! Who put this good looking wall here?” Sam was a handsome man with caramel skin and eyes to match, though at this moment his eyes weren’t so warm and gooey. “What are you doing up there?” he demanded. “K—Miss Kate went up there. I went to check on her—” “What do you mean? You let her up there? Why?” he asked. “I didn’t let her up there,” Elsa said. “And why not? It’s her house, too.” “I told you no one is allowed up there. No one.” “Relax, Sam. I’m sure Miss Katherine didn’t mean Kate,” Elsa said. “Damn it, woman! I told you when we first came here that Miss Katherine has rules—” “Don’t you shout at me, Mr. Johnson, or curse at me! I’m not one of your soldiers!” She’d take that kind of attitude from no one and set her hands on her hips. Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Sam sighed. “I’m sorry, honey, it’s just… you shouldn’t have let her up there. Is she still up there?” He glanced up the stairs. “Yes…you mind telling me what the big deal is, anyway?” she asked. “Later, help me get her down from there.” His eyes pleaded. “Please.” “I beg your pardon. She’s not doing anything up there. This is her house, too. You’re not going to stand there and tell me she isn’t supposed to be up there? Why?” “Damn it, woman, you can be positively frustrating sometimes.” “Well, you’re not exactly my prince charming everyday yourself, but I still love you, anyway.” He sighed. Sometimes there was no arguing with his wife. “I love you, but please help me get her down, now.” He headed for the stairs. Up he went and entered the attic. “Miss Kate? Are you up here?” He didn’t see her—just a whole lot of junk was spread out before him. “Miss Kate, where are you?” “I’m here.” Her voice answered from behind. She stood up surrounded by old, wrinkled cardboard boxes stacked waist high. “Miss Kate, you shouldn’t be up here,” he said. He hadn’t been up here in years not since… it wasn’t important anymore. That was a long time ago. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me,” Kate said. She didn’t face them. She was focused on the boxes that surrounded her. He didn’t like this at all. “It’s not too safe up here. You don’t know what you may find.” “Like a mouse?” Elsa said from behind him, using his broad shouldered body as a shield. Her eyes scanned the attic. “Looks like a place they’d hide in. He’s worried you’ll get hurt or get asthma.” “She’s right, Miss Kate. It’s pretty dusty and dirty up here. You should come down now.” “One just doesn’t get asthma,” Kate replied. “When I’m done. You two go on now.” “Really, Miss Kate,” Elsa said. “Let us clean it up a bit and you can come up another day.” “It’s fine the way it is. I’ll be fine. Go on,” she told them. Sam appreciated his wife’s input. Elsa always backed him up, even when he didn’t tell her everything at the outset. She was his partner through and through. If only he could be honest with her. 82 | UncagedBooks.com

Maybe he would soon enough. “Miss Kate, we can’t leave you up here on your own. What if you get hurt or something? Your grandmother wouldn’t be happy.” “Sam, Elsa, I appreciate your concern, but I’ve survived life for thirty years on this farm, and in this house. I think I can handle a few hours up here in this attic. Now go on. I insist.” Sam went to open his mouth but shut it. Kate could be just as stubborn as her grandmother. “All right, Miss Kate. I give up. Just don’t be too long and be careful. Please.” “I will,” she said, moving one cardboard box off another. When he saw that, he moved to intervene. “Maybe we should stay up here and help you. Those boxes might be heavy.” “Go on. If I need a hand, I’ll send for you. Stop being a worrywart, Sam. Both of you scat. I’m too old for a babysitter.” Sam hesitated. He had to get her out of the attic. If Miss Katherine found out, there’d be hell to pay, but he couldn’t physically make Kate leave. That left him without any other options. “Let’s go, Sam. She doesn’t want our help,” Elsa said. He knew how much Elsa liked Kate, and he also knew she wasn’t about to bother her anymore without an explanation from him, and that he couldn’t do. He hesitated. Elsa almost had to drag him down the stairs. Down on the landing, they stopped. “Why did you let her go up there?” Sam asked. “I didn’t allow her to do anything,” Elsa said. “You still haven’t told me what the big deal is.” “It doesn’t matter now.” He moved to leave but she caught his wrist. “It matters to you and if it matters to you, my teddy bear, it matters to me.” “Later. I’ll tell you later. I have to go shoe some horses.” He kissed her cheek and went down the stairs to the second floor. *** Alone again, Kate finally gave the attic a closer look. The place was a mess. This was so unlike her fastidious grandmother. Boxes were strewn everywhere. Trunks lay against one wall and were visibly worn with tattered edges and rusted locks. Old pieces of furniture and antiques were everywhere. Mirrors, large and small leaned against another wall. Some items were covered with grayish sheets while others were open for view. Dust covered everything. The attic was huge! They could hold a dance up here, if

| S.J. FRANCIS | need warranted it. Now she knew why no one came up here and why her grandmother kept it locked. It looked as if someone was just trying to discard portions of their life. Or someone had a yard sale when a tornado hit. There was no organization to it at all. Kate cleared a spot on the large box and eased down, slowly at first, to test its sturdiness. When it held her weight without issue, she sat, placed the small book on her lap, and opened it. The pages were yellow and unevenly cut along the edges. Inside, the handwritten words of a long time ago came to life, revealing some things she didn’t know, and raised a great deal of questions she never knew she had, until now. There was hardly anything in it, but what she did read raised feelings she had never expected. Visiting with Uncle Linc yesterday made her think about how little she knew about her parents and just how little her grandmother discussed them. Her grandmother always spoke of her son, Jax, Kate’s father with great regard. That is, when she spoke of him. Her grandmother never mentioned Kate’s mother, Olivia, never. Not once. Not even to say she didn’t like her daughter-in-law. Kate guessed the two women didn’t get along, but she wanted to know more. Maybe, just maybe, there was something in the attic. There certainly looked as if this was the place that could hold the secrets of a city, if need be. Secrets? Why had she thought of that? She had no secrets and neither did her grandmother. Her grandmother was an open book. What you saw was what you got. She bent to no one. Kate admired her. She was one tough independent lady, way ahead of her time. Kate never gave it any thought before why her grandmother kept the keys in her bedroom instead of downstairs in the kitchen with the other farm keys. Kate had retrieved the key ring from her grandmother’s dresser draw. Her grandmother had a certain way of doing things and sometimes there was no rhyme or reason to it. It was the way Katherine Thayer wanted it, plain and simple. After reading, Kate closed the small book, rested her hand on it, and shut her eyes. After a moment, she placed her other hand on the book, picked it up, brought it up to her chest, and held it there, as if to absorb the feelings inside. She had to know what it all meant and went to the one person she knew would know more than anyone, to the one person she could trust. Without a beat, she stood up and rushed down the stairs and to her grandmother’s room. With a cursory glance out the hall window on

her way downstairs, she noticed that the yellow pickup was back. Grandmother and Carol obviously returned from their trip to do the weekly shopping. Outside the door, Kate stopped, not exactly sure how to approach this delicate situation before her. She had never questioned her grandmother’s actions before, but then she never had any reason to, did she? Now, she wondered, about a great many things. After a long moment she lost track of, she knocked. She heard her grandmother’s voice tell her to come in. After taking a deep slow breath, Kate grasped the brass knob and entered. There she was, her usually larger than life self, but not as large as Kate thought of her just hours before. Katherine was seated at her antique roll-top desk with Carol seated next to her. The sun filled the room, but right now things didn’t seem as bright to Kate as they usually were inside here. “Grandmother, I’d like to speak with you,” she began as she took a step forward. “Of course, darling. Sit down,” Katherine said. “You may go, Carol. Thank you.” Carol stood up and headed for the door, giving Kate a smile on the way out. Her mouth revealed a set of perfect white teeth. Neatly cropped black hair framed her pecan-colored skin. She had wide brown eyes that were full of life. Kate gave a perfunctory smile in return. Carol pointed to the front of Kate’s shirt and waved at it, then went to the oak door and closed it behind her. Kate looked down and brushed the light blue oxford shirt off, not realizing she had some dust on her, probably all over her. Great. So be it. Now was no time to clean up and no time to worry about it. “I was just going over the replies for the party,” Katherine boasted, not looking up from her task. “We even received some checks for donations in advance. I think we will do extremely well this year.” “I’m glad.” However, that was the farthest thing from her mind right now. “Grandmother, I need to ask you something,” Kate said, taking another foot forward, one at a time, until she was near her. “Why don’t you just let Tessa do that? Isn’t that why you have a secretary to begin with, to help you with all your charity work?” Kate sat down in the Queen Anne chair that Carol had Issue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | vacated next to the matching desk. “Because, my darling Kate, when it comes to the handling of money, there are only two persons I trust. That is you and I, and no one else. We agreed. You run the farm. I handle any finances.” Katherine extended her hand to rest on Kate’s. “You’re the only one I trust implicitly.” “Thanks, Gran. I trust you too,” Kate said. She appreciated that her grandmother truly trusted no one else. “Darling.” Katherine released her. Her right eyebrow rose momentarily. “Whatever have you been doing? You’re covered in dust?” Her grandmother brushed her hands together to the side of the desk, discarding any dust into the wastebasket below. “Cleaning up. Nothing special,” Kate said. “I need to speak with you.” Katherine returned to flip through the stack of RSVP cards and checks on her desk. Her elderly fingers were quite nimble in their task. “Now go ahead, darling. I’m listening.” “It’s important.” Katherine set down the paperwork and turned to face her. Her hand immediately went to Kate’s forehead. “Darling, are you ill? You don’t feel warm.” Kate caught her hand as her grandmother lowered it. “No, I’m not ill. Please stop fussing.” At least not with a cold. “Do you know anything about this?” Kate placed the worn blue journal onto the desk before them, in front of her grandmother. Her grandmother’s perfectly trimmed eyebrows arched. “One of your recent acquisitions from the library, no doubt.” “No, Grandmother. It isn’t.” Katherine turned away. “Then I really don’t know, darling.” “Grandmother, why aren’t there any photos of my mother in the house?” Kate asked, curiosity nipping at the bud. “I told you, she was camera shy,” Katherine said. “This is my mother’s journal,” Kate said and looked for a reaction. “Is it? I had no idea.” Katherine didn’t look at her, which puzzled Kate immediately. Whenever they spoke, her grandmother always gave her utmost attention. “Where ever did you find it?” Katherine 84 | UncagedBooks.com

asked. “In the attic,” Kate said. Katherine’s eyes widened then she furrowed her eyebrows. Kate noticed her grandmother’s lower lip quiver or was it just her imagination? “The attic?” Katherine asked. “What were you doing up there, darling?” “I just felt like it. What difference does it make?” “I don’t want anyone in the attic.” Katherine was abrupt. “It’s dangerous. You could have been hurt.” Kate ignored her concern. She wanted answers. “Yes, she wrote this apparently just after she married my father.” “Did she now? Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s nothing worth reading in there. You can burn it,” Katherine said. “It belonged to my mother. Why would I want to burn it?” Katherine faced her. Her gaze was steady and unmoving. “Your mother had very little to say when alive. I doubt there is anything of value in there.” Kate shot to her feet. “How dare you, Gran?” Katherine had never mentioned Kate’s mother, ever, and to hear such coldness in the words about her astonished her. “She did say that you hated her. Why did you hate her?” Katherine raised her hand. “Now calm down, darling. That is an exaggeration.” “No, it isn’t. She said you hated her. You couldn’t stand her. That you actually tried to split her and my father up—more than once, as did her parents.” Without warning, Katherine seized the journal and threw it into the nearby trashcan. “There is nothing in there for you to worry about. And that is where it belongs.” Kate reached for it unsuccessfully. “Grandmother—” “I had nothing against your mother—personally. I just think she wasn’t suited for my son, your father. Now leave it be.” Katherine turned away and focused back on the papers. “I’d like to get these checks in order before the party tonight.” Kate remained for a moment but knew that once her grandmother ended a conversation it would remain that way. She sighed, walked over to the small brass trashcan, and bent down to retrieve the journal. “Leave it,” her grandmother ordered. It was the first time Kate ever heard that tone in her voice. “It’s my mother’s.” She took it out. “I’d like to keep it.” “I’d rather you didn’t,” Katherine said. “Why?” Kate asked and met her unwavering

| S.J. FRANCIS | gaze. “There’s nothing important in it. Nothing of value. Why keep such a thing?” “I want to,” Kate said. She noticed the veins in her grandmother’s neck twinge and the edges of her mouth stiffen. “It’s mine. I want it,” Kate said. “Fine, darling, if it’ll make you happy. I see no reason for sentimentality.” Katherine turned back to the work at hand. Kate studied her. Her grandmother said nothing, which was puzzling. No lecture, nothing. A very anxious knocking on the door interrupted them and it opened. Carol rushed in and was clearly out of breath, “Good afternoon—Miss Kate—Miss Katherine. Forgive me.” “Goodness, Carol,” Katherine said. “Calm down, girl. What is it?” “Out—at the barn. It’s Mr. Carl. He—says that Delta is—about ready to foal. He’s been calling you and calling you for the last ten minutes. He said it can happen anytime soon.” Katherine stood up. “Tell Carl we’ll be right there.” Kate forgot she had shut off her cell phone while with Uncle Linc yesterday and never turned it back on. “Will do, Miss Katherine. I laid out that nice blue dress you wanted for tonight, Miss Kate,” Carol said as she moved toward the door. “It is sure to be a fine shindig.” “Yes, it will. Thank you, Carol,” Kate said. Kate headed downstairs and out the door with her grandmother leading the way. All Kate could hear on the way down was the sound of their shoes on the wooden floor and steps. Seventy years old and her grandmother never slowed down. When she had a job to do, the older woman just did it—no complaints, nothing. The short walk would do Kate good, even if she did rush it. Besides, it looked as if the three pick-ups were in use at the time. They arrived at the brick barn in five minutes. Carl was on his knees with Delta Darling, one of their prized Andalusian mares. Delta Darling was ten years old. Kate had raised the female from a foal. She was as beautiful as freshly fallen snow. The mare was already on her side. She was breathing

rapidly but appeared fine otherwise. “Where have you been, Miss Kate? She’s about ready,” Carl said. “I was worried about you. Why didn’t you answer your phone?” He stopped when he saw Katherine alongside her. “Sorry, Carl. I had it off.” Not that she owed him an explanation but he deserved one. After all, he’d been with her family forever. Kate took a canvas smock from the shelf inside the door, unfolded it, and put it on. She also took a pair of thick black rubber gloves off the shelf and put them on. She went to her knees and patted the mare on the neck. “Easy, girl.” She began to speak soothingly “We’re here. You’re not alone. We’ll get you through this just like before. Easy, girl.” The horse neighed at her, as if acknowledging her presence. Katherine echoed Kate’s words as she entered the stall, went down to her knees, and took the mare’s head on her lap. “Easy girl. No need to worry. Easy. We’re here like always.” Her glamorous grandmother was quite out of her element, dressed simply in faded blue jeans, an untucked long-sleeved shirt, and her long hair flowing around her shoulders, but it didn’t faze her. Nothing fazed the older woman. Her naturally attractive grandmother could fit in anywhere without any effort at all. Kate should have eaten something more substantial this morning. After a hurried shower in her private bath, she merely rushed downstairs for a quick breakfast snack—a glass of orange juice and a yogurt. The orange juice went down quickly, but when she tried to eat the yogurt, she couldn’t. She just wasn’t very hungry. Come to think of it, she hadn’t been very hungry in a long time and especially since yesterday. She did manage to swallow a couple of finger sandwiches at lunch yesterday, but that was it. She’d have to try and eat more tonight. Delta handled things gracefully. The birth was uneventful. The mare grunted during the process trying to expel her young as soon as posIssue 18 | January 2018 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | sible. It took a little over fifteen minutes for the entire process to occur. The mare gave birth to a solid black foal, black as the stud, Standing Tall, its father. Already an experienced mother, Delta started licking her newborn, cleaning it of the afterbirth. While Katherine examined the foal for any abnormalities, Kate noticed something more. It was exactly six minutes later when it happened. “My God, Gran, its twins. She’s having twins.” There was another foal on the way out, this time a smaller white foal. Kate grinned as the small head and feet exited first, very slowly. Kate pulled the translucent placenta and afterbirth away from the foal as it made its way all the way out and onto the ground next to its mother and Kate. Delta lifted her head, got up on her side, and gave her attention to her new babies. Kate took a stethoscope out of her black bag that was on the shelf. She listened to the mare’s heartbeat. “Good girl. You’re doing fine. Good girl. No worries.” She checked on the each foal. She removed the stethoscope from her ears and nuzzled each one and their mother behind their ears. Carl stood up. “I’ll be damned,” he said. “Twins. Now isn’t that something? Are they all right? How’s our girl?” Carl was a lanky White man. The only White man they employed. He had been with the plantation thirty years and knew everything there was to know about horses. Rumors had it that if he didn’t know it, then that fact didn’t exist yet. He had started work at Magnolia Lane Farm right after college just like his father before him had done. Kate appreciated his wisdom and experience. “They’re fine, Carl,” she said. “All three girls are fine.” She released a breath in relief. No matter how many times she witnessed their animals giving birth, the whole thing still amazed her. She heard Carl release his breath. “I knew it’d be twins. I just knew it. I wanted to check, but your grandmother said no. Every time we check first, we lose one, or both, or all of them. When we don’t, they all make it. Rare, huh, Miss Kate. 86 | UncagedBooks.com

Very rare.” “Odds are about 1 in 500,000 for them both to be born alive,” Kate said. “Now we have to keep them that way.” “They’ll be fine, Miss Kate. We’ll see to it, you and me. It’s nice to have you around, especially at times like these.” He leaned against the stall fence. “Now we just let mama do her job and help her along.” “They’re beautiful, Gran. Look,” Kate said, leaning back to admire them. She turned around, but her grandmother was gone. “Where did my grandmother go?” “Don’t know. Didn’t see her. I was watching the foals. Good looking animals they are too.” Carl said. “Maybe she went to get ready for that fancy party of hers. You better get freshened up too. You know better that Miss Katherine expects things on time.” “I should. Hate to leave these girls though,” she said. He leaned his long arms along the top of the stall fence. “You know, Miss Kate, you can tell me to mind my own business but— well I have to ask?” “Go ahead, Carl. Ask away.” She knew he would anyway. “You don’t seem much for these fancy dress parties any more than I am. Why do you go?” he asked. “Why do you think I do?” “Honestly? For your grandmother, Miss Katherine. I figure she’d do the same for you. You’re both alike in that way. You’re a lot like your grandmother, you know.” She appreciated the compliment, but… “Me? No way, Carl. I’m nothing like her. She can do anything. She’d ride a rogue bull if she had to. She’d break a horse if necessary.” “So would you. You’ve proved that,” he told her. “You’re being too kind and you’re making me blush, so I am getting out of here.” She nuzzled the two babies and patted the mare on the head. “I’ll be back, girls.” She got to her feet. “Take care of them for me, Carl. Call me if anything changes. Good night.” “No problem, Miss Kate. Good night.”

| S.J. FRANCIS | She looked back at the small family of three. Now we have something to celebrate aside from the regular occasion. She couldn’t help but admire the new foals. They were an awesome sight. No matter how many times she had witnessed the miracle of birth among their horses and cattle, she never tired of it. *** Back inside her bedroom suite, a fury was building up within Katherine. She didn’t want to lose her temper in front of Kate. Now that she was alone, she could let loose. She threw the stack of papers and checks she had so meticulously put in order across the room. She snapped out of her chair so quickly that her chair slammed back onto the wooden floor. Carol opened the door just as the chair slammed. “Find, Sam! Get him here now!” Katherine ordered. Carol knew better than to ask twice, even though today was his “official” day off. “Yes, ma’am,” was all she said and scurried out the door, closing it gently behind. Sam never really had a day off, when there was something he had to do. “I’ll kill him,” Katherine growled. “I swear I will. Damn him! Damn them all!”

Uncaged Review Kate finds an old journal in the attic and what she reads will change her life forever. A story of loss, love, and racist views. I found this story very moving and found the storyline still very much relevant in today’s world. Reviewed by Jennifer

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Uncaged Reviews White Raven


the middle of the night.

It only took one heartbeat to change my life--one chilling phone call in

And then, as if my life didn’t already suck, my dad sends my brother and me to some idyllic island for the summer to live with a grandma we never met. WTH. Naturally, I rebel. In the end, I find myself shipped off to Raven Hollow...and bored to tears. ...

Uncaged Review: This is a promising first book in a trilogy – full of secrets and intrigue, splashed with humor, teenage angst and sarcasm with danger and love. The pros: a well thought out plot and the supernaturals are interesting, with some really good action sequences. The cons: almost too much angst and whining from our main character, Piper, who acted overly childish for most of the first half of the book. The storyline was also a bit slow getting to the point, and a bit slow for the main character to catch on. All that said, it was a fun read and I’ll definitely look for book two. The full trilogy is out now, so if you get hooked, you won’t be delayed in reading.Reviewed by Cyrene

Korsakoff Blight Eddie Wright Psychological Thriller Why did Korsakoff Blight have to die? That is the question at the center of KORSAKOFF BLIGHT, a darkly hilarious existential mystery. What do a troubled writer, a clueless private eye, a dead guy, and a kid who’s perpetually doing battle with a psychotic murderer have in common? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. In KORSAKOFF BLIGHT, these four characters explore the origins of fiction, storytelling, and creativity in a strange, yet deceptively simple setting that echoes the work of Philip K. Dick, Franz Kafka, and Charlie Kaufman. Uncaged Review: Korsakoff Jr inherits his fathers house after his death. After finding his old childhood stories, he longs to be a writer. When real life begins mixing with reality, things take a strange turn. I’ve mixed feelings towards this book - I loved the childhood stories and was interested about who Korsakoff was. But then the story just got weirder and kept repeating itself, which is a shame as it started off as very promising. This may be a big hit to others, they may learn to love this writer’s style.Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, language

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult/New Adult No major warnings

90 | UncagedBooks.com

The Haunting of Dr. Bowen C.A. Verstraete Horror/Ghosts Gruesome deaths haunt the industrial city of Fall River, Massachusetts. Dr. Seabury Bowen—physician to the infamous Lizzie Borden—swears he’s being stalked by spirits, though his beloved wife thinks it’s merely his imagination. But the retired doctor insists that neither greed nor anger provoked the recent sensational axe murders in Fall River. Rather, he believes the city is poisoned by bad blood and a thirst for revenge dating back to the Indian and Colonial wars....

Uncaged Review: The Haunting of Dr. Bowen by C.A. Verstraete is a companion novel to Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. I have to preface this review by saying that to really understand and enjoy this short novel, you must read Lizzie Borden first-- otherwise you are missing out on a significant building block for the story. Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is an excellent novel by Verstraete, and I highly recommend it. Now, on to the actual subject of this review: The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. This book is in the perspective of the doctor and family friend of the Bordens, who has since retired. Understandably, his involvement with the Borden case was a traumatic one, so it comes as no surprise that he’s haunted by the memories of it-- but the ‘haunting’ part of the book’s title also has a more literal sense, as Dr. Bowen decides to do some investigative work of his own thanks to a ghost shadowing his life since he was a boy.

occasions if what he was seeing was actually there, if it were a dream or a hallucination. I think that speaks volumes of the ability of the writer, and is exactly the kind of immersion you want to encourage in a first-person book wherein the protagonist themself is questioning their sanity. Verstraete did an excellent job creating a neat little arc and including evidence here and there about what was really going on, all of which pieced together nicely in the resolution even though there was a lot that did not make sense when it was first introduced. Additionally, Verstraete added one last bittersweet surprise on to the end of the book that reminded me of the end of this story’s predecessor. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable story to go along with Lizzie Borden, and would recommend this book if you have read that one. Though it explores a slightly different facet of the paranormal genre, it fits nicely into the world that Verstraete had already built. Reviewed by Kaitlin

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence

I really have to commend Verstraete on her portrayal of Dr. Bowen. While I thought from the start that Dr. Bowen might be on to something given the evidence he found, it was always a question as to whether or not he was really all there. I was not sure on a few Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Uncaged Reviews In Her Defense Vicki Tharp Mystery/Suspense

Fires of Hell: The Alchemystic Maureen L. Mills SciFi/Steampunk

When her new client is murdered after handing her new evidence that could acquit him, lawyer Danielle Mckeen is determined to find out why.

When her captain is murdered and her airship suffers a series of sabotages, airship engineer and rogue pyromancer, Amelia Everley, must put aside her dislike of her new employer, Josiah, and help him save her airship and crew.

A miscarriage and the collapse of his marriage to Danielle years before has left Jack Walsh reeling and slow to trust. But with a protective streak tattooed on his soul, he can’t refuse Danielle’s cry for help.

But is the destruction aimed at their mysterious government passenger, or is the captain’s killer now after Josiah?

Uncaged Review: Danielle gets a case to defend a man accused of murder. The case does not go to plan as he is murdered in jail. Danielle finds herself on the run to keep her family safe. This was a okay read the only thing I didn’t like was you knew who the bad people were in the book straight away. Even though the book was mainly about Danielle and her ex husband, I did hope for a few twists in the plot. Maybe I will find a different book by this author I like more next time. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Uncaged Review: Amelia is a young phlogistologist (pyromancer) who is working as an engineer’s apprentice about the airship Mercury. When her captain, Edmund Rollins, is murdered, things begin to change. She receives a promotion, but the new captain (Josiah Rollins, the son of her former captain) does not know at first that she is a woman, much less a pyromancer. Since society views pyromancers as evil and dangerous, she cannot reveal her abilities to anyone. She struggles to prove herself to Josiah while helping him acclimate to the Mercury. At the same time, she attempts to find out more about the murder of Edmund Rollins. Strange things are happening aboard the Mercury. Can Amelia figure out what is happening and prove her worth to Josiah while keeping her pyromancy a secret? Or will everything fall apart?

Sexual situations, language

This was the very first steampunk novel I have ever read, and I was not disappointed! It seems to be a very popular genre, and I never understood the reasons until now. I really enjoyed the setting and the technical aspects of the steam-powered airships (even though I did not understand everything.) This book was completely engaging. The characters were incredibly well-written, and the pace and plotline were 92 | UncagedBooks.com

truly fantastic. I loved the mix of fantasy, romance, action, and mystery. The main character was very likeable. She was a very talented and very kind person who did not come across as annoying. Although she did have something to prove (living in a society where women were less respected than they are now) it did not come across as anachronistic to me. She was simply doing what she needed to do to survive and make her way in the world. I thought the author did an excellent job of making her both intelligent and strong but also vulnerable and uncertain at time. Her relationship with Josiah and, indeed, the rest of the crew was fascinating. I loved that they respected her but did not just fawn over her as I see happen with female characters in so many other books. Her story is very uplifting. She made her own choices and worked hard to do what she could to make her life what she wanted it to be. She never looked down on or judged her mother’s profession (prostitution), but she knew that she wanted more for her own life. The romance aspect was wonderfully described. Sometimes attraction is totally unexplainable, and I think this book portrayed this well. AND I loved that people were not just jumping into bed with one another. There was a sense of honor and propriety throughout. I also really enjoyed the “alchemistic” aspects of this book. It was just the right amount of magic/fantasy to include. The story was more about her journey than about her abilities, but the alchemistic additions were very interesting. (I would love to read more about what the earth and water alchemistics do.) I would love to read more from this author. I enjoyed every single word of this book. It held my attention from the first page to the last. I learned a few new words, and I got a great introduction into the world of steampunk! Reviewed by Emily

His Life Plan

Sharla Wylde Contemporary Westen Having his heart ripped out and stomped on years earlier convinces Aiden Tanner that love is not a valid reason to marry. It might be right for others but not him. The right woman will possess the temperament to handle the large family he’s planning. The oldest of seven brothers, he returns home from a tour of duty to find his father unable to manage the family ranch. Thrust into the new role, Aiden devises a plan: run the ranch, improve the cattle and horse herds, and find a wife.

Uncaged Review: Aiden had it figured out He could run the ranch with his brothers, and have the children he wanted, and love never needed to enter the picture. Beth, a single mother, behind on her mortgage payments and low on options to keep her daughter fed and a roof over their head, she runs into Aiden. Aiden offers her sanctuary at his ranch when a stalker threatens Beth and her daughter. This book was hard to put down, and the relationship between Aiden and Beth simmers slowly and the danger and suspense keeps the book paced well. I connected easily to the characters and the story and was completely engaged. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sex, mild violence

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Uncaged Reviews Melting Hearts J.E. Prim Paranormal

All Devon Willem has to do is pick up a small mutt and find Ameliorate for Nina’s petite cousin, Madonna. Instead, he stumbles into Madonna Botanno’s crazy family, a rogue TGO operative, and a terrorist plot intending to poison millions of New Yorkers. Uncaged Review: Devon Willem is the head of TGO and his agent Tavis is in a fix, where his girlfriend’s dog is in New York with her cousin, Madonna. After a rescue they are in Detroit and need things brought to them. Without knowing why Devon offers to take care of everything once he hears Madonna’s name. Once in New York Devon finds out that Madonna is what he has been looking for for decades, his soulmate. After a few adventures all you can do is hope Devon, as a Guardian (vampyre) can convince Madonna to stay with him. After all he has saved her a few times. I loved this book! I hope to read the next in the series! You can’t help but fall in love with Devon and Madonna. They just get to you and you want them to fall in love, see what other trouble they can get into together and just make it as a bound couple. Reviewed by Danielle

Sixth Prime

Dan O’Brien SciFi/Dystopian Conflict grips the galaxy. A tense peace treaty has been signed between the Sovereignty and the Commonwealth. On the other side of the galaxy an eccentric artist, Ale Euclid, on the cusp of real success seemingly jumps to his death, beginning an investigation that will unravel a connection between 16 individuals scattered across the stars. C. Gideon Jane, investigator for the Sluga Mining Trust, has been called in to discover what really happened. While investigating, he crosses paths with Moira Cossima, a mysterious friend of Ale Euclid, whose insight leads him deeper into a sprawling conspiracy.

Uncaged Review: The Commonwealth and Sovereignty have only a tenuous peace. Many in the galaxy are anticipating and preparing for a war, and many can feel that something is coming. On Nyan, an artist is found murdered. Inspector Jane, who has been sent by the Sluga Mining Corporation, is unable to find many answers, instead stumbling upon more and more confusing and unsettling realizations. Inside a prison in another part of the galaxy, a bitter and defeated prisoner is suddenly freed by a strange man with unknown motives. On Quartus, a carbon dioxide mining planet owned by Sluga, the workers and technicians discover a horrifying presence. In space, a Commonwealth ship comes to the defense of a waystation that has apparently been attacked by a Sovereignty vessel.

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sexual situations, violence

94 | UncagedBooks.com

On A’galla, several groups search for a mysterious and powerful artifact.

Throughout these seemingly unconnected events, there is talk of “That Which Came Before” and “The Initiated,” and “Primes” keep being mentioned. I really love so many things about this book. The creativity truly abounds. Mr. O’Brien is quite good at world building. I particularly enjoyed the sections about Inspector Jane and the sections about the prisoner. There were some fascinating elements included in the story such as augmented reality, sophisticated AI, and other cool technology. Any one of the sections could have been amazing expanded into a full novel. I am definitely itching to know how everything ties together. My curiosity was only partially sated in the end, and I am hoping that there is much more to come. This book seems like a pretty good setup for a larger series. My main complaint with this is that it seemed a little too disjointed. The separate sections were very interesting on their own, and they clearly connect in some way, but it was a little difficult to follow the plotline. It seemed like a series of short stories that were all mixed together. Each had a very unique flavor. I did like the characters, though there was not very much time for real character growth. I did find many things confusing. There were so many new planets and ideas being presented that it was hard to follow at times. A glossary or some sort of summarizing chapter would help, I think. I would be interested to read the next in the series, just to find out how everything connects! Good job, Mr. O’Brien, for an imaginative and interesting Sci-Fi adventure! Reviewed by Emily

Witch Hunter

J.Z. Foster Horror/Paranormal Releases January 9, 2018 The world is lying to you. Is that news? It must be very upsetting. Richard Fitcher found it upsetting. He’s a witch hunter who doesn’t believe in witches, and tonight he’s taking a reporter and her cameraman on a witch hunt. He’s all ready to jazz it up with spooky noises and a gimmicky magic ritual that locates witches. People like that kind of crap, right? But there’s a problem. It worked this time.

Uncaged Review: Richard doesn’t believe in witches, although he’s a witch hunter. He thought the club was just a role playing club with creepy subject matter. When a reporter needs to cover a story of what is happening in his town and they want to go along on a witch hunt with Richard, he hams it up until things start going awry. When they reach an old house, the reporter and her camera man are enthralled, and Richard must use all of his “very little knowledge” to get out. Thankfully he listened somewhat to his Sensei, hopefully some of it sank in. This book is humorous, creepy, scary and suspenseful all in one. Richard doesn’t believe in wights either, especially one that he can bargain with chips and candy bars. This is a well done book by a new author, and for a debut, he hits it out of the park. You will laugh and keep the light on at night after and while you are reading this one. Pick it up and see if Richard makes it out of this one – you’ll cheer this “not your normal action hero” the whole way through. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, language

Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Uncaged Reviews Scarlett

Storm Watch

Elle Klass Gothic Horror At five my parents died in a horrible car crash changing my life for the worst. I was thrust into a life I never expected and had to learn to adapt in order to survive, no matter the cost. Soon I was shuffled into the foster system becoming a lost child with no ties. My roommate and mortal enemy divulged a troubling rumor about my parents, forcing me to question everything I knew.

Uncaged Review: Scarlett’s story is one filled with tragedy and sadness. After losing her parents in a car accident, she is raised in an orphanage where things aren’t easy for her. In addition to her hardships growing up, she also has the ability to both see and interact with ghosts. These ghosts however, are not always what they seem. In an attempt to not give away any of the story’s plot lines, I will say the ghost story aspect is unique and one that readers will find a bit different. Scarlett’s story follows her from a child, to adulthood. You witness her ups as well as her downs which helps you connect to the character. I felt myself riding the emotional train with her which is one of the reasons I loved this book. The author did a great job of pulling you in and keeping you interested in the story. I had no idea when I started reading that this was a companion series. This story has intrigued me and will be sending me in search of the original series. One thing readers must keep in mind however, this book contains dark materials such as rape, murder, and emotional traumas. It is not meant for the faint of heart. Scarlett’s tale is emotionally difficult to read but it is well worth it. Reviewed by Rena

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Carole Ann Moleti Paranormal/Ghosts Mike and Liz thought they’d gotten control of the specters haunting the Barrett Inn. But things get very complicated when the specters are really 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?

Uncaged Review: I think I would have really enjoyed the story of Liz and Mike if I had read it from the beginning. As read, I was a little confused throughout. After getting past a little of the confusion, it was a good story with just the right amount of creepiness. I will be reading the first books in the trilogy! Reviewed by Skylar

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Haunted Souls

Christmastide with my Captain

Kathryn Knight Horror/Ghosts Four years ago, Emily Shea and Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds agreed to part with no strings attached. Sparks flew during their brief affair, but fate intervened, sending Brett overseas. When an unexpected pregnancy derailed Emily’s own plans, her attempts to locate Brett were soon overwhelmed by the challenges of single motherhood. Now, Brett has returned home, and Emily is forced to share her secret.

Uncaged Review: I love anything to do with the paranormal and ghosts and Kathryn Knight delivers. This is a suspense filled story with a bittersweet touch as Emily and Brett try to understand the forces that have entered their lives. Not your typical ghost book, but so much better.. Reviewed by Skylar

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Tammy Andresen Historical Highlands/Holiday Can a wallflower find love? Lady Emilia McDougal has watched love find each of her beloved sisters. When will it be her turn? She fears it will be never. Quiet and bookish, her shyness masks a fearless heart. Captain Jack Andrews lost his love of the sea long ago, but he doesn’t deserve to find the love of his life. Especially not with someone as stunning and kind as Emilia. When she saves his life, he wonders how she could ever think herself plain. If it were his place in life, he’d show her just how fascinatingly beautiful she is. But it isn’t.

Uncaged Review: This was a sweet historical Christmas romance. Though historical are not usually something I enjoy, this one caught my attention. The author did a good job with the characters and it was an enjoyable read from beginning to end. Reviewed by Skylar

Adult situations

Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings

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Uncaged Reviews Never Give Up on Love Maggie Mundy Paranormal

In 1847 London, Vincent is turned by a vampire with tainted blood. His future will be one where he keeps humans safe but can never find love.

Uncaged Review: Never Give Up On Love is yet another part of The Soul Mate Tree Collective. This story follows Vincent, a very old vampire, who was visited many years ago by the soul mate tree. His vision showed him a beautiful red head that he knew he would someday find. He had no idea his soul mate would be a vampire hunting witch named Adele. Knowing that Adele’s job is to kill him, Vincent still makes the effort to meet his soul mate and attempt to make her his. Adele is a photographer who loves her work but puts her job of killing vampires above everything else. When she is visited by the soul mate tree she basically blows it off, knowing her life as a hunter will not allow her to take the time to follow her heart. Then she meets Vincent, her new boss, and realizes telling her heart no isn’t as easy as she thought it would be. The story of Adele and Vincent is quite fun to follow. Their character traits allow for a fun, yet perfect, relationship. With the addition of a rogue vampire trying to build an army and wreak havoc, the story is quite exciting. The only problem I had was with what felt like a few rushed scenes. In the middle of things happening, the scene would suddenly be ended leaving me wishing the rest had unfolded. Other than that, it was a great read and the author did a wonderful job sharing Vincent and Adele’s story. Reviewed by Rena

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Sizzle in the Snow Various Holiday Anthology

8 Soulmate for Christmas stories from 8 authors.

Uncaged Review: Loved this book! Some stories were better than others, but all of them brought that Christmas magic we all love this time of year. My favorites were Santa Baby, Snow Bird, and Tamed by Christmas, though all the authors did an amazing job. If you are looking for a magical read during the holiday season, don’t miss this one! Reviewed by Skylar

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Mild language, sexual situations

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews The Stain in the Stairwell A.P. Sessler SciFi There’s been a lot of talk at the bus stop. The other kids keep going on about a ghost. Then there’s the accident involving their neighbor,the late Mrs. Eckhart. Natalie wonders if they’re not one and the same, but one thing she is sure of--there’s an ugly stain growing in the stairwell of their rundown apartment building. She swears it’stalking to her. She would even say it’s her friend. Something else she is sure of: it can hurt anyone it wants.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Stain in the Stairwell by A.P. Sessler is a very short, but fascinating story that will make you leery of every stain you ever see in the future. It’s what I would consider seriously weird, but in a good way. Set in, what seems to be, an inner city style apartment building, the story follows Natty and a mysterious stain that appears to be changing location every time she sees or hears about it. The building is full of children and what I believe to be mostly single mothers. Some of the kids, and mothers, are jerks just as kids can be, but most of them don’t seem too bad. I’m really worried about saying too much about this story and giving things away, but trust me when I say this story is super creepy.

Lily’s Grace L.E. Perez Paranormal Reaper Alex Dante did her job, never letting the souls she collected become anything more than work. Until Lily. Lily Heatherton was full of life and had cheated death more than once. Now death wants her back and nothing will stand in its way, not even one of their own. The Hotel is the only place Alex can think of where she can keep Lily safe. But as forces conspire to claim their souls, the Hotel provides a haven for them to discover the love of a thousand lifetimes.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Lily’s Grace by L.E. Perez is a unique telling of love and death. This isn’t the first story I’ve read by Perez, but I think it’s my favorite of hers so far. She’s creative and paints a great picture in my head with her words. Alex is a reaper; more so, she’s the best at what she does and has the favor of Death himself. She saved a life 20 years ago and now that situation has come full circle for them to meet again. Alex realizes she’s in love with Lily only just before there is an order for her reaping. What’s a reaper to do? I really like the way Perez writes. Her character development and world building are easy to understand and follow. Her characters are interesting and relatable despite being otherworldly. The characters display behaviors and emotions that give them believability. Lily’s Grace ends in a unique twist that I really enjoyed. It made me somewhat sad, but not in a way that took away from the story. Overall this is a really good book that will keep your

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attention and surprise you along the way. I recommend it to anyone who likes paranormal romance.

Treasured Chests Various Horror Anthology

way. I love it when I like every story within an anthology since it is so rare. Overall, this is a great anthology that is filled with awesome stories by amazing authors. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to delve into the world of zombies while possibly finding new to them authors.

A charity anthology of short zombie stories created in aid of the charity Breast Cancer Care (registered Charity in England & Wales 1017658). All royalties (100%) are to be donated to Breast Cancer Care. Treasured Chests Is a unique, intelligent and terrifying collection of short Zombie Stories. An eclectic collection of short stories brought to you by the Zombie podcast Good Morning Zompoc, featuring the finest authors in the Zombie and Horror Genre. *Warning Explicit Content*

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Treasured Chests is a great zombie Anthology that is for a good cause. All royalties from the sale of this book are to be donated to the Charity Breast Cancer Care registry in England and Wales. This book has a great lineup of contributors as well as variety of types of stories. Every story is worth the price of the book on their own. Each author definitely contributes in a productive way. Many times in Anthologies, there is one or 2 stories that fall flat for me. They are boring or just don’t interest me. That does not occur in Treasured Chests. Every single story is interesting and unique in its own

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Rag Doll Troy McComb Horror Short If this story doesn’t scare you, no story will... Lucas buys his daughter an old, dirty rag doll at a yard sale one day. But when they return home, they realize they may have brought a sinister force back with them. Are the strange occurrences that soon take place supernatural or mere coincidence? Either way, they lead to an ending you will not soon, if ever, forget.

Winter Thrillz Vol. 1 T.L. Katt Paranormal Romance Two short paranormal romances: Tigress and Talons. Explore debut author T.L. Katt’s world of paranormal romance. Tigress Jestin, in need of a vacation, takes a break to the mountains where strange events send him exploring the woods. What he finds changes his life forever. Talons It’s an ordinary day when Meg gets scooped up by a creature. She awakes in her own bed believing it was only a dream, until she finds puncture marks under her arms. In fear that she’s been injected with a virus, she flees to solve the mystery -- finding much more. This book is meant for mature audiences 18 and above.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Ragdoll is a truly creepy story. It’s incredibly short, only 14 pages, and boy do those pages fly by. This story is somewhat predictable, but not completely. I expected the ending, but not all of it. The characters are what you would expect. Dad buys his daughter a doll which turns out to be more than he paid for. Because it’s so short, the characters and overall story isn’t as drawn out or developed as I would have liked. I would have liked a bit more details about the mom, and where the doll had originated etc. Overall it’s a super fast and creepy read. It wasn’t really scary to me, just creepy.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Winter Thrillz vol 1 is a short but entertaining read. It contains 2 paranormal short stories. They are short but definitely have their steamy moments. In one story a woman is snatched by a winged creature, but wakes up the next morning not remembering much of anything from the night before. She has some interesting injuries. This story is good, but needs some work. I think the author could truly expand this story into something great. It felt like it was missing something and incomplete. The other story, Tigress, is about a guy who desperately needs a vacation. He goes out to his family’s cabin for some quiet time and has the experience of a lifetime. He keeps seeing something in the window of the cabin and can’t quite seem to catch whatever it is. Tigress is a cool story that has some serious steamy-

ness that pops up out of nowhere. It’s better written than the other story, and I feel this story was complete. Overall, this isn’t a bad book if you are looking for something short but different. The vampires and shifters in this book are fairly different from other stories about them, at least to me. The vampires are definitely different.

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

Taking it Back Joseph Talluta Horror/Post-Apocalyptic Around every corner, they are waiting. In every dark alley, they are lurking. Behind every door, they are hiding. For each survivor of the Upheaval, every day brings the same grim reality: the dead are coming. For every community that managed to survive, for every band that came together, questions nag their minds. Are they alone? Are they the last ones left? Does humanity die with them? As the dead roam the abandoned highways and walk among the ruins of the living, one group will make a stand to halt the tide and take it back. Myra’s Review: We pick up the story with John, his friends and fellow survivors. The hero’s dream/goal at the end of the first book was to start taking back the country from the undead. The plan was to start small and expand outward. That is exactly where we find the survivors in book two, working on settling towns around them. This takes a lot of work and a brave heart. The people clear the town, scavenge for supplies, burn houses or businesses that are heavily infested with

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zombies, and then set up survivors in the new settlement. They use different ingenious ways to protect the towns from the undead; including shipping containers as fencing, digging moats, and making huge dirt mounds as a type of fence. I enjoyed getting to travel along with John and his friends as they fight to take back their world. A recommended read for zombie fans. Read the first novel and then pick this one up.

Night of the Living Trekkies Kevin David Anderson Horror Journey to the final frontier of sci-fi zombie horror! Jim Pike was the world’s biggest Star Trek fan—until two tours of duty in Afghanistan destroyed his faith in the human race. Now he sleepwalks through life as the assistant manager of a small hotel in downtown Houston. But when hundreds of Trekkies arrive in his lobby for a science-fiction convention, Jim finds himself surrounded by costumed Klingons, Vulcans, and Ferengi—plus a strange virus that transforms its carriers into savage, flesh-eating zombies! As bloody corpses stumble to life and the planet teeters on the brink of total apocalypse, Jim must deliver a ragtag crew of fanboys and fangirls to safety. Dressed in homemade uniforms and armed with prop phasers, their prime directive is to survive. But how long can they last in the ultimate no-win scenario?

The hero Jim (Jim Pike no lessJ), must assume the role of Captain Kirk, including dressing as him, in order to get the small band of survivors inspired and ready to take on the zombies in order to escape. Another interesting character, Martock , who owns a metal-fabricating shop in real life is dressed in full regalia as a Klingon warrior. He sells weapons at the convention. Although he was ready to give up in the beginning, once Jim encourages him to bring on his Klingon mindset, Martock is fearless and awesome fighting the undead with a bat’leth (replica of the fierce Klingon sword). If you love zombie stories and are a Star Trek fan, this book is a MUST READ. I don’t know if I should feel uncomfortable or pleased that I recognized so much Star Trek jargon and facts from the story. LOL. But, it made it a very enjoyable read for me. Yep, I’m a big fan of the original series.

Myra’s Review: A Star Trek Con; fun, souvenirs from the different shows and movies, plus guest speakers. Pure heaven for fans of this icon that changed so much in our thinking and even in our world (ie, invention of cell phones) What could go wrong? Plenty if you mix in zombies storming the hotel! The elements making up the gist of the story are commonly used in zombie novels; an unknown virus that gets loose and turns people into zombies, plus a hero with a military background that is extremely helpful in the situation. But, placing the action in a Star Trek convention makes it fascinatingly different, scary and hilarious.

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Ravenous Ray Garton Horror/Shifters When Emily Crane’s car breaks down on a dark, lonely road at night, she is attacked and raped by a man she kills in selfdefense. That night, the dead rapist walks out of the morgue. Later, Emily begins to experience strange cravings and her body undergoes terrifying changes. Myra’s Review: A woman is savagely raped and manages to kill her attacker by stabbing him in the eye. When Sheriff Arlin goes to investigate, the body of the assailant has disappeared from the hospital morgue. At the same time a naked man is seen running through the emergency room. A deputy that is sent after the nude man is brutally killed, partially eaten by some large animal. Things start escalating and Arlin wonders what has happened to his once peaceful little town. More people are attacked, some torn apart and other women raped. A mysterious man, Fargo , approaches the Sheriff, wishing to share with him what is causing the mayhem in town. The Sheriff can’t believe what Fargo says; that werewolves are infesting his town and it won’t take long for them to infiltrate everywhere if not stopped. To top off the bizarre story, Fargo states that the lycanthrope virus is transmitted sexually, not by being bitten as myth dictates. The author takes us deep inside several characters personal stories, which makes it really sad when they are infected. We see several wolf creatures shot and as they die in anguish, they get stuck between a werewolf and a human. The ending is tragic but not unexpected. 106 | UncagedBooks.com

Recommended for those who love werewolf stories or a good monster tale. There is savagery and some explicit sexual scenes.

When There’s No More Room in Hell - Part 1 Luke Duffy Horror Mankind is on the brink of extinction. A deadly plague sweeps the globe like a tsunami causing the dead to rise and prey on the living. When there s no more room in Hell is a horror/action set in a post apocalyptic world filled with suspense, drama, humour, grief and action. While one brother fights his way home through the horrors and confusion of a savage landscape from the Meat Grinder that is Iraq, the other finds himself as the leader of a rag-tag band of survivors striving to survive against the onslaught of the dead.

he worked, stumbled into the business, and then recognized his photo on the wall. Another character, Tony, was a disgusting human being, preying on others as the outbreak rages. Steve deals with Tony later in a very brutal manner I totally approved of. Meanwhile, Steve’s brother Marcus is caught in Afghanistan. Marcus and his fellow soldiers, part of a security team, travel through the Middle East to the coast, fighting tooth and nail all the way. Their goal is Europe and finally England. It will be interesting to see how or if they make it back home. I’m assuming the next book will cover their harrowing journey. Recommended for zombie fans.

Myra’s Review: Another zombie novel set in England, which I love. Seeing how another culture handles a zombie apocalypse is interesting, especially given that the citizens don’t have guns like us Americans, so survival is going to be harder. Steve is a regular guy when the zombie outbreak happens. He is floating through life, but zeros in on survival once things turn bad. He takes his daughter and heads for a zoo, set up like a safari park. It is surrounded by high fencing and out of the way, so it seems like a good safe haven. Steve quickly becomes the leader of others already sheltering there, which includes staff from the park. One woman, a supervisor in the park before the apocalypse, tries to establish her leadership, but Steve backs her down. She is a bully and he doesn’t think she has what it takes for the job. He was right, she causes nothing but trouble. There are several other characters stories told. One was about a man who was bitten and we follow him for a while. It was sad when he remembered where Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Jacaranda Blues Mehreen Ahmed Romance A midsummer morning. Rhonda Smith is on her way to work. She sees a jacaranda tree and sits under it. As she waits for her bus, thoughts about her relationship with her husband Sam and former lover Chris stream into her mind. Her musings take her back to a convoluted journey of a life of struggles, aspirations, hopes and dreams. Amy’s Review: Incredibly unique story First, I really enjoy any work from Ahmed, as she writes so well, and full of lyrical and prose, even though it’s a story. She pens a grand story and I enjoyed this story. She brilliantly writes with literary metaphors and brings to life her characters. The story is full of drama, family drama, and there is that Jacaranda tree. It’s the center of the story, and about those lives that surround it. It was quick read, but it was worth the read. I enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it.

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Titan’s Wrath Rhett C. Bruno SciFi/Cyberpunk After inciting rebellion against Earth throughout Titan’s offworld colonies, Kale Trass learns that leadership isn’t only about fighting. Keeping control of his people--even his own family--requires a different set of skills. Following a pivotal battle over Saturn, Kale travels deep into enemy territory under the guise of seeking peace, though peace is the last thing on his mind. Amy’s Review: Magnificent! First, I am a big fan of Bruno’s work. Second, this is a stand alone book, but I find you get a lot of information if you read the books that came before this one. Actually, I recommend that any reader who loves a battle of the solar system to read all of Bruno’s stories. Welcome to Titan. It’s a magnificent story that follows the best tales of Bruno. Heroes fighting for survival, wars in the solar system struggling for power. It’s a little darker than the others, but it’s a wonderful read. I think it’s my favorite of the series. Well written story that shows the reader the adventure and takes them along for the twists and turns of the battles.

Nova Joanne Van Leerdam Poetry Explore with the poet what it is to be human: to love, to celebrate, to grieve, to feel pain, and to overcome, through powerful images of fallenness, hope and redemption.

Amy’s Review: Masterpiece poetry The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. I love a good poem. I think of a good poem as one that pulls in the reader, and invokes emotion, shows and makes the reader feel something, and see life through the eyes of the poet. Vanleerdam is one remarkable poet. I was drawn in immediately by the first and title poem “Nova” and it only got better from there. The words bring a light of life and show the reader how the author feels, invoking emotion within this reader. Bravo. Each page turning revealed the next poem. One of the other poems that brought me in was “Blue”. It was short and to the point, and luring. Again, I must repeat myself, masterpiece poetry.

The Man Who Needs You Mia Mae Lynne Romance It’s all fun and games until the man you’re after marries another woman. And the man who needs you shows up at that wedding. For Katie Pennington Leigh, love and family seemed to be out of her cards until a crazy woman teases her with a future she never thought she’d want. Jack Williams wasn’t looking for a wife. Hell, he wasn’t looking for anything, too concerned with raising his daughters and mourning the love he’d lost years ago. But when Katie and Jack meet, all bets are off as the two set off on a course that neither ever expected. Amy’s Review:Another captivating romance I absolutely adore this series, so I was looking forward to reading this next one in the series. First, the southern charm and romance of the story spills off the page. I really felt for Katie, and how her life went in a totally unexpected direction. The romance was perfectly timed and it wasn’t told as if it were absolute. I really enjoyed this book. I look forward to much more from this author.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews True Colors Krysten Lindsay Hager Contemporary/Young Adult Every day I walked down the sidewalk to school and wished I were one of the interesting popular girls who ran up with exciting news. Just once I’d like to be one of those girls instead of the being the one who didn’t get invited to things because people “forgot” about me.... Amy’s Review: A great read. If you’ve been to middle school, this book will remind you of that. It’s a great story for teens and tweens, but it’s not a bad read for adults either, even if it’s about nostalgia, or a time you wish to forget. It’s filled with drama, well drama that affects kids going to school, such as peer pressure, bullying, trying to fit in while being yourself, and being popular, whatever that may entail. It is very well written, and I think this book would benefit a lot of teens just entering middle school. The characters have depth and aren’t some cut-out versions of kids, they have real connections and emotions.

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Going Over the Falls Amy Waeschle Contemporary/Sports Dr. Lorna Jacob’s world turns upside down when her estranged mother, Alex Morneau arrives in her E.R. needing care for a mysterious illness. After a painful childhood trying to keep up with the surf-obsessed and neglectful Alex, Lorna is unsure of how far she’s willing to go to help her. But before Lorna can deliver the prognosis—an aggressive form of cancer—Alex disappears. Unable to turn her back on her mother, Lorna leaves behind her job and the man she loves to search for the woman who so often abandoned her for surfing. Amy’s Review: Between a mother and daughter The setting was more than just the backdrop for the story, and this helped bring the story to life. Lorna and Alex are mother and daughter, and more twists appear within their angst-filled, torn relationship. The reader is on edge, but seems to figure out where the story is going to go, however, it doesn’t take away from the story at all, as there are so many possibilities. I enjoyed the story and will read more for Waseschle. It’s very well written and characters have a depth to them, that help them grow and connect.

The Passing of the Night Joanne Van Leerdam Poetry People experience all kinds of night: loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, fear, pain, and countless other darknesses. This collection of profound lyrical poems explores the poet’s own experiences and observations of both dark and light, revealing her determination to not only survive, but to conquer whatever tries to overcome her. Amy’s Review: Magnificent The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. I read Van Leerdam’s “Nova” which also is a book of poetry, and I immediately became a fan. I had this book waiting for me, so I jumped right in as soon as I finished “Nova”. Now, like “Nova” it has a title poem “The Passing of the Night”. The title and the title poem works for this collection. Each poem is an individual poem, and yet, there is a connection, more than the same poet. Beautifully written poems with lyrical prose, but not “sing-song”, just magnificence of penning emotions, observations, within her soul. The flame seems to bring a major part to the settings, as it can bring light to darkness, and flicker with brightness and clarity. One of my favorites is “Tainted”, as I read it several times. I am sure to read more of her work.

Beyond the Vale Kerry Alan Denney Paranormal There’s no rest for the weary in the afterlife. We all must earn our passage to the next world . . . or pay the ultimate price. Logan Leonard comes to his senses with his memory full of holes, and a half-familiar woman asks him if he remembers how and why he died. She tells him he must earn his passage to the next level, leads him through doorways to impossible places with surreal landscapes and bizarre inhabitants, and sends him into pictures that are portals to his past. ... Amy’s Review: what is beyond ... This book was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and I was honored to already have read the book before the nomination. What is beyond is intriguing and very mysterious. Logan is one of those characters I won’t soon forget, nor will I forget his adventure beyond life. He is on the adventure of a lifetime, more like after-life time and some things just fit, and others are so outrageous but could possibly be what is lurking beyond. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and it was very well written. The characters, not just Logan, but the entire ensemble had meaning and depth, and things are not always as they seem, and that’s what makes this story grand.

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Jen’s Book Reviews A Kill for the Poet Simon Maltman Suspense/Crime A Kill for the Poet is the sequel to the acclaimed and bestselling A Chaser on the Rocks. It can also be read as a standalone novel. Follow Brian Caskey, as this mystery noir reveals a detective with many flaws and personal problems. He becomes embroiled with a dangerous criminal network, while trying to battle his mental health issues, and work on his own writing. This ‘story within a story,’ also follows Caskey’s own creation: P.I Billy Chapman, as he unravels a murder mystery in the 1940’s. Jen’s Review: Back with a vengeance Billy finds himself mixed up with stolen Art and a gritty terrorist ring. This book is jammed pack with enough action and adventure. You think you are Billy Chapman. Yet again this author does not fail to entertain. I’m hoping there may be more to come with Billy in the future.

Bongo Fury 2 Simon Maltman Crime Short Sequel to the bestselling ‘Bongo Fury’ novella. Follow Jimmy as he gets into much deeper trouble in this black humoured, Northern Irish noir. Jen’s Review: Jimmy Black finds himself caught up with a serial killer which causes him a lot of trouble. I really like Jimmy he’s a very funny guy and I love the relationship between him and his with Pav. It’s very believable. A short story but very enjoyable and easy to follow for people new to Jimmy’s antics.

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Under a Watchful Eye Adam Nevill Suspense/Horror

The Long Weekend Jane E. James Supernatural Suspense

Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn’t know by whom.

Hazel Ladd has spent her whole life hiding the love she feels for one of her daughters and disguising the hatred she feels for the other.

When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he’d left behind has far from forgotten him. What’s more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia.... Jen’s Review: Sebastian Logan finds himself mixed up in a deadly environment. When a ex roommate from college begins to stalk him. Sebastians life will never be the same again. I found the whole story of this creep and what happens to this poor man/writer horrible. I don’t want to give to much away in this review of the book. As it will spoil the reading experience for other’s. But it is mind opening. This is my second time reading one of Adam Nevills Book’s extremely enjoyable. Highly recommended to horror readers of the weird and strange.

She wondered why it didn’t hurt more. Surely the guilt alone should have her crawling, with bloody knees, on the sand? Jen’s Review: Hazel didn’t have the best of parents or the best marriage in the world. What she does have is two daughters who couldn’t be more different. One who loves there mother and one who does everything to rebel. Hazel plans a long weekend some time for the family to bond and mend. This book was a intriguing and very enjoyable read. As there is so many plot twists and things I didn’t see coming. The author is very talented and does not fail to entertain us reader’s. High praise.

Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Jen’s Book Reviews Protecting Her Heart Chance Carter Romance/Humor I’m going to make her beg. Emma asked me to take her all the way. She wants to experience every delicious thing a woman can feel. She wants to be brought to the very edge of ecstasy, and then she wants to leap right off the cliff.... Jen’s Review: Emma just finalised her divorce to a horrible man. Luke, Emma’s best friend has agreed to help Emma feel sexy again. By showing her his player lifestyle. A sweet romantic story filled with fights love and new experiences. Everything all wrapped up in one perfect book. Highly recommended for romance lovers.

Message in a Bottle Kath Middleton Contemporary As Liz’s world collapses around her, she discovers something she wishes she’d never known. Piece by piece she starts to rebuild her life with the help of her friends. But then it looks like her newlyfound happiness is about to shatter... Jen’s Review: Liz finds out some startling news about her husband. After he dies in a crash No longer comfortable in there old house. She plans to move after a friend suggests she can use there beach bungalow. She embarks on a soul searching discovery. To cope with her grief. A rather short but beautiful heartfelt story. That touches on real life experiences and emotions. I really enjoyed this book.

Visit Jen on Goodreads 114 | UncagedBooks.com

Aerwyn: The girl who dreams Sarah Elizabeth Northwood Childrens Once upon a time, there was a young girl called Aerwyn. Her eyes sparkled the colour of blue sapphires in the sunlight, and her golden hair flowed down over her shoulders, ending with a small but perfect curl. Aerwyn had a secret, but in every other way, she was a perfectly normal seven-year-old girl. Jen’s Review: Aerwyn is a special girl with a secret her and her imaginary friend Katie. Go on special adventures in her dream’s. This is such a beautiful feel good story for a young audience and gives such a positive attitude. To never stop dreaming.

High Force LJ Ross Suspense/British Hell has unleashed a demon – and he’s coming for you… Detective Chief Inspector Ryan’s worst nightmare has just become a reality. Notorious serial killer The Hacker has escaped prison and kidnapped one of his best detectives from her own home. His brutality is the stuff of legend – Ryan lost his sister and nearly his own life bringing the man to justice first time around. Can Ryan do it again to save his friend?

Jen’s Review: Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is back on a case when one of there team member’s is kidnapped. By the Hacker a serial Killer already know to Ryan. This case gets very personal for him a thriller of a read that will leave you gasping for more. The fifth in the DCI Ryan series. But can also be read as a stand alone book.

Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 18 | January 2018 |


Sweet Southern Book Reviews Willow Woods Academy for Witches R.L. Weeks & Skylar McKinzie Paranormal Kat and Angie have just enrolled at Willow Woods Academy for Witches against their parent’s wishes. They’re thrown into a magical, mysterious world that is everything they dreamt it to be. However, when an ancient book falls into their laps, their worlds are turned upside down.... SSReview: I knew of Willow Woods long before it came out!! I couldn’t wait to read it. The story revolves around Kat and Angie. The two young witches, go against their parents wishes, and enroll at Willow Woods Academy. With a rival school once again opening after 10 years, and a question of which side Kat is truly on, the adventure begins. With the refusal of their parent’s blessing, you know the girl’s are in for a bit of trouble at school. With a wonderfully imagined magical world, we follow the girls as they get their footing, discover their magical place at Willow Woods, learn the social structure, and of course try to learn why their parents wanted them to stay away. The story was beautifully executed, with the description of the world drawing you in and making you think you are there with the characters. R.L and Skylar have created a world where the mysteries are still unfolding and readers can return to again and again. I cannot wait for book 2.

Chance Encounter Susan Meachen Erotica What happens when all your plans for the future get derailed in just one night, starting with a chance encounter? Emily has always worked hard to stay on the honor roll in school and working to get a full ride to college, but Emily has one dark secret that only her best friend, Ginger Gold, knows about. She has a crush on the biggest playboy in Davonport, Georgia, Blake Shaw. SSReview: I loved this book! I had no idea what to expect but it kept me glued to my Kindle and I love that! Blake and Emily’s relationship from the start is amazing to take in and watch progress. This story kind of has a Pretty Woman vibe to it with a few more unexpected twists and turns. All you can really do while reading is just hope with everything Blake and Emily get their happily ever after, the life they have both been fantasizing about, as long as they have one another. The life/story changing twist is at the end of the book and for me I cannot wait to keep reading this series!!

Sweet Southern Book Reviews 116 | UncagedBooks.com

Heart of a Highlander Emilia Ferguson Historical Highlands A Tormented Highlander… Duty-bound to seek revenge, Broderick MacConnaway, son of the Thane of Dunkeld, lives haunted by memories of his lost wife Aisling. Forming an alliance with the Lochlann family presents its own trials, but if the marriage allows him to fulfil his vengeance, then so be it. Even if the guilt over Aisling prevents him from ever loving again... SSReview: Broderick MacConnaway does not think he could ever love again but knows he must ask for a marriage with an ally to help get his vengeance. Little does he expect when he first lays eyes on his intended his world will be flipped upside down. Amabel is expected to marry as the oldest in her household for gain. As most ladies in that time she’s not happy about it but will do her duty. Then she meets the eyes of her intended and feels something she’s never felt before. Can Amabel help Broderick realize his vengeance is for naught and learn to love again or will they both be doomed to live in an amicable marriage? Sit back and be prepared to be transported to Medieval Scotland where things are wild and beautiful to take in the love story of two stubborn Highlanders that must learn that they both need one another!!!

Immortal: The Chosen Terra James Young Adult/Paranormal

existed. ...

Seventeen year old Emmaline Watson’s life is about to change forever. Her family has generations of secrets that are about to change everything she thought she knew

SSReview: It’s Emmaline’s 17th birthday and all she wants us to get through school and have the birthday party her Grams has planned for her. But that is not to be, as today is the day her life is to change forever. She is the Chosen, or the one to help all supernatural races. She couldn’t know any of this until she started showing the signs that she was indeed on the path of the Chosen. Her first sign was the fact the boy she had a crush on was able to talk to her telepathically. That alone was enough to through her for a major loop. So much is being thrown at her that she can’t even make it through school, she has to go to her Grams for help. Her Grams plays a major role in all of these life altering changes. All the major people in Emmaline’s life were put in her path for a reason, to help her with being the Chosen. All must go through a ceremony with Emmaline as well, but they only get through one part of it before Emmaline is taken. I loved this book! I haven’t read the second in the series but I cannot wait to. Terra keeps you on the edge of your seat and there is not a dull moment!!!

Sweet Southern Book Reviews Issue 18 | January 2018 |


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