The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Fiction/Cultural/Historical

I started this novel over a year ago and have been steadily reading a little here and a little there. It is a quiet novel where not much happens, but what does happen changes peoples lives. One choice is made that devastates a town and two families.

I don’t read a lot of general fiction anymore, so it was a nice change of pace. A tale of familial love that does not recognize blood ties, but instead recognizes the needs of a child and the desires of two mothers.

It’s a sad tale, but a real one. For being Stedman’s first novel, it is spellbinding. An infant is claimed by the lighthouse keeper and his wife one night, but she belongs to another. There are no happy endings here, instead there is heartache, love and forgiveness that shreds every page of this story.

If you are looking for a tale that reflects reality and contains within it a treasure trove of emotion then this story will captivate you.

You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $8.99 and in paperback for $7.59.

Synopsis: A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia – the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.

Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

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The Demon Seeds – Derek Muk

Title: The Demon Seeds
Author: Derek Muk
Publisher: Black Bed Sheet Books
Genre: Fantasy/Horror

I want to start this review by first recommending readers ignore the cover, which is awful. The story is better than the representation.

Muk is a seasoned short-story writer and The Demon Seed is one of his newer tales. In regards to length, I would classify this story as a novella.

What was good about this story is that Muk is a decent writer and I enjoyed this Supernatural world fan-fiction tale. It is a ride or die kind of story. You are immediately thrust into the action, so the story flows quickly. I was never bored and I felt that it could have been a spin-off episode of the Supernatural show, where you follow different/new hunters.

What needed work was the classification of what a Bubog was, the evil creatures of the story. They sounded like vampires. I was initially confused why he was renaming vampires. However, as the story progressed, I was able to piece together that essentially they were demon spawn that had fangs and fed off blood, and they were obsessed with reproducing creepy little bubog babies. So maybe like a vampire cousin?

Additionally, I would have really enjoyed more information about Taylor and Jan, the main protagonists and evil killing duo. I felt that I would have been more invested in the story and their kickass-ness, if I knew more about them. It would help me care more about their journey.

I feel Muk is a writer to watch as he gains experience as a storyteller. I will be interested to see how he grows in the years to come.

If you are looking for a story in the vein of monster hunting, then this tale is worth checking out. It is a good lunch break read. Keep your eyes out because I think we will continue to see more from Muk in the future as he refines his craft.

You can find the story on Amazon for $3.98 in Kindle edition and $11.98 in paperback. I do feel based on the length of the story that the price is a bit steep.

Synopsis: Taylor and Jan have an edgy, exhilarating and dangerous occupation: they’re monster hunters. While they’ve endured many strange adventures in their Southern California/Los Angeles area turf, their latest is as harrowing as it gets….for they are about to encounter the nefarious bubog, the demonic offspring of the cult leader Bubog, an entity carrying the seed of the Dark Prince himself, and he is trying to impregnate as many human women he could lay his hands on. While the intrepid monster hunters track the bubog down in an attempt to put an end to their evil scourge, Jan learns that her best friend, Carol, has been initiated into their cult and the two must save her before she too gives birth to one of these abominations. But can they save her? And can they rid our world forever of these diabolical Demon Seeds before it’s too late?

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY

Derek Muk is a writer and social worker from California. His short stories have appeared in various online and small press magazines, including: “The Dead Walk” (anthology), “Fear and Trembling Magazine,” “13 Magazine.” “Diabolic Tales 3” (an anthology of horror), “Both Barrels of Legends of the Monster Hunter I and II” (anthology), “The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II” (anthology), “Suffer the Little Children” (anthology), “Splatter: An Anthology of Horror,” “Death Rattle,” “Dark Things II” (Anthology), “Anthology of Ichor: Hearts of Darkness,” “Twisted Tongue Magazine,” “Static Movement,” “Sex and Murder Magazine,” “Sinister Tales,” “Night to Dawn,” “M-Brane SF,” “Sonar4 E-Zine,” “The Ethereal Gazette,” “7th Dimension Magazine,” “Switchblade Magazine,” “ESC! Magazine,” “Scorched Wings Magazine,” “Hardboiled,” “Masque Noir,” “Detective Mystery Stories,” “Dawnsky,” “The Pinehurst Journal,” “Mystery Forum Magazine,” “The Green Queen,” “Kracked Mirror Mysteries,” “Golden Visions Magazine,” “Crossroads Magic,” “The Street Corner Magazine,” “Calliope Magazine,” “Unspoken Water,” “Space and Time Magazine,” “Infernal Ink Magazine,” “Tales of the Talisman Magazine,” “Dark Eclipse,” “Whispers From The Past: Fright and Fear” (anthology), “ParABnormal Digest,” “The Haunted Academy” (Novella-Midnight Frost Books), “Fiction On The Web,” “Bards and Sages Quarterly,” “NeaDNAthal” (anthology), “Aurora Wolf,” “The Horror Zine Magazine,” “Nebula Rift,” “9 Tales,” “Story of the Month Club,” “Cranial Leakage,” “New Realm,” “Ink Stains Anthology,” “Cheapjack Pulp” and “Disturbed Digest.”

He has three chapbooks published: “Three Parts,” “The Sacrifice and Other Stories,” and “Sin after Sin.” In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, museums, art, dining out, and meeting new people. He has a bachelors and masters degree in social work.

“The Occult Files of Albert Taylor” is his first full length collection of short stories.

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*We received the story for free in exchange for an honest review

Shadowfell – Juliet Marillier

Title: Shadowfell
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA/Fantasy

I have not read Marillier in what feels like forever, so I was giddy to sit down and crack open one of her newer series.

You can always count on some supernatural element and romance to blossom in Marillier’s tales.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the tale of Neryn as she treks a journey to freedom from the oppressive and violent tyrant known as, Keldec. He wishes to eradicate or control all that possess the canny ability. The canny ability is one that manifests differently in selected people, but it is a magical gift. Neryn’s ability involves being able to see and call the Fae (Good Folk). Keldec would very much like to possess this gift and the person who wields it. It is the one power that has the potential to overthrow him.

The tale lived up to my expectations of Marillier, and I whizzed through the story in one sitting. I could not put it down. It was a magical and romantic read and I look forward to continuing the story in the sequels that follow.

If you are interested in magical period stories that have a romantic slant, then you will not be disappointed.

You can find the story on Amazon for $9.99 in Kindle format and $10.22 in paperback.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill–a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk–Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death–but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

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Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

Title: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Romantic/Contemporary Fiction

I was super excited to read this book after seeing the trailer for the movie this past summer. I love the actress, Constance Wu, best known for her role in the TV show Fresh off the Boat.

She plays the character Rachel Chu from this series. I have yet to see the movie, instead wanting to read the real story first.

Now that I am done with the first book, I can’t wait to watch the movie. However, I now am committed to at least 2 more books of this series to find out the ending. I didn’t realize when I began this tale that it spans several books. But the story is good, so I will keep chugging along.

I can’t tell you how repulsed I was by how the wealthy were depicted in this story. Such horrible behavior that made me ashamed for them. I wanted to scream at them about how pointless their obsession with wealth and beauty was and to just plain grow up. I can’t deny that for a moment, I thought about putting the book down because the majority of the wealthy girls were maddening to read about. Thankfully, the tale was equally filled with grounded and real characters like Rachel and Astrid (cousin to Rachel’s love interest Nick) who are more complicated humans and have kindness inside of them.

This was a great story that shines a light on the 1% of society. It embellishes the inhumanity that money can bring out in our characters and the power of bloodlines and family names. A satirical tale of how imperfect life on a shelf can be. And how difficult melding lives can be when you live on different sides of the haves and haves not fence.

If you like dramatic fiction with a dash of comedy and romance then this will likely wet your appetite. You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $9.99 and in paperback for  $10.69.

Synopsis: Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.


When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

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The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump – Robert Sears

Title: The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump
Author: Robert Sears
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genre: Comedy/Poetry

If you are looking for a good laugh then this story will be sure to tickle your funny bone. This is most definitely satire and should not be taken too seriously. I think the cover picture is a shining example of what you will find inside.

Please enter this with a sense of humor. It pokes a little fun, but it is overall just a lively play on President Trump’s famous tweets.

It is a quick read — something to munch on after dinner. Some of the poems are better than others. I found most of the haiku’s to be a bit lacking, but I find this to be a clever gift for your more democratic friends.

I bought this on a whim and found it entertaining for the 30 minutes of delight it gave me.

You can find the book on Amazon for $11.66 in Hardcover and $7.54 in Kindle format. However, I do feel this is way overpriced for what it is. I bought it used instead for a much more agreeable price.

It is a good gag gift. The price is not justifiable at almost 12 dollars for 30 minutes of entertainment.

Synopsis: What if there’s a hidden dimension to Donald Trump; a sensitive, poetic side? Driven by this question, Rob Sears began combing Trump’s words for signs of poetry.

What he found was a revelation. By simply taking the 45th President of the United States’ tweets and transcripts, cutting them up and reordering them, Sears unearthed a trove of beautiful verse that was just waiting to be discovered.

This groundbreaking collection will give readers a glimpse of Trump’s innermost thoughts and feelings on everything from the nature of truth, to what he hates about Lord Sugar. And it will reveal a hitherto hidden Donald, who may surprise and delight both students and critics alike.

This timely publication also includes Sears’ scholarly footnotes and introduction, in which he excavates new critical angles and insights into the President’s poetry which the casual reader might initially overlook.

OWL Rating:

 

Silverwood: The Door – Keene, Chizmar, Kozeniewski, Sisters of Slaughter & Valenzuela

Title: Silverwood: The Door
Authors: Brian Keene, Stephen Kozeniewski, Sisters of Slaughter, Richard Chizmar, original creator Tony E. Valenzuela
Publisher: Serial Box Publishing
Genre: Horror/Paranormal

Have you ever heard of Serial Box? Not the box you find your Cheerios in. Well I hadn’t, not until someone reached out to me and told me all about it.

It sounded like Netflix for books, except a bit different. It is serialized fiction that like TV, is released in episodic segments. You find a book you’re interested in and then pay for that books narrated episodes and eBook. Kind of cool, right?

When all is said and done, you’ve paid the price of one book and you get two different formats to choose from.

I listened to the first episode for free of Silverwood: The Door. But I have an auditory processing disorder, so I prefer to read instead of listen. I was excited to see that I can just continue the story on my own in eBook format, instead of waiting for each episode release. Regardless of my wee hearing disorder, I think this is pretty neat. I know when holiday travel starts up again, I will be looking at this site for audiobooks to make the traveling a bit easier.

Now, about the story Silverwood: The Door. I have been keen for sometime to read Keene, but have never gotten around to it. And we all know my bookworm heart beats fast for Kozeniewski. So, when this title came across my inbox I was eager to check it out.

This is a story that combines both primal violence and otherworldly phenomenon. An X-Files tale on steroids that there is no coming back from. If you like stories about the darkness that creeps under our moral humanity then you have found your bedtime fairy-tale.

The story has four authors who seamlessly weave their tales together. Each chapter is written by a different author, but you can’t tell because they have melded their voices as one.

The story felt like a movie as you follow the characters individual journeys. The level of detail paints a vivid picture, a picture that contains much gore and mayhem. However, even with the horror that unfolds on each page, the authors still are able to bring a level of humor to the scenes. I think my favorite involves a character named Devin, who is surrounded by terror and chaos, but tries to maintain an air of professionalism as bodies hit the ground. It tickled my gooey insides.

It was a well crafted story by some of the best horror writers currently alive. If you are interested in reading more or listening to the episodes, check out the first episode/chapter on Serial Box. You can listen to the first episode for free.

The original inspiration for Silverwood: The Door began with a YouTube show called, Silverwood, which was a 10 episode anthology series that came out in 2012. Keene and fellow authors are now continuing the story.

Check out the original inspiration by Tony E. Valenzuela on YouTube below. Then continue the story with Keene and the rest of the horror writing crew.

Synopsis: Deep within the forest of Silverwood, California, a crack between dimensions has appeared. A dark force that lurks among the trees is growing stronger, determined to return home if it can only gather the strength to open the door—bad news for a Cub Scout troop and the employees of Hirsch Capital on a company retreat nearby. As their darkest fears and impulses power the mysterious force, their bonding exercises take a deadly turn. Will anyone be able to keep their minds long enough to close the door before our world is torn apart? 

*I received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review

OWL Rating:

 

 

Spencer & Locke – David Pepose, Jorge Santiago Jr., Jasen Smith, Colin Bell

Title: Spencer & Locke
Author: David Pepose
Art: Jorge Santiago Jr.
Color: Jasen Smith
Letters: Colin Bell
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment
Genre: Hardboiled Fiction/Noir – Graphic novel

Before you begin reading this collection of quality hardboiled fiction, set the tone with the low vibes of jazz noir. It will enhance your reading experience. With every page turn, I felt more and more pulled in with the help of YouTube.

I have an obsession with this style of crime detective fiction. It’s edgy, dark, fatalistic and sexy. Pepose and fellow creators produced a gritty Calvin and Hobbes remix, starring a confident and brooding protagonist with a traumatic past. Even though Locke’s sidekick is a stuffed animal come to life in his mind, Locke still oozes that cool and calm demeanor we love from our prohibition style crime fighters. However, I do have some questions about the psyche evaluation that clearly never happened for this detective.

I loved the style of this graphic novel. The artwork was fantastic and the writing fit perfectly. Spencer has some clever comebacks that also brought a giggle to my lips. I can’t wait to see the next installments to come out in the spring.

If you have an interest in noir styled graphic novels then check Spencer & Locke out, you will not be disappointed. The first novel starts at $5.99 in Kindle/comixology format and $13.49 in paperback.

Synopsis: Spencer & Locke follows hard-boiled Detective Locke as he investigates a brutal murder with the strangest of partners ― his childhood imaginary panther, Spencer. But when they face brutal gunfights, deadly car chases and memories of Locke’s traumatic youth, can this unlikely pair survive long enough to find the truth?

Currently nominated for five Ringo Awards, including Best Series and Best Writer.

THE MAN BEHIND THE WORDS

After starting his career at DC Comics, David Pepose has gone on to write thousands of articles about comic book storytelling. SPENCER & LOCKE, Pepose’s debut series with artist Jorge Santiago, Jr., has been praised by IGN as “a fiendishly fun take on an age-old classic.” A St. Louis native, Pepose currently lives in Los Angeles, where he works in the television industry.

 

 

 

 

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*I received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review

Darkest Hours – Mike Thorn

Title: Darkest Hours
Author: Mike Thorn
Publisher: Unnerving
Genre: Horror

Just in time for the Halloween holiday, I had the pleasure to continue my horror education with Thorn’s latest short story collection. Horror and I are beginning to become good friends, if I do say so myself.

Thorn has compiled a varied and creative anthology. I found that from story to story I was always pleasantly surprised. Naturally, some stories I enjoyed more than others, but overall I felt this was a solid grouping of tales.

The collection starts with a disturbing and repulsing addiction to hair. Can’t deny that I said eww a lot. It was also enlightening because at the end of the day there is someone out there who is suffering from this sexual proclivity. It felt like a beginning to a Criminal Minds episode.

I found often drawn to certain sentences that Thorn crafted. They were clever and I liked his use of language. Some of my favorites included:

“My scholastic cock outsizes everyone else’s”

“Herbert asked the bartenders breasts”

“Work like you want to work”

“Everything else, the chaos that came between the cradle and the grave, was unpredictable”

It is clear from Thorn’s writing that he has spent some time in academia, as several of his stories star accomplished or struggling academic professors. It is obviously a familiar environment Thorn likes to capture. Whether the academic was a mouse mass murderer or an out-of-work biologist, Thorn highlights their struggles and peculiarities.

One of my favorites from the collection was Lucio Schluter, a creative writing piece that brings reality to art. I think it was my favorite because it felt like true crime. This was a story that I could see showing up in an FBI file. For me, the more realistically attainable the horror, the more intriguing and butt clenching the tale.

If you are looking for a quick and unpleasant (in good way) read before bedtime then look no further. You can find the story collection on Amazon for $3.99 in Kindle format and for $11.00 in paperback.

Also, I dig the cover. It reminds me of a home recorded VHS tape, which brings back the memories.

Synopsis: In the bleak landscape of Darkest Hours, people make decisions that lead them into extreme scenarios – sometimes bizarre, often horrific, always unexpected. Between this book’s covers you will find academics in distress; monsters abused by people; people terrorized by demons; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, brutal, but always empathetic.

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours.

His fiction has appeared in a number of magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Dark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast and Behind the Mask – Tales from the Id, and his film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film Stage, The Seventh Row and Vague Visages.

He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. 

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OWL Rating:

*I received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review

The Embalmer: A Steve Jobz Thriller – Vincent Zandri

Title: The Embalmer: A Steve Jobz Thriller
Author: Vincent Zandri
Publisher: Bear Noir
Genre: Detective Fiction/Thriller/Crime

I read this story for OnlineBookClub.org. While I am not permitted to fully review it anywhere else, I would like to share a few thoughts.

I have been on a crime kick lately, so I decided to explore this story by an author I had never read before. The story was enjoyable and I was never bored. However, the characters were lacking in development.

I recommend checking him out if you enjoy light detective fiction and crime thrillers.

If you are interested in seeing my full review, please head on over here.

Synopsis: From New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Overall No. 1 Bestselling Thriller and Shamus Award Winning Author Vincent Zandri Comes a Brand New Private Detective Series. “The Embalmer is dying to meet you…”

You might think that a guy with the name of Steve Jobz would be one lucky man. That he’d be rich and have the world at his fingertips. But instead, Jobz is barely making ends meet at the New York State Department of Unemployment Insurance Fraud. A former cop who was forced to retire early after shooting a young man of color during a convenience store holdup, Jobz has since resigned himself to wasting away his days in a four-by-four cubicle inside an office space that’s more boring than watching the paint dry.

But when his overbearing boss calls him in on a job that the Albany Police Department is heading up, Jobz has a chance to get out of the office for a while.

But what he doesn’t realize is that he’s about to come face to face with a serial killer who embalms his victims alive. What he is also about to face down, is his own worst nightmare come true when that serial killer turns out not to be a stranger.

The Embalmer culminates with an explosive climax and promises to keep readers glued to their chairs for hours.

The novel combines wry humor with some serious hard-boiled action, adventure, and romance. For fans of Michael Connelly, Robert B. Parker, Charlie Huston, Jim Crumley, Lee Child, Brett Battles, and more.

*I received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review

 

Poison by Punctuation (Book #2) – Kelley Kaye

Title: Poison by Punctuation
Author: Kelley Kaye
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Genre: Chick-lit/mystery

When I read the first installment, I was pleasantly surprised and was interested to see what other adventures Kelley Kaye had to share for these two teachers, Emma and Leslie.

Emma and Leslie are likeable and light women. Even when death looms above them, they continue to smile and investigate. However, like several of the characters, their characterization is quirky in a dated way. They talk more like 50 year old women than late twenties/early thirties ladies. So I guess you can call them old souls. But I predict their characterization would appeal to a slightly older, female audience instead of the intended age.

This second tale continues Emma and Leslie’s investigative night job of solving murders and threats made within the school.

The beginning was slow and I had to push through to get to the meat of the tale. I often felt there were many sections that could have been cut altogether, making a more concise story without so much down time. Once I was halfway in, I started to enjoy the story and the the revelations that ensued.

If you enjoy light, chic-lit murder mysteries then you may enjoy this series. For me the tale was just okay. This is perhaps due to my age or the fact that I prefer my stories a bit heavier on the character development. Also, I prefer more darkness than light.

You can find the story on Amazon for $8.99 in Kindle format and $12.99 in paperback.

 

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE STORY

Kelley Kaye taught High School English and Drama for twenty years, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken—whatever the case, the love’s been around for a long time.

Kelley is married to this amazing man who cooks for her, and they have two funny and wonderful sons. She lives in Southern California.

 

 

 

OWL Rating:

*We received a free copy of the story in exchange for an honest review