Posted in 4 paws, Christian, Cozy, excerpt, mystery, Review on December 31, 2015

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Roped In

Title: Roped In
Author: K.D. Hays
Publisher: K.D. Hays
Pages: 140
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Life has settled into a more stable pattern for fledgling investigator Karen Maxwell of DS Investigations, but that stability is precarious. At work, she has an uneasy truce with Rodney, the “office maximizer” hired by her brother to do some of the administrative work she used to do. Her brother has not assigned her any real cases and she thinks it’s because he doesn’t trust her after she was fired from her last major assignment.

But she soon gets her chance. The firm’s insurance agent calls in a favor and asks them to investigate whether a valuable parrot was killed as a result of snowfall damage to a house. Karen is pretty sure Dave will assign this to her, since the investigation will involve no money or prestige. But it may help earn back his confidence.

Then Gina Callaghan hires DS Investigations to find out who sabotaged her daughter Hayley’s rope at a jump rope competition. Hayley competes in power jumping events, and she failed to make the top four in the regional tournament. If Karen can prove that one of those top four jumpers behaved unethically, then Hayley, (who was fifth) will have a spot at the national competition, and a chance to go to the World tournament. Dave assigns Karen the lead role in this case, so now she has a chance to prove to her brother that she can conclude an investigation before the client is ready to pull the plug.

Karen bribes her son to take a jump rope class on the day when the jumpers she needs to watch have their practices. Initially, Hayley Callaghan does not want the matter investigated so Karen has to be a subtle as possible. Meanwhile, in the parrot case, Karen’s investigation seems to indicate that the parrot’s owners are telling the truth and not trying to defraud the insurance company. But the picture they offer as proof somehow arouses Karen’s suspicion.

At jump rope practice, she finds a lot of masked hostility and a host of possible suspects, but no one who saw anything. Then Hayley’s sister steps forward and admits that she saw someone rummaging through her sister’s rope bag. Circumstances point to two possible suspects, in addition to the sister herself. But Karen can find no proof of wrongdoing and thinks the break was most likely an accident. Then Hayley changes her position and urges Karen to follow through with her initial suspicions. She immediately wonders why.

But she doesn’t have time to wonder. Her brother insists that she stop working on the insurance case and her client insists that she write up suspicions against one of the other jumpers so they can file a complaint with the national sanctioning commission. Working against the clock, Karen finds proof that the picture is fake, proving that the insurance clients were trying to defraud the agency. But time runs out on the jump rope investigation—once again the dissatisfied client fires Karen before she solves the case. This time, she knows an innocent girl is going to face blame and could be banned from the sport she loves. So she digs on until she uncovers the truth —and possible destroys a family in the process.


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“And you promise that you can be discreet?”

“Of course.” We’d never mingled with nobility or the rich and famous, but we had done work for the old moneyed families in Maryland and knew some of them could be passionate about maintaining their privacy.

“Good,” she murmured, and again I had the sense that she was going through a checklist. I wondered if she might be the personal assistant to a rich woman who needed us to find missing heirloom jewels or locate the beneficiary of a testator’s unexpected bequest.

“I need to hire an investigator,” she said, rather redundantly.

“Yes,” I said, trying to be patient as my gaze strayed to the clock. I was going to have to flat-out run down to Main Street to make it to the salon on time. But it would be worth it if I was able to rope in a new client. With this woman’s educated voice and concerns about discretion, I thought we might be looking at something substantial. Even if it was just a woman wishing to keep tabs on her husband, she might be a client with enough money to pay for a extensive investigation. So I didn’t want to make her feel rushed.

“Why do you want to hire an investigator?” I asked gently.

“I need an investigator. Your best investigator,” she said firmly. “To find out who broke my daughter’s jump rope.”


If you know me at all, you know I HATE reading a book out of order in a series. I didn’t realize this was book 3 in the series and while generally all books in a series can be read by themselves, you lose out on the personal stories and some of that information. I’d like to say that this book did a pretty good job of not making me feel like i was missing out on a lot of Karen’s past with her ex, the kids or even the new beau in her life.

This is a Christian mystery so there are church/God references but nothing too over the top, a good balance.

The mystery portion actually cracked me up – Karen is hired to figure out who sabotaged the client’s daughter’s jump rope in competition. Normally mysteries are trying to find a killer, but not here. I thought it was an interesting twist and actually a nice change from the norm.

There is a good balance of the characters with varying personalities that add charm and wit to the story. There is even a little bit of a love story between Karen and Brian (the beau).

Very enjoyable book and learned a lot about jump roping competitions, apparently this is a real thing – who knew?!

We give this 4 paws up and will go back and try and read the other books too.


About the Author

K.D. HaysKate Dolan began her writing career as a legal editor and then newspaper columnist before she decided she was finally ready to tackle fiction. As the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas, she writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children’s books under the name K.D. Hays. When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a living history interpreter and riding roller coasters with her daughter.

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Posted in 3 1/2 paws, fiction, Review on December 29, 2015




The Daddy Diaries is a humorous and poignant novel about a relationship between a stay at home dad and his two preteen kids. When his wife goes to work full time in a beach town in Florida, Jay must acclimate to life in the south. With a rich but stupid older brother, a lunatic townie friend and a teen son who’s ready to know what a “threesome” is, Jay’s world is thrown about as far as California to Florida.


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The book is billed as being funny, but I really didn’t think that was the case. It is an honest look at a stay at home dad dealing with a teenage son that is moody and dealing with normal teen angst (as we can all remember especially if you have a teenager), along with his young daughter (who isn’t a teen yet!) and a wife that wants a 3rd child.

I was very annoyed with several characters including Ray and Lizzie who aren’t married but have a daughter together and they are too wrapped up in their own issues to be good parents, yet don’t want anyone else helping them out. There is also Cam, who is the older brother, who is also very selfish and wrapped up in himself.

I felt like Jay was a very compassionate father in his actions with his children and his friend’s children. I thought he was portrayed as very down to earth despite the circumstances. He struggled with who he was and what he wanted to do with his life – much like many of us!

The book was good and an honest look inside your average family.  We give it 3 1/2 paws.

About the Author

josh braffJoshua Braff is the author of three novels, The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, Peep Show, and The Daddy Diaries, published May 5, 2015. The Daddy Diaries is a memorable take on contemporary fatherhood and a clear-sighted look at how the upending of traditional marital roles can affect the delicate balance of familial love. Braff’s work can also be found in The Huffington Post and in multiple anthologies. He has an MFA from St. Mary’s College and lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. Visit his website for more information.

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Posted in 3 paws, Cozy, Monday, mystery, Review on December 28, 2015


When Amy Ridley decided to compete in the Kellerton Summer Festival Pie Contest, the last thing she expected was to find the reigning pie queen, Mandy Jo, dead—a raspberry pie smashed on her face! Mandy Jo made fantastic pies, but she accumulated more enemies than baking trophies. But when Amy receives a note threatening her own life, she decides to do some investigating herself.

It seems that half the town has a reason to kill the mean pie queen, and Amy finds herself sifting through a list of suspects that’s longer than her list of recipes. Not to mention playing cupid for her love-shy best friend, fending off a baker intent on finding out her prize-winning culinary secrets, and ducking the deadly attentions of Mandy Jo’s killer. If Amy doesn’t find out who wanted the pie queen dead soon, her own goose may be cooked!



I have mixed feelings on this book. While I liked it overall (especially the food recipes!), as the books switched between Amy and Carla it made the book feel jumpy. Yes they are best friends and Carla helped Amy with her thought process, but the switch just felt weird and didn’t seem to flow well IMHO.

I didn’t care for Amy’s character. Must be nice to marry well and stay home and develop recipes for contests, but she fell flat as a main protagonist. She seemed wishy-washy, but the one thing I can say is that when it came down to taking down the killer she didn’t put herself in harm’s way. Sort of unusual for a cozy.

Her best friend Carla has a relationship with the lead detective, which she partially started at Amy’s behest but there are sparks between the two of them. She seems like a more likely protagonist and more level headed.

I think the series has potential and hopefully future books have made Amy more likable and less insipid.  We give this book 3 paws.


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Posted in Holiday on December 27, 2015

I took a bit of a mini break to enjoy the holidays with my family, but did read some books and will be back with some reviews starting tomorrow.  Hopefully you found a book or two under your tree!


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Posted in 5 paws, Historical, Novella, romance on December 24, 2015



A prequel novella to the POWER OF THE MATCHMAKER Series

Mystical . . . Beautiful . . . Romantic . . .

12 novels by 12 bestselling authors.  Released once a month in 2016

Read the matchmaker’s story to find out where it all starts . . .

Mae Li has been in love with Chen Zhu for years, and he with her. But when the matchmaker arrives at the Zhu family home, she recommends another village girl for Chen.

Heartbroken, Mae Li watches as Chen does his duty by marrying another. Mae flees her village with the clothes on her back and her only possession—a pearl embedded comb, given to her as a goodbye gift from Chen Zhu.

Upon Mae’s arrival in Shanghai, she quickly learns that she’ll starve within days unless she sells her prized comb or joins a courtesan house. She goes to the Huangpu River and promises the River God that she’ll always be selfless if he will save her from becoming a prostitute . . . Her wish is granted when Ms. Tan, the matchmaker of Shanghai, finds Mae. But Mae must completely change her future and her name if she is to become the next matchmaker.




This is a novella so a very fast read but it sets you up for 12 books coming out next year featuring the matchmaker Pearl. She loved a man from her town, but the matchmaker matched him with a rival, so Mae Li (aka Pearl) leaves her town to avoid marrying who she was matched with.

I don’t know what time frame this was but am guessing late 1800’s or early 1900’s since there weren’t cars yet. Also there were not a lot of jobs for women other than prostitution.

The book was enjoyable and I look forward to checking out the other books featuring Mae Li aka Pearl.

We give this 5 paws up


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Posted in 3 1/2 paws, excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Review, Spotlight, Urban on December 23, 2015

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Caelum by Mandie Stevens

Series: Olde City Angels #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Publication Date: July 13, 2015


Eva doesn’t claim to be a good guardian angel, but she tries. After she loses two charges, the Powers That Be begin to doubt her abilities. To redeem herself, Eva sets out to rescue Elsie, granddaughter of the former king of the Fae. A demon has kidnapped Elsie to complete an ancient ritual that will allow him to slip through the veil between Earth and Hell during the Sturgeon moon.
Thomas, an angel liaison, finally lands his first mission. But when he’s paired with the angel responsible for his uncle’s death, he has to put aside their differences to get the job done.
With unlikely friends in tow, Eva and Thomas are in a race against time. Save Elsie, save the world—oh, and save Eva’s job.


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I reached for the knife in my waistband and gripped it. Shops and hotels lined the bay front. The sun was setting fast, and St. Augustine was the Supernatural center of the western world. Getting stuck in an alley with vampire wasn’t my idea of a good time when I had more important things to do, like find my liaison and charge. What a joke. Different races of supernaturals were trying to live together. If humans couldn’t manage it, how were the other-kind going to do it?

One thing I’d learned from my former liaison was that I could learn about anything in a bar. I headed down the cobblestone path to find one. Several humans stepped out of a restaurant. To their left was a brick building that was heavily warded; the humans would have thought it was an extension of the restaurant, never knowing it was a supernatural hot spot. The bar was called Spellbound. Original much?

I stepped out onto the road, and my heart dropped, I second-guessed my senses. A familiar though unexpected energy called to me. I hadn’t seen Phenex since he’d left, but I always knew when family was near. But why wouldn’t he be here? If he were to fit in anywhere, this would be the place.


If you like paranormal books you will like this book. There are plenty of angels, werewolves, gargoyles, elves and other mystical creatures/beings.

The story was enjoyable but there were lots of characters to keep track of and what their purpose was to the story. I liked the premise of the story, that an angel has a human counterpart in tracking down harmful magical beings.

I’m not huge into paranormal, it just depends on the book and how it grabs me. I’d give this 3 1/2 paws, it was good and I think the series has potential.


About the Author

mandi stevensMandie Stevens has always been accused of living in her own world so she decided to put it to paper. When she isn’t writing you can catch her lounging on the beach reading. Mandie has penned both nonfiction and urban fantasy.

She has ridiculously little feet and would be happy eating seafood every day.

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Posted in 4 paws, Review, romance on December 22, 2015

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KEY Change

(Assignment: Romance #3)
Barbara Valentin
Romantic Comedy, 236 pgs
Gemma Halliday Publishing


The first thing Sara Cleff, a hard-edged, shower-singing rock music critic, wants to do after following a band on tour is crawl into her nice comfy bed in her well-appointed, optimally located vintage apartment. But before making it home, she learns her roommate-slash-boyfriend has apparently broken up with her while she was away on assignment and sublet their apartment out from underneath her. Ouch! When her key no longer fits in the lock, the last person she expects to find on the other side of the door is Andrew Benet, a wickedly gorgeous music director from a nearby church.

Something about the brash music critic strikes a chord with Andrew, and he offers her the chance to stay on one condition—she has to join the choir at his church. While Andrew may hold the lease on Sara’s apartment, does he have the key to unlock her heart?


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Up as usual at the crack of dawn, Andrew trudged to the bathroom, almost forgetting to close the door behind him before he spotted Sara’s bangles on the counter next to the sink. Reaching over, he shut the door and locked it.

Fifteen minutes later, he was showered, clean-shaven, and ready to go, except he didn’t have to be at the church until four-thirty that afternoon. Unplugging his phone from an outlet in his room, he brought it with him into the kitchen, transferred Sara’s clothes that she had washed the night before into the dryer and poured himself some coffee. He sat on a barstool, debated throwing a sweatshirt on over his plain, blue, short-sleeved T- shirt to ward off the chill, but started scrolling through his email instead.

His eyes, however, kept drifting over to Sara, out like a light on the sofa sleeper.

While most of her was wrapped in the blankets like a human burrito, with the sun starting to break through the bare branches of the ancient oak tree blocking the expansive bay window, he could see her face quite plainly.

Without all that the heavy dark makeup, he noted, she looked younger.

And kinda sweet, actually.

But then again, she wasn’t talking.

Still, he was glad he invited her to stay the night before.

But what about tonight? And tomorrow night? And the night after that?

While he mulled the possibilities, she rolled over and stretched, arching her back and groaning as she did. Resuming her curled-up burrito pose, she opened her eyes and mumbled, “How long have you been sitting there?”

Looking at his watch, he admitted, “About a minute. Or five. Maybe ten.” His cheeks suddenly felt a lot warmer.

With a loud yawn, she sat up. “I slept so good.” Patting the thin mattress with her hand, she added, “So comfy.”

The words hung in the air between them.

Sarcasm before coffee. Great.

Still, the sight of her in his pajama top seemed to lobotomize him. All he could do by way of a reply was nod.

With a shrug, she added, “Seriously, on a sleeper sofa—who knew?”

Snap out of it.

With no small amount of effort, he turned and glanced at the dryer. “Your clothes should be ready in about twenty minutes.”

At that, Sara took a deep breath and yanked the covers back, revealing two impossibly long bare legs as she flung her feet to the floor.

Knowing full well that the sudden blast of heat he felt was not delivered by way of the gilded vents along the floorboards, Andrew got up to check the thermostat on the wall next to the upright piano anyway, mumbling, “Gotta love old buildings.”


This was a fun filled, sweet romance book. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t “innocent” but the storyline and the characters feel like they are your friends and that you could be right there with them. I like that this book focuses around music – a music critic, Sara Cleff (who can also belt out a tune) and a Catholic Church Music Minister, Andrew Benet, who plays the organ at the church and directs the choir but knows nothing about current music. I also like Sara’s last name, quite a play on music so it is no surprise that she is involved in the music scene.

This story also has its funny moments that had me chuckling out loud. With the ups and downs and misunderstandings between Sara and Andrew, it makes for entertaining reading. It’s not without some serious moments when they realize the attraction for each other when they couldn’t be more different from each other. But they say that opposites attract!

I hadn’t read anything by this author before but will definitely check out her other works. We give this 4 paws up.


About the Author

Barbara ValentinBarbara is an award-winning novelist and second-generation journalist. After spending a decade in maternity clothes, she has five boys to show for it and much fodder for her column, The Plate Spinner Chronicles, a long-running feature in the Chicago Tribune. A member of RWA’s Windy City chapter, she still dreams of the day when her to-do list includes “Send NY Times book critic thank you note” and “Accept Godiva’s request to be a taste-tester.”

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Posted in 4 paws, Review, romance on December 21, 2015


The Mariposa Hotel
A Tangerine Street Romance
(a novel in three parts)

Welcome to Tangerine Street

Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. The Mariposa Hotel, a new resort, has revitalized Seashell Beach, bringing new life to the sleepy beach town. In the charming gardens of the hotel sits a three-hundred-year-old wishing well transported from Mexico. One toss of the coin, a sincere wish, and lives are changed forever…

Other books in the Tangerine Street Romance series:
The Fortune Café
The Boardwalk Antiques Shop



I enjoyed going back to Tangerine Street and peeking into the lives of employees at the Mariposa Hotel.

The first story is about Mari, who is a maid at the hotel, and is also taking online classes to realize her dream of being an attorney. She doesn’t have much time for men (especially with an ex that treated her badly) until she meets the US Marshall and he sparks something in her to give men another chance.

The second story is not really about an employee – Ridley steps in as concierge as a favor to his long time friend, and manager of the Mariposa. He is really a photographer and is there to capture a surfing contest. But he meets Brooke, a plastic surgeon whose passion is helping those in 3rd world countries and are born with cleft palates. Needless to say neither of them is who the other thinks they are.

The last story is about Raegan who is the events coordinator for the hotel (and she is friends with Mari from story 1) who is organizing a charity event for a well known producer, but she doesn’t realize who he is when they first meet. He has issues of his own with his sister’s past behavior and trying to keep his niece from going down the wrong path.

All of these stories have strong women who realize that maybe there is more to live than work/school and perhaps love can balance out the work aspect. Since all of these are novellas, the relationships move rather quickly (in a matter of days) but they are all clean romantic interludes.

The only “issue” I had with this book is the flow from story to story. While they are all independent of each other, Mari appears in all 3 stories. Now normally that wouldn’t be a big deal. But as I am reading each story it seems like the time frames happen one after the other, which would seem normal. However, in story 1, Mari is fired from her job as a maid yet in story 2 and 3 she is still a maid. I think if they had put this story last it would have had a better flow time wise (imagining all 3 taking place over a few months time span) because when Mari pops up in story 2 and 3, I couldn’t figure out how she would be there if she was fired in story 1. If the events that happened in stories 2 and 3 were mentioned in story 1, maybe it would have made more sense, but I truly imagined story 1 taking place in say April, story 2 in May and story 3 in June (or something like that). So you can see where it might feel weird to the reader to have Mari show up as a maid when we know she was fired in story 1!

Other than that the book was an enjoyable read and a great addition to the Tangerine Street series. I give it 4 paws up


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Posted in paranormal, Spotlight, Young Adult on December 20, 2015

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A gripping, dark fantasy!

A Destined Prophecy: “The White Warrior will be one with Lucifer and God will weep.”

Haunting visions and supernatural talents are the norm for the sixteen-year-old warrior, Jordan and her mother Seeley. Together with their formidable angels they find themselves in peril when a wicked sorcerer is determined to fulfill the prophecy to his lord, Lucifer.

After an ominous vision of spirits inhabiting teenagers in a local school, Jordan enrolls in the social culture of teendom at Elma High to combat soulless demons. She encounters Mark, a mysterious new classmate, who is hell bent on keeping her unscathed from the forces of evil.

The battle between Heaven and Hell is escalating—and Earth is their battleground.


Available on Amazon for only 99 Pennies for a limit time!



Wickedly They Come

Eyes like embers burn into my soul

As gnarled fingers stretch to sow seeds of terror

Weaving a realm of pandemonium

Nightmares pour poison upon sleep’s tangled web

And on and on the vision’s dance:

I saw the world blind and hollow

Floating in the void of space

Feeding upon the vapors of some

Translucent suspended beast

Disjointed bodies then did appear

Sprinkling death and devouring life

Coaxing Earth into silent slumber

Blazing eyes again emerged

Red brightness true to hellish fire

Fixed upon my wandering eye

Flames burst upon the scene

Wild and wily, leaving not one piece to fix upon

Except for those eyes of ember…



Something dripped on Seeley’s shoulder. Then another wet dribble skimmed her cheek and landed on Jordan’s arm. The wetness was bright red. She gazed up at a mammoth pentagram embedded into the rocky dome. The five-pointed star sparkled in the flickering light, and a planked balcony bordered the elevated fortification.

As she craned her head and peered directly upward, her bloodcurdling scream split the air. “Ohmigod. Ohmigod. What have they done?” Her knees buckled.



“Fight back. You are the warrior.”

It seemed the dagger plunged in slow motion.

As all hell broke loose, Jordan regained her senses. Nerve-racking screeches, metal clanging, and heavy feet running. Asa was impelled off her, thwacking into the cement wall. Everything came to a halt.

Jordan couldn’t take her eyes off Markus’s hand, hovering just above her heart. Thrust through his palm, the bloody dagger quivered. Its sharp tip cut her shirt, staining the fibers a brilliant red. Gripping the hilt and clenching his jaw, Markus withdrew the dagger from his hand as creatures bombarded him.

cath 163

About the Author

Cathrina Constantine resides in Western New York with her husband, five children, two Labrador Retrievers and her cat, Bones. When not with her family, reading, or stationed at the computer, you will find her walking in the backwoods with her dogs, conjuring up a new tale.

Cathrina writes mainly YA/Paranormal Thrillers, Mysteries, Contemporary, and Dystopian Fiction. To date her books published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly are Don’t Forget To Breathe, Tallas, Snow on Cinders, and the Wickedly Series.

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Posted in Historical, Spotlight on December 19, 2015

free unsullied land


Nineteen-year-old Henriette Greenberg takes her first steps away from an abusive home on the dance floor of a Chicago jazz dive in prohibition-era Chicago and is enraptured by this new music. Struggling to escape a mother who doesn’t like girls and a father who likes young women all too well, she submerges herself in bad sex and political action.

She meets and falls in love with Dilly Brannigan, a graduate student in anthropology. Ignoring his warnings, she travels to Scottsboro, Alabama to protest the unfair conviction of nine young black men accused of rape. She adopts Dilly’s work as her own. A powerful funeral ritual gives her hope of re-writing her family story but tempts her to violate an Apache taboo, endangering her life, her love, and her longed-for escape from home.


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About the Author

Maggie Kast is the author of The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, published by Wipf and Stock. She received an M.F.A. in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has published fiction in The Sun, Nimrod, Carve, Paper Street and others.

A chapter of her memoir, published in ACM/Another Chicago Magazine, won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council and a Pushcart nomination. A story published in Rosebud and judged by Ursula Leguin won an Honorable Mention in their fantasy fiction contest.

Kast’s essays have appeared in America, Image, Writer’s Chronicle and elsewhere. Her first novel, A Free, Unsullied Land, is forthcoming from Fomite Press in November 2015. An excerpted story, “The Hate that Chills,” won 3rd prize in the Hackney Literary Contests and is forthcoming in the Birmingham Arts Journal.

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