Posted in 4 paws, Giveaway, Review, Romantic Suspense on July 3, 2016

 

unravel page hop

The Unravel by Rebecca Rohman Page Hop runs on our Facebook Page from July 3 to July 6, 2016 with 40 blogs having some AMAZING giveaways! Enter them all for more chances to win! There will be a signed paperback copy of Unravel as a grand prize.

UNRAVEL COVER gn6★ Unravel Blurb:

Chella and Mitch Mariani are a happily married couple, living the good life in San Diego. She’s a marketing genius in the cosmetics division at an international conglomerate; he’s one of the city’s most successful real estate investors. Life has never been better.

Until a series of disturbing events cloud a blissful fifth wedding anniversary.

Lies surface. Suspicions escalate. Danger lurks. Their seemingly taut bond unravels their love to its core. As misguided choices threaten to destroy them forever, keeping their hearts on the path to a collective future might be the most monumental fight of all.

★ Take a look at my review of Unravel below:

This was a short suspense story that had me wondering how it was going to turn out for Chella and Mitch. apparently someone wants them split up and their relationship is tested to the max. Will Chella continue to believe and trust Mitch?

Only thing I wasn’t crazy about were the graphic love scenes, so I skimmed through those sections. But that is my preference, I don’t need to read all the details! but outside of that, the story was engaging. I haven’t read the other books so will need to go back and pick those up some time soon!

We give this 4 paws up

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★ Buy Links

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★ Enter the Grand Prize Rafflecopter Giveaway HERE

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Posted in 4 paws, Dystopian, Giveaway, Review, Thriller on June 27, 2016

The CleanSweep Conspiracy

Synopsis

Matt Tremain publishes Verité, a modest blog dedicated to writing about the truth and exposing scams. Currently, he’s following up on rumors concerning something called CleanSweep, a mysterious project in Toronto, Canada.

Matt gets his break when a whistleblower connects CleanSweep to billionaire Charles Claussen. Claussen plans to rid Toronto of undesirables, beginning with street people and extending to any citizens who don’t match Claussen’s restrictive screening matrix.

With the help of a high-ranking government official, Claussen plans to incite riots and violent unrest, conning Torontonians into sacrificing privacy and civil liberties for illusionary security and safety. Toronto will be reduced to a repressive city-state.

The information overwhelms Matt, who doubts he has the courage, skill, or readership to take on CleanSweep. But the murder of his source convinces the blogger to take a stand—although he’s too late to prevent chaos from gripping Toronto’s streets.

To get the word out, Matt’s going to need allies. He may have found some in a Toronto police detective and a local TV reporter pursuing the same story—presuming they aren’t allied with Claussen. If they are, Matt’s going to become yet another victim of CleanSweep, and the truth will be buried forever.

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**Note, when I looked on Amazon on 6/26/16 the book was FREE if you have a Kindle.  Check pricing before submitting purchase**

Review

The premise of this book reminded me a lot of Atlas Shrugged – where the government wants to control the lives of its citizens. Ok, maybe not to the extent of AS but pretty darn close.

It did take me a bit to get into the book, not sure if it was my mood or the book, but once I understood what was happening it definitely grabbed my attention.  I love reading about conspiracy theories and corrupt governments (because don’t we see that every day?!).  It was intriguing to see this author’s spin on government control and what was in the works, how it would work and why.  I thought the book was based in Canada, but there are a lot of references to the US so it was a bit confusing to me until it was definitely stated that it was happening in Toronto.

The characters were diverse and not surprising in today’s world that a blogger broke the news of some corrupt members of the government and society.  And when they came after him, he was prepared and knew how to destroy all the evidence.  In a way it was comical how he kept evading the authorities, but he couldn’t have done it without some help from some techy friends.

There were a few spots where it didn’t seem to flow or the timeline seemed off, but I might have missed something. Also, apparently Carl and Susan decided to have a physical relationship but there wasn’t any sort of real lead up to it other than Carl had a thing for her.  While this is a minor storyline, I think it needed a bit better development.

Overall it was a good story, I thought it just needed a little polishing/editing. Nothing drastic, but just some flow issues.

We give it 4 paws up.

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About the Author

Born in Iowa, Chuck Waldron lived in Ontario, Canada, before relocating to Florida’s Treasure Coast. Over the years, he’s held many jobs. The ones he can mention in print include US Army soldier, truck driver, office manager, mailman, real estate salesman, social worker, hardware store clerk, and shuttle driver.

Fate played a crucial role when he walked into his first writing class, and he still honors the memory of the teacher, Henrietta. She gave him permission to write. That—along with countless writing groups, classes, seminars, and much sweat—has resulted in over fifty short stories and four novels.

Waldron often likes to pretend interest, lacks perseverance, and could generally use a good talking to—until it comes to his writing, that is. He and his wife Suzanne reside in Port St. Lucie, Florida. While keeping an eye out for hurricanes, alligators, and Burmese pythons, he’s busy writing his next novel

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Giveaway

Prizes:

1. Grand prize: Kindle Fire with 7” display from Amazon + copy of CleanSweep (1 winner)

2. 4 copies of CleanSweep (4 winners)

3. 5 copies of author’s previous titles (5 winners)

4. 2 X $15 Amazon GC + copy of CleanSweep (2 winners)

Total: 12 winners (Open to USA & Canada) Giveaway ends July 7, 2016.

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Posted in 4 paws, Cozy, Monday, mystery, Review on June 20, 2016

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FIXIN' TO DIE

FIXIN’ TO DIE
Kenni Lowry Mystery Series

by Tonya Kappes

Synopsis

Kenni Lowry likes to think the zero crime rate in Cottonwood, Kentucky is due to her being sheriff, but she quickly discovers the ghost of her grandfather, the town’s previous sheriff, has been scaring off any would-be criminals since she was elected. When the town’s most beloved doctor is found murdered on the very same day as a jewelry store robbery, and a mysterious symbol ties the crime scenes together, Kenni must satisfy her hankerin’ for justice by nabbing the culprits.

With the help of her Poppa, a lone deputy, and an annoyingly cute, too-big-for-his-britches State Reserve officer, Kenni must solve both cases and prove to the whole town, and herself, that she’s worth her salt before time runs out.

Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, murder mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), humorous murder mysteries, book club recommendations, amateur sleuth books, Southern humor, small town, paranormal mysteries.

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Review

This is the first book I have read by this author (but have her other books on my kindle) and I enjoyed this book. But then I always do love a good cozy.

I can safely say I did not see that ending coming! (well the killer reveal portion) but it seems like each time I read a mystery and think I have the killer figured out, there is some sort of twist that surprises me.

There is a paranormal aspect that actually made the story somewhat light (at least to me). I don’t want to spoil anything so hard to say too much, but it explains why there was no crime for her first 2 years as sheriff.

This is a series that I will be following and we give it 4 paws up.

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About the Author

Tonya KnappesTonya Kappes has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky. Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all of her guys’ high school games with a pencil and paper in hand. More than anything, Tonya loves to connect with readers, with a loyal ‘street team’ of fans and followers on social media.

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Posted in 4 paws, cooking, Review on June 19, 2016

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Synopsis

Skip the hassle of last-minute meals and leftovers and replace them with simple, healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare make-ahead dishes! Your family will love these comfortable meals, new favorites, cozy drinks, and tantalizing desserts—all of them prepared ahead of time so you don’t have to worry! Enjoy simple, soul-filling foods without the chaos of preparing them at the last minute.

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Books and Things

Review

I love cookbooks and was excited to be invited to participate in the blog tour for this book. I didn’t realize there are 75 recipes in the book but that sounds about right. The recipes are varied and include all different courses – from appetizers to main dishes, to sides and desserts. There are even a few beverage options.  The photos of the different recipes are mouthwatering!  I chose a few recipes based on the photos alone…is that wrong?  I hope not!  The Cashew Chicken and Brown Rice casserole caught my eye, along with the Double Dark Chocolate Banana Bread and the Coconut Black Bottom Brownies.  They were all a hit with family and friends so those will go in the keeper file.

I will say that this is down home cooking at its finest and if you are looking for low fat, this is not the cookbook for you. You can probably slim them down with exchanges without losing too much in the consistency or taste. Don’t get me wrong, these are some delicious recipes…just eat in moderation.

I do like how you can make ahead, and even freeze, some of the dishes for future meals. Watch how many the recipe says it serves. If you have a smaller family you might need to cut in half.

All in all some great new recipes and I can’t wait to try out all of the recipes later, especially the soups this winter.

We give it 4 paws up.

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About the Author

Annalise Thomas is a big city girl married to a small town boy. Every day is a joy and a challenge as she learns to live and love this small town life. Annalise is a foodie with a deep passion for everything edible and for sharing what she loves with others. Annalise is a wife and mom, a baker, a cook, and a blogger. She and her family live a very real life and eat as much real food as possible.

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Posted in 4 paws, Cozy, mystery, Review on June 17, 2016

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Murder at Morningside

Title: Murder at Morningside
Author: Sandra Bretting
Publisher: Lyrical Underground
Genre: Mystery
Format: Ecopy

Synopsis

Hat designer Missy DuBois opened her shop, Crowning Glory, along Louisiana’s Great River Road to cater to the sophisticated Southern bride. But bless her heart, who knew creating stylish wedding veils would lead to murder?

Hired to craft a veil for a socialite getting married at Morningside Plantation means Missy can bask in the height of antebellum atmosphere. But when the bride is found dead in a women’s bathroom, Missy the milliner finds herself entangled in one unfashionable murder. With the list of suspects thicker than the sweltering Louisiana heat, including a gaggle of bridesmaids shedding nary a tear and a family with no shortage of enemies, it seems anyone at the mansion may have done away with the bride-to-be. While Missy has Southern charm to spare, she’s going to need more than manners and a manicure to put a hat pin on this murderous affair . . .

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Review

If you like reading about the south, especially Louisiana, you’ll enjoy this cozy! Set close to Baton Rouge the protagonist, Missy, is a milliner and creates veils for brides along with various hats and cloches. Like most cozies, she puts herself in harms way but doesn’t realize it most of the time.

This was an engaging story that I enjoyed. I had no idea who to suspect as the “bad guy” until a certain fact is revealed. If you pay attention you’ll know who it is BUT you won’t know why until the killer is confronted.

There is a bit of a one sided love interest, Missy has a thing for Ambrose “Bo” who is a fashion designer and her best friend. I’m not sure if anything will develop in future books, but a friend from her past also shows up and while nothing is really said about any interest from either side, you just never know.

We give it 4 paws up!

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Meet the Author

Sandra Bretting has served as a freelance feature writer for the Houston Chronicle since moving to Texas in 1996. She received a journalism degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and spent her early career in healthcare public relations at medical centers throughout Southern California. Other publications for which she’s written include the Los Angeles Times and Woman’s Day.

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Posted in 4 paws, Cozy, mystery, Review on June 11, 2016

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Passion, Poison, & Puppy Dogs

A Danger Cove Pet Sitter Mystery

Sally S. Smith & Jean Steffens

Gemma Halliday Publishing

ISBN: 9781943587469

Synopsis

In this dog eat dog world, it’s people you have to keep your eye on.

When Lizzie Jones, pet sitter extraordinaire, is asked to watch over her best friend’s two spoiled dogs at the posh gated community of Craggy Hill Estates, the last thing she expects is to wind up in the middle of a homicide. But that’s exactly what happens when she finds her best friend’s cheating husband and Danger Cove’s celebrity bodybuilder champ, Mr. Jupiter, floating facedown in his hot tub. To make matters worse, the police aren’t looking any further than the wife for a suspect—isn’t it always the wife? Well, not in this case—at least Lizzie refuses to believe it.

Between dealing with Craggy Hill’s hot security guard, Tino Morales—who also just happens to be the man who broke Lizzie’s heart in high school, caring for her grieving friend, and watching three rambunctious dogs, Lizzie has her hands full. So she recruits her famous granddad, retired network field correspondent, Jimmy John Jones, to help her put two and two together to find the real killer. Was Mr. Jupiter murdered by one of his women on the side? A jealous, disgruntled employee? Or someone with a bitter and deep-seated hatred of the superstar? It’s up to Lizzie, Jimmy John, and Lizzie’s own pug, Vader, to crack the case before the killer claims another victim…this one much closer to Lizzie’s own heart!

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Review

I love dogs so the book title interested me from the start! and what a title to grab you – after all what could go wrong with passion and poison and puppy dogs?! but not to worry, no puppy dogs are harmed in the writing of this book!

This book is part of a series about a town called Danger Cove. I don’t think it is a very small town, but most people know each other so there is no getting away with anything. Lizzie is a pet sitter/vet student. I have to give her props for not racking up student loan debt! She runs into a high school crush, Tino, and a relationship begins.

But let’s not forget the murder! Her best friend’s husband is killed and of course the wife is the primary suspect since a divorce was pending.

There is more to the story than just the murder of Mr. Jupiter (body builder with not a lot of brains in his head or so it would seem). There is theft of his money (or at least some of it), a crazy sister and then the 3 mistresses. Let’s just say he had a lot going on in his life.

As far as the mystery goes, there are not a ton of people to suspect, so I was pretty sure I knew who did it, I just didn’t know why. But that didn’t detract from the story and I enjoyed it all the way until the end.

We give this 4 paws up!

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About the Authors

jean & sally authorThe international best-selling writing team of Sally J. Smith (right brain) and Jean Steffens (left brain) make up equal halves of one totally functional writer’s mind. Creative and intuitive and organized and systematic? What could be better than that?

The two desert dwellers work together side-by-side, literally finishing each other’s sentences, putting together their novels faster and more efficiently than they ever could individually.

When their heads aren’t together over a manuscript, you’ll find them with their families, at a movie, the yoga studio, the mall, or out-to-lunch—in the food sense, not the spaced-out sense, well…most of the time. Their current series include Jordan Welsh & Eddie Marino Novels, Mystic Isle Mysteries, Danger Cove Pet Sitter Mysteries, and coming soon, Aloha Lagoon Gabby LeClair Mysteries, and Digby Sloan Mysteries.

Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package.

Visit our website, look around, and sign up for our newsletter. We love hearing from our readers and always answer our e-mails: smithandsteffens@cox.net.

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Posted in 4 paws, Historical, Review, romance on May 27, 2016

love is come

Synopsis

From the Power of the Matchmaker series: LOVE IS COME

Nelle Thompson lives a life of privilege during the turn of the century New York City. When her parents are killed in a terrible accident, she’s forced to live with her aunt’s family in a small town in Connecticut, and treated as a poor relation with no financial independence. Broken hearted and riddled with insomnia, Nelle’s health begins a downward spiral. When a locked part of her heart blossoms around her cousin’s fiancé Mathew Janson, Nelle doesn’t know if she can endure one more heartbreak. Miss Pearl, owner of the local apothecary shop, becomes a mother figure to Nelle, but a fateful summer day has Nelle questioning everything she’s ever believed and wondering if she’ll ever love again.

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Review

Another great book in the Matchmaker series. Like a few other books, i was surprised at the very small role of Pearl, the Matchmaker. In fact, she didn’t even appear until at least 25% of the way into the book. But no matter, the story was still very enjoyable and it was a refreshing step into the past when things were simpler but not as advantageous for women as Nelle found out when she lost her parents and everything outside of a small trust was left to her uncle.

Nelle finds a new purpose for her life and even someone that fills her heart, but the bad thing is that he is involved with her cousin.

This is a clean romance but well worth the read.

We give it 4 paws up.

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Posted in 4 paws, BEA, Children, Review on May 21, 2016

Today I bring you another children’s book that I picked up at Book Expo America.  It came out in July 2015 internationally but won’t be available here until September 1.  I didn’t realize, but Max has other books out as well, so look for those available now and this one out in September.

I’m sure you are thinking…why so many children’s books?  Well they are all for my great-niece AND I can catch up on my Goodreads challenge since I had fallen off the wagon with my reading and was behind!  Children’s books are a great way to catch up.

max at night

Synopsis

Meet Max – the mighty kitten and New York Times bestseller.

This is Max. Max is very sleepy. It’s way past Max’s bedtime. Max has drunk his milk. Max has brushed his teeth. Max has cleaned behind his ears. Now Max just needs to say goodnight…

Max is tired and all ready for bed, but when he can’t find the moon to say goodnight to, he sets out to find it. But that’s not as easy as Max had hoped… Witty and heart-warming, this stylish and beautifully illustrated book is the perfect bedtime read.

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Review

I picked up this ARC at BEA and it is a cute story about a kitten looking for the moon one night because the moon is nowhere to be seen. So the kitten goes on an adventure to find the moon and that he does.

Cute story, great for kids and I think it would be a good bedtime story because it is very repetitive and calming.  Just what you need to get a kid to sleep!

We give it 4 paws up.

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Posted in 4 paws, Cozy, excerpt, mystery, Review on May 5, 2016

All Things Murder Cover

Synopsis

Actress Veronica Walsh receives an unwelcome present when she returns to her Adirondack hometown after her soap opera’s cancellation. Hours after arriving, Veronica’s life imitates art when she finds her neighbor’s body. She assumes the role of sleuth, fingering suspects in the powerful businesswoman’s death— the retail tenant threatened with eviction, the mall developer whose deal she thwarted, and the broken-hearted suitor.

Twists straight from a script, including two leading men vying for her attention, entangle Veronica as she gathers clues. Will Veronica solve the case, or will the killer be as elusive as an acting job? And will she play the heroine or the damsel in distress?

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Review

I think this is going to be a fun cozy series. I like that the protagonist is a “retired” soap opera star, sure it was a forced retirement since her show went off the air. She is a bit older, probably in her 50’s so she has a different outlook on life.  I won’t say I grew up watching soaps, but there was a time where I watched General Hospital faithfully.

The mystery is well written because I didn’t figure it out until nearly the very end. There are several potential killers, all with good reasons to kill Anna, but only one could be the culprit.

And of course there is a love story in the making which will be nice for Veronica because while she may have been married 6 times on her soap, that doesn’t make for real life romance. We’ll see how this story line progresses in the next book.

We give the book 4 paws up!

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Excerpt

I climbed Anna’s front steps at nine-thirty, convincing myself that coffee with her would not be a trial. Tim’s caution to be careful was my silent mantra.

I pressed the doorbell and waited for Anna. After a few moments, I rang again. Still no response. I rapped three times on the door.

“Anna?” I called.

I wondered for a moment if she had forgotten her invitation. Considering she might be in her backyard, I walked around the house—her car was in the driveway—and turned into the yard. No Anna.

I swept up the back porch steps to the kitchen entrance. The door was ajar. I tapped on its frame, calling Anna’s name.

Hearing no response, I again said, “Anna?”

I pushed open the door and took a step into the kitchen. The breakfast table, usually parallel to the island, stood at an angle, one corner shoved against the wall. Two chairs had been overturned. Scattered across the floor between the table and island were shards of china, cloth napkins, silverware, and a dented box from Rizzuto’s, its red and green string still tied around it. The napkins soaked up coffee spilled from a smashed glass carafe. The damage reminded me of the “redecorating” Melanie and I would do to a set during one of our characters’ famous brawls.

And then I noticed one of the red stilettos Anna had worn the night before on the floor between the stove and island. A cast-iron skillet lay beside the shoe.

I stepped to the right of the island to avoid the mess and instantly knew I wasn’t in a television studio. Anna lay sprawled on her side, her hair splayed across her face and her right arm extended across the floor.

I rushed to her. “Anna!” Kneeling, I pulled back a few locks of the hair covering her face, flinching when I saw blood around her nose and on the floor.

I pressed my fingers to her neck to check for her pulse. “Come on!” I pleaded as my fingers swept across her skin searching for rhythm in her heart as my own heart hammered a frantic beat.

About the Author

Jeanne Quigley grew up reading mysteries, watching soap operas, and vacationing in the Adirondacks, never imagining these pleasures would inspire the Veronica Walsh cozy mystery series. Jeanne’s love of characters—real and fictional—led her to study Sociology and English at the University of Notre Dame. Jeanne has never been a soap star, but she has worked in the music industry and for an education publisher. She resides in Rockland County, New York and is a member of the Sisters in Crime.

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Posted in 4 paws, excerpt, fiction, humor, Review on April 29, 2016

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Title: NOT QUITE SO STORIES
Author: David S. Atkinson
Publisher: Literary Wanderlus LLC
Pages: 166
Genre: Absurdist Literary Fiction

Synopsis

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping’s Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that’s hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

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Review

This is a collection of shorter stories and I have to admit they are a bit bizarre, well some of them anyway! However they are interesting too. There are a few stories where they just end and in a way I felt let down, that there might have been more to the story that I guess we just have to make up on our own!

I like that some of the stories are short and some are longer. None of them take long to read and it is easy to put down if you need to stop for some reason.

I think one of my favorites was The Onion She Carried. The last line definitely made me smile in this story.

We give this 4 paws up.

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Excerpt

TURNDOWN SERVICE

Margaret’s heels clicked repetitiously on the polished marble floors of Finklebean’s Mortuary. The sharp sound echoed down aisles of metal-faced vaults in the chilled, solemn hallways. Her steps were quick but purposeful, her stride constrained by the tight skirt of her starched navy business dress. An invoice was clutched tightly in her talon-like hand. Someone owed her an explanation…and that debt would be paid.
Catching sight of the plain brown wooden door hidden off in a back hallway bearing a faded Caretaker’s Office sign, Margaret halted, causing her heels to clack loudly on the stone. She pursed her lips as she scrutinized the sign. As if using the white metal sign with flaking black letters as a mirror, she adjusted the smartly coiled chestnut bun of her hair. Then she shoved open the weathered door and marched inside.
“Excuse me,” she called out sternly before looking what the room happened to contain, or even whether it was occupied.

A portly man in old blue coveralls sitting at a rough wooden worktable looked up at her calmly. Long stringy gray hair framed his face around a set of coke bottle eyeglasses perched on the end of his reddened bulbous nose. A metal cart, half full of plastic funeral flower arrangements, was positioned next to the worktable. Individual plastic flowers littered the table surface.

Unlike the somber and silent polished gray marble trimmed in shining brass of the hallway outside, the caretaker’s room felt more like a basement or garage. The walls were cinderblock, unpainted, and the floor was bare concrete. Obviously, the room was not used for professional services.

“My bill is incorrect,” Margaret said, thrusting the invoice out at the frumpy little man between a thumb and forefinger, both with nails bearing a French manicure. “You maintain my grandfather’s plot, but this month’s bill is way over the usual twenty-five sixty-three…nine hundred dollars more to be precise. You may not be the person in charge of this, but you’re who I found.”

The older man quietly looked at her still presenting the invoice even though he had made no move to take it. “Name?”

“Margaret Lane,” Margaret said curtly.

“No,” the caretaker shook his mess of oily old hair. “I won’t remember you. I meant your granddad’s.”

Margaret pursed her lips again. “Winston Lane.”

“Ah, yes.” The heavyset man leaned back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head and cocking out his elbows. His belly pushed on the table slightly, causing loose plastic flowers to roll around on the tabletop. The flowers were separated into piles according to color: red, white, yellow, purple, and orange. “Winston Lane. His is over on hillside four, I believe.”

“I’m sure.” Margaret crossed her arms, still clutching the invoice. “So why do I have a bill for over nine hundred dollars?”

The caretaker hunched forward, setting his chin on a pudgy arm and wrapping a flabby hand around his mouth. “Let’s see…Winston Lane…bigger than normal bill…oh, that’s right!” His face brightened with recollection.

Margaret smugly waited for the expected rationalization to begin, the extras and add-ons designed to take advantage of the gullible grieving. She wouldn’t be so easily manipulated.

“He got an apartment.”

Margaret’s expression cracked.

“That’s what the extra money is,” he pleasantly explained. “It’s to cover the rent.”

Margaret stared, blinking occasionally. A thin purple vein throbbed angrily at the side of her neck.

The man smiled. Then he pushed his round glasses further back up his nose and grabbed one of the plastic funeral arrangements from the cart. It had a block of dense green foam set in a fake bronze vase and various colors of plastic flowers stuck in the foam. The man pulled all the flowers out in a single movement and set each in the respective colored pile on the worktable. Then he placed the vase in a pile of similar vases on the floor.

“You…rented my grandfather an apartment?” Margaret finally asked. “Why?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the older man snorted, dismembering another arrangement. “He rented the apartment, not us.”

Margaret sneered, having recovered her self-possession and indignation. “Sir, my grandfather is deceased.”

“Yep,” the caretaker agreed. He started quickly taking vases from the cart, ripping them apart, and then tossing the materials in the respective sort piles. “Guess he didn’t like the plot he picked out. Maybe it wasn’t roomy enough, I don’t know. Some things like that you just can’t be sure of till you get in a place and stay there a while. Anyway, he must not have liked something about it because he went and got himself that apartment. He wouldn’t have done that if he’d been happy where he was at.”

Margaret stood rigid. The toe of one foot tapped irritably. “How could my grandfather possibly rent an apartment? He’s dead!”

“How couldn’t he?” The caretaker snorted again. “It’s a great apartment. Plenty of light. Nice carpets. Good amount of space. It’s got a nice pool, too. Not that pools make much of a difference to a guy like him, being dead and all. Anyway, take a look; happen to have a photo of the place right here. Can’t rightly remember why.”

The man handed Margaret a bent-up photograph he pulled from a coverall pocket. It depicted a pleasantly-lit living room with vaulted ceilings. Tasteful black leather and chrome furniture was arranged around a delicate glass coffee table. On top of the coffee table sat her grandfather’s mahogany coffin, looking just as stately as it had at her grandfather’s funeral service.

Margaret glowered, unsure what to make of the photograph, noticing after a moment that she was chewing her lip as she ground her teeth. Her brain couldn’t keep up, it was all just too ludicrous for her to grasp.

The man sorted more funeral arrangements. “So…you’re telling me that my deceased grandfather rented an apartment. Him, not you.”

“Yep. That’s the long and short of it.” The man jammed the photograph back into his pocket.

“My dead grandfather.”

“Yes’m.” He took the last arrangement off the cart and disposed of it as he had the others. He paused to dust off his hands. Then he grabbed a vase from the floor, jammed a plastic flower inside from each stack, and set the newly arranged arrangement on the cart.

“How could anyone rent my grandfather an apartment!?” Margaret threw up her arms. “He’s dead! The landlord couldn’t do that!”

“Sure they can,” the caretaker countered, paying more attention to the funeral arrangements than Margaret. “The building is zoned for mixed use.”

“Mixed use?! He’s dead!” She wiped her hand down her face slowly, stretching her skin as it went.

“So? He’s residing there. That’s a residential use. Certainly isn’t commercial.” The caretaker accidentally shoved two red plastic flowers in the same vase. Laughing at himself, he ripped them out again and started over.

Margaret stepped back, perhaps wondering if the caretaker was insane as opposed to just conning her. That would explain the photograph.

She crossed her arms loosely and tilted her chin upwards just a little, trying to mentally get a handle on the situation. Her brain felt like an overheated car with no oil in the engine. “I’m sorry, but that’s very distracting,” Margaret commented, pointing at the plastic flower piles on the worktable. “Is there any way that you could stop a moment?”

“Sorry.” The older man shook a thick calloused finger at an old clock on the wall, stopped as far as Margaret could tell. “I got to get this done.”

“But…what exactly are you doing? You’re just taking them apart and putting them back together.”

The rumpled man gestured at the flowers. “Well, people pay us to put these on graves, don’t they?”

“Right…”

“They come from a factory, don’t they? Someone paying someone else to bring something a machine made? I don’t think much of that. My way, there’s at least some thought in it.”

Margaret did not respond. Instead, she watched the man fill up the cart again. The arrangements looked exactly the same as before.

“Anyway,” the caretaker went on, “don’t you owe your granddad?”

“Pardon me?” Margaret puffed out her chest.

“Sure,” the man said, peering up at her through the finger-smudged lenses of his glasses. “He said when he bought the plot that you were going to take care of it and he was going to leave you money to keep going to school. He thought you should start working, but helped you out since you were going to mind his spot.”

Margaret swallowed, ruining her attempt to look indignant. A few beads of sweat gathered at her temples.

“You figure you’ve done enough?” The man had his head held low, hiding the tiny smirk on his face.

Margaret’s eyes widened. Her arms hung limply at her sides and her shoulders slumped. “But…”

“Hey, that’s between you two. I just take care of things like I’m paid to. If he wants his plot, I do that. If he wants a two-bedroom palace, I do that instead.”

Margaret absentmindedly twisted an old, ornate gold ring on her finger. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed as if the light in the dim room had gotten brighter. The meticulously squared corners of her mind twisted and stretched deliciously. “That’s right…it was a deal.”

“Come again?”

“I agreed to have his plot cared for.”

“And?”

“Well…” Her lips slipped into a pointed grin. “I pay you a fixed monthly amount to care for that plot. Apparently this apartment is his plot now, so the rent should be part of your monthly care. I expect you to take care of it accordingly. After all, caring for his plot is caring for his plot.”

“Now see here–”

“Regardless, I can’t help but think,” she went on, “that it reflects poorly on your services if grandfather isn’t happy with his plot, not mine.”

The caretaker gawked at Margaret, his mouth hanging loose. “Is that what you think now?” The older man finally growled.

“It is,” she responded with a saccharine tone, “and I expect that all future bills will be for the correct amount.”

“Hmph,” he huffed, settling back into his chair. “Wonder what your granddad would say about that.”

Margaret smirked. “You’re welcome to go and ask him, if you think it will get you anywhere.”

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About the Author

David S. Atkinson 2David S. Atkinson is the author of “Not Quite so Stories” (“Literary Wanderlust” 2016), “The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes” (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and “Bones Buried in the Dirt” (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in “Bartleby Snopes,” “Grey Sparrow Journal,” “Atticus Review,” and others. He spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

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Giveaway

David S. Atkinson is giving away one paperback copy each – BONES BURIED IN THE DIRT & THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL PANCAKES!

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  • This giveaway begins March 1 and ends on May 27
  • Winners will be contacted via email on May 29.
  • Winners have 48 hours to reply.

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