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Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies
I see dead people.
Okay, so I don’t see dead people—at least not on the regular—I see dead pets. Yes, pets. At first, I had no idea what these hologram-like beasts were up to until after an unfortunate run of something akin to trial and error that I concluded each dead pet was some sort of a harbinger for its previous owner, a very, very bad omen if you will. Sometimes I see them floating around willy-nilly in a crowd and it’s hard to decipher exactly who the bad luck is coming for. But on occasion, I see them attached firmly to the side of whoever the incoming disaster is set to strike. I’m not sure why this is my lot in life. In fact, my lot in life hasn’t been so stellar in general. My birth mother thought it was a brilliant idea to leave me on the floor of a firehouse, and that’s where a brave and thankfully curious firefighter spotted me, waddled up and squirming. It just so happens that I was adopted by that sweet man, Joseph Lemon, and his wife, Miranda, and gifted a book-loving big sister, Lainey, currently Honey Hollow’s lead librarian, as well as a feisty and shenanigan-prone younger sister, Meg, who is also known as Madge the Badge on the Las Vegas female wrestling circuit. And being that Las Vegas and all of its glittery wrestling venues are a good distance from Honey Hollow, Vermont, we don’t see her very often.
But back to that strange gift of mine, or curse as it more often than not feels like—I have zero clue where it came from or why, or even the major significance of it. A part of me has always believed that something alarmingly supernatural occurred around the time of my birth, and that’s exactly why my birth mama decided she so desperately needed to offload a seven-pound chunk of bad luck.
The very first time I put the furry-dearly-departed and outright chaos together was when I was seven and I saw the flicker of a barely-there turtle swimming next to Otis Fisher’s ear. Later that day, Otis fell from a tree and broke his arm. At the time, I wasn’t too sorry about it either. That boy had a mad hankering for pulling on my pigtails. And as fate would have it, the boy who lived to tease me, one day admitted to having a mad crush on yours truly. And post that amorous admission we dated on and off for about three years. If I thought that boy was annoying in elementary school, he outdid himself in high school. In fact, Otis—or Bear as he’s affectionately known around these parts for having once chased off a black bear before it could invade and devour an entire herd of innocent tourists who were on a leaf peeping tour—is one of the reasons I left Honey Hollow to begin. No sooner did my high school diploma cool off than I hightailed it to New York—Columbia University to be exact—where I’ve had the displeasure to ogle other people’s dead pets.
I’m quick to push what I’ve affectionately dubbed the New York Disaster out of my mind as I take a step outside of my apartment. It’s a duplex, actually, and my landlords, the Simonson sisters, live upstairs. They’re the primary reason I’m headed out on this unforgivably crisp September morning wearing my Sunday best, even though it’s smack in the middle of the week, Wednesday. Usually, I’d be happily snug in my favorite jeans, sporting my comfiest sweatshirt with my hair in a ponytail, and on my way to the Honey Pot Diner where I’m currently employed as the chief baker, not that there’s anyone baking underneath me but, hey, I like the title. Instead, I’m stuffed in a pencil skirt, two sizes too small, and a blouse that looks as if I swiped it off a mannequin at Goodwill, partially because I did. Okay, so I don’t own many Sunday clothes per se, but only because the local church is all about casual attire. They’re far more concerned with keeping your soul free from the flames than they are about your accruements, but I digress. I’m not headed to work or any holy house in the great state of Vermont. I’m headed to court—small claims court to be exact—all the way over in Ashford County.
Just as I’m about to head to my beat-up old hatchback, I spot both the aforementioned Simonson sisters at the foot of the driveway squabbling amongst themselves about who knows what—most likely me. It is me they’re hauling to court after all, and over something completely ridiculous.
It just so happens that last summer at the county fair my blueberry buckle pie won the coveted blue ribbon in its division, and it seemed as if all of Ashford County were thrilled for me, at least all of the townsfolk here in Honey Hollow. But the Simonson sisters were decidedly not enthused in the least. Sometime between the taste test and the judging, someone edited my entry to read Simple Simonson Pie and crossed out the all-important part about the blueberry buckle. Regretfully, a riot of laughter ensued, mostly from the fine, and, might I add, intuitive folk here in Honey Hollow, but I swear on all that is holy that good time only lasted about three thrilling minutes before I made the correction. Although, to hear Mora Anne and Merilee tell it, the aftermath not only bruised their egos and reputation but managed to cause a retail apocalypse down at the shop they own and run. It turns out, The Busy Bee Craft Shop was short on patrons and dollar bills alike and had a difficult time paying its rent last month, so the only logical solution they could come up with was to sue me for every last red cent.
Both sisters are dressed head to toe in long velvet coats with ruffled shirts peeking out from underneath like a couple of throwbacks from some long-forgotten steampunk era. It’s eerie the way they choose to dress alike each and every day despite the fact they’ve been on the planet for twenty-six long years—and twenty-seven respectively. I know this because I happen to be the exact same age as Merilee. We’ve all grown up together, but the way they treat me you’d think they were my bitter and scorned elders.
Merilee snarls as if she were rabid. “Well, look who’s here? If it isn’t Honey Hollow’s favorite jester who will soon be performing live in court.” Those narrow slits she calls eyes light up like cauldrons. The sisters have always held a witchy appeal to me, what with their long, dark, stringy hair and bony, long fingers. The fact they look as if they suck on lemons day and night doesn’t exactly help their plight. “Are you ready to have your bank account turned inside out?”
I scoff at the thought. If they think this is the day they hit a financial jackpot, they’d better think again. Working shifts at the Honey Pot Diner doesn’t afford me much of a bank account. The only thing in my savings at the moment is enough to cover my rent and Pancake’s Fancy Beast cat food. I’ve had Pancake now for over a year, and he officially qualifies as the greatest love of my life.
I glance over to the living room window where he’s currently monitoring the situation while licking his paw. Pancake is a butter yellow Himalayan with a rusty-tipped tail and dart of a line running between his eyes. He is a precious little angel now that he’s no longer using my leather ottoman as a scratching post and chewing down all the cables and cords he could get his hungry little paws on. The entire apartment has been cat-proofed, and Pancake hasn’t forgiven me yet.
An icy breeze picks up and the row of liquid ambers and maples that lines the street shed the first smattering of red and gold fall leaves. I steal a moment to take in the glory of nature on full display around the two wicked witches determined to make my life a living hell. Our little corner of Vermont has a habit of turning into a golden and ruby wonderland this time of year, so much so that the leaf peeping keeps the tourists coming in strong right up until winter.
Speaking of tourist traps, the Honey Hollow Apple Festival is coming up later this month, and I’ve been asked to supply the pies for the occasion. After my shift was over at the Honey Pot last night, I baked two dozen personal-sized caramel apple pies—cutie pies as I like to call them—and I need to deliver them straight to the orchard this afternoon because the owners requested a sample for their employees. My guess is they want to be sure my baking skills are up to snuff before they live to regret the decision come the day of the festival. But I guarantee they’ll far from regret it. In fact, the only thing they might regret is not ordering enough to keep up with demand. It took me weeks to perfect the right combination of caramel and spices, and I even threw in a handful of crushed walnuts into each tiny pie to give it a little crunch. But it’s that buttery caramel that steals the limelight from those golden delicious apples. It’s so smooth and creamy, my best friend Keelie and I spent an hour last night licking the bowls clean ourselves.
I can’t help but sigh over at the two beady-eyed siblings who relish my financial undoing. “I won’t be having my bank account turned in any direction this morning because there isn’t a judge on this planet who would side with—” I’m about to lay into the Simonson sisters with every colorful word in my lexicon when something akin to a flame flickers around Merilee’s ankle. For a brief and fleeting moment, I think it’s simply a stray leaf, but suddenly that flicker materializes into the clear outline of a long-lost, dearly departed orange tabby that I’m guessing once belonged to one of the shrews before me.
“Ha!” Mora Anne scoffs as she takes a step in close. “She can’t finish the sentence because she knows she’s guilty. Just admit it and whip out your checkbook. Save us all the trouble of driving to Ashford. We’re meeting with Darlene Grand this afternoon to secure a booth for the festival. We don’t have a lot of time to dilly-dally with you over a handful of change. Hand it over right now and we can all get on with our day.”
I take a moment to scowl at the surly sisters. Since when is three thousand eight hundred dollars a handful of change? And if it’s so darn piddly, why bother to sue me to begin with?
The ghostly cat twirls around Merilee’s left foot before pausing to look up at me, and I would bet my life that feisty feline just smiled. The pets I see are never skeletal or gruesomely decomposing but clear as vellum versions of themselves in their plush and fluffy prime. On the rare occasion, I do see a once-upon-a-person, but neither the pets nor the people breathe a single word to me. I’m guessing the lack of vocal cords has something to do with it. And, believe you me, I am more than grateful.
I’ve only confided my strange gift to one person, and she wasn’t family at that. Nell Sawyer is my best friend’s grandmother, and she might as well be mine. She’s been that kind to me. If my mother knew about my morbid third eye, she would tie me to a stake and light the flames just trying to usher the dark side out of me. And, well, considering the fact my mother has a way of spreading an errant word around town—you would think she were aspiring to be the biggest gossip Honey Hollow has ever seen—I’m not too sorry I’ve never broached the subject with her. But Nell seemed as understanding as she was intrigued, not one ounce of judgment spilled over from that woman. I’m not sure why I told Nell and not my sisters, or Keelie, Nell’s granddaughter and my BFF, but something about Nell’s sweet round face has the power to pull even the darkest secret from my soul.
“What’s the matter?” Merilee chides with a bony hand set over an equally bony hip. “Cat got your tongue?”
I glance down at the curious cute little kitty. “Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. I’m guessing luck is on my side today.”And not yours, I want to say. “I’ll see you ladies in court.” I bite down a smile as I give one last look to the tiny poltergeist licking its ghostly paws.
Who knows? Maybe Merilee will trip on the courthouse stairs—and if she does, I hope to see it.
Aw heck, maybe she’ll skin a knee.
Title: Ball & Chain
Author: Laura Garner
Genre: Adult Contemporary Mystery/Romance
Release Date: August 30, 2018
When notorious PI Maddie Maxwell is hired to track down "the most boring woman in the world," she doesn't expect to find instead her own bad-boy ex, a string of dead bodies spanning a decade, and a neglected little girl who might change her life forever.
The challenging case of the missing Jane Blake leads Max through a maze of Catholic mysticism, crazy family dynamics, and some huge personal ups and downs. Has her ex really mended his ways, or is his supposed reform just another act? Did Jane really have visions of the Virgin Mary? And what's the story with the mysterious little Claire, who's taken a vow of silence until Jane returns?
Narrated in Max's blunt, unfiltered voice, "Ball & Chain" takes the reader through a whirlwind mystery full of faith, despair, love, hate, and -- ultimately -- hope.
Hired to track down a missing woman, newbie PI Max finds her own bad-boy ex, a string of corpses spanning a decade, and a fierce little girl who steals her heart.
The Forgotten Child
What Lies in Shadows
A Pilgrimage to Death
Are you a book bloggers?
Sam brought his chair down with a soft thump as it hit the patio paver but he didn’t say anything for another long moment.
“Anna Carmen was my best friend. She helped me through a hard time—she helped me see what I couldn’t then.”
Cici’s lip trembled as she lifted her teacup. “I miss her, too. So much. Yesterday . . . it all came bubbling back up.”
Sam’s hand settled on Cici’s shoulder in that gesture of comfort she’d come to depend on.
“I know you do. And, yeah, I figured it would.”
Jaycee sidled up to their table and settled Sam’s large glass of iced tea on the table. Condensation formed on the glass, dripping down to wet the white napkin beneath it.
“I thought of something,” the girl said.
Both Cici and Sam turned their faces up to the teenager.
“Mr. Johnson told me one time he was meeting someone about a case.” Her brow wrinkled for a moment before she shrugged. “Does that help?”
Sam tugged at his short ponytail. “Maybe. Thanks, Jaycee.”
“Sure.” The girl skittered off to greet some new patrons.
“You think you know what the case is, don’t you?” Cici asked, pouring more tea into her cup.
A Dead Ringer for Katie REAL TIME
More Behind the Scenes with Tia:
A BLACK CROW swooped down from a decaying pine tree beside her, it’s cringing caw piercing the silence of the woods. She shuddered and zipped up her windbreaker.
Abby never liked crows, or birds for that matter. Not since her parents brought her back a rare, extremely expensive—their words, not hers—parrot from Honduras when she was twelve years old. It was one of the many vacations they’d taken without her—needing a break, they’d say—and leaving her with her nanny, Fran, whose hair always looked, ironically, like a bird’s nest, and whose breath could stop a clock. The same nanny who’d tattled on her for leaving a window open, allowing the precious parrot to fly away.
Her father didn’t speak to her for a week, and her mother, only when he wasn’t looking.
But that was a long time ago. That was then, and this was now. She was a woman now, freshly turned twenty-one with her whole life ahead of her. She didn’t need her parents or the shallow gifts they’d showered her with, replacing their inability to show affection. She didn’t need them anymore, just like they didn’t need her. That’s how they always made her feel, anyway.
A cool gust of wind carrying the sour scent of moldy earth swept past her. She glanced up at the cloud-covered sky. Another dreary day. Another stupid, dull day in this small, suffocating, godforsaken town—just like the day before.
But not anymore.
She could make her own decisions now, out from under their financial thumb. Go her own way in life.
And she was.
And her parents would kill her for it.
She stepped onto the jogging trail that snaked through the woods and stumbled on a rock. She looked down at her new black running shoes laced tightly over black ankle socks. Black leggings and a black T-shirt.
She swallowed the lump in her throat.
She’d always been fascinated with the mystical, creepy folktales that were whispered through the Great Shadow Mountains. Spirits, ghosts… witches. Hundreds of stories told during dark nights with no electricity, bonfires with too many drinks, Halloween, or just about any scenario shrouded in darkness. The stories were told with glances over the shoulder and hushed voices laced with fear, and if you listened carefully enough, respect. Respect for the evil forces that could snatch you up in the middle of the night, turn you into a lizard, or worse, curse you and everyone you loved.
Witches who could raise the dead from the earth.
Witches who could take your life.
Respect, power. Those were the two things she was promised when she’d been approached about “turning over a new leaf”. Taking control of her own life—and others if needed. Yes, she would be a part of something now, of something big, she was told.
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes.
Was she apprehensive? Absolutely. But what they’d promised her had been too great to ignore. She’d been a fool to walk away.
She smoothed her black windbreaker.
Black really wasn’t her color, but they had been wearing it—head-to-toe—so she figured she’d better get used to it. There would be so much to learn, they’d explained, and embracing black was a good start, she guessed.
But dammit, it really washed her out. Her pale complexion and light blonde hair—a gift from her mother—looked even more lifeless against the unforgiving color.
Maybe she would take baby steps into the change.
Yes, baby steps.
Maybe it would be okay if she wore her red silk blouse and white Louboutin six-inch heels on her date next week.
Butterflies tickled her stomach.
She couldn’t believe it. Yes, she had been asked out by a good-looking, accomplished man, nonetheless. It was completely out of left field… and only hours after she’d officially committed to “turning over a new leaf.” Coincidence?
Yes, things were going to change for her. Things were going to go her way, for the first freaking time in her life.
She was going to be powerful, respected. Feared.
With an extra pep in her step, she rounded a corner in the trail and spotted her new jogging partner anxiously waiting ahead.
“Hey, there. You ready?”
She snorted. “As ready as I can be, I guess.”
“First mile’s always the hardest. I’ll take it easy on you. Might want to stick those keys in your pocket, though. Uneven terrain.”
“Oh, okay. Yeah.” She nodded, looked down, and as she unzipped her pocket--
Her head snapped back as a fist slammed into her jaw.
Pain rocketed through her skull. Bright lights flashed in her eyes. The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth as she stumbled backward. The world spun around her, sending a wave of nausea through her body as she tried to process what was happening.
What the hell?
She opened her eyes to fuzziness and tried to focus on the movement in front of her. But before she could come to, the next brutal force knocked her out cold.
The Fireproof Girl
I loathe spoilery reviews, especially when the mystery core of an incredible story can be compromised. This beautifully written book unfurls slowly, layer by layer with such detail and heart that I fear if I write too much of anything it will ruin the plot!
At times I felt such turmoil over the main characters actions and thoughts; it’s been a long while since a story has made me weep with such a painful and yearning sadness. I felt nearly gutted empathizing with the characters emotions.
Told in alternating flashbacks from the perspectives of two main characters, there are clearly defined voices that flowed well together.
This story and characters have lingered with me and left an indelible mark on my bibliophile soul. Definitely including this on my favorite reads of 2018!
5 earth-trembling stars
Title: Two: Mind Games and Murder
Series: A Path of Deception and Betrayal #2
Author: K. J McGillick
Genre: Mystery Suspense Thriller
Release Date: February 21, 2018
Her husband wants her locked away in a psychiatric facility. His business partner wants her dead. Isabella Armond thought her husband was a physician. Why wouldn’t she? He indeed appeared to be a prominent cardio-thoracic surgeon with a high-end Paris practice. But what she did not know was that he was also a black-market butcher. Aligned with his business partner the two stole and brokered thousands of organs from unsuspecting victims. Adrien Armond, a psychopath, whose addiction to power and the good life needed a constant infusion of funds. Isabella alone stood in his way and that just would not do. Isabella was now the target of the only man that could save her.
Want to read the 1st Chapter?“I want her dead. Make it happen,” Avigad stated. His thick lips enveloped the rim of the fine china cup. Her death was not a suggestion. It was an order to be carried out without question. An assassination. I was a surgeon but his chosen assassin for this death. “I don’t care what method you employ. Get it done.”
K.J. McGillick is an author of psychological thrillers and draws from her background in the law, medicine and art history to engage her readers in her fast-paced thriller series, A Path of Deception and Betrayal. She draws upon her legal knowledge as a practicing attorney and experiences as an avid international traveler to produce page turning books filled with mystery and suspense.
The Murder of Manny Grimes
The Cases of Lieutenant DeLong #1
By Angela Kay
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery
When three young boys stumble into Lieutenant Jim DeLong's life one night during a winter storm, they claim they've seen a dead body by the swing sets of the Columbia County Elementary School. After he investigates, DeLong sees no evidence, not even a body. But were the boys telling the truth?
With the help of his oldest friend and mentor, former Naval investigator Russ Calhoun, DeLong sets out to find whether Manny Grimes is alive or dead. The further away he gets to the bottom of the mystery, the closer he comes to realize that his own life is falling apart.
Delving deeper into the murder of Manny Grimes, Lieutenant DeLong begins to unravel, losing his sense of control, falling into old temptations he spent years to overcome. Will he be able to move past his own demons and untangle the web of lies before it's too late?
Blood Runs Cold
The Cases of Lieutenant DeLong #2
A young woman has been murdered at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion and Lieutenant Jim DeLong realizes at first sight this case will be the most difficult one of his career. DeLong is immediately swept into the memories of his childhood and dark secrets he's longed to forget.
The victim is his sister-in-law, and old thoughts he's fought to delete will be resurrected whether DeLong likes it or not. He and his brother have been estranged by unhappy times in their youth. With no clear motive, DeLong questions his ability to remain objective.
About the Author
Equipped with a professional writing degree from Augusta State University, Angela Kay is a southern lady who spends her days and nights dreaming up new ways to solve dark murders of normal people.
Angela Kay was one of 23 across the United States to win a 2009 playwright contest for her one-act entitled “Digging Deeper.” Because of this, she was able to spend a week in Atlanta at the Horizon Theater Company.
She lives in Augusta, Georgia with her crazy calico, Maggie.
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