Review: Angel’s Truth (Angel #2) by Liz Boreno

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Angel's Truth cover  “Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”

And with those words, Angel’s Truth begins, picking up immediately from Angel’s Hero when supposedly dead Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home after a month as a POW in Afghanistan.  Sick and injured, Jordan finds his enemy Major General Troy Hart  just leaving his home before Jordan reaches out to let his husband, Aaron “Angel” Collins, know he is alive and home once more.  As Aaron welcomes Jordan home and rushes Jordan to the hospital, Jordan reveals that Hart is the man behind his imprisonment in Afghanistan and death sentence he was under.

As Jordan adjusts to freedom, he also has to contend with PTSD, a shattered confidence, and the fact that his enemy,Troy Hart, is still free. Aaron realizes that the man he thought was a friend to him during those painful times where Aaron was looking for answers about his husband’s disappearance and unlikely death is actually a danger to them all.  Now Aaron must help Jordan recover his emotional and physical health and together discover just what Major General Troy Hart’s betrayal and deception means to them and to the nation.

As stated in the publisher’s blurb, Angel’s Truth picks up exactly to the word where Angel’s Hero ends.  If you haven’t read the first story, this one won’t make any sense as there is very little back story included in this sequel.  At 64 pages, it is a tad shorter than Angel’s Hero and somehow that works to this story’s advantage.  The narrative is tighter, and some of the more problematic plot elements from the first story are gone, including a fractured timeline that jumped back and forth between present day and the beginnings of their romance.  That was more confusing than helpful.  Luckily, that is absent here.  But other larger errors appear.  Let’s get to those now.

But while the loving relationship between the men is reestablished by their reunion, some of the issues I had with the plausibility of their professions and Jordan’s escape still stand.  This is Jordan’s explanation as to how he arrived (sick, coughing up blood and in Afghanistan Army uniform pants) back in the US, apparently only miles from Bethesda, MD.  The conversation picks up at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Bethesda where Jordan is telling his story to his superior officer:

“… had “accidently” dropped a piece of paper with information about a cargo plane to the United States in his cell weeks before. Jordan then explained that he hitched a ride on a delivery truck, and offered to read the English map to the US for the pilot in exchange for a ride home. “

Now Jordan changed some of the details about the nurse who helped him get free to protect her. But all this took place in two days time.  In two days, he got free from a horror of a desert prison, just before his date with a firing squad, hitched a ride out of said desert (not that a mixed heritage of black and Korean American wouldn’t stick out like Uncle Sam) but he is also limping on a severely broken ankle, with a bad case of pneumonia, and wearing an Afghanistan Army uniform.  And after the reader makes a huge leap over that implausible plot canyon, you still have to believe that he then hitches a ride in a native’s truck to an airfield, hitches another ride (still coughing up blood, same attire) on a foreign cargo plane, which lands in Bethesda (with no problem apparently even without an airport or the ever present homeland security), and then makes it to his house on foot, just a couple of streets over.  Only in a comedic send up of the military and Washington, Dc would such an escape be possible. Or remotely realistic.

Then there is the fact that in the story Aaron calls 911 and Jordan is taken immediately to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, MD.  Our local 911 responders are not allowed to do that even if the person being transported requests/demands to be taken to Walter Reed for emergency care.  Instead the injured party would be taken to a civilian emergency room, evaluated, and then later transferred if required.  That’s the law and that fact can be easily checked with Walter Reed authorities, also known as Command Personnel.

In addition, it says Jordan was a prisoner for over 2 months time.  Sometimes its a “little over a month”.  As a prisoner of war under harsh conditions, a month or so would have an enormous impact on the prisoner’s health and mental state.  But the actual time as a POW seems to fluctuate from page to page. These things alone serve to disconnect me from the story, pulled out of whatever dramatic action is happening to think about the errors in front of me. If the reader can’t believe in the characters or the plot, how can they invest even a part of themselves in a story?  I don’t think they can. Then there is the lack of security and isolation around an escaped ill prisoner who just “came back from the dead”. These days that happenstance is called a major security risk.

Unfortunately, this author just stumbles into one pitfall after another with her characters and story location to this story’s detriment. And this leads into one of my issues with this series.  To some it may land on the side of nitpicking, but to this reader it says the author hasn’t done their research.

Writing about Washington, Dc and it’s surrounding environs can be tricky. You either get it right or you don’t. And Liz Borino mostly doesn’t get it. Built as the only Federal city in the United States so many people have decried its lack of “thereness” , of that inescapable uniqueness that cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City have and are associated with. And that’s intentional. On our maps should be the sentences “here lie the NSA, the CIA, the FBI” and all the other alphabet agencies so necessary to the security of our nation just like it used to say “there by dragons” on ancient maps. Here lie Congress, the Capitol, the White House, and all the other government organizations meant to reside here from the very beginning. Then the World Trade Organization, all the embassies….and soon you can understand why the District of Columbia lacks the very individual nature, the vivacity associated with other cities. It’s not built into its personality on purpose. It thrives on anonymity, on power disguised behind common tailoring and less than modern haircuts….on people who are secretive and withdrawn by nature. No one who burbles on at work makes it here…unless its done on purpose and with a hidden agenda.  How long would Aaron have lasted at the CIA?  Not long, if he even made it through the door.

None of the characters here are believable within the ethos of Washington, DC , whether it be political, military or intelligence agency.  I think Borino had a good idea somewhere in here but not the attention to detail that these characters, their professions, the location, and even the plot requires.

Do I think all of the above will bother every reader?  Probably not, which is why this got by with a 3 rating instead of the 2.5 it deserved.  Some readers will love the romance and the “aww” factor found in the reunion and HEA.  I will admit this is a tighter narrative on the surface than Angel’s Hero, and thus a better story as far as that goes. But as someone who lives in the Washington, DC Metro area, all the errors committed within these stories caused any enjoyment I might have found in the Angel series to fade away, like Cherry Blossoms in a stiff wind…in the Spring of course.

Cover art by Anthony Walsh.  Again, very nice cover. Works for the story and characters.

Angel series include:

Angel’s Hero (Angel #1)
Angel’s Truth (Angel #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 64 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Lazy Day (first published March 10th 2014)
ISBN 1612581250 (ISBN13: 9781612581255)
edition languageEnglish
seriesAngel #2

Contest Winner Announcements and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Spotlights and Contests

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Winners of the Book Tour Contests and Author Spotlights

 

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To The Very Last Inch

 

 

 

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  • Winners of The Professor’s Rule Tours (Every Inch of the Way and To the Very Last Inch) by Heidi Belleau and Amelia C. Gormley. Winners are Sonja and Flutterfli. Congratulations to you both. And my thanks to Heidi Belleau for Amelia C. Gormley for stopping by on their tour and bringing the contest with them.
  • Winners of SE Jakes Free Falling Book Tour Contest are: Kathleen Power,Robbie Bauldree, and Kassandra Appel.  They won  SIGNED copies of SE Jakes’s Hell or High Water series: Catch a Ghost and Long Time Gone.   Congratulations to all three!
  • Winner of Kerry Adrienne’s novel, Beautiful One, is Ashley E. Congratulations to Ashley E and my thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments.

 

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Now for the Week Ahead: Short and sweet this week!  Mell Eight is a new author for me.  I have already reviewed The Oracle’s Flame, the first in her new series.  This week I start off my reviews with the second story, The Oracle’s Hatchling which will  lead into Mell Eight’s Author Spotlight on Wednesday.  Thursday  I am reviewing When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock.  I really wasn’t sure what I was going to feel about this story and it just amazed me with its intensity, and commanding characters.  Dark and a must read.  Friday is the second in Liz Boreno’s Angel series, Angel’s Truth. And finally, SJ Frost is here to finish out the week by talking about her new vampire series and book, Vampire Prince.

And its April.  Will the snow finally stop and the cherry blossoms start to bloom?  Who knows?  We can only hope….

This Week’s Schedule:

  •  Monday, March 31:        The Oracle’s Hatchling by Mell Eight
  • Tuesday, April 1:             Vampire Prince by SJ Frost
  • Wed., April 2:                   Author Spotlight & Contest: Mell Eight
  • Thursday, April 3:          When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock
  • Friday, April 4:                Angel’s Truth by Liz Boreno
  • Sat., April 5:                    Author Spotlight & Contest: SJ Frost

 

Review: Angel’s Hero (Angel #1) by Liz Borino

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Angel's Hero coverCIA Agent Aaron “Angel” Collins and his Army Captain husband, Jordan Collins. are happy in love and happily married. Then Jordan is shipped off to Afghanistan on a special mission, one that turns deadly.  When Aaron is notified of Jordan’s death by  Jordan’s commanding officers, something just doesn’t feel right.  There is no remains, no concrete proof of Jordan’s death, raising Aaron’s suspicions.   Immediately Aaron sets off to seek out the truth and find out if his husband is still alive.  Major General Troy Hart offers Aaron first his sympathy and then his assistance in Aaron’s investigation.  But does he really believe that Aaron is right or is he merely humoring Aaron?

The truth is Captain Jordan Collins is alive and injured in an Afghanistan prison.  While captive, Jordan learns that he has been betrayed by someone back in the States, someone who just might be high up in his chain of command. When Jordan learns that an order has been issued for his death, he escapes and starts off on a perilous journey back to the States and Aaron.  But who can Jordan trust if  he makes it back home to the man he loves? And is he putting Aaron in danger by returning home?

Angel’s Hero is the first book I have read by Liz Borino.  The first in a series, it introduces us to the main characters, Jordan Collins, an Army Captain of mixed ethnicity (part Korean, part Black), who has become disillusioned with his Army superiors enough to be looking at early out and another career.  His husband, is CIA operative Aaron “Angel” Collins, stationed at CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA.  They met 11 years earlier at meeting of CIA interns and low-level Army officers and clicked even though DADT was still in place.  The time periods fluctuate between years from present time to the past as flashbacks show us how the men meet and fall in love.

The dialog and scenes that play out between the couple are lovely.  I believed in their romance and deep connection and that made the events that followed believably painful and full of anxiety.  What I found less plausible was the conversations Aaron had with his new superior at the CIA and his status as a CIA agent.  His conversations are a constant flow of information about himself, his husband, his husband’s plans upon leaving the military, nothing seems to be held back and this man is not only his new boss but someone who is alarmingly intimate for someone he just met.  Had that been a conversation between two people in any other job it still would have felt too familiar and odd.  But in intelligence officers that are practically strangers?  It never felt convincing and took something away from believing in the author’s world building.

As I said, I liked the characters and the relationship between Aaron and Jordan. That felt easy and loving, just as one would expect from a long established domestic partnership.  But almost immediately, other errors popped up to distract me from the events occurring within the plot. These are blunders that cannot be mistaken for artistic license.  One such example of artistic license would be putting a McDonald’s on a street corner where it doesn’t exist (that occurs here too). It’s entirely possible that a McDonald’s could appear in a new location, so that works even if you are familiar with a neighborhood.

No, I am referring to descriptions or information used as to set a scene that are obviously incorrect.   Here is an excerpt that shows some of the issues found within the story:

July 2013 Bethesda, Maryland.  Aaron inhaled the mixture of pine, leather, cherry blossoms, and the freshness of his husband, Jordan. The cherry blossom scent drifted through the cracked window letting in the July air, and the cruel light streaming through the window implored his eyes to open. Aaron resisted because as soon as he acknowledged the morning, he would have to be responsible. Get up, put on clothes, and take Jordan to the airport where he’d board a plane and disappear for three months. Jordan’s shortest deployment to date, and also the only one Aaron would have no part in.

This paragraph opens the second chapter and two facts jumps out at me immediately as a resident of the Washington DC Metro area.  First is the fact that it is July in the story and the cherry blossoms are blooming.  Now Washington, DC’s (and Bethesda’s) cherry blossoms are world renown.  People all over, especially in China and Japan, plan their vacations to coincide with our Cherry Blossom Festival.  Which happens in April.  Around here everyone breathlessly awaits the NPS announcement that tells the region when to expect the Japanese Cherry trees to start blooming each year.  Some years it is late March, most times it is April.  Never, ever, is it in July.  The second issue is the idea that anyone in this area would open a window in July, letting in the 90 percent humidity and intense heat that July in this region brings.  And unless the scent of pine is from Pinesol, that doesn’t happen at this time of year either.  Both the bloom date of the cherry trees and our temperatures in July are easy to research.  Yet that didn’t happen to the detriment of the story.

For me the best part of the story occurs when Jordan is a prisoner in Afghanistan.  Borino builds up the suspense and precariousness of Jordan’s situation with great descriptions and the addition of Adeela Nadar, a nurse at the prison.  But again, I wondered if a female nurse would have been allowed near male prisoners or any male for that matter.  Over and over, Borino asks the reader to suspend our belief given what we know about the Afghanistan culture and the extreme Islamic beliefs in that region that would allow a woman to work within that environment.  Again it’s a matter of terrific characters versus unrealistic situations.

Other notes made during reading include notations about landing a plane near Bethesda (totally urban, no airport) and finding oneself 10 minutes from home by the street signs.  Or arriving via airplane at an unidentified airport within the Beltway, wounded and without identification and you are not detained? By anyone post 9/11 and Homeland Security?  And that close to Washington, DC, no airports major or local are within 10 minutes of Bethesda, MD.  Unfortunately, all these mistakes pop up at the most inopportune times, yanking this reader out of the story each time such a mistake is mentioned.

The ending is heartbreaking and the emotions it engenders are real.  I liked so much about this story but the errors kept this reader from the total enjoyment that I wanted to feel.  Perhaps if you are not from this area, then the mistakes that occur here won’t bother you or interfere with your reading pleasure as it did mine.

I need to see what happens next as the ending itself is a bit of a cliffhanger.  So on to Angel’s Truth (Angel #2) I go.  If you are new to this series as I am, they should clearly be read in the order they were written.

The Angel series:

Angel’s Hero (Angel #1)
Angel’s Truth (Angel #2)

Cover art by Anthony Walsh.  Lovely cover, and the models work for the characters within.

Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Published February 26th 2014 by Lazy Day (first published February 25th 2014)
ISBN 1016125812 (ISBN13: 9781612581248)
edition languageEnglish
seriesAngel #1

A Very Special Book and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Spotlights and Contests

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Grand Adventures Anthology

On  Monday, March 31st, Dreamspinner Press is releasing a very special anthology titled Grand Adventures.  All proceeds from the sale of Grand Adventures will go to TJ Klune and Eric Arden, who are starting off on another stage in their adventure together. Eric is being released from the hospital and both men will move into their new house, although under circumstances neither one would have ever imagined.  These men are my heroes.  Their bravery and courage is amazing as is their love for each other.

So many great authors have lent their talents and stories to this anthology. In addition, the cover by Paul Richmond, which is beyond amazing,( that’s Eric and TJ in the rearview mirror) is being offered up in two sizes of prints for a limited time.  I have included the link to that information as well.

Whether you know TJ and Eric personally, or from their hilarious vids, or their books, so many people have been touched by their talent, their outsized warm personalities and their amazing love story.  And they need our help. Donations are still being taken at the Eric Arvin support fund linked on this website but here is another great way to contribute and you get wonderful stories to boot!

On September 1, 2011, TJ Klune wrote, “…it’s not about the ending, it’s about the journey…” in a review of Eric Arvin’s Woke Up in a Strange Place. With those words, two men began a journey of love and invited us to ride along. TJ and Eric have shared so much with us: their wonderful books, their smiles, their humor, their lives, and their inspiring devotion to each other. In December of 2013, their journey took a detour when Eric was taken to the emergency room. He survived the surgery to remove a cavernous hemangioma from his brain stem, but the challenges TJ and Eric face are far from over.

The authors in this anthology donated their talent as a way to support Eric’s continued recovery, to help bring strength to TJ, and to show both of them just how much love surrounds them. Grand Adventures is a diverse range of stories about the journey of love. We’re going on some grand adventures for a great cause. Thank you for joining us.GrandAdventuresPrints_DSPsite

One hundred percent of the income from this volume goes directly to TJ and Eric Buy it here at Dreamspinner Press.

  • Prints of the cover are available until April 30th in 2 sizes, buy linkhere

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Now for this week’s schedule of reviews, author guest blogs and contests:

  • Monday, March 24:            Angel’s Hero by Liz Boreno
  • Tuesday, March 25:           Author Spotlight and Contest with Katey Hawthorne
  • Wed., March 26:                 When All the World Sleeps Book Tour and Contest
  •                                                    with Lisa Henry and JA Rock
  • Thursday, March 27:        Artist’s Touch (Guild #1) by Kerry Adrienne
  • Friday, March 28:              Cut & Run with Abigail Roux on the Ball & Chain Book Tour
  •                                                     and Contest (Ty and Zane are back!)
  • Saturday, March 29:         Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux

Author Spotlight: Meet Liz Boreno, Angel’s Truth Author

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to welcome Liz Boreno, author of the Angel series, here to talk about heroes and her latest release Angel’s Truth (Angel,#2):

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Flawed Heroes


Remember the days when the knight in shining armor came galloping in on his white horse and saved the heroine from all that was wrong in her world? Sexy, right?

*Crickets*

Yeah. I don’t think so, either. But sexy or not, the trope doesn’t work for M/M romance. We’ve now got two heroes. Are they both supposed to be wealthy, funny, self-reliant, confident, chiseled, sensitive, yet macho? …I’m bored. Are you? Good. Let’s move on.
The question becomes why are we bored? I’ve heard many theories on the root of reader preferences, but I’ve always ascribed to the school of realism. Readers, and therefore writers, need to believe in their characters to invest the time with them. If we can’t see their humanity on the page, we’ll struggle to get lost in the world. So, how do we do this?

~ Think about the heroes you know in your real life, best friend, spouse. Are they flawless? No, likely not… even if they disagree. More likely, they have just the right characteristics – good and bad – to complement yours. So too is it with your characters. That means, if you have one hero with OCD who absolutely must control everything, his partner should probably be laid-back.

~ Every good quality has its drawback. Exploit both. Hero ambitious? He probably doesn’t have much time for his personal life or workout routine. Something has to be sacrificed.

~Most important, remember that what you see as a flaw might be someone else’s idea of perfection. Someone’s got to be buying all the white knights.

CIA Agent Aaron “Angel” Collins doesn’t take many things on faith. He trusts his gut, his eyes, and his husband, Jordan, an Army Captain. When his commanding officers deliver news of Jordan’s death, Aaron needs proof. The facts don’t add up, and Aaron must decide if he can trust Major General Troy Hart to assist in his quest to discover the truth.

Captain Jordan Collins is battered and disheartened in an Afghanistan prison, but definitely not dead, though he learns his own government believes he is. His only mission now is to stay alive and make it home to Angel, if he can find an ally among the enemy. But someone in the US government will stop at nothing to make sure he never leaves that prison, And Jordan must reevaluate the lines between friend and foe if he is ever to return to his Angel.

Angel's Truth coverAngel’s Truth (Angel #2)
Angel Series
ebook, 64 pages
Published March 14th 2014 by Lazy Day
(first published March 10th 2014)

ISBN 1612581250 (ISBN13: 9781612581255)

Sequel to Angel’s Hero (Angel, #1)
!*Please Note: These Books Must Be Read In Order*

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Angel’s Truth Blurb: “Freeze or I’ll shoot!” Aaron yelled and aimed the gun at Jordan’s chest.
“Angel, no, please.” Hacking fluid-filled coughs broke up Jordan’s words.
“Jordan?” Aaron whispered his name as recognition painted a mural of memories of their life together on his face.
“Yes.” He coughed red into his dirty hand. “Please help.”
So begins Angel’s Truth, the sequel to Angel’s Hero. Army Captain Jordan Collins arrives home, only to find the man responsible for his imprisonment, torture, and near-execution with his husband. Had his Angel moved on without him?
Aaron “Angel” Collins has driven his family and friends away in his quest to learn the truth of Jordan’s fate, leaving only Major General Troy Hart willing to help him. When Jordan miraculously returns, with a spirit more broken than his body, Aaron realizes Hart was really a liar with an agenda of his own. Aaron is unable to take time to heal his own emotional wounds, because he and Jordan learn Hart’s betrayal is even greater than they originally believed, threatening the entire nation. Now the reunited couple must race against time to keep a promise to Jordan’s savior and prevent Hart from bringing terrorism once again to American soil.

Bio: Liz Borino transcribes the world inside her head onto the page, and share it with the people who are stuck in the “real world” to makes their lives a little more interesting. Because in her world, heroes fall and stand up again with the help of their partners and friends. Liz’s world is littered with formidable obstacles, which her heroes overcome with a fire of courage and passion. The beauty of love between two men is celebrated. Who wouldn’t want to live there?
 When not with her heroes, Liz enjoys exploring cities, working toward social justice, and editing for other authors. Liz is less than three months from obtaining her Masters’ degree in English and published nine books since 2010.

Author Links:

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Guest Authors, Contests and The Week Ahead in Reviews

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Giveaway Alert

While March is deciding whether to be winter or spring, new books are popping up like crocuses, just waiting to be discovered and read.  I have a wonderful group of authors and stories waiting for you this week along with a number of book giveaways and author contests for everyone to enter.

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Monday will start off with the sequel to The Fall, a novel by Kate Sherwood.  Tuesday is a 2 book review day with of some of the Pulp Friction 2014 stories.  This year’s series is very different in tone and characters from last years, but just as absorbing.  A new author for me, E.E. Ottoman, is visiting on Wednesday to talk about E.E.’s release, Song of the Spring Moon Waning, a story I think everyone should read.  A copy of that book will be given away as part of E.E. Ottoman’s guest blog.  Thursday is the return of those marvelous group of authors whose stories comprise the Pulp Friction 2014 series.  Laura Harner, Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows and Tom Webb will be stopping by to talk about this year’s series and will give away a $25 gift card from All Romance eBooks!  Friday Heidi Belleau and Amelia C. Gormley continue on their book tour with To The Very Last Inch, The Professor’s Rule #5 (contest also).  And finally, ScatteredThoughts is finishing up the week with another new author for me, Liz Boreno. Liz Boreno will be here talking about her Angel series, Angel’s Hero (The Angel #1) and Angel’s Truth (The Angel#2), reviews of which will follow.  And there will be a book giveaway to go with her spotlight guest blog as well.Frog Reading

Whew!  What a packed and wonderful week in store!  All those great authors and contests too.  Don’t miss out, stay with me all week long.  Now off to whack some bushes just to feel all gardenery and such….

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  • Monday, March 10:           Riding Tall by Kate Sherwood
  • Tuesday, March 11:           Firestorm by Laura Harner, Cold Snap by Lee Brazil
  • Wed., March 12:                 E.E. Ottoman Author Spotlight and Contest
  • Thursday, March 13:        Pulp Friction 2014 Authors & Series Spotlight/Contest
  • Friday, March 14:              To The Very Last Inch Book Tour/Contest w/ Heidi Belleau & Amelia C. Gormley
  • Saturday, March 15:         Take Flight with Liz Boreno, Author Spotlight, Contest
  • Review: Angel’s Hero by Liz Boreno