Book Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction

Book Review: Heir of Ashes by Jina S. Bazzar

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After interacting with Jina S. Bazzar via her blog for over a year, I decided to read her short story, The Curse earlier this year. I enjoyed it a lot even though I’m not a heavy fantasy reader. I added the first book in her series, Heir of Ashes, to my summer reading queue and finished it last week. All I can say is her heroine, Roxanne Fosch, is quite a captivating bad ass!

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For starters, the book is about 9k Kindle lines which is somewhere around 700 pages if I did the math properly. It was a daunting task, but by the time I finished it, I couldn’t believe it had gone so quickly. That’s a good sign when an author who can truly immerse you in a fantasy world full of awesome scenery and characters. If I tried to count the number of fight scenes, I’d run out of hands and toes! But each one felt different… between the multiple groups or assassins trying to get hold of her and the people she was trying to track down, Roxanne had tons of challenges to deal with. Along the way, Bazzar weaves in some romance, mystery, advice, and charm. It hits a bunch of happy spots when I’m looking for a well-written, cross-genre-style novel.

One of the most remarkable items the book left me with was how in Roxanne’s journey across those few days/weeks when we caught a sneak peak into her life, very little changed — and I mean this in a good way. She set out to escape, which happens. She set out to get revenge, which happens. She set out to discover who she was, which happens. But in the end, she’s basically back to the beginning not really knowing who she is anymore, trapped by a new force, and ready for revenge on the true tormentors. Book 2 will definitely handle all that drama and more, I’m sure, but in the meantime… so many questions about the different species and creatures in this world are still teasing me. Are her parents really dead? Was the curse from the original short story/prequel truly fulfilled? Why is this all happening? When will we meet the queen and her sister? How can I make Logan real?

I find myself intrigued and excited to learn more. I’d give this story 4.5 stars (rounding up where appropriate) and congratulate the author and publishing team on a successful launch. I look forward to picking up the next book in the series when it’s ready for publication.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgernstern

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Each month on my blog, This Is My Truth Now, followers choose a novel from my Book Bucket List that I have to read. For July, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was selected as the winner, and although it was in a genre I don’t often read (fantasy), I really enjoyed it. There were many parts I would give all five stars to, but there were also several where I thought it was just ‘good’ and received three stars; in the end, it’s earned a combined 4 stars from this bookworm… and now I’ll explain why!

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One of the reasons I struggle with fantasy is the lack of understanding all the rules in a fictional setting that seemingly has no bounds. In a realistic book, I know that someone who truly dies won’t come back to life, people can’t just suddenly appear through magic, and spells can’t confuse me as to what is real and what isn’t. I’ve come to love those things in more lighthearted stories, but when I am entrapped n a very somber / serious / beautiful piece of fiction, not knowing the rules can sometimes induce a difficulty to fully connect with the story or characters… and in The Night Circus, there were moments where I found myself asking the questions “Why couldn’t you just cast this spell?” or “Why didn’t you change the game?” or “Wait, how exactly can you do X but you can’t do Y?”

When I do this, I’m pulled from the story and suddenly less interested or focused on the outcome. So… for fantasy to truly pull me in, there need to be ground rules established from the beginning so I have structure. I can’t help it, I’m a boundaries-type kinda guy for the most part. Since this happened a bit too often in The Night Circus, I found myself thinking the book was just average. The book also jumps time frames in no particular order, which I am usually fine with, but when I have to keep track of time lines and what magic is happening in which person’s life, I am either not smart enough or just not well read enough in this genre! HOWEVER… on the flip side, these not-so-amazing parts for me were more than counter-balanced with tons of POSITIVE and THRILLING aspects.

Wow, was this an ethereal and beautiful story. I lost track of all the similes, metaphors and analogies between the words on the page. It was lyrical and enchanting… from the circus itself to the competition to the love/romance and the death. I tore through the pages in certain sections because I just kept digesting its absolute brilliance and didn’t want to stop and think about it – just wanted to breathe it all in at once. I might be in love with Celia Bowen, the main character for most of the novel. What she goes through and how she turns everything into gold is just stunning. I’d forgotten what she even looked like as it was more just this concept of magic I attributed to her… she was a weaver, a spellbinding enchantress… and when she was pushed back down again, or lost Marco from time to time, I was devastated.

Morgenstern’s creation of a fantastic world is utterly gorgeous beyond words. From how the circus looks and appears to the creation of the clock that holds it all together. I found myself unable to put the book down several times — only if I truly had to stop for something important. I would read another Morgenstern again, and I can’t wait to see what else she has to offer. So thrilled with this choice, thank you everyone!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Nature of the Witch by Helen T. Norwood

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Plot almost always comes first for me when I choose a new book. I don’t often venture into the fantasy and/or science fiction genres, but occasionally the story just calls to me. When I read a description of Nature of the Witch by Helen T. Norwood, I was intrigued. I love a true battle between good and evil, especially when the lines between which is which (no pun intended) falls into a murky oblivion of where to place your trust. Norwood’s novel is a prime example of why it’s good to chance something new!

There are witches — sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not so good. They are protected by a secret society of strong men, the Gwithiaz — sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not. {Side note: the questions come up with the characters whether witches can be men and the protectors can be women — I do love a good analytical discussion!} But then there are the Creatures who hunt the witches. From the beginning, I know enough to be afraid from the earliest descriptions of the wrath that they bring to any encounter. But who sent them? And why do they hate the witches? Lots of questions… yet the physical battle between all involved is carefully avoided until the very end of this book.

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The story is told from the perspective of a new witch and a new Gwithiaz, each being taught by what are supposedly the last of each’s own kind. But everyone knows what we’re told in fairy tales and fables is never the final or complete story. And that’s certainly the case here… Norwood weaves a spiderweb of deceit and confusion all throughout the first 90% of the book. It’s unclear who is telling the truth, but it forcibly pulls you into the story on the edge of your seat siding with each of the groups. Beyond the primary story evolves a growing relationship between the two newly anointed souls responsible for carrying forth the destiny of the witches. It could be friendship, love or just a pure family connection. Both lost their parents at a young age and have been searching for that unconditional love to no avail.

Until now. Yet that’s where it all comes crashing together in the end. I hadn’t know this was going to be a series until I read the last chapter and thought… wait, I need more… and then I turned the page to find a note from the author who was working on Book 2. WOW, she got me! I’m very excited to see what happens in this series. Between the vibrant descriptions, fantastic world-building and complex sense of loyalties, it’s a drama to the fullest extent. It reminds me of tv shows I’ve watched like Grimm and Sleepy Hollow, not to mention countless short stories and books about witches and battles – I felt like it was Hansel & Gretel seeking out evil! {Reference to a movie in case you’re confused about what little children from a forest have to do with the Creatures!}

Kudos to Norwood for enticing a new fan of the fantasy world! I’m a sucker for anything with witches, but this took it to a whole new level!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Ka by Mary Deal

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5 stars! After reading one of Mary Deal‘s novels last year, I knew I wanted to read a few more. Upon checking out the list, The Ka, seemed like the most appropriate given my interest in Egyptian history, pyramids, mummies, and curses. I was definitely not disappointed; in fact, I was rather quite intrigued to learn a whole lot more about some of the pharisees and queens during this historical period after reading the book. Kudos to Deal for making the story so interesting that I didn’t want to stop learning once I put it down.

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Not a frequent paranormal reader, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that part of the story. Deal puts those concerns to bed rather quickly, as though there are elements of the past coming back in full force to the future in mystical ways, it’s not at all like the movie The Mummy (which I loved) where ancient creatures are chasing the archaeologists and inhabitants of Cairo. There’s something fantastical and lyrical about the way the past is connected to the current… a romance re-ignited by a common love for discovering what lurks beneath the Egyptian pyramids and a quest to survive though you’ve been hunted by your rivals.

Deal’s approach to telling the story is a slow build at first, keenly pulling in readers who become invested in a vast array of team members on this search. At the center, Chione, who has been having peculiar and vivid dreams, leads the group to discover several opportunities for finding tombs and burial chambers that no one believed existed. Is she losing her mind? Is she actually having a connection with the queen who mysteriously died in the past? Is she just playing along to try and win someone’s affection? All these thoughts and more will cross your mind as you read a well weaved story with tons of roller coast moments.

Tut is a very popular former pharaoh, but what’s the full story behind his demise, the war occurring in the lands, and his potential suitor queens. Add in the quest to become famous, find love, become a mother despite medical complications, and a need to believe in something beyond what is tangible, this book covers a great range of emotional needs and reactions to what’s happening over the course of a 4-month period. We invest in the characters as people who need to reach various goals, but we also learn all about the haunting ways of a few core Egyptian families near 4 millennia ago. It’s a fascinating story and keeps your attention in every angle or arc.

Deal has a fantastic grasp on build-up, ensuring readers’ appetites might be satiated every few chapters knowing full well the twists and surprises will come at unexpected times. The intimate knowledge revealed in this story must have been researched extensively. I’m quite impressed by the educational experience I had while reading the book — all in a good way where I enjoyed learning about the culture, interpersonal dynamics, and life experiences of several prominent Egyptians in the past. Between the descriptions of the settings and demeanor / moods of the characters, you feel like you’re in Egypt nearly two decades ago (when story takes place).

Another fine example of Deal’s work… and it’s just pushed me to pick up a third later this year. Just need to decide which one it should be… thanks for a fantastic read! I’ve done an author spotlight in the past on Mary Deal. Check out more about her books, life as an artist, and fun interview we had last year.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Best Dark Rain by Marco Etheridge

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Last month, I posted an author alert about a new writer I was planning to read… just finished his book and wanted to share my review. See the author alert post here.

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As a voracious reader, I sometimes find myself in a bit of a slump and need to test out a new genre, author, or writing style. When I came across The Best Dark Rain: A Post-Apocalyptic Struggle for Life and Love by Marco Etheridge, I thought to myself… you don’t read much science-fiction, you haven’t seen many zombie films, and you haven’t sampled much from a writer living in Austria. Let’s give it a chance! I liked the ‘Resident Evil’ and “The Day After Tomorrow” movies, and this kinda felt like a combination of those two flicks, except I think I’m not allowed to say the word ‘zombie’ as they are clearly named ‘Re-Ams’ by Mr. Etheridge — which I think is a fantastic idea! Let’s chat about my new experience…

Seattle. Some sorta apocalypse has occurred. There are corpses coming back to life. There are hunters and prey. Lots of guns. A couple of characters wandering the streets in search of food and supplies. How will they survive? What caused everything to happen? What’s still yet to come? Lots of questions start forming in my head in the first few chapters. Etheridge is smart. He doesn’t answer them for a long time. Instead, this newbie reader is investing in the characters as people rather than trying to attribute ‘former lives’ to them, as it’s all gone, so what does that matter, right? By mid-book, you begin to understand what likely happened and how the world succumbed to something unexpected. By then, you want to know what happens to the 5 or 6 main characters… of course there is lots of bashing and blood, a death or two, some light romance, and lots of comedy / witty commentary on life.

I am really glad I read the book. It pushed me out of my normal comfort zone (in a good way) in some parts, but in others, it was like a very typical fiction read for me. It was just a different world or setting, which made me wonder am I missing out by reading more science fiction and fantasy books. Time will tell… just like time will tell in Seattle if Liz and Pat, the main focus of the book, will get their answers and push forward in life despite the walking dead / not-so-dead coming after them. As they began meeting a few other survivors, knowing all along it’s hard to tell the difference anymore between who is dead and who is alive, you feel that suspense of who should they trust. I was kinda excited to see a variety of character types in the story (no spoilers, read it on your own please!) and Etheridge ingests lots of humor into them and their relationships. One of my faves is Formerly Rachel. Seriously… you have to wonder what that means, but it’s a fantastic play on words.

That said… what kept me reading was the extreme detail that is offered whether describing a setting, life choices, options, or emotions. There’s a lot going on in terms of plot and story, but the world-building is what made me turn the pages. I wanted to see descriptions of how life played out, where the food came from, who beat up who, what kind of turmoil they lived in. So… if you read in this genre, you’ll be pleased. If it’s new to you, take a chance like me. There’s a lot of reality coming forward and well, if the world ever does go this way, maybe we’ll know how to survive now, right? Thanks for pushing my reading boundaries, Mr. Etheridge. I look forward to reading more from you.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

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At some point last year, I must have been on a kick to enter tons of Goodreads Giveaways in the hopes I’d get a bunch of free books. Included in that over-zealous moment was Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor. I tend to get lucky in terms of winning a giveaway once each month, and earlier this year, I won this book. When I received the email, I looked the book up as I couldn’t remember anything about it… and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why I picked it given it’s science fiction and fantasy. I reasoned out that it had a cool premise where historians time travel to the past to see what happened, and well, that does kinda raise my interest. So… trying to clear off my list of ARCs (I’ve got 11 left… almost there for my 5/31 deadline… and I punished myself by not allowing any new ones until these are done)… I slotted it for this week, and wow! It was such a surprise and fantastic read.

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It’s the first (except for a short prequel) in a series with ~10 books already (and it’s only been 3 or 4 years since the author started writing the series from what I can tell). A group of modern history buffs work for a secret organization who travels back in time to either correct any interference from criminals trying to alter the timeline or to study and learn the reasons why things happened (that we never really understood). In this initial book, we visit dinosaurs, great library fires, epic wars and battles, and other great historical events. Throw in some romance, many suspenseful moments, the classic good versus evil battle, some interesting history lessons, and a really fun and easy-to-read style, and you’ve got a winning book series.

It was a difficult start because the two year old inside me kept saying “but what about,” or “how did this happen,” and then “you never explained” … yet truthfully… it’s the kinda book and topic where you will never have all the answers as it doesn’t exist in reality. Time travel isn’t a real thing (as far as I know, but clearly I don’t know everything so there’s some potential I am dead wrong), so why should I feel the need to invent all these rules and structure. The book has several already to give us appropriate constructs within which the historians can move around. We don’t learn how the machine was built, what it can/can’t do, etc. We just know the researchers can get in a pod, punch in coordinates and voila, they are there. That’s good enough for me as I don’t read this genre often. If you get hung up with needing all the specifics, then I don’t think this book is for you unless in future ones within the series, it’s more clearly explained. That said, it’s such a fun journey, I really don’t think you need to worry about knowing everything. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as the historians do.

The main character changes jobs and is at the end of her rope when a former mentor invites her to a mysterious meeting. Fast-forward five years later to when she’s a leading member of the historian team jumping through time. She’s smart and spunky, but definitely has a few flaws. It makes her more likable and human. When she battles the evil characters, I kinda laughed at how she just survives anything thrown at her, but it’s good drama. I really can’t encourage you enough to just let it flow and think about the fantasy aspects of this opportunity. It’s not real life, so if she can kill a few people and walk away without worrying too much, then I suppose I can do that for a few hours, too!

Thank you to the author and publisher for including this in a giveaway. You’ve got a new fan and I will pick up another in the series this year.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Curse by Jina S. Bazzar

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Last fall, I connected with a writer who was ‘putting the finishing touches’ on her debut novel just as I was at the time. Jina S. Bazzar was writing a new fantasy series and trying to decide how many books, where to split the plot lines, at what point to release each one. We chatted a few times, helped each other through some marketing plans and provided an ear whenever it was needed. She was really fun and engaging to talk with and I’m glad we connected.

Jina is also a mom, a writer at a fantastic magazine, Conscious Talk, and the author of a blog where she shares advice, life musings, reviews, book updates, and other fun content. She’s from Brazil, lives in the Middle East, and often has battles between different bugs! I say this with humor because of a few posts she’s shared about how she lets one bug stick around to help control another one. Spiders are involved, and it’s just scary to me! (Yes, I’m a baby apparently). Anyway, I digress…

Jina’s launched both her prequel short story, The Curse, and her first book in the series, Heir of Ashes. I will be reading Heir of Ashes this summer, but I took on the short story this week to immerse myself in the story… what a great thing to have something like this to introduce me to a new world… and if you read thru the review all the way to the end, you’ll find a way to get a copy for FREE! Let’s dive in…

Short Story Review

If you’ve read my book reviews before, you probably know that they tend to be mysteries, thrillers, historical or contemporary fiction; however, you also know I’m branching out to try a few different genres, including romance, fantasy and science fiction. An opportunity popped up to read a new book by debut author, Jina S. Bazzar, who has both a book and a prequel short story, The Curse, currently available. What a great opportunity to explore a new author and genre by reading her short story to get the ‘lay of the land’ before I dive into the details of a new fantasy series she’s currently writing.

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I read the prequel eBook, The Curse, in less than an hour earlier this week via my iPad. With a title like this, and my interest in mysteries and suspense thrillers, who wouldn’t be intrigued! I’m normally not a reader in this genre because I prefer a clear understanding of all the rules and structure within the setting or world I’m reading about, and fantasy books often leave a lot to the imagination or surprise. Bazzar does a fantastic job providing details without over-building the background — just enough to wet your appetite to want to continue reading the series.

As I’m reading through the first half, I’m getting to know the characters, the background of the drama, the different types of creatures and/or humans… then suddenly, I see the emotional side of the The Curse beginning to form. I became invested quickly and as I finished the last few pages, I vividly remember thinking… “I may not get thoroughly excited by other worldly creatures, but wow, I’m definitely drawn in right now.” The impact of a decision the main character had to make and the loss of a connection (s)he suffers was enough to extract tons of emotion and hope for what could or might change to in the future to help find their way back together, save the family, or solve the battles between species. (Is that even the right word, species, when there are different types of humans, creatures, clans? I think I’m gonna learn something when I read the next book).

So… from a non-fantasy reader, this was the type of story that appealed across other genres and pulled this reader in. From secrets to mysterious plagues, future war to (un?)requited love, and family drama to trust, there’s a little bit of everything in this story. It excites me to keep reading, and that I plan to do in the next month when I take on the actual first book in the series, Heir of Ashes.

If you’re interested, you can download a copy of this short story for FREE via Smashwords. I hope you will, as this will give you a really intricate and eye-opening view into another world in a book with a strong writing style and a wonderful debut author. Kudos to Bazzar for tempting a non-reader in this genre to want to continue reading more.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.