Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp

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Why This Book

I’m beginning to read more from a few publishers that publish other books I’ve enjoyed, and this author is under contract with one of those companies, Creativia. What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp fell into my lap while it was on sale via Amazon last month, so I allotted it to February and made it a current read this week. I always look forward to clever and complex thriller and suspense fiction, and this one hit the spot. Kudos to the author!

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Approach & Style

I read this ~350 page book via Kindle Reader on my iPad over four days and six hours. It is a British period piece focusing on a few decades in the mid-twentieth century involving a spy, military, police, murder, intrigue and war. And that’s just the beginning! The language is very intricate and detailed. The story hops through the past and the present. It focuses on a few different critical characters you get to know little by little — or all at once! But my favorite part is how it offers up a true British nostalgia and ambiance.

Key Thoughts

Espionage and murder… could it get any better when it comes to solving a mystery? Author Kemp provides all the suspense and thrills in this very descriptive story. Main detective Patrick is very charismatic in an offbeat way, but he will also stand out as a highly intelligent and trustworthy confidante you enjoy sharing the read with. He’s not quite the narrator, but you get that feel from how the book is written.

I appreciate the skills necessary to weave together this type of tale. When you have multiple decades and secrets to track, it could be easily confusing. But it’s not. There are many twists and turns, surprising reveals, and eye-squinting characters who make you wonder… ‘what’s going on here?’ — but soon enough you start pulling the past together. Then the ending portion kicks in… and you’re back to guessing all over again!

I enjoyed this read. It’s partially in my typical reading choices, but it’s more of a spy novel that I’m used to… think a bit James Bond like. I am more a horror thrillers chasing serial killers or historical fiction type of reader. But this bring some elements from both and offers a good tale with a what feels like a realistic setting. I’m sure the author’s career helped played a big role in developing this story. Add in the various facts / stories we all know about World War II and how the ‘underground network’ works, then you’ve got a strong read.

Summary

I’m impressed with the author’s ability to weave a highly complex plot over multiple time periods and characters, in particular how well written the language in the story is. I recently learned it’s part of a book series, where two are already written and a third is on the way in the future. Very exciting for any true British crime fan!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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.
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Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

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When Origin, the fifth in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, was published last Fall, I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I had several ARCS, giveaways, and commitments that forced me to hold off until just this week to read it – nearly 5 months of misery. I cried when my fellow readers published reviews and I couldn’t look at them. I kicked things when the book mocked me on the shelf. Then my wonderful blogger friends voted for this as the book they wanted me to read in February on my Book Bucket List! So I survived and made it my priority this week… in the end, it was a good read and I will always enjoy Brown’s style, plots and characters. I’m giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars and will rate either a 3 or 4 on each of the book sites depending on their ratings meanings.

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The story is quite intriguing, as always. A man holds a press conference to reveal that he has found the answers we’ve all been searching for: (1) Where did we come from, and (2) Where are we going? It kicks off a series of events including his murder, the ire of many established world religions and the envy of historians and cultural icons. Langdon pairs up with the future Queen of Spain who runs the museum where the murder occurs, then they travel the country to discover all the answers.

The scenery, setting, and backgrounds are marvelous. Brown is highly adept at giving readers exactly as much as they need to picture the story without coloring it in too much… a few blurry edges for personal imagination. The sheer intensity of the research he must have done in the worlds of science, religious, museums, Spain and art is admirable. The volume of characters, the who is good versus who is evil balance, the red herrings, the small and large steps during the chases… all of these facts and the enveloped tone completely make this a 5 star read from those perspectives.

But then I started comparing it to his previous novels, to other works in this sub-genre and to his overall approach in telling the story. It fell short for me. There weren’t enough side stories. The characters were flatter than usual. I would love to have seen a bigger story about the Spanish royalty’s influence and history (other than Franco) in regard to science, evolution and romance. There were no scenes except a memory between the prince and his future consort, so I didn’t root for them. Langdon almost felt like a secondary character in the book. And the various sects of religious and military groups involved in the story seemed too fluid and/or disorganized in terms of the bigger picture. It made the story less interesting as I couldn’t really latch onto any specific character. Even Langdon had a minimal connection to the man who was murdered… despite being professor and student, we saw very little memories of a bond between them. Throw in a few conversations at a pub bonding over a theory, or an argument over the church, something to connect them for us in the present.

That said, I do enjoy these types of novels and there was enough to keep my interest. It just wasn’t a consistent page-turner throughout the whole book. I’ll still read the next one. And I’ll always be in awe of the author’s intelligence, world knowledge and style.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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 Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

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Why This Book 
I’ve built a good relationship with the publisher, Crooked Lane, who offered Lara Dearman‘s book, The Devil’s Claw, the first in her Jennifer Dorey mystery series, as a thank you for all the other books I’ve chosen, read, and reviewed from them. I’m closing out all my commitments this month to publishers before I tackle some open ARCs, hence why this book wound up as my first choice in February.

Devil

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Jennifer Dorey, a 30ish news reporter in contemporary times, returned from London to her hometown in Guernsey, a large island near France in the English Channel, after an attack over an article she had been writing on a scam over human trafficking services. When she arrives, she has memories of another attack when she was younger and the mysterious death of her father; however, that’s nothing compared to when she discovers a body on a beach near a cliff. Working with the local detective, Michael, they discover a series of murders that occurred throughout the last 50 years all with the markings of the Devil’s Claw. Jen and Michael investigate the past crimes, learning about improper police work, Nazi supporters, and a penchant for young blonde girls who hurt themselves. Everything collides when she stumbles upon the killer and is trapped in his/her menacing grip.

Approach & Style 
I read a hardback version of this ~325 page novel in five hours over three days. It is broken into 45 chapters, each relatively short around 8 pages, and told in third person POV. Chapters alternate perspective from the killer, Michael, Jen and a few other supporting characters. The characters revisit history multiple times, so you have to focus on what’s current and what’s historical, but it’s fairly easy to stay aware. It’s written from a UK style with some details specific to police procedures and news reporting local to the area. It read well, but at times felt a bit too formal and stiff. It wasn’t enough to cause any issues, but it could have been relaxed a tad more so build a better reader / story connection. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the personality of Jen; time will tell when we see book two.

Key Thoughts 
I enjoyed the debut book in this series. It has a slow build, keeps you guessing and offers multiple suspects. There are several side stories that eventually interweave in the plot, and it includes a few supporting characters who will likely continue into future books in the series. No one stood out other than the primary two, but with focus, I’m sure the depth will provide characters we crave reading about in the future. I love the connection between the private citizens and the owner of the newspaper. I was glad to see the partnership between the police and the news outlet. It felt real in both senses of what they did and they didn’t allow.

The plot was strong in terms of execution, red herrings, guesswork and inter-dependencies between all the characters and time periods. The ultimate reason for the murders isn’t as clear as I would have liked it to be; that said, it is good and keeps you turning the pages. You may just have some open questions in the end as I did, in terms of the Nazi connections, the reason the killer chose the victims (s)he chose, and how much the Devil’s Claw really had to do with it all. Nothing that threw me off, but I wanted it tied together more tightly.

Summary 
Dearman weaves an eerie story with a fantastic background setting. Guernsey was a new locale for me, but one that peaks a lot of interest. I’m curious to find out how much of what was in the book is truth versus fiction. Kudos to her for creating a new series with lots of possibilities.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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.
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Book Review: Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald

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Why This Book 
About 6 months ago, I won a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher, Crooked Lane. They accidentally shipped this book instead of the one I had won. Rather than pull it back, they let me keep the book, but I hadn’t gotten to read it. On my quest to close out all ARCs, giveaways and books on my shelves before I download or buy anything new, Prayer for the Dead, the fifth book in the Inspector McLean thriller and mystery series, published in 2015, and written by James Oswald, was the oldest in my queue, as I work why way through the TBR I actually have copies of. I rarely read in the middle of a book series, but with 4 books prior to this one, it was too much to go back to the beginning, so I’ll start here…

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Set in current times in Edinburgh, UK, Inspector Tony McLean battles politics within his local police precinct and journalists with whom he has a very unsteady relationship. He’s also protecting a few local neighbors who are being vandalized and trying to re-build his former tenement after some accident that occurred in the previous novels. One of the journalists approaches McLean to ask for help with a missing colleague. Readers already know the colleague was sadistically killed in the opening chapter by someone with pseudo-religious or Masonic beliefs. A few bodies build up, and the cases all begin to collide. McLean learns he may actually be connected with the killer from many years earlier, and sets off to stop the serial murders with very little information. Includes some graphic violence, medical lingo, and police procedural language. No romance or side-stories, other than what he’s doing with his old tenement. A few minor things that might be good to know from prior books, but it can be read stand-alone.

Approach & Style 
I read the 340-page hardcover over 2 days in about 5 hours. Through ~75 chapters, the novel includes both 1st person and 3rd person POV. The killer appears in several chapters, disguised and talking to readers in 1st person POV, but the rest is mostly from McLean’s 3rd person POV. Perspective follows both around as crimes are committed and investigated.

Given it’s a police procedural, about some very religious and historical beliefs, and set partially in a medical environment, it’s not a run-of-the-mill thriller — there are many levels of technical details to weed through, particularly when it comes to UK police departments. I had no idea which type of investigator was more senior than the others, and they often refer to each other as Sir or Ma’am, so I was a tad lost. Not enough to stop me from reading, but enough that I wouldn’t say it was totally easy to adapt to for an American. Put a little chart in the back, please!

Strengths 
It’s complex, full of mystery and has lots of page-turning moments. There are enough characters to keep you guessing. The interweaving POV and perspective is handled adeptly. I liked the story and the way in which the murders occurred and how the investigations took place. Very detailed-oriented, and this makes me a happy reader! I also like the author’s writing style and feel connected to the development of the chapters and overall way things were described.

Concerns 
For one, the ending was way too quick. You don’t discover who the killer is or what his/her connection is to McLean until the last 15 pages. If that were the only concern, I’d probably have given this 4-stars; however, it was confusing and didn’t wrap up all the plot lines. I still don’t truly understand who was murdered years ago, whether the killer came back from the dead, or why one of the victims even died. Or even how the religious components truly fit in with all the other characters. I unfortunately must say this did not get fleshed out as well as it needed to be. Even if it’s a mystery thriller series, and more will be revealed later, as a whole book, it lacked a cohesive story that clearly set out the who/what/when/where/why of the crime.

Final Thoughts 
If this were the first book in the series, I’d have definitely passed on any future reads. Knowing it’s made it’s way to 5 books, through a traditional publisher, I’m certain I must be missing something, or that perhaps the earlier books were better. I probably won’t pick up another one, given my long TBR list, but I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has read the author before… what did I miss?

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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: Down to the Needle by Mary Deal

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Why This Book 
After reading a few light-hearted mysteries and non-fiction books, I was in need of a strong thriller and suspense novel. I had Mary Deal’s Down to the Needle in my Kindle downloaded book list, as it was recommended by a friend. I flipped through the summary and overview, which convinced me to give it a try last week; I’m quite glad I did.

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
There are several plot lines in this book, but they weave together in multiple ways in a typical small American town called Seaport. The book kicks off with Abi and Joe, mid-40s to early 50s, covering a string of fires occurring across the city. We learn that Abi has been searching for her daughter, whom her husband had kidnapped nearly twenty-three years ago. Joe stumbles onto an ex who disappeared many years ago, but they’ve found solace in one another as he makes plans to get her off the street. Abi and Joe have their own separate careers and homes, but they consider the possibility of future marriage, assuming Abi can find out if her husband is dead or find a way to divorce him. News outlets are covering the upcoming execution of a young inmate named Megan, who was accused of torching a house eight-years earlier that killed a man’s wife and children. Then Abi finds a few clues which lead them to believe Megan could be her long-lost daughter. The book navigates the path they each take separately, and together, to find their pasts, as well as determine if they can build a future together. New eye-witnesses to the fires step forward and more fires occur. A lead on Abi’s missing daughter unfolds and the discovery of what really happened to Joe’s ex take center stage during this journey — all ending with some happy, bittersweet and sad news. Let’s just say… ‘Down to the Needle’ is the perfect title for many reasons.

Approach & Style 
I read the 381-page novel on my iPad through Kindle Reader. It took about 5 hours over a few days; there are 62 chapters, each fairly short and easy to digest. The story is told in third-person POV with a perspective mostly focused on Abi and Joe. The setting is vividly described, bringing a clear picture of everything, including fires, character expressions and thoughts, homeless conditions, prisons and medical illnesses.

Key Thoughts 
One of the best things I enjoyed about this book is the approach Deal takes in evolving the entire story. There are tons of facts and background information that need to be revealed, but it’s moderately paced and deliberately methodical, to the point where you find your eyes bulging as you get a tad frustrated because you can’t wait to see what comes next. It’s full of suspense, keeping you hanging many times – and then a curve ball comes out of nowhere, in a very almost nonchalant way – it shocks you had some of these things just pop up in a realistic way. Some may find that style hard to digest at first, but once you realize you’re on this wild ride, and you really won’t know what will be thrown at you next, you just dive in to see what happens to the hero and heroine(s) in the story – there may be a few heroines, I can’t decide how I feel! You desperately want Abi to find her daughter, have absolutely no belief/trust that Megan could possibly be her daughter, and then you get happily slammed with something that makes you change your mind, over and over again. It’s great… and when you finally learn all that happened, it’s a brilliant evolution and clearly shows the art of a slow-burning build before the fire pops. Deal has strong skills in this area. The story has a little bit of everything and every genre. It is never boring; a few times, you might wonder where it’s going, but you hang on tightly because you know the author has a plan in mind on how to connect it together. It won’t let you down… to the needle.

Summary 
Mary Deal is an excellent writer, and I am very glad I read this book. I will pick up a copy of her latest novel, The Ka, in the next few months. I enjoy her character development, complex plots, methodical approach to laying out the setting and descriptions, and ability to weave in just enough confusion and red herrings to keep the pages constantly turning. Kudos!

About Me

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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: No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr

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Why This Book 
Crooked Lane has become one of my favorite publishers. They email me from time to time to suggest books I might want to read and send me copies of upcoming releases. I will forgive them for declining me on the last three I requested on NetGalley (really???), but that’s another story! They asked if I would read this book, which is #2 in the series, so I had to ask for #1 first and read it. I finished that last month, so it was time to read Lucy Kerr‘s second in the series, No One Can Know. I’ve given it 3.5 stars, and I’d recommend the series to mystery readers looking for something between a cozy and a thriller/suspense novel.

noone

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Frankie has agreed to remain in her hometown, Stillwater, Illinois, to help her sister re-build the family business and care for her premature baby. Frankie left to work in Chicago after some family issues and a failed engagement, then rarely returned during the ten year absence. As an ER nurse, she sees it all, then feels compelled to solve whatever mystery has landed at her feet. In this second book, a male car accident victim seeks help, but Frankie knows he’s lying. When 8-month pregnant woman is also brought in after a car accident, she knows it’s connected, but can’t do anything until she’s saved the woman’s life. Unfortunately, only the baby makes it, and then the male victim disappears. Add in some trouble with the hospital administration, a political candidate and an old fiancee-turned-detective, Frankie’s smack in the middle of chaos. As she tries to solve the mystery, she steps in danger and opens her family up to potential risk. When the baby is kidnapped, Frankie pushes everyone to the brink, but ultimately, she leads them to the culprit.

Approach & Style 
I read an advanced physical copy of this 325 page book. It’s broken into 31 chapters, each about ten pages long, and told in first person POV. The perspective remains on Frankie the entire novel, showing her thoughts and opinions on each event she encounters. It took about 4 hours over the course of 2 days – a relatively quick read with minimal hospital & medical terminology, just enough to keep it feeling real.

Key Thoughts 
I really enjoyed the first book in the series. All those aspects carried into this second book, but the plot was a bit weaker than the first. When the crime centers around a car accident, politics and baby theft, you expect something quite complex. If you read a lot of these types of novels, you’ll know the culprit pretty early on, as well as guess why it happened. I would have liked a few more red herrings, a couple of other suspects and some additional side-stories that wove in and out of the main story, creating some interesting dilemmas and confusion. It was just too straightforward for me to give it a 4 or 5 star rating. It was a good book, just needed a bit more darkness, depth and puzzles to solve.

That said, I’m a big fan of the author for her writing style, character creation, and approach to balancing medical terminology and creating a truly realistic setting. She builds a world that is fast-paced, rough and keeps your attention. There’s a lot going on in the ER and you bounce back and forth between a few cases, giving readers time for suspense, questions and connections to the story. When Frankie’s out of the ER, you feel the draw with the former fiancee, the love with her family, and the concern about coming home forever. I look forward to each interaction she has because you learn more about who she is and what she’s made of. There’s no filler in these books — the substance is pretty strong, which is why I will continue to read them. I just want to push the author on a bit more complexity to help break the series out of ‘just another decent mystery series.’ I think there’s potential for this to be quite big if some focus is put on long-term development options.

Summary 
I will keep reading the series. I like the main character, the setting and the author’s writing style. The small concerns with the overall tone and citizens being too close to the police work are not enough to bother me. I mention them only because it is something you just need to accept. The characters and family dynamics are very strong, and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next release.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was the book selected by my blog followers as my Book Bucket read for January 2018. Each month, I hold a poll where you can pick from 12 books I want to read, rotating a new one in and out each month. I was excited to read this one, but hadn’t read Girl on the Train before, so Hawkins is a new author for me. I enjoyed the book a great deal, despite a few areas that didn’t quite work for me, but I’d still recommend it to others as a strong thriller and suspense novel.

The novel focuses on a small town in England, following a core set of about 10 characters. Chapters alternate to provide the history and perspective of multiple deaths by drowning in a local river. It all begins with the death of a suspected witch from several hundred years earlier, culminating with a few deaths in modern times that could be suicide, accidental or murder. As each character shares parts of the story, readers learn what truly happened to each victim.

Ignoring the historical murders, the current day plot is intricate. Several teenagers fight to be popular or earn respect while in high school. Sisters struggle to accept their differences with one another. Parents and children argue about parenting styles. Families are broken by affairs. Police detectives walk a fine line of doing the right versus the wrong thing. Each of the stories are weaved together in a way you can’t help but want to know all the connections. And there is, of course a ‘surprise’ twist in the end… which for many readers, probably won’t be a surprise.

I’m primarily a plot reader, followed closely by character. The plot is definitely strong; however, at least 50% of the characters have some flaws or issues in how they were written. Keeping characters in the grey zone is important within a suspense novel; readers need to know that they might be missing part of the picture, but in the end, it should be clearer than it was in this book. For 3 characters, I felt like the actions didn’t quite match what we’d come to expect from the personalities we’d gotten to know – and it wasn’t due to the grey area. It felt like a totally new character had replaced the ones we’d spent attaching ourselves to. If there are connections we just failed to see because of how good the writing is, then I am OK with it. But if it feels disconnected, then I think the book fails a bit. That’s what I felt happened here… what started out as a 4.5 rating began going south as parts of the plot unraveled. It was clear the entire way that something wasn’t right with a certain character, yet the twist in the end doesn’t do any justice to ‘why’ certain things happened.

All that said… as I kept turning the page, my interest was held and I liked many aspects of the book. I lowered my rating by 1 star because of how it seemed to fall apart in the end… ending somewhere between a 3.5 and a 3.75, rounded up to a 4 in the rating. I’ll keep reading Hawkins’ novels, but if another has a similar downturn, I might not stick with it.

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Thanks for picking this one for my January Bucket List! I was glad to read it.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. 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.