ARC Review: The Scam List by Kurt Dinan

53431362From Goodreads: Meet the best teen con artist team around.

Boone McReedy: high school conman, smooth-talking charmer, and the idiot who just got scammed out of $15,000 of his mom’s money.

Darby West: ass-kicker, straight-shooter, and Boone’s ex-girlfriend.

Now, they must team up to save their parents’ business, one con at a time.

That is if they don’t kill each other first.

Of course, they’re only going to scam people who deserve it.

That’s a promise.

Would they lie to you?

As he did in his award-winning debut, DON’T GET CAUGHT, Kurt Dinan brings laughs, twists, and heart to THE SCAM LISTS’ funny world of teen con artists, exes, and outrageous five-dollar bets.

Review: What a fun book! Sometimes you just need to read something lighthearted and enjoyable for sheer amusement, and this story is it! I read Don’t Get Caught by this author last year and thought it was a blast, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this one – and it didn’t disappoint! Engaging characters, an entertaining plot, and an easy read – this one is sure to appeal to even the most YA reluctant readers!

The subject matter might seem a bit risque to some – there is underaged drinking and, of course, scams, but there is a moral to the story and it’s all in good fun. Also, it’s written by an experienced high school teacher – when you consider what many teenage students are exposed to (remembering back to my own HS years) – this pales in comparison. However, if you are a parent with concerns I suggest you read it first.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Scam List is slated for release August 3, 2020!

FREE Flash Fiction ~ The Hungry Games

The Hungry Games first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine.

 

The Hungry Games

By Shannon Hollinger

 

The experiment has gone horribly wrong. I was going for an exercise that would result in a Mother Teresa-like experience, but somehow ended up in the middle of Jurassic Park instead. Now I have a roomful of savage toddlers ready to tear me to pieces.

This semester I’m taking a social psychology class. I’ve just finished reading about dozens of studies that have proven the altruistic nature of chimps, the willingness of one to help another earn a treat even if it doesn’t result in a reward for themselves. This kindness can be seen across the animal kingdom. Was I really so misguided in thinking that a roomful of preschoolers would be capable of displaying the same behavior? Apparently, I was.

            In my hand is a box of popsicles. There’s only enough for everyone if the double sticks inside each package are split and shared. The hand that holds the box trembles under the intense gaze of every pair of eyes in the room. There will be no sharing today, that much is clear. Let the hunger games begin.

            Little Timmy Holbrook is closing in on my left. He’s the established biter of the group, our very own Hannibal Lecter. He’d gladly eat his Popsicle with some jelly beans and a bite of his auntie. There’s no reasoning with him. Timmy’s tiny baby teeth gnash together and I know it’s only a matter of seconds before I lose some skin. I toss a packet of popsicles in his direction and he grabs it out of the air with a chubby fist. Timmy retreats to a corner of the nursery, eagerly shredding the paper from his prize.

            This causes the rest of them to begin closing in on me. I feel like I’ve fallen into the tiger pit at the zoo. Sally Morgan rushes to the front of the pride. She stares up at me with two huge, baby blue eyes. An evil smirk contorts her round face as her little fists ball up at her sides. Sally is a screamer. The kid has a set of lungs any opera prima donna would envy. Her lips part and I watch in horror as her lungs begin to fill. Sally is priming herself for the wail of the century. My free hand fumbles into the box of popsicles. Sally snatches the package in a flash, leaving a trail of red scratch marks across the back of my hand.

            I glance around the room, desperately searching for a way out, but there is no escape from the nightmare I’ve created. The pack of wolves is advancing. Only one member is hanging back. This deviation in behavior draws my attention away from the closer threats at hand. I crane my head to see who the child is who seems to have lost interest in the popsicles, the kid with his back to me as he fiddles behind my desk. My jaw drops in dismay, a lump forms in my throat. It’s Billy Williams-the flusher.

            Billy’s pointy ears add to the mischievous expression on his face as he rounds the corner of my desk, my keys dangling from his hand. He looks from me to the bathroom. I follow his eyes and know I’ll never make it in time. Billy’s body is angled, his left leg twitching as he assumes a sprinter’s starting pose. His head slowly swivels back to face me.

            “Billy! I’ll trade you.”

            For a moment, I think the desperation in my voice promises more enjoyment for him than the sugary snack melting in my hand. My heart races and I fear he’s going to go for the flush, anyway. Then he darts through the throng of his classmates and rips the proffered gift from my hand. The keys land between the scuffed toes of my Nikes.

            I bend my knees, lowering myself close enough to reach them, careful to not take my eyes off the hair puller, the hitter, the liar and the curser. My finger loops through the key ring and I straighten just in time to see the toy thrower winding up. Patrick Doyle is standing next to the basket of playground toys, a dump truck raised behind his ear like a quarterback. The florescent lighting glints off the metal toy, the glare holding my attention like I’m hypnotized.

            Priscilla, the potty-mouthed princess, seizes the opportunity the distraction has provided. Dashing forward, she filches a package of popsicles out of the box. Priscilla hisses a few foul words in my direction and then retreats with her stolen goods. There are only two Popsicle packets left, but four kids. It’s not too late for them to share.

            “Patrick, would you split a popsicle with Blake?”

            Patrick looks at Blake and sneers. Blake is a liar. His weapon will be of little use until the parents come to pick their children up at the end of the day. Patrick’s eyes flit between me, the other kids, and the basket of toys, as he realizes launching an attack from where he now stands would enable his classmates to get to the goods before he could reach them. Patrick grabs a front end loader from the basket as backup and stalks forward.

            I hear the patter of petite footsteps and turn just in time to stop Tammy in her tracks. Her legs are bunched under her, one arm fully extended. The hair puller is ready to launch.

            “Tammy, will you share with Melissa?”

            Melissa shifts her focus from me to Tammy. She lifts her hand, stretches her fingers like she’s clawing the air, her digits settling into a fist. Melissa’s knuckles look sharp and dangerous. On my other side, Patrick has closed the distance and has his arm tensed to throw.

            “I’ll give you each a popsicle and a dollar.”

            Small heads cock to the side, regarding me with suspicious eyes.

            “I promise.”

            Four little hands appear palm up before me. Sighing with relief, I divvy up the treats and give them their money. It’s a small price to pay for escaping unscathed.

 

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When Your Dog Learns To Spell & Other Methods Of Mayhem

My 13 year old rescue, who I’ve had for the last 11 years, loves to play. With the exception of a couple of teeth that will be removed soon, he appears to be in wonderful health, squeaking his toys incessantly, running at full speed around the house and yard, and developing the definition of the term he-diva.

But there’s a problem . . .

With the exception of his life companion, who we unfortunately lost to a brain tumor last year, he hates everything with fur. And he screams his hate from the top of his lungs in his best warrior princess cry.

And I worry . . .

He needs exercise. Companionship. Another member to his little lone wolf pack. As much as he disagrees, I can’t help but feel that I’m doing him a disservice by allowing him to have his way.

When I adopted him all those years ago, I was told that he got on well with all other animals. (Not true.) I was fortunate that he got along with my other dog, but he didn’t have much of a choice. She was a boss in the way only Jack (or Parson) Russell terriers can be. An overconfident little girl who knew that her way was the best (and only) way.

Yet he screams at every other creature . . .

I spent months sitting with him along the side of the road, giving him chicken or porkchop or some other delicious treat whenever another dog walked by as ‘positive reinforcement’. Each time he’d spit the food out to yell (what I imagine are) obscenities. I hired a trainer, who worked with him for one afternoon before advising me to, “Just keep him away from other dogs.” Easier said than done, especially now. Even a walk around the neighborhood is a nightmare of epic proportions.

See the source imageDon’t get me wrong – he loves to walk. Nothing makes him happier (besides food) than racing full speed like the wild wolf he is, conquering the world and claiming it as his own. Until he sees, hears, or smells another dog. (And we live in a neighborhood where almost everyone has a dog.) When that happens, my little angel shouts his hate with the endless wrath of a hell hound. A demon who can break glass and shatter eardrums with his high pitched notes.

See the source imageThe other day when we were walking, someone asked me what breed he was. “A Singapore Shrieker. They’re used to hunt parrots and monkeys. Their high pitched calls make their prey fall right out of the trees.” While complete BS, it’s possibly believable, and I wanted to say it so bad because it would explain a lot, but instead I hung my head and said, “Schnauzer mix,” which translates as my dog is horribly behaved in public while we both winced at the sound of the little man’s madness.

Needless to say, there’s no such thing as a casual stroll when it entails enduring a headache and humiliation. My husband and I do our best to make sure we’re both up for the walk of shame before pup knows it’s on the table.

Only, there’s been a new development . . .

See the source imageA few nights ago, after dinner, we discussed a W-A-L-K. Spelled. And pup went to his leash. Then proceeded to bounce his front paws off the door like the he-diva he’s become. Several experiments have confirmed it. There’s no mistaking it. He’s learned to spell (at least that word, but who knows what will follow next).

This. Changes. Everything.

In a sheer panic we texted (while in the same room). We’ll use code words. Nonverbal communication. Sign language. Anything to hold on to the last shreds of control that we have, but who knows how long that will last. All the while, pup smiled at us, rather smugly.

I had a brief flashback to my childhood, to my parents spelling the things they didn’t want me to hear, and the day I cracked the code. My own feeling of triumph at having leveled the playing field. Did I (smugly) spell back to them? Do I deserve this? Ugh, I think maybe I do.

At the end of the day, I’m incredibly grateful to have such a smart, healthy pup, but still . . . if anyone has any suggestions, please, send help. And if not, and you see us coming . . . cover your ears and run!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter To My Possible Future Literary Agent

Dear Possible Future Literary Agent,

There are some things you should probably know about me.

I love words. I love reading. I love writing. I write for myself but also because I hope to entertain people and help them to escape the reality of life from time to time. Awards are good, I have nothing against them, but I have no desire to win a Pulitzer. If you’re looking for the next Toni Morrison, it probably won’t be me.

Image result for cheeseI’ll listen to what you say, because I’m well aware that I don’t know everything, but there are some things I do that you might not like. Sometimes I get bound by the bonds of alliteration. I can’t stand the way a properly executed em-dash looks, so I use spaces around it. And I like to do things in a series of three for emphasis. Why? Why? Why? I don’t quite know, but if you tell me to stop, I will try.

I’ll need to know your favorite treat, because I believe in celebrating everything, and if you give a Shannon a contract, she’s going to want to send you a cookie food. I’m not going to assume it’s chocolate, and hope you’ll do likewise. I enjoy chocolate like most people, but sometimes the sugar doesn’t make me feel so great, plus my husband will probably eat most of it before I get a chance.Image result for cheese

But don’t worry, because I also like cheese. Said husband likes cheese, too, but I believe I can eat more cheese quicker than him, plus, I’ll take the best cheese, the tastiest one, and put it in the hidden part of the refrigerator, the secret vortex that keeps things hidden from the husband’s eyes. There’s a reason our vegetable drawer is always full – so no one can see what’s at the back.

But, if a treat for you is hot yoga, I can arrange that too. I understand that while it may not be my thing, it might be yours. I have nothing against hot yoga, it’s just that it’s hot. And sweaty. And sweaty leads to stinky. Then you’re in a room full of hot, sweaty, stinky people, and the teacher wants you to move around and stuff, which means you’ve got to breathe. Deeply. If you’re into all that, it’s cool. But I’ll stick with the cheese, please.

Image result for cheeseYou should also know that I’m not afraid of hard work, and I won’t give up. I’m not just saying that. I’ve got proof.

I get out of bed every day, even the days meant for staying in bed, like rainy Sundays when I’m in the middle of a book I don’t want to put down. On those days it’s mainly because a girl’s gotta eat, and said husband is willing to exist on things he can dip into mustard and salsa (with a side of cheese) if it allows him to maintain his claim that he can’t cook. That, and I’d have to get out of bed to open the window for the delivery driver, anyways, so I might as well just stay out of bed.

Also . . . I know SO many ways to dispose of a body, which makes me the ideal person to be that friend everyone should have on hand. Unless that offends you. Then you can be that bastion of levelheaded wisdom friend for me. We don’t even have to be friends if you don’t want. I’m not very social, anyways. You’ll probably have to do most of the work. So, I’ll let you decide.Image result for cheese

My point is, I’m well aware that I need you more than you need me. Everyone and their uncle’s a writer. Not everyone and only some uncles are agents. I’ll do my best to make you proud. And if you’re having a hard day and feeling blue, I’ll do my best to cheer you up with a song I create just for you. (Actually, I might re-appropriate one of the ones I sing to my dogs, but I’ll change the name to yours and throw in a couple of other details to make sure you feel special.)

My songs, by the way, are delightful, engaging and entertaining. (There’s that three thing again!) And you’d like more tempting, tasty tidbits about me? (Score once more for alliteration! Do you see what you’re missing out on?!?!)

I love horror movies and have a tendency to laugh at the worst parts. I bar-tended through seven years of college, and not just how most college students bar-tend, but professionally, so I could cater all your lunches with acquisitions editors and make them super strong drinks that taste like candy. And what else . . . oh, yeah. I like cheese.

Most Sincerely,

Shannon

 

 

 

 

A Festival For Our Furry Friends

 

See the source image

There’s a lot of sad, depressing, and enraging news out there, but every once in a while, I stumble upon an article that makes me happy. Quite often said article is satirical or entirely BS. This one, I am thrilled to report, is not. So if you need a lift today, if edits or life or the weathers has you down, I present to you this: 

Source: In Nepal, There Is A Festival Every Year To Thanks Dogs For Being Our Friends

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson ~ #Fiction #BookReview

37561377This isn’t the type of book I would normally have chosen for myself. The description was kind of dramatic and cutesy and not at all suspenseful or mysterious, but it was one of the monthly free books offered by Amazon Prime, so I figured I’d give it a try.

To be honest, it was cutesy, but I found that I didn’t care. It was also sweet and funny and surprisingly enjoyable. It left me with a smile on my face and a desire for a friend like Blix.

The writing, characters and pacing were all good. The plot felt fresh to me, but that might be because I don’t often read this type of book. Whatever it was, this book worked for me! 5 stars!

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