UNMARKED by Kami Garcia–Cephalopod Coffeehouse October 2014

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

I’ve read a bunch of great books this month, but I’m featuring a new YA paranormal romance.adventure because, hey! It’s Halloween! UNMARKED is the second book in this series about spirit-hunting teens who are trying to protect Earth from the demon Andras. In book one, UNBREAKABLE, they were right on the cusp of killing Andras–when, unfortunately, they set it free. Yeah. And he’s been wreaking havoc and killing people for the last several weeks.

Unmarked (The Legion, #2)About the book:
He is here… and he could be anyone.

Kennedy Waters lives in a world where vengeance spirits kill, ghosts keep secrets, and a demon walks among us–a demon she accidentally set free.

Now Kennedy and the other Legion members–Alara, Priest, Lukas, and Jared–have to hunt him down. As they learn more about the history of the Legion and the Illuminati, Kennedy realizes that the greatest mystery of all does not belong to any secret order, but to her own family. With the clock ticking and the life of someone she loves hanging in the balance, Kennedy has to ask the question she fears most: what is it about her past that has left her Unmarked?

My Review:

Okay, so, where UNBREAKABLE left off, the MC, Kennedy had been injured in her escape from the scene when Andras came through to the earthly plane. She and four other teens–Jared, Lukas, Alara and Priest–had banded together because each believed the other part of a mystical Legion of the Black Dove sect. Jared and Lukas are twin brothers who sought the other members out based on documents their father had left behind. Turns out, assembling those documents had actually led Andras to each Legion member, and killed them, which is how Jared and Lukas lost their father and uncle, and Alara lost her grandma, and Priest lost his grandfather, and Kennedy lost her mother–all in one single night. The listing of their names…and it’s Jared’s biggest secret shame–he wrote the list.

Kennedy, for her part is despondent. She thought she’d become a Legion member when she exorcised her first ghost, but that didn’t happen–unlike all the other Legion members, Kennedy didn’t receive her Mark, an insignia handed down to the next Chosen in a family. Unmarked, she recognizes her folly–she was never meant to join them, and she feels utterly alone now that her mother is dead. Her father disappeared years ago, and her aunt has just dumped her into a reform school.

Haunted by news reports of atrocities no one can explain and gruesome nightmares, both courtesy of Andras, Kennedy recognizes that each day a girl who closely resembles her goes missing. Is Andras hunting her? It seems so, which is why she runs the second Jared and the rest of the Legion turn up at her school. Safety in numbers even if she isn’t one of them.

But their news, of her missing, distant aunt, gets her back on board. The hunt is on for the fifth Legion member, and now it’s about fixing the mess she made. Of course, this ghost/demon story is fraught with death and destruction. Kennedy’s poised to lose the only people she can trust, and gain some very unsettling allies when the Illuminati come to call.

Andras is on the prowl, and it’s clear he wants to possess Kennedy. She’s got some skills in the demon wrangling arena, thanks to her training in UNBREAKABLE, but Andras is too powerful for her. Plus, nobody told her he could jump from person to person like a vengeful louse. No, possession seems a breath away, when Andras targets the one person left whom Kennedy loves in this world.

The revelation of Jared’s mistake sends shock waves through the Legion, just as they need to gather closer–to save one of their own, but Kennedy is determined to fix all her mistakes, and she’s got the brains to get the job done right.

Well, I assume so. Because it looks like the final resolution is gonna happen NEXT BOOK. Stay tuned, peeps!

As far the book goes, it was an interesting read. It gets a bit explain-y, trying to link all the moving parts together. Turns out Kennedy’s mom wasn’t such a great gal, and her dad left for (albeit crappy) reasons connected to Legion and the Illuminati–organizations which have for centuries been diametrically opposed as this book purports. It felt a bit deus ex machina when the Illuminati swept in to clean up the Andras mess, but there was still lots of time in the story. Time to go on and explain. In the end, we’re left with a demon in chains, another on the loose, with Legion members splitting and Illuminati men hunting. Oh, and a reconnection of the parental-kind in the offing. It fell a bit flat for me. I supposed I should have felt tense, but all throughout I knew this story wouldn’t end here, so the urgency wasn’t as strong as I would have liked.

It’s still a good read. And safe for kids because, instead of kissing and sex, there’s killing and horror. It is a perfect Halloween read, however. And, I’m sure I’ll get book 3 when it comes out.

Interested? You can find UNMARKED at Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and probably lots of booksellers and libraries. It came out last month. I obtained my copy via NetGalley. This is my honest review.

Thanks for popping in, and don’t forget to catch up with my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers on this blog hop.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. mainewords
3. V’s Reads 4. Berriesandmore
5. Cherdo on the Flipside 6. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME
7. Life Before the Hereafter 8. StrangePegs — The Woggle-Bug Book
9. StrangePegs — In Short Supply 10. Huntress aka CD Coffelt
11. My Creatively Random Life 12. Words Incorporated
13. StrangePegs — Lovely Death

Vampires and Shifters and Sex Scenes, Oh My! New Releases by Lily Harlem

Hi all! Today I’m featuring two sexy, spooky erotic romances from multi-published, award-winning erotica author, Lily Harlem. I’ve read and reviewed several of Lily’s books (THE GLASS KNOT, THE SILK TIE) so rest assured these tales will keep you warm and snug through the night…sexy dreams optional.

fangsVampires and Shifters Post by Lily Harlem

Thank you for inviting me to hang out today. Halloween always gets me in the mood for the supernatural, I love to be a scared, to be dangling in suspense, thinking “what’s going to happen?”. So when I started writing my two new paranormal novels, Bite Mark and Claw Mark I really got under the skin of my heroine and lived out her fears and confusion when she came across not one but two sexy vampires who have a craving for her rare Bombay Blood.

Bombay Blood – yes, it’s a real blood type and is indeed very rare. You can read more about it here if the science bit yanks your chain! I decided to give my heroine Beatrice this rare blood type to ensure my vampires Aimery and Ryle were drawn to her. But it couldn’t be that simple, could it? No! Beatrice works as a butcher girl, in fact the only butcher girl in the famous London Smithfield Market so her blood scent is masked by death and flesh and animal blood. Ohh… all disgustingly good fun!

London's Smithfield Market

London’s Smithfield Market

I’m not normally into death and murder in my stories but creating a history for the Worshipful Company of the Ancient Order (read ‘organised group of vampires living in central London with the consent of the Queen’) was an interesting challenge for my imagination. I was inspired by tapestry, the Bayeux Tapestry in particular which I visited a few years ago. I love how the age-old scenes are depicted so timelessly and with such precision. I used this as a way to show that the vampires and the wolves (The Carlton Pack) had literally been at each other’s throats for years.

When I reached the end of Bite Mark I realized that I still had more of a tale to tell, (excuse the tale/tail pun!) and that was the wolves. It only seemed fair for them to have their say as they’d had a bad reputation in Bite Mark and at the end of the day, every story has two sides.

shivers and tinglesI hope you’ll check out Bite Mark and Claw Mark and find out how Beatrice gets on with her sexy but dangerous vampires and mysterious, sultry shifters. But be warned, it’s sexy, there’s vampire threeways, man-on-man love, shifters who take what they want and a whip that’s threaded with silver to maximize the burn! Remember, do read Bite Mark first as it ends on a cliff hanger that leads neatly, if a little wildly, into Claw Mark.

Oh, and if you fancy partying with The Brit Babes this Halloween, why not come to our Shivers and Tingles Facebook Party . It’s going to be full of steamy excerpts, sexy pictures, saucy gossip and also a contest or two. We’d love to see you there.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Lily x

Many thanks to Lily for dropping by. I know I’ll be hitting the Shivers and Tingles party on FB. I’ve been to some of Lily’s FB parties before, and they are fab! But now on to the books!

bite markBite Mark

Life in London as a butcher girl is hard enough, but when my best friend Denny went missing it became miserable. So stumbling into the Worshipful Company of the Ancient Order while searching for him was like a breath of fresh air. Especially because sexy, sophisticated Aimery promised to help me.

But Aimery’s friend Ryle wanted in on the action. My head was spinning, my body reacting to theirs whenever they were around. But I had questions: What was their obsession with my rare blood type? How did they always appear when I needed them? And how old were they?

Learning the truth about my lovers brought new fears and delights. They could take me higher than I’d ever gone before, show me pleasures I’d never imagined and were prepared to kill to protect me. Being mortal had never been so much erotic fun—or so deliciously dangerous.

My Review:

Beatrice is a normal human woman, working as a the only female butcher in London’s Smithfield Meat Market. She is agonized by the loss of her best friend, Denny–now missing three weeks. One day she sees a man in the market who had previously appeared on the day Denny had disappeared.

Beatrice follows this gentleman through the streets to his home–only to get caught up in a strange new world she never imagined existed. A world of vampires. It seems Bea is a rarity in the human world–her Bombay blood is a delicacy many vampires seek and barely find, as a result of overfeeding centuries before.

Aimery, as the gentleman vampire is called, offers to help Bea find Denny, and as she is leaving his home another vampire, Ryle, arrives. He also senses Bea’s Bombay blood. And wants to share her. It seems that Ryle and Aimery have a history of sharing–when it comes to women with Bombay blood.

In order to protect Bea form open feeding, they become more than just her shadows; and the results are erotically epic. Still, tying up Bea’s loose ends means bending a few Vampire laws–and upsets one High Council member, Elfrida–the only one to have never had Bombay blood. Knowing the threat of Elfrida’s hunger is formidable, Ryle and Aimery hide Bea away…and begin a new life as a triad. Well, for a while anyhow.

Delicious smexytimes and even more delicious Brit-speak make for a yummy read. It’s a short book with a resolved plot, and the promise of a chase in the sequel, CLAW MARK. I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Interested in Bite Mark? You can find it on Goodreads, Ellora’s Cave, Amazon US, and Amazon UK.

ClawMarkClaw Mark

This book is a sequel to Bite Mark; to ensure full enjoyment of this book, please read Bite Mark first.

Being married to two sexy vampires is as exciting as it is dangerous. One minute I’m on top of the world, the next I’m running for my life. But it’s okay with Aimery and Ryle at my side—they’ve sworn to love and protect me and keep me satisfied until I’m old and gray.

But when everything crashes down, literally, I can see no way out of the darkness—death my best option. Until two unusual men come bounding to my aid.

Gentle Caleb and prickly Isaac have secrets. They’re full of passion, desire, love and lust and their isolated lives are weaved with mystery. But I know what they are. I’m also craving some serious satisfying, a distraction from my dilemma, and it seems these guys are up for the job.

Will my life always be turbulent, terrifying and tempting beyond belief? Nothing is certain in a world of vampires and shifters.

My Review:

Beatrice is a London butcher with a rare Bombay blood type. Her blood is such a delicacy and so rare that the two vampires who discovered her, Ryle and Aimery, married her immediately to place her under their protection before she was bled dry. Beatrice is ecstatic to be shared by her loving husbands–they are kind and compassionate, and skilled. They always ensure her health by fortifying her with herbal teas which boost her strength and replenish her blood supply. Still, Elfrida, a member of the High Council, wishes to have Bea’s blood–and she has followed our merry trio to their Caribbean retreat in the hopes of isolating Bea for draining.

Aimery and Ryle plan an elaborate escape to the Canadian Rockies, knowing the presence of a large werewolf clan will mask Bea’s scent–and hoping the werewolf threat will keep Elfrida from following.

No Dice. A train wreck separates the lovers, and Bea believes she’s the only survivor–mostly because Elfrida snatched her from the wreckage. On the cusp of death, two wolves startle Elfrida mid-bite and save Bea.

Over the course of a few months, Bea mourns her lost lovers, while languishing in the homey cabin of Isaac and Caleb–a gay pair. What Bea doesn’t understand is how these two men thrive in isolation–especially with all this wolves around!

Okay, she does catch on to Caleb and Isaac’s secret life as wolves eventually–but goes with it as they are keeping Elfrida well away. We get some serious gay voyeurism, and a bit of ménage, not to mention straight lovin’. And, when the climax hits (the book’s climax, people!) Bea finds she has the strength to save her own self–and the lives of men who love her.

This is a super steamy read with a bit of smexytimes for all comers—M/F, M/M, F/M/M, M/F/M. The paranormal elements are fun and consistent. I adored Caleb as much as Bea did, he was so kind and sweet–not to mention fearless. The book ends with a solid resolution, but I could see the series continuing with new plot lines.

Interested in Claw Mark? You can find it on Goodreads, Amazon US, and Amazon UK.

About the Author:

Lily Harlem lives in the UK and is an award-winning author of contemporary erotic romance. She writes for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic including Ellora’s Cave, HarperCollins, Totally Bound, Xcite and Sweetmeats Press. Her HOT ICE series regularly receives high praise and industry nominations.

Before turning her hand to writing Lily Harlem worked as a trauma nurse and her latest HarperCollins release, Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse, draws on her many experiences while nursing in London. Lily also self-publishes and The Glass Knot, The Silk Tie, Breathe You In (USA Today Reviewer’s Recommended Read of 2013) and Scored have been blessed with many 5* reviews since their release.

Lily also co-authors with Natalie Dae and publishes under the name Harlem Dae – check out the Sexy as Hell Box Set Trilogy available exclusively on Amazon – The Novice, The Player and The Vixen – and That Filthy Book which has been hailed as a novel ‘every woman should read’.

One thing you can be sure of, whatever book you pick up by Ms Harlem, is it will be wildly romantic and down-and-dirty sexy. Enjoy!

You can catch Lily on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Author Page, Pinterest. She’s also got a newsletter, Goodreads and Google +.

Check out her blogs on Raw Talent, BritBabes, and Hockey Romance!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

They Were Linked by RANDOM ACTS–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m reviewing a M/M romance that I just loved. I read Mia Kerick’s YA novel, THE RED SHEET, a few months back, and found her straight-forward storytelling enchanting, so I jumped at the chance to review her newest release–an Adult romance that deals with everything from class differences, to personal insecurity, to hate crimes, and to PTSD.  RANDOM ACTS is a contemporary romance that challenges the notion that, well, that shit happens.  See, for me, Random Acts is a book about the power of love and kindness in the human experience.

Random ActsAbout the Book:

Bradley Zelder can’t find his way in life. After struggling for nearly a decade, he has yet to complete his college degree. Working as a school custodian, living in blue-collar Landsbury, MA, his love life is as empty as the rest of his existence. But on his way home after another disastrous date, his truck breaks down in upscale Oceanside. When he thinks life can’t get any worse, a man who is the epitome of Boston elite and everything Bradley finds attractive and intimidating helps him move his truck to the side of the road. Ashamed of his lot in life, Bradley almost lets the opportunity slip away, but he comes to his senses in time and tracks Caleb down.

From a random act of kindness, romance begins to grow, filling all the dark corners of Bradley’s empty life—until a random act of violence threatens to take it all away. Bradley must step up and be the man Caleb believes him to be. Caleb rescued him from a life without hope. Can Bradley rescue him in return?

My Review:

Bradley Zelder is a bisexual man, working as an elementary school custodian, when he meets the handsome and very put-together Caleb Jorde. Caleb picks Brad up on the roadside when Brad’s truck breaks down and this is the beginning of a tentative and tender romance.

Caleb is a widower. His husband died three years ago in a car wreck and it took him a long time, and a lot of therapy, to recover. Meeting Brad is exciting to him, in a way he hadn’t been excited since David died. He decides to pursue Brad–seriously. Caleb’s not in for a sex-friend; he’s a relationship kind of guy, and Brad is, too. Unfortunately Brad is a very self-conscious person. He’s constantly afraid that Caleb will look down on him for his lack of education–especially as Caleb is a teacher and very wealthy.

Through the growth of their relationship, Brad begins to see himself in a new light: that of a determined person–one who continues to study for a new career. One who is tenacious and passionate, mostly because this is how Caleb sees him. Being slightly revered by Caleb (who Brad adores to the point of almost worship) gives Brad a sense of confidence he has never had.

Still, doubts creep in, especially when Brad is belittled by Caleb’s co-worker and others at his school. Yet, by making the first tentative steps out of his shell, Brad sets into motion other tiny ripples of change. He helps a young girl find her confidence–who then helps a family heal. Each pingback of change further bolsters Brad’s confidence.

The relationship between Brad and Caleb is slow to build. Caleb is reticent to begin a physical relationship as his only previous lover was David, and they spent 17 years together. It is Brad’s acknowledgement that he is not a replacement for David, nor does he wish to remove David’s memory in any way, which allows Caleb to work through his grief. It seems that all is going to go well with these two, until a Caleb suffers a dramatic setback–of the hate crime variety. Brad is wary, but determined to see Caleb through the worst of his fears–because he developed his own strength from basking in Caleb’s affection.

I really relished the way these men came together. They are cautious and kind. They are respectful, and interesting. This is a quiet romance. The passion is muted, to give way to a textured emotional landscape. Brad and his foul-mouthed working-class family are very different to the genteel Jordes, yet, Caleb meshes well–because he wishes to do so. Brad, himself, wants to be a better man, a partner that Caleb can be proud of–and he later realizes that he already WAS that kind of person in Caleb’s eyes. The mutual support and affection they experience is truly what any couple (gay or straight) would desire and it’s rendered in a way that is at times humorous and horrifying.

Caleb has a lot of injuries to contend with, and not all of them are physical. Brad approaches each uphill battle with compassion and the strength that Caleb lacks. Their growth as a couple is so beautiful. I definitely cheered them on from my side of the screen.

Interested? You can find RANDOM ACTS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Dreamspinner Press.

***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win

a $25 Starbuck’s GC, a backlist book from Mia

or one of two Random Acts t-shirts
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Mia has published four works of adult contemporary gay romantic fiction with Dreamspinner Press and four novels of contemporary LGBT fiction with Harmony Ink Press. Mia Kerick’s books are recommended reads in the LGBT blogging/reading community, have spent many weeks on Amazon Hot New Releases and LGBT Best Sellers lists, as well as other notable bestseller lists, and have won awards for excellence in YA literature.

Catch up with Mia on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon author page, Dreamspinner author page, or sign up for her newsletter.

Happy Book Birthday to ALL BROKE DOWN! With Giveaway

ABD RDL Banner
Hi all! Today I’m sharing the release of best-selling author Cora Carmack’s ALL BROKE DOWN. It’s a New Adult romance and it surely steams…

brokedown_coverAbout ALL BROKE DOWN:
In this second book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack’s New Adult, Texas-set Rusk University series, which began with ALL LINED UP, a young woman discovers that you can’t only fight for what you believe in . . . sometimes you have to fight for what you love

Dylan fights for lost causes. Probably because she used to be one.

Environmental issues, civil rights, corrupt corporations, and politicians—you name it, she’s probably been involved in a protest. When her latest cause lands her in jail overnight, she meets Silas Moore. He’s in for a different kind of fighting. And though he’s arrogant and infuriating, she can’t help being fascinated with him. Yet another lost cause.

Football and trouble are the only things that have ever come naturally to Silas. And it’s trouble that lands him in a cell next to do-gooder Dylan. He’s met girls like her before—fixers, he calls them, desperate to heal the damage and make him into their ideal boyfriend. But he doesn’t think he’s broken, and he definitely doesn’t need a girlfriend trying to change him. Until, that is, his anger issues and rash decisions threaten the only thing he really cares about, his spot on the Rusk University football team. Dylan might just be the perfect girl to help.

Because Silas Moore needs some fixing after all.

Excerpt:

I think I get it then. That decision I saw in her eyes back in the kitchen. That’s what this, what I’m about for her, too. I’m just another part of whatever rebellion she started earlier today. About doing what she wants, not what’s expected of her.

“We’re not talking about me, though,” she says. “So you went to meet your friend, and then what happened?”

She keeps her eyes down as she picks up the gauze and begins winding it snugly around the knuckles of one hand, and then the other.

“He said the wrong thing.”

“Which was?”

“Dylan.” Now it’s her that’s pushing too hard. I didn’t want to talk about things with my friends, and I won’t talk about them with her, either, no matter how gorgeous she is.

“I’ll guess. You were mad about what he did, and he wasn’t sorry.”

“This isn’t middle school, Pickle. He didn’t hurt my feelings. He said some shit he had no business saying, and it pissed me off. The end.”

“But you don’t think some of that anger stems from what you feel is a betrayal of your friendship?”

She finishes taping down the last of the gauze, but doesn’t let go of my hand.

“I think you’re analyzing me again. Making things more complicated than they are.”

“And I think you’re just a guy who doesn’t like to admit he has feelings.”

She drags out the word, teasing me with some goofy smile on her face. I turn my hand over so I can clutch her wrist. I curl my other bandaged hand around her waist and pull her closer. “I feel plenty of things.”

The teasing stops. She swallows.“I wasn’t talking about that kind of feeling.”

With her standing and me sitting, I’m eye level with her chest. I see the sharp rise and fall as she sucks in a breath. I want her in my lap again, straddling me this time.

“Doesn’t mean we can’t talk about that kind of feeling. Or experiment with it.”

“Is that Stella girl an ex?”

I cough, surprised. My throat twists uncomfortably, and it takes me a couple of solid breaths to get a hold on myself.

“Ah, no. Stella and I have never dated.”

“Have you—”

“Do you ever run out of questions?”

“Not ever.” She turns playful again, and I’m done doing this the careful way. If she wants a rebellion, I’ll be the one to give it to her. I want her against me, and I’m tired of waiting.

I pull her forward, insinuating my knees between hers, and her body naturally follows, settling across my thighs. Her lips part, but she catches herself before she gasps this time. I keep her steady with my hands at her waist and say, “I’ll make you a deal. A question for a kiss.”

Tentatively, she lays her palms against my shoulders. They rest there, her grip light and casual. She ponders my offer for a moment, and it drives me mad that she can do that while our hips are inches away from alignment.

“Okay then. Are you—”

I cut her off. “Not so fast, Dylan Brenner. I’ve already answered one question. We’ve got to settle up first.”

I wrap her braid around my hand like I’ve been waiting to do all night, and I use it to pull her head back just enough that I can crush my mouth against hers.

Interested? You can find ALL BROKE DOWN on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iTunes.

***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
signed copies of the first two Rusk University books
or a $25 GC for Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

HeadshotAbout the Author:
Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She’s done a multitude of things in her life– boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. Her first book, LOSING IT, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Catch up with Cora online on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Author Goodreads.

Inkslinger

They Found Love JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS–A Review and Giveaway

SBB Christmas Banner

Hi all! Today I’m reviewing a contemporary romance that’s fit for the holidays. JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS by Kim Boykin is a heart-warming read.

JustInTimeForChristmas-LARGEAbout the book:
Nobody does Christmas like Miranda Hamilton, and now that she finally has her chance to chair Magnolia Bay’s tree lighting and the cotillion, which benefits her late mother’s breast cancer foundation, this Christmas is shaping up to be the best ever. That is until her childhood nemesis Logan Mauldin buys his way on her committee and starts making plans of his own.

Logan Mauldin loves to get under Miranda’s very sexy skin, and it’s only fair. She’s been getting under his since long before their first kiss at 13. Logan’s the last man interested in co-chairing a Christmas committee or participating in a sexy bachelor auction, but since that night he interrupted Miranda on a date and cornered her under the mistletoe, he can’t stop thinking about her. Or vying for her attention and bugging the hell out of her.

Christmas cheer isn’t the only thing that heats up between the Miranda and Logan, but, thanks to a lie that is as much her fault as it is his, he loses the woman he’s loved since forever. Logan will need a Christmas miracle for Miranda to forgive him. A grand gesture to melt her heart and win her back just in time for Christmas.

My Review:

This is a cute story with lots of heart. Miranda and Logan have always had sparks–but sometimes those have led to more hellfire than passion. Miranda’s dedicated to organizing the Christmas cotillion of Magnolia Bay. It’s a labor of love, especially because the charity it supports is in memory of her mother who died years ago to breast cancer.

Logan buys his way onto the cotillion committee with a huge donation to the charity. It aggravates Miranda, because, well, this gal holds a long grudge. Back in college it looked like Logan favored Pammy, a mean-girl rival of Miranda’s, and Miranda never let it go. Their sexy-sparring disappeared and it’s only been in the past few years that Miranda’s even spoken to Logan–he’s determined to change that. Their latest interactions sizzle with all the passion missing with Miranda’s newest boyfriend.

Naturally, Pammy insinuates herself into the cotillion committee as well–she’s been burning a flame for Logan since….forever. She even orchestrates a bachelor auction in the hopes that she can buy a date with him. Miranda’s miffed, but what can she do? The auction is raising money hand over fist, even if Miranda can’t afford to continue bidding on Logan. Thank goodness some internet gal is outbidding Pammy at every turn.

There are lovely side characters who don’t hesitate to point out Miranda’s stubbornness, and Logan’s lunacy. All their friends and family are convinced they are in love, but neither Miranda nor Logan will take the final step to sealing the deal–until the cotillion. Logan is as bold as he can be, and it ends up being a real problem. A Kick-Him-Out-Of-Bed type of problem, for Miranda. Good thing Logan can think on his feet, because he’s fed up letting Miranda isolate herself from love, his love.

I had guessed the ending, and I was rewarded in kind. Things seemed a bit rushed at the end–I wondered what in the world happened to Miranda’s previous beau–but it seems clear that this novella is linked to others either written or soon-to-be. No cliffhanger here, just a lot of strands that appear to be woven into the story lines of other characters. I really liked all the texture the author gave to the setting, and the world of Magnolia Bay. It was clear that Miranda had a deep love for her hometown, and her friends. Logan’s a stand-up-guy, for the most part, and his mistakes are very human–and very forgivable. I was glad Miranda finally took a good look at the man who seemed ready to pause the earth’s rotation if it might win her affection. ‘Cause that’s a gem right there.

Interested? You can find JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS on Goodreads, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Kim Boykin is a women’s fiction author with a sassy Southern streak. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair, Steal Me, Cowboy, and Palmetto Moon (Summer 2014.) While her heart is always in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, 3 dogs, and 126 rose bushes.

You can find Kim on her website, blog, twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Inkslinger

Shaking With RAVEN–Review and Giveaway

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Title: Crane
Series: Legends Saga # 1
Author: Stacey Rourke
Genre: NA paranormal 
Date Published: May 26, 2014

blurb
The Horseman is unending,
his presence shan’t lessen.
If you break the curse,
you become the legend.


Washington Irving and Rip Van Winkle had no choice but to cover up the deadly truth behind Ichabod Crane’s disappearance. Centuries later, a Crane returns to Sleepy Hollow awakening macabre secrets once believed to be buried deep.

What if the monster that spawned the legend lived within you?


Now, Ireland Crane, reeling from a break-up and seeking a fresh start, must rely on the newly awakened Rip Van Winkle to discover the key to channeling the darkness swirling within her. Bodies are piling high and Ireland is the only one that can save Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.
But is anyone truly safe when the Horseman rides?

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exceprt

“Tonight was meant to be the Harvest Ball,” Katrina said as she slid between the folds of her crimson and taupe gown. “Now the town is meeting, trying to concoct a plan to stop a being that death itself couldn’t tame.”

Ichabod sat on the edge of the bed with his back, respectfully, to Katrina while she changed. His loaded musket lay across his lap. In the reflection of the window in front of him he could see the soft curve of her hips as they tapered into her narrow waist. He cleared his throat and shifted his gaze to the floor. His chin tipped to the side, ever so slightly, to ask, “Are you secure in our plan?”

“I am to attend the summit on the arm of Brom Van Brunt,” she reaffirmed as she pulled her long, blonde locks out from the back of her gown and began tightening the laces of her bodice. “Then speak with as many people as I can, searching for anyone that may have motives leading to the Horseman.”

Ichabod nodded. Mostly to himself, he muttered the remaining details they were depending upon, “Rip will be inside as well. That man can finesse a crowd with a skill that truly baffles. If there are secrets to be found, he will uncover them. Irv will be outside with me, primarily because the Horseman isn’t the only one in this town that would like to see his head on a spike. We will be on horseback, patrolling the grounds with a few other men that have volunteered. You will have nothing to fear.”

Her elegant gown in place, Katrina turned to Ichabod wearing an expression equal parts timidity and fear. “What of Brom?”

The bed squeaked as Ichabod shifted his weight to face her. “Boorish as his ways may be, he cares for you. If you adopt the guise that you have interest in him, he will do all he can to protect you inside the gathering, while I provide you the same service outside.”

“And,” her long lashes brushed the tops of her cheeks as she cast her gaze to the floor, “you aren’t bothered by me being on his arm?”

In the midst of the plotting and planning, Ichabod had slipped into the role he knew well of military strategist. He had detached himself from the emotional aspects—until that very moment. The reality of his request sank in like a heavy stone. He had asked her to take another man’s arm, asserting her place beside him. The implications of that dug into his gut like a dull blade, churning and twisting deep.

“The mere idea of that makes me ache,” he stated, forcing the words through his suddenly parched throat. “Yet I would endure this hardship, and countless others, to keep you safe.”

She moistened her lips with a flick of her tongue, seemingly wrestling with words that gave her pause. “Ichabod, when this is over … w-would you call yourself mine?”

Ichabod closed his eyes. The euphoria of that question washed over him, cleansing him of all his sins with the promise of tomorrow. Rising to his feet, he took her velvet soft hand in his. A love he hadn’t known possible illuminated her striking face. “From the moment I saw you, my heart belonged to you alone. If by some miracle you were to give me your love in return, I would need nothing else to sustain me the rest of my days.”

Katrina’s palm tenderly brushed his cheek. “You have already claimed that.”

Allowing no further hesitation, Ichabod gathered her in his arms. Katrina tipped her head back, the soft curves of her body molding to his. Full lips parted in an alluring invitation it would take a stronger man than him to resist.

I loved this story. Check out my review for CRANE here.

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book2 covergifTitle: Raven
Series: Legends Saga # 2
Author: Stacey Rourke
Audience: NA Paranormal
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Date Published: Sept 22, 2014

blurb
An infamous love, destined nevermore,
For death could not claim, the enchanting Lenore.

Cursed by the malevolent spirit of the Headless Horseman, Ireland Crane ventures to Manhattan in search of a way to break her soul crushing bond. Instead, she discovers the lines between fact and fiction are blurring once more. Croaking ravens. Telltale hearts. Could the works of Poe be coming to pass with handsome Wall Street Midas Ridley Peolte as their unwilling target?

She walks the Earth, a plague on mankind,
searching for he, her rotted heart doth pine.


Together, the two unknowingly release a dark force death itself could not tame. Surrounded by the unrelenting violence and mayhem they’ve unleashed, Ireland feels her control over the Horseman slipping. Before the beast within consumes her, she and her crew must follow the clues of the dead to right a centuries’ old wrong. Will it be enough to sate the Horseman’s appetite?

Hell hath no fury like a ghoul scorned.

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exceprt

Clamping her eyes on the wash of tears that threatened, Ireland ignored the wailing of her heart … and laid a palm to each of their cheeks. One lone tear snuck between her lashes at the cascade of tingles seeping up her arms.

“You can’t blame them for not understanding,” a familiar voice drawled behind her.

She spun as he neared, leaving Rip and Noah wheezing for breath—or, more likely, completion of her task.

Techno-colored flowers bloomed in a colorless world each time the sole of Ridley’s shoes met the earth. The crisp cut of his white, tailored suit was accented by a burst of color from the button-down shirt beneath that changed in hue to match the species of flowers that sprung to life. Hydrangeas blue. Orchid purple. Lily fuchsia. Rose coral. As he neared, Ireland noticed his eyes morphed to match as well. The result hypnotic.

His haggard and troubled façade was a thing of the past. The man before her exuded confidence and a zest for life from every pore. The draw of which was so magnetic Ireland had to fight to keep her feet planted while her body insisted she close the distance between them.

“To them this is a thrill, a game of chicken against the Reaper himself.” Ridley paused beside her, his shoulder skimming hers. Even then he didn’t grace her with a glance, his attention fixed on Rip and Noah. Tipping his head toward her, the warmth of his breath teased over her breast bone. “For us, it’s destiny.”

The moment he stepped away from her, the chill of solitude lashed at Ireland’s soul and cut deep. Bending eye-level with her withering subjects, Ridley pursed his rose petal lips to blow a soft, healing breath over both of them. Wan complexions of the dying were ripened to plump apricot. Both men blinked away their disappointment before dipping in a low bow—foreheads to the ground in a show of respect.

“No need for that, boys.” Ridley smoothed the front of his suit coat, a self-depreciating chuckle playing over his lips.

Neither humbled servant budged.

“You’re like me?” Pacing in a slow circle around him, Ireland’s eye narrowed.

He matched her steps, leading them in an intimate waltz normally reserved for predators—or lovers.

“Like you?” He tsked. “Oh no, my darling flower. There is no other like you. Our only similarity is being pawns in a game that began centuries before either of our fathers got an amorous gleam in their eyes.”

Ireland’s gaze lingered over the soft curve of his mouth, wondering if his lips could possibly taste as delectable as they looked. “How do we play?”

Curling one finger into a ruffled tuft of her skirt, Ridley pulled her to him. Bowing his head, he brushed his cheek over the delicate curve of her collarbone. “The game is already in motion,” he murmured. “The rule sheet not meant for our eyes. All we can do now is stay alive.”

Ireland weaved her fingers into his hair, yanking his head back with a passion driven force that bordered on violent. “I’ve taken lives. I’m a monster,” she snarled against his lips, tormenting them both with the agonizing veil of energy that denied their touch.

His hand snaked up her arm to find her fingers and loosen her grasp. Palm to palm. Fingers entwined with fingers. “Does granting it make me any better?”

Ridley didn’t give her time to answer. With one hand pressed to the small of her back he crushed her to him.  Their lips met with a desperate urgency that caused Heaven and Earth to quake in nervous anticipation of what was coming …

My Review:
Young Edgar Allen Poe had an auspicious beginning: cut from his mother’s womb by his (literal) witch of a grandmother, he was cursed with the power to raise the dead. But, at what cost? His soul? And, when they rise, are they the same? He is hounded by angry ghosts, furious that he refused to use his power to avert death, which drives him to madness and alcoholism–until he meets beautiful Lenore. Shame that Edgar was not destined for a happily ever after. No, death crouches on his shoulders and waits for the chance to destroy anyone he loves.

Ireland Crane is on the hunt to decipher who cursed her to channel the Hessian–the Headless Horseman. With her boyfriend, Noah van Tassel, and Rip van Winkle at her side, she’s, well, she’s in trouble. The Horseman wants out to cause murder and mayhem–only Noah’s love and a playlist filled with country music can keep that murderous spirit at bay. Rip gets a pang of narcolepsy whenever he’s frightened, and Noah can only handle so much, especially when it seems Ireland’s affections might be shifting.

Ireland crosses paths with Ridley Peolte in the course of her investigation. This suave King of Wall Street had a seemingly Midas touch–until he touches Ireland. Moments later he’s attacked by an unkindness of ravens. Does Poe’s spirit now inhabit Ridley, as the Hessian does Ireland? His mind is plagued by the same visions Poe’s had been, and he frees the final monster Poe created–one who has the power to kill Ireland and free the Hessian’s spirit into the world. The only peace Ridley feels is when he has direct contact with Ireland’s skin. With Noah around this is a fairly awkward arrangement.

Oh, and we get a good look at the puppet master who set all this in motion when he injects Ireland with a serum that assists the Hessian to possess her. Will the Hessian’s power and Ridley’s reincarnation abilities be enough to take out Poe’s beast rampaging through modern NYC?

I truly enjoy the mix of story lines, from Poe’s life through Ireland and Ridley’s experiences. The pace is brisk, with sharp turns and ghastly spins. Lots of ghosts, a few monsters and, well, a creative romp of a tale.

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dream cast
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soundtrack

1.) Sleepy Hollow Soundtrack Track 1- composed by Danny Elfman
2.) Ready to Run by the Dixie Chicks
3.) I’m on Fire by Mumford and Sons
4.) Monster by Skillet
5.) Crazy by Kat Dahlia
6.) Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
7.) Voices in My Head by Randy Orton
8.) Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace
9.) Counting Flowers on the Wall by Eric Heatherly
10.) The Monster by Eminem & Rihanna

 
 

giveaway

 
author
authorgifThe Gryphon Series is written by Stacey Rourke. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant, drooly dogs. Stacey loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. She is currently hard at work on the continuations of this series as well as other literary projects. The Gryphon Series is available wherever fine books are sold.
Contact Info: Visit the author at www.staceyrourke.com
Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/staceyrourkeauthor
Twitter @Rourkewrites
Email anchorgrouppublishing@gmail.com

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Tour Schedule – Series Blog Tour for The Legends Saga by Stacey Rourke from Oct 23 to Oct 31, 2014
Oct 23
Coffee Books & Art – Promo, Top Ten, Dream Cast
Crazy Beautiful Reviews – Promo
Bound 2 Escape – Promo
2 Girls & A Book – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Oct 24
V’s Reads – Review – Raven #2
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – Promo
Angels with Attitude Book Reviews – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Oct 27
Say What? Savannah Mae – Promo
The Phantom Paragrapher – Review – Raven #2
The Avid Reader – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Cajun Book Lover – Promo
Word to Dreams – Promo & Book Soundtrack
Oct 28
Shayna Varadeaux Books & Reviews – Promo, Review – Crane #1 , Review – Raven #2
The Idle Musings Of A Writer’s Mind – Promo, Top Ten, Dream Cast
Eclipse Reviews – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Portals to New Worlds – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Oct 29
Paranormal Book Club (PBC) – Promo
Deal Sharing Aunt – Promo & Author Interview
Booky Ramblings of a Neurotic Mom – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Hope To Read – Promo
Oct 30
Kelly P’s Blog – Promo
Fictional Rendezvous Book Blog – Promo
Angee’s After Thoughts – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
Book Nook Nuts – Promo
Oct 31
Movies, Shows & Books – Promo, Dream Cast, Book Soundtrack
Darkest Cravings – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
A Cauldron of Books – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast
What Shall We Blog About Today? – Promo, Book Soundtrack & Dream Cast

It’s Showtime for REALITY NATALIE–A Review and Giveaway!

Hi all! Today I have the pleasure to review a book for a dear friend and fellow writer, Katie Sparks. Her first published book, REALITY NATALIE is a Middle Grade story about a girl who gets into a good bit of trouble with her parents and friends on her way to winning a spot on a local TV show.

Reality NatalieAbout the book:

CAMERAS ROLLING…ACTION! The most popular kids’ TV show, Kidz Konnection, decides to hold auditions for a guest host spot, and the show’s BIGGEST fan decides to audition.

[Cue Natalie Greyson]

Eleven-year-old Natalie is determined to overcome her habit of turning into a tongue-tied, air ball burping, runny-nose disaster whenever something embarrassing happens in front of an audience so she can audition for the coveted role. As the show’s biggest fan, no one could possibly deserve it more than her. Except a giant obstacle stands in her way: her parents, who deny her permission, think she is too young to be on TV. To make matters even worse, Natalie’s naturally talented best friend, Kailyn, decides to audition too, and will stop at nothing to win – like lying during a practice session and tearing up their friendship pact.

With their friendship suddenly in question, Natalie turns to her blog, In A “Nat” Shell, to vent her frustrations about Kailyn’s spiteful actions, but Natalie’s emotional outpouring and lies only creates more anxiety for herself. With the stakes high, Natalie goes against her parent’s wishes and decides to audition, but Kailyn has her own secret plan to be Number One, even if it means doing so at the expense of her best friend. Can Natalie find a way out of the drama and into the spotlight? Or will the competitive pressure cause her to lose her ultimate dream along with her best friend?

My Review:
Natalie is an ordinary girl with big dreams. Hearing that her favorite TV show is having auditions for a guest host, she’s ready to spring into action. Unfortunately, her skeptical parents are overwhelmed with work. Realizing the audition date falls on the same day her 4 year old siblings (twin terrors) are scheduled for a magazine cover shoot, they put the kibosh on. Oh, and to add to this disappointment Natalie’s friend, the uber-talented Kailyn who wins every talent show, has decided to audition for the part.

Life is so unfair!

Natalie doesn’t want to give up on her dream, however, and strives to find a way to get on the TV set. A school field trip to a local TV news studio seems to be Natalie’s best chance at practicing for stardom, but, alas, Natalie suffers a humiliation almost beyond bearing. Relying on Kailyn to help her chances isn’t a good idea either–it seems Kailyn is all about winning, even if it hurts their friendship.

With the audition days away, Natalie’s guilty of lying, sneaking, and impersonating a parent–not to mention losing a good friend and stage fright. How can Natalie make amends, and get the part? Well, Natalie’s in for a big dose of reality, and earns some second chances.

I like Natalie. She’s a real kid–the kind who’ll try to sneak a second cookie into her lunch, or get angry at a friend, or offer her second-best pencil to a classmate in need. She has issues with her parents, thinking she’s the odd-kid-out as they deal with the stress of twins and careers, but she has a good relationship with them, nonetheless. They talk. They work stuff out. Natalie knows she can voice her fears and be heard–when she tries find a good time for conversation, anyway.

The secondary characters are also very well-written and playful, adding humor, burping, and general social ickyness. Hey, they’re 11. They’re entitled. ;) Natalie and Kailyn are also friends with Maggie, who helps them work through the competition aspect of their friendship. And, Gross Robbie is part confidante, part comic relief. He has some keen insight, and some muddy sneakers.

This is a story suited for girls in that 4-5-6th grade age group, where the dynamics of friendship are changing and cliques are developing. Natalie questions her friendship with Kailyn and if the loss would be outweighed by gaining the TV show spot. I think she makes some good decisions here. Natalie’s fervent wish to be chosen for the TV show, even ahead of Kailyn, is a very genuine desire to which readers can relate. Natalie has the chance to be mean, and sabotage Kailyn, but chooses the higher ground and I admired her for that. It’s a fun read sure to entertain middle grade/tween readers.

Interested? You can find REALITY NATALIE on Goodreads and Amazon. I received this book from the author because we’re friends, and I begged for a final copy after I spent years hearing pieces of if read aloud in our writers critique group. Congrats, Katie! I’m so glad to watch your dream come true.

WIN A COPY on Goodreads by entering HERE!

Katie SparksAbout the Author:
At a very young age, Katie Sparks discovered the magic of books. She counted on weekly library visits and treasured receiving her first library card at the age of five. At six, she wrote her first story called Baby Carrie (still in her collection today!)

Katie knew then that writing would be in her future. By day, she is an editor for the parent consumer line at a non-profit medical association and enjoys working closely with authors and industry professionals. Immersed in the publishing industry in both her professional and personal life is a dream come true. On weekends you will often find her writing and sipping coffee at one of the many unique coffee shops in Chicago, spending time with family and friends, or curled up with a new book.

Katie has been an active member of SCBWI for the past seven years. She lives in Chicago with her devoted and extremely vocal cat Moe. Reality Natalie, published by Firedrake Books, is her first novel.

You can catch up with Katie online on her website, Goodreads, and twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!