Thrilled by THE BODY IN THE WOODS–A Review

Hi There! Today’s book is a YA Mystery/Adventure from April Henry. I was raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, way back when, so I have a soft-spot for teen sleuths. THE BODY IS THE WOODS is the beginning of a new series–one I plan to follow.

The Body in the Woods (Point Last Seen, #1)About the book:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

My Review:
Wow! This book kept me engaged start to finish.

Three (somewhat) misfit teens enter the Portland Search and Rescue for very different reasons. Alexis needs something stellar for her college applications so she can hope for a scholarship. Nick wants to be a hero, just like his dad who died in Iraq. And Ruby? She’s a CSI wanna-be who has a detective’s insight.

All of them have issues which is fun for me because their backstories are super interesting. The viewpoint alternates between the three main characters, at first, but we also get some short stretches in the mind of the killer and his victims.

Here’s what happens–Alexis, Nick and Ruby are called out to search for an autistic man lost in a wooded area around Portland. Along their search they encounter a few men–none who can aid them. Nick is frustrated that they, being so new, are sent to search an area less likely to hold the missing man. We can really see his desire for the accolades of heroism–notably respect and attention from girls–but he’s so eager he misses what the careful Alexis discovers: a body.

Now, Ruby, Alexis and Nick are the first on the crime scene. Ruby’s memory and attention to the details of the scene are valuable, but we can already see she will become a nuisance to the detective on the case. Nick demonstrates a lot of bravado, always covering up his fears with a shrug and bluster. Alexis, well, she’s shaken. She accepts some counseling from a teen intervention partner, Bran, who becomes a confidant later.

Search and Rescue is called out the next day to scour the crime scene for clues–and Ruby’s conservative parents forbid her from going. Not that a F5 tornado could prevent Ruby from stepping into the investigator role. She goes, and is photographed for the paper. This is bad for two reasons: now her parents will see she disobeyed them, and secondly, the killer gets her name. See, he rather likes girls, and Ruby just lights up all his senses.

Over the course of a week, we learn that the dead girl was somewhat homeless, and there was another female victim of strangulation found in a nearby park not long ago. She was homeless, too. Ruby is fixated on the case and notices a third strangled homeless girl pop up in the news. This sets Alexis on edge because her mom suffers bipolar disorder and is off her meds. When she flees in a bout of paranoia, Alexis is sure she’s living on the streets–at risk from what Ruby suspects is a serial killer.

The police aren’t convinced there’s a serial killer at work; the strangled girls were all from different races and homeless murder victims aren’t uncommon in Portland. The trio bands together, even when Ruby’s parents remove her from Search and Rescue for disobeying them. And, as we watch through the killer’s eyes, this is not the worst calamity to befall Ruby.

I won’t say anymore about the plot except this: the tension was fantastic! We don’t know if the killer will find Alexis’ mom, or Ruby. We know he’s tracking many victims and it’s so hard to wait and see who’ll fall next. Also, there are three plausible suspects and, even with the bird’s eye view, we can’t tell who the killer is until pretty late in the book.

Alexis, Ruby and Nick are interesting, well-developed characters. They have real families with specific and relatable teenager problems. And, they work to solve their own problems. They are “normal” kids, ones you could encounter in any metro area in the US–not uber wealthy, or spoiled rotten, or super hackers, or broken. They just struggle along the way we all do, working within the system to achieve their goals, and that was refreshing. I really loved how Alexis reached out to Bran for some comfort when her mom went missing–but man was I scared when she went out on the hunt! Ruby’s obsession with true crime and detective stories was really cool. And, poor Nick, that kid needs a hug. Maybe lots.

The book is thoroughly innocent of romance, but has scenes of violence associated with murder. The prose is specific and clean, and the story snaps along at a brisk pace with no info dumps clogging up the case, and well-handled misdirections. It’s easy to see how these misfits grow into a unit, one that will spark friendships and comaraderie into future stories. Definitely would recommend for teens (and above) who enjoy murder mysteries and buddy tales.

Interested? You can find THE BODY IN THE WOODS on Goodreads, Powell’s Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble anytime aftoer June 17th. For now: Preorders, people! Thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy to review….

April HenryAbout the author:

April Henry knows how to kill you in two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction:  when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine. By the time she was in her 30s, April had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published more than a dozen mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with five more under contract.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook. Probably other places, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal–A Perfect Dilemma

COVER REVEAL

APD Amazon GR SW

A Perfect Secret Series, #3

New Adult Contemporary Romance and Mystery

Releasing June 30, 2014

About the book:
The one secret she can’t stand to keep is the one she can’t afford to tell.

The perfect little rich girl, River Pearl Sutton has always done what her family expected of her. She’d become the perfect little beauty queen, the perfect child model and now her global success locks her into a life she never really chose.

Coming home for the summer to prepare for the Founder’s Day Festival, a celebration of her lauded ancestor, she is tasked by her father to write a speech to be delivered at the end of the party.

Returning to Hope Parish brings her back into close proximity with sweet-talking, skirt-chasing Braxton Outlaw, the boy who always seemed immune to her charms in high school. But now he looks at her with those challenging blue eyes, both intimidating and seductive at the same time. Using research of her family lineage and his as way to get close to this bad boy, they fall into a hot, torrid affair.

She stumbles across a terrible secret that could bring to ruin not only her reputation, but the reputation and standing of her family. But when her infatuation with Brax grows into something that she can’t live without, she must decide what to do. Keep the secret and lose Brax or destroy her family and lose them.

It’s an awful, heartrending perfect dilemma.
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A Perfect Mess CoverA Perfect Mistake coverThis is the third book in the A Perfect Secret series. I’ve read the first two–and I’ll just tell you–they were as sultry as the bayou. Click the titles to check out my reviews for A PERFECT MESS or A PERFECT MISTAKE. All three books revolve around one of the delicious Outlaw triplets–Booker, Boone and Braxton–catching up with the gals they totally lusted for in high school. These rascals are a good lot of fun, and a whole lot of trouble.

All are guaranteed to be a tangled web of attraction, secrets, shady deals, and miscommunication. I’m really looking forward to finishing the series!


About the Author
Zoe Dawson is the alter ego of Karen Anders, award winning, multi-published author. Her writing journey started with poetry and branched out into fiction. With a couple of college English courses under her belt, she penned a historical, then moved onto contemporary romance fiction. Today, she is happy producing romantic suspense, romantic mystery, urban fantasy and paranormal novels. The words feed her soul and the happily ever afters feed her heart.

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She’s Earned the THIRD DEGREE–A Review

Being smart doesn’t mean you know it all…

Hi there! Today’s book is a contemporary New Adult romance from best-selling author Julie Cross. THIRD DEGREE follows the tumultuous world of 18-ish y/o Isabel Jenkins, MD. It’s got blood, guts an most of all:  heart.

Third DegreeAbout the book:

I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

My Review:

Wabac machine photo of Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Dougie Howser nipped from http://www.fanpop.com

Back in the day there was this TV show I loved about a child doctor. While my kids will forever know Neil Patrick Harris as the snarky, sex-hound Barney Stinson, I lost my teenaged heart to a soulful Dougie Howser, MD. Which is why I wanted to read this book.

Isabel Jenkins has always been brilliant. And difficult. Her adoptive parents have loved her the best they could, but raising a freaking mega-genius hasn’t been easy. She read novels at age 4. She spent one week in Kindergarten and was then homeschooled–couldn’t cope with the kids, apparently. She “entered” college at 12, and finished med school when she was 17. And, at nearly nineteen she’s poised to enter a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins.

Then she’s given a re-boot. The psych exam she was required to take wasn’t too favorable. Seems Isabel is unable to ‘connect with others’ due to a ‘lack of life experience’. This blacklists her from residency programs across the country. She can sit for the psych exam again in 6 months, and has no desire to do research, so she embarks on a ‘personal journey’: college–for real this time. No private tutors, no learning in isolation. She has a dorm room and a cheerleader roommate named Kelsey. And a delectable RA, Marshall, who, as it turns out, had Isabel’s mother as a biology teacher in high school. Marshall’s the only one who knows Isabel’s a doctor–and she’d like to keep that info on the down low. Blend with the natives, and all that.

Unfortunately, Izzy, as she calls herself on campus, is NOT managing. She tries–really–but she almost can’t help being the socially awkward kid she is. Having always been the “prodigy” all her eccentricities were absorbed by the adults around her and she has no boundaries–because none were ever set. It’s no surprise that she blurts out random medical facts when in conversation, and oversteps continually, in the most exasperating ways. Like she NEEDED to swab the flaccid member of Kelsey’s overnight guest because she thought she saw a sore? *shakes head* #EpicFail #NotNormalIzzy

Marshall does heroic work to save Izzy from becoming a social pariah, and, in the process they become study-buddies; she helps him pass Anatomy, and he helps her learn to be a regular person, perhaps even develop friendships.

As Izzy’s RA, Marshall isn’t supposed to develop a crush on Izzy–but don’t let a few rules get in the way there, Marsh! Actually, there’s a lot of sexual tension with a slow build toward consummation. In fact, it is Izzy in her medical element that wears down the last grooves in their mutual resistance. Turns out Marsh is sick–and Izzy’s the one to find and help him in his days of need.

Just as Izzy gains the sense of empathy she had been missing, she recognizes the problems she had caused by her proficient, yet callous, bedside manner. Overwhelmed with feelings she had never really experienced: love, regret, shame, guilt. She steps away from Marsh–running back to the sterility of medicine and the comfort of knowledge.

Only, this time medicine isn’t the home she used to know, and reconciling with Marsh may become the most important choice she makes.

As a book, it was a well-paced, interesting story. Izzy has clear emotional issues, she’s antisocial to an almost pathological degree. Her brilliance may grant her access to the medicine party, but what’s the point if you never get a chance to dance, right? I really enjoyed the slow build between Izzy and Marsh, how his chronic disease was handled and the baby steps Izzy took toward building lasting friendships. Her growth emotionally was refreshing–seeing her admit that her knowledge wasn’t helpful in actually connecting with the people around her was such an Aha! experience.

Couple things that troubled me: the whole way the surgical intern/residency issue was described was factually…off. Medical residents in the US don’t apply for one then the other, not anymore. Not for, like, 25 years now. Those sort of arrangements are made when a student is graduating med school, so I had to take it as a “special case for Isabel” sort of caveat. And, this psych eval, while critical to the story, is also an Izzy-ism. There aren’t many prodigies who enter medicine in the US, but they are almost all shunted into research programs to allow them maturity time. This is for everyone’s benefit. Close people to me have entered residencies at age 26–rather standard–and they were not taken seriously by their patients–due to their youthful appearance. As much as I admired Dougie, I really wouldn’t have wanted a pimply-faced teen (no matter how brilliant, talented or self-righteous *V gives Lorde the stink eye*) lecturing me about my life and/or my passionate love affair with peanut buster parfaits. And neither do most adult patients. Further, I’ll take Izzy’s negative view of research as another instance of her naïveté, because ain’t one physician alive who doesn’t value scientific medical research. I know, ’cause I been doing it for twenty years now.

Still, for fiction this felt good to read. We can always use another representation of responsible teens doing responsible things in fiction. The New Adult tag aside, smexytimes here are tame enough that upper YA readers won’t giggle too much. Izzy is to be lauded for her courage, in determining who she is, and who she wishes to be–and then making a responsible plan to achieve her goals. That is NOT to say she makes good choices throughout–’cause she doesn’t–but she does enough of the right things at the right times to make me like her. A lot.

Interested? You can find THIRD DEGREE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Julie CrossAbout the Author:

I’m the International Bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, and the final installment, Timestorm. I’m also the author of the Letters to Nowhere series, a mature young adult romance set in the world of elite gymnastics, as well as several forthcoming young adult and new adult novels with publishers like Entangled, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books

I live in Central Illinois with my husband and three children. I’m a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA. I’m a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of my reading and writing credibility, I’m a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

You can find Julie online via her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in today! I’d like to highlight a recently reviewed book that is currently FREE for download: CHALLENGING DESTINY by Cherie Colyer. Hit here to get your own copy!

Hope you find a great book today, and keep reading my friends!

He’s Just KEEPING THE PEACE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there and welcome to my stop on the KEEPING THE PEACE blog tour brought to you by Omnific Publishing. Today’s book is a contemporary romance from Linda Cunningham–the third book in her Small Town Girl series–and it’s killer. Well, erm, it has a killer in it, anyway…

Keeping the Peace (Small Town Girl, #3)About the book:

John and Melanie Giamo think of themselves as an average family, married with three teenage children. Childhood sweethearts, they’ve lived all their lives in the quiet Vermont village of Clark’s Corner, where John is chief of police and Melanie publishes a small local newspaper. Their lives seem routine enough, even mundane.

Then rock star Gabriel Strand drives into town, knocking everything off balance with his celebrity swagger. John is mildly annoyed until an attempt on Strand’s life leaves an innocent man dead and the young musician feeling vulnerable and alone…and turning to Melanie for comfort. Their mutual attraction could destroy the marriage she always assumed was impervious to any outside threat.

The closer Gabriel gets to Melanie, the greater the danger she and her family face. John must use every resource available, as well as his gut intuition, to protect the singer and the people of his town from a murderer, while he also fights to save his marriage.

My Review:
This multiple POV murder mystery/romance kept me reading WAY into the night.

John Giamo has always loved his wife, Melanie, since, like, childhood. And, while nothing is wrong in their marriage, they’ve hit a bit of a rut. They’ve been married 20+ years and there’s a comfort there, raising their three children in their tiny Vermont town and working day-by-day, that keeps them together even when the passion is somewhat faded.

John has always noticed the way men look at Melanie. And he can’t help overhearing the gossip–but he’s sure nothing of it is real. At least, until the svelte singer Gabriel Strand broadsides Melanie’s car in the midst of a blizzard. Mia, their teenage daughter is injured, and Gabriel takes it upon himself to visit the Giamo home to apologize. Then the power goes out and he’s an overnight guest.

Life for John and Melanie would likely go straight back to normal if someone didn’t murder a man in Gabe’s empty hotel room that night. So, is Gabe a suspect, or a victim? Now under John’s direct protection, the singer isn’t forthcoming about his stalkers–but he doesn’t mind sharing his attraction for a very married Melanie, at least with her.

Good thing this small-town chief of police has some seriously cool kids. Mia and her brothers seek out all sorts of patterns on the online chat rooms and various email accounts leading to two suspects: an estranged lover of Gabe’s mother, and a mentally unstable fangirl.

While John’s out trying to save Gabe’s neck, Melanie’s struggling to rein in her unexpected attraction to the charismatic, young, talented Gabe. And, when the climax comes, it’s a Giamo family effort to rescue Gabe–and Melanie–from the barrel of a gun.

This romance is unique, to me, because we’re dealing with temptation in a happy, healthy marriage. John and Melanie eloped against her family’s expressed wishes. They have built a stable life, and a loving family, together. Sure, there’s small-town talk, but it’s only ever been talk. Melanie never felt any attraction to the many men who have paid her too close attention–then Gabe walks in. He’s flashy and funny and soulful, and lonely. He’s 27 and she’s 45 and he looks at her as if she’s the gold medal at the end of the race. His compliments, coming from such a successful and youthful man, carry more weight. And, they turn her on. John senses this. It strains his sense of duty toward protecting the wolf in his own home.

For his part, Gabe isn’t the soul of evil. He’s a likeable and interesting man, devoted to caring for his mother and sister in LA. He is quite aware of his attraction to Melanie and regrets the complication. He finally meets a woman who captivates him and she’s freaking happily married? Sheesh! Of course, he catches Melanie’s interest and is willing to make plain his desire. He’d take her far away from the mundane life she lives–if she’d let him.

Throughout, I didn’t dislike anyone in the story. I naturally wanted John and Melanie to fix the problems between them, but I couldn’t hate Gabriel. I couldn’t even hate his shameless pursuit of Melanie–because that stuff happens in a marriage. John’s sense of duty–in both his marriage and his career–get shaken up, and help him to realign his priorities. This dynamic occurs in many marriages: a outsider threatening to swoop in can kickstart the passion. (I’ve seen it myself–a man compliments me in my husband’s presence and suddenly I’m in an octopus grip and his next kiss is more firm than the previous ten combined….)

John and Melanie have the choice to let Gabe’s interference separate them–or strengthen their relationship. The realistic way this unfolded was just brilliant. These people could have been my family–no doubt–even if we are Chicagoans, not Yankees.

The book is well-paced with some backstory vignettes describing the interconnectedness of small-town life and the long-held prejudices that can taint the community. The hustle-bustle of dealing with a blizzard on top of a murder really highlights the symbiotic nature of life in a community where the locals know each other’s history going back four and five generations. I enjoyed this peek into Americana, and the richness it brought to the story.

How about a little taste?
Melanie said nothing, but a sudden flush burned her cheeks.

Gabriel raised his ungloved hand and cupped the back of her neck, under her thick scarf.

She was suddenly powerless to move. She felt confused and struggled to collect her thoughts. She couldn’t seem to move any part of her body.

He bent his head down closer to hers and spoke softly. “I want you to know how I feel about you. I’ve never met any woman like you. You’ve captured me. I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to…to…” There was an almost imperceptible motion, and before she was quite sure what had happened, his lips were on hers. For a split second, all her senses flared, fueled to a blaze by the fascination with him she had tried to keep hidden. She was acutely aware of the softness of his lips, of their gradual, increasing pressure on her own.

Before she’d processed the feeling, before she was ready, he drew back from her. “I’m sorry,” he said, but she knew he wasn’t.

Wow! That Gabriel Strand is one bold dude!

Interested? You can find KEEPING THE PEACE at Goodreads, and Amazon.

Also, I’m giving away an eBook to a RANDOM COMMENTER!

So, leave me a comment telling me what you’d do if a celebrity wanted to whisk you away from your family….hypothetically speaking, of course!


Linda CunninghamAbout the Author:

Linda has written steadily throughout the years, but usually other people’s papers, speeches, or articles for agricultural trade magazines. Her only published work of fiction was a children’s book, “The Copper Angel of Piper’s Mill”, written in 1988 when her children were still small. Now that the kids are out of the house, Linda is writing fiction again, and this time it’s personal! She writes full time and it’s Romance! Her contemporary romances, Small Town Girl and Corporate Affair are currently available.

Linda lives in a romantic stone house in the green mountains of Vermont surrounded by her gardens and her animals who include horses, sheep, cats, dogs, chickens, a parakeet and various wildlife visitors who wander in and out at will. When time permits, she also enjoys sketching and painting.

You can find Linda on her blog, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and don’t forget to comment below for your chance to win an eBook of KEEPING THE PEACE courtesy of Omnific Publishing.

And, as always, keep reading my friends!

Can We Get a LAST SECOND CHANCE? A Review

Hi there! Way back when (last summer) I fell for a country-singer romance from an indie author, Caisey Quinn. GIRL WITH GUITAR really hit a lot of high notes for me and I’d recommend it. I also enjoyed KEEP ME STILL back around Thanksgiving. So, I was excited to come across LAST SECOND CHANCE, her most recent New Adult romance, on sale–and it’s a keeper.

Last Second Chance (Second Chance, #1)About the book:

When Stella Jo Chandler gets an offer to work at the Second Chance Ranch celebrity rehab facility right after graduating from Texas A&M, she’s tempted to turn it down. She wants to help real people with real problems, not spoiled celebrities going on vacation for publicity. But growing up on her family’s ranch left her with a love of horses that draws her to the opportunity. How bad can babysitting a bunch of strung out celebrities be?

What she didn’t count on was being roped into a tangled mess with infamous rocker and three-time rehab drop out Van Ransom on her first day. And she sure didn’t expect to feel the overwhelming attraction that pulls her to the man who has more issues than she can count on both hands. Like the hotel rooms and tour buses he’s famous for trashing, the havoc he could wreak on Stella’s heart would be irreparable.

Van isn’t at Second Chance for publicity or because he’s suffering from “exhaustion”. He’s on the brink of destruction, and he needs the kind of help Stella isn’t sure she can give. But without her, he’ll lose everything. Because he’s on his last second chance.

My Review:
Stella Jo used to compete as a show jumper. Growing up on her family ranch, her mother pushed Stella to be perfect–and Stella pushed herself, too, hoping to gain some acknowledgment from her father, a taciturn man. In fact, the only love Stella felt growing up was the love she experienced with her horse. Then, Stella fell while competing and broke her leg badly. Her beloved horse was too injured, and put down. Stella’s heart was broken, and she hadn’t returned to her family’s ranch since–she spent four years at college and just landed a job at a drug rehab facility in Dallas, a few hours from home.

On her first day there she meets “Mr. Walker” a celebrity client of the facility–one all the female staff are swooning for. Stella swoons, too, she’s just not capable of processing her attraction–too many years of shutting down her emotions.

Lead singer Van Ransom is plagued by the demons of his childhood: his drug addict mother and too-young death of his older sister, Valerie. He’s been in and out of rehab before, with no effect. But this time his record contract is on the line: he must shape up, or the band goes on. Without him.

He’s prepared to say all the right things to get through, but meeting the aloof Stella Jo turns his head. Van’s used to the attention of women–and some of the nurses at Second Chance Ranch aren’t averse to a little “private therapy”–but the enigmatic care coordinator seems impervious to Van’s charms. Or, is she….

This “rock romance” is unique in that, there is no rock–and the romance is rocky. I really enjoyed seeing Stella come to life. It seemed she was completely emotionally shut down–too busy looking for the next curve in her path to see the lush scenery in her view. She’s scarred from too little love, and isn’t sure she can even accept love from anyone. Yet, being around Van startles her into sensing her own passion.

Unfortunately she can’t act on it. Being intimate with a patient is grounds for immediate termination–which would send Stella back to her family home. And that’s a place she won’t even visit, let alone move back to live.

Van is, however, relentless in his pursuit. He volunteers to work in the horse stables so he can spend time with Stella–who continually brushes him off. His mind is driven to distraction, so much so, he actually connects with his therapist and begins confessing his long-secret horrors of growing up in an addict’s care, or lack thereof. While none of Van’s friends or band mates believe Van will get clean and sober, Van goes the extra distance to entice Stella.

For this broken rocker and emotionally-vacant woman, a superficial connection is all one would expect, but the attraction develops into a mutual compassion, a desire to fill the others’ needs. For the first time Van can remember, he acts unselfishly–both emotionally and as a lover. He doesn’t want a quick hit from Stella–he wants…more.

Add the complications of surveillance by Stella’s superiors and co-workers, a stalker ex-fiancé, and Van’s buddies popping in with drugs (just in case) and it seems both Stella’s job and Van’s contract are set to implode. Good thing Stella’s well-practiced at hiding her emotions and Van’s self-control can tolerate this rarely-exercised application.

Here’s what I loved about the book: it wasn’t glossy. Stella and Van don’t fall into bed the first day, or the first week. They stumble. They overreact. They blame and judge and make decisions ‘for the good’ of someone else.

Truly, I had a little trouble with the depth of their attraction following one chance encounter, but the romance was slow to develop, and the sexual tension was excruciating. Just when it looked like they were going to get it on, somebody would interrupt and complicate everything.

The writing is solid, and the romance steams. The progression of their relationship is well-paced and the smexytimes are stimulating, not sloppy. Van has a very filthy mouth, which makes for some fun dialogue. I really liked how Stella reconciled with her parents. Her newfound strength–acquired from beating off Van’s advances–was interesting. At times I thought the superficiality of Stella’s earlier relationships felt a bit exaggerated, but it was clear that she was making choices to connect with Van and new friends, Miranda and Jesse, in a way she never attempted before. The ‘horse therapy’ was a nice twist on the usual rehab tale.

Interested? You can find LAST SECOND CHANCE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes &Noble. It is currently priced at $.99, but that’s gonna increase 5/13.

imageAbout the author:

Caisey Quinn lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, daughter, and other assorted animals. She is the bestselling author of the Kylie Ryans series as well as several New Adult and Contemporary Romance novels featuring southern girls finding love in unexpected places. You can find her online at her website, GoodReads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks for popping by, and keep reading my friends!

daynight? Mind = Blown (A Review)

I had the great pleasure to get a copy of the YA dystopian anthology WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING. It’s a 11 full-length novels for a tidy little price. One of my fave authors, Susan Kaye Quinn, has a book in there–OPEN MINDS–which is a super fantastic read as I have noted.

One of the first novels I devoured when I cracked the “spine” on WTMB was daynight. This dystopian YA romance caught my eye for the sheer fact of its handling of sex. In daynight, the kids are supposed to get ‘cleaved’ or married by their 18th b-day. This is a non-revokable marriage and occurs on an alternate Earth called Thera. My mom-o-meter was piqued, so I took the plunge.

Daynight (Daynight, #1)About the book:

2012 Book of the Year Award Finalist-Young Adult Fiction, ForeWord Reviews

Meet The Second Chance Institute (SCI): Earth’s benevolent non-profit by day, Thera’s totalitarian regime by night. Their motto: Because Everyone Deserves a Second Chance™. Reality: the SCI subjects Second Chancers to strict controls and politically motivated science experiments like Cleaving—forced lifetime union between two people who have sex. Punishment for disobeying SCI edicts? Immediate Exile or death.

Meet Kira Donovan. Fiercely loyal, overly optimistic, and ensnared by the promise of a full-ride college scholarship, Kira signs the SCI Recruit contract to escape memories of a tragedy that left her boyfriend and friends dead.

Meet Blake Sundry. Bitter about being raised in Exile and his mother’s death, Blake’s been trained to infiltrate and destroy the SCI. Current barrier to success? His Recruit partner—Miss Goody Two Shoes Kira Donovan.

Meet Ethan Darcton. Born with a defective heart and resulting inferiority complex, Ethan’s forced to do his SCI elite family’s bidding. Cleave-worthy Kira Donovan catches his eye, but the presiding powers give defect-free Blake Sundry first dibs.

Full of competing agendas, romantic entanglements, humor, twists and turns, daynight is Megan Thomason’s debut young adult dystopian novel and first in the daynight series.

My Review:
Kira has had a whole lotta change in a short period of time. Her parents were unwilling to pay her college tuition, so Kira tested into the Second Chance Institute program–it works like this: Kira spends her senior year of high school working for them, then they pay her college tuition. She’s nervous about the ‘SCI year’ coming between herself and her friends, including her boyfriend, Tristan, but that fear dissolves when all her pals are blown up in a huge explosion at an unsupervised house party.

True, Kira had just broken things off with Tristan for being a cheater, but she’s still shell-shocked. Plagued by nightmares of the explosion she barely survived, and dreams of a stranger she had only just met–Ethan–Kira suffers depression that she hopes will fade with distance–she enters SCI. Turns out, her new locale is an alternate Earth, called Thera.

Thera is hot. 95 degrees, at night–upwards of 150 in the blazing sun. Thera is a mirror-image of Earth, with all land masses and water bodies swapped, so all the parts of Earth that are water–oceans, lakes, streams–are land, and water only exists where the land was on Earth. This makes water an even more precious commodity on Thera.

Also, the majority of the population on Thera are Second Chancers–people who died on Earth and are “reincarnated” on Thera. They are only young, able-bodied folks–capable of carrying the lab-created embryos to term, because Second Chancers are otherwise infertile. Kira’s job is to help assimilate the Second Chancers, because they come through the transition from Earth to Thera via death their bodies are intact and their memories are clean slate–so they sometimes struggle–this is what Kira is TOLD, anyway. Imagine her horror when the Second Chancers she’s to monitor and assimilate happen to be the kids whose deaths she just mourned for MONTHS–including Tristan.

In this effort, Kira is partnered with Blake, an attractive, secretive fellow student from Earth. It soon becomes clear that the SCI isn’t actually planning to let Kira, or Blake, leave when their year is up. Part of the rules on Thera dictate that all Therans must ‘cleave’ (marry) by age 18. This is a lifetime binding, and dissolution or straying from one’s cleave will result in severe punishment–exile or death. And exile is almost certain death.

Blake knows this well–he’s a Theran mole who grew up in exile and escaped to Earth years ago. His father is part of the Exiler Resistance, and expects Blake to assist with a huge operation to take down the Theran government. Oh, and Blake and Kira share a house. The Therans are determined to maneuver Kira and Blake into a cleaved pair–trapping them on Thera forever. See, Kira and Blake have opposing genetic backgrounds–Kira is a Pure Light, while Blake is a Pure Dark; the union of these genes in their children would create half-breeds who could easily traverse the span between Earth and Thera. Such people are known as daynighters and they are highly prized on Thera as communicators.

I guess they hadn’t banked on Kira’s ability to deflect the advances of boys. She never even gave it up to Tristan, and they dated for a year….

Also, Ethan is waiting. He hadn’t perished in the explosion as Kira believed. No, he’s a Theran. And also a Pure Dark. He’d be the perfect genetic match to father Kira’s children–with one glaring exception: he had been born with a heart defect. The Therans are afraid to risk his progeny being likewise impaired. But Etahn’s the son of two very powerful leaders on Thera–and they have BIG plans for Ethan, plans that include him having a lot of influence on Earth politics. These plans don’t interest Ethan, however; having met Kira, he pines for the opportunity to cleave her.

As the story unwinds we learn that the explosion on Earth wasn’t accidental, that the Therans are taking no chances that Kira’s babies won’t be born (even if she won’t cleave) and the autocratic powers that be on Thera have absolutely zero problems with killing any and every person who stands in their way.

The three viewpoints: Kira, Blake and Ethan, tell a tale of Thera that is very different, and totally engrossing. Plus, the sexual tension is as high as the day temps on Thera. I adored the creativity that built this world. The transition to a nocturnal society was fascinating. And, the pureness of purpose these three have is truly remarkable. Blake knows he’s under scrutiny, and has the chance to cleave Kira in order to protect himself, but he can’t divert from his mission, or else the people who raised him will continue to suffer in Exile. Ethan knows he’s a pawn to his family’s ambition, but he seeks to find his own happiness within his circumscribed world. And Kira, she recognizes the danger in rebellion and submits to Theran rule in order to protect the few she can–for now. There’s a lot of maturity, and selflessness to be had throughout. It’s rather fun to have three heroes to cheer on.

The love triangle, as manufactured as it is by the Therans, is really quite fascinating. It’s not simply attraction, there’s dire consequences on either side of the choice to cleave–and some of the Second Chancers play a big role in keeping the sexual tension high. While it’s clear that Kira would be a good match for either Ethan or Blake, the reader will be hoping that Kira doesn’t cleave ANYONE, which is a unique twist on a romance theme. For all the talk of sex and cleaving, the book is pretty innocent. Appropriate to YA readers and above.

Interested? You can find daynight on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. daynight has a sequel, arbitrate, and a freebie companion story. Expect reviews of these since they kept me up too late last week….

What Tomorrow May BringIt is also one of the 11 books in the WHAT TOMORROW MAY BRING collection. It’s actually the same price as daynight, on it’s own. So for $2.99 you’d get this book and ten others. That’s an amazing buy. Click here for the link to pick up WTMB. I’m getting ready to dive into some more stories from that, so I’ll be reporting back if any others amaze.

Megan Portrait (640px)About the Author:

Bestselling, award-winning author Megan Thomason lives in paradise aka San Diego, CA with her husband and five children. A former software manager, Megan vastly prefers writing twisted tales to business, product, and marketing plans. When she isn’t typing away on her laptop, she’s reading books on her phone–over 600 in the last year–or attending to the needs of her family. Megan’s fluent in sarcasm, could potentially benefit from a 12-step program for road rage, struggles with a Hot Tamales addiction, loves world travel & fast cars and hates paperwork & being an insomniac.

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Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Finding Solace in JANE’S MELODY–A Review

How can you find love in times of extreme grief?

Hi there! Today’s book is a contemporary romance, of a different sort. JANE’S MELODY, best-seller Ryan Winfield’s tale of discovering love in the ashes of extreme loss is, well, it’s a bittersweet lullaby.

Jane's Melody (Jane's Melody, #1)About the book:

What boundaries would you cross for true love?

That’s the question a grieving mother must answer when she takes in a young street musician she believes can shed light on her daughter’s death—only to find herself falling for him. A sexy but touching love story that will leave you both tantalized and in tears, Jane’s Melody follows a forty-year-old woman on a romantic journey of rediscovery after years of struggling alone.

Sometimes our greatest gifts come from our greatest pain. And now Jane must decide if it’s too late for her to start over, or if true love really knows no limits.

My Review:

Jane is heartbroken at the loss of her only daughter, Melody, to a drug overdose. Melody had been a troubled teen, and Jane sought every opportunity to treat and assist her daughter for years. Now, they had been estranged for almost a year–a year in which Jane tried to maintain contact, but Melody pushed her away. At the funeral, Jane noticed a young man leave a silver dollar behind, in remembrance.

Jane struggles with depression and the isolation of her quiet home on Bainbridge Island. She never married, raising Melody alone and having strained relationships with her mother and brother–both alcoholics, though her mother is “dry”. In fact, Jane’s whole support network consists of her Al-Anon friends who she meets weekly. Among them, Jane’s sponsor Grace is the closest.

On a trip into Seattle to recover Melody’s personal effects, Jane encounters the young man from the funeral busking for tips near Melody’s former job. Jane speaks with him, but Caleb is unwilling to part with any memories of her lost child. Grief makes Jane obsessive over details from Melody’s final weeks and she seeks out Caleb, finding him battered and homeless several days later. So, she promptly takes him in.

Caleb isn’t big on being a moocher, and they come to an agreement: Caleb will clean up the landscape on Jane’s property for payment, room and board. In this way Caleb will earn the money he’d needed to travel to Austin and perform. The two strike up an uneasy friendship. Jane is terribly attracted to Caleb–he’s a strapping twenty-five year old man doing serious lawn work in the spring heat. But, he may also have been her daughter’s boyfriend–which gives Jane the (appropriate) heebie-jeebies. Caleb is rather playful, to boot, almost taunting Jane with his body, at times.

Jane’s galfriends all find her live-in gardener situation to be idyllic, but the tension becomes unbearable. Grace continues to urge Jane to find happiness–even if it is with a young lover. Watching their awkward dance toward each other is delicious. And, even when it seems Jane is willing to let go her constraint, she just never seems to forget their age difference. Still, fifteen years is not so long, and the companionship that Caleb brings to Jane’s life is surely worth more than a few sideways looks.

There are some serious conflict issues at play–namely an opportunity that Jane won’t let Caleb pass up–not on her account–which causes a heart-rending separation. And, Grace has need of Jane’s sturdy shoulder for a good bit, but the resolution of the story is a fearless flight to acquire the love Jane thought she’d lost.

This bittersweet romance is a quiet, thoughtful, well-rounded story. I really felt connected to both Jane and Caleb, wishing they could just get it right. Jane’s pain, loss and isolation were so present in her life I could experience it. Caleb was the heart that Jane thought she couldn’t have–and he was steadfast, and doting and compassionate. They are a couple I will remember.

Interested? You can find JANE’S MELODY at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The sequel, JANE’S HARMONY comes out this summer. It’s in my TBR. Thanks to NetGalley for getting me interested in this complicated love story.

Ryan Winfield
About this author:


Hi, I’m Ryan Winfield. I’m a 39-year-old writer living in Seattle. Author of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Jane’s Melody: A Novel, South of Bixby Bridge, and The Park Service Trilogy. I hope you enjoy my books and I’d love to hear from you here or on Facebook

I’ve been asked why I write. I write because I remember.

I remember waking up to snow. Great buckets of it poured from the gray skies and blanketing everything in quiet white. I remember racing to dress, struggling with my boots. “Here, don’t forget your mittens.” I remember the soft thump of that first footstep in the cold and virgin powder, the tracks looking back, foghorns blowing on the mist-covered bay. I feel the canvas paper bag cutting into my shoulders, the weight of Sunday’s headlines heavy on my mind. I see the trees bowed with armloads of white, as if to curtsey my passing. I remember rubber bands and ink stained hands. A car spun sideways in a ditch. Always a car. Then barking dogs, a distant chainsaw. Freckles throwing fastballs that hurt for the cold of them on my neck. I remember snowmen, and igloos, and icy trails through the white and wondrous woods. And I remember sweet Mrs. Johnson waiting at her door. The smell of Avon powder, her thin smile, an envelope pressed into my palm–ten dollars and a peppermint candy cane thank you. Evening now. I remember running downtown–Salvation Army bells, white lights strung in sidewalk trees, bundled shoppers bent against the wind. I remember the heavy door, the warmth, the wood. The bookstore! Smells of paper and leather and ink. Walls of worlds bound and waiting for me to read.

Nothing has affected me as much as reading has. Dickens, Tolkien, and Lewis raised me. And while I’ve walked through my own hell, made my own mistakes, and found my own redemption, always there have been books. Books to help me escape, books to teach me when to stay and fight, books to help me see where I’ve been wrong and where I’ve been right.

I write because I remember. And I write because I still dream.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends! 🙂

 

Happy Book Birthday to HOW TO SEDUCE A BAND GEEK–Blitz and Giveaway

Happy Book Birthday!

How to Seduce a Band Geek (How To #2)
Release Date: 05/06/14
Swoon Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
Sierra Livingston’s got it bad for her sister’s best friend, Levi Mason—the boy who carries his drumsticks in his pocket, marches with the school’s band, and taps his feet to whatever beat runs through his head. Sierra racks her brain for ways to impress the sexy drummer, but the short skirts and bursting cleavage don’t seem to cut it.
 
When Sierra gets paired with Levi’s sister, Brea, for a mentorship program, they strike a deal. In exchange for Sierra keeping her mouth shut about Brea ditching the program, Brea lets Sierra dig for more info on Levi to help get the guy of her dreams.

But when Sierra discovers Levi no longer plays the drums, his family has moved into a trailer, and he’s traded in his Range Rover for a baby blue moped, Sierra’s not sure if she can go through with violating his privacy. She’ll have to find the courage to ask him straight out—if he’s willing to let her in—and explore other ways to seduce the school’s band geek.

How’s about a little taste?
“Will you come here?” Levi asks, taking my wrist and guiding me—omigosh—on his lap. He slides back to make room for me, but now I’m like, straddling him. Legs over legs, one of his arms holding me steady, the other coming up and cupping my neck. I rest my hands on his waist, not sure where to put them because, holy crap, what is going on? I like it, whatever it is, but he still looks like someone’s twisting a knife in his gut.

“Levi, you’re kind of scaring me.”

He gives me this weird smile thingy, only half his mouth twitching up at the corner. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to scare you.”

“Then what’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

He shakes his head, keeping his eyes locked on mine. My lips part slightly as I wait for him to spill. But he doesn’t. He drops his gaze to my mouth, and my breathing picks up.

“I need to kiss you.”

Ooh! I like the sound of this one!


Available from:
Amazon * Kobo

how to date a nerd
The first book in this series looks just as fun…
How to Date a Nerd (How To #1)
Zoe has a great pair of legs, perky boobs, and wears exactly what she needs to show it all off. She works hard for the easy sleazy ‘you only wish you were me’ reputation, burying who she really is—an all-out nerd.

The only time Zoe gets to be herself is when she hides under her comforter to read X-Men comics, sending jealousy stabs at everyone who attends Comic-Con. Keeping up her popular rep is too important, and she’s so damn insecure to care about the consequences. But when Zoe’s sister takes her car for a ‘crash and burn into a tree’ joyride, her parents get her a replacement. A manual. Something she doesn’t know how to operate, but her next door neighbor Zak sure as heck does.

Zak’s a geek to the core, shunned by everyone in school for playing Dungeons and Dragons at lunch and wearing “Use the Force” t-shirts. And Zoe’s got it bad for the boy. Only Zak doesn’t want Popular Zoe. He wants Geek Zoe.

She has to shove her insecurities and the fear of dropping a few rungs on the social ladder aside to prove to Zak who she really is and who she wants to be… if she can figure it out herself.

Available from:
About the Author:
Amazon multi-category and international bestselling author of HOW TO DATE A NERD, HOW TO SEDUCE A BAND GEEK and HOW TO HOOK A BOOKWORM
Cassie Mae is a nerd to the core from Utah, who likes to write about other nerds who find love. Her angel children and perfect husband fan her and feed her grapes while she clacks away on the keyboard. Then she wakes up from that dream world and manages to get a few words on the computer while the house explodes around her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with the youth in her community as a volleyball and basketball coach, or searching the house desperately for chocolate.
Cassie Mae is an Amazon.com bestselling author of the teen contemporary romance novel REASONS I FELL FOR THE FUNNY FAT FRIEND, which she self-published. In addition to publishing with Swoon Romance, she is published by Random House Flirt.
Author Links:
 photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png  photo iconpinterest_zps6fcf02a7.png
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1 ebook of How to Seduce a Band Geek & $10 Amazon gift
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Book Blitz Organized by:

Ready For CAMP PAYBACK? Reviews and KINDLE Giveaway

Camp Payback Tour Banner copyHi there! Welcome to my stop on the CAMP PAYBACK blog tour organized by AToMR Book tours. For other stops on the tour, click here. Today’s book is a contemporary YA romance that’s sure to get readers ready for summer!

Camp Payback coverAbout the book:

Alex has big plans for camp this year, starting with making it the best summer ever. Having fun and breaking some rules will get her the payback she wants against her parents and her ex-boyfriend. Because of his disgusting texts, she’s headed to a super strict all-girls school in the fall. Then she meets Javier and revenge doesn’t seem nearly as important as getting to know the troubled loner determined to keep a low profile at camp.

But Alex’s trouble-magnet personality and Javier’s need to stay in the background don’t mix nearly as well as their irresistible chemistry. With her home life eroding under her feet and her last year of summer camp speeding to a close, Alex wants to make her mark on the world and squeeze every bit of fun out of her time with Javier. Too bad her old plans for revenge turn back on her just in time to ruin everything. Will she lose Javier too?

My (Recap) Review:

I did a full review on this book last week when it came out, so I’m going to recap what really struck me about this book:  AWARENESS. Alex is a sheltered girl always on the cusp of “breaking out” against her parents’ rules, against any constraint, in truth. She could be-dazzle: It’s All About Alex on her homespun t-shirts. Really. So the thought of going to camp to “live it up” while outside of Momma’s sheltering skirts isn’t a very noble one, even if it’s fully relate-able. No, I started loving Alex when–through some gentle guidance, and a budding affection for Javier–she recognized that taking a step out of the spotlight actually allowed her to shine brighter.

I loved how self-aware Alex became, and how she used her talents and her connection to make camp, and life, better for others–even at the cost of her own perceived happiness. I think this is what endears her to Javier–because he’s all about self-sacrifice.

Javier can’t wait to get his mom home, even if it means working hard to support HER through college. Javi doesn’t have big dreams for himself–and it’s all the sweeter when he gets rewarded for his honest efforts. Javier is not comfortable in the spotlight, but he’s drawn to Alex’s glow. For that he gets a bit of heartache, and a lot of good karma. Eventually…

It’s a sweet, clean read with only references to (potentially) hooking up and a few heart-pounding kisses. Safe for upper MG/all YA readers. For adults, it’s gonna bring you back to  summer camp. And, that’s a good thing.

Interested? You can find CAMP PAYBACK at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Camp Boyfriend coverThis is the second book in the CAMP BOYFRIEND series. We first meet Alex and the Munchies in CAMP BOYFRIEND as accessory characters. You can find my full review here. While they share some characters, the books stand alone. (I’m a series sucker, so I read both and I liked it that way…)

In CAMP BOYFRIEND, newly transformed cheerleader Lauren must decide which boy she wants to date at camp: her usual boy, Ethan, who knows her as the geeky space-camp-gal or her current beau Matt, the jock who knows her as a glam girl. It seems like a simple choice, at first, but Lauren has a whole lot of issues to contend with: peer pressure, boy pressure, attraction, familiarity, friendship…  Finally, she takes a total “boy break” and finds the comfort within her own skin before she decides.

It’s a fun tour through camp politics, mean girls, and friendship forging. I enjoyed it mucho. You can find CAMP BOYFRIEND at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

PictureAbout the Author(s)

J. K. Rock is the pseudonym for YA writing partners – and sisters-in-law – Joanne & Karen Rock. Although they started out sharing an annual shopping trip, they ended up discussing their favorite films and books, joining the same book club and talking about writing… a lot. Their debut novel, Camp Boyfriend, is the first in a three-book series plotted during family pool parties. Their creative partnership is unique in that they enjoy passing a book back and forth, each adding a chapter and fine-tuning the chapter before. Years of friendship has yielded a shared voice and vision for their work that makes writing a pleasure. Learn more about Karen and Joanne at http://jkrock.net. And connect with them at their Author Website, Goodreads, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google +, You Tube or Facebook.

camp-payback-blog-tour-grand-prize copy***GIVEAWAY***
Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win this AMAZING grand prize:
(1) Kindle
(1) $50 USD Amazon Gift Card
(1) Print copy of CAMP BOYFRIEND and CAMP PAYBACK
(1) I ‘heart’ Camp Boyfriend T-shirt
(This contest is open internationally)
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Best of luck and, as always, keep reading my friends!

 

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Slayer Syndrome–THIRD STRIKE–A Review

Like many I’ve been wowed by the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod–a MG/YA male-centered contemporary paranormal series. Heather Brewer held my eldest captivated by a non-dystopian world that had hints of romance? I couldn’t resist.

While it’s been a few years since I read those books, I couldn’t help dipping into the Slayer Chronicles–when I happily won the final episode THIRD STRIKE from gracious writer/superblogger Suzanne Johnson.

As with all series books, I had to go back to the beginning–and so this post will reflect the first two books in the series as well.

First Kill (The Slayer Chronicles, #1)Second Chance (The Slayer Chronicles, #2)FIRST KILL tells us how young Joss McMillan came upon the track of the Slayer Society. For those who haven’t read CoVT, Joss and Vlad have a mottled history.

Joss is cousin to Henry McMillan, Vlad’s best childhood friend. Henry is also Vlad’s drudge. They have grown up together and Henry became Vlad’s drudge in a rather innocent way (if I remember my CoVT correctly).

In either case, Joss moves in with Henry and he and Vlad become very close friends–even supplanting Henry as BFF, for a bit. That is, until Joss learns that Vlad is a vampire…

So in FIRST KILL Vlad and Joss aren’t friends–this happens before Joss moves in with Henry in the Vlad chronology. Speaking of chronology, the Vlad books are all based on a school year, rather like Harry Potter. In contrast, the Slayer Chronicles all take place over a summer. So if you need a read order, FIRST KILL probably should come after EIGHTH GRADE BITES, Then, of course, SECOND CHANCE takes place the summer following NINTH GRADE SLAYS. then I’d read TENTH GRADE BLEEDS, followed by the final book in the Slayer series: THIRD STRIKE. And of course complete the Vlad books forthwith…

Third Strike (The Slayer Chronicles, #3)In THIRD STRIKE, we have more than just a resolution, we have an enrichment that allows Joss to transition from Vlad-Killer to Vlad-Assistor, what is necessary for the final two books of the Vlad series to makes sense.

At least where Joss is concerned.

See, Joss is a Slayer. Following the murder of his younger sister Cecile, he’s been brutally trained by his uncle, Abraham, to be a ruthless killer of vampires–all vampires. And that’s really the problem. Joss is troubled, as Abraham knew he would be, about killing people he has known as friends–even when it turns out they are vampires.

Sure, he has attempted to kill them: Sirus and Vlad both fell prey to Joss’s attack, but was really trying to kill them? I mean, was Vlad any match to Joss’s superior agility and hunting acumen? I think not. This is why Joss is suspected by the Slayer Society for being a traitor. In THIRD STRIKE Joss is saddled with the task of ridding his hometown of Santa Carla of a vampire infestation. If he fails, Santa Carla will be “cleansed”–pretty much the Slayer Society will descend en masse and kill every living creature within the city. This includes Joss, his parents and Henry, his cousin, who is staying for a month so that they can work on their ‘relationship’. Cousin Henry wasn’t so keen on Joss trying to murder Vlad, his BFF and master, after all. Oh, and Joss has to do this all on his own, with no outside Slayer back-up.

K. So, I ain’t gonna ruin the book. I have so enjoyed the fast pace and twisty plots offered in the series I’m unwilling to unravel them for future readers. I will tell you this much: Joss’ worst nightmares are about to come true. He’s also got to find help from sources the Slayer Society would not approve–oh, and Henry? He’s gonna fall hard for a gal hell-bent on retribution.

Any person you thought dead in previous slayer books? Well, maybe they didn’t stay dead long. I’m just glad to see that the series dovetailed so nicely with the Vlad books, and that Joss turns out to be exactly the sympathetic character I had hoped he would become.

Truly, I loved Joss. His life absolutely sucks–and not in the Vlad way, in the bad way. His family is a shambles, he is friendless, and performs a job that is utterly thankless. In fact, his job as a Slayer costs him every freaking friend he makes.

And yet, he is honest. He is compassionate. He seeks to do his very best, knowing it will earn him little more than scorn and apathy. And, through all of this, Joss learns to see that perhaps following orders is not the best move, especially when you have no idea who is making the orders, and if those orders are right.

Joss learns to think. And to question authority, but only after experiencing the horror blindly following authority can create. There are few male characters I’ve wanted to hug, and Joss is one of them…so long as he keeps his stake holstered, that is.

I’d recommend the Slayer books to any fan of YA paranormal fiction. These aren’t romances, and don’t really hint at romance the way the Vlad books do. So, they are ‘innocent’ unless you don’t like gore. Because there’s a whole lotta slayin’ goin’ on here.

Anyhoo…you can find THIRD STRIKE at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and probably the library, Target and reading spaces everywhere.

Click the respective titles if you want to see my reviews of FIRST KILL, or SECOND CHANCE. They are (mostly) spoiler-free. Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! 🙂