Cephalopod Coffeehouse Jan 2015 They Had To THINK OF ENGLAND–A Review

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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.

Hi all! Happy new year to my fellow Coffeehousers! I”m eager to see what books you loved best this month!

For me, I read some cool YA, some hot erotica and some sweet romance. But, most of those were to be reviewed on a deadline, and I couldn’t hold them for this post. Still, THINK OF ENGLAND was a shining spot in my winter reads. It’s a M/M romance, which I loooove. This is historical fiction which explored many of the societal mores of 1900’s, not only homosexuality–which was a hanging offense–but also antisemitism and xenophobia.

Think of EnglandAbout the book:
Lie back and think of England…

England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

My Review:
I adored this historical M/M mystery/thriller romance.

Captain Archie Curtis is a survivor of a horrific injury while serving in the British army–not even in battle. While inspecting a shipment of weapons, Archie and his platoon were maimed and fatally wounded when their rifles exploded in their hands. Archie lost three fingers and has a limp from a misfired round that caught him in the knee. He dwells in misery, feeling half-a-man due to his loss of fingers, livelihood, and companions.

Acting on a tip, from the faulty gunmaker no less, Archie accepts the invitation of an old family friend Sir Hubert Armstrong, for a two-week stay at his remote country house. Sir Hubert is an industrialist, and his lavish home is a marvel of electric feats. It seems that Sir Hubert has been accused of tampering with the very weapons which destroyed Archie’s compatriots. The house company is interesting, but Capt. Curtis is rather annoyed with Daniel da Silva, a flamboyantly effeminate “poet” who is not only Portuguese, he’s a Jew.

The other male guests take thinly veiled jabs at Daniel, but Archie’s most frustrated that da Silva’s always underfoot when he’s investigating Sir Hubert’s private files. They men strike up a tenuous partnership when it seems that they are both seeking Sir Hubert’s dark secrets.

Meanwhile, they’re captured in a compromising position–one in which they could be prosecuted–or fall under Sir Hubert’s more dark enterprise: blackmail.

Daniel is quite comfortable with his ‘invert’ sexuality, but Archie hasn’t ever considered himself gay. Still, Archie can’t deny the strange attraction he’s beginning to experience for the wily da Silva.

There’s a whole lotta intrigue in this book. And a quietly developing tender romance. The stakes are death if da Silva and Archie are caught by Sir Hubert, and I’ll just say, the book ends with quite a few deaths. Super high tension, mostly on the intrigue-side, however.

I loved the fervor Archie had in pursuit of da Silva, and protecting him from the very dangerous tenants of Sir Hubert’s abode. There was such biting humor, and such valiant gallantry. I swooned. The end was really, just, all I hoped it would be.

Interested? You can find THINK OF ENGLAND on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Please take a minute to pop in on my fellow bloggers, to see what book tickled their fancy this month! And, as always, keep reading my friends!

1. The Armchair Squid 2. WOMEN: WE SHALL OVERCOME
3. A Creative Exercise 4. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
5. Nan @ Hungry Enough To Eat Six! 6. Stephanie Faris
7. Life Before the Hereafter 8. mainewords
9. Words Incorporated 10. StrangePegs – A Shot in the Light
11. V’s Reads

Love Between The BLURRED LINES–Review and Giveaway!

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Hi there! Today I’m reviewing a new contemporary romance from Jen McLaughlin! BLURRED LINES is a quick read that steams and stuns.

BlurredLinesAbout the book:
Once burned…
Finding my fiancé naked on my couch might’ve been a good thing, if her ex-boyfriend hadn’t been with her. For the past eight years I’ve been a witness to the power of true love, but after getting burned I’d decided there wasn’t any hope for me finding it for myself. Until I met Noelle Brandt in a hotel bar. Maybe it wasn’t the most romantic meeting, but the moment I met her I knew I had to have her. The more I learn about her, the more I know I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

Twice shy…
I’d already found the love of my life, but I’d lost that love forever. And I’d been lost ever since. But one night a wounded man makes all of that go away. He makes me laugh, live, and feel alive. When he tells me he has no intention of letting me go, I finally begin to believe in the power of true love again. That is, until I find out who he really is…and by then, it’s far too late to correct the mistakes we’ve already made. By the time we both know the truth, the lines have already been blurred beyond recognition.

My Review:
This is the first book in the Out Of Line series that I have read, but it’s a standalone, in my opinion.

I’m gonna say, there are elements of this story that I usually dislike: drunken meet-cute, instalove, republicans… But somehow, this book took me past all of the cliches. I really enjoyed it!

Riley Stapleton is the only child of a senator–he’s 30’s, attractive, a successful lawyer, and engaged to be married. Then he comes home to find his fiancé, Sarah, giving her ex-BF an oral happy ending on Riley’s custom sofa. And they mailed the wedding invites last week. Riley is, understandingly, furious. I mean, it’s CUSTOM sofa. LOL.

Here’s the thing: Riley and Sarah were compatible. They were set up by Riley’s mother, and worked well together as a couple, with Riley hoping he’d grow to love Sarah. He’d loved once and lost, so he thought he’d take the safe route–and marrying a woman he didn’t love (but cared for and would cherish) was a smart move. Especially as his father was looking at a call for vice-presidential candidate.

Still, he’s bummed out and leaves his home, heads to a local hotel bar and proceeds to get hammered-drunk.

Noelle Brandt is an erotic romance author visiting San Diego for a writer’s conference and can’t take her eyes off the sexy man (Riley) pounding whiskey at the bar. Noelle’s kept herself pretty much to herself–most of her life. She had a traumatic childhood, parents in jail and her adult life isn’t much better. She lost her groom so soon after the wedding she’s still in shock 18 months later. But she’s got a bulldog of a sister-in-law/BFF, Emily, who continues to encourage Noelle to reach out for happiness.

Finding the sloppy-drunk Riley lingering by the elevator, Noelle learns that he can’t book a room–the hotel is full. It triggers all of Noelle’s care taking instincts. Hearing his tale of woe? Well, she invites Riley to sleep on the empty bed in her room, rather than have him crash in his car.

They both swear that nothing’s going to happen, but their inebriated confessions build a rapport, and there’s non-penetrative exchange of bodily fluids…a first for both, this one-night stand. Well, until Riley does the unthinkable. And the next day he’s got a furious Noelle on his hands! Their attraction smolders, and they decide that a fling is imperative and the sex–when they have it–is nuclear. Still, if the FIRST morning after was uncomfortable, the second one is unbelievable. That Riley, he says the darnedest things when he’s getting some oral attention….

There’s a lot of fun here. There’s also a lot of secrets, and misunderstandings, and making up. Oh, and Riley does find love, sorta–at first–but for realz by the HEA. And Noelle learns to let go of her past, and embrace a brighter future.

Readers of this series will no doubt like the call-backs of other characters into Riley’s story, and the sexytimes are yum. I’d eat Riley with a spoon. And Noelle’s a great female lead.

Interested? You can find BLURRED LINES on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the link below for your chance to win
A Kindle Paperwhite with the first three books in the Out Of Line series pre-loaded!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

About the Author:
Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy New Adult books. Under her pen name Diane Alberts, she is a multi-published, bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, released September 6 2013, and hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and a cat. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

You can find Jen on her website, Facebook, twitter and Goodreads.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
Inkslinger

Discover HENGE! Blitz, Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new YA urban fantasy from Realm Lovejoy. HENGE is a modern retelling of Camelot’s myths, with a kick-butt girl who’s bent on being the best sorcerer King Aurthur has ever seen…


About the book:
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.
Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic?

Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

 "Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in 
this intriguing, well-written beginning to a 
planned YA series."
--Kirkus Reviews

My Review:
This is a very strong YA urban fantasy, bringing a contemporary twist to the Camelot story.

Morgan La Fay is a fire user, a fact her father has tried to hide her entire life. Morgan’s mother, Morgause, was executed a decade before for the murder of her husband–while in self-defense–but no one would hear Morgan’s testimony. It seems that Morgan’s father wasn’t Morgause’s husband, and Morgause took great pains to keep Morgan’s identity secret.

Still, Morgan has a lot of anguish over losing her mother, and she’s unhappy about the restrictions placed on all magic users in the realm. She wants to be the Maven, or head magic user charged with protection of the next king, Arthur. As Maven, Morgan would use her power to help magic users have a better life.

Morgan auditions for a spot in Arthur’s Round, the selection cycle for Arthur’s Maven, and comes up against some talented magic users. Morgan and Guinivere, who has healing energy, become friends, but Morgan suspects something about water-user Merlin that isn’t straight up. There are others, and the plot thickens when Morgan learns her mother was a member of the Luminary–a rogue group of magic users who attempted to kill King Uther, Arthur’s father, fifteen years before. This attack resulted in the sweeping crackdown on magic use under which Morgan now exists.

There are some definitely dangerous goings on, with Morgan sometimes smack in the middle of what appears a plot to incapacitate, or even kill, her. It also becomes clear that powers are working behind the scenes to promote Merlin ahead of Morgan–when Merlin doesn’t even want to be Maven. Morgan struggles to figure out whom is responsible, and keeps coming up just short, but her determination and craft catapult her into the neck-and-neck race for Maven.

There’s significant mystery here. Morgan isn’t a dishrag; she fights hard for all she believes, risking her very life to save others. The tension is real, though I sometimes felt the story jumped too fast. The end is a fierce resolution with plenty more story to tell…in the next book.

I definitely would read on in this series. A great start with believable drama and well-crafted characters. Innocent, excepting, well, the grisly deaths of a couple baddies. So, safe for all ages.

Interested? You can find Henge on Goodreads and Amazon.

GIVEAWAY:
Click the Raffelcopter link below for your chance to win
a $20 amazon gift card, 4 ebooks, and 1 paperback (INT)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Goodluck and keep reading my friends!


About the Author

Realm Lovejoy is a writer and an artist. She was raised in Washington State and the alps of Nagano, Japan. Her father is a Japanese ex-monk and her mother an English teacher from Rhode Island. Her art is influenced by both the East and the West.

Realm aspires to tell stories through her writing and art. She is agented by Jessica Regel. Her YA Sci-Fi book CLAN was released in 2013.

Author Links: photo iconwebsite-32x32_zps1f477f69.png  photo icongoodreads32_zps60f83491.png  photo icontwitter-32x32_zpsae13e2b2.png  photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png  photo icontumblr-32x32_zps959818ca.png

Book Blitz Organized by:

Unexpected Love in THE BONUS–Review

Hi all! Sharing some love for an author whose name may be “new” but her stories have caught my attention. AJ Adams is the pen name of Storm Chase (which is also a pen name!) but this author has some interesting takes on erotic romance. THE BONUS is a newly released adult romance where people find love in the strangest way…

The BonusAbout the book:
Chloe is a seasoned drug courier who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Facing a lingering and painful death at the hands of the Zetas, Mexico’s most brutal cartel, she persuades their enforcer to claim her.

Has Chloe made a huge mistake, or will her choice prove her salvation – and his?

Warning: This book contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence and sex.

My Review:
This story contains graphic descriptions of drug cartel activity, including (but not limited to) torture, rape, kidnapping, PTSD, sex, beatings and mental manipulation. It also has a love story, and an HEA.

Chloe is a drug courier who gets mixed up with a drug cartel in Mexico, quite by mistake. See, she’s just looking to score a little weed, but the guy she hires tries to scam the seller, and Chloe is caught up as an accomplice. She’s been in some pretty tight messes before, sexual slavery, imprisoned in two different countries, routinely beaten, but this time, standing on a melting ice brick in a pool, naked, with a noose about her neck–Chloe knows she’s going to die. So, she jumps.

What happens next is love.

Just kidding!

No, seriously, Chloe manages to get free of her noose and gives the bum’s rush to one of the lurking giants in the compound, Kyle. Kyle is an American national, working with his half-brother Arturo and second in command of this faction of their cartel. Kyle is also a trained assassin, and former CIA torturer. Kyle’s not a soldier for the cartel, he’s a messenger. See, when somebody messes up, tries to double cross Arturo, well, Kyle sends a grisly message to all the other small fry as to why that would be a VERY BAD IDEA. Because Kyle is a very bad man.

But he sees something plucky in Chloe, and Arturo owes him a bonus. He chooses Chloe.

Immediate rescue is great, as far as Chloe is concerned but she was sent on a job by Him, and if she fails, Chloe knows He will beat her, severely. “He” being her handler, a sadist in London who took Chloe in at age 15 and raped, beat and burned her into submission. Then, He turned her into a drug mule, a job she has done faithfully for the past 8 years.

Chloe’s philosophy in a quote:

“Life’s a bitch,’cause if it was a slut, it’d be easy.”

Kyle figures he’ll have a bit of fun with the waifish girl before turning her into a mule for his cartel, but the interest between them grows. This is a connection by convenience for Chloe, she’s never had anyone be nice to her before–at least not without strings. But Kyle is surprisingly gentle. He reads her dream journal, wherein Chloe had chronicled some of His abuse, and through conversation, Kyle begins to recognize what a truly valuable asset his bonus actually is. Plus, she takes excellent care of Kyle, and he relishes her attention.

Of course, He shows up, and Kyle is fast to put Him in his place. Kyle and Chloe do build a strong rapport–but neither knows how to communicate this, having had no experience. There’s some miscommunication, and some loyalty to the extreme, and a gruesome end to Him.

The descriptions are graphic, and may be upsetting. Given the context–a drug cartel, an assassin and an expendable girl–the book is quite sunny. Chloe is able to find the bright side of everything, her countless puns were quite the tension breaker. I enjoyed having the POV of both Kyle and Chloe; it’s clear that this experience changes both of them–for the better.

Interested? You can find THE BONUS on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the author:
Delicious novels with fully depicted love scenes that straddle the categories of Romance and Erotica with the occasional Crime committed on the side.

Storm Chase was born September 2012. Her alter ego is Ellen Whyte, a syndicated author who has published roughly 3000 articles and 10 print books. The alter ego is the steady type; Storm is the tearaway who’s dedicated to making it work with e-publishing. Since November 2013 Storm also acquired alter ego, AJ Adams who writes cartel and mob stories.

Connect with all of them through Goodreads and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

New In Paperback! HOT AND BOTHERED–Review and Giveaway!

Hot-and-Bothered-Launch-Day-Blitz
Hi there! Today I’m featuring a contemporary romance that combines romance, family, and cooking–all set in Chicago, my hometown. Kate Meader’s HOT AND BOTHERED, the third book in her Hot in the Kitchen series, is D-Lish.

Hot and Bothered (Hot in the Kitchen, #3)
About the book:
Although her baby boy keeps her plate full, Jules Kilroy is ready to take her love life off the back burner. Despite a bevy of eligible bachelors, it’s her best friend, Taddeo DeLuca, who’s fueling her hormones with generous servings of his mouth-watering Italian sexiness. But Jules learned her lesson once before when she went in for a kiss, only to have Tad reject her. She’s vowed never to blur the lines again . . .

After a lifetime of excuses and false starts, Tad has finally opened a wine bar, a deal made even sweeter when Jules joins his staff. Lovers come and go, and he’s had his share, but friendships like theirs last forever. Still, ever since he tasted her luscious lips, he can’t stop fantasizing about what could be. Then she signs up for an online dating site—and the thought of his Jules with another man makes Tad’s blood boil. Even if he gets burned, Tad can’t stop himself from turning up the heat this time.

How about a little taste? (from Tad’s POV)

“I’m just trying to look out for you, Jules.”

“That’s a neat trick. You move your lips and Jack’s words come out. I’ve already told you I don’t need another brother.”

She might not need a brother but she needed a protector. Someone who could be with her through the tough times, who understood the meaning of sacrifice and family. Someone not like him.

But he could be her friend. “What happened to get you so upset tonight?”

Her brows drew together over eyes sparking with determination. “I realized I have to take what I need and fight for what’s mine.”

Whoa, if he wasn’t turned on before, he sure as hell was now. Mine. He loved how that sounded on her lips, even though he had no idea what she was yammering on about. She was grabbing something by the balls—her destiny, perhaps, and he was man enough to say, she had him by the balls as well.

The smoky lines around eyes dark with emotion hit him like a shot of moonshine. Every hair, and more, stood to attention at the sight of her Cabernet-red lips in that beautiful bow shape that would look so perfect trailing scorching kisses across his chest and beyond. Warmth washed through his veins. The edge of desire rose up to meet him and he embraced it fully.

He was only human.

She padded toward him, showcasing the sultry sway of her hips even without the sparkly fuck-me heels. Her eyes turned to shadowy emeralds like the pupils had swallowed the usual sea-green brightness. He recognized that look. He had seen it the other night in the wake of his kiss. Except for one difference: Juliet Kilroy, his friend, hot MILF, was now seducing him.

She brushed by him and closed her fist over the doorknob. Looked like her difficulties with the open/close thing were a thing of the past. Drawing the door ajar a few inches, she speared him with a look that might have flattened a lesser man.

“I’m giving you a choice. You can walk out this door and pretend there isn’t something happening between us or you can stay and give me what I need.”

His cock thickened and grew achy. “What do you need, Jules?”

“You. Inside me. All night.”

Oh, sweet Jesus.

He held her green tilty gaze, aiming to infuse his next words with cut-the-bull clarity. “I’m not like the others, those men you’ve been dating, the ones who slobbered all over you tonight. I’m not boyfriend material.”

“That’s not what you offered, though, was it?”

Leaning past her shoulder, he pressed the door shut, the snick short and final.

Inevitable.

“That’s not what I offered.”

My Review:
Two years ago Juliet ‘Jules’ Kilroy left England bound for Chicago. She was young, upset, and pregnant. Her brother Jack, renown chef and restauranteur, took her in not only to his home but to his new extended family–his wife Lili hails from a close-knit Italian family. Among them, Tad DeLuca, Lili’s cousin and a single man with tragic secrets.

Being the odd people out, Jules and Tad strike up a friendship. He’s the rock she can lean on when Jack’s busy working. Tad even takes birthing classes with Jules and attends the delivery of little Evan. Jules knows Tad’s no good for her–he’s rarely with the same woman twice–but she’s been celibate since conception and lays a sloppy kiss on Tad one night, one he quickly rebuffs.

See, Tad knows he can’t lose his heart to Jules–he doesn’t have one to give. Not since his parents died in a car wreck ten years ago that was his fault. They remain friends, nonetheless. Fast-forward a year and Jules is helping out cooking at Tad’s new wine bar. She’s also ready to get “out there”. A dating Jules is one facet of her Tad has no will to witness, however. His attraction to her begins to get the better of him–he even offers his “services” when he learns she’s looking for a fling…

And, she turns him down. Their lives a so intertwined; his aunts babysit little Evan and his cousins are her closest gal pals–she doesn’t want to tip the boat.

Still, they manage to seal the deal, leaving only awkwardness and hunger in its prime form. Tad even disrupts some of Jules’ dates, that rascal.

In the end there’s a lot of break-up-to-make-up. Evan’s father learns of his existence and wants to meet his son–something Jules and Jack want to prevent. Yet, Tad’s the voice of reason, even if it clashes with Jules’ gut instinct. And, when the anniversary of Tad’s parents’ death rolls around, Jules is there to love him out of his drunken stupor.

I liked this one. A solid breeze-read. I generally like a little more conflict, the biggest obstacle to Jules and Tad getting together is their insecurity, but the friends-to-lovers trope was well-handled here. Jules is fun gal to get into. Tad is really a great guy–and head over heels for both Jules and Evan, but at times his “voice” rang more Brit than Chicago-Italian. (I’m probably most sensitive being that I am from Chicago, and of Italian descent.) I enjoyed how cooking was such a big part of the book–family meals are the lifeblood of Italians–and how it eventually brought Jules and Tad together.

Interested? You can find HOT AND BOTHERED at Goodreads, Amazon, BAM, IndieBound, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.

***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
a set of the three Hot In The Kitchen books!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Kate MeaderAbout the Author:
Kate Meader writes contemporary romance that serves up delicious food, sexy heroes, and heroines with a dash of sass. Originally from Ireland, she now makes her home in Chicago, a city made for food, romance, and laughter – and where she met her own sexy hero. When not writing about men who cook and the women who drool over them, she works in an academic library.

You can find Kate at all these fancy locations…
Website | Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading my friends! 🙂

Book Birthday Kindle Giveaway for BLURRED LINES!

BlurredLines_Blitz copy
Hi there! Today I’m celebrating the release of a contemporary romance from Jen McLaughlin! BLURRED LINES is a quick read that steams and stuns.

BlurredLinesAbout the book:
Once burned…
Finding my fiancé naked on my couch might’ve been a good thing, if her ex-boyfriend hadn’t been with her. For the past eight years I’ve been a witness to the power of true love, but after getting burned I’d decided there wasn’t any hope for me finding it for myself. Until I met Noelle Brandt in a hotel bar. Maybe it wasn’t the most romantic meeting, but the moment I met her I knew I had to have her. The more I learn about her, the more I know I’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

Twice shy…
I’d already found the love of my life, but I’d lost that love forever. And I’d been lost ever since. But one night a wounded man makes all of that go away. He makes me laugh, live, and feel alive. When he tells me he has no intention of letting me go, I finally begin to believe in the power of true love again. That is, until I find out who he really is…and by then, it’s far too late to correct the mistakes we’ve already made. By the time we both know the truth, the lines have already been blurred beyond recognition.

Interested? You can find BLURRED LINES on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the link below for your chance to win
A Kindle Paperwhite with the first three books in the Out Of Line series pre-loaded!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

About the Author:
Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy New Adult books. Under her pen name Diane Alberts, she is a multi-published, bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, released September 6 2013, and hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and a cat. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

You can find Jen on her website, Facebook, twitter and Goodreads.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
Inkslinger

No Escape From THE WALLED CITY? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a YA thriller (with a hint of romance) recently released by Ryan Graudin. THE WALLED CITY is a fast-paced story of rescue and redemption in the gritty slums of a fictional Chinese town.

The Walled CityAbout the book:

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible….

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister….

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…..

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

My Review:
I got sucked into the blurb on this one. I’ve not read a lot of books with a Chinese cast and setting, and it wasn’t clear at first if this was reality or dystopia, but, upon reading I decided that didn’t matter so much. It actually is reality-based, but the reality of this world–this lawless slum on the edge of a bustling city–is rather dystopian.

Jin Ling is a teenaged girl posing as a boy in Hak Nam, the ruined fort abutting Seng Ngoi. She has been here, living on the streets, stealing to survive, for two years–ever since her father sold her beautiful elder sister, Mei Yee, into prostitution. Their father was an abusive drunk who saw no use in two daughters on a failing rice farm–but Jin and Mei Yee have a deep love for each other, and a survivor spirit.

Mei Yee, due to her beauty, has captivated a very rich man, Ambassador Osamu, who pays for her to have the best room in Longwai’s brothel, and to be kept for his use only. It is the best life Mei could hope for, but hope is not allowed in her life.

Dai is a young man looking for a second chance. Two years ago he was a wealthy man’s son, enrolled at the best boarding school, and selling drugs for fun. Then, a drug run went bad, leaving Dai with a smoking gun and three dead bodies. His parents helped him to escape to Hak Nam, where the police are not allowed due to a treaty, and where Dai has lived/survived by keeping his head down. Thing is, the treaty is due to expire in 18 days, and the police want to capture Dai–one of the dead drug runners happened to be the mayor of Seng Ngoi’s son. Dai has two choices: 1-flee China and bring further disgrace on his family or 2-get the dirt on Hak Nam’s crime boss Longwai.

Dai makes an arrangement with Longwai–running drugs–so he can gain access to Longwai’s inner circle and find the ledger which contains evidence for conviction, but he cannot do it alone. He recruits Jin, who accepts because she is a super fast runner, and because Longwai’s brothel is the only one to which she hasn’t been able to gain entrance to search for Mei Yee. Meanwhile, Dai strikes up a friendship with Mei Yee, in the interest of gaining inside information on Longwai and his men.

During he 18 day countdown, these three survive some pretty lethal encounters. Mei Yee is abused and nearly turned into a heroin addict. Jin is hunted by a street gang and stabbed. Dai puts his freedom in jeopardy leaving Hak Nam to get the help he needs to complete his impossible task.

It took me a bit of time to get used to the narrative, which cuts between three points of view, and the content–the experiences of each narrator are horrifying, all the more so for their realistic setting. It is easy to sympathize with Jin and Mei Yee, but Dai required more warming-up-to. I really got engaged in the story maybe ten chapters in, mostly because the immediate violence and callous environment isn’t appealing, to me as a reader. There is a touch of romance–Mei Yee and Dai have an unrequited attraction–which becomes a hindrance to Mei’s service to her wealthy patron, but the one thing uniting all these desperate characters is hope. Hope that life will not always be this horrible, lawless, parentless, loveless experience. Hope that, one day, a girl could just be a girl, not a possession to be bought, sold or discarded. Hope that a child could escape the slums and frolic in the sea or gaze at the unpolluted starlit sky. Hope that a son could redeem his past, and build a better future.

I ended up staying up way past my bedtime to finish this one, and wasn’t disappointed.

Interested? You can find THE WALLED CITY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of All That Glows and The Walled City. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!