Power of Hope: BROKEN WIDE–Review and get a FREE book!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic new YA dystopian novel from Susan Kaye Quinn. BROKEN WIDE is the sixth book in her MindJack series and the last book in the ZEPH trilogy. You can start the whole series with OPEN MINDS, which is free and fantastic, but you absolutely must read LOCKED TIGHT and CRACKED OPEN before jumping into BROKEN WIDE.

About the book:
All he wanted was peace; all he had was hope.
Zeph had spent half his life hiding what he was—keeping his mindjack powers away from dangerous men and running away from everyone he loved to keep them safe. Now that his life is finally coming together—his mom and sister are safe; the girl he loves in his arms—the world is falling apart. The mindreader backlash against jackers is growing daily. Jacker-bigot politicians are stoking fear and gaining power. And jackers on the Fronter’s Purity list are winding up dead on the streets outside Jackertown.

Even the Jacker Freedom Alliance is tearing itself apart.

All Zeph wants is a chance to build a life with Tessa—but even she is losing faith. If there’s no peace between jackers and readers, what future could they have? Then a protest goes terribly wrong, the president starts talk of a Jackertown siege, and a MINDWARE CEO races to develop a dangerous mind-blasting technology. It seems foolish to even hope for peace, but one thing becomes very clear—the only way to put the world back together is to bring down the powerful people breaking it apart.

The conclusion to the bestselling Mindjack: Zeph series, where daring to hope for peace could be the most radical—and dangerous—move of all.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in the MindJack series where humans have evolved the ability to broadcast their thoughts–but the new wrinkle is mindreaders who can hijack your brain. These “mindjackers” are a super powerful minority, being hunted for experimentation and extermination. And Zeph, a “locksmith” mindjacker who can lock and unlock the toughest minds, will do whatever it takes to keep himself and his family safe.

In LOCKED TIGHT, book four, Zeph allied himself with some horrifying persons in the government and private enterprise–people who truly want to hunt down and kill “jackers”–in order to find his missing sister and parents. He’s also infiltrated the jacker population, attempting to get close to the young, powerful and charismatic jacker senator. Hiding his jacker nature from readers has made Zeph a loner, by necessity, and his plan to rescue his family and go back on the run is upset by the new connections he’s made. What if there could be a balance between the jackers and the readers? Could he then find sanctuary instead of isolation?

In CRACKED OPEN, book five, Zeph went undercover as a mole to discover what he could about the anti-jacker technology being mass-produced by MindWare Tech. Working as a bodyguard to the company CEO’s daughter, Zeph gets a front row seat to the danger–especially because his protectee is in love with a jacker, and determined to overthrow her corrupt father. Meanwhile, Dr. Wright, directer of the government’s super-secret jacking lab, is coercing Zeph to take part in a scheme that will tip the balance of power further into anti-jacker territory. Working with the Jacker Freedom Alliance as a mole helps Zeph keep many jackers safe, but it’s a tenuous time and it seems as if all hope might be soon lost.

But, as we all know, hope is a force that wins hearts, minds and battles. Hope is the foundation of BROKEN WIDE.

Fundamentally, the MindJack series is about discrimination, and surviving intact after the powerful have sought to crush you. It’s a timely allegory to the current political climate where discrimination by the government (of any marginalized community) is lauded by people who have fear or prejudice ruling their emotions. For readers, it’s a chilling journey into discovering what the experience might be for a marginalized population. The government has ideologically decided that jackers are Public Enemy Number One, and need to be studied and eradicated. And yet, throughout, it’s a humanizing story. One of hope and desperation, and succeeding against all odds against your most feared, armed, bully.

BROKEN WIDE is the final book in Zeph’s trilogy, and it’s a terrifying ride. He’s desperate to save the people he loves, but soon realizes the plan to eradicate all jackers will lead to more broken families and dead teens–murdered by the purity-minded Readers First Front and sanctioned by the government. Terrified families are listing their jacker members in chat rooms based on the paranoia the government keeps propagating. Despite the danger, Zeph heads back into the chilling Tiller mansion, masquerading as a reader while helping Juliette Tiller find as much evidence as she can on her father–while also gaining intel on the planned attack on JackerTown, and the technology Tiller’s company has built. They need to find weaknesses that jackers can exploit.

Dr. Wright, an unwilling associate of Tiller, agrees to not out Zeph as a jacker, if Zeph will use his jack ability to make mind-blasted super jackers Wright calls “Obedient” for an army that she alone can control. It’s a sick bargain, but it’s the only way to stay alive in the Tiller home. Not that they can stay for long. Tiller’s plans for Zeph and Juliette are straight out of a nightmare, and their need to remain intact soon overcomes the need for intel. And, they leave not a moment too soon. Jackertown, a safe zone for jackers buried within the metro area of what was once Chicago, is under siege. If they are lucky, Zeph might save a few of them with his mindlocking gift.

This isn’t the end of the road, however. No. Zeph’s determined to turn the anti-jacker hysteria with a hefty dose of truth. His surreal experiences take him to the highest levels of power, and he looks true evil in the face. Even as he promises to build more Obedient for the government, he knows he’s going to honor his vow to restore jackers to equal standing–fellow humans with what can be new and helpful gifts. Connecting with the Jacker Freedom Alliance and the mindreading Free Thinkers helps Zeph get the truth out at exactly the right time. Not that anything goes to plan. Still, Zeph’s never thought of himself as a hero–he only acts like one every day, and all the time. Even as he’s making the difficult decisions, it’s all in the hope that he’ll get just far enough to make good on his vow, and protect whichever vulnerable people he can, in whatever way possible. That he finally gets a happy ending is only the sweetest part of the whole series so far.

Interested? You can find BROKEN WIDE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and GooglePlay.

Get yourself a FREE book!
The MindJack universe began with OPEN MINDS, the story of Kira Moore, a sixteen year-old jacker learning about herself and prejudice she’s been born into. Kira is a strong MC, and her steadfast commitment to doing the right thing, even if it’s hard, gives readers a protagonist worthy of respect. It’s a super-fast read that tackles real societal problems with grace and confidence. I read this book in a day. Mostly because I couldn’t stop until I knew Kira was safe.

The great thing? OPEN MINDS is a FREE on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay and Kobo. OPEN MINDS is the first in a trilogy, but has a satisfactory ending that resolves completely while leaving room for the companion books to develop.

About the Author:
Susan Kaye Quinn is a rocket scientist turned speculative fiction author who now uses her PhD to invent cool stuff in books. Her works range from young adult science fiction to adult future-noir, with side trips into steampunk and middle grade fantasy. Her bestselling novels and short stories have been optioned for Virtual Reality, translated into German, and featured in several anthologies.

She writes full-time from Chicago, inventing mind powers and dreaming of the Singularity. You can find out what she’s up to by subscribing to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!).

Catch up with Susan on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse April 2017 MEAN MARGARET–A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi 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.

This month I’m featuring a book I read with my kids, so it’s middle grade fiction. If you’re interested in more adult-type of literature, I’d recommend IF NOT FOR YOU (chaste contemporary romance) by Debbie Macomber, or STARTING FROM SCRATCH (transgender romance) by Jay Northcote.

I live in a town close to Chicago–we share a border with the city in fact–so we’re often lucky enough to be a stop for children’s authors and artists on tours, especially because we have a charming indie bookstore which organizes school visits. That’s how we met Jon Agee who happened to illustrate MEAN MARGARET, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (1997) written by Tor Seidler.

About the book:
Question: What do a pair of newlywed woodchucks, a squirrel, a testy snake, a skunk, and a couple of bats have in common with a family of pudgy human beings named Hubble? Answer: Their lives are all turned topsy-turvey by a tyrannical toddler named Margaret.

Question: Will Margaret ever realize that there’s more to life than being mean? Answer: Read this touching comedy and find out.

My Review:
Truly, this book wouldn’t have been in my usual pick-ups, but Mr. Agee is an engaging artist, and my son begged to see him up-close and personal, and the cover was good, so I said what the heck and got him to sign it for us. (With a few other picture books he’s written and illustrated and this kids adore.) I couldn’t embrace the title–MEAN MARGARET–which was why I didn’t think I’d like it.

So, the story, at it’s heart is about changing one’s behavior. It’s mostly a story about Fred, a fussy woodchuck, who really doesn’t like to get dirty, or dig in the dirt, or be much like other woodchucks. But Fred can’t deny his nature, not when his cold shoulder keeps him from sleeping and he believes the only way to ease the ache is to find a wife. Not just any woodchuck will do for Fred, however, and after much searching, he finds Phoebe, the kindest, sweetest woodchuck who is also shy, and neat, like Fred. And they’re living a mostly quiet, happy life until one day human children abandon their demanding toddler sister in the woods outside Fred and Phoebe’s den–and Phoebe decides she must adopt the human. Fred, because he loves Phoebe, goes along on this madcap adventure, forsaking all his earlier pretensions, and being fussy and tidy, in order to appease this voracious, crabby, ungrateful being–and make Phoebe happy. And Margaret, named by Phoebe, is a brat who must learn to behave. Or else.

My boys laughed a good bit, and the story–though it started slow for me–becomes very engaging. Margaret is the ninth child of a slovenly family and the living embodiment of adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Her constant clamoring for more attention and more food have driven Six, Seven, and Eight to the desperate measures that lead to Margaret meeting Fred and Phoebe. Soon, Margaret outgrows the woodchuck den–not before mostly destroying it–and Phoebe and Fred must move into a dank cave with a menagerie of forest folk who assist with Margaret’s care, until she wears out her welcome by, yes, being a brat. The humor is sweet, and wry, especially because Fred is such a deadpan wit of a narrator, so I relished those moments where I got a joke that was lost on the kiddos.

For a book I wouldn’t have borrowed from the library, it’s now become a cherished part of our own collection, and I’m sure I’ll read it again in couple years when my 4-year old will enjoy it more. So, yeah, the title was a turn off for me, but the book as charming and I totally get why it was a finalist for a National Book Award.

Interested? You can find MEAN MARGARET on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and libraries everywhere.

Thanks for popping in, and hop on over to my see what books my fellow Coffeehouse Reviewers found most interesting this month.

Release Day Blitz for THE LOST CODEX! Plus, Get a free book!

Hi there! I’m so excited to get the word out for a new urban fantasy out today from Heather Lyons. THE LOST CODEX is the fourth book in the Collecters’ Society series, which features fictional characters from well-known books being warriors against censorship and book destruction. It’s all very enthralling… I really loved THE HIDDEN LIBRARY and THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN, so I’m looking forward to THE LOST CODEX!

Drop down below to get your FREE start to the series! (Only through 11/8!)

thelostcodex_ebook_450x675About the book:
Allies, once inseparable, splinter until they break apart.

An insidiousness carves its way through Wonderland, challenging the land’s very existence.

Battle lines will be drawn as pages, long languishing in darkness, are finally illuminated.

Swords will clash, blood will be spilled, and lives will be lost.

For what is written can still be erased.

Just to recap, the Collector’s Society is a series that pulls characters from storybooks into our daily lives. Alice, Queen of Wonderland, is a heroine of the first order, as she gave up her true love in Wonderland to assist the Librarians to take down rogue agents who seek to destroy entire fictional worlds. She’s partnered with Finn, think: Huckleberry, who is another true match, and boy howdy to the get it on…but they ALSO work together to take down the most nefarious enemy the Librarians have ever faced: the Pied Piper.

There’s much more to the story, but if this intrigues you, check out my reviews for THE HIDDEN LIBRARY and THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN.

I’ll be sharing a review in coming weeks, but until then…
tlc_teaser1Catch up on the series here….

***FREE*** through 11/8!  THE COLLECTORS’ SOCIETY can be found on Amazon (US and UK) iBooks and Kobo.

THE HIDDEN LIBRARY is available on Amazon (US and UK) Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

You can find THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN on Goodreads, Amazon (US and UK), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

About the Author:
Heather Lyons
Heather Lyons writes epic, heartfelt love stories and has always had a thing for words. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.

Catch Heather on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

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Long And Winding Road–THE SECRET KEEPERS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a middle grade fantasy from Trenton Lee Stewart. THE SECRET KEEPERS is an adventure that keeps on going, set in a world under the control of a madman and unraveled by one ingenious 11 year old.

secret-keepersAbout the book:
Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and E.B. White Read Aloud Award winner Trenton Lee Stewart returns with a captivating, heart-stopping adventure about thrilling secrets and dangerous mysteries–and the courage to reveal the most frightening of truths.

Eleven-year-old Reuben spends his days exploring, hiding, and practicing parkour among the abandoned buildings of the Lower Downs as a way to escape the rough times that have befallen him and his mom–but his discovery of an extraordinary antique pocket watch changes everything. When Reuben finds that the watch has the power to turn him invisible, he’s propelled on the adventure of a lifetime.

Now Reuben is being pursued by a group of dangerous men called the Directions, and someone–or something–ominously called The Smoke. They all want the watch, and with the help of new friends, it’s up to Reuben to unravel the mysteries surrounding it and protect the city from evil.

New York Times bestselling author Trenton Lee Stewart’s latest novel will enthrall old and new fans alike with the twists and turns of an inventive and compelling adventure reminiscent of The Mysterious Benedict Society series.

My Review:
3.5 stars for this winding Middle Grade adventure.

Reuben is an 11 y/o boy whose mother works two jobs to support them in the tenements of the Lower Downs, a run-down district of New Umbra. It’s summer and shy Reuben spends his long days exploring all around his neighborhood, and avoiding the Directions, collections of four men–who always look out in one of the four directions–who shake down the local merchants for pay-offs on a weekly basis. They work for the dodgy man known as the Counselor, who reports directly to The Smoke–a man no one can attest to ever seeing, but who nevertheless pretty much runs New Umbra, mafioso-style.

One day while exploring, Reuben discovers a mysterious watch hidden in an alley–and he believes that he could sell this antique watch and make enough money to support his mother for years to come. Only, all the watchmakers seem to want to buy it for very little money. One, Mrs. Genevieve, is horrified about the watch when Reuben comes acalling. All watchmakers have been warned to immediately call the Counselor if this watch turns up. This sets Reuben to working on the watch, and discovering it’s dangerous secret: it can render the bearer invisible for short lengths of time. It seems ripe for profit, but the Directions are turning neighborhoods in the Lower Downs inside out looking for Reuben and his fantastic watch.

So, Reuben not only can’t profit from his find, he knows that he’s in terrible danger from The Smoke, so he must discover the mystery behind the watch in order to return it to the rightful owner. Therein begins a bit of subterfuge, and a long trip, and the end of a hundred years quest for the Meyer family, sworn defenders of the watch. It allows Reuben to make friends for the first time, as Jack and Penny Meyer vow to help Reuben free himself for the scrutiny of The Smoke.

This is an interesting read. It’s also a very long read. I felt as if the tension wasn’t very high for nearly the first 150 pages, and while all those winding paths were eventually reunited into a robust trail at the end, it wasn’t very satisfying. All those long-winded descriptions had nip-and-tuck resolutions, and I found the pacing to be a challenge to my interest. I liked the mysteries, and I liked the camaraderie that eventually developed, but I truly would have enjoyed the book far better had it been at least a third shorter.

I’m not going to reveal more plot. It’s convoluted and yet interesting. I liked the idea of the story more than I liked the execution, which felt rambling and verbose in many patches. I almost despaired that the book would not have a solid resolution, that we’d be dragged into a sequel, but that wasn’t the case, and for that I was absolutely grateful. It’s not a bad book. It’s just slow, and all the action is understated. I think kids who really like adventure and mystery stories will enjoy this book.

Interested? You can find THE SECRET KEEPERS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your public library. It was in my local bookstore yesterday, but the ebook releases today.

About the Author:
Trenton Lee Stewart is the author of the award-winning, bestselling Mysterious Benedict Society series for young readers; The Secret Keepers, also for young readers; and the adult novel Flood Summer. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Mix-Ups And Meyhem in WITH THIS BLING–A Review

Hi there! today I’m sharing my review for a funny contemporary M/M romance from LB Gregg. WITH THIS BLING is the third book in the Romano and Albright series, and it’s a fast-paced adventure/romance.

With This Bling (Romano and Albright, #3)About the book:
Caesar Romano’s catering career is doing better than he’d ever dreamed. And so is his love life—even if his boyfriend’s house in Staten Island is way too far from civilization for his liking. But then in short order, Caesar is duped into helping his cousin propose, is tricked by his best friend and business partner into appearing on live television, and is harassed by a thug-like personal trainer and his far too beautiful wife. In fact, Caesar is almost too busy to notice that something is troubling his PI boyfriend, Dan Albright.


Laid-back, open, charming—that’s the impression hunky former NYPD Detective Dan Albright gives everyone. Caesar can add sexually adventurous and a bit of an exhibitionist. But he also knows that Dan is hiding something—something dark and a little dangerous—and when Dan’s silence over his mysterious past threatens to harm them both, it’s Caesar’s turn to save the day.

But then again, a break-in, a gallery party, an heirloom ring, a new suit, and a stalker with bad BO are all just a typical week for Caesar Romano.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, but it read fine as a standalone. 4.5 Stars.

Caesar and Dan have been dating for a short while. They are still getting to know one another, and enjoying their incendiary passion. Dan is a 40ish former NYPD cop turned private detective. He’s big and bossy and totally gone for Caesar, a 28 y/o Brooklyn native and member of a giant Italian famiglia that may or may not have mafia ties…he’ll never say. Out loud. Caesar has begun managing his friend Poppy’s catering business, and his cousin is trying to woo a very pregnant Poppy to FINALLY marry him.

Caesar is caught in this misfire/crossfire wedding proposal gone totally wrong when he is pressed into filling in for morning-sick Poppy on a local cable morning show. It’s actually quite hysterical, and leaves Caesay a black-eyed, bloody (possibly engaged!) mess. Is this the result of using his Nonna’s cursed rings? The jury is out…

Dan’s newest case is bleeding into their private life, too. Expect parkour-style espionage and explosions. Lots of explosions. Caesar always seems to be on the wrong end of a concussion, and yet, his dead-pan NYC humor is riotous. Complaining that the squirrel and bird he spies in Dan’s Staten Island backyard is “too much nature” for him. Deciding that the best way to handle being kidnapped and stuffed into a cool box is to snack on fresh-made cannoli? I died.

I loved Caesar’s family. From his flashy Nan to his Goodfellas-esque uncles and father. They’s good people. We don’t get to see much of Dan , as Caesar tells this story, but he’s a bit of alright. Honest, and loyal. Maybe a bit too trusting for some–especially as he’s an ex-cop. Caesar and Dan get really close in this book, so close that Caesar has to meet an ex. Unwittingly. And they continue building on an established pattern of semi-public sexytimes; all to the good in my book.

I breezed through WITH THIS BLING, and would surely head back for another episode.

Interested? You can find WITH THIS BLING on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple, AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
LB Gregg (Lisabea) writes fun, fast-paced contemporary male/male romances for a variety of publishers including Riptide, Samhain, and Carina Press. Her wildly successful Men of Smithfield books feature hot, hunky men looking for love in small town New England. You can find more information about LB, The Men of Smithfield, and her fun series Romano and Albright at her website.  Catch her also on twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

A Brave New World: CRONIN’S KEY III–Review and Giveaway

Banner-CroninHi there! Today I’m so excited to share in the release day festivities for N.R. Walker’s M/M paranormal adventure romance,  CRONIN’S KEY III. It’s the highly-anticipated conclusion of the vamp series readers have adored. Catch my reviews for the first and second book in the series.

Below you can get a peek at the first chapter, and even further below you can catch the giveaway link and maybe win yourself a copy!

CroninsKey3NRWalker1500About the book:

History isn’t always what it seems…

Twelve months after his change, Alec MacAidan is still getting used to his many vampire talents. While most vampires would give anything to have more than one supernatural power, Alec craves nothing more than peace and time alone with Cronin. But when Alec meets entities from outside this realm, he’s left powerless in their presence.
Zoan are half-lycan, half-dragon creatures that have slipped through time and reality, seemingly undetected by man and vampire. Or have they? They bear an uncanny resemblance to gargoyles, leaving Alec’s view on all things weird to get a whole lot weirder.

This new quest leads Alec, Cronin, and their band of friends to Paris, Rome, and Moscow, where they learn that gargoyles aren’t simply statues on walls. In the underground pits beneath churches all over the world, Alec discovers the Key’s true destiny. Facing the Zoan might take every talent he has. And he may need help from the dead to get them all out alive.

How about a little taste?

Alec sat back in the chair and held in a sigh, feeling every bit the lab rat he’d become. Since he’d become a vampire a year ago, he’d been put through test after test, so each and every one of his unending list of talents could be explored and documented.

He’d agreed to this, and he knew it was the right thing to do, but in that very moment, he wished to be doing anything else.
And with talents for making errant thoughts an instant reality—like setting fire to sofas and making Xbox controllers explode in Eiji’s hand because he’d somehow won—it wasn’t a good frame of mind to be in.

He loved Jodis. He really did. She had become one of his best friends. But she’d also taken it upon herself to document his talents, and he’d just about had enough for one day. If replicating wasn’t a talent so frowned upon in the vampire world, he’d make a copy of himself to endure Jodis’ tests while he and Cronin hid out in their bedroom. He’d replicated himself a few times, experimentally of course, and found it too taxing on himself anyway.

“Can you do it again?” she asked, notepad and pen in hand.

Alec had found a certain talent he’d dubbed the chameleon, for obvious reasons, because he could make things change color. It was absurd, really, and probably of no better use than a party trick. But he could, if he concentrated, turn a red pen blue or a white shirt black. The talent could only manifest by touch, and it lasted only a few minutes before returning to its original color, but Jodis was rather intrigued.

Alec, on the other hand, had passed bored like it was standing still and was well on his way to irate. “Jodis, I’ve kinda had enough of this today.”

“Last one, I promise.”

For Alec, it wasn’t so much as reining in a temper anymore, where the most damage done was a cutting remark. Now it was keeping a lid on a few dozen talents that reacted poorly to anger. He only had to get really pissed off and a rage would barrel out of him like nuclear fallout, literally knocking humans and vampires off their feet. Or he could burst eardrums with a furious roar, or maybe he could turn them to stone, or dust. Or maybe, just maybe, he could rip an earthquake through the apartment so he didn’t have to do any more of these stupid fucking tests.

“Alec,” Eleanor cautioned from the next room.

“I wasn’t actually going to do that,” he replied petulantly. He knew Eleanor, with the gift of foresight, saw possible outcomes of decisions made, and that did nothing to quell his frustration. “Jesus, now my thoughts aren’t even my own.” Standing up, he snatched the purple notebook off the desk, holding it for half a second and slamming it back down. It was now black, as was every page inside it, and it was smoldering as though it almost caught fire.

Cronin was suddenly in front of him, a hand cupped to his face. “He’s had enough,” he said to Jodis, and they disappeared.

* * * *

As soon as Alec’s feet hit the soft earth, he took a deep breath of fresh air and reveled in the silence.

His life hadn’t exactly been quiet in the last twelve months.
He felt the warmth of Cronin’s hand in his, smelled the sweet aromas of heath and moss from both the vampire beside him and the cool air of the long-abandoned battlefield, and Alec exhaled loudly.

Cronin had somehow learned to quiet his mind a little and it gave Alec the silence he so desperately needed. In the last twelve months, Cronin had taken Alec on more time-outs than he could count. Knowing when he’d had enough and was reaching breaking point, Cronin would simply remove Alec from the situation, leaping him somewhere quiet where his mind could have some much needed solitude. But with a gentle squeeze of his hand, Cronin reassured him he was there.

“I’m sorry,” Alec said.

“Don’t apologize,” Cronin said adamantly. “I can’t begin to imagine your frustrations.”

“Jodis is only trying to help. I behaved badly.” He could very well speak words directly into Jodis’ mind and tell her privately that he was sorry. But he’d prefer not invade the thoughts of others, preferring to apologize in person.

“She understands,” Cronin said, trying to pacify him.

Alec sighed loudly and allowed the quiet to envelope him. “I love it here,” he said eventually.

The field at Dunadd, Scotland, had become a sanctuary for Alec. No voices in his head, no city of millions with flurrying thoughts unbidden through his mind, no politics of vampire councils, no meetings, no one hovering.
Just Cronin.

“It affords you a great privacy,” Cronin said. His Scottish accent and formal tone still made Alec smile. “Your talents as a vampire are a burdensome gift.”

Alec had learned very early on to block out the voices and thoughts of those around him, but living in a city of millions made it a constant effort, and his display of anger at Jodis just minutes ago bothered him. “These talents are a pain in my ass.”

Cronin laughed quietly. “Your control over them still astounds us all.”

“The control you keep talking about is a talent in itself. It’s like casting a net over a thousand different fish.” Alec sighed loudly. “I’ve told you that before.”

“I know. Though it amazes me still.” Cronin squeezed Alec’s hand again and looked out across the field of long grass to the line of trees that fronted the river. “Lie down with me.”

Cronin simply lay flat on his back in the middle of the field and when Alec lay down next to him, Cronin snatched up Alec’s hand again. And together in the mind-clearing silence, they watched the blanket of stars glide across the sky.
It was a clear autumn night in Scotland, cold and dark. Neither of those things impeded a vampire of course, and Alec would never tire of the simple changes he’d gone through when he became a vampire. It was the complex changes he was beginning to struggle with. The talents he’d been given made him unique: the only vampire ever to have all vampire talents, some he was still discovering a year after his change. It was these talents that made his life hectic, his obligations as the key to the vampire world that gave him a great responsibility, and as Cronin had said, it was becoming a great burden.

Alec loved that Cronin would leap them to the very field where his human life had ended. The old battlefield in Scotland was also where they’d first made love, where they came to talk, to be by themselves. Like now.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” Alec whispered, his anger and frustration from before almost gone. “I feel like I can breathe here.”

“Is that not what husbands do?” Cronin asked with a smile. “Save the other from the myriad of madness?”

“Husbands,” Alec said, bringing Cronin’s knuckles up to his lips and kissing them softly. “Now that is something I’ll never tire of.”

My Review:
This is the third, and possibly final, book in the Cronin’s Key series. Alec MacAidan is the key to the survival of the human species. He’s only known about vampires for the past 18 months, and BEEN on for about a year, but he’s the Chosen One, if you will, so he’s had a busy time of it. I think it’s a bit hard to pick this series up at the end, but, having read all the previous books, it’s a fantastic adventure/romance.

In this book, the enemy is a group of otherworldly beings of lycan origin who call themselves Zoan. They are shapeshifters who can also stop time. The Zoan arrived on earth through a portal that opened straight from Hell, and Alec must figure out how to kill them, and shut down the portal before the world is under attack. Alec possesses every talent, or power, ever gifted to the vampire race, and he must use all of them to defeat the Zoan–if he can catch them.

In the meantime, petrified Zoan are being awakened all over the earth and new portals are opening. It’s another race-against-time if Alec, Cronin and their band of vamps will have any chance to save mankind.

This is a fantastic adventure, though I had a few struggles with the fast pace and the constant motion. Part of the plot hinges on understanding the portals, where they are and how they work, and this means Alec must leap his group of vamps all over the world–in rapid succession–to investigate potential portals. At times, I think I was getting leaping sickness. I didn’t get the “physics” behind the portals and parts where it was described, of which there are a few, dragged for me.

That said, Alec is faced by a foe he cannot initially defeat; the Zoan are ancient and possess power greater than his. Cronin is very sincerely worried that this battle may be the last. And, he’s partly right. I think the idea of a vampire afterlife was remarkable, and I enjoyed how that was rendered.

There are so many characters in this series that have become dear to me, and I want to continue reading their stories of adventure. I’ve truly enjoyed the historical “borrowing” Ms. Walker has done to create Cronin and Alec’s world and experiences, masking bouts of “extreme vampire and Zoan activity” into human tragedy and war has been a fun exercise in thought.

Plus, the bond of love between Cronin and Alec is so lovely I had to giggle a little at Alec’s jealousy when encountering Cronin’s former lover. Oh, the intensity! And insanity… 😉 Poor Alec and Cronin! They just love each other to pieces–and that’s what Alec left behind of the world’s largest glacier when his temper took control. There are some tender bits, and I found Alec’s newest talent–stopping time–was certainly put to most excellent use when he decided a quickie was needed RIGHT NOW! Fun! I highly recommend this series.

Interested? You can find CRONIN’S KEY III on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.


Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a book from N.R. Walker’s backlist, including CRONIN’S KEY III.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal. She’s been writing ever since…

Find Ms. Walker online on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Danger & Lies in THE HIDDEN LIBRARY–Review and Giveaway

THL Tour BannerHi there! Today I’m sharing in the blog tour for THE HIDDEN LIBRARY. This is the second book in the The Collectors series and it’s an action/lovin’-packed adventure of the literary kind.

HLyons_THL_eBook02_450x675About the book:

Sometimes, the rabbit hole is deeper than expected . . .

Alice Reeve and Finn Van Brunt have tumbled into a life of secrets. Some secrets they share, such as their employment by the clandestine organization known as The Collectors’ Society. Other secrets they carry within them, fighting to keep buried the things that could change everything they think they know.

On the hunt for an elusive villain who is hell-bent on destroying legacies, Alice, Finn, and the rest of the Society are desperate to unravel the mysteries surrounding them. But the farther they spiral down this rabbit hole, the deeper they fall into secrets that will test their loyalties and pit them against enemies both new and old.

Secrets, they come to find, can reveal the deadliest of truths.

A few words from Heather:

I had the chance to ask Heather a few questions about creating THE HIDDEN LIBRARY….

You are a huge audiophile. What sort of music did you listen to while working on THE HIDDEN LIBRARY?

I listened to a lot of Bleachers, Nico Stai, and Taylor Swift (mainly off her new album). I love music!

The COLLECTORS’ Series is based on updated fairy tales. How are fairy tales relevant for today’s YA/adult readers?

I think a lot of readers nowadays only know fairy tales from movies and/or tv. Their ideas of the stories are more Disney-esque than anything, because even adapted versions of the stories in children’s books nowadays are watered down to match these changes. The source materials are not like that, though. They’re pretty dark and often have messages in them. What I like about fairy tales is that there’s always a sliver of hope in them. The stories have stuck with societies for generations because of that.

Authors always say that books are semi-autobiographical…. In that sense, which is the character in The Hidden Library with whom you most identify?

I think there will always be parts of an author hidden away in their characters. A silly example, is how Alice loves to wear dresses. I wear mostly dresses—and yet, it also fit her character because of the Timeline she came from, too. That said, I identify with both Alice and Finn simply because they’ve been in my head while writing . . . but their experiences and mine are quite different!

Hidden Library Teaser1

My Review:

I truly didn’t know what I was getting into reading this book, but, what I found, was a lush world of literary romance in today’s world.

See, in this world, the characters are from books, and they work to save books. Alice, from Wonderland? She is all grown up and a warrior Queen, willing to take on a maniacal murderer. Huck Finn? Victor von Frankenstein? They got adopted by Brom and Katrina van Brunt (from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and raised in today’s NYC. Finn and Victor are top operatives in the Collectors’ Society. Finn and Alice are, in fact, a couple (expect some nice bam-chicka-wow-wow!).

Their current mission is to hunt down a rogue editor, believed to be Sweeney Todd, who has been collecting legacies–bits of ephemera that contain the ‘soul’ of a book–and destroying them. This, in turn, destroys the Timelines of every character in the book. It is akin to literary genocide, and was responsible for Katrina van Brunt’s untimely death.

Along the hunt, Finn and Alice have to enter Finn’s Timeline, the world of Huck Finn, to pay respects to The Widow who is dying–and deal justice to Tom Sawyer, who caused Jim to die. It’s a HUGE kerfuffle.

Don’t think Wonderland is sitting on the sidelines. The Queen of Hearts has a diabolical plot to kill Alice, despite her absence into the “real world”. Alice had to leave in order to save her subjects, which meant abandoning her first love, the White King. Now, Finn has to seek his assistance in saving the queen of his world.

And, what the heck is happening with Peter Pan?  The man who seems to be pulling all the strings is clearly a double-talker. And his house is an homage to the written word…or is it? His hidden library seems to be the key, if only Finn and Alice could find the door.

Here’s the thing: I loved this book’s pace and story. I found it thrilling and creative. Finn and Alice have to search their souls over, and over. And over. There’s this part of writing that says authors have to torture their characters to give them depth–well these characters are practically water-boarded. The result? They leap off the page.

With the climax coming so close to the end, I was terrified we would be left with a horrifying cliffhanger. As it stands the cliffhanger is not-quite-barbaric to the reader, but…it’s certainly uncomfortable. Looking forward to the next book!

Interested? You can find THE HIDDEN LIBRARY on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK), B&N, Kobo, and iBooks.


Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win signed paperbacks and a $10 GC!
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Heather LyonsAbout the author:
Heather Lyons writes epic, heartfelt love stories and has always had a thing for words. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.

Catch Heather on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.