Cephalopod Coffeehouse Dec 2016- GRAIL- 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 sharing a review for the third book in the Le Fay series by Realm Lovejoy. GRAIL follows Morgan Le Fay, a fire-throwing soldier for a modern-day Camelot. This book really needs to be read after HENGE and SWORD for it to make sense.

grailAbout the book:
A hero has fallen, and darkness threatens a splintered Camelot. In the midst of turmoil, the last hope for the kingdom is Morgan le Fay. Morgan is both feared and revered . . . and currently in prison for treason.

In the wake of King Uther’s tragic death, the wicked Mordred is closing in on young King Arthur, and the boy king turns to Morgan for help. Freed from her imprisonment through his order, Morgan searches for a way to protect him. But she is still an outcast, and no one believes her suspicions about Mordred.

To save King Arthur, Morgan must reach the greatest Royal Relic in the world—the Grail—before Mordred does. It’s a journey that will challenge her in ways she’s never been challenged before. Traveling deep into a land of darkness, she will need to overcome the ghosts of her past to find her true power.

Can Morgan defeat Mordred and save King Arthur? And this time, can she defend Camelot without destroying herself?

My Review:
Morgan Le Fay is an eighteen year old girl who’d dreamed of being a member of Arthur’s Round, an elite fighting force that would counsel and protect Arthur Pendragon when he became king. This is a contemporary society where magic exists, and Camelot is real. Unfortunately, the Pendragon family is under attack by the Luminaries, an extremist group that wants magic to be out in the open, unconstrained by law. The Luminaries tried to kill Morgan and young Arthur in HENGE and again in SWORD. Morgan is, to her credit, a steadfast girl. She’s unorthodox, because she refuses to let Arthur come to harm–and believes that people close to him, namely Mordred, are aligned with the Luminaries.

Still, her behavior is erratic and dangerous, in the eyes of the court, and she’d been sentenced to death for treason for kidnapping Arthur before his enemies could. Without Morgan, Arthur would have been struck down before he even gained his magic. Of course, in forcing Arthur to find Excalibur, Morgan learned a very difficult truth about her heritage–and her relationship to Arthur.

She’s been imprisoned to keep that secret safe, and also, because no one can fully prove, or disprove, her involvement in Arthur’s father’s untimely death. Lancelot is on her side, however, and when Morgan is sentenced to a life of magicless servitude, he bargains for her release into the Grey Knights. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not scrubbing toilets either. But, Arthur needs Morgan more than ever, now that he’s fifteen and bearing the weight of the crown. He’s borderline suicidal, and Mordred’s machinations haven’t ceased. When Arthur goes missing, it’s up to Morgan–who’s blood is tied to Arthur’s–to head up the rescue mission, and perhaps save her dear friendship with a jaded Merlin.

Morgan was my kick-ass heroine of 2015, and she’s back this year with another rollicking adventure. She’s more subdued, however, feeling the full-weight of her crimes, and newly-discovered paternity. She’s devoted to Arthur, but her efforts to assist him only lead her into more trouble. Morgan, Lancelot and Merlin have a complicated relationship, with Merlin–who had been completely infatuated–spurning her, while flirty Lancelot is willing to stick his neck out to make her punishment lessened. Merlin comes off as a real whiny dude, making my esteem drop, while Lancelot’s a steady man, unafraid to be a hero. The adventure to find Arthur is perilous and pushes Morgan to her very limits. She never quits. I just love that about her. She may be down, but it’s always a temporary situation, because her shrewd intellect is always looking for the next opportunity to rise again. By the end, she’s not only saved the day, she’s saved herself. And that’s totally cool. She has romantic feelings for both Lancelot and Merlin, but this doesn’t become a love triangle scenario. There are too many hurt feelings to have any real romance. Plus, Morgan’s life is not her own for a great deal of the book. She does her best to mend rifts, and it seems she manages to do this quite well. I’m eager to get the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find GRAIL on Goodreads and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in! Be sure to check out the reviews of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers. And, keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse August 2016–HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD

0ed81-coffeehouse
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 there! Today I’m sharing my fave read of the month, and it’s clearly HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. I’ve talked to some young readers who’ve recently devoured the series, and they report it’s not THEIR kind of book, but, as an adult reader, I adored it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildAbout the book:
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

My Review:

So. I bought the hype, somewhat. I’ve read ll the HP books with my eldest, nearly 20 years old now, and I couldn’t resist this one, even though it’s not a novel. It’s a play. Expect stage directions and all if you pick it up. It’s also not really a kid’s story. Which is totally fine because the last three books, IMHO, were for elder readers–late teen to adult. How many ten year olds really want to slog through THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, after all?

That said, this book makes a distinct break because a large portion of the story is told from an adult POV, that of Harry Potter at ages 37-40. He’s married with three children and one of his kids, the middle child Albus Severus Potter, is a misfit. Not only does Albus get sorted into Slytherin, his best friend is outcast Scorpius Malfoy, only child of Draco Malfoy. Albus struggles with his auspicious parentage, especially as he doesn’t possess the fantastic gifts at wizardry of his father, or even his popular elder brother, James. Further, Albus and Harry have a very strained relationship. Harry struggles as a parent to Albus, but has no issues with James and Lily. It isolates Albus, even when Harry makes deliberate attempts, fruitless though they are, to connect.

Meanwhile, Scorpius is haunted by rumors that his father is truly Voldemort, and he’s mercilessly harangued at Hogwarts. Albus stays by his side, and they develop a strong, true friendship. The plot gets very messy when a Time Turner is discovered by the Ministry of Magic. See, Time Turners are outlawed because changing the past is a BIG PROBLEM. And, the experimental Time Turner is able to bring people back far further than ever imagined. One person in particular, Amos Diggory, wants Harry to go back and save his lost son, Cedric. This cause, saving The Spare who was murdered in Harry’s stead, becomes of prime importance for 14 year-old Albus. And he recruits Scorpius and Cedric’s cousin, Delphi, to assist in stealing the Time Turner from his Aunt Hermione in order to pull off this daring rescue.

I think we all know this goes poorly. As all adults will opine, changing the past is fraught with collateral damage. And that’s exactly what happens. While we’re never eager to embrace the atrocities that have come to pass, we also know that undoing such things, say by murdering Hitler as a child or something, would lead to so many unforeseen consequences that our world would be irrevocably altered. So, the play, the story, embraces the worst of these outcomes, and builds real terror for Albus and Scorpius. It harkens to the adage “No good deed goes unpunished,” and we experience a great deal of punishment in this fiction-scape.

As an adult, I relished the nuances of the story. I expect many younger kids won’t. They don’t have the maturity to fully experience the adult POV, but so many of the readers of this series are adults, and I believe that those people are, like myself, well satisfied. Several themes are similar to all HP books: friendship saves the day, valor is a consequence of situation–not a goal to seek, and courage is being who you are, regardless of consequence. The old ties are strong, and new ties can be beneficial. It was rewarding, to me, to see Harry and Draco on the same side, openly, for the first time. I liked how all the pieces fit together, in the same way that they always have. I didn’t feel as if I was wondering, much, and I liked the pacing of the story. I’m out of practice reading plays, but fell right in once I got started. In truth, it was refreshing not having the ponderous descriptions of setting bog me down, just this once. That said, I much prefer novels, on the whole. Though, in reality, this book would have been twice as big if it had been a novel. I was able to follow along with all the scene changes and implied emotive notes without any difficulty. Younger readers might struggle with the format, which is the sentiment I’ve gathered from those who have read the book already.

I really do not want to spoil the book, but it must be said that both Voldemort and his progeny are present on the page, albeit briefly. It’s a bittersweet read with tons of action and a plot that satisfied. I literally read the book in the span of an evening, so you know the pace is fantastic.

Interested? You can find HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD pretty much anywhere. But also on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks so much for popping in. Be sure to check out the fave reads of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers.

 

Struggling Through MULTIPLE LISTINGS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new family-centered novel from Tracy McMillan. MULTIPLE LISTINGS is an interesting read with a great heroine who copes with some rather difficult circumstances: money troubles, single motherhood, dysfunctional parents and a flaky boyfriend.

Multiple ListingsAbout the book:

What would you do if your ex-con father suddenly came to visit…indefinitely? Family drama ensues when Nicki’s dad unexpectedly moves in with her, her son, and her boyfriend in this comedic novel from successful TV writer Tracy McMillan.

Nicki Daniels owns a home appraisal business, but real estate is her true passion: she lives for open houses and really knows her way around a floor plan. And especially at this juncture of her life, real estate has come to signify the stability she is trying to build with her teenage son, Cody, and her much younger boyfriend, Jake. She’s finally ready to find the perfect house for the three of them and work on a new business venture with Jake that she thinks will jump-start their lives together.

Meanwhile, Ronnie, a longtime inmate at a nearby correctional facility, is getting some good news for once—there was a mistake in his sentencing, and he’s eligible to get out of prison. After a sixty-day stay in a halfway house, Ronnie decides his best option to avoid homelessness is to move in with his estranged daughter: Nicki. Even though they haven’t spoken in years, her door is always open to him, right?

Inspired by the author’s life and imbued with wit and profound insight into relationships, Multiple Listings speaks poignantly—and often hilariously—about the ties that bind families of all types together.

My Review:
This is a contemporary novel about a family getting a bit of a do-over.

Nicki is a 37 y/o workaholic single mother to Cody, her 16 y/o son. After scraping and clawing her way through life Nicki is the successful owner of an appraisal business. She owns her own house and is the midst of acquiring a restaurant property for her boyfriend, Jake (a man 11 years younger) to manage. Oh, and they are buying a house together.

Nicki has no contact with her estranged, successful mother or her estranged, imprisoned father, Ronnie. Thing is, Ronnie’s just been released, and he’s got to find a job and housing in order to stay out of jail. Ronnie tells part of this story, which for him is one of redemption. He’s a long-time drug dealer, who’s rehabilitated over the course of his latest (and longest) 17-year sentence. He really worked on his spirituality in prison, and he’s dying to reconnect with Nikki and the grandson he’s never met. He had been in and out of prison since Nicki was 5.

Nicki is striving to cope with all of her many stresses-Cody’s problems at school, Ronnie’s reappearance, Jake’s disappearance, the house she doesn’t want to buy but can’t get out of the contract–and things are going south, fast. Ronnie’s desperate to stay out of prison, but he’s already made a mess of things with his parole officer. If Nicki doesn’t take him in, he’s going back to prison. So, she takes him in, and Ronnie and Cody bond. It’s sweet, really. Jake’s a cad, and that sucks. He’s left Nicki hanging–long enough that she learns he’s no good for her. I could see the pieces laid out on the table, and figured how Ronnie would step in to make the fixes that he could with his limited power.

It was a heartwarming read with the usual twists in a ‘something’s gotta give’ way. I liked Nicki. She’s a good lady. In fact, most of the characters are likable despite their faults. The book is an easy read, with little deep soul searching required. The ending is a happy one, with a reunited family that’s far more stable and secure than at the beginning. I enjoyed the trip with these folks who are just dysfunctional enough to make readers appreciate their own healthy relationships.

Interested? You can find MULTIPLE LISTINGS on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Tracy McMillan is a television writer and memoirist, most recently on the Emmy Award–winning AMC series Mad Men. Previously, she wrote on Showtime’s United States of Tara, ABC’s Life on Mars, and NBC’s Journeyman. She’s also developing an as-yet-untitled series with Dreamworks Television. I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway is Tracy’s first book.

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Tracy spent years in the foster care system. After graduating from the University of Utah with a broadcast-journalism degree, she spent more than a decade writing and producing television news for outlets such as NBC Nightly News, KNBC-TV, and Access Hollywood. Tracy’s articles and essays have appeared in a number of print publications and websites. She is a regular performer at Sit-n-Spin on the Comedy Central stage in Los Angeles.

She is the mother of a 13 year old boy, and lives in Los Angeles.

Her not-so-secret ambition is to have a talk show.

You can find Tracy online on twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Intrigue in WILL AND PATRICK: MEET THE FAMILY-Excerpt & Review

Meet The Family Banner
Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review of the second episode of Leta Blake and Alice Griffith’s M/M rom-com serial, WILL & Patrick. In MEET THE FAMILY, keeping up appearances of being a happily married couple gets much more difficult, and possibly dangerous.

Be sure to check out my review of episode one, WAKE UP MARRIED, and scroll down to enter the book giveaway!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]About the book:
Meeting the family is challenging for every new couple. But for Will and Patrick, the awkward family moments only grow more hilarious—and painful—when they must hide the truth of their predicament from the people they care about most.

Throw in the sexual tension flaring between them, uncomfortable run ins with Will’s all-too-recent ex-boyfriend, an overprotective mobster father, and a mafia spy tailing them around Healing, South Dakota, and you’ve got a recipe for madcap laughs and surprisingly heartwarming feels.

Follow Will & Patrick as they cope with the fallout from their Vegas wedding in this second installment of the romantic-comedy serial, Wake Up Married, by best-selling author Leta Blake and newcomer Alice Griffiths!

How about a little taste?

Keying open the door to their hotel room, Will tries to fake some cheer. “Honey, I’m home! And I brought dinner!” He stops and grips the bags more firmly as his cock rushes with a sudden influx of blood.

“Just put it over there.” Patrick’s ass is in the air, his hands flat on the floor, and he’s wearing nothing but his black boxer-brief underwear. “I’ll eat it when I’m done.”

Will stares as Patrick swivels, his body moving fluidly and his legs flexing in strong, limber movements.

“What are you doing?”

“This is downward dog. And this—” Patrick moves down with careful, slow strength. “Is plank position.” The muscles in his arms, back, and thighs are like bundles of wires, and Will’s mouth goes dry, remembering clearly how they felt under his hands.

“Looks hard.”

Patrick doesn’t answer. Will turns to put the food on the table, because if he keeps watching, something else is going to be hard too.

He clears his throat, glancing over his shoulder at the flexing muscles in Patrick’s back. “When we met, I wouldn’t have pegged you as a yoga kind of guy.”

Patrick grunts. He’s in a position now that Will can’t even imagine twisting himself into.

“I mean, you don’t seem like an ‘om’ type.”

“Yoga, and meditation for that matter, are legitimate, effective, and scientifically proven means to an end: physical health and reduction of mental stress. In other words, it helps keep me sane.” Patrick moves into an upright position, sweeps his arms over his head, and brings them back to a prayerful place at his chest. “Sanity is something you could stand to try. And none of that spiritual mumbo jumbo has anything to do with it.”

“So says the guy who believes in astrology.”

“Sure, be a Libra about it.”

Will feels heat in his cheeks. “The yoga doesn’t seem to hurt as far as keeping the rest of you in shape either.”

Patrick’s lips turn up into a smirk.

Will clears his throat, turning to the bags of food. He keeps his back to Patrick as he unpacks the takeout packages onto the small dining table. “So, do you want the gyros or the mac ‘n’ joes, because I can go either way.”

Patrick’s breath is tingly in Will’s ear and his body heat warm along Will’s back. “I go both ways too. It’s your call.” He reaches around and plucks up one of the Styrofoam boxes without looking inside.

Will swallows and gestures at the box still on the table. “This will be fine.”

He doesn’t know for sure which it is, but it will be fine, so long as his dick stops acting like a traitor and his mind stops supplying him with images of Patrick bent over, taking Will’s fingers into his tight, hot—God!

He shakes himself.

“Mmm, gyros,” Patrick murmurs from his perch on the bed. “So good.”

Will’s eyes flutter closed as he sits at the table and spreads a napkin over his crotch. No matter how good Patrick looks almost naked, they aren’t doing that again. It would be wrong. Because Will loves Ryan.

Who are you trying to convince?

He sighs and begins to eat. Mac ‘n’ joe is always tasty. Though at the moment it seems hard to choke down.

My Review:
Will and Patrick have been back to Will’s hometown of Healing, South Dakota for a couple days, and Will has more ‘splainin’ to do. He’s enlisted the help of his grandmother, Eleanora, to help get them out of this marriage, and had his first confrontation with his new ex, Ryan, and neither was pretty–but now he needs to introduce Patrick to his mother. Oy vay!

Nobody in town likes Patrick, and that’s not just because his quicky marriage to a very wealthy, and emotionally vulnerable, Will is highly suspicious. No, Patrick is also a jackass. He has zero social graces and is often deliberately obnoxious and obtuse. I really am struggling to like him, at this point. I get that he’s a great doctor, but I do not have to like him–at all–because of it.There are some hints at why Patrick is such a prickly character, but they haven’t (yet) excused his callousness.

Patrick relishes this bubble of insufferability he creates around himself. His only redeeming quality, for me, is that he’s good to Will, in a way. Will has a lot of insecurity, and a deeply ingrained sense of worthlessness and failure. It’s been fostered by many different characters slighting him over the years, and Patrick doesn’t accept any of that BS. He finds Will attractive, and says so. He builds him up, and that’s really great considering what a shit Ryan is. I think if they were standing in front of me, I’d punch Ryan in the junk and slap Patrick, twice. (Ryan is a horror of a man, to me, and I’m well glad that Will is rid of him. Patrick is a whole lotta “tough love” sans the “love” bit, and I can *almost* see that he’s going to be a great partner to Will…eventually.)

Will is warming up to his partnership with Patrick, and feeling more attracted than overwhelmed. He’s still soft on Ryan, which is a shame really because that dude is as emotionally abusive as they come. Though I’m starting to see Will turn the page on his love for Ryan and I HOPE HOPE HOPE that there’s some romance coming for him and Patrick. SOON! Right now we have a developing sexual tension and it’s getting serious, but there are no sexytimes. Memories of past sexytimes. Innuendo and a couple kisses, too, but that’s not enough to balance out the snarky banter, for me. I want to see Will and Patrick fall in love. God! I hope that isn’t the title of the last installment in this series.

Expect a douchey ex, a malevolent mafia tail, a lot of people hating Patrick and Will getting his heart stomped on. Oh, and meals. Lots and lots of eating. Mangia!

Interested? You can find WILL & PATRICK MEET THE FAMILY on Goodreads, and Amazon (US and UK).  As this is a serial, you’re going to want to read Episode One, WAKE UP MARRIED first.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Raffle copter below for your chance to win one of two copies of MEET THE FAMILY!
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Leta Blake
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Alice Griffiths
A long-time reader of romance novels, Alice Griffiths finally took the plunge into writing, teaming up with best-selling author Leta Blake for the ‘Woke up Married’ serialized comedy. A lover of tropes, Alice enjoys mining old ideas and putting a fresh, funny spin on them. Formerly working in the newspaper industry, Alice is now an art curator. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

You can find out more about her by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

I Fell For LEAD ME NOT–A Review

Hi there! Today I”m sharing a review for a new release from Ann Gallagher (AKA LA Witt). I have really liked some of Ms. Gallagher/Witt’s recent books, like On the Clock and WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND, and was eager to check LEAD ME NOT out.

Lead Me NotAbout the book:

Isaac Morris has devoted his life to preaching against the sin of homosexuality. But when his sister proposes a documentary to demonstrate once and for all that it’s a choice—with Isaac choosing to be gay as proof—he balks. Until he learns his nephew is headed down that perverted path. Isaac will do anything to convince the teenager he can choose to be straight . . . including his sister’s film.

When Isaac’s first foray into the gay lifestyle ends with a homophobic beating, he’s saved and cared for by Colton Roberts, a gentle, compassionate bartender with a cross around his neck. Colton challenges every one of Isaac’s deeply held beliefs about gay men. He was kicked out by homophobic parents, saved from the streets by a kind pastor, and is now a devout Christian. Colton’s sexuality has cost him dearly, but it also brought him to God.

As the two grow closer, everything Isaac knows about homosexuality, his faith, and himself is called into question. And if he’s been wrong all along, what does that mean for his ministry, his soul, his struggling nephew—and the man he never meant to love?

My Review:
This is a book about coming to terms with sexuality and features a Christian youth minister attempting to “choose” to be gay, in order to PROVE that homosexuality is a choice to turn from. Intellectually, it was a fascinating premise, and the execution of the story was exceptional.

Isaac is the youngest child of a fundamentalist Christian minister whose teachings are undeniably homophobic. His twin, Ruth, convinces Issac–and their conservative family–that Issac should try to be gay and then return to heterosexuality, in order to prove that there exists a “choice.” Isaac is unsure of the wisdom of this path–he’s suffered impure thoughts of men his whole life, and his faith is also shaken by his recent divorce from his high school sweetheart. However, his brother John’s eldest son, Griffin, is showing definite inclinations down this sin-laden path and Isaac wants desperately to can help guide Griffin back to the straight and holy. Still, this premise is dubiously accepted by ttheir father and his congregation. Ruth and Isaac move to Seattle, to immerse Isaac in the “gay scene” which Ruth documents with video. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly what Isaac’s father’s preachings have professed. First, Isaac doesn’t witness the outright debauchery he expected. Second, while trying to find a suitable partner in the bar scene, Isaac is beat up by homophobic bigots, and the man who saves him is Colton, a shy and compassionate gay man.

Colton is a former homeless child prostitute who’s had the roughest of lives since he came out in his early teens and his parents kicked him out. He’s suffered alcohol and drug addiction, exposure and depression, and come out the other side. He’s still tormented by the loss of his family, and works hard at Capital OUT (a gay bar) and the South Street Community Church, a gay-friendly church and homeless shelter for LGBT youth, sheparded by Pastor Mike, Colton’s surrogate father.

Isaac is blown away that a gay person is a church-goer, and he’s sure that the heresy taught there is as big an abomination as homosexuality itself, but time and contact with Colton begin to soften Isaac’s feelings. Isaac takes Colton up on a job at Capital OUT–all in the guise of research–and is astounded by the normality and loving nature of the gay scene. As well as by Colton’s tenderness. (Expect some cameos from characters in other LA Witt/Gallagher books!) In the process of this experiment Isaac does some serious soul-searching, aided by Ruth, his ex-wife, and an estranged sister. I was really touched by the depths to which Isaac dug to understand his sexuality, and also to recognize that his opinions were slowly morphing as he gained new and valuable perspective.

In truth, I felt like this book had so much resonance. Having grown up in a Christian fundamentalist church I was exposed to lots of conservative ideals–similar to Isaac’s upbringing. I got out before things became too contentious, but I could really identify with Isaac, and his big decisions. His torment over his soul, and Griffin’s prospects in their decidedly homophobic family, weigh heavily upon him. (If you want to see some REAL LIFE examples of Pride protests, and Christians who believe in Pride, please check out this wonderful blog post from my friend Victoria Blisse.)

Meanwhile, Colton and Isaac are falling for each other. This is a cautious and quiet exploration. Isaac is essentially a shy virgin, and Colton suffers PTSD from the rapes and horrors he suffered as a rentboy. The emotional context of this story was so ripe and engaging. Do not expect a lot of steam, this book is all about the heart and the feels.

Naturally, Isaac’s mission comes to light, and in the worst way possible. The resolution was outstanding, however, and the epilogue literally brought tears to my eyes. Really, I adored this book. The religious bits were so well done, and Isaac and Colton were not mere shells–they were whole, rendered persons that I cheered for throughout.

Interested? You can find LEAD ME NOT on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies.

She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

Visit Ann/Lori/LA on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

All They Could Do Was WATCH ME BURN–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I am thrilled to share the love for WATCH ME BURN, the second book in the December People series from Sharon Bayliss. I reviewed the first book, DESTRUCTION last spring, and was intrigued by this contemporary witchcraft fantasy series.


About the book:
David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl–who happens to be a summer witch–begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic’s command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.

Check out the trailer here!

My Review:

David Vandergraff is the head of a family of Winter witches. He doesn’t wish to be, but he is anyway. In this world, where one falls on the magical calendar determines the type of magic one will have. So, if a witch’s “date” is near the summer solstice, he (or she) will have summer magic, and be able to wield the power of light and goodness. Witches with a date nearer the winter solstice will have dark magic–which yields destructive powers. Winter and Summer witches are diametrically opposed, and have a serious battle between them. Meanwhile, witches whose dates fall between solstices, Equinox witches, can wield both light and dark magic.

David’s family consists of his wife Amanda, sons Jude, Patrick, Xavier and daughters Emmy and Evangeline. Xavier and Evangeline were from a different mother, and they suffered horrific abuse from their dark witch stepfather before David recovered them, nearly destroyed his marriage by revealing his infidelity–all of which happened in the first book.

Now, Jude is long gone–consumed by darkness enough that he raped a fellow witch: his sister’s best friend. He’s not COMPLETELY gone, however, because Amanda has been healing his darkness, taking it into herself at great cost to her own health. I can relate–a mother’s love is a strong and powerful force, much like magic.

David is somehow caught in a compulsion spell, one to bring home a missing summer witch. Julie has been gone two weeks, and David is consumed with finding her–and this brings both Emmy and Patrick into the hunt, involuntarily. Emmy knew Julie from volleyball camp, and hated her long before she understood about the animosity between summer and winter witches. It seems they have a physical reaction to each other. Emmy is a resourceful gal, even if she isn’t a powerful witch and feels likewise compelled to find Julie. Patrick is experiencing many disturbing visions of a tortured Julie, and his own role in possibly saving her.

In her searches, Emmy encounters Nathan, Julie’s older brother. He’s searching the forest where Julie went missing relentlessly, but he knows he’ll never find her. There is a strong confounding spell protecting the area, only allowing the access of witches who meet certain criteria. Emmy isn’t taken, either, and Nathan knows it is because the person who has Julie only wants witches who date on the Four Events: Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, and the Vernal and Autumnal equinoxes. Julie was a Summer Solstice witch–and it made her summer magic powerful. With each Event the captor collects, he (or she) gains immense power.

The rescue of Julie is confounded–and David is struggling to keep his family together–when one of his children goes missing in the forest, too. And Amanda’s failing health seems to be at the heart of some of this problem. Nathan and Emmy join forces in the search, and they become close to each other in a way no one wishes, or predicts. Julie and Nathan’s summer witch family are relentless in their pursuit of the winter Vandergraff’s–wanting to destroy the winter witches, thinking it will protect their family and save Julie. They have succeeded in some destruction, but as Emmy tells Nathan, just because her family is “dark” doesn’t mean they are bad people.

This is a truth Nathan respects; his own family is light—and he knows for a fact they aren’t good.

I really love how this story is unfolding. It’s multi-layered with lots of twists, and significant moral gray areas. So many moral dilemmas: is it okay to kill innocents to protect those you love? Can one trust the visions of magic? What are the bounds of family, when power is the ultimate objective? Can good ends ever justify evil means? It’s fascinating, and deep, with good pacing and enough mystery to keep the series cracking along. The end is a good stopping point, but it’s clear there will be no peace between these two families, and that their conflict between them is only getting stronger.

Interested? WATCH ME BURN releases January 5th, but you can find it on GOODREADS and pre-order it on AMAZON. If you’re new to The December People Series, start with Destruction99 cents for a limited time!

Catch my review here!

***GIVEAWAYS***

Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn.
Just leave me a comment telling me if you’re interested in reading this cool series and which book you’d like. I’ll choose a winner from comments logged before Jan 1st. International entries welcome.
 
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Sharon BaylissAbout the Author:
Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Check out Sharon online on her website, twitter, and Facebook.

 

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

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

Reality NatalieAbout the book:

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

[Cue Natalie Greyson]

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

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

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

Life is so unfair!

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

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

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

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

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

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

WIN A COPY on Goodreads by entering HERE!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!