Cephalopod Coffeehouse June 2017–THE SUFFERING TREE-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 paranormal YA story that has a dash of romance and dash more controversy. THE SUFFERING TREE by Elle Cosimano has been getting very mixed reviews, but I liked the story, even as I struggled with some of the plot-points. Also, the blurb doesn’t mention that the MC has a SERIOUS emotional problem which manifests as cutting. Again, controversy.

About the book:
“It’s dark magic brings him back.”
Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family—it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events—including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin—that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth—and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel—she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the centuries-old curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried… at any cost.

From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.

My Review:
Trigger warning: this book has intense and graphically described instances of the MC cutting her skin as a means to cope with her grief and isolation.

16 year old Tori Burns is new to rural Chaptico, Maryland. Her adoptive mother, brother and herself mysteriously inherited twenty acres of land and a home smack dab in the middle of the Slaughter farm, bequeathed by Al Senior upon his death several months ago. It was just in time, too, as Tori’s family had been recently evicted from their apartment. (There’s some shenanigans about this that I’ll describe later.)

Tori hasn’t been the same since her adoptive father died a year ago. Since then, she’s quit swimming–though she was an expert swimmer–because she can’t imagine doing it without her father cheering her on. Also, she’s begun cutting her skin to mask the grief she’s experiencing. Her arms and legs are covered in scars, and she regularly presses on healing cuts to induce pain when necessary. She’s an outsider in her school which has lots and lots of Slaughter kids, all of whom have the status. Jesse Slaughter is the typical king of the school, and Tori can’t figure out why he’s talking to her and asking her to Homecoming.

One night, when the pain is too great, Tori runs out to the small graveyard on the edge of the property and digs a sharp branch into her arm. The blood shed releases a centuries-old curse and, inexplicably, a man from his shallow grave. Tori’s appropriately horrified by the advent of this former-servant of age-old Slaughter Farm, Nathaniel, and that’s only the beginning. She’s plagued by nightmares of the Chaptico Witch, Emmeline, who was the love of Nathaniel back in the seventeenth century.

So, you can see, this was a really different plot line. The POV shifts between 1690s Nathaniel’s memories, the present-day, and dreams/visions Tori experiences from Emmeline’s magic. Because, she was a witch, and she did love Nathaniel enough to preserve him until he could fulfill his sworn duty to protect her.

There are many interesting themes here: dealing with grief, learning about your history, becoming the person you were meant to be, doing the right thing, as well as the folly of greed and the horror of locking down one’s family skeletons. I think I didn’t really get hooked until about a third of the way through, mostly because I was a little stupefied by some of the issues Tori faces.

See, her mom is a volunteer art teacher. Her father dies and has no life insurance, leaving them essentially destitute. They have no other family and are on the verge of eviction. Sorry, I’d be working at a paying job, folks. And, the grief really isn’t an excuse for me. The whole set-up seemed shady, and it put me off. I almost had less trouble accepting the magical resurrection of Nathaniel than their real-life crisis of near-homelessness. Also, her mom is practically unable to keep this family together. Beyond driving and painting, she has virtually no life skills despite being a mother for 16+ years. It was insulting, honestly. So, shenanigans. I call it.

The isolation Tori experienced was far easier to accept as a reader. New girl in a small town. She’s odd and weird. No doubt she’ll struggle to fit in. The double-crosses were to be expected, and I didn’t think that was a deficit. Plot-wise, I liked the interwoven POVs and I liked Nathaniel, a lot. Tori, at times, seems deliberately obtuse, but she comes to terms with her position in the tangled history with Nathaniel, Emmeline and the Slaughters past and present. It doesn’t help that the current Slaughters are experiencing unprecedented tragedy–including blight, fire and death–and they pin it to the arrival of Tori and her family. It’s a mystery why these events are occurring, to everyone but Nathaniel, Tori and an elderly black neighbor who knows more than her family with believe.

I liked how this turned out in the end, with much faster pacing and a tumultuous climax. For me, the book is an interesting allegory for the power of greed to destroy and of love to reclaim/redeem. That said, it’s still troubling how little assistance was available for Tori, with both her grief and her cutting.

Interested? You can find THE SUFFERING TREE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and your local library, probably. It released a few weeks ago. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in. Be sure to check out the fave read of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers by clicking the links below. 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.

 

Serious Trouble With The TWISTED SISTERS! Review and Giveaway

Twisted Sisters Blog Tour
Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share my review as part of a blog tour for Kimber Leigh Wheaton’s new release, TWISTED SISTERS, a contemporary YA paranormal mystery. I really liked TORTURED SOULS, so I jumped at the chance to read the sequel. These are epic ghost stories, not for the faint at heart.

Check out the excerpt and my review, and make sure to enter the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway, too!

TwistedSisters_500x750About the book:
It’s a child’s toy—what could go wrong?
While playing with a spirit board, two sorority sisters summon the vindictive spirits of three women brutally murdered by a psychopath. Join Logan, Kacie, and the rest of the Orion Circle as they delve into the disturbing events of the past to find the key to freeing the spirits.

But this isn’t any ordinary haunting. These ghosts were banished before, and now they have returned more powerful than anyone could have imagined. Anger breeds hatred and hatred leads to darkness—these phantoms are on the verge of losing their last spark of humanity and becoming completely lost to the shadows.

Can Logan and Kacie convince the tortured souls to embrace the light and move on, or will the spirits succumb to the hypnotic pull of evil, leading to an eternity of torment and suffering?

How about a little taste?

“Huge EMF spike!” Carl shouts, waving the EMF detector in the air.
That’s it. I can’t wait for Raven any longer. Mr. Kincaid’s voice echoes in my mind, calling me stupid for rushing in not knowing what’s in there. But I’m in charge of this fiasco… I never should’ve let her run in without more information. Steeling my shoulders, I cross the threshold into the house.
I stop and survey the scene in seconds, taking in the ridiculous amount of damage. The living room is trashed: sofa overturned, lamps broken on the floor, and the front window shattered by the flying armchair. No sign of Raven, but the girls said they were using the board in the kitchen. As I walk down the hall toward the back of the house, a ceramic figurine flies at me. I duck just in time, and it grazes the top of my hair. I’m finding it difficult to believe spirits summoned from a spirit board by amateurs could be this powerful.
The family room is in a similar state to the living room. When I spy the sixty-inch TV on the floor in a smashed mess my heart thumps faster. These are powerful spirits or maybe even a rogue gang. That TV had to weigh over one hundred pounds, and it’s a good twelve feet from the entertainment center. No sign of Raven in here either.
A fierce wind blows from the kitchen, slamming me against the wall. So much power. None of this makes any sense!
“Raven.” I try to call out, but my voice comes out a hoarse croak.
My body is freed as the wind dies down, and I race toward the kitchen. Something shoves me from behind, sending me reeling across the tile floor. I manage to rotate myself at the last second so my shoulder impacts the wall instead of my head. The wind stops the moment I hit the wall. As I rub my sore shoulder, a loud scream pierces the silence. My stomach drops at the sheer terror in that scream. Raven.
Leaping to my feet, I search the large kitchen for her. When my eyes land on her, I blink a few too many times. This shouldn’t be possible.
“Hang on, Raven,” I call out to her form suspended in midair near the ceiling.
“Hang on? Really?” Her arms are splayed out to the sides, her long, black hair floating around her like a mermaid underwater. Though she tries to project confidence with her words, I can tell from her face that she’s terrified.
“Release her at once!” I yell at the invisible spirits. “She has done nothing to you.”
“Don’t you think I already tried that?” Raven bites out in between gasping breaths.
“St. Michael, the archangel, def—” I start the prayer, but something crashes into me, knocking the wind from my lungs as I’m slammed into the floor. It takes a few dazed seconds to realize it’s Raven’s body crushing me. “Can you move?”

My Review:
This is the second book in the Orion Circle series, and should be read in order. 4.5 Stars

Kacie, Logan and Daniel are back, this time dealing with a severe sorority house haunting. 40 years ago four members of a sorority were drugged by a psychology professor, and three of them were murdered. While time has passed these three souls have been maturing and getting stronger. Their sense of loss and fury has been harnessed into severe aggression.

When two of the current residents decide to “play” with a Ouija board, they unleash a boat-load of malevolence.

Logan’s injured, and not just by the ghosts. Nope, he’s pretty sensitive that Kacie (his girlfriend) and Daniel (his best friend) are starring in the school play that forces them to have a big ‘ol kiss. This distraction leads Logan into unnecessary peril–and he’s lucky to get help when he needs it.

Kacie’s channeling the spirits, but also dealing with the survivor’s guilt. How would it feel to know that your mistake led to the torture and death of three of your good friends? Living with that burden is rough.

I liked the teamwork displayed in the Orion Circle. They have excellent communication, and intriguing talents, from telekinesis to psychic powers, to spirit mediums, to persuasion, these kids (and their adult assistants) are a motley but interesting bunch. I sometime think there are TOO many characters, but the author does a good job of only focusing on 1-3 of them at a time. This story was less about Kacie (like TORTURED SOULS) than Logan, and I expect another book will focus more on Raven and Blake (vampire huntress and werewolf, respectively).

The story rolls on, with excellent pacing and vivid descriptions. Expect to have the horror flick vibe, this reads like a movie in many ways. This is a YA paranormal adventure, with a DASH of romance, so it’s clean of all but kisses, and filled with blood-thirsty villainy and dangerous ghosts.

Interested? You can find TWISTED SISTERS on Goodreads, and Amazon.

You should definitely read TORTURED SOULS, which I highly recommend, first. Check out my review and find the buy links, there!

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

192a5-kimberleighAbout the Author:
Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestselling YA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. In addition to writing, she works as an editor for two publishers, as well as select indie authors. She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs and lots of dragons. Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, video games, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) Winner of the 2014 Rising Star Award at the BTS Red Carpet Awards in NOLA & a Silver Medal for YA Mystery/Horror in the 2015 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.

You can find Kimber Leigh on her website, twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon and Instagram.

Cover Reveal GUARDIAN by Courtney Cole

Cover Reveal for Courtney Cole’s GUARDIAN!

GUARDIAN is a YA Paranormal Romance, and a book close to Courtney’s heart. It is being released on August 28th!

Guardian

GUARDIAN Synopsis:

Sometimes, things that go bump in the night are real.

My name is Whitney Lane. I’m sixteen years old and at first, I thought I was crazy.

I kept seeing shadows move along walls, and hearing whispers around corners, but whenever I looked, there was never anything there.

Until one day, there was.

Our world isn’t what we think. There are things around us, good things, bad things, scary things.

Things that we tell ourselves aren’t real, but they are.

They’re very real, and they’re terrifying.

I’ve been swept up now, in a battle of good and evil, confused about love and what is supposed to be love, but isn’t. I don’t know what to think anymore. I can’t trust my emotions and I don’t know what is true.

There’s only one thing I know for sure.

Nothing is what it seems.

HeadshotABOUT COURTNEY COLE:

Courtney Cole is a novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could. She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds. She loves chocolate and roller coasters and hates waiting and rude people.

Courtney lives in quiet suburbia, close to Lake Michigan, with her real-life Prince Charming, her ornery kids (there is a small chance that they get their orneriness from their mother) and a small domestic zoo.

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Inkslinger

Checking Out All The DANGEROUS CREATURES–A Review

I’m a bit late to the lovefest for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl–I’ve read some of their separate works, but not the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series they co-wrote. One day I hope to go back and read forward, but, for now, I’m cool with starting their new DANGEROUS CREATURES spin-off.

If you haven’t read the previous collaborations, well, it’s a YA paranormal adventure/romance. All sorts magical supernatural creatures converge in (mainly) rural Georgia. There’s Leah, she’s a Caster–pretty much a witch. Her cousin, Ridley, is a Siren. In these stories there are two sides to magic, Light and Dark. Leah is Light. Ridley was claimed by the Dark side at age sixteen–which caused her parents to  shut her out, literally, from the family.

Since then, Ridley has struggled with her self-esteem. Oh, she’s got tons of bravado, and her body thrums with the Power of Persuasion, but it’s hard to accept if she’s truly loved by anyone–including her “boyfriend” Link, or if it’s simply her powers that draw him near.

And that’s where this spinoff begins.

Dangerous Creatures (Dangerous Creatures, #1)About the Book:

Some loves are cursed…others are dangerous.

Ridley Duchannes will be the first to tell you that she’s a bad girl. She’s Dark. She’s a Siren. You can never trust her, or even yourself when she’s around. Lucky for her, Wesley “Link” Lincoln can never seem to remember that; quarter Incubus or not, his heart is Mortal when it comes to Ridley.

When Link heads to New York City to start a music career, Ridley goes along for the ride-and she has her own reasons. As if leaving small-town Gatlin for the big city, trying to form a band, and surviving life with a partially reformed Siren isn’t hard enough already, Link soon learns he has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay.

My Review:

Ridley, Leah, Link and the Gatlin Gang of partial mortals have finished high school and prepare to leave their small-town world behind. Ridley and Link head north to NYC so Link can find himself a band and get busy getting famous. Ridley, well, she’s in a bit of hot water with a wager-gone-wrong. She has to provide a drummer for a Caster band in New York, or face the wrath of nightclub owner and Dark Caster Lennox Gates.

They arrive in NYC and meet up with the remnants of Devil’s Hangmen, Sampson, Necro and Floyd. And, to Ridley’s great chagrin, Link fits into the band too well. Floyd, who happens to be an adorable Illusionist, is not shy about sharing her attraction to Link…expect the usual salty exchanges and claw sharpening.

Bringing Link, a partial Incubus, to Lennox’s Dark Caster club gets Ridley all tweaked out. She knows the danger he faces among full-blooded supernaturals and fears for his safety. It also doesn’t help that Lennox is happy to insinuate himself between herself and her Shrinky Dink. (Yeah, these kids have a lotta ‘pet names’ for each other. I ain’t going into Link’s food-based song lyrics, but they help ground the story firmly in the YA category…)

Seems Lennox has a problem, a powerful adversary that is demanding to be avenged, and Lennox must collect the two people who ticked off his tormenter: Ridley and Link. He will, of course, except that he knows Ridley’s fate. Part of his gift is Sight, and he has seen how Sirens are treated in Caster society. His mother was one, after all. Meanwhile, Lennox is drawn to Ridley–and hopes he can save her from his tormentor’s captivity if only she’d drop Link. After all, that dude is a Dead Man Walking in the Caster realm.

The story is fast-paced with the usual juvenile misunderstandings and new adult wanderings for a life long-dreamed-for, but little-planned. I must say, I enjoyed Ridley. She is completely self-aware of her shallowness, insofar as she finds herself totally unlovable and isolates herself to protect her heart. She loves Link, but she can’t bring herself to acknowledge this and risk further vulnerability. Link, on the other hand, is ecstatic over his new band–and their success–he’s sure Ridley is just being mean when she tells him his adoring audience was being Charmed. Still, he loves her. He just can’t deal with her fears–she’s sure they are in great danger–and her manipulations–she totally lied about how he got hooked up with the band. Lennox is wealthy and sophisticated and everything Link is not, but will he win Ridley away in time to save her? Also, Link’s execution is all but planned–and from the last Caster either Ridley or Link could have suspected. In fact, Lennox risks his own life in order to tip them off.

While the book has a resolution, the story is clearly unfinished. Without question Lennox will be made to pay for his (well-meant) treachery and Link and Ridley can’t seem to get far enough out of the line of fire to prevent attack. I enjoyed the ride, and am sure that fans of earlier books will laud the “Link and Ridley” story for which they clamored. Considering all the romantic tension and simmering desire, the book is wholly innocent with only a few kisses to propel the love stories…so it’s safe for all YA readers.

Having not read the BEAUTIFUL CREATURES books, I was still able to get into this spinoff series. All the main players are quickly introduced and all backstory details highlighted without bogging down the book.

Interested? You can find DANGEROUS CREATURES on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and probably retail outlets like Target and Walmart among other booksellers and libraries. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for review.

Dangerous Dream by Kami GarciaThere is a (short) linker story DANGEROUS DREAM available which describes Ridley’s brief escape from Gatlin that brought her to the infamous card game in Lennox’s club–the club which cost Ridley some of her powers and locked her into providing Devil’s Hangmen with a new drummer–after she Charmed their current drummer out of his gift. Yeah. Well, the recap was a nice transition piece for me, as I had not read the previous BEAUTIFUL CREATURES novels. My review is here.

You can find DANGEROUS DREAM on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Kami GarciaAbout the Authors:
Kami Garcia is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal & international bestselling co-author of the Beautiful Creatures Novels (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos & Beautiful Redemption). Beautiful Creatures has been published in 50 countries and translated in 39 languages. The Beautiful Creatures movie released in theaters in February 2013.

Kami is also the author of Unbreakable, the first book her paranormal solo series, THE LEGION. See my review here.

Margaret StohlMargaret Stohl is the author of ICONS, the first book in the Icons Series.

A longtime veteran of the videogame industry, Margaret’s work includes – to name a few – SPIDERMAN, FANTASTIC FOUR, DUNE 2000, THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE LEGEND OF JACK SPARROW, DEFENDER, THE SOPRANOS, SLAVE ZERO, APOCALYPSE, ZORK NEMESIS, ZORK GRAND INQUISITOR, SPYCRAFT, COMMAND & CONQUER: RED ALERT RETALIATION, and COMMAND & CONQUER: TIBERIAN SUN.

After working with Activision (now Activision/Blizzard) and Westwood Studios (now EA), Margaret became a co-founder of 7 Studios with her husband, Lewis Peterson. She has previously been nominated for “Most Innovative Game Design” at the Game Developers Conference.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

 

Slayer Syndrome–THIRD STRIKE–A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least where Joss is concerned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Blitz and Giveaway EMBRACE & HOLD TIGHT

Embrace (The Embrace Series #1)
by Cherie Colyer
Release Date: 12/20/11
Omnific Publishing
Summary from Goodreads:
Madison is familiar enough with change, and she hates everything about it. Change took her long-term boyfriend away from her. It caused one of her friends to suddenly hate her. It’s responsible for the death of a local along with a host of other mysterious happenings. But when Madison meets a hot new guy, she thinks her luck is about to improve.

Madison is instantly drawn to the handsome and intriguing Isaac Addington. She quickly realizes he’s a guy harboring a secret, but she’s willing to risk the unknown to be with him.

Her world really spins out of control, however, when her best friend becomes delusional, seeing things that aren’t there and desperately trying to escape their evil. When the doctors can’t find the answers, Madison seeks her own.

Nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

Dangerous, intoxicating, and darkly romantic, Embrace is a thriller that will
leave you spellbound.

Excerpt:
He had a large mix of alternative and rap music, and mostly male singers, so when I hit a country CD with a blonde on the cover I held it up.
“Taylor Swift?” I asked.
“What?” A red flush crept into his cheeks. “I had a crush on her.”
I looked at the cover. Maybe that was his secret. Maybe he was into blondes. What if I was an experiment to see if they really did have more fun? My dark chestnut hair was about as far from Goldilocks as it could get.
He reached for the CD, but I raised my arm over my head before he could grab it.
“I was young,” he said, lunging forward and missing my hand.
“And you’re so old and wise now,” I teased, moving the CD behind my back.
He grabbed for it, his body practically on top of mine as he tried to catch my hand. I leaned back, laughing.
“Maybe we should play it,” I said, squirming to keep him from being able to reach it.
He wrapped an arm around my back, pulling me closer. “Let’s not.”
We were a jumbled mass of arms and legs. His belt buckle rubbed the bare skin of my stomach, and his neck was in perfect kissing distance. My gaze traveled to his lips. His close proximity had me forgetting I was winning the game of keep-away…

Check out the nifty order buttons!
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Hold Tight (The Embrace Series #2)

by Cherie Colyer
Release Date: 08/20/13
Omnific Publishing
Summary from Goodreads:
What’s one little spell?

When you’re new to magic, one spell can be the difference between getting what you want…and ruining the lives of everyone you love.

Sixteen-year-old Madison has just embraced her magical powers. The trick now is learning how to control them. She and her boyfriend-and fellow witch-can’t even enjoy a simple kiss without getting shocked when their powers collide. Instead of mastering her new skills, though, Madison is stuck watching her kid brother and doing chores.

But being a witch does have its benefits. With a simple spell, Madison instantly conjures the help she needs around the house. Or so she thinks. Her idea of “help” invites trouble of its own as a pair of dangerous yet enticing beings enter her life. When a classmate disappears soon afterwards, Madison discovers she’s the next victim of a threat she’s powerless to resist…and
there’s nothing it won’t kill to make her surrender.

Caught in the crossfire between two dashing but deadly creatures, Madison must figure out which one to trust and how to rid her world of the other—before one of them destroys her and everyone she cares about.

Excerpt:
“Does it hurt?” My fingertips lingered on the smooth, pearly white scar on Isaac’s chin.
We sat on the couch in his family room, me straddling his lap. He brushed a stray strand of hair out of my eyes with his thumb.
“No.”
“It’s cold,” I said, amazed that the skin there never warmed to match the rest of him.
“You really want to talk about my scars? I have one on my side too.” He lifted his shirt, revealing a salmon-colored blemish along his lower ribcage. “I got this one jumping a fence when I was nine. Didn’t quite make it.” He pulled the waist of his jeans down next, just low enough for me to see the rope-like muscles that ran alongside his hip bone. “And I got this one when I was eleven. Tried jumping my bike over one of those workhorses. Back tire caught on the orange light. Bike stopped; I didn’t. Flew right over the handlebars. I have another one on my thigh.” His fingers went to the button on his jeans.
“I’ll take your word for it,” I said, my hand catching his.
My cheeks grew warm, and his gaze moved to my lips.

You can pick it up at all these locations:

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About the Author

A little about myself: I write young adult and middle grade novels. I love finding new stories that keep me up late reading. While my favorite genre is fantasy, if the book is beautifully written with characters that come alive I’m all over it.My debut novel EMBRACE is now available from Omnific Publishing.

 
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