Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Romance Review: The Heavenly Bites Novella Collection (Heavenly Bites #1-3) by Christine S. Feldman

The Heavenly Bites Novella Collection (Heavenly Bites #1-3)
by Christine S. Feldman (Author), Elaina Lee (Illustrator) 

Published April 2, 2014

Description:
At the Heavenly Bites Bakery, three very different women bake up delectable treats and find romance with some unexpected but equally delectable men. Find out how in these three short and sweet novellas, previously available only as ebooks but finally available as a collection and in paperback form…

PASTELS AND JINGLE BELLS: When Trish Ackerly crosses paths with Ian Rafferty, the former bully of her childhood years, her plans for a comeuppance fall by the wayside as she comes to realize that the man he is now is very different from the boy he used to be—and that a Christmas romance might just be in her future…

LOVE LESSONS: When bakery customer Mrs. Beasley guilts Nadia Normandy into mentoring unsuspecting accountant Benji Garner in the world of dating, Nadia soon discovers that this particular accountant has a charm all his own. And with New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it may be time for Nadia to make a resolution to sweep her protégé off his feet before someone else beats her to it…

PLAYING CUPID: Free-spirited Aimee Beasley’s plans to match her widowed grandmother up with a distinguished elderly gentleman hit a snag when she learns he’s the uncle of their downstairs neighbor, grim Doyle Berkely, a man with whom Aimee butts heads on a regular basis. But in the process of nudging her grandmother’s romance along, Aimee uncovers a softer side to Doyle that may lead to a little romance of her own…

My review:
The Heavenly Bites Novella collection is a sweet treat all of its own. All three stories feature the best part of romance, falling in love. 

Pastels and Jingle Bells is ultra-cute. Trish’s failed plot to tell off her grade-school bully is my favorite. The story shows that folks change, sometimes in unexpected ways. Trish’s conundrum is even more interesting as time goes by and she hasn’t built up the nerve to tell Ian they knew each other before. Toss in a zombie loving kid and some Christmas cheer, and you have quite a fun read.

Love Lessons is funny and delightful. Mrs. Beasley made an appearance in Pastels and Jingle Bells, but in this one, she’s jumped right into center stage, put on her matchmaking hat, and tricked Nadia and Benji into meeting up. Nadia thinks she’s going to teach Benji how to be a ladies’ man. Benji thinks he’s going to teach Nadia how to make a financial plan. Plenty of foot-in-mouth moments on Nadia’s part. Plenty of blushing and charm on Benji’s. A romance you’ll root for.

Playing Cupid is sweet and chuckle-worthy. Aimee, the recently hired front counter worker at Heavenly Bites is Mrs. Beasley’s granddaughter. When she comes home one day to find Mrs. Beasley and a charming old fellow, she gets the bright idea to help them hook up. But everything gets turned around when she finds out the man was there to visit her downstairs nemesis, Doyle, a stodgy professor who can’t hide his disapproval of Aimee’s carefree nature. Two sweet romances, some epic arguments, and a bit of a mystery make this story a bit meatier than the other two.

Overall, I loved these novellas. They’re the perfect recipe for a feel-good afternoon, or three. Plenty of happily ever after for everyone.

I picked up this collection while it was on a free promotion quite some time ago. At that time, I'd already read Pastels and Jingle Bells, so I knew I'd probably like the other two. I got a little distracted between then and now, but I finally got around to reading the collection. Good stuff!


About the Author:


Christine S. Feldman writes both novels and feature-length screenplays, and she has placed in screenwriting competitions on both coasts. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her ballroom-dancing husband and their beagle.

Links:
Amazon Profile
Goodreads Profile

Books by this Author:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Humorous Memoir Review: Holly Jolly Nothing by Vincent Daniels

Holly Jolly Nothing
by Vincent Daniels

Description:
Detroit native Vincent Daniels delivers a hilarious retelling of his absurd childhood as a mixed-race Jehovah's Witness whiz kid in an all-white Catholic-dominated community. Add in some energetic cult conventions, a neighboring halfway house, an unhealthy dinosaur obsession, a couple zealous, quirky parents, and a doozy of an imagination, and you've got one hell of a funny memoir here. This essay-style collection of stories is a great choice for fans of David Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, Allie Brosh, and Justin Halpern.

Daniels' sharp wit, fearless humor, and penchant for shining in even the strangest fiascos keeps his book consistently fun and relatable. In addition to a laugh-out-loud peek into what it's like to be a holiday-avoiding, door-to-door mini preacher, Holly Jolly Nothing sends you on a grandiose trip back to childhood, complete with first crush freak-outs, sleazy after-school jobs, grade school victories and debacles, head-scratchingly odd neighborhood kids, and other coming-of-age awesomeness - all penned with a strong dose of warmth, wonder, and belly laughs.

Don't let the idea of childhood nostalgia fool you though. These stories aren't mild salsa. There's enough spicy adult humor here to set up a lifetime of Judd Apatow movies. And for fans of Daniels' first book, Meaty Balls, don't worry - the author's voice-of-the-people, gleefully-less-than-PC perspective is present on all levels, as is his self-targeting, sincere humor. Daniels' musings are on par with the best Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, or John Mulaney stand-up comedy. In summary, if you think laughter is the best medicine, don't walk, RUN, to get yourself a copy of Holly Jolly Nothing!

My Review:
As with Meaty Balls, the author’s description is boastful, but spot on. Loved every moment of it.

These memoirs are hilarious, but also relatable.

There’s no shortage of adult humor and irreverence, and I found both to be delightful. It’s insane how it works so well within the context of a childhood memoir. I recommend following every footnote as they appear. Very funny, especially the challenge that’s revealed in the very last one. I particularly loved the toy cowboys and indians story and the dinosaur know-it-all story. Oh, and the science fair debacle had me rolling. They sort of bounce around in the timeline, but they still flow.

Now, these memoirs are humorous, but there are some serious bits in there. If you want to know what it’s like to be a kid and have to abstain from the pledge or avoid holiday everything or preach to your neighbors and friends (or even your paper route customers), the author nails it. I experienced much of the same, and to me, the accounts come across as honest and accurate, though not painted in the rosiest of lights. That being said, I don’t think my JW friends or family would like it, at all.

Overall, I loved this book as much as I did Meaty Balls, which is to say, a lot. I strongly recommend this to folks who love witty, humorous memoirs with a good dose of potty language. Not for the easily offended.

I purchased this book from Amazon.
            
Author Links (in this case, almost as entertaining as the books themselves):
Twitter @quite_meaty
Goodreads Vincent Daniels
Facebook Page Author Vincent Daniels


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Friday, January 20, 2017

Humorous Fantasy Review: Myth-Gotten Gains (Myth Adventures #17) by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

Myth-Gotten Gains  (Myth Adventures #17)
by Robert Asprin, Jody Lynn Nye

Description:
Someone is collecting animated treasures and keeping them from their heroic destinies. Reunited with the lovely Trollop Tananda, Aahz the Pervect must help out a sword called Ersatz, and embark on a quest that just may restore his lost magical powers.


My Review:
As an Aahz book, this is a pretty good one. He's sucked into an epic-ish quest by an egotistical, fast-talking sword who promises him a gain on his investment. Then Tananda and Calypsa get involved, and the quest takes a turn from personal gain to a rescue mission.

I thought this one was kind of cute, but dang those Hoard objects fight a lot. I mean a lot! And every time they do, chaos ensues. Anyhow, what I liked most about this one was the tour through the odd dimensions and all the challenges the team has to overcome to obtain each magical item.

The puns were as delightfully groan-worthy as ever, some more than others, just as were some of the more colorful species Aahz and pals run across. All that being said, I really miss the Skeeve and Aahz pair ups, really, all the Myth Inc. folks. These're just funnier when the whole team's together.

Overall, I really liked this one, though the Hoard's arguments get a bit repetitive. I'd recommend this to folks who like a bit of fantasy laden with a good dose of puns and irreverence.

I received this book as a gift from my husband.


About the Authors:

Robert Aspirin
 
Robert (Lynn) Asprin was born in 1946. While he wrote some stand alone novels such as Cold Cash War, Tambu and The Bug Wars and also the Duncan and Mallory Illustrated stories, Bob is best known for his series fantasy, such as the Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve, the Phule’s Company novels and the Time Scout novels written with Linda Evans. He also edited the groundbreaking Thieves’ World anthology series with Lynn Abbey. Other collaborations include License Invoked (set in the French Quarter of New Orleans) and several Myth Adventures novels, all written with Jody Lynn Nye.

Bob’s final solo work was a contemporary fantasy series called Dragons, again set in New Orleans.

Bob passed away suddenly on May 22, 2008. He is survived by his daughter and son, his mother and his sister.  


Jody Lynn Nye

Jody Lynn Nye lists her main career activity as ‘spoiling cats.’ When not engaged upon this worthy occupation, she writes fantasy and science fiction books and short stories.

Before breaking away from gainful employment to write full time, Jody worked as a file clerk, book-keeper at a small publishing house, freelance journalist and photographer, accounting assistant and costume maker.

For four years, she was on the technical operations staff of a local Chicago television station, WFBN (WGBO), serving the last year as Technical Operations Manager. During her time at WFBN, she was part of the engineering team that built the station, acted as Technical Director during live sports broadcasts, and worked to produce in-house spots and public service announcements.

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody has taught in numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has also spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at DragonCon.

Jody lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, with her husband Bill Fawcett, a writer, game designer, military historian and book packager, and a black cat, Jeremy.


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You won't find this one on Kindle, but you can probably find a decent mass-market paperback copy on Amazon for a good deal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Humorous Fiction Review: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency  (Dirk Gently #1)
by Douglas Adams 

Description:
What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet), and pizza have in common? Apparently not much; until Dirk Gently, self-styled private investigator, sets out to prove the fundamental interconnectedness of all things by solving a mysterious murder, assisting a mysterious professor, unravelling a mysterious mystery, and eating a lot of pizza – not to mention saving the entire human race from extinction along the way (at no extra charge). To find out more, read this book (better still, buy it, then read it) – or contact Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. ‘A thumping good detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy epic.’ The author

My Review:
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is a delightful romp through the impossible.

A misfit clairvoyant who insists he isn’t, a computer programmer who can’t understand how his couch got stuck in the stairwell, and a ghost who just wants to finish his phone call, those are just a few of the quirky cast members in this hilariously odd murder mystery.

That being said, I loved it and will most likely read it again. It didn’t disappoint. In fact, I loved it more than I did Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which went a little more odd than funny after the 3rd installment, if I remember correctly. Anyhow, it takes a while for Dirk to even show up in the story, but the lead up is exactly what it needs to be. Everything ties together in a delightfully unpredictable, but altogether logical way, and it’s not so obtuse that I couldn’t pick up on important (but seemingly unimportant) details along the way.

If you’re worried that this might spoil the next season of the BBC TV series of the same name, fear not. It really has nothing in common but the style, the humor, and, of course, the main character, Dirk Gently.

I would highly recommend this to folks who love a quirky, funny read. I had a blast with it.

I purchased the paperback edition of this at Barnes & Noble.




Friday, January 13, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Sky Throne by Chris Ledbetter


Today Chris Ledbetter and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE SKY THRONE which releases April 18, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:
Since my father put the first book of mythology in my hand, I've loved myths and legends. I always favored Greek mythology. I actually think I was Greek in a past life. Beginning in 2011, I conceived a story to sit down and have Zeus tell me what his childhood was like, especially his teenage years. All I did was listen to what he told me and put it down on paper.

On to the reveal! 


Title: THE SKY THRONE
Author: Chris Ledbetter
Pub. Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Duality dwells at every turn, and an adolescent Zeus will learn that all too well when Hyperion attacks his family on Crete.

When the dust settles, his mother is unconscious and his best friend left for dead.

Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavy-hearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia.

Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus's quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of The Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back.


On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.


Excerpt


CHAPTER ONE

Since the moment I started at Eastern Crete Lower Academy two years ago, I’d felt like such an outcast. The guys, mostly Potamoi and sons of Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys, never regarded me as an equal. I didn’t even warrant bullying. It’s like I never even existed. If only I’d known how visible I’d become in the coming days. I always got picked last for swim team and crew in physical fitness class. I actually was the third best wrestler overall in school and peerless in javelin throwing due to superior training from my guardians, the Kouretes. When Eastern Crete competed in the Mediterranean Invitational Games against academies from Phoenicia, Egypt, and Libya, I placed first in the javelin event, beating Gurzil from Libya who was the reigning champion from years past. I even won my weight class, the lightest class there was, in wrestling by beating Melqart from Phoenicia. But none of that mattered.

I was still invisible.

I loved science class. The lessons where we studied energy and matter were like fresh spring water to a parched throat. But the rest of my classes bored me to tears. We had language arts, music, and math in the mornings. Physical fitness, agriculture, and science took up our afternoons. I wouldn’t say I was intellectually ahead of them, because, hey, that’d be conceited. But my mother prepared me well, with all the goat tending and such. And she always said when I came home from classes each night that they just didn’t know how to teach me on my level.

So, I was forced to make my own fun. No one would probably notice anyway.

After the big Invitational Games win, I was posted up at the school’s entry columns with my best friend, Anytos, watching the Oceanids as they arrived for classes one morning. Sisters to the Potamoi, the Oceanids were the sea nymph daughters of our headmasters. Okeanos and Tethys, aside from being our school administrators, were also Elder Deities of the vast ocean, which is why we at Eastern Crete dominated all water sports. Swimming. Cliff diving. Crew. We bested all comers. But not me. I dove and swam exactly the same … like an anvil.

The Oceanids descended upon the campus from their barracks like a wave crashing against the shore. Telesto, the most beautiful sea nymph by several stadia, smiled at me for the first time since I’d been going to the school. Okay, it wasn’t a full smile. The corner of her lip twitched upward as she flipped her wavy, aquamarine hair over her shoulder and glanced past me. But that counts, right?

I backhanded Anytos in the chest. “You saw that. That’s my opening. If I don’t make my move, she’ll be gone to the upper school next year.”

“Pssht, she is beyond the Mediterranean beautiful. Completely unattainable.”

“Did you see that come hither stare she flashed me?”

“Looked more like indigestion.”

“You are as wrong as you are false. Cover my back. I’m moving in.”

I crossed the courtyard in a flash and caught Telesto’s arm as she reached the weather-beaten front door to the main school hall.

“Telesto, you look as if the sun radiates from you.”

She paused and leaned back against the doorframe. “You’re just saying that because I wore my yellow tunic today.”

“You shine with such brilliance; you should wear yellow every day.”

She folded a strand or two of stunning teal hair behind her ear and twirled the ends. “But what happens when I wear my purple tunic?”

“A tunic hasn’t been invented that could dampen your beauty.”

She giggled and turned away from me for a moment. “Zeus, is it?”

I nodded, surprised she even knew my name.

“You’re the one who pulled that massive prank on my mother, Headmaster Tethys, aren’t you?”

Oh, that’s how she knew me. Not invisible after all. I bowed. “I am him. He is me. One and the same.”

“Crazy. She was so mad.” She shook her head, stifling a smile.

“As far as I can tell, language arts must be your favorite subject. Your tongue is spectacularly sharp-witted.”

“Not really. But I am feeling a little inspired right now.”

Several strands of her hair fell to cover half her face. “Are you going to the bonfire at the beach tomorrow night?”

“I wasn’t invite—”

Several of Telesto’s broad-shouldered, dark-haired brothers bumped into me from behind. “Those are uncharted waters, boy. Careful now,” One of them called over his shoulder. Those were the first words they’d ever spoken to me. Telesto rolled her eyes. “Pay them no mind. They’re harmless. You were saying?”

“Those bonfires are an Oceanids and Potamoi thing? It’s kind of a secret club that you have to be born into, right? Being brothers and sisters, children of Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys… young water deities in training… masters of rivers and streams…”

“I guess. But you should come out any way. It’s all night, under the stars. Eating, drinking, stargazing… What’s better than that?”

Gazing into her mesmerizing, iridescent eyes, my mouth fired before I could stop it. “Kissing you under the stars. That’s better.”

“Sprint much? You’re a fast mover.”

“I just go after what I want.”

“Well … ” A pink tint rose on her high cheek bones. “We shall see. But first you have to show up.” Her lips twitched gain. “I have to go to class. See you tomorrow?” She disappeared inside the school hall.

I turned to Tos with a pterodactyl-eating grin on my face. He shook his head and smiled.

The boring part of my daily routine was set to commence. School. Classes. Ugh. I wished the school day was already over so I could just go to games practice. As Tos and I walked to first period, I was struck by the overwhelming urge to liven my day up just a bit.

“Tos, I have a good one. You with me?”

“Oh heavens. Is it what I think it is?”

“I feel the need … the need to prank!”

Tos shook his head. “My pranking days are over.”

“Come on. Just one more. Promise it’s the last one.”

He glared at me.

I explained the entire idea to him. “It’ll be after language arts, all right? It’s going to be good.”

After class, Tos and I waited until all other students had left. He took his position at the door to make sure no one came in. I approached Professor Ceto at the front of the room. Tablets and scrolls decorated the top of her desk.

“Professor, do you have strong hands?”

Her intelligent eyes narrowed. “Sure, I do. Why?”

“I bet you a homework pass that you can’t balance a goblet on the back of your hand.”

Her forehead wrinkled.

“Place your hand on the desk, palm down,” I said.

She complied.

I filled her water goblet and placed it on the back of her hand.

She smiled. “See. No problem at all.”

I picked up the goblet. “Now place your other hand on top of this one.”

She sighed. “Why? Is that supposed to be harder? So, if I fail, you get a homework pass, yes? If I complete the task, what do I get?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“Go ahead, then,” she said, placing her left hand atop her right.

“Get on with it.”

Barely able to contain my giddiness, I balanced the full water goblet on the top of her two hands.

“See,” she said with triumph in her voice. “I did it. Where’s my surprise?”

“All right then, I’ll see you next week. Have a good weekend.” I walked quickly to the door.

“What? Wait, I can’t move my hands without spilling water all over my scrolls.”

Tos opened the door and we both rounded the corner in a flash. We were halfway to period two music when I heard an unholy roar across campus.

“ZEUS!”

Tos and I laughed our behinds off and slapped hands as we passed a solitary blueish post in the center of the courtyard. No one knew much about it or who designed it. But its presence was striking.

Upon reaching music class, Tos and I took our positions near the kithara and lyre. Our teacher, Professor Leucosia and several more students entered and we prepared for instruction. Leucosia had the most beautiful singing voice. Simply spellbinding. Sometimes, I felt light-headed when she’d sing along with our accompaniment. Shortly after arriving in class, Headmasters Okeanos and Tethys shadowed the doorway to our room. The expression on Tethys’ face could have killed a wild boar at forty paces.

“Zeus, Anytos, we need you to step outside right now.” Tethys said. Her eyes mirrored the Aegean during a storm.

I looked at Tos. My heart rate quickened to a pace I’d only felt after running sprints. Slowly, I rose to my feet. This couldn’t have been good.

We walked over to Okeanos. I had to crane my neck just to see the Headmaster’s eyes. His biceps were bigger than my head, despite silvery blue hair atop his head and an aged, wrinkly face.

His somber and deliberate voice rumbled. “You are hereby expelled from Eastern Crete Lower Academy. This infraction and expulsion will go on your master record. You may apply again next term.”

“Why? What did I do to deserve this?”

Professor Tethys stepped forward to grab my arm. “Your little pranks have gotten you in deeper water than you can swim in, young man. You obviously need some time to think about how you can be a better contributor to the educational system.”

“No. You can’t expel me. Please!” I clasped my hands in front of my face. “My mother will kill me!”

“Not our concern.” Okeanos folded his gigantic arms. His voice rumbled again. “You must learn to be a better student. A better citizen.”

“But they were just pranks,” I pleaded.

“Yes. And this is the seventh such prank we’ve endured at your hands. And since Anytos helped you, he shall accompany you home.”

Tethys pointed east toward Mount Ida, the highest peak on Crete.

“You have until the sun chariot reaches its zenith to leave campus.”

She gazed upward. “By the looks of things, your time’s nearly at an end.”




Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly “walked-on” to the best drum line in the conference without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He’s worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. He taught high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.




3 winners will receive and eGalley of THE SKY THRONE, International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Yesterdays of Tomorrow (The Hawk of Stone Duology, Book 2) by Jessica Hernandez

The Yesterdays of Tomorrow (The Hawk of Stone Duology, Book 2)
by Jessica Hernandez
Released August 19, 2016

Description:
It’s been a year since Kaia’s first encounter with the turned ones. Every day since then has been fraught with uncertainty. Most in the Kingdom of Mar prepare for a life wherein they will be free. Kaia, however, knows that even if the curse should be lifted, the Marian people will not be unburdened in the near future. King Sol promised them a war with Darlbent, and a war they shall have if the fog dissipates. Swords have already been thrust into the hands of every man in the kingdom, filling Kaia and her friends with trepidation. Things have changed in Mar, and Kaia worries that it is only a matter of time before some blades are turned against them.

The moment of truth is approaching. Soon, it will be known whether or not the curse was meant to have an end. If it wasn’t, can Kaia and the others learn to make lives for themselves in a forsaken land like Mar? Will they ever truly know safety there?

To further complicate matters, Kaia has Ruelena to contend with…

My Review:
The Yesterdays of Tomorrow picks up a year after Kaia and her companions’ quest to Mar. They’ve communicated the way to cure the curse, and now they’re sequestered in an out of the way castle until it lifts.

What I liked about this story are the characters and the suspense. Kaia is my favorite. She’s not perfect, but she is resourceful and willing to take on seemingly impossible tasks for the benefit of her friends and family. I also enjoyed the family set to serve and watch over Kaia and company while the curse is being lifted. They seem like side characters, but they turn out to be much more. I like that.
The story flows well and draws you along, but like in the first book, some of the twists and turns fall flat. They make sense in the story and push things forward, but they didn’t inspire an emotional response. I think part of it is that there was a year of story skipped over and now there are characters we’ve only just met being challenged and put into danger. Kaia and her sister were the only ones I really cared about.

One more thing to mention is the language use. This book is told with a proper and formal tone, suited for traditional fantasy. Not only the narration, but also the dialog is something right out of the grammar book. I think the author pulls it off, though. It’s flowery, but consistent and comprehensible. It’s a beautiful telling.

Finally, this is a continuation of the story, not a standalone. I strongly recommend reading book one, Capering on Glass Bridges, first, otherwise you’ll be lost. The author doesn’t really spend much time on backstory at all.

Overall, I really liked this story for its interesting plot and characters, though I didn’t quite feel an emotional investment in the plight of its characters. Fans of fantasy and action will likely enjoy this story and its predecessor.

I received the review copy of this book from the author.


About the Author:

 
Hello, everyone! My name is Jessica. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. :) Allow me to share a bit about myself with you. I was born and raised in the beautiful, sunny state of Florida. I attended the University of Miami, where I spent more time than I care to admit daydreaming of a faraway land called Acu. Upon graduating with a degree in English and Political Science in 2014, I put pen to paper and brought Acu to life—so was born the Hawk of Stone duology.


Author Links:
Goodreads
  
Twitter @jessy_marie77



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Interested? Here are the links to both stories in the duology on Amazon. Enjoy!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Cover and Chapter Reveal: Project Emergence by Jamie Zakian


Today Jamie Zakian and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for PROJECT EMERGENCE which releases March 14, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I’ve always dreamed of writing an epic sci-fi thriller. I knew I wanted it to involve a group of teens leaving a dead Earth to start new lives on a terra formed Mars, but I didn’t have any ideas on how to make the plot exciting. Then, a song I never heard before played on my Pandora app. Escape by Rogue. As that song blasted through my headphones, the entire story that is Project Emergence streamed through my mind like a movie trailer. So, I went straight to work. It took months of frantic writing, almost a year of editing, and a mini rewrite, but that moment of inspiration became my first YA novel.

Project Emergence is a fast-paced thrill ride across the stars. It shows the extent people will go to uphold their beliefs, and that love can overcome any evil.

On to the reveal! 




Title: PROJECT EMERGENCE
Author: Jamie Zakian
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

An ancient Hopi myth says people arrived on tiny silver pods that fell from the sky.

But the truth is far more terrifying.

Two-hundred fifty-eight teens are sent from a dying Earth to a terraformed Mars as part of the Emergence Program, mankind’s last hope before solar flares finish off their planet and species. Among the brave pioneers are sixteen-year-old Joey Westen and her twin brother, Jesse.

After only minutes in space, something triggers a total ship lock down.

With the help of their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), Joey and Jesse stumble onto an extremist plot to sabotage the Emergence Program.



But Joey and Jesse didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space and leave their mother behind to be picked off in a high-tech tin can. They’ll lie, hack, and even kill to survive the voyage and make it to Mars.



Excerpt


Chapter One

Joey squirmed in the seat of a large, airtight van as it sped along an empty road. A cloud of red sand kicked up outside her window, and the van’s tires hummed against cracked pavement. Solar flares had done a fine job of destroying this once beautiful planet. She never got to see Earth in its glory days, as she had been born into a scorched world, but could almost picture the way it used to be.

In her imagination, the reddish tint that covered the parched countryside outside her window transformed to crisp green meadows. The piles of stone and metal reconstructed to form the buildings they once were, reaching for a sky that was blue instead of crimson.

Her daydream ended when the nose of a spaceship peeked above maroon-crested hills. That massive shuttle was waiting to carry two hundred and fifty-eight lucky lottery winners off this dying planet, and she was one of them.

“Whoa,” Joey said, her breath fogging the glass. A light crinkle drew her stare to the paper in her now tight grip. She loosened her stiff fingers, smoothing a crease from the official seal of the Unified Nations of Earth.

…The letter in her hand still mesmerized her. Selected … Terraformed Mars … New home … Those words knocked the bottom from her stomach every time she read them. Things were getting way too real. No more tiny lead-lined home, school at the kitchen table, Mom. She turned to Jesse, her brother’s smirk brighter than an X1 flare.

“You’re a crappy twin. I’m freaking out right now; you should be too.”

Jesse rolled his stare her way. “Fraternal twins don’t work like that.”

“That’s not true.” She read the letter again, making sure both their names were listed for the umpteenth time.

“I can’t believe this is happening.” Jesse grew tense. A frown swept his lips for just a moment before his perma-smile returned. “No one from G-Sector ever goes anywhere.”

“Did you see the look on Mom’s face when we left?”

“I know. Buzzkill.”

“What’s she gonna do without us?” Joey asked in a near whisper.

“Finally be able to feed herself.” Jesse snickered.

She shook her head, folding the letter. “Maybe she’ll win the next lottery and meet up with us on Mars.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

Jesse leaned close, keeping his voice low. “Didn’t you hear what that kid behind us was saying?”

“No. What?”

“He said the lottery’s rigged.” Jesse eyed the soldier stationed at the front of the van, then the other two at the rear. “That everyone is selected for a specific purpose.”

“But that would mean the U.N.E. is lying to everyone,” Joey said, a bit too loud. Jesse’s eyes opened wide, and she shrugged.

“You’re gonna get us booted from this ride before we even launch.”

“Whatever,” she muttered. “It’s a stupid idea anyway ‘cause look, we’re here. What do we have to offer? All you can do is fix stuff, and me … well, I’m just good at being cute.” She batted her eyes, flaunting a sly smile.

“Yeah you’re right. That’s real flippin cute.” Jesse slanted toward the aisle, glancing around the cab. “There aren’t any adults on this van.”

“There’s the soldier guys.”

“Geez, dummy. I mean the passengers.”

Joey pinched her brother, who wriggled away. “Dummy,” she mimicked. With a failed attempt to appear casual, she popped her head up and scanned the seats. Sparkly clothes and bright makeup captured her stare. “They look like A-Sectors.” She didn’t mean to gawk at the people seated around her, but she’d never seen such lavish clothes, such flawless skin.

“Please remain seated while the vehicle’s in motion,” a soldier thundered.

Jesse grabbed Joey’s arm and pulled her down into the seat. “Smooth, sister. Real smooth.”

She shrank back, deploying her trusty get-out-of-messes frowny smile on her brother. “Oops. In trouble already. Figures.”

Grumbles erupted from Jesse’s lips, and she turned back to the dusty earth outside her window. Crazy how one day and a trip to the mailbox could change her entire life. Yesterday, she was painting a mural of Mars on their bedroom wall. Today, she was going to Mars.

The parched countryside vanished behind a tunnel wall. She sagged in her seat. For sixteen years, she clung to Jesse. Every time dust storms pelted their windowless metal house, she curled under his arm. Mom worked late, so Joey’s hand became glued to his. And now, when she actually needed the comfort of his touch, her brain decided it was time to man up. Her eyes narrowed. She zeroed in on his cozy-looking hand, her fingers drumming a steady beat on her leg.

***

Sabrina poked her head around a corner. Her fingers tightened around the rifle’s grip as she peered down a dim corridor. Shadows danced along the concrete wall, and she backed up, pressing her comms button. “Stone to dispatch. Come in, dispatch.”

Static crackled in her ear, a garbled voice cutting in and out.

“Dispatch, do you read? Where the hell is my backup?”

This time, only the fizz of dead air replied.

“Damn underground bright-out dens,” Sabrina mumbled.

These missions twisted her gut every time. There were very few people left alive on Earth. Many couldn’t afford specially designed homes or the rising cost of oxygen, and it didn’t sit right to bust folks just for trying to survive the scorching sun. But she was Captain Sabrina Stone of the Unified Nations of Earth, a high ranking officer in the sector that controlled every aspect of the entire planet, and she had a duty to protect what was left of that planet. Neither a heavy conscience nor lack of backup would hinder that.

Sabrina held her weapon close, skulking down the stone passage. Two men strolled around the bend, then stopped short, and she popped off two rounds. No sound emitted from the gun’s muzzle, just a flash that lit the graffiti-stained walls in white.

The men slumped to the ground. Tiny darts protruded from their chests, and pamphlets spilled from their limp hands.

“Earth-heads,” she muttered, glimpsing anti-Mars propaganda. The bang of a metal door slamming shut echoed from the dark tunnel on her left, so she headed toward it.

Men and woman dropped as Sabrina skated through shadows, firing her gun. Their tranquilized bodies slapped concrete, a trail to a solid door at the end of the long hallway. She reached into her vest and extracted a small explosive charge. Just as the magnet clinked to the steel slab, a voice flowed through her earpiece.

“Captain Stone, we’ve breeched the airlock. En route to your position.”

“Bout time,” she said beneath her breath. Her thumb glided over the button of the wireless detonator, and spikes of fear burrowed into her gut. U.N.E protocol, and the whirl in her stomach, said to wait for backup. Pride, however, was a persistent little sucker, one that set loose a torrent of electric shocks in her veins. She scurried back, covered her head, and pressed the detonation button.

An explosion rocked her chest, slamming her against the wall. Hunks of concrete crashed down, and the door slammed atop the rubble. Sabrina swung her rifle dead ahead. Adrenaline perked her lips into a smile as she charged through wisps of smoke, firing upon everybody that lunged her way.

“This is a raid of the U.N.E. Get down on the ground.”

Soldiers flooded the doorway behind her, and she bit back her grin. A woman needed an iron-clad stare amid this troop of grunts. “Took you guys long enough.” She turned, stumbling back as the five-stars of a general gleamed in her eyes. “Sir,” she roared, standing up straight.

“Captain Stone, I need you to come with me.”

Sabrina glanced around, as much as one could without moving a single muscle in their neck. Her men cleared the room as the general’s elite soldiers crowded around her.

“Am I in trouble, sir?”

“Quite the contrary, Captain. You’ve been selected for an important mission. You’re going to Mars, Soldier.”

***

Joey grabbed her brother’s hand the instant he climbed off the van’s step. People shuffled all around the wide-open room, probably watching her act like a baby, but she couldn’t let go. Fear stole her will. It could have been the towering room of glass walls and silver beams that encompassed her, the barrage of strange faces, or the fact that she’d never see her mother again, but gloom tainted this moment. Holding her brother’s hand quelled a fraction of her inner-turmoil, so she planned to keep doing it despite her sissy appearance.

A soft voice streamed from a kiosk of video screens, repeating the Space Center’s famed slogan.

Three days on the state-of-the-art R23 shuttle, strolling through green grass, swimming in cool oceans.

Everything she memorized from the letter in her backpack.

“Look, there’s check-in,” Jesse said, tugging her from the display of white sandy beaches.

She inched through the crowd, close to his side. They filed into a rowdy line, her palm sweating against his skin.

“The Westen twins, I presume,” a high-pitched voice echoed from behind them.

In one swift move, Joey shook free from Jesse’s grasp and whirled around. An ultra-posh Asian girl leered down, and Joey stood tall. Her eyes wandered to the near identical boy at her side, bearing the same long jet-black hair. Another set of twins.

“How did you know our name?” Jesse asked. Joey nudged his arm, pulling his gaze from the low cut of the girl’s sparkly shirt.

“We know the names of all the twins on this ship,” she said, her hand hoisting to her hip.

“First and last,” the boy added.

Joey stifled a chuckle. Twins who finished each other’s sentences; this trip was going to be stellar. The line shuffled forward, and the small group edged up a few paces.

“How many twins are on this flight?” Jesse asked, glancing between the pair.

“Fourteen, including us,” she replied.

“Well, fourteen sets,” the boy corrected, turning to his sister.

“That actually makes twenty-eight twins.”

“But twins is plural, so it would be fourteen,” she argued, a hint of red flaring her cheeks.

“Yeah, but, you knew who we were,” Joey said. “We didn’t even know there were other twins here. Is there, like, a manual we didn’t get or something?”

The girl laughed, slapping her brother’s chest. A stealthy glare clouded her delicate features as she leaned close to Joey. “We hacked the database.”

“We hack everything,” the boy whispered.

“Cool,” Joey said through a smile, glancing at Jesse.

“So you must be Jesse,” the girl said, staring at Joey, “Short for Jessica, right?”

“Ah, no,” Joey said. “I’m Joey. Short for Josephine, which I hate so … just Joey.”

“I’m Jesse, which … isn’t short for anything.” Jesse shoved his hands into his pockets, lowering his gaze.

“Ahem. The line is moving,” a redheaded girl groaned.

They all crept forward again, and then Jesse spun back around. “So are we supposed to hack to find out your names?”

The girl giggled, and Joey rolled her eyes. Her stare landed on the boy’s annoyed face. Once their gaze connected, his frown lifted to a grin.

“Kami Matsuda.” A rainbow of colors reflected off the girl’s clothes as she slinked in front of Jesse, looking up into his eyes. “That’s Rai,” she said, nodding to her brother but keeping her deep gaze on Jesse.

Jesse gulped. His hands began to tremble, and it became painfully obvious at how fast his breath flowed.

“Next in line.”

“That’s us,” Joey said. She all but ripped Jesse from Kami’s leer. “We’ll catch up with ya.” It took quite a massive tug, but she finally got Jesse moving toward the registration table. “Now who’s smooth, dorkus,” she whispered.

***

“Let me get this straight, Mr. Winslow,” Sabrina said, only able to mask a fraction of the edge in her tone. “You want me to be a glorified babysitter for a bunch of teens in space?” She walked across the large office of the Space Center, toward Director Winslow’s desk. Her boots sank into lush carpet as she strolled past stone statues, one of which lost its arm somewhere along the way. Such extravagance. If it were liquidated and spread out, every sector could afford a giant dome to protect its people from radioactive air instead of just the A-Sectors. She tore her gaze from art-adorned walls, catching an impatient glare from the man behind a glossy wooden desk.

“The situation on our hands goes far beyond babysitting, Captain Stone. We’re under attack. The commander of the U.N.E. herself assured me you were the best of the best.”

“Commander Sun said that? Huh.” She stepped closer to the desk. The man before her strained to appear confident, but she glimpsed the beads of sweat that trickled between his dark wrinkled skin and white hair.

“You’ve got my attention,” she said, cupping her hands behind her back.

“Of course you understand every word spoken within this room stays within this room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ever since the inception of the Emergence program, a group of fanatics have targeted us. Are you familiar with the Earthisum Movement, Captain Stone?”

“Yes, sir. I took out an underground lair of them this morning. They seem to be, for the most part, harmless.”

“Perhaps on the outside.” He pulled a brown folder from his drawer and placed it on his desk. “Have a look.”

Sabrina flipped through the file. When she read a handwritten letter, which appeared to be scrawled in blood, her fingers actually shook.

“The threats made in that manifesto were not empty.”

Her head snapped up, and she gawked at the old man before regaining her composure. “Are you saying the Earth-heads blew up your first flight to Mars?”

His finely manicured fingers massaged his forehead, a ghostly shade of white claiming his cheeks. “Yes. After only hours in space.” He lowered his stare. “The second and third flights as well.”

“What?”

“Those maniacs sabotage every spacebus we launch. None have successfully made the voyage to Mars.”

“How could you hide this from the public? They think people are living, flourishing over there. You need to put a hold on this program. Now. I’ll need at least a week to investigate.”

He shook his head, and Sabrina slammed her hands on the desk. “That file says there are two hundred and fifty-eight children walking onto that shuttle as we speak, Mr. Winslow. Two hundred and fifty-eight lives you’re putting at risk.”

“If we stop the program, they’ve won. No! The survival of the human race is too important. This mission has to succeed, Captain Stone.”

“But why now with kids? If what you’re telling me is true, Mars is empty. There are no doctors, scientists, or security of any kind in place. They’ll eat each other alive out there.”

“It has to be them.” He rose from his seat, smoothed a crease on his pinstriped lapel, and strolled to the window. “Those young adults were born in the year of the massive solar flare.” While gazing out the lightly tinted glass, he motioned for Sabrina to join him.

“I don’t see why that matters.” As she approached, the doublewide spacecraft stole her focus. She allowed her stare to wander along the gleam of curved metal and sharp points of thin wings before she shifted her gaze to the man beside her.

“They’re genetically predisposed to elevated radiation. I handpicked each one of them—for their instincts, spark, and their odds of producing healthy offspring.”

“Look, I get that. But if you just postpone a few weeks I can—”

“Earth only has a few weeks left, Captain Stone.” His voice quavered. He cleared his throat, lifting his chin high. “The sun is set to flare in, approximately, ten days. The space program predicts its intensity will surpass our classification scale. Everything left above the surface will be eradicated. Not even the UV dome of A-Sector can deflect these waves.”

Sabrina gasped. She began to stagger back, but Winslow grabbed her arm.

“Captain Stone, Sabrina. Look at those children.”

Her legs wobbled for the first time in her memory, but she crept forward. People hurried along a glass-encased walkway, far below, like tiny ants marching into a trap.

“That’s the future of mankind walking onto that spacebus. If they don’t make it to Mars, our species will cease to exist. You have to get them to that planet safely. You’re the last hope of humanity, Captain Stone.”





Jamie Zakian is a full-time writer who consumes the written word as equally as oxygen. Living in South Jersey with her husband and rowdy family, she enjoys farming, archery, and blazing new trails on her 4wd quad, when not writing of course. She aspires to one day write at least one novel in every genre of fiction.





3 winners will receive and eGalley of PROJECT EMERGENCE, International.


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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Blog Tour Stop: Crawdad by Lisa Cresswell

Today I'm pleased to host a blog stop for Crawdad by Lisa Cresswell. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to beta read this some time ago. A very good read. Hope you can check it out.


Welcome to the Crawdad Book Blog Tour!
For the whole month of January, my new contemporary young adult novel Crawdad, will be featured on the blogs of some of my besties - authors and book bloggers who support the readers and writers of  diverse YA - and I couldn't be more pleased. I hope you can visit them all and enter the giveaway.  ~Lisa Cresswell

Here's the schedule:
Magic of the Muses - Eileen Schuh January 1
Rich in Variety January 8
Beth Fehlbaum Books January 15
CJ Burright January 22
Twinjas Book Reviews January 29

Crawdad
by Lisa T. Cresswell

Description:
Seventeen-year-old Jamil Ramos grew up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz. But when Loretta drops a bomb on Jamil from her deathbed- she’s not his mama and his daddy is still alive, living in Charleston, S.C. – his world is turned upside down.

Now, with the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together, Jamil decides to hitchhike to South Carolina over to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name –Leon Ramos.

Jamil relies on the kindness of the strangers he meets-a gay teen kicked out of his home, a runaway prostitute, and a street musician-as he makes his way across Florida and Georgia trying to avoid the cops along the way. But when Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped. That trumpet was supposed to be his ticket for a scholarship, the only way to college his mama could give him. Lost and alone without it, Jamil wonders if finding his father is worth risking his future.

You can find Crawdad in print and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads!

About the Author:


Lisa T. Cresswell has been writing middle grade and young adult books for what seems like a mighty long time. She can never seem to make up her mind if she likes reality or fantasy, so she writes both. She also likes lemon jasmine green tea, dark chocolate almonds, and lots and lots of coffee. And of course, BOOKS. ALL THE BOOKS!! You can see all of her work at www.lisatcresswell.com.
 

Enter the Giveaway:
Enter to win one of three copies of Crawdad to be given away in January!


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mystery Review: How To Kill Friends And Implicate People (Sam Ireland Mysteries #2) by Jay Stringer

How To Kill Friends And Implicate People  (Sam Ireland Mysteries #2)
by Jay Stringer
Released August 2, 2016

Description:
Fergus Fletcher is a hit man. For five thousand pounds, he’ll kill anyone you want. For seven, he’ll frame someone else. Pretending to kill someone is a first, but Alex Pennan has stolen from the mob and needs to fake his own death.

Fergus is looking for love. So is Sam Ireland, a private investigator and part-time bike messenger. But she’s got her hands on a very important package and is in a world of trouble with the mob. Joe Pepper, pillar of society and corrupt gangland fixer, will stop at nothing—nothing at all—to intercept the package and protect his reputation.

Can Alex stay dead while his widow dances on his grave? Can Joe save himself before his stomach ulcer explodes? Can Fergus and Sam make it to a second date before Joe hires him to kill her?

Welcome to Glasgow. It’s a love story.

My Review:
How to Kill Friends and Implicate people is, thankfully, not an actual ‘how to’ book.  Instead it’s a delightful thriller/romantic comedy. Told from various perspectives, this story is about a couple of plots gone wrong, a murder, a not quite murder, and the very scary world of online dating.

What I love most about this story is that it is truly funny while still being a great thriller. There’s some dark stuff happening, but through it all, we have the cute texts, the excellent timing, and the little details that just make this a delight.

I also enjoyed how the accents are built in. Since much of the story is first person (though the Alex chapters are third), the characters’ accents are built into their narratives. I think the author did a fine job of adding just enough of that to help the reader ‘hear’ it in their head, but not so much that it’s annoying or distracting.

I noticed backstory bits sprinkled in throughout the book and put two and two together: this is a sequel. Yeah, I guess I wasn’t paying attention when I picked this up. But, good news is that it’s enough, and the author doesn’t rely on the readers having read that first book to learn the characters in this one.

Overall, I loved this story because it was both thrilling and a lot of fun. I highly recommend this to folks who like thrills, action and a bit of romance.

I picked up the review copy of this book from NetGalley.


About the Author:
Jay Stringer was born in 1980, and he’s not dead yet.

He’s English by birth and Scottish by rumour; born in the Black Country, and claiming Glasgow as his hometown.

Jay is dyslexic, and came to the written word as a second language, via comic books, music, and comedy. He writes hard boiled crime stories, dark comedies, and social fiction.

His first three books, the Eoin Miller Trilogy explored the political and criminal landscape of the West Midlands.

He now writes books set in Glasgow and New York.

Jay won a gold medal in the Antwerp Olympics of 1920. He did not compete in the Helsinki Olympics of 1952, that was some other guy.

Jay is represented by Stacia Decker at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner.


Author Links:
Website:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4469744.Jay_Stringer
Twitter: @JayStringer

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Interested? Here are links to both books in this series.  Good stuff. :-)