If you like FREE books, this is for YOU

Happy Halloween Multi-Author Giveaway!

I promised you FREE books, and this is your chance to WIN them. Actual books that you can hold in your hands. Not one or even two. But EIGHT books, each signed by its author.

Still not sure it’s for you?

Do you like these genres?

  • Contemporary
  • Paranormal
  • Comedy
  • Fairy tale
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Holiday romance

If you said “yes” to even one, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Here are the titles of the books you could win:

Go ahead and click on the author names. Check out their Facebook pages and see what other sorts of deals and offers they have going on with this giveaway. Follow them if they write books you’d like to read.

And now, for the GIVEAWAY LINK:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here’s the fine print:

  • NO PURCHASE is necessary to enter this giveaway
  • Giveaway is International
  • Prize is as stated: 8 signed books for ONE winner
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • Giveaway is open from 00:01am October 29th until 11:59pm October 31st 2017
  • How to enter is specified on the Rafflecopter entry form
  • Winner will be chosen randomly using Rafflecopter within ONE week of the end of the giveaway
  • The winner will be contacted via the email address provided on the Rafflecopter entry form (so please make sure the one you provide is current and correct).
  • The winner will be asked to provide a mailing address in order for them to receive their prize
  • No addresses, emails, or other contact information will be shared with third parties, other than those responsible for delivery of your prize(s)–all information will be treated with the strictest confidence
  • Each of the stated prizes are donated by each corresponding, participating author, and each author is responsible for delivery of their donated prize. The giveaway organizer does not take responsibility for any prizes undelivered by anyone other than herself, nor does she take responsible for any prizes lost in transit
  • This giveaway is VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW

If you’d like to hear like giveaways like this BEFORE the general public, click here and get Hero Delivery. Joining gets you a FREE story!

The Paladins Release Tour: Reviewed Here

I’m thrilled to announce that one of my Pen Sisters is releasing a new book tomorrow, May 3. If you’re a fan of young adult romance, you want to pick up your copy of The Paladins by Julie Reece. Go ahead and click the cover photo. You can pre-order it today. As in now.

This book is a sequel to The Artisans. You can read my review of that book here.

When I first learned Ms. Reece was writing a sequel, I thought, “Huh?”

My depth of thought amazes even me sometimes.

The reason I was stymied is because The Artisans is completely self-contained. It doesn’t leave any nagging questions remaining. The problem is resolved and the characters are in their “happy for now” existence.

But that doesn’t mean the characters had nothing left to say. Maybe you wondered what happened with Cole. How did he adjust to life after being trapped in The Void for five years? Did things with Raven and Gideon last?

Well, you can find the answers to these questions and so much more if you read The Paladins.

The Blurb

The Paladins CoverThe Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.

The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

My Review

I was involved from the first page. And I was enthralled with Cole by the third chapter. He’s a much more engaging character than Gideon.

Reece takes us into the story from the perspective of all three of the main characters. Her narration is exceptional. Each chapter sounds like the chosen narrator. Cole’s voice is fun, engaging and sprinkled with British euphemisms. Raven is snarky, although a little more melodramatic than before. Gideon is dark, but wait! That’s what’s going on inside his handsome head?

Elemental magic makes its appearance here, which surprised me since it didn’t have the same “feel” as the Artisan magic they “destroyed” in the first book. While they were slow to realize the source of the magic, they were quick to determine the keeper of The Void and the entrance into it. That seemed a little too convenient to me.

The romantic angle in this story isn’t as compelling as in the first book. Gideon decides to dump Raven and encourage her and Cole to get together. (I know. He doesn’t even LIKE that guy.)

Raven isn’t impressed to be dumped and pawned off on someone else. She thought Gideon was going to let her start making her own decisions. Why is he trying to manipulate things again?

And Cole is starting to have feelings for the ghost girl he’s desperate to rescue.

I didn’t guess the exact twist to that whole thing (kudos to the author), but I knew that our lovely Desiree (witch extraordinaire from the first book) would have to be involved somehow. If she got the connection to the water element, there was no way she could have been drowned as they assumed.

I was a tad disappointed in The Void’s populace. Zombies? I’m not a fan of them at all. Three witches sharing one eye? Been done before. The minotaur in the labyrinth was a nice touch and well-played by the author. (Although I’m not sure how the earth magic would have created a link to animals. That seemed a little too convenient, too.)

Will Cole get a girl in the end? Can Gideon swallow his pride? Will Raven be able to escape her own dark fears?

Read it and you’ll see.

My Recommendation

You should read The Artisans before you read this book (the eBook is only 99 cents) . It will give you the proper context for the characters and especially the villain. You won’t be sorry. It was a ghost story I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you like fantasy, you’ll enjoy this book. Paranormal? You’ll get that here for sure. Maybe you’re more of a mythology buff. Reece has you covered. If you want it, The Paladins has got it.

There is romance, but it’s more like the third story line in this novel. The quest to resolve magical issues is primary and character growth secondary.

Even though I gave it only 4.3 out of five stars, I highly recommend this book.

About the Author

Julie ReeceBorn in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.

I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.

Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.

Then I thought I’d write one down…

Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!

Connect with Julie here:    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumbr | Instagram | Goodreads

The Giveaway

Contest runs until May 20, 2016. The prize(s) :

  • Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece (INT)

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Time to COLLIDE with Melissa J. Crispin

I’m an author and sometimes I get lucky enough to hang out with other authors.

Such is the case with my guest today. I met Melissa in a critique group on Scribophile. We chatted about life-type things before discussing writing stuff. Well, maybe talked about both at the same time.

I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa is living my dream. Her young adult romance novel is being released by Evernight Teen (these people rejected a short story I sent them, but all is forgiven since they are publishing Melissa’s novel).

Let’s hear what Melissa has to say about her characters, her writing life and what she hopes to gain through this whole writing thing (and it isn’t money or fame).

ME: The main character in your novel COLLIDE is a ballerina. Do you dance? Why did you choose ballet over another kind of dancing? Why dancing at all, since it isn’t something most teenagers do?

MELISSA: I love this question. I took ballet for a few of years when I was little, but I wasn’t good at it. Not by a long shot.

Both my daughter and my niece attend the same dance school, and there’s a big show at the end of every year. When a senior graduates and is getting ready to move on, the owner of the school always does a recap of the person’s history. Many of them dedicated a lot of time and effort, and it showed in their performances. Some started their journey when they were four years old, kept at it through high school, and a few chose to continue with it even after that. My main character, Kayla, was inspired by a mixture of the stories I’ve heard while sitting in the audience.

ME: What motivates you to write for young adults?

MELISSA: Since the protagonists in YA stories are so young, it allows me to create characters that will truly develop and grow as he or she is thrown into a difficult situation. There are so many possibilities when you’re around that age, and so many hardships that you need to work through. I especially love writing about people who discover emotional strength in themselves that they didn’t know they had, and I think that’s a theme that lends itself well to YA.

,ME: What would be your ideal interaction with a reader?

MELISSA: As a new author just starting out, it would bring me great joy just to know that someone read my work and liked it. Whether that’s through some form of social media or someone telling me something along those lines in person, it would definitely bring a big, dorky smile to my face.

ME: How long have you been writing? Can you give us a glimpse into the publishing process for this book?

MELISSA: I started writing about six years ago. I was tearing through a ridiculous number of books, reading like crazy, then decided to try my hand at it. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It took a long time to get to this point with COLLIDE, and I’m so happy that I never gave up. I spent about a year getting the first draft written. I remember thinking that it was taking forever, but I work full time, so finding the time to write can pose interesting challenges. I went through two rounds of beta reads and then worked with a freelance editor. I did another round of revisions after that, and was over the moon when Evernight Teen accepted my manuscript for publication. I went through edits with them as well, and now this baby is finally ready.

ME: Name a Young Adult book/series that you think all teens should read. Why?

MELISSA: Is it okay if I name two?

ME: *quirks and eyebrow before granting a single nod*

MELISSA: First, the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor is awesome. I think any teen that reads it can learn a lot. I know that Fantasy isn’t a genre for everybody, but the subject matter tackled in each of the books is relatable to real life. The main characters endure warfare, love, and loss in this incredible world that is brought vividly to life by the author.

I’m showing that I’m no spring chicken with this next suggestion, but I think every teen should read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved this book as a kid, and I still find myself watching the movie whenever I catch it on TV. The story highlights that people shouldn’t be judged based on where they came from, but who they are. I find the display of loyalty and love the Greasers have for each other moving as well.

ME: Young Adult books have been getting turned into movies right and left in recent years (HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, MAZE RUNNER). Why do you think this genre draws people into theaters?

MELISSA: I think several of the YA books that have been adapted to film share a common thread. Though the stories are very different in nature, the main characters seem to be ordinary teenagers thrust into extraordinary situations. They’re called upon to rise to the occasion and fight. Whether they’re fighting for life (Fault in our Stars, If I Stay) or for a greater good (Divergent, Hunger Games), they are seemingly average people that need to find the courage to go on. I think the ability to watch this kind of struggle and witness the characters transform is empowering for all, whether you’re young or old.

ME: I hereby grant you a movie deal. What actors will play your main characters?

MELISSA: Well, wouldn’t that be awesome. *sticks her tongue out*

For Kayla, I would choose Elle Fanning. I loved her as Princess Aurora in Maleficent and I could picture her in a role as an aspiring ballerina.

I had a tough time deciding on the male leads! This is harder than I thought it would be.

For Alec, I think a younger version of Scott Eastwood would be perfect. Okay, so he’s not in high school, but neither am I, so you’ll have to work with me on that one. 😉 He strikes me as a swoon worthy guy who would be good at protecting his lady.

I’d love to see Theo James, Four, from the Divergent movies, play Luke. Again, not of high school age so it would have to be a younger version of him, but I love how he shows both a tough side and a gentle side in those movies, which is a lot like Luke.

What’s COLLIDE about?

Collide-CoverPreviewWhen the balance between Earth, Afterlife, and Heaven are threatened, the fate of the universe falls on a selfish girl who must sacrifice everything to save it.

Kayla has a plan. She’s moving to the city after graduation and Luke’s coming with her. He’ll eventually become a doctor, she’ll be a ballerina—and they’ll live happily ever after. That is, until dark forces, led by a sister she never knew existed, start hunting her down for a power she never knew she had.

When Kayla starts working with a boy named Alec to learn how to defend herself and to stop the evil from eliminating the worlds, she finds herself falling for him. Hard. Torn between two loves and struggling to do what’s right for Earth and Afterlife, Kayla must decide if she’s fighting to keep her life together, or letting it go to save everyone else’s.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf now by clicking here!

Get your copy of COLLIDE

At Amazon or Evernight Teen website:

A little bit about Melissa

MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPicMelissa J. Crispin lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, and an adorable Siberian Husky. She spends her days in the corporate world, and pursues her passion for writing in the late nights and early mornings.

From micro-fiction to novels, Melissa loves to write stories in varying lengths. But, no matter the story, it’s almost always about the romance.

You heard it from her own mouth. Melissa wants to hear that you read and liked her story and promises to do a goofy grin in exchange. Here’s where you can connect with Melissa:

Website: http://melissajcrispin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaJCrispin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissajcrispinauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissajcrispin/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MelissaJCrispin

Cover Reveal: The Paladins by Julie Reece

I’m thrilled to host this reveal on my blog. I’ve read the first book in this series and found it ensnaring, to say the least. Check out my review. Then read on to learn about the second book and how to win a free copy.

Today Julie Reece and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THE PALADINS, book 2 in THE ARTISANS Series which releases May 3, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley and a eBook of THE ARTISANS!!

Here’s a message from the author:

Book covers are tricky things. My respect for cover artists has grown exponentially after entering the world of publishing. I learned the challenge of a good cover artist is to hint at the story beneath using a single image. They must create a picture that suggests to perspective readers what lies within those hundreds of pages—using nothing more than specific font and a few square inches of graphic design. It seems impossible, yet most of us agree that art evokes emotion. And when I saw my cover, I was overwhelmed.

 The Paladins is dark. And this cover is dark. The story is a Gothic tale, mysterious and eerie. And while parts of this world are beautiful, beauty is often deceptive. You’re never quite sure if something lurks in the shadows, where the path you tread is leading, or even if what you see is real … until it’s too late. For me, the cover encompasses all those story elements. I hope you like it as much as I do.

On to the reveal! 

 

Title: THE PALADINS (The Artisans #2) 

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 3, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Paperback & eBook

Find it: Amazon | B&N| TBD | BAM| Kobo | Google Play Books | iBooksGoodreads

The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives…or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?

Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.
The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

In case you missed it here’s the redesigned cover for THE ARTISANS!

 

Title: THE ARTISANS

Author: Julie Reece

Pub. Date: May 12, 2015

Publisher: Month9Books

Pages: 300

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.

To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.

Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.

But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.

Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights.

Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can’t imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.

But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
(You can read Sharon’s review of this book here)

Excerpt

 

 

Prologue

The Before

Cole

It’s been four years since I planted the fireworks in Gideon Maddox’s locker that burned a third of his face.

Four years since his father took revenge, trapping me with a spell that kept me prisoner in The Void.

Three months since the magic found me again.

Two months since my parents put me in therapy.

One day since my parents left for Paris on a month long business tour.

This morning, a mysterious girl no one else can see beckoned again from The Void.

Tonight, I’m standing on the balcony of my parent’s palatial home, buying an airline ticket back to the states—back to Maddox mansion—the heart of my nightmares.

People say the more things change the more they stay the same. I hate them for being right. I lived with the monsters in my prison until I thought I might go mad. Repentant of my past, I made peace with my fate, my eternity. Until the day I was freed, because a stranger had the courage to help.

This time someone needs me.

How can I doom a girl to a fate I barely escaped?

There’s only one answer.

I can’t.

Chapter One

Cole

A bottle-green fly hums, rubbing his tiny legs together as though he’s plotting something. The insect seems a dirty ornament on the shiny desk nameplate he sits upon. Gold on gold, the engraved letters read Navin Cahvan M.D. This is the third psychiatrist I’ve met in as many weeks. Part of my mother’s plan to fix me. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, nightmares about demons when I finally do fall sleep—these are her justifications. Everyone tries to shrink me like a cheap T-shirt in the dryer.

The tawny-skinned man across the desk folds his knotted fingers over his belly and stares. Dark eyes track my movements beneath two bushy white eyebrows. “Mr. Wynter?”

Right. He asked a question. The fly hums again, wings fluttering against his hairy back. My head pounds, my clothes scratch, eyes burn, and my ears are raw with the smallest sounds echoing deep inside.

When Dr. Cahvan shifts, the leather seat groans in protest. “I can help you. But you must tell me the truth.”

All I hear is Jack Nicholson screaming the line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!”

“Trust me, Cole. Tell me your secret thoughts.”

Trust you? Sure. I tell you what happened and you lock me away forever on meds that keep me drooling, while I play dominoes with people who see giant, pink rabbits. No thanks.

He leans forward. His fingers thread together as his hands rest on the desktop. He taps his thumbs together. “I assure you this is a safe place. I call it … the circle of trust.”

Give me a break. You want me to tell you how I was a mean, dangerous kid. Confess that because I tormented a crippled boy, his father used a magic camera to trap me in an alternate universe as punishment. Explain how I lived a half-life in the Maddox mansion for four years until Raven Weathersby rescued me. About how much I miss her and think about going back someday … Maybe I am insane.

“Let’s discuss something else.”

I find his suggestion amusing since I’ve barely said ten words in the past hour, and our time is almost up.

The good doctor shifts again. “Instead of talking about the past, why not speak of the present. How are you adjusting to life at home? I understand your parents had a welcome home party when you first arrived. How did that go?”

How do you think? “Swell.” I would have preferred stuffing my hand in a high-speed blender. A hundred people that I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen—and couldn’t care less to see again—showed up to shake my hand and recite all they’d ever read about amnesia, the lie Gideon made up to cover my absence. “I really just need some space.”

“And you got your wish, did you not? I understand your parents left town yesterday. How does being alone again so soon make you feel?”

Incredibly pissed. “They’ve always been busy people. I’m used to them traveling.” But I wasn’t. I thought with all the time apart, my parents might want to stick around a while. Be a family. Nope. Since appearances mean everything, they threw a party right away to show their friends and colleagues how fine I was. The powerful and highly regarded Mr. and Mrs. Wynter pulled out all the stops to prove their love for their long lost son: fine wine, catered dinner, china, crystal, even a string quartet. Yet, my father couldn’t keep the disappointment from his face any more than my mother could drown her misery in vodka.

Perhaps to appease their consciences, my folks hooked me up with doctors and provided for my physical needs before bailing. But a new car and an obscenely padded bank account wasn’t what I needed. So easily brushed aside again, I couldn’t help but wonder if parts of them were relieved when I’d disappeared four years ago.

Dr. Cahvan’s eyes narrow. “So, you remember your life up until your trip to the States?”

“Yes.” I’m lying about my amnesia. I know it. He knows it. So do my parents, but it’s too late to come up with a better story … like being the victim of a cult brainwashing or joining a psychedelic commune. I drank a different brand of Kool-Aid in Sales Hollow, South Carolina, and I can never tell a soul.

The fly zings to the window. I flinch as the buzzing is magnified ten times in my head. It takes all my will not to jump up and smash the bug against the glass. The doctor watches me with sharp eyes trained to interpret body language. I hold his gaze, though my skin breaks out in a sweat. A sudden wind rattles the panes, and I startle.

Cahvan’s mouth crimps at the corners. “Rather breezy today,” he says, glancing out the window at the quiet, blue sky.

Who cares about the weather? I have to give the old guy something before I start whining about magic spells, heightened senses, or worse: how my daddy never loved me.

I blow out a breath. “Look, some things seem familiar, others are confusing. I don’t need a doctor. I need time.” I only meant to throw him a bone so he’d have something to report when my parents call, but my body heats as I talk. Anger, resentment, and fear all claw their way up my throat and charge out of my mouth before I can stop them. “Time I can’t get back where I finish school, date hot girls, and grow up like normal kids do. I’m trying. Doing the best I can, but what I don’t need is to sit in rooms with smug strangers who are paid to dissect my brain over things I can’t explain, and neither of us will ever understand!” I drag my fingers through my shaggy hair. “That time is gone. I’m pissed off, and I guess I’ll be pissed off until I’m not anymore.”

Dr. Cahvan rubs his jaw. “That’s very interesting, Cole.”

My laugh is harsh. Not that any of this is funny. “Is it?”

“Yes. Thank you for your honesty today.” His bushy eyebrows push together. “Thank you for entering the circle of trust and allowing me to help you. Please see my secretary on your way out and make another appointment for next week.”

Seriously? I stand and head for the door. Oh, I’ll see your secretary, all right. I’ll nod as I walk right past her. He didn’t help me. No one can. There are a lot of things I need. But touchy-feely therapy with Doctor Eyebrows isn’t one of them.

***

After the awkward “circle of trust” episode, I can’t decide what to do with myself. I don’t want to be around people, but I don’t want to go home to an empty house either, so I wind up in the rambling cemetery a couple miles from our house.

I like it here and come pretty often just to think. Crumbling grave markers bear witness to France’s rich history, even with the chiseled dates worn and fading with time. Moss, ivy, and ancient trees lend beauty and peace to a place that soothes my soul. I’m not trying to be morbid. I never kept company with the dead. We were the undead, in a non-sparkly kind of way.

I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll discover the meaning of life. I’m just trying to find meaning in mine.

After surviving a half-death, I’ve been given a second chance. Trouble is, I don’t know what to do with it.

The sun is too hot on my back. No sooner does the thought cross my mind, when a friendly breeze tousles my hair like an old friend. I pull my cell from my pocket and stare at Raven’s number. She said to call her anytime, and I do. Gideon said to call her if I wanted my arse kicked. Typical. He’s still that insecure kid deep down. Still trying to prove himself, as he tries to control everyone and everything within his reach, just like his old man taught him.

Should have known something was wrong when I first got the invitation to visit Gideon in America all those years ago. My parents were so happy Maddox Senior wasn’t pressing charges; they actually thought the gesture was an attempt at friendship. Of course, Mum and Dad sent me packing complete with an olive branch in my mouth. That gesture of goodwill got my picture taken and a trip to The Void with a bunch of vengeful old guys from the early nineteen hundreds and a hot blond with twisted taste in men. We spent our days trying to escape that hell. The labyrinth’s ghouls, the surreal existence of consciousness without a physical body, and the constant pain of regret all earmarked a life that wasn’t.

Until her.

My fingers comb the grass at my sides. I close my eyes and feel the day’s warmth on my face, the wind threading through my thin tee. I may look like a freak, but I can’t stop touching everything around me. While I was gone, I missed the sensation of air in my lungs, the taste of coffee, the sweet sensation of a kiss …

My thumb starts dialing Rae’s number.

Cole …

Shite. Here we go again.

Come to me, Cole …

I wonder if I sounded this creepy to Raven when I begged for her help.

Veins at my temples pulse. Leaves shake and laugh in the breeze, the echo reverberating in my head. “Who are you? What do you want with me?” I want to stand, but my limbs weigh a hundred pounds each. My lungs deflate under the crushing pressure, and I struggle to breathe.

The scenery of oaks and elms surrounding the cemetery blur into a muddy gray-green wall, and I know what’s happening. Gravestones push up from the ground like gnashing teeth and recede again until the ground transforms into a smooth, stone floor. The world of pedestrians, car horns, and singing birds around the graveyard fade to a quiet worse than death. My body rejects the idea of gravity. The weightlessness of being sucked back into The Void again invades my person like a virus, spreading into my muscles and bones, my very essence.

I will the door of my mind closed to shut out the transformation. I place a mental shield before the magic so it won’t consume me, but magic has a will of its own. It snakes under the imaginary door I’ve erected in my head, enveloping me. I thrash, but it’s useless. My soundless screaming and mind-withering despair only seems to feed The Void’s strength.

When I open my eyes, the cemetery is gone. I shift on a cold, damp floor, taking in my new surroundings. I’ve seen this place before, several times. The space is a circular stone room with two tall, skinny windows allowing diffused light inside. A bed sits across from me. Downy quilts worn and faded with use cover the straw mattress. On the wall, a huge, gilt-framed mirror reflects the room where a pretty blond sits in a hardback chair. Watching me.

I’m familiar with strange, but not with sad, soul-eating eyes like hers.

When she rises, I feel like I should thank her, because light from the window shows her curves through an ultra-thin nightdress. The sight chokes my airflow for a whole different reason.

ThinkofRaventhinkofRaventhinkofRaven.

I’m so not thinking of Raven. For all my faults, I’m not the cheating type, but I am a guy, and this girl is seriously fit! I want to touch her in the worst way, but I swallow instead. Attempting to be a gentleman, I lift my gaze and focus on the far wall, yet somehow—because I’m still a guy—I end up watching the way her hair hangs in white blond waves to her thighs. Her rosebud mouth opens slightly. Pleading eyes, more silver than blue, threaten to pull me under and drown me. None of this helps curb my impulse to reach for her.

Then I think about how she brought me here against my will, and that helps tamp down the hormones.

Cole.

What do you want?

Can’t you guess?

I can. I pleaded with Raven for the same help not too long ago. Inside The Void, I thought I’d met everyone. The ones that Maddox had imprisoned, and the indigenous inhabitants of the labyrinth. I hadn’t known there were any others.

The drip-drop of a leaky faucet is the only sound as I gather my thoughts. “Who are you? Where are you? I don’t understand what’s happening. Where is this place? Did Gideon put you here?” I rattle off my questions not pausing for a response.

She doesn’t answer. Maybe she can’t.

Wind picks up, whooshing through the hollow room, though the windows are shut. The sound grows, as though someone dropped a microphone in a washing machine. I grit my teeth against the noise. My mind squeezes in the pressurized vacuum.

Cole … She extends a thin, white hand.

I remember Raven. How she fell to her knees on the floor of the mill house when we first met. Pain rips into my psyche, claws at my sanity. The same way I’m sure it did hers.

“I’m sorry. Forgive me, Raven. I didn’t know.”

… My name is Rosamond …

Stone walls smear and fade, the beautiful girl along with them. I can’t breathe. Then, the faint outline of tree tops bleed back into view.

… Rosamond Bryer …

My panting rivals an overheated Saint Bernard. Grass pokes my palms. Rough bark scrapes my spine through my T-shirt. Any trace of the castle turret is erased as the same decrepit cemetery I know solidifies, and the garden is as it was before.

Almost …

I’m leaning against an old tree, yet my cell and sunglasses still lie next to the rose bushes where I was sitting, almost twenty feet away. I have no memory of moving. How did I get way over here?

Both hands plow through my hair with my exhale. What the bloody hell just happened? Am I imagining this? A nightmare left over from the reality of my imprisonment. Or is the girl real? Trapped like I was and waiting for someone with the courage to free her.

Is that someone me? I’ve been a lot of things, but brave isn’t one of them. To help her means going back to the mansion.

No. I definitely do not need this shite. I’m starting over, leaving that life behind. Yet, the haunted expression on the girl’s face tugs at me. Something about her seems familiar. I’m gutted over how she reached for me. Raven doubted, too, but not for long. If the blond is real, then she’s really in trouble. And if she’s really in trouble, what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it, Cole Wynter?

 

 As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.

Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…

Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.
Where you can find Julie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive an eBook of THE ARTISANS and an eGalley of THE PALADINS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Echoes in the Glass should be on your To Be Read list

Sometimes the books you win from on online Facebook event are worth what you paid for them. Other times, you discover a gem.

For me, the gem was an author, Cheri Lasota. I attended an event introducing a science fiction universe, the Paradisi Chronicles, and won a copy of a historical paranormal fantasy.

I read the book. I didn’t care for the story or the characters all that much, but I adored her writing style. Since it might have been the mythology behind the book’s setting that tainted my enjoyment, I decided to give Lasota another try.

Boy, am I ever glad I did.

The paranormal (historical) romance Echoes in the Glass is the title I selected. (Yes, I’m pretty sure it was on sale for a buck. You know me and deals.)

Summary

While the book begins with Finnegan in a nearly present day situation, there are two story lines running in this book.

The present day story is about two teenagers facing the ugliness of their pasts. It involves the restoration of a lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Of course, there’s a romance. And poor Finnegan, the one he wants is the boss’ daughter.

While none of those story threads are original, the weaving of this story is highly unique and executed with professional finesse.

The historical story is set at the same lighthouse (or vicinity) in 1935. You meet a daughter struggling for independence from a father who treats her like a servant. Add in the fact she has a younger sister to protect, and you’ve got a tense situation.

Morgan Graves comes along and upsets the apple cart further. Rumors about the death of his mother abound. When the secret comes out, so does the nurturing nature of the heroine.

My Review

This book earns five stars from me. The writing was compelling, the characters complex and the story masterfully told.

I’m generally not a fan of stories with a past and present storyline. I tend to gravitate toward one set of characters more than the other. This keeps me from fully immersing in the story because while I’m with the characters I love, I’m dreading the return to the alternate time.

As I read about the characters who mean nothing, I’m wishing I was with the ones I love.

So much for “love the one you’re with.”

Ms. Lasota wrapped me up in all of her characters’ hearts and lives. I was as eager to read about the present as I was the past.

The further I got into the story, the more the historical line hinted about what they would find in the future. Or explained the things they found in the hidden room.

The present day characters rang true. Their problems were harsh, and not common, but still they won my heart. These are 17 and 18-year-olds, and I would recommend this book to older, mature teenagers. Some of the content would be disturbing for those under the age of fourteen, I think.

Sometimes, I find historical writers make their characters too “modern.” That thought never crossed my mind as I read about Carina and Morgan. They fit the times. I could picture my grandmother and grandfather in their youth acting and reacting like these two did.

This story touched my heart. It explores the family dynamics that torture and empower us. Not everyone had a happy ending. But all the story questions were answered.

My Recommendation

In my opinion, this story holds a wide appeal for female readers.

If you like historical romance written in the depression era, you’ll like this book. If you like American settings, this is for you.

Sassy heroines who have a mind of their own? You’ll definitely find that here – times two. Handsome heroes whose gallant nature makes you forget about their face? Yep, he’s in this story – times two.

Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of paranormal stories (like me). The ghost element plays a role in the character development and plot for sure. However, it didn’t make or break the story for me. There was enough tension and conflict from other sources that the ghosts could have been written out, and the story still worked.

If you enjoy a well-written romance with complex characters that will make you smile and bring tears to your eyes, read Echoes in the Glass.

Maybe you’re not a big romance reader. The character evolution and dual timeline, with it’s inherent mystery, will engage you.

The Artisans by Julie Reece: a MUST read

Sometimes I avoid reading a book because I think the subject matter is wrong for me. That was the case with The Artisans by Julie Reece. It was reviewed as a ghost story.

First of all, horror movies are not for me. I will have nightmares for weeks. The same goes for scary books (because my imagination is every bit as good as Hollywood’s best special effects).

So even though I heard great things about this book – and interact with the author in an online critique group, I avoided reading it.

Then it went on sale for $3. Yep. I couldn’t avoid the impulse purchase.

And after finishing the book this morning, I’m not at all sad to have caved in to my baser need for books. I only wish I had snapped the thing up when it first released into print.

Summary

Raven’s stepfather’s in trouble. His alcohol problem has led to a gambling debt and getting on the nerves of the powerful Maddox family. To get him the help he needs, she agrees to live with and work for Gideon Maddox.

She thinks she’d in danger from Gideon, but she soon discovers things are not all peaceful and serene in the enormous mansion where she lives and works. While her heart fights attraction to the complex master of the house, ghosts from the past make her fight for her very life.

This is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a paranormal twist.

My Review

I’m not a fan of ghost stories. Did I already say that? Sorry. To reiterate, I don’t read ghost stories. If they don’t make me have nightmares, they make my eyes roll in disbelief.

I read to immerse myself in a different world. Why would I read something that constantly kicked me back to reality because it was unbelievable?

That is not Ms. Reece’s ghost story. She has a plausible explanation and resolution for the spirits haunting the pages of this young adult romance.

I adore Raven. From the first page to the last, I wanted her to succeed. Her backstory was complex and well-constructed and her personality had just enough contradiction to keep her believable.

I loved the banter between Raven and her two friends. Although they were minor characters, her friends were well-drawn. No cardboard cutouts here.

Although Ms. Reece did a fine job making Gideon likable, I still had trouble seeing past his veneer. Of course, that works for the first part of the story. He won me over when he chased after Raven. Seriously, I hate when guys let the girl of their dreams walk out.

The magical element – why Raven could see and hear the ghosts when no one else could – was never explained. This bummed me out a little, but didn’t keep me from loving the story.

After all, “The Force was a lot more interesting before it was explained.”

My Recommendation

If you love quirky teenage heroines, you want to read this story. If you like a little bit of ghost with your romance, you’ll find this book worth every moment you spend in its pages.

Hot guys? Yep, that’s here. Laughter and tears? Another yes. A book that’s hard to put down? Oh, yeah.

If you’re an adult, you’ll enjoy this book. The mystery and intrigue will keep you wondering. There isn’t too much angst and only a couple hot-and-heavy kisses.

Don’t let the description of “Southern gothic horror” deter you if you’re not a big paranormal fan. Is it creepy in spots? Most definitely. And I refused to read it after dark on principle.

But I could hardly wait for it to be daytime so I could start reading it again. Worth five stars in my book.

Young Adult Paranormal Might Not be Passe

Imagine my surprise when I won a physical, hardbound copy of a book just for sharing a Tweet. That book, Hexed, will now be subjected to my non-paranormal reviewing powers.

Before I begin, I’d like to give a shout out to Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary for promptly mailing out the book. She’s doing a great job representing Ms. Krys, getting her first book into the hands of readers as the second book is being released.

I admit this log line from the book’s cover and Amazon description had me salivating to read on: “ a snarky sixteen-year-old cheerleader is forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life…”

You’re ready for more now, too, right? Even if you aren’t a fan of paranormal stories starring witches and sorcerers (Harry Potter books excluded, of course).

Summary

Indigo Blackwood seems to be the typical snobby cheerleader at the beginning of the series (think Mean Girls). Her best friend is the head cheerleader and treats Indigo poorly because she’s jealous of her 8-month relationship with the quarterback of the football team.

Sounds cliché, right? I mean cheerleader dating quarterback with a mean girl head cheerleader antagonizing things. That’s been done a million times.

Not like Krys does it. Indigo’s mom is a member of a Wiccan society and owns a witchcraft shop. Indigo things she might be crazy because her mom has been known to bury books in the back yard – digging with her own two hands.

Actually, she’s paranoid about only one book, The Witch Hunter’s Bible. Not that Indigo believes there are such things as witches.

All that changes as a series of events throws Indigo into danger. A handsome stranger stalks her, until she realizes he’s trying to help. Aside from the theft of the book and further terrorizing at the hands of the sorcerer group, The Priory, Indigo faces the teenage torture of walking in on her boyfriend and best friend.

Finally, Indigo accepts that she might be a witch and struggles to learn her powers. After all, she’s tired of being everyone’s victim.

My Review

Indigo Blackwood won my heart. Her thoughts, actions and commentary remains true to the character of a junior in high school. This first person narration does the genre and mode proud. This alone earned the story a strong 4.6 out of five stars.

I appreciated that Indigo never really mastered her emotions. What teenage girl can? Maybe for ten minutes. This also helped the story ring true. And allowed for more conflict and tension because readers realized she would run straight into the arms of trouble unprepared.

The minor characters of Paige and Bishop were well-drawn, as well. Of course, we only get to see them from Indigo’s perspective, and she isn’t an unbiased observer.

Paige is the unpopular next door neighbor who comes through as a true friend (more cliché). Bishop is an orphan warlock (male counterpart of witch in this series whereas Potter had wizards) with plenty of secrets of his own.

It was difficult to put this book down. I ended up reading it on three consecutive evenings. By the last 100 pages, there was no chance I would stop reading until I finished.

I don’t spoil stories with my reviews. Suffice it to say there are several wrenching twists that are unexpected. However, they aren’t unbelievable or unsupported.

There are more bad guys in this story than good. We get the impression we’re supposed to side with the witches, but their ruling body, The Family, doesn’t win my adoration. If you prefer an obvious black and white in your good and evil battles, this book won’t give you that.

As in life, plans never go as planned. Indigo loses more than she gains. The ending is happy – sort of.

My least favorite thing about the book was the fact that the resolution included the set-up for the next book in the series. It was done well, not coming off as a cliffhanger. If you don’t want to bite, just don’t read the Epilogue.

While this book has several hundred reviews on Goodreads, it earns less than four stars overall there. There are only eight reviews on Amazon with a 4.2 out of five-star rating overall.

My Recommendation

Charmed coverTeenager girls and women readers of YA fiction will enjoy this book. Not a fan of paranormal? This book doesn’t try to explain the magic or give a history of it, which made it easier for me to accept.

There is murder, blood, gore, and disturbing images. It doesn’t have the gut-wrenching suspense of a thriller, however, and was too believable to read like horror. Since it didn’t give me nightmares, I’d say it is PG-13 rather than something heavier.

Because I like Indigo, I will be reading the sequel, Charmed. Currently, the Kindle edition is going for $1.99, and I’m all about that good deal.

Have you read Hexed? What did you think? Is paranormal still as “in” as it has been the past several years?

Clay’s Hope a Companion to Hope(less) by Melissa Haag

I’ve read the entire Judgment of Six series (four books) without coming up for air. Well, except when I had to wait for a new book to be released.

I’m still waiting for Isabelle’s story – and to find out how the six special human girls are going to stop the bad guys. I’m sure their werewolf boyfriends will be involved somehow.

Clay’s Hope tells the same story as Hope(less). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about revisiting the first installment of the Six series – even though it has been my favorite one of the books.

And most of that has to do with Clay – his persistence to win Gabby at any cost. And then to protect her even before she admits she’s falling in love with him.

What I enjoyed

Romance packs a punch when both parties involved offer their perspective. One thing I feel is lacking in the Judgment of Six series is the man’s point of view. Getting inside the guy’s head adds tension and ups the intensity of the passion.

In fact, I liked imagining Gabby’s responses as I read Clay’s story. It was easier for me to do this than it had been to guess at Clay’s feelings while reading Gabby’s story.

Most of what Gabby assumed Clay was thinking and feeling was totally off base. That made me smile more times than I can count.

Clay wears his wolf skin for much of the book. It was interesting to get inside that head. After all, he wasn’t a pet, but Rachel treated him like one. And he didn’t care for that. I wouldn’t either.

I didn’t feel as much sexual tension in this book, which is good since it is marketed as a Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Gabby and Clay have the chastest relationship in this series, so I would recommend it to younger readers.

I’ve had a crush on Clay since reading the first book. He is the epitome of the strong, silent type of man, and it was interesting to really get to know him.

By the way, he isn’t as easy going as you might have first suspected.

It was good to see how he pursued Gabby in those hours when he wore his human skin and worked at the auto shop, went shopping, fixed things and cooked for her. He wanted to be the man she needed – and that’s very romantic.

What I wasn’t so keen about

I know Ms. Haag wants to tell all the boys’ stories using these companion books. I think they are slated to be novellas. I wasn’t all that thrilled to revisit the same story – even though it was from a different perspective.

Romances are best when we see both sides. For that reason, I think she should have sprinkled alternating chapters from the man’s perspective in the Judgment books. When she repeats the story line, I feel like I’m paying for the same story twice (of course, when the companion only costs 99 cents, that’s not a huge burden).

I laughed out loud and devoured this book in mere hours. I truly enjoyed it. It would have been even better if I could have read it alongside Gabby’s story.

My recommendation

If you have read Hope(less), don’t reread it before picking up Clay’s story. I almost did this, and after reading Clay’s Hope in a single day, I’m glad I viewed it through fresh eyes.

I know this sounds like I’m contradicting what I said earlier. The original story would have been more intense if both viewpoints were included. To understand what’s happening in the overall story, you only need to read either Clay’s Hope or Hope(less).

If you are crushing on Clay (like me), you should definitely read this story. It will give you a clearer picture of who he was. However, if you like the mystery man you got to know in Hope(less), he will be replaced by the real Clay after you read this story.

Consider yourself warned.