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Archive for July, 2016

Defiance

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Defiance (Regina Shen – 3) by Lance Erlick

Abrupt climate change melted ice caps, flooded coasts, and expanded deserts. Outcast Regina Shen is a fugitive the World Federation believes has DNA that can stop human extinction. Rival Federation agents fight over capturing Regina to gain power amidst turmoil over who will become the new World Premier. Regina has to flee from Virginia through desert and wilderness to Alaska to hunt a treasure big enough to barter for her freedom and that of her sister. Can she find allies and tools to remain free long enough to find something to trade?

Lance Erlick

He was raised by a roaming aerospace engineer, growing up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven.

Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

In an ideal world, Lance would find time loops where he could step out for a week at a time to read and write. Then he would return to the moment he left, without life getting in the way. Of course, since everyone would have the same ability, he suspects life would still sneak in.

Lance is also the author of short stories and novelettes.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads

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My Review

4 stars

It has been two months since we left Regina. She is still on the run from DeMarco and Volpe. She has been in hiding with an outcast group but it’s time for her to head to Alaska to save Colleen. There are also rumors of a vault that has genetic samples that may stop the fertility crisis without Regina becoming a lab rat. If only Regina and Ester make it to the vault and solve the puzzle before getting caught or locking in the vault.

As I read Defiance I didn’t think it really flowed as well as the last two books. The first part of the book seemed a little disjointed as Regina and Ester are trying to make their way to Alaska. There are a lot of close calls where both girls almost get caught; thankfully they had a lot of help. Now, when they make it to Alaska and Regina has to puzzle through the vault, then we had the old Regina back. But one thing I really liked is seeing that most of the country has turned into a desert since we have been in the swamps on the coasts.

Along with Regina we also have Ester. You could tell that Regina does love her in her own way and protects her like she would have Colleen. But Ester seemed to be a bigger hindrance at times than she was worth. Also, Regina’s mother is back. If I didn’t like the woman before when she abandoned Regina and Colleen, I sure the heck am not impressed with her now.

Defiance didn’t feel as strong of a book as Resilience or Vigilance but it was still a good story. I can’t wait to see how thing work out in Endurance.

To purchase Defiance make sure to check out Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

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I received Defiance for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Mystery, Cozy Mystery 
Date Published:  June 28, 2016
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A witch. A murder. A wedding dress?
Dylan Apel is having one heck of a summer. She knows her hand-made clothing is special, but magical? Discovering that she’s a witch is bad enough, but when Dylan realizes there are folks who’ll kill to possess her witchy powers— that’s enough to make a girl want to hide out in the back of her boutique. Only problem is, Queen Witch is in town, itchin’ to make sure Dylan learns to cast spells, and this witch won’t take no for an answer.
Dylan must learn fast—someone just killed her best client with a poisoned gown meant for Dylan. Was it the tall, mysterious hottie in black, who’s suddenly everywhere she goes? After all, the first thing Roman Bane says is he doesn’t like witches. Is he here to save her, or kill her?
Dylan is barely getting a handle on her new powers when she finds herself surrounded by witches bossing her this way and that, local police nosing about, and wary clients—death by clothing is not good for business. And the solstice is coming … a time when witch powers are at their peak. Can Dylan survive the chaos long enough to figure out her new life?
EXCERPT
CHAPTER ONE
“If that ain’t the other side of stupid, I don’t know what is.”
Reagan Eckhart, all platinum-blonde ninety-eight pounds of her, shoved a newspaper in my face. I winced, barely avoiding a massive paper cut to the nose.
“Those idiots put you in Arts and Leisure. You should have been on the front page of the Birmingham News.” She tapped the newspaper with a single red fingernail. “With as much business as you do, Dylan Apel, you should have been the main story of the day.”
“Don’t you think technically they should have put me in the business section?” I said.
Reagan fluffed the foot of hair teased up at her crown. At least it looked like a foot. Okay, it wasn’t a foot—only six inches. But those were a tall six inches. Big enough to practically be their own person. “Whatever,” she mumbled.
The debutante was in rare form today. Reagan was dressed to the nines in a black halter top and pants that resembled Spandex. Personally, I was waiting for her to break out into the chorus of “You’re the One That I Want,” à la Olivia Newton-John. Harry Shaw, her fiancé—a smallish, bald financial advisor—definitely wouldn’t join her if she did. His idea of playing John Travolta probably resembled hot-and-heavy talk about how gross grease and lightning were and why would you want to put the two together?
I grabbed the paper and scrutinized the picture of me and my sisters, Seraphina and Reid. Bright, beaming smiles on our faces, we stood in front of our side-by-side stores—Perfect Fit and Sinless Confections. Seraphina, tall and slender, her hair shimmering like glass in the sunlight, looked absolutely perfect. Even Reid, my eighteen-year-old baby sis, looked cherubic and innocent, her doe eyes and cheeky smile radiating youthful exuberance.
Then there was me. I sighed. It had taken two hours to smooth my hair, and it had still frizzed on the edges. I wasn’t as tall or slender as Seraphina. But what I lacked in athletic build, I made up for in curves. Good for me. I might not look statuesque and perfect, but I could put on a slutty dress and have enough T and A to get noticed.
Was that a zit on my cheek?
“When I realized you had this store, Dylan,” Reagan said, “and I saw how beautiful the dresses were, I told Harry—I said, ‘Harry, that’s who’s going to design my wedding dress.’ Didn’t I, hon?”
Harry, nose-deep in the business section, remained silent.
Reagan kicked him.
“Ow!” Harry rubbed his ankle. “What’d you do that for?”
“Didn’t I, Harry? Didn’t I say that?”
Harry shrank a little, his bald pate looking even balder under the fluorescents. “Yes, of course you did, dear.”
Poor guy. He probably wouldn’t last a year in the marriage. He’d be whipped, beaten down and likely castrated after two months.
Did I say that out loud?
“Anyway,” Reagan continued, flitting about the room. “I told Harry, Dylan Apel and I were best friends in high school—”
“Mortal enemies,” I corrected.
“—and of course she’s going to be the one to design my dress.” Girlfriend didn’t miss one beat. I don’t think Reagan listened to what people said. Did she even hear them when they talked?
From the corner my assistant, Carrie Dogwood, snickered. I shot her a look of warning. She turned a deep shade of red and pretended to straighten a rack of sequined gowns.
“Reagan, do you want to see your dress again?” I asked.
“Of course,” she squealed. “I can’t get enough of it.”
Carrie crossed to me. She leaned over, kept her voice low. “Wonder what she’ll complain about this time.”
I turned away from Reagan. “Hopefully nothing,” I whispered. “Can you grab the dress?”
“Sure thing.”
An unfinished blue gown caught my attention. The color of a robin’s egg, the dress would be the envy of the Silver Springs solstice banquet, what with its deep vee neckline and overlay of chiffon. I needed to finish it before the dance, which was barely two weeks away.
I sighed. I’d been working a lot lately, thanks to Reagan’s never-ending changes to her gown. There was less than a week until the wedding, and after that I’d have plenty of time to work on my own dress. That is, if I survived Reagan for a few more days.
I stared vacantly at the gown until a bodiless hand thrust the newspaper into my face once more. Reagan popped up in front of me and wiggled the now crumpled article. “But this reporter nails it. She absolutely gets it right. I could have gone anywhere for my dress, but there’s just something about your gowns and your sister’s food. It’s like I’m transported to another place. I don’t know how to describe it.”
I had heard the same mantra over and over from clients. There’s something about your clothes that I can’t put my finger on. It’s almost like they’re magical.
Yeah. Right. Not that I didn’t appreciate the compliment. Believe me, I did. So did Sera. If it weren’t for the folks in our lakeside community of Silver Springs, Alabama, we’d be beggars. Hoboes maybe. Vagabonds most likely. And not the good kind. Not the sexy kind you see on the covers of romance novels.
Wait. There weren’t hoboes on those. Well, anyway, we’d be dirty, covered in rags that smelled of oil and sweat, with grit under our fingernails that not even the best manicure technician could lift.
“Here’s the dress,” Carrie said.
Reagan’s smile vanished. “Oh.”
My dreams, my hopes, my wishes for a beautiful future crashed and exploded like a car careening off a cliff in a 1970s B movie. What could possibly be wrong this time—the hundredth time? I swear, every occasion this girl saw her dress, she found something to criticize. It was a wonder I hadn’t strangled her before now.
I smoothed the lines of frustration that were forming on my forehead. “What’s the problem?”
Reagan wrinkled her nose. “It’s just…well…that’s a lot of sequins.”
I took a deep, cleansing breath and thought happy thoughts. “Last week you wanted more sequins. You said it didn’t have enough bling.”
Carrie bit back a giggle.
I flashed her a seething look. I mean, seriously. I knew it was funny, but it was only good service not to laugh at the customer while she’s standing right in front of you. At least wait until the door hits her backside as she’s leaving.
“Well,” Reagan said, “last week there weren’t any sequins. What were there? Like five on the whole thing?”
I steepled my fingers beneath my chin. “There were two hundred.”
“Oh. How many are there now?”
“Five hundred.”
“It’s too many. Listen, Dylan, just because we were best friends in high school—”
“Mortal enemies,” I said.
“—doesn’t mean you can take advantage of me. If this dress isn’t to perfection by Saturday, then I’m getting it for free. Right?”
Whoa, Nelly. “I’m sorry?”
Reagan batted her fake eyelashes. “That’s just plain old good business. The customer is always right. I mean, we go way back. Too far back to let a little disagreement over some sequins ruin what we had.”
I poked the air with my index finger. “Once again, we were mortal enemies. Reagan, you have brain damage when it comes to what high school was like.”
A tittering laugh escaped her throat. It sounded like a thousand butterflies taking flight. That was right before I lifted my imaginary rocket launcher, aimed high and fired, sending the beauties crashing to the ground in a blazing explosion.
“You’re so melodramatic, Dylan. We had a little disagreement about prom; that was all.”
I crossed my arms. “Reagan, let me remind you of exactly what happened in high school.”
“Why don’t you do that, since you’re so convinced we had nothing to do with each other.” Reagan pulled one of her eyelashes. Ouch. Didn’t that hurt?
I shook my head and said, “You had Colten Blacklock ask me to prom for the sole purpose of standing me up the night of.” I pointed to her and then to me. “You and I—we were never friends, and I’m not giving you this dress for free. We’ve done a dozen fittings, and you’ve found something wrong with each and every one. You can either take it or leave it.”
Reagan’s mouth fell. She swung to Harry. “Are you going to let her talk to me like that?”
Harry squashed the grin on his face and cleared his throat. “Ahem. Well. You have tried the dress on a lot, and Miss Apel has been more than accommodating.”
Reagan stomped her foot. “You,” she said, wagging a finger at him. “You wait until we get home.”
Oh no. I didn’t want Harry to be in the dog house because of me. I reached out and rubbed Reagan’s arm, trying to soothe the savage bridezilla. “Reagan, I’ll lose some of the sequins. Stop by tomorrow and see what you think.”
She flashed a tight, bitter smile. “What you have better be good, or I’m taking my business elsewhere. And that means your sister won’t be doing the catering, either.” She squared her shoulders, swiveled on her heel and stormed out of the shop. Harry gave me an apologetic smile and followed. The little bell above the door tinkled as they left.
“Do you think she’ll back out?” Carrie asked.
I shook my head. “Of course not. Not unless she wants a dress off the rack and a cake from Walmart.”
Carrie laughed. “She’s something else, isn’t she?”
“She’s certainly something.” I rubbed my neck. Tension latched to the cords of muscle. I’d have a headache pretty soon if I didn’t take an ibuprofen. Extending my palm, I gestured for Carrie to hand me the wedding gown. “I guess I’ll alter her dress.”
Carrie stuffed the layers of silk in my hands and nodded to the blue cross-necked dress. “But when are you going to finish that one?”
I peeked out from behind the mass. “I don’t know. We have, what? Two weeks until the summer solstice? I’ll work on it soon.”
The bell above the door tinkled. Seraphina crashed in, a whirlwind of flour following her. Her blue eyes sparkled with delight. How I envied those eyes. Mine were poo brown. Some said chocolate, but I knew better. Those folks were just being Southern polite.
“Oh my God! Did y’all see the article?” She waved the paper like a flag of surrender.
“I did!”
“It’s incredible. The reporter went so far as to say our work is, and I quote…” She scanned the article. “Where is it? Where did that passage go? Oh, here it is.” She jabbed it. “She said our work is ‘inspired by the gods themselves.’ Ha! You couldn’t pay for better advertising.”
“You probably could,” I said.
Carrie flipped the ends of her chestnut hair. “Listen, y’all, I just got this new gel manicure machine in the mail. Do you mind if I go freshen up these bad boys?” She wiggled her perfect coral nails. To my eyes, they needed no refreshing. But hey, every girl has some sort of vice. Carrie’s happened to be that she was ADD about her nails. In the three years she’d worked for me, I’d never seen one chip. Ever. Mine, on the other hand, looked like Godzilla had tried to paint them—there were broken wedges of color that Carrie would have deemed unforgivable.
“Go ahead. We’ll be here,” I said. She picked up a shipping box and exited to the back.
I hung Reagan’s wedding dress on a rack and brushed my hands of any rogue sequins that hadn’t been sewn on properly, which was actually impossible since I’d done the work myself. But my grandmother had always taught me to be humble, so that was my attempt.
Sera chewed her bottom lip. “The reporter says, ‘Dylan Apel’s dresses will transport you to another time and place. A claim I can attest to personally, for I experienced this peculiar phenomenon first-hand when I tried on one of her gowns. When I saw my reflection in the mirror, for a split second I was taken back to the cotillion ball where I met my husband thirty years ago. If that wasn’t enough to put a spring in my step, one bite of Seraphina’s baked treats and I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen as she created confections on the stove. Truly a magical experience.'” Sera paused, looked up at me. “Seriously. That’s some good stuff.”
“Yeah, it’s good,” I said. But the reporter’s description about trying on my clothes bothered me. I shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling and smiled. “Though I have been accused on occasion of drugging my clothes.”
Sera frowned. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The bell tinkled. I stepped forward, my most welcoming smile on my face.
My sister glanced at me. “You look like a piranha. Tone it down.”
I settled into a half smile. “Good morning! Welcome to Perfect Fit.”
A towering redhead sauntered into the store. Bangles covered both her arms, clinking pleasantly as she walked. Emerald-green eyes fixed on me and Sera. I squirmed. Couldn’t help it. At five-five I wasn’t short. Not by any means. But this was a tall woman. Five-ten easy. And all that hair. A cloud of silky crimson and honey curls cascaded down her back. I don’t even think she had any product in it. It was a totally natural head of hair.
I hated her.
Kidding. But envy did surface.
She smiled brightly. My envy turned into instant like. “Mornin’. I wanted to try on some clothes,” she said in a throaty voice, the kind that drove men mad. I’d never seen her before, and Silver Springs was a minuscule town. From the look of interest on Sera’s face, I guess she hadn’t seen this woman before, either.
I stepped forward. “Absolutely. What are you looking for?”
“Just some regular day-wear stuff.”
My time had arrived. I had a knack, a sixth sense really, about clothes and people. In one try I could create an entire body-fitting wardrobe and not even know the size of the person. What can I say? It came naturally to me.
“Are you looking for sportswear or business?”
“Both.”
Cha-ching! “Let me pull a few items and see what you think.”
“I’m gonna head back,” Sera said. “I’m sure there’s something I need to make.”
I waved. “Bye.”
She waved back and left, leaving me to focus on my client. Five minutes later I had two armfuls of pants, jackets, and blouses. “Let me get you in a dressing room. After you’re done, come out and see what you think in the three-way mirror.”
None of my dressing rooms had mirrors. People thought it weird, but I wanted to be around when my clients saw themselves in my clothing for the first time.
The woman disappeared behind the door, a roomful of clothes at the ready. Two minutes later she reappeared in a pair of jeans and a loose blouse.
“Take a look.”
She stepped forward. The air contracted as if the very atmosphere had been sucked away. The mirror shimmered, and the woman’s image bowed and straightened. It happened fast, so fast no one ever noticed. No one except for me.
So, this is where I tell you what that’s all about. I would if I could. The easiest explanation is that my clothes make people feel great. From what Sera’s told me, putting on one of my garments reminds you of an amazing time in your life. For instance—you’re a fifty-year-old woman buying a dress for your daughter’s wedding. You try something on and poof, you’re transported back to the wondrous feeling you experienced at senior prom. Of course, that would be you, not me. My prom stank thanks to Reagan Eckhart.
At least, that’s what I’d always thought. It’s also why the reporter’s story bothered me. She saw her younger self in that mirror. That had never happened before—at least not that I knew of. My clothes blanketed clients in a wondrous feeling. They didn’t make anyone see visions.
Sera’s baked goods do something similar. Every time I eat something she’s made, I feel amazing, like I could take on the world. One bite of a buttery croissant and I’m totally superwoman. Minus the red cape. And the tights. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit.
But why are we like that? We’re gifted; that’s what our grandmother always called it. We have a gift.
“What do you think?” I asked.
She stared at her image. After a long moment her lips curlicued into a smile. She licked the bottom one, her eyes shining.
“Your clothes are breathtaking.”
Thirty minutes and three hundred dollars later, I placed the last package in the redhead’s hands.
“How’d you hear about us?” I asked.
“I saw the article in the paper.”
I clicked my tongue. “Wow. News travels fast.” Sweet. Today might be a crazy, busy day.
She smiled, her eyes glittering. “You don’t even know the half of it.”
“Oh?”
She pinched her brows together, giving her a dark, ominous expression. “In one week I guarantee you won’t recognize your life.”
An awkward laugh escaped my lips. “Oh. Ha-ha. I hope it’s all good.”
She shook her head. “That little article that came out about you? The one that was supposed to help your business? Well, you just did the opposite. You stirred up a bed of fire ants.” She leaned forward and gave me a stern look. “And in case you need remindin’, the sting from a fire ant lasts a long time. Take this as your warnin’.”
I was so confused. “What do you mean, a warning?”
“Watch your back.”
With that she left, her cloud of hair billowing behind her. I stood stone still. Numb shock tingled over my body, filtering down into my fingers and toes.
What the heck just happened?
After living in Chicago, Louisville and New York, Amy Boyles finally settled in North Alabama with her husband.
Along with writing, she has a passion for cooking ridiculously fattening food and complaining about weight gain. She loves to connect with readers.
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Vigilance

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Vigilance (Regina Shen – 2) by Lance Erlick

Abrupt climate change melted ice caps and flooded coasts. Outcast Regina Shen has unique DNA that the World Federation believes can prevent human extinction. Not trusting them, Regina jumps the barrier wall into the Federation to hunt for her sister, kidnapped two years earlier. She reaches the well-guarded university near where they’re holding her sister. Two rival inspectors close in on her. With time running out, can she escape campus and rescue her sister from an obvious trap?

Lance Erlick

He was raised by a roaming aerospace engineer, growing up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven.

Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

In an ideal world, Lance would find time loops where he could step out for a week at a time to read and write. Then he would return to the moment he left, without life getting in the way. Of course, since everyone would have the same ability, he suspects life would still sneak in.

Lance is also the author of short stories and novelettes.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads

Book

My Review

5 stars

It has been two years since we last saw Regina. Regina has been under the guidance and protection of Mo-Mere. But Mo-Mere feels it is time for Regina to jump the Barrier Wall and join the University. But this is a challenge for Regina, how is she supposed to act docile when she has had to fight for everything up to this point. And how is she supposed to find her sister, Colleen when there is clearly marked path to get to the fertility clinic. Plus it doesn’t help that DeMarco is still searching for Regina. But DeMarco is not the only one looking for Regina to get ahead in this world.

Regina is such a strong character that I initially thought she was going to have more trouble fitting in at the University. But thankfully she has some professors helping keep her out of the line of those looking for her. But besides seeing how Regina has grown and how she is better prepared for this fight was seeing how the Federation is run. Here Regina is told all of these stories and everyone thinks that it would be better than stuck in the swamp. But the inside is not any better than where Regina came from.

I love how this series is progressing. I really cheered for Regina and hoped that she rescue Colleen even though everything was stacked against her. I am definitely excited to start reading Defiance.

To purchase Vigilance make sure to check out Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads.

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I received Vigilance for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Loreena’s Gift

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Loreena’s Gift by Colleen Story

A BLIND GIRL’S TERRIFYING “GIFT” ALLOWS HER TO REGAIN HER EYESIGHT–BUT ONLY AS SHE FERRIES THE RECENTLY DECEASED INTO THE AFTERLIFE.

Loreena Picket thinks she knows herself. A blind young woman who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small-town church, she’s a dutiful niece and talented pianist for the congregation.

But they’re both hiding a terrible secret. Loreena can kill people with the touch of her hand.

While her uncle sees her as an angel of mercy, helping usher the terminally ill members of his flock into the afterlife, Loreena has her doubts.

Torn between doing her uncle’s bidding and the allure of the fleeting moments when her eyesight returns on the journey to the other side, Loreena cooperates with her uncle until her troubled older brother returns to town. When she reveals her power by saving him from a local drug dealer, she is drawn into a sinister and dangerous world that will test the true nature of her talent and force her to consider how far she is willing to go to survive.

An exciting debut that crosses fantasy and literary fiction, Loreena’s Gift is a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.

Colleen Story

Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) a motivational site for writers and other creatives.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~ Twitter

Book

My Review

5 stars

At the age of 9, Loreena lost her parents and her sight in a car accident. Her and her brother, Saul are sent to live with their Uncle Don, a preacher. Years later Loreena finds it strange that her palms always smell like sulfur, even after a lot of scrubbing. But when she accidently kills her friend and takes him to the afterlife. Loreena’s uncle convinces her to help terminally ill people cross over. But then her brother shows up and the head of a biker’s club learns of her gift/curse, Loreena is forced to use her gift to save her brother’s life.

Loreena is such a strong young woman. She has the ability to kill and take a person to the afterlife, during this time she regains her vision. But in our world she is blind and helping her uncle to help those suffering. And after she is discovered, she still does what needs to be done to save both her and her brother’s lives.

This book sucked me in and I could turn the pages fast enough to see what was going to happen to Loreena next. I really liked how although Loreena is blind she didn’t let that defeat her. Also, even though she has a gift/curse depending on how you look at it, she does her best with everything she faces.

This is a great story and hard to tell that it is Colleen Story’s first book. I absolutely loved this story and I will be on the lookout for future books from Story.

To purchase Loreena’s Gift make sure to visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

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I received Loreena’s Gift for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Guest Post

3 Things Novels and Cats Have in Common

 How fun to discover Jessica’s three cats on her “about page.” DC is a beauty and reminds me some of the male cat I used to have, “Myra.” I actually used to have three cats—all strays that I had “rescued” over the years—but I’m down to only one, now.

Myra was with me for nearly 14 years, and was a master bug catcher and laser light chaser. Sam, my Halloween cat (she showed up all bones around Halloween time) and my wild warrior queen, was with me for about six years before she passed.

I’m left with Rikki, a little black and silver tiger I found beat up along the side of the road when she was less than a year old. She is about the sweetest cat I’ve ever known and extremely well behaved.

Having been raised on a ranch, I’ve had cats all my life, and even though they all have their own unique personalities, there are some characteristics they have in common.

It could be said that novels, as well, share some of those same characteristics.

  1. They don’t really need you.

We authors like to feel possessive of our stories. We like to think that without us, the characters would never come to life, never experience their journeys, never triumph (or not) at the end.

When things get rough, we like to remind ourselves of this fact. No matter what happens with sales or reviews or whatever, we think, without us, this story and the people in it never would have seen the light of day.

Truth is, though, that the novel and the characters in it don’t really care. It’s like the cat when you get home. A dog will come greet you tail wagging, but a cat is just as likely to look at you like, “Yeah, so you got anything for me or not?” Or maybe more commonly, “Yeah, I know, I’m beautiful and you missed me.”

I have a feeling that the characters in my novels, if I’m really honest with myself, are somewhat similar. They have their lives to live, and whether or not I look in on them or find a way to share their journeys with others is neither here nor there. Really, if I do dive in and do the hard work of bringing their story “to life,” they’re glad to remind me that the benefit is all mine.

And in my better moments, I have to admit it’s true. I’m the one who benefits from getting to know them, and being allowed to join them on their journeys. They’d do just fine without me. But when I’m willing to move into their world, I get a chance to experience other lives, other settings, other personalities. It’s better than any virtual reality experience, that’s for sure.

  1. Out of the blue, they’ll tear around the house 90 miles per hour.

You’ve seen cats do this.

But you probably didn’t know why.

Out of the blue, Rikki will spring from wherever she’s sitting and fly around the house, so fast that I hardly see her blurred body moving. Down to the basement, around and back up, across the living room and through the kitchen and back down to the basement, the sound of her claws gripping the carpet a percussive accompaniment to her mad dash.

Novels can do that, too. I can be writing along, working on a particular scene, and all of a sudden it will take off. Characters will do things I didn’t expect, something new will appear, a disaster will occur, or something, and suddenly I’m just along for the ride, typing as fast as my fingers will go.

Unfortunately, it often ends as fast as it began. Rikki screeches to a halt and sits by the window with a nonchalant look on her face, like the last three minutes of spazzing out never occurred. A novel, too, will quiet down and then a writer is back to the hard work of crafting the next scene.

But hey, it was fun while it lasted.

  1. They’re both finicky.

Myra was all about eating. Still, he had his tastes, and some brands of food he’d turn his little white nose up to until I relented and found something else he liked.

Rikki isn’t disagreeable, but she will just as soon leave the dish untouched if she doesn’t like what’s in it.

If you’ve had cats, you know how finicky they can be. A novel is often the same. Try to set your characters down a road they don’t want to go on, and they’ll let you know right quick. Suddenly their voices disappear, and the muse leaves you behind. You sit at the computer with the cursor blinking and your characters are nowhere to be found.

Time to go back and see where you went wrong. Sometimes, it takes a long time to find just where that occurred. The whole process can cause writer’s block for awhile, until usually you walk away from it, go do something else, and suddenly it breaks through.

Of course! She wouldn’t have done that. She would have done this!

And you’re back in the game—as long as you’ve made a choice your characters can live with.

It’s kind of like finding the right food. Until you do, expect your feline to give you that look, like, “Really, do I have to spell it out? R-E-A-L M-E-A-T. I mean, duh.”

Thank you Colleen, I couldn’t have said it better. Make sure to check out Colleen’s book Loreena’s Gift.

 

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Resilience

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Resilience (Regina Shen – 1) by Lance Erlick

Abrupt climate change melted ice caps and flooded coasts. Regina Shen is an outcast condemned to live on the seaward side of barrier walls. A hurricane threatens to destroy Regina’s world, tearing her from sister, mom, and home.

The World Federation’s notorious Department of Antiquities polices barrier walls and suppresses knowledge from the past. Regina thrives on salvage from sunken cities, including illegal print books from before the Federation. With photographic memory, she defies Antiquities by reading books not available in the Federation. Antiquities claims Regina has unique DNA that could single-handedly stop human extinction. It’s too bad she doesn’t trust them enough to barter fairly, let alone with her life.

As the storm worsens, Antiquities and their allies doggedly pursue Regina. Does she have the resilience to survive the storm and avoid capture while hunting for family?

Lance Erlick

He was raised by a roaming aerospace engineer, growing up in various parts of the United States and Europe, as well as traveling through Asia. He took to stories as his anchor, including the works of Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein, and has been writing since age eleven.

Growing up, he was inspired by his father’s engineering work on cutting-edge aerospace projects to look to the future.

In an ideal world, Lance would find time loops where he could step out for a week at a time to read and write. Then he would return to the moment he left, without life getting in the way. Of course, since everyone would have the same ability, he suspects life would still sneak in.

Lance is also the author of short stories and novelettes.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Goodreads

Book

My Review

4 stars

Global warming has destroyed the ice caps leaving the world sunk in water. In this new world women have taken over and changed all religion to focus around GODs, the Grand Old Dames. The dames are in struggle for who rules the existing world. But in their world, their systems are breaking down. There are no men and the girls created are made in labs. There is a break down in the genetic material and weakened the new children so they don’t survive.

Regina Shen is a child in the marshes outside the walls of the country. Thought of as nothing more than swamp rats, the people in this world salvage the old sunken cities for materials to sell. Regina and her mother survive by salvaging. But Regina also has the opportunity of an education with pre-collapsed education. When a hurricane strikes Regina, her mother and her sister try to find higher ground to survive when her mother abandons the girls. Then a Department of Antiquities woman is trying to find Regina and her sister because they may have the genetics to fix the world. Regina and her sister get separated. Regina is racing against time, traps, the Department of Antiquities police and other dangers to try and save her sister and herself from the new flooded world.

This was a great book. Regina seems to have the odds stacked against her. Thankfully she has the chance to get a bit of education. Mo Mere also teaches her about what the world was like before the GODs. But the most important thing to her is her family. When her mother abandons her to the storm it really bothers Regina. When her sister is taken, Regina goes after her and plans to rescue her. But this is not an easy path since there is danger at every step. But she doesn’t let that stop her. Although it does get her into trouble a couple times rushing in without looking around.

This is a great start to the series. The setting was perfect, I could just see people trying to survive in swamps after being dumped out of the countries walls. I admit that Regina pining over her mother did get a little irritating since her mother has clearly been gone more and more lately. I do have to remind myself that she is a young girl and this is the ultimate betrayal.

I do like the story and am eager to read Vigilance to see if she does rescue her sister.

To purchase Vigilance make sure to visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and Lance Erlick’s website.

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I received Resilience for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Excerpt

WRITING A FEMALE PROTAGONIST (crossing gender) by Lance Erlick

Why did I choose a female protagonist and what got me to think I could pull it off?

Growing up, I was surrounded by strong women and often by the absence of men. At one point, I did a one-and-a-half-year stint in a Catholic military boarding school run by Catholic sisters.

As a reader, I’ve often experienced getting into various characters’ heads, both male and female. When I was getting ready to write The Rebel Within, I had just finished reading Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark. She tells the story of a young autistic boy in his point of view. I believe she handled gender quite well, and hopefully I’ve brought lessons from her writing into my work.

What helped me over the edge in taking on The Rebel Within was that I’d already written Annabelle Scott as a co-protagonist in Rebels Divided (now the 3rd book in the series). Annabelle got into my head and wouldn’t let go until I wrote her story. I felt I was seeing her world through her eyes and imagined how I/she would deal with what she faced. One thing this series does is play on a reversal of gender dominance with women controlling the society and men discriminated against. Thus, it explores the topic from a different perspective.

When it came time to write the Regina Shen series, the answer was obvious. This is a world in which men have become extinct due to events in the story’s past. Naturally, any protagonist I chose would be female.

Perhaps I should digress and discuss why I chose a world without men. The idea is an extension of research I did into the Rebel series that hints at future fertility research that could allow two women to have a child without a man. The idea tickled my imagination in the Rebel series where men and women are separated by a shaky peace. I wanted to explore the implications of a society in which there would be no gender issues yet would be consistent with a long history of human nature.

By that I mean that we (men and women) are inherently competitive as a species and seek dominance over others in order to secure our place. While some writers have idealized an all-female society, I believe this competition and inherent need for status would perpetuate some institutions even in the absence of men. In any case, it was a fun adventure to create. It’s not heavy-handed in any way, and many readers have found it quite enjoyable.

So what I would offer is if you have a story to tell, don’t be scared away by the story’s need to be told by your opposite gender.

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Orphan Flowers

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TITLE: Orphan Flowers

SERIES: Conquering Series (Book 1)

GENRE: Contemporary Mystery / Suspense

AUTHOR: J.C. Rochford

RELEASES: July 23rd, 2016

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Not sure if this novel is for you? The first THREE chapters of Orphan Flowers is on Wattpad, check it out and discover the suspense this novel brings: http://bit.ly/wattpadof

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synopsis

Lily-May, wife of NYPD Detective Murray and mother to beautiful Callie, tragically goes missing, with her daughter witnessing the ordeal, but unable to save her mother from the captor’s grip. Will Callie be able to live with herself?

A mystery as to where she is or how she got there and to stay alive, Lily begins a new life pretending to be someone else. Will she ever be found, or will her captor carry out the unthinkable when he learns her true identity?

Back home, Lily’s husband and daughter have been left to pick up the pieces. While both suffer immeasurable pain and emptiness, Callie believes she has seen her mother on a number of occasions but has been too scared to tell her dad who, unbeknownst to her, has witnessed his own sightings of this same woman.

Has Lily returned, or is it her ghost back to haunt her daughter and husband?

about the author

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J.C. Rochford was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Besides being half Canadian, she is also half British with many family members still residing in England. J.C. began her writing journey in her early teens writing poetry and song lyrics. Currently, you may find J.C. Rochford titles under the young adult and contemporary fiction genres.

‘Orphan Flowers’ is J.C. Rochford’s debut novel, and was written over the course of two years before setting it to release to the world on July 23, 2016.

J.C. Rochford holds additional interests in photography, graphic design, and jewellery design. She also enjoys the outdoors and visiting rural Ontario with her family during the summer.

Facebook: http://bit.ly/authjcfacebook

Twitter: http://bit.ly/authjctweeter

Instagram: http://bit.ly/authjcinstagram

Amazon: http://bit.ly/authjcgoodreads

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/authjcamazon

Subscribe to Newsletter: http://bit.ly/jcnewsletter

Join Rochford’s Rockin’ Readers Group: http://bit.ly/RRRgroup

 

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The Bacchanal: And Other Horrific Tales

An artist whose love for his wife has horrific results.

A babysitting job gone horribly wrong.

A talent agency that promises success no matter what; even if you are the one standing in the way.

This chilling collection of modern horror stories is sure to have you peeking warily around corners and walking just a bit faster down dark streets. Full of both creepy events and morbid humor, The Bacchanal stands as a testament to humanity’s love of being afraid and of frightening others.

Humanity’s fear of the unknown and fascination with the supernatural are masterfully depicted in these eleven stories. Though the supernatural elements are the centerpiece of the collection, it is the believable actions of the ordinary humans, both evil and well-meaning, that will send shivers down readers’ spines.
Book

My Review

5 stars

I admit that I don’t usually read short stories, usually because you might get one or two good stories but the rest don’t really catch my attention. But since I love horror and thrillers I was excited to review The Bacchanal: And Other Horrific Tales. There are twelve tales that will thrill you with supernatural creatures and the depravity of human nature.

All of the stories were really good but I will agree with other reviewers, my favorite was TS Hall’s The Encouragement Specialists. This is definitely a story about an offer too good to be true.

If you like good horror stories look no further. This collection will be one that you keep.

To purchase The Bacchanal: And Other Horrific Tales make sure to check out Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

I received The Bacchanal: And Other Horrific Stories for free from Dream Big Publications in exchange for an honest review.

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Onyx Webb: Book Two

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Onyx Webb: Book Two – Episodes 4, 5 & 6 (Onyx Webb – 2) by Richard Fenton

The Onyx Webb series follows the unusual life of Onyx Webb along with a central group of characters in various locations and times. Written like a book version of a supernatural soap opera, each character’s story moves forward with most every episode. It may appear that the characters are entirely unrelated and yet episode by episode, the connections will become clearer And this is especially true in Book Two. Like being an inch away from a spider web, with each book, the web will move further and further away revealing the full story of every character and most importantly, the stunning conclusion for Onyx Webb herself.

In Book Two… It’s the 30’s and Declan Mulvaney and best friend Tommy Bilazzo learrn to survive at the Open Arms Orphange despite the adults who run the place. It’s 2010, and Koda Mulvaney is insane trying to see the girl in the mirror again. Onyx Webb is finds herself living all over the country married to the crazy German, Ulrich, with no way out.

Book

My Review

5 stars

The story of Onyx Webb is getting clearer and clearer the more we read. Koda Mulvaney is still obsessed with the girl in the mirror. He ends up having a bad encounter with a psychic and gets an ultimatum about getting back to work.

We learn more about the Open Arms Orphanage and the suffering that happens there. Declan Mulvaney and his friend Tommy Bilazzo are going to be facing worse things. But Sister Mary Margaret will try to protect them and punish the wicked with the help of God.

And finally there is Onyx and her horrible husband Ulrich. Onyx fears being alone more than a horrible marriage and you start to see how bad it really is. You can’t help but feel bad for Onyx in the past or even as she is breaking a rule to touch the mirror for the color. But I will say that I loved her role with the haunted piano.

This story is so intertwined that the description of a spider web viewed up close is very accurate. We are slowly stepping back from that web and starting to see how things are connecting. I loved when Onyx and Katherine meet and remember their past. I love seeing the connections and was surprised by some of them. They were right there and I didn’t put two and two together until the last minute.

This is an amazing series and just keeps getting better with each book. I can’t wait to read the next book to find out how everyone is connected.

To purchase Onyx Webb: Book Two Make sure to check out Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Richard Fenton’s website.

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I received a copy of Onyx Webb: Book Two for free from both the author and Premier Virtual Author Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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Excerpt

Onyx Webb: Book Two

 By Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz

Koda entered the living room and looked around to find that everything was different—the sofas, tables, art, everything. Each and every stitch of furniture gone—replaced—even the carpeting had been changed.

“What in the hell?” Koda yelled over the juicer’s noise.

Mika looked up and saw him standing there. She hit the pause button on the juicer and came around the kitchen counter into the living area and kissed him on the cheek. “What do you think? Fabulous, huh?” she asked, flinging her arms open wide for dramatic effect.

Koda felt a sudden wave of nausea wash over him.

Oh, dear God.

Mika knew Koda was going to be upset when he realized what she’d done. “It’s gone,” she said, determined not to dance around the question.

A feeling of panic began to rise in Koda’s chest. “Gone? What do you mean by gone?”

“What can I say, honey,” Mika said, returning her attention to the juicer. “The mirror thing was starting to get on my nerves. And face it—sitting in front of an old piece of glass for days on end, waiting for a girl that doesn’t exist to show up? It just isn’t healthy.”

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The Eden Tree

” Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” John James Morgan knew the day he was born. Two days before his sixty-first birthday he found out why. John is a happily married businessman, father and grandfather, living in Cheshire, in the heart of England. Happy, that is, until his family face a crisis. A terminal one. At the local market, a flower-seller tells John a story that changes his life. Assured his destiny is in his own hands, John crosses the globe in pursuit of a religious artefact which has remained hidden for two thousand years. Presented with an antique box containing maps, parchments and a bag of leaves, John returns to the UK and witnesses a miracle. With the box in his possession, John and his family find new friends and enemies; lives are threatened and people die, although some will be healed. With the help of many different people, from all walks of life, John’s journey will finally lead him to the discovery of an extraordinary and mysterious tree. But what will this Eden tree mean to John, his family, their faith and their future? The Eden Tree is author Peter Worthington’s first novel; a fictional account based on his own experiences with his son, John Wesley, who underwent treatment for cancer but sadly passed away shortly after his seventh birthday. The Eden Tree has allowed Peter to give his much-loved son “a happier ending.”

Peter Worthington

Peter Worthington

Today Peter Worthington lives in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with his wife Margaret. Peter has enjoyed a bright and varied career as a church minister, financial adviser and internet consultant. Now retired he is busier than ever thanks to his three grandchildren, studying for an Open University Degree in Creative Writing, voluntary work, playing World of Warcraft, serving on the board of a housing association and writing. He has previously published short stories in a number of Christian magazines. His first novel, The Eden Tree (published by Clink Street Publishing 19th July 2016 RRP £8.99 paperback, RRP £2.99 ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores. For more information you can follow Peter @CatshillPeter or visit http://www.edentree.co/

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To purchase The Eden Tree make sure to visit Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, and Peter Worthington’s website.

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Beneath the Fall

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Beneath the Fall (Sunborn Rising – 1)

“Sunborn Rising: Beneath the Fall is the best vivid fantasy YA book of the year.” –Entrada Publishing

On a distant world of forests floating on an ocean around a star,

a blight threatens to plunge all life into darkness.

But three friends seek the light.

Together, they will Fall and be lost.

And at the very Root of darkness, they will find themselves.

But will it be enough to help them find their way home?

The world of Cerulean

Light and water flow from the ocean into the roots of the Great Trees, up through the boughs, and out over the lush canopy. But the once vibrant treescape has grown dim over generations of arboreal life, and the creatures of the forest have forgotten the light.

Barra, a young, willful Listlespur, finds her late father’s hidden journal, and reads about the old world and the mysterious plague her father believed destroyed it. He wrote that he warned the Elders. He urged them to take action. Those were his last words.

Together with her two best friends, Barra will explore every bark, wood, and leaf of the Great Forest to relight her world and complete her father’s story, even if she has to travel beneath the Fall.

Buy the book:   Amazon ~ Author Website

Author’s Bio:

Aaron Safronoff is author of the Discovery Award winning science fiction novel, Spire. Since his debut, he’s published a sequel, Fallen Spire, and a novella of literary fiction, Evening Breezes.

Safronoff’s diverse background includes the formal study of computer science, bio-chemistry, and culinary arts. However, most of his career has been in the videogame industry in quality, production, and design.

Today, Safronoff is the co-founder and Chief Storyteller of Neoglyphic Entertainment, and is busy writing his fifth novel, the second installment of the Sunborn Rising series.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Book Trailer

My Review

5 stars

Cerulean is a world that has a sun at its center, surrounded by an ocean, with trees on the outer edge. Barra Swiftspur lives in the Loft of the Great Tree. She misses her adventurer father and decides to get to know him better by sneaking his journal. But she discovers that her father has found the Creepervine, a fungus that is slowly killing the Great Trees. He had trouble getting the elders to believe him and Barra is finding that she cannot get her mother to listen to her. So Barra meets up with her friends Tory and Plicks to find out more about the Creepervine. But instead of staying around the tops of the trees, they find themselves at the roots with the Creeperville and evil creatures.

Barra is strong willed and that gets her in trouble with her friends and on their adventures. Thankfully Plicks is there to keep Barra and Tory for getting into too much trouble. I loved how they stuck together through the whole adventure, even when things got tough for them.

Then there are the illustrations. The writing is beautiful but there are several sketches and pictures throughout the book that add so much to the story. I just sucked me in and left me wanting to keep reading into the early hours of the night. The artwork is absolutely beautiful and makes this story just that much better.

This is a wonderful adventure story. It is written for mid grade readers but it will easily appeal to any age. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this series.

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I received Beneath the Fall for free from iRead Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

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