Liked It: Lincoln Ladies by Suzy Duffy + Giveaway

Series: New England Trilogy 3

Format: eGalley
Release Date: October 30, 2014
Publisher: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Women’s Literature | Contemporary

Kate Kavanagh is happy raising her daughter and focusing on work, but when the girl moves to New York for a fantastic job and ends up moving in with her philandering father, things get complicated.

Her best friend, Madeline Stein, has been a career girl all her life. As a single mom, her job defines her, so when she loses it, Maddy needs to find something or someone else to make her forties fun.

Portia Kavanagh hits New York with a bang, but she’s so hungry for adventure she bites off more of the Big Apple than planned. Portia retreats to what she thinks is the sanctuary of her father’s home and soon discovers she’s not the only one in the family with an overactive appetite.

Kate and Maddy find themselves leaving their lovely hometown of Lincoln, outside Boston, for the fertile and romantic hills of Tuscany. However, blue skies, rich wine, and charming Italians bring the women a whole new world that they have to maneuver with the grace and style of a Lincoln Lady. Portia’s high-octane life in Manhattan comes at a price, too. Out of the millions of men she could have, she chooses the only one she’s meant to avoid. Her quandary: Has she made a mistake of epic proportions or found the one in a million?

This is a story of three fantastic women on a journey of self-discovery. With more ups and downs than a Florentine fairground, the ladies survive love, loss, and fresh pasta by laughing at life and using a doggie bag. There are lots of thrills and spills along the way, but in the end it’s all about friendship, attitude, and walking off that fabulous food. Come on an adventure and enjoy the ride with the lovely Lincoln Ladies.

Suzy Duffy’s New England Trilogy is like the smarter, way tolerable, and just as entertaining version of The Real Housewives franchise (which is my guiltiest pleasure btw). The blueprint is there’s a couple of middle aged housewives who are facing the proverbial fork in the road. One is usually a stay-at-home wife while, then there’s the best friend who is corporate powerhouse, then the of-age daughter(s) who is going through life changes that can be challenging to cope with. All three books are women’s stories which we can all relate to in some ways. 
LINCOLN LADIES is similar to the previous books and the most romantic installment yet. It may follow the formula but I find the ladies more daring and less accepting of their lots in life than the previous ones. My only critique is that it was too formulaic to the point where it became predictable and I felt like I didn’t really get anything “new” in comparison to the previous two books. 
But despite that, I still enjoyed LINCOLN LADIES, Kate, Maddy, and Portia’s lives and journeys were very relatable to me. I also like to mention that this novel is inspired by the movie, Under The Tuscan Sun (one of my favorite movie of all time!). Kate and Maddy saw the movie and decided to take a trip to Italy where they found love, friendships, and some sort of an awakening. Getting out of one’s comfort zone is one of the predominant themes in this book and SDuffy illustrated it really well. 
I don’t know if there’s going to be a spin-off based on the ending, I sure hope there is. I certainly won’t miss it!

Suzy Duffy is an international and #1 best-selling author. She writes laugh-out-loud, life-affirming stories about women from five to ninety-five. (Sometimes she writes about men too, but only for comedic purposes, and pets—if they’re funny.) Her debut US novel, Wellesley Wives became an instant best seller, won numerous awards and critical acclaim, and is due to be published in Norwegian, September 2013. She was a guest speaker at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

Newton Neighbors, her second US novel, will be published September 2013.

Other than this, Suzy was a national radio DJ and television presenter in Ireland before she started writing. She has also been an interpreter in the United Nations, Geneva, a water ski instructor in Crete, and a corn cutter in the south of France—from which she was fired!

She gives 10% of her royalties to WWW.FOBH.ORG because she believes in serendipity. (A serendipitist?) She plans to write a book a year for the next forty years, and then she’ll have a rethink.

Link up with Suzy

A Shot of YA: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne

Series: Stand-alone

Format: PDF
Release Date: December 16, 2013
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Source: Author
Excerpt here
Recommended by: Livia of Butterfly-O-Meter Books
Genre: Contemporary MYA – LGBT

Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.

Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened?

I went to an all-girls private school and witnessed first hand some of the things that Jenny O’Connor and Nicola Jackson experienced in SECRET LIES from the standpoint of exploring one’s sexuality. Let me clarify that a bit in case some of you get green, I mean I had friends who are gay and I saw them struggle with the semantics, go through heartbreaks, work out their confusions, and hide it from their parents during this time. Now my friends might not have been bullied or considered freaks in our school but some of my friends’ parents sure would have a conniption if they found out that their darling daughter’s having scissor fantasies with her alleged “bestfriend”. These coupled with adolescence, peer pressure, and keeping up with school can be a challenging on its own and comparing them with Jenny and Nicola, my friends had it easy somewhat. 

She [Jenny] was the girl every girl every guy in school fantasized about being with and the girl every other girls desperately longed to be… But she sacrificed a lot for her popularity, more than she dared to admit, and the idea of her friends and others discovering it was aa an act terrified.

Being gay is just the tip of the iceberg in SECRET LIES, Amy Dunne created this perfect storm for her MC’s. Aside from the bullying thanks to ignorance, there’s also a multitude of issues plaguing both Jenny and Nic. Jenny may be the prettiest and most popular kid in school but she has a dark secret of her own, when things get too intense, Jenny cuts herself. On top of this, she drinks, smokes, and medicates herself with the occasional marijuana to cope. Nic is an outsider, a loner, and a victim of physical and verbal abuse thanks to her mother’s good-for-nothing boyfriend. Nic’s back is like a portrait of nightmare, riddled with scars ranging from cigarette burns to various proofs of injury. Jenny and Nic’s personal stories were raw and very emphatic, it was quite easy to put oneself in either of their shoes and imagine what they’re feeling or thinking as they try to survive this phase in their lives. 
And maybe I’m in denial or simply naive because I can’t help but be overwhelmed and sometimes shake my head in disbelief over how some people can be so vile as exemplified by the secondary characters! I mean just because someone is different from you doesn’t make them a freak! Like who made these people the epitome of perfections?! And I still don’t understand how someone can physically beat a defenseless person to a pulp just because you don’t like their existence? I know SECRET LIES happens in real life, some situations are even more brutal and even fatal, still it’s a tough pill to swallow, fiction or otherwise. 
Jenny and Nic’s story might not be for everyone but it’s still a story worth knowing. I like the way their relationship developed even if it was quite fast. I think the reason why it didn’t come across as insta-love was because it started innocent and real tender, their passion was more protective than insistent and imposing. I liked the realness of SECRET LIES and I recommend it to readers who are fond of reading books riddled with social issues.

Amy was raised in Derbyshire, England. She attended Keele University and graduated in 2007 with a BSc in philosophy and psychology. After graduating, she worked for a while with vulnerable young people until she moved on to deliver training and educational courses. She is currently in the process of setting up her own speech writing business aptly named, Gift of the Gab. She and her lovely partner Lou celebrated their Civil Partnership at the start of this year. They share a love of Dolly Parton and live with their two gorgeous cats and very naughty puppy.

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Suped Up: Insidious by Aleatha Romig + Giveaway

Series: Tales From The Dark Side 1

Format: ARC
Release Date: October 21, 2014 
Publisher: Romigs Words
Source: Author
Genre: Dark Erotic Thriller


Dark desires…Deadly secrets…Devious deceptions…Nothing is exactly as it seems in INSIDIOUS, the new erotic thriller from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author ALEATHA ROMIG!

When a powerful man is willing to risk everything for his own satisfaction, only one woman can beat him at his own game: his wife. Or so she thinks…

“Let’s start with you calling me Stewart. Formalities seem unnecessary.”

Stewart Harrington is rich, gorgeous, and one of the most powerful men in Miami. He always gets what he wants. Anything is available to him for the right price.

Even me.

Being the wife of a mogul comes with all the perks, but being Mrs. Stewart Harrington comes with a few special requirements. I’ve learned to keep a part of myself locked away as my husband watches me submit to his needs. But the more he demands of me, the more beguiled he becomes and that’s to my advantage. So I keep fulfilling his fantasies and following his rules because he doesn’t know that what he’s playing is really my game. And winning is everything, right?

INSIDIOUS is a stand-alone novel and the first Tales from the Dark Side title by ALEATHA ROMIG.

Wow, Aleatha Romig sure has come a long way since Consequences and she’s really carved herself a niche in the dark erotic thriller genre. What Consequences started, INSIDIOUS will make permanent. I have no doubt that ARomig will become of the genre’s go-to authors for dark and twisted tales, her love stories aren’t for the faint of heart and her brand of HEA is provoking and argumentative even. So before you decide to try any of her books, leave any lighthearted expectations you may have because you won’t get it, instead you’ll find raw, blistering, and passion-filled affairs that may scar and/or scare you away. Be brave, be very brave! LOL
As Tales From The Dark Side is a new series, I know some of you might be curious on how it compares to Consequences. There are a few similarities: an infamous contract, an innocent girl caught in a web of lies and deceit, a trusted bodyguard, and a very unconventional story. It ends there though because for one thing, ARomig did NOT hold back here. Claire and Tony’s story, for what it’s worth, was somewhat filtered, Viktoria Conway-Harrington crossed a lot of lines and her story had my jaw dropping on the floor constantly in disbelief, revulsion, and admiration. Also the sex scenes were very explicit and sometimes disturbing as expected since INSIDIOUS is a dark tale. As for the romance? Let’s just say that ARomig’s latest novel started as a fairy tale and ended a nightmare. 
The bad news is, INSIDIOUS is one of those books where you can’t really break down in small pieces because inasmuch as it’s a well-knitted story, one peep will unravel (spoil) the whole thing and trust me, you don’t want that. It’s gripping from beginning to end so you’ll find yourself furiously turning the pages, thirsting to find out more about Viktoria’s secrets and what made her so broken and slightly deranged. And once those were revealed, you’ll be astounded but its immensity, disgusted by its perversity, empathetic to her plight, and maybe even admire Viktoria’s gumption and cleverness in the end. It’s one of those fantastical stories we commonly see on TV or movies either as fiction, stranger still in real life. But stranger things have been reported so I won’t be surprised if art imitated life in this case.
So forget fluff and bubble gum romance and go explore the dark side with INSIDIOUS. Take a break from the Prince Charmings, damsels in distress, and fairy tale endings, it’s Halloween after all so why not treat yourself to something different for a change? 

Aleatha Romig is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives in Indiana. She grew up in Mishawaka, graduated from Indiana University, and is currently living south of Indianapolis. Together with her high-school sweetheart and husband of twenty-eight years, they’ve raised three children. Before she became a full-time author, she worked days as a dental hygienist and spent her nights writing. Now, when she’s not imagining mind-blowing twists and turns, she likes to spend her time with her family and friends. Her pastimes include reading and creating heroes/anti-heroes who haunt your dreams!

INSIDIOUS is Aleatha’s seventh novel. It is her first time to delve into the world of erotic thrillers. The Consequences Series, her first series has been categorized as psychological thriller and dark romance. With INSIDIOUS, Aleatha took the twists and turns of CONSEQUENCES and turned up the heat.

CONSEQUENCES, her first novel, was released August 2011, by Xlibris Publishing. Then in October of 2012, Ms. Romig re-released CONSEQUENCES as an indie author. TRUTH, the sequel, was released October 30, 2012, and CONVICTED, the third in the series, was released October 8, 2013. Unexpectedly, the fourth book of the Consequences series came to life with REVEALED: THE MISSING YEARS. It is the fourth full-length novel in the series. It explores the years in CONVICTED that previously were only mentioned, as well as a complete character glossary and timeline. REVEALED was released May 20, 2014.

INSIDIOUS, the first released book from TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE will be released October 21, 2014. TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE will be a series of standalone, dark, erotic thrillers guaranteed to take you on a wild, hot, and dark ride. Each novel in the series will be independent of the next. The characters from one book will never be revisited. Instead, Aleatha leaves it up to her readers to imagine how each story will end while remembering that it is the journey that is the most fun.

Aleatha is a “Published Author’s Network” member of the Romance Writers of America and represented by Danielle Egan-Miller of Brown and Miller Literary Associates.

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Website | @AleathaRomig | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads

Loved It: Surrender by June Gray

Series: Disarm 3

Format: ARC
Release Date: November 4, 2014 
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Julie Keaton had everything—she had a new career in a new city and, more importantly, a bright future with fiance, Jason Sherman. That is, until the day she discovered that he had been killed in Afghanistan. In one moment, her life changed, as everything she’d hoped for died along with him.

Years later and Julie still feels the aftershocks of Jason’s death. She is no longer the same adventurous, open girl; now she wears armor around her heart in order to protect the most important thing in her life—her son.

But when Julie meets the mysterious Neal, she starts to feel the smallest flicker of hope, as what began as a fling quickly becomes something more. Neal is the first man since Jason’s death to break down her armor and make her believe again. But when she discovers the secret he’s been keeping, she has to ask herself: can she surrender to a future with Neal or will Jason’s death forever tie her to the past?

3.5 Cauldrons
SURRENDER by June Gray is technically the third novel in the series, it says Disarm 8 in Goodreads but that’s because the first book was previously released as a serial then Berkley did an omnibus. I want to clarify that in case some of you might look up the series and get discouraged when you see the series number. SURRENDER is the third full length novel but if you’re unsure, you can always do the serial first, try JGray’s writing and see if it’s to your liking. 
Now that that’s out of the way, SURRENDER is not a continuation of the previous two books that starred Elise & Henry, Disarm and Arrest. SURRENDER is a whole new story starring Julie Keaton, the baby momma of Elise’s brother, Jason, and Henry’s bestfriend who died in Afghanistan 5 years ago. Julie has been married and divorced since and raising her son with Jason has been her sole purpose with hardly any room for her dreams and desires. Until she met Neal at Elise and Henry’s wedding and her life has never been the same. 
SURRENDER only has two pace, fast and faster, and the tone seesawing between intense and consuming with all the varying shades in between. I have to detach myself from personal opinion so I can put myself in Julie’s shoes and appreciate her rather reckless behavior. On one had, I understand Julie’s loneliness which made Neal such an enticing escape, handsome, rich, and charming. On the other Julie can be seen as desperate which she confirmed on a couple scenes and if not for the guarantee of HEA and Neal being a good guy, my reaction would be wary and skeptical of how their relationship started. I mean I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite happened and Julie ends up with a broken heart. Sure hooking up at your friend’s wedding can be deemed as fun, YOLO! Getting whisked off to Vegas for two days is even funner, excusable even, yet Julie and Neal’s love story felt too insta-love IMO and I just don’t do insta-love. 
As for Neal, he’s alright but not as compelling a character as Henry was. He also did this thing where he kept something important from Julie which is a little too convenient for my taste but heck, anything can happen right? Anyway, Neal’s a really good guy, very straightforward, sincere and fell for Julie as fast and hard as she did for him. Can’t ask for more on that!
Despite my subjective qualms about SURRENDER, I have to remind myself that every love story is unique and beautiful in it’s own way whether or not I agree with the hows. There’s beauty in Julie’s perseverance, dedication to motherhood and to perserving Jason’s memory. I have to admire her daring attitude, getting out of her comfort zone, putting herself on the line which eventually led her to Love’s path and Neal’s arms. I guess when it’s for you, it’s for YOU and sometimes it comes like a hurricane, leveling everything in its path to make way for a rebuild and that’s exactly what happened to Julie.
SURRENDER wasn’t as engrossing as the previous two novels but its just as intense and real as Henry and Elise’s love story. It’s as engaging and stirring, I’m just not sure if it aroused the intended emotions as far as I’m concerned but it’s affecting just the same. Trust on JGray to deliver yet another romance that runs deep with powerful undercurrents. Ignore my critiques because maybe I’m just being a pill subconsciously, and get SURRENDER, you can get away reading it as stand-alone so win-win right?

Bought, Borrowed & Bagged #122 + Boob Tube Binge

BB&B (Bought, Borrowed and Bagged) is a weekly meme, inspired my The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie, where we share with you the books that we have bought, borrowed or bagged (won or gifted) plus a recap of the previous week’s reviews, upcoming reviews, on going events and book movie or television news. 

BB&B is an homage Barron’s Books & Baubles from Karen Marie Moning’s smash hit series, Fever. 

from publishers, authors and tour organizers

Big & Small
With only 10 hours or more of sleep in the past 60 hours I decided to treat myself to unhealthy eating and brainless but fun shows. My goal is to cruise through the day with my sanity intact. Here’s what I got so far:

DATELINE – not exactly light watching but last night’s episode, The Carrollton Plot, which happened down in Texas, fascinated me. The woman got shot in the fricking HEAD in her garage, got up & checked herself in her the mirror to survey the damage, panicked & called 911, miraculously survived with no debilitating damage except for a new glass eye. It was a miracle that’s for sure but the circumstances surrounding it is waaay better than fiction.

THE WALKING DEAD S4 – I initially planned on binge-watching last season so I can get caught up with the hit series this year but it’s too heavy for me right now, maybe tomorrow?

UGANDA BE KIDDING ME – yes, this stand-up in to help promote Chelsea Handler’s new book and is another one her self-deprecating, borderline comedies. I’m a zombie right now so it was easy to let go and not over think things and not get offended by some of the things she’s saying. For what it’s worth, it was an hour of solid stupid fun which I’m sure killed off several brain cells.

HEART OF DIXIE – Sigh! This series is just like pie to me, it’s one of those small-town stories that I love where everyone knows everybody. This show is like a warm hug to me and I think I’ll be spending my day under my cozy comforter today with these crazy Alabama crew.

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Loved It: The Younger Gods by Michael R. Underwood + Giveaway

Series: Younger Gods 1

Format: eGalley
Release Date: October 13, 2014
Publisher: Pocket Star
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Urban Fantasy

The first in a new series from the author of Geekomancy (pop culture urban fantasy) and Shield and Crocus (New Weird superhero fantasy).

Jacob Greene was a sweet boy raised by a loving, tight-knit family…of cultists. He always obeyed, and was so trusted by them that he was the one they sent out on their monthly supply run (food, medicine, pig fetuses, etc.).

Finding himself betrayed by them, he flees the family’s sequestered compound and enters the true unknown: college in New York City. It’s a very foreign place, the normal world and St. Mark’s University. But Jacob’s looking for a purpose in life, a way to understand people, and a future that breaks from his less-than-perfect past. However, when his estranged sister arrives in town to kick off the apocalypse, Jacob realizes that if he doesn’t gather allies and stop the family’s prophecy of destruction from coming true, nobody else will.

Hey y’all! There’s a new superhero in town and his name is Jacob Greene, he wields dark magic but uses it for good. His family is one of the most powerful and loyal servants of darkness, bent on ending the Age of Man to usher a new age where The Younger Gods will rule with the Greenes of North Dakota some sort of regents. But something happened and Jacob no longer wants to be part of his family’s legacy after his family killed his bestfriend on prom night. He then ran away to New York, assumed a new name, went to college and pretended to be normal until his sister came to visit, leaving devastation and dead bodies in her wake, all because she wanted to wake the Younger Gods. Now it’s up to Jacob to stop her but is he strong enough to do so?
Michael R. Underwood always writes these quirky fantasies with dorky endearing characters for heroes. THE YOUNGER GODS is another example of it with a few enhancements to make it a kick-ass urban fantasy. The myth isn’t your typical angels and demons trope, Mr. Underwood tweaked things, gave it his own stamp, creating a whole new breed of Underworld magic and monsters. The action was very fast paced like a video game and the events spanning a matter of days, death toll to the ceiling, destruction in the billions, Jacob & Co. barely have a breath to spare. The imagery was vivid, the cosmology brilliant, and the conflict-resolution was shocking in a way where it didn’t go the way I thought it would. 
As for Jacob Greene, he reminded me a lot of David Stutler in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Lanky, socially awkward, nerdy, he’s the last person you’d expect to save the world yet it’s this normalcy that made him such a delightful hero to follow. The secondary cast was very diverse and also gave off the same vibe as Jacob meaning they’re not exactly the Alpha-Beta crew you usually see in UF novels. As a group they’re pretty competent in stopping Jacob’s sister, Esther, however they took a lot of hits on their team because Esther is a big, bad, powerful BITCH! I mean the girl can make Satan fall in love with her and propose! On a personal note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Underwood. In case you’re reading this, THANK YOU for making Tessane a beautiful and interesting possible love interest for Jacob and for getting the manananggal monster myth accurate. I’m Filipino and I’m happy that you made my kind of minority a good thing. 
THE YOUNGER GODS is another winning novel by Michael R. Underwood, it’s a synthesis of fantasy, demonology, and RPG-like missions matched with a very unique cosmology, very entertaining, very engaging. I also liked the sort of open-ended conclusion, very speculative and encourages the readers to know more about the Younger Gods and Jacob Greene & his family’s role in the big picture. Lastly, you probably noticed that I used the word “very” a lot and that’s because THE YOUNGER GODS is very good. I highly recommend it to fan boys and girls, fantasy readers, and gamers.

Igbe, the red spirit, was like a wolfhound on a leash, straining constantly against Antoinette’s metaphysical lead. It concealed
its physical form, but I could still sense its whipping, darting motions with the wind, a mild scent of turned earth left in its wake.
The spirit led us through Brooklyn Heights, down Fulton, and then hurried along Flatbush.
“Do you know where we are heading?” I asked Antoinette as I hustled along, both of us nearly jogging to keep pace with the spirit.
“Looks like Prospect Park,” Antoinette said.
I tried to plot a line between Prospect Park and Central Park, running scenarios in my mind to deduce whether this was a ritual site or was in fact the home of the Brooklyn Heart.
Each city had a Heart, an embodied gem, usually fist- sized, that contained the essence of that city, the key to its metaphysical existence. Some cities had multiple Hearts, like London or Shanghai, all depending on their size.
New York had five, one for each borough. And Esther would need all of them to open the third circle.
And once that was open, she could take to the Deeps and wake the fetal god from its gestational slumber.
Moving through the park, I tried to look nonchalant, like the joggers I’d seen around Manhattan and Brooklyn. I paid no mind to the fact that I was not wearing the traditional jogger uniform of neon-colored skintight fabric and brightly-colored athletic shoes. New York was a city of oddities, and I hoped that oddity would conceal me as well.
Still, we drew a number of eyes on our way to the park. Fortunately, no pursuers.
“What would she want in the park?” I asked. “Is the Heart here?”
“No. It’s with friends. And they can handle themselves.” “Many have underestimated the Greenes and paid with
their lives. There is an account of a duel in 1832 between a Chicago magus and my great-great-aunt—”
“She’s bad news, I get that. But these friends are the most powerful circle of magicians in New York. They’ve got this,” Antoinette said, taking a turn as Igbe led us toward the park entrance.
When we reached the park, Igbe stopped to consider, turning end over end.
The crowds beside the park were sparse, as the spirit was not the only wind in the air. A chill wind sapped the warmth from my bones.
“Where now?” I asked, facing Antoinette, though the answer would come from her bound spirit.
Igbe stopped, a whorl of air settling on the concrete sidewalk. Then at once, the wet yellow-brown leaves set off in a rush toward the park, showing the creature’s path.
Less than five minutes into the park, Igbe started snarling and barking. It had stepped closer to our world, its red wispy form flowing as it moved. “She’s here! Faster! I’ll tear her throat out!”
Antoinette and I broke into a full run, chasing the spirit through the pathways that wound beneath the nearly barren trees.
Igbe turned a corner, and as I slowed to make the turn myself, lacking the agility of the incorporeal, I saw another spirit waiting atop a moss-covered rock the size of a small automotive.
This spirit was the mottled brown of mud, and it was large. I felt the air grow thick with energy.
I searched the horizon for my sister, hoping I might be able to bypass the incipient melee and pursue her directly. But beyond the mud-brown spirit, the path split in two. And without Igbe’s guidance, I would be hunting blind, casting the stones and hoping for luck.
With a roar that I heard with my soul more than my ears, the mud-brown spirit pounced on Igbe. The smaller spirit grew more concrete, a canine form slipping past the larger spirit’s grasp.
Antoinette stayed back, fishing through her jacket for something.
In the park, it could only be an earth spirit, a tree spirit, or one of the higher spirits of the park itself. My studies of New York led me to believe that Prospect Park was not as known for violence as Central Park, so it would not likely be a spirit of death. But New York was a city of many moods, many lives.
I sorted the factors and possibilities as I rummaged through the canvas bag Antoinette had provided me.
Deciding on a tactic, I brought out the topaz pendant, the opals in my left hand. Drawing from the opals, I channeled the power through my body and into the topaz, giving it shape and function.
Beside me, Antoinette chanted methodically in French, other words even more unfamiliar mixed into her Haitian creole.
The magic of the Greenes was older, more primordial compared to that of most practitioners. Through our connection to the Gatekeepers, masters of the center of the world, Esther touched the Deeps, the darkness between atoms, the power at the primal core of the earth. An apt comparison would be to say that where a magician might work with diesel to fuel their magic, our power source was closer to nuclear. Esther would outpower me every step of the way, but even a diesel engine can run a bulldozer.
Using the topaz as my focus, I shaped the power from the opals. I envisioned an arrow the size of my arm, thick and sturdy. Silver-and-white energy coalesced around the topaz, and I cast my hand toward the spirit.
The bolt shot out, biting dearly into the spirit at the shoulder. Its coloring faded a shade; the creature’

Michael R. Underwood is the author of Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, Shield and Crocus, and The Younger Gods. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. He has a BA in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies, and an MA in Folklore Studies. Mike has been a bookseller, a barista, a game store cashwrap monkey, and an independent publishers’ representative. Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines and stuffed animals. He is also a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show. In his rapidly vanishing free time, Mike studies historical martial arts and makes homemade pizza.

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Neyra Suped Up: Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

Series: The Yara Silva Trilogy 1

Format: eBook
Release Date: August 20, 2010
Publisher: Pendrell Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn’t want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist’s attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well. Yara soon realizes that the past she was trying to put behind her isn’t going to go quietly

It had been such a long time since I’ve stayed up/spent all day just reading. I loved INTRINSICAL the first time I read it, and I loved it just the same this time around.
Sixteen year old Yara Silva’s first day at her new elite boarding school turns haunting when she notices a dark mist attack another student. The moment she has been dreading her whole life has arrived, her Waker abilities have surfaced. She, like the women in her family, has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. And no matter how hard she will try to deny it, Yara will soon come to realize she cannot run from destiny.
The first thing about INTRINSICAL is that it is such a light hearted read; it’s easy to get lost in the story. Follow it up with a strong protagonist, a little bit of romance, out of body experiences, an evil spirit, a sixty year old curse, and it’s impossible not to enjoy. I loved that the romance aspect of the story doesn’t become the focal point. It develops as the days go by and you get to watch Yara and Brent know each other as well as develop as characters. Yara is still a teenage girl, but she grows mentally and that is always an important factor for me when it comes to YA MC’s.
That being said, I do also believe INTRINSICAL comes with its flaws. Like for example, the Waker gene, or trait. Now that I think about it I am a little confused as to why Yara couldn’t see her ghostly companion until after she was able to astral project–leave her body. I’m only curious because Vovo, Yara’s grandmother, goes around town like the crazy lady talking to ghosts. I’d assumed that anyone who was a Waker would be able to see spirits as well. I hope this gets explained a little further in the next book. There’s also the “curse” aspect of the story which gets explained, but was a bit of a letdown for me.
Otherwise though, I enjoyed INTRINSICAL in its entirety. The boarding school and it’s creepy undertone, along with the side characters that helped connect you to the MC and feel like you could relate to what she was going through. I’m more interested in finding out what else Yara and her family can do with these Waker abilities and what new ghostly surprises await.
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Neyra is a book blogger on sabbatical. She’s currently moonlighting at Talk Supe 
because Braine needs help. 
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Liked It: Black Dog by Caitlin Kitteridge

Series: Hellhound Chronicles 1

Format: eGalley
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy

The first installment in a fabulous dark urban fantasy series—think Kill Bill with demons and gangsters instead of martial arts—from the award-winning author of the Iron Codex trilogy and Vertigo comic Coffin Hill

Ava has spent the last hundred years as a hellhound, the indentured servant of a reaper who hunts errant souls and sends them to Hell. When a human necromancer convinces her to steal her reaper’s scythe, Ava incurs the wrath of the demon Lilith, her reaper’s boss.

As punishment for her transgression, Lilith orders Ava to track down the last soul in her reaper’s ledger . . . or die trying.

But after a hundred years of servitude, it’s time for payback. And Hell hath no fury like an avenging Ava.

I’d died because I was loyal. Loyalty was for stupid girls and brainless thugs, I wasn’t either of those things anymore.

All of the demons in Hell are inhuman monstrosities, but Lilith craves only the end of everything. She wants to taste the ash of the burning world on her tongue.

BLACK DOG is one of those books where it felt like something at first then the world got upended and you end up with a totally different story. To expound on the plot, Ava found herself in a world of shit after aligning with Leo the necromancer. She found herself amongst The Fallen, fighting against, Lilith as she tries to free Lucifer from Tartarus. Yeah I know it’s a lot and it does sound good lined up like that, right? 
Well here’s the thing, BLACK DOG by Caitlin Kittredge is predominantly made up of high intensity, high powered action and chases. If you’re an (bookish) adrenalin junkie like me then you’ll get a kick out of all the shitty situations Ava found herself in. Right off the gate Leo got her, struck a deal, and off they went to have more terrible adventures together. It’s this breakneck speed that made BLACK DOG such an enthralling read and a quick one at that. 
The thing is, the plot kept on growing where it felt like there’s too much going on to the point where some of the earlier threads felt unnecessary. Like Leo’s deal with Ava? By the end of BLACK DOG it felt like a distraction and nothing more. Then there’s the Lucifer business. I’ve read a LOT of books where the Prince of Lies was the final prize but the writer usually nips it in the bud before his prison break. CKittredge didn’t back down though and the build-up for The Morning Star’s freedom was so ripe I was so ready to oooh and ahhh in awe. I mean really, Lucifer as a character in the story?! It ought to be EPIC right?! Like devastatingly good that I want to know HOW CKittredge is going to make such an infamous and colossal character small enough to fit the story but still big enough to be formidable and almost invincible. 
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That said, BLACK DOG is obviously a very character driven story. Lots of interesting personalities from Russian mafioso, brothel whores to redneck shifters and rogue Fallen. A great salad of creatures that would appeal to most UF readers. Ava is an okay heroine to me with a big potential to be great. She started as a pawn, an errand chick and ended up being the top dog pun intended! I liked her history too, the flashbacks provided a great breadth of her growth as a character and naturally made me understand why she’s the way she is. There’s not much stuff on Leo though so maybe we’ll know more of him in the next book?
BLACK DOG is one of those books whose strengths also became it’s weakness. The pace is great and fast but too fast that the potent parts of the story felt like it was plunked in the middle of chaos. We started with hellhounds and a simple soul collection tale and ended up with Lucifer, Death (the guy on a horse), and an impending powerplay in Hell. And there’s a lot of scenes where Ava was just snatched and found herself in new locations, new places, and new shiznit to deal with. Didn’t work too well for me. However, BLACK DOG is the first in a new series so I’ll cut Hellhound Chronicles some slack, beginnings are usually wonky so maybe, hopefully, book 2 is better.

Relentless Rhythm by Michelle Mankin + Giveaway

Series: Tempest 4

Format: Mobi
Release Date: October 9, 2014
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: New Adult | Rockstar Romance

The one she really wants is out of reach.
The one he really needs is already taken.
Dizzy Lowell, rhythm man for the rising rock band Tempest is a wizard on the guitar and a wonder with women. But the hookup specialist hides his emotional scars beneath his suave exterior. He never lets anyone truly touch him.
April Reynolds, the confident bartender of the Diamond Mine, knows her way around a cocktail, but Dizzy has her all mixed up. She knows what’s safe. She’s tired of settling, though. It would be so easy to fall under his spell.
Except for that ring around her finger.
Two searching souls separated by a thin metal band.
Some dreams are dangerous.
Some secrets shouldn’t be shared.
Sometimes what we wish for most can never be.

And we have another Tempestuous rocker romance from Michelle Mankin! RELENTLESS RHYTHM is Dizzy Lowell’s book, the band Tempest‘s, rhythm guitarist and his very interesting love affair with April Reynolds who is married. Yup it’s one of those trainwreck situations that has us in a trance and can’t just look away from. So proceed with LOTS of caution!

Let me tell you, I got excited, infuriated, and rocked on to this novel. I had issues with RELENTLESS RHYTHM but MMankin is such an effective writer I felt compelled to know how this clusterfuck of a love story is going to right itself. Also there’s the usual lyrical poem that I WISH can materialize into real music so we can experience each and every story in a different way.

MICHELLE MANKIN is the author of the Black Cat Records series of novels. Romance with subtext. For many years she worked in the insurance industry as an underwriter. Somehow, the boredom didn’t kill her but the hour and hours of looking at facts and figures provided ample time for her mind to wander. Black Cat Records in Vancouver provides the central backdrop for all of Michelle’s current novels. Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a Brutal Strength centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock ‘n roll industry. Things take a bit of a darker, edgier, once upon a turn with the Tempest series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome that may prevent them from ever getting there. When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend as she takes the children to school and back. 

Stalk Michelle

Steampunk Sundays: The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato

Series: Clockwork Dagger Duology 1

Format: eGalley
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Steampunk 

Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

A map! Any fantasy book that opens with a map herald of good things are coming my way. Same with a glossary of words, OMG, when I see a glossary I get instant bookgasm because I KNOW that the world building is going to be one heck of a visual. CLOCKWORK DAGGER by Beth Cato is a solid, fantastical, Steampunk that’s just amaze-balls! The map in the beginning instantly gave me epic fantasy feels and after reading the book, it does give off that vibe. And I’ve never read a Steampunk book like this so hats off to BCato for reimagining the genre and leaving it with her own unique mark. 
CLOCKWORK DAGGER has a few unique things going on for it and here’s the standout reasons why I love this hard!
  • It’s a duology people! It means the plot is fast paced, the conflict straightforward, and the resolution (I hope) strong. No multiple books to read, wait for, catch up with etc. 
  • I mentioned that the world building is a great mash-up of Steapunk and epic fantasy. 95% of the story happened in a dirigible or an aircraft. The myth is very pagan involving a Tree and The Lady who guards it or is probably The Tree herself. The Tree is a powerful life source and people like Octavia are rare and gifted in that they can harness The Tree and The Lady’s powers in curing people. 
  • The world of CLOCKWORK DAGGER is in turmoil and the people are restless. There’s the tyrannical empire on the right and there’s the Wasters on the left. Also the backstory behind the ruling royals is reminiscent of Russia’s Romanovs down to the legend about the lost Princess, Anastasia. 
  • Octavia Leander is a medician, medic/magician, and she is the most powerful medician of her time, maybe ever, and is seen as both a threat or an asset, depending on which angle you’re looking at. 
  • CLOCKWORK DAGGERs are assassins of the empire and the hero and Octavia’s love interest, Alonzo Garrett, is one. I’d also like to note that this is an interracial pairing in case you missed the cover art… which needs so be tweaked IMO. It’s not really attractive, right? 
  • There’s nothing that I disliked in particular but as this is book 1, it only follows that the book dealt with a lot of building and forming so the core of the series wasn’t revealed til almost the end. 
CLOCKWORK DAGGER really impressed me and it’s one of the most stand-out Steampunk novel that I’ve read in a long time. Now y’all know that I’m a big Steampunk pimper and since I’ve already recommended great books of this genre for romance lovers to try, CLOCKWORK DAGGER is something epic fantasy readers can get lost in. Or if you simply love reading unique, long spanning adventures set in a different time and place, then please check Beth Cato’s latest series, it’s a winner.