Shelley Loved It: Rook by Sharon Cameron

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 464 pages
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA | Science Fiction

History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she.

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Set 800 years into the future in a place known as the Sunken City, ROOK is a young adult dystopian novel that blends together a mix of the Dark Ages, without any of the technology that we enjoy today; with the French Revolution under Maximilien Robespierre and his ideas of banning religion, using the working class in an attempt to bring down the aristocracy, and putting people to the death by way of the Razor (Guillotine) who disagree with his revolution.

ROOK is Cameron’s own flattering re-imaging of The Scarlet Pimpernel where a mysterious character rescues those who are scheduled to face the Guillotine. 18 year old Sophia Bellamy is the person behind the “Le Corbeau Rouge” or Red Rook mask. She is daring and courageous in her mission of rescuing the wrongly accused of being traitors under Premier Allemande. She also leaves a red-tipped rook feather behind in order to let Allemande know she doesn’t agree with HIS or Albert LeBlanc’s revolution.
Sophia is by far one of the most entertaining characters that I’ve read about in recent memory. She’s a strong character who doesn’t desire her father’s help in guiding her life or her attempts to do good for those who are suffering under Allemande’s rule. Sophia isn’t a foolish character, nor does she run around every 30 seconds whining about how hard her life is. Sophia lives in the Commonwealth, which is basically England. The citizens are Luddite’s who truly believe that technology destroyed the world during the Great Death. 
History repeats itself in ROOK with 18th century fashions, hairstyles, makeup, and the idea of sending off your daughters to marry wealthy men in order to save your property from being taken away. When you think about Allemende’s attempt at class warfare, and killing those that don’t agree with him or his politics, well, we see the same ideas raising their ugly heads today, haven’t we? 
The romance was actually entertaining, which, yes, surprised me since I was prepared for an all-out twisted love triangle which infests the Young Adult genre. Sophia meets her match in Parisian Rene Hasard who she ends up betrothed to in an attempt to save her family’s land, her father’s life, and stopping the Commonwealth from taking the property away. Like Sophia, Rene has a few secrets of his own, and his family is definitely one of the most entertaining that you will read about, especially Emile and Maman. The romance isn’t love at first sight. It is painful at times, and grinds up pages before Sophia and Rene find common ground. But, in the end, it works like a charm. 
I’ll say this about ROOK, it has so many different twists and turns and surprises that you will need to take notes to remember what happened and to whom. ROOK is an entertaining story, with a not so original idea of using a polar shift to destroy mankind and the resulting refusal of future generations to fall back on the technology they blame for the world’s destruction. Although polar shifts are extremely rare occurrences, they have happened. Pole’s reverse themselves about every 200,000 to 300,000 years. Add to the mix subsequent holes in the ozone and the resulting fall of technology, and here’s hoping that we don’t have a polar shift any time in OUR lifetimes!
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Liked It: Hunted Warrior by Lindsey Piper + Series 101 & Print Giveaway

Series: Dragon Kings 3
Format: ARC
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Pocket Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Sci-Fi | Fantasy | Romance

When the head of the Five Clans of the Dragon Kings wants something, he gets it. Raised among the most privileged of his dying race, Malnefoley conceals a devastating tragedy from his youth. Now, many call him the Usurper because of his unconventional rise to power. His influence is waning while the Dragon Kings must solve the puzzle of their slow extinction. So when a particularly important captive escapes his compound in the Greek mountains, Malnefoley leaves nothing to chance. She is his prisoner to retrieve.

The woman is known as the Pet, a former associate of a sadistic doctor from the Asters, a human crime cartel. Her loyalties cannot be trusted, even when she claims to hold the secret to conception—an invaluable secret for a race unable to procreate. Neither can her unique gift from the Great Dragon be believed. She’s a soothsayer, able to see glimpses of the future. Her quest is to find and save a Cage warrior on the verge of her first match—a young woman whose destiny is bound to a timeless prophecy.

Malnefoley has no respect for the ancient superstitions that brought about his childhood trauma. His only goal is to return the Pet to his compound and use her knowledge for the betterment of their people. Yet her restless energy and raw sensuality are as intriguing as her predictions about the rise of the Great Dragon. He dares not trust the crafty fugitive’s loyalties, but as their treacherous chase turns passionate, can he even trust himself?

Hi Lindsey! Congrats on the release of HUNTED WARRIOR! I’m a fan of Dragon Kings, but let’s take this back a little bit for those who are new to the series. What is or are these Dragon Kings (myth, powers, the clans, etc.)?

Hi! Thanks for having me here! 

The Dragon Kings are an ancient race of gifted creatures. Though they were long ago worshipped as gods and are the origins of many human myths, they’ve long fallen into disrepair. They’ve gone nearly sterile and babies are increasingly rare among them. Many voluntarily fight for shady human cartels and gangs for scientific help with fertility. 

I find the world you created really gritty, it’s like like Mad Max, Spartacus, and The Godfather had a baby. Can you expound on the world building aspect of this series?

I love Mad Max, so that’s a huge compliment to me! I took everything as dark as I could, over and over again. In Caged Warrior, Nynn and Leto come to a crux that involved a human guard and Nynn on her knees in front of him. Let’s just say I was convinced that I had gone too far—but my editor trusted the moment! I was really into Spartacus and Game of Thrones when I started designing the Dragon King’s world, so I wanted to make sure I went as deep and dark as I could manage. 

I see that GoT inspo with all the clans in conflict. Is there a series arc? What is the main conflict here?

The series arc is absolutely the Dragon King’s will to survive. There’s something wrong with their race and a prophecy that needs to be fulfilled and fixed before they have a chance of making it. 

And who can resist a prophecy when it comes to fantasy?? Let’s move on to HUNTED WARRIOR, what are we getting ourselves into here? 

Malnefoley is the leader of the Dragon Kings, but the ceremony surrounding his appointment was incomplete and tainted in a way. He’s fighting an uphill battle in trying to get his people to follow him. He’s relentless though, as he tries to figure out how to save his Dragon Kings. He’s driven.

The last thing he needs is the Pet, a broken and strange Dragon King who has lived as an evil human doctor’s slave for years. Now that she’s free, she’s trying to figure out who she is and why she’s haunted by visions of the future that make no sense. 

How are Pet and Mal different from the previous ones? 

Pet is unlike anyone I’ve written before. She’s a little bit off, more than a little quirky, and has lived apart from the world all her life. Mal is a leader in the classic alpha kind of way. He can wear a suit, but he’ll kill anyone who hurts one of his own. 

Blood Warrior was truly fantastic! Is HUNTED WARRIOR sort of a continuation of book 2?

Absolutely! The five clans need their story. 

I see book 3.5, Fire Warrior, already on Goodreads, is there a book 4? 

Oops, actually Fire Warrior is supposed to be taken down. It was an idea I had when I was halfway through HUNTED WARRIOR, before I knew I could actually make it to the finale that I wanted. There’s a lot of characters that I got to draw together for the conclusion, and a lot to make happen. I managed it though, and it turned out amazingly, if I do say so myself. So exciting. 

Ha! You have to add Amazon to that list, Fire Warrior is already up for pre-order with a tentative release date of 12.1.2020!

I’m not sure if the Dragon Kings are going to continue. If I don’t get that chance, I’m happy with how I’ve wrapped things up in HUNTED WARRIOR. If I get to go on, I have more avenues to explore, but I’m happy to know the five clans will be safe otherwise. 

In Twitter fashion, why is HUNTED WARRIOR a must read?

One proud leader wields his power to unlock dark mysteries in the third book in this fierce, sensual new paranormal romance series.

Is this the end? While reading HUNTED WARRIOR by Lindsey Piper, I was kinda hoping for another one. But by book’s end and after our interview, I did get a sense of closure even if I’m not quite ready to say bye-bye. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with this installment as a whole, the prophecy was fulfilled, the clans are reunited under one banner, and the Dragon Kings‘ future is bright and they’re most likely to survive multiple millenia. 
I just didn’t quite connect with Pet and Mal, despite being introduced to them in the previous books. The tension in the beginning was palpable and intriguing. Pet used to be the pet of the bad guy so naturally, Mal is suspicious of her loyalties. What the Dragon Kings don’t know is Pet was tortured and used like the rest of the Kings in captivity. The only difference is Pet is an oracle of sorts, which the evil Dr. Aster thought useful somehow, so Pet’s mistreatment was of the limited variety but still psychologically scarring nonetheless.
The progression of their romantic relationship was quick so there’s an insta-love feel to it. Normally I don’t mind it in fantasy novels, it’s expected because these people have a sixth sense when it comes to identifying their mates. I just failed to be in the moment with these two. One minute they’re second guessing each other, next they’re ripping each other’s clothes off like the world is ending in 5 minutes. I wish there was more verbal sparring that would serve as foreplay, or a series of close calls to heighten the situation before the horizontal action. 
The gravy boat was served in the last third of HUNTED WARRIOR. So many delicious revelations tying all the books together with lots of appearances by previous MC’s and secondary characters . The climax was well written, it was a constant hard thump-thump of events that led to the realization of Pet’s prophecy, and an actual sighting of The Dragon. This is a big deal for series followers, the title of the series is DRAGON Kings after all, it’s only natural to expect reptilian sightings. And though LPiper’s version is different from the norm, at least her dragon finally made an appearance. It’s majestic and worth the hype, I just wish the story doesn’t end here. Now that the Dragon Kings‘ deliverance is here, I’d like to see how their proverbial HEA (as a people) plays out. 

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Since 2008, two-time RITA-nominated and multiple RT Reviewers’ Choice-winning author Carrie Lofty has over thirty books to her name—or four names, to be precise. Currently with Pocket, her historical romances have been described as “nuanced and superbly realized” (The Chicago Tribune), while her “Dragon Kings” paranormal series, written as Lindsey Piper, is “sexy, brutal and somehow innocent” (All About Romance).

During her junior year abroad, she lured an unsuspecting Englishman to the Midwest, where she’s kept him a happy ex-pat for seventeen years. With two pre-teen daughters and a master’s degree specializing in Old West outlaws, she’s a movie buff, a former ballroom and bellydancer, a connoisseur of music, and a woman in desperate need of a maid service.
Carrie’s 2015 titles include Hunted Warrior, the stunning conclusion to the Dragon Kings Trilogy. In addition, her co-written Katie Porter series “Command Force Alpha” began with Own, and continued with Snap and Bind.

Follow Lindsey
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Real Love Stories + Giveaway: Let Me Love You Again by Anna DeSteano

Anna DeStefano
Montlake Romance
April 28, 2015
Contemporary Romance

Selena Rosenthal left behind her high school sweetheart, who was the love of her life, seven years ago.

Now, she and the once-rebellious Oliver Bowman are back in Chandlerville—after his foster father’s heart attack and Selena’s contentious divorce—to deal with her secrets, the recklessness that caused their breakup, and the almost-strangers they’ve become to each other and their families.

As soon as his father is stronger, Oliver must return to the successful career that helps support a new generation of foster kids. But he’s falling for Selena again, her daughter has a hold on his heart, and he can’t imagine leaving behind his brothers and sisters once again.

More attached by the day to their charming hometown and families, Selena and Oliver fall in love for the second time.

Has fate brought Chandlerville’s prodigal children together again…this time forever?

We got a treat today because Anna’s here to talk about a real life love story. Read up & go *awwww* with me as she shares how she met and fell in love with her hubby of 24 years.

I HEART having the chance to talk about what romance has meant to my life. Romance is so personal to me. It’s not always a fantasy or love at first site or something you know is happening when it’s happening. But for me, it’s always been a very real, very magical thing—in my life and in my books ;o)

I’m very lucky to still be with my husband of 24 years—which means we’ve known each other for going on 30. And, yes, since I met him when I was 18, that makes me O.L.D. I could talk about countless “storybook” romantic moments in our lives together. But did they all feel perfect when they were happening. Um…no. At least, not from the very start.

Because like many of the stories I write, including Let Me Love You Again, some of the best moments in my husband’s and my relationship have been when we cared for each other through something difficult. Something that once we were on the other side of it taught us that this was an amazing person I needed more of in my life.

So… Let’s take a peak at my “cliché” romance checklist:


This one is easy. I met my hunk of burning Italian love when our eyes met across a crowded room (at a fraternity party my daddy told me not to go to). Another guy wouldn’t take the hint and stop hitting on me, and my now husband strolled over and rescued me. Before I knew it, we’d talked all night. And then I’d taken him home at Thanksgiving to meet my daddy. And then…

By the way, a lot of what I just described has made its way, I’ve just realized, into the first meeting of my hero and heroine in His Darling Bride (Echoes of the Heart Book 3, which won’t be out until next year). Minus the frat party, but the rest… Hmmmm. Maybe I should let my husband know?


Except it was also an epic fail for most of the date. Right up until the surprise ending!

My husband (a New Yorker) learned I’d never seen a Broadway play, and he bought tickets for us to see CATS at the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta. Off we went, all dressed up and walking the few blocks from our college campus to the Fox. Holding hands on a warm Fall afternoon, we were in for a magical night… Except somewhere along the way the tickets disappeared along with his wallet, neither to be seen again.

We had to walk all the way back to his place, bummed and him steaming mad at himself and eventually me. Because he was so sure I’d never want to have anything to do with him again. So our first date turned into the warming rumbles of our first fight—until I realized why he was being such a jerk. At which point I let him have it. A kiss that is, as I told him that I wanted to go out with him, period. Whatever we ended up doing.

The play would have been nice, and I was sorry for the money he’d lost (not to mention the things in his wallet). But did he really not know how into him I was, and how amazing he already was to me? The wonder on his face, the magic of that kiss… I’m pretty sure our hearts connected honestly that night, for real, for the very first time.


We’ve had so may. I LIVE for those kinds of moments, looking back at my own love story and at the ones I’ve created for characters in books. The ones when people face conflict or challenge or hard choices together and just know, as a result of how they get through it, that they’ve met a good person whom they want in their lives forever. Not just a hunk or a perfect goddess or a sexy love connection, but also someone they can depend on to be there when they need someone the most.

One of my husband’s and my “for sure” moments was the time when we were still in college, and we were having lunch with my roommate. She was on full scholarship and financial aide, and her checks weren’t there on time. If she didn’t pay her tuition and fees that day, she was going to lose her next semester’s schedule and her housing. And she didn’t have the money. She was in tears, frantic. And this was a girl my husband barely knew.

But what did my hero do? He whipped out his checkbook for the account his parents kept for him and wrote her a check for pretty much all the money he had to live on for the next four months or so. When she said she couldn’t take it, my guy told her he trusted her to pay him back whenever her aid and scholarship money came in. She burst into tears with relief, and so did I. He very nearly did, too.

Did he do it to impress me? Maybe a little, he later confided. But he’s also the kind of guy who can’t watch someone else suffering, and not do whatever he can to help. I realized it that day. He’s proven it to me time and again through our lives together. I’d found someone I could depend on, despite the cost and risk to himself, to put whatever he had to on the line for someone he loved—and someone he barely knew.

Did I find myself a real life hero, or what?!

You definitely did! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story with us, Anna!

Anna DeStefano is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Mimosa Lane novels and the Atlanta Heroes series. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, she’s lived in the South her entire life. Her background as a care provider and adult educator in the world of crisis and grief recovery lends itself to the deeper psychological themes of every story she writes. A wife and mother, she currently writes in a charming northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, not all that different from her characters’ beloved Chandlerville. She is also a workshop and keynote speaker, a writing coach, and a freelance editor.

Website | Blog | Facebook | @AnnaDeStefano Goodreads | Pinterest | Newsletter

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Bought, Borrowed & Bagged #148: On Demand Shows

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

Big & Small

I started watching random shows in between books. Here’s what’s on my boob tube:
ALLEGIANCE (NBC | On Demand | 11E 43 mins.): It’s a spy show, CIA v Russians. Super awesome conflict, the parents used to be Russian spies, they’re now back in the game to counter their son who’s working for the CIA. 
MANHATTAN LOVE AFFAIR (ABC | On Demand | 11E 25 mins.): A romance sitcom, playboy New Yorker falls for a straight-laced book editor fresh in Manhattan. Lots of feel good moments, great comedy breaks, perfect Summer fling.
Last Week’s Reviews

It’s a new year and there’s a new linky for my humble weekly recap meme. Whether you’re a return participant or a new hopper, THANK YOU for joining, your participation is much appreciated. 
Also as this is a laid-back meme, please use your LABEL OR TAG LINKS and not your post links that way you don’t have to update your linky every week. 

Shelley Loved It: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Series: The Girl at Midnight 1 
Format: E-Book | 368 pages 
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley
Genre: YA | Urban Fantasy

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT was one of the most anticipated reads that I had scheduled for the month of April. Set in a real world setting that takes place around the globe and under New York City, Grey tells her story via multiple characters. But, it is with 17-year old runaway thief/pickpocket and very human Echo, that Grey really excels. Echo’s very being puts her in direct odds with every other character that makes an appearance in this book. But, she’s not one to stand on the sidelines while everyone has all the fun.

“To know the truth, you must first want the truth.”

At a young age, Echo was taken in by a race of supernaturals called the Avicen after running away from home. The Avicen (Avian) are a race of people with feathers for hair and magical abilities that live under the streets of New York City. Now, some of you are already saying, HEY, that sounds like Daughter of Smoke and Bone! But, let’s move past that for a moment. Especially since there are no angel’s or devils in THIS story, and even though Echo was raised by them, she knew who her parents were. 
For centuries, the Avicens under Ala and Drakharin (Dragons) under Casius, have been searching for the mythical Firebird which is said to be able to bring peace between the supernatural enemies. Peace is what both Ala and Casius wants and desires, but not everyone is on the same wavelength. It is with that in mind that Ala sends Echo on a mind blowing journey that is filled with adventure, romance, betrayal, and an awakening of sorts for Echo.
Echo is a character that loves to use bravado (sarcasm & humor) when she gets into tight places. Echo has doesn’t have any of her own magic, but she can travel the in-between to get where she’s going. She loves reading, and can quote from almost any book that she’s read. She hoards her stolen goodies, and has a best friend in Ivy, an Avicen who is also a healer. She does have a “boyfriend” in Rowan, but perhaps her match really belongs with someone else ::wink wink:: Echo is more than determined to prove her worth to the Avicens who have been her only true family. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT‘s other main characters are Caius, Ala, Ivy, Jasper, and Dorian. Put them together and you have an unlikely team willing to put away their differences in order to find a common cause. Caius’s own sister Tanith stands in his way of finding the Firebird, while Ala’a nemesis Altair, stands in hers. Jasper is a peacock, of sorts, who is in the same business as Echo. Dorian has been by Caius’s side as his guard since being saved. Ivy, Echo’s best friend, really goes through a lot in this story, and I feel kind of like she’s the 5th wheel at this point. Hopefully, that will change.
I do believe this is the first time I am saying that multiple character storylines actually work. I don’t remember at any point, saying that I had no clue who the author was talking about. The breaks were clear, and almost always, Grey hinted at who she was writing about. Apparently, Multiple POV’s can be done efficiently. 
I suck at keeping my promises of not comparing books. But, since the synopsis makes such a glaring and triumphant comparison between this book, City of Bones, & Shadow and Bone, let’s go there for a moment. Because the Avicens are a race of supernaturals with feathers for hair, readers will fall back to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I don’t quite see where Shadow and Bone comes in, and I do encourage you to read THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT on your own, and see if this comparison is worth its merits. I supposed seeing as the Avicen use magic to hid themselves from humans, there goes the City of Bones likeness. 
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is a book that I would recommend to other readers. I am understandably weary of sequels, but in this case, I am definitely eager to see where Grey takes Echo and her crew from here. I won’t speak all that much on the romance angle. It kind of is what it is, and you can take it from there how you feel about it after reading the book.
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A Shot of YA: Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone + Print Giveaway

Series: Stand-alone(?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Genre: MYA-Contemporary Romance

What is Normal?

For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It’s kinda hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.

For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

It was about meeting someone who kind of knocked you on your ass. A girl who wasn’t anything like I imagined. A girl who was hiding stuff, and just like me, she was hoping no one would notice.
So maybe we could hide together, or maybe we could fix each other. [Trevor]

Oh my heart! Juliana Stone, why do you always give it such a firm but gentle squeeze?? You guys! SOME KIND OF NORMAL is my first Summer-ish read and it. Was. Wonderful! In case you didn’t notice the 5-cauldron rating. And if you haven’t tried Juliana Stone’s contemporary romances (there’s a couple of FREEBIES on Amazon), I suggest you do! Her stories are always relatable, realistic, and heartfelt, you’ll come back for more to get the feels! 
So I don’t know if SOME KIND OF NORMAL is part of a series or what. A sequel was mentioned in the end of Boys Like You, and Trevor was first introduced there… That said, this novel can be read as stand-alone, although I suggest you still read both… for the feels! Anyway, Trevor had it rough. He just came out of a coma after getting into an drunk driving accident and now things are sorta, kinda, normal with a few kinks that requires a lot of adjustment, positivity, and resilience from our young leading man. 
Trevor Lewis’ struggle was very believable to me. I appreciated that he wasn’t angry all the time, he didn’t dwell on the things he used to have, things he used to and can’t do anymore because of the after effects of his accident. I find it normal for him to be frustrated at times, but almost losing his life gave him some perspective, and helped him understand the difference between concern and control. Trevor’s a good guy overall, I expected him to pull the “victim” card but instead he surprised me by still maintaining a good vibes attitude. Suffice to say that Trevor wasn’t in a dark place that he failed to spot Everly’s need for friendship and empathy.
Everly (I love her name!) Jenkins was the pastor’s daughter and everyone put her in this “perfect box”. What people don’t know is her “perfect” family is going through a rough patch. For once, I love a young adult heroine who didn’t make every stupid thing about her! Anyway, Everly’s issue is about her parents’ crumbling marriage and I was astounded with how matured she handled the situation. I think it’s expected that Everly had her moments. After all, she’s only 17 and is forced to share the burden of her parent’s issues. But on those tense confrontational moments, Everly was very mature and even wise for her years. And amidst all of her personal problems, Everly still found it in her to extend the same empathy Trevor gave her in the beginning. And fixing each other is exactly what they did. 
I had a personal connection with SOME KIND OF NORMAL, this story hit so close to home, it set me in a melancholic/contemplatative mood after reading it. These kids are dealt sour lemons and I love how they turned it into a sweet and tangy lemonade. There was just one part that I felt was unneccessary, I don’t think the dirty laundry here should’ve been aired in that manner. But for the sake of dramatic tension, I’ll give it a pass. Fans of Katie McGarry will totally get into this series, it’s not as angsty as Pushing The Limits, but just as hard hitting. I just love this (series) so much I hope there’s another on the way!

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Suped Feature: At The Stars by Elisabeth Staab & The New Adult Tropes

At The Stars
Elisabeth Staab
New Adult Contemporary Romance
May 5, 2015

I was a normal teenager who loved music and dancing, until the day I was attacked in my favorite record store. A few years later when my mom succumbed to depression and took her own life, I couldn’t stay in my hometown with all the memories and the curious stares. I decided to get in my car and just go – except my car decided it was done going outside a tiny place called Evergreen Grove. That’s where I found Jake. Or I guess Jake found me.
For the last eight years, all I can think about is the day I ended another man’s life. Then I manage to save Cassie’s, and I feel like maybe I’ve got some kind of second chance. To do what I couldn’t before, or maybe even for something bigger. Something like love. If only I could feel like I deserve her.

All at once she bites her lip and I see her going for the drinks, but I slap my hand over hers. “You shouldn’t be walking home late. It’s dangerous.”
She gives me a look like she’s being patient with me. “It was good enough to get here. I’ll have AJ with me. We’ll be fine.”
She gestures toward the patio door where her buddy is probably waiting for her to return with the drinks. Dante chooses that moment to come inside, and I don’t like how he’s looking at her. Too much like he had a good dinner, and she could be dessert.
The icing on the cake comes when AJ calls through the open door. “Hey birthday girl, you bringing us drinks or what?”
Stupid fucker.
Dante grins at Cassie, veering her way like a homing missile. “Birthday girl, eh?”
She smiles slightly, trying to take the drinks again. “What do I owe you?”
My hand tightens over hers. “On the house.” I lean close, so nobody else can hear me over the din of music and chatter in the bar. “If you let me give you and AJ a ride back tonight.”
I can’t even believe it when she starts to pull away. “I can pay for the drinks.”
I’m still gripping her hand and feeling a surprising unwillingness to let the subject drop. “You’re not walking home in the dark on a night when everybody’s out getting stupid, with nobody but your skinny sidekick for protection.”
She presses her lips together, giving me what I figure is supposed to be a death stare for a few seconds before she caves. “Fine. My feet hurt anyway,” she says with a slight smile.
Cassie turns to go back to her table with her friend, and I turn to deal with Dante. My chest is tight and my heart is skipping around. I don’t take time to wonder why getting what I wanted has me more weirded-out than I was before.

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I love Elisabeth Staab, she had me trying and reading a few things that I won’t necessarily gravitate to, but end up liking. So even if New Adult isn’t my cuppa, I trust her enough to know that I will at the very least enjoy AT THE STARS. She’s here today to talk about NA tropes this genre is notorious for. 

A Tattooed Bad Boy, a Teenage Runaway, and a Wounded Heroine Walk Into a Bar

(Look, Mom, I wrote a new adult novel!)
By Elisabeth Staab

Okay, so first? Thank you to Braine for letting me come on the blog. Second? I honestly don’t think my mom will ever read any of my books, and that’s probably best for everyone involved. 😉

So. New adult. I started reading the genre a little while after it emerged, I guess, and I found I loved it for all the reasons I found it so heartbreaking to read: it took me back to a difficult and confusing time in my life. YA is similar, of course, except the characters in NA are largely on their own and struggling to find their place in the world. The stakes are higher, in theory, with little or no parental safety net.

It’s a genre that tackles many complex issues, and some that I think are particularly important during that early-adult period in a person’s life. Sarina Bowen’s recent release, The Shameless Hour, does an excellent job of casting a light on slut shaming, and Robin York’s Deeper similarly takes on “revenge porn.”

The emotional punch of these kinds of topics are why I thought I’d never want to write NA (not that all NA is angsty). As much as I loved reading these books, my own college-aged years were difficult, and I didn’t want to revisit that time period even in a fictional sense.

Next thing I knew I was writing At the Stars.

Cassie and Jake came to me a little over two years ago, in the middle of the night. I guess that’s fitting, since that’s when they meet. Cassie is stranded by the road in the dark, and Jake saves her.

I resisted writing At the Stars as hard as Jake resisted his attraction to Cassie, which is probably why it took two years to finish.

Is it an “average” new adult novel? I think yes and no.

Some of the things that you might expect to find in an average new adult novel do not appear in At the Stars. There’s not much sex, because Cassie is an assault survivor and Jake spends most of the book trying to convince himself he is not going to sleep with her. Anyone who’s read my adult novels knows I don’t shy away from writing explicit love scenes when the moment calls for it, but for these characters it didn’t fit (it’s character dependent, really. I suspect there will be more on-page sex in the sequel, because those characters have a different story to tell).

There will also be no billionaires in At the Stars, which according to my recent Amazon searches are also common in NA right now (and where are these kids getting all their money? When I was in my 20’s I lived on Ramen and cold pizza). And no step-siblings, which might be a bummer, because apparently those books are selling like hotcakes.

There is plenty of classic angst in At the Stars (one of Jake’s scenes makes me cry whenever I read it, because I’m a sap like that). There’s a wounded heroine—I say wounded rather than damaged, because Cassie is a survivor, and we meet her in At the Stars when she is in the process of picking up a life that recently fell apart. She’s healing, and while she makes some very human mistakes (as all 21 year old girls do), she fights for her happiness, which is what we all want, ultimately.

And then there’s Jake, who I love beyond all reason. He’s probably one of my favorite heroes that I’ve written. He ran away from home as a teenager, and soon after there was a terrible accident where a friend died. He blames himself. He tries so hard to keep the world away, and by the time he meets Cassie he doesn’t even realize how much he’s dying for someone to love.

So as many times as I stopped and put the book aside because it didn’t fit anywhere in my to-do list, Jake pushed me to pick it back up. And then finally I saw the picture that would become the cover for At the Stars, and I was stuck. I had to finish.

And now, here we are. Wounded heroine? Check. Bad boy who ran away from home? Check. Angst? Check. A little humor? Check. Gay sidekick who used to be a male escort? I wasn’t aware, but I read something recently about the prevalence of gay BFFs in new adult. I swear I hadn’t noticed that trend, but anyway, Cassie has one of those too.

Happy ending? I don’t write them any other way.

Happy reading, everyone!

Elisabeth Staab loves passionate stories and happy endings. Her books have been called “emotionally delicious,” “action-packed,” and “gloriously snarky.” When not writing romance, she enjoys date night with her husband, reading Harry Potter with her kids, and marathoning her favorite books or TV series. 

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Loved It: Do Not Disturb by A.R. Torre + Giveaway

Series: Deanna Madden 2
Format: eGalley
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Red Hook
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Erotic Suspense

Equal parts Dexter and 50 Shades, this is the eagerly awaited follow-up to the daring erotic thriller, The Girl in 6E, by A.R. Torre.

1. Don’t leave the apartment.
2. Never let anyone in.
3. Don’t kill anyone.

The rules were simple and I broke them.
Now I must face the consequences.
Everyone else must face me.

Captivating and disturbing. That’s what  Alessandra Torre, aka A.R. Torre’s, books are to me in a nutshell. Torre likes to write about the darkest nature of man while simultaneously turning it into a twisted love story. The Girl in 6E was my first tango with Torre’s work, and it surely left a strong impression on me, so much so that she got herself on my must-read list. It’s been a couple of years since Deanna Madden and I met, it took a while for the sequel to be written, and now that it’s here, it sure proved to be worth the wait.
Just to give you a brief history, Deanna Madden is one complicated, psychotic, and definitely fascinating chick. Traumatized by a heinous tragedy several years ago, Deanna developed agoraphobia along with strong urges to kill, coupled with exhibitionism. For three years, Deanna closed herself off to the world, locked herself inside apartment 6E. She makes money off live camera shows as Jess Reilly, college student, fulfilling every man’s sexual fantasy virtually for $7/mins. Her meals and other provisions delivered to her doorstep, totally closing herself off. At night, Deanna locks herself in, a preventative measure to keep her demons at bay lest she goes on a killing spree. Things changed when she met and fell in love with the UPS delivery guy, Jeremy. Now Deanna is slowly trying to be part of society albeit with much anxiety, thanks to Jeremy though, things feels somewhat easier and her hope for normalcy is within the horizon. 
DO NOT DISTURB is Deanna’s attempt at being normal which is an admirable feat considering she’s constantly battling her urges to kill for pleasure. Every encounter with a stranger, Deanna fantasizes on how delightful it would be to take that person’s life. It’s creepy, I know, yet I can’t help but be captivated by her struggle and the measures she goes through just to keep herself in check.
Then the monster met another monster. Enter Marcus, fresh off the prison for rape, assaulty, and other charges. Like most men, Marcus met Jess through the internet, had a private viewing/chat session with her, liked what he saw, got addicted, came back for more. But in Marcus’ case, it turned into an obssession. As soon as his house arrest was up, Marcus came hunting for Jess/Deanna. Stopping at nothing til he meets his fantasy girl face to face, Marcus left a trail of assault and battery cases just to get to his prize. Underestimating Jess, aka Deanna’s, seemingly harmless attitude, Marcus sought her out not knowing that the girl he planned to be his ultimate sex slave is an even bigger monster than he is. I loved how the hunter eventually became the prey here. *smh chuckles*
DO NOT DISTURB could easily be a 20/20 story. Dark, very depraved, and a great depiction of man’s basest instincts. The plot is very character driven, the story chopped in over a hundred straightforward chapter, the POV split between Deanna and Marcus with interludes from other characters. Torre really fleshed out the Marcus and Deanna’s circumstances and how quickly their roles reversed as Deanna found the perfect reason to let loose her demons on Marcus, justifying such trocious acts, and satisfying her dark side. There’s also a lot of contrasting themes here; the innocence of Deanna & Jeremy’s budding romance versus the deviant nature of Deanna’s job; how Deanna would bare her most intimate parts to strangers, fulfilling their darkest  fantasy when she hasn’t been intimate with anybody; how she’s so popular in her circle but very isolated in real life.
While Deanna Madden isn’t for everybody, it is, in a sense, a great palate cleanser for me. It’s thrilling but not in the erotic sense, more like horrifying if you ask me. It’s unfiltered and designed to push the boundaries and make the reader uncomfortable. I had odd reactions to the scenes, I was disturbed but very curious as to how Deanna Madden is going to resolve the complexities of her life.
DO NOT DISTURB packed a furious punch and I can’t wait to read what’s next for Deanna and Jeremy!

A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Alessandra Torre has written nine novels, four of which became #1 Erotic Bestsellers.

Her first book, Blindfolded Innocence, became a breakout hit, rising to the top of the charts on Kindle and Amazon where it attracted the interest of major publishing houses and garnered Torre her first print deal with Harlequin HQN. Less than twelve months later, Torre signed a second print deal, this time with Redhook (Hachette) for her erotic thriller The Girl in 6E.

From her home near the warm waters of the Emerald Coast in Florida, she devotes several hours each day to various writing projects and interacting with her fans on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Happily married and with one son, she loves watching SEC football games, horseback riding, reading and watching movies.

Website | Facebook | @ReadAlessandra
Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon Page

A Shot of YA: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Series: Black Blade 1
Format: eGalley
Release Date: April 24, 2015
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: YA Fantasy

There Be Monsters Here. . . It’s not as great as you’d think, living in a tourist town that’s known as “the most magical place in America.” Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.

I try to keep out of it. I’ve got my mom’s bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend’s pawn shop, and I have to make a call–get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn’t. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I’m stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I’m going to end up just like her.

I am starting to think that Jennifer Estep is truly a magical being. Only she can pull me out of a reading rut and leave me impressed, excited, and motivated to read some more. COLD BURN OF MAGIC is the latest masterpiece by this fantastic wordsmith, it’s YA urban fantasy that has magic elements in it, mafia-like families, a conflicted heroine, an understated hero, and a lot of bad guys afoot. 
First impression is, Lila Merriweather could easily be Gin Blanco’s (Elemental Assassin) daughter or the Ashland Assassin herself in another life. Maybe it’s just me, but I found a few similarities between Black Blade and EA. No complaints here, I have yet to read JEstep’s other books and if this is her formula, then I don’t mind drinking her Kool-Aid again and again.
The world building is very UF, a small tourist town populated by monsters and people with magick. Instead of elemental powers, Black Blade‘s characters have Talents. Like they can compel you, absorb your powers, mimic it, sight, etc. Cloudburst Falls is ruled by Families, the Sinclairs and Darconi, they’re like the mafia, very organized, influential, and powerful. Apart from the Talented, there’s also a peppering of magical creatures which the Families “control” and protect the humans, aka “rubes”, from.
The characters are similar to EA’s personalities, I can point out a few of them that is reminiscent of the inhabitants of Ashland. The bad guys, like the Draconi, are very cold, conniving, ruthless, greedy, very easy to spot and hate. The supposed good guys are more gray in that they’re similar to the good guys in that they will not hesitate to take you down. The only difference is they still have some morality left in them. Take Lila herself, she’s an orphan who took over the “family business”, meaning she’s a thief for hire who’ve killed a few people in some of her mission in self defense. You won’t see nor feel remorse from Lila in this respect, it’s easy to like her actually, the difference is she has conscience and still leans towards doing what’s right, or in some cases, the lesser of evils.
COLD BURN OF MAGIC might not have a strong romantic element but it has some teen infatuations brewing for it. As expected, Lila is sort of paired up with Devon Sinclair. The seemingly fragile, but very important member of the Sinclair Family whom Lila is hired to guard. Don’t be fooled though, Devon’s got some surprises up his sleeves and the dude isn’t as breakable as you thought he is when you first meet him. There’s also some forbidden love going on here with the other characters, I’ll leave that for you to discover. I don’t intend to tease, I mentioned it to highlight that Black Blade isn’t centripetal to Lila, she might drive the story but the other characters have their own story to tell and are just as interesting. 
Speaking of the supporting cast. COLD BURN OF MAGIC is abundant in interesting characters. My favorite has to be Oliver, Lila’s pixie who has an attitude problem but very adorable. The dude also has a drinking problem, he’s addicted to honeybeer and would chug them sweet beverage down when he’s upset. 
There’s a wealth of things I can tell you about COLD BURN OF MAGIC. But that won’t be fun. I’ll leave it to you to experience this novel for yourself instead. In the next couple of weeks, you’ll see several rave reviews for Black Blade 1, trust them, we’re not exaggerating. JEstep’s latest novel is fantabulous don’t make the mistake of missing it!

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Liked It: Garden of Dreams & Desires by Kristen Painter

Series: Crescent City 3
Format: eGalley
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: New Adult | Dystopia | Paranormal

Magic and mystery collide in this thrilling conclusion to the new urban fantasy series by House of Comarre author Kristen Painter.

Tourists are disappearing at an alarming rate. While Augustine and his lieutenants attempt to find them, Harlow and the evil spirit possessing her remain Augustine’s true focus. Freeing her from the spirit’s grasp is all he can think about, especially with no real solution on the horizon.

Then he discovers the tourists are disappearing because the witches are stealing souls to cast a dangerous chaos spell. Before he can stop them, Harlow becomes their victim. Now he must race the clock to set her free and end the witches’ machinations before the chaos spell strips every fae in New Orleans of their power and bring fae rule to an end.

Crescent City is my first tango with Kristen Painter and I was immediately absorbed by her futuristic NOLA where fae, humans, vamps, and witches exist side by side albeit a little tense. The dystopic elements of the series is fairly light, her new adult leads were a bit irritating, but tolerable. It’s the paranormal side of things that truly captivated me not to mention the cover arts are so pretty to look at! I was excited to learn that Crescent City is only a trilogy, long book series can be a challenge to keep up with long terms so I figured things are going to escalate quick and wrap up nicely. 
The escalation part was true. Harlow and Augustine were thrust in the heat of things and found themselves in the middle of war with the witches, nefarious relatives, an enchanted tree that everyone wants, not to mention bigoted humans who wants the othernormals gone. KPainter built up the story really well, the character development was fantastic and by City of Eternal Light, I was very much invested in the story. 
Now GARDEN OF DREAMS & DESIRES is a fast paced, entertaining read. I didn’t even notice that the novel was over 300 pages because I just flew through the chapters. Harlow and Augustine were very motivated to put things back in order, resolve minor kinks here and there, was proactive in being part of the solution instead of the problem, etc. There were a lot of antagonists here so the good guys were busy chasing them down and making them pay for their transgressions. 
My issue with GARDEN OF DREAMS & DESIRES is it lacked tension. KPainter started this mayhem so I was expecting Harlow and Augustine to have a hard time getting towards a resolution. Instead everything was so easy, as if the solutions were served on a silver platter. I mean if it were that simple, then why didn’t they solve things in book 1 before it got crazy, right? And though it wasn’t predictable, it was easy to figure out where the story is leading to. I wasn’t surprised by the “twists”, no jaw dropping monkey wrenches, and the bad guys didn’t feel villainous enough.
Overall, GARDEN OF DREAMS & DESIRES was fairly an okay read. I compare it to those fun and light contemporary romances I like to cozy with on the weekend. I didn’t get worked up over the resolution, it was a very relaxing story, I just didn’t expect the series finale to be so…stable, if you know what I mean.

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