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. 

Follow Elisabeth
WebsiteFacebook | @ElisabethStaab | Newsletter | Goodreads

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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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Bought, Borrwed & Bagged #147: Orphan Black S3

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 am excited for tonight’s season 3 premier of ORPHAN BLACK on BBC America. Who’s with me?! This is extra special because I’m covering the show for Romance@Random so check in on their site next week for updates.

Last Week’s Reviews

win a print copy of Diamond Conspiracyends 4.20.15
Megan Tayte (Int’l)win the Cerulean Seriesends 4.22.15

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. 

Suped Up: Edge, Panorama (Complete Season) by Jamie Magee

Series: Edge Series 1
Format: Mobi
Release Date: March 26, 2015
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: New Adult-Paranormal | MC Romance

Reveca Beauregard had long ago been dubbed the Queen of Darkness by the dead. To the living she was known as the Pentacle Daughter, the only acknowledged female member of the Pentacle Sons MC, the most lethal biker correlation known to exist. She was rumored to be a witch. That rumor, of course, was true.

New Orleans was her home, at the Beauregard Boneyard, the safe haven the Club resided within. Only those in the inner circle were as Reveca was—immortal. To be as such you had to choose the life, and the life had to choose you. For either to occur, death came first.

Those deaths came from wars the Sons fought with both the mortal and immortal worlds, as they bent the decrees of the modern lawmen and the paranormal world at large who had no hope of opposing the dark splendor of their vengeance.

Presently, the mysterious murder of a mortal coupled with the cold-blooded slaying of Reveca’s close friend has led the lawmen to place their corrupt accusations upon the Sons. A forced barter with a Lord of Death has landed the Club with a soul that is set to rock the foundation the Sons as a whole stand upon.

Maybe some of you remember when I reviewed the first four episodes of Jamie Magee’s EDGE a while back. I rambled a lot and mad gushed about this novel. I mean it’s NA-MC Paranormal Romance, New Adult-Motorcycle Club highlighted because I’m not the biggest fan of these, and yet JMagee managed to strip me of words, and had me expressing mad love for this serial. I’m no different now so I whipped up my trusted bullets, hoping that this breakdown will help me, and you, make sense of my experience reading the complete season of EDGE. Good luck!
  • LOVE TRIANGLE: You all know how much I ABHOR love triangles, and other romantic geometries. I’m making an exception here though because JMagee put quite the kink on this situation. Caught between two delicious hunks is Reveca Beuauregard. On one side we have Kenson, Reveca’s first love and soulmate who died in battle all those centuries ago. Unbeknownst to Reveca, Kenson, now called King, survived and became this infamous warrior in the other realm, he’s back to fulfill a prophecy, or the Rapture, with Reveca’s help. On the other side is Talon, Reveca’s partner in crime, the one who put Reveca back together, loved her, kept things together, and grounded her, and has been Reveca’s most faithful and loyal servant and lover since.
  • I mean how do you even begin to sort out something like this?! It’s so compelling, it’s hard not to get invested. I mean, what kind of decision tree does one follow when one is face with having to choose between a soulmate and a man you also deeply love and has deep history with? I still don’t know the answer, JMagee tried to resolve it in an organic way, but boy is it messy and all tangled up, I don’t see the pissing contest between King and Talon ending here.

  • TENSION & CONFLICT: EDGE is rife with chaos. Remember, the story is occurs in two dimensions, our reality and another world. The Sons of Pentacost, Reveca in particular, is caught in two different wars that’s happening simultaneously. There’s the one involving a rival MC, dirty cops, murders, and drug dealings. Then there’s this pending war with Gods, war lords, souls, gah! It’s a clusterfuck and it’s action-drama at its finest!
  • MYTH: I’m sure by now you can tell how complex EDGE is. Well it’s the same thing with its myth. It’s so complicated and yet so simple. Witchcraft and magic is at the heart of things here, but it’s not your simple toil and trouble, bubbling cauldron type. It’s ancient magic, elemental, deep stuff that involves Gods and claiming of souls. Reveca, in her grief, created Edge, similar to purgatory and “birthed” immortals, like Talon. It’s some heavy artillery here and very unique I don’t have anything to compare it with.
  • CAST: EDGE is composed of a LOT of very interesting people from witches, to Pheonixes, fallen angels, beasts, etc. Truly there’s no “supporting” characters here because each one of these personalities have a purpose in terms of a bigger picture. Reveca might be at the center of it all and the story surely gravitates towards her, but the rest of the group, both the protagonists and the antagonists, have roles to play when this war goes down. It’s like a game  of chess where when played right, even a lowly pawn can win the game for either team.
  • LOYALTY: I love novels that depicts virtuous loyalty. Brotherhoods, familial love, unbreakable friendships, these themes turns me to mush and instantly makes a fan of this reader when I see it in novels. The Sons are no different, they got each other’s back 100%, they’re fiercely possessive and protective of their MC, including their ‘Ol Ladies, and blindly trusts Reveca and Talon’s leadership. When these to says “jump”, the Sons asks “how high”, but don’t get me wrong, the Sons are batting for the good guys, and despite allegations of illegal activities, the worst thing they’ve done (aside from killing monsters and the bad guys), are dealing prescription drugs to those who can’t afford it.
I love EDGE very much, however there’s some subjective stuff that I hope will be amended in the next season:
  • ITALICS: Some words have double meaning like appear, in unique cases it meant apparating in the novel. I wish these particular words were italicized to connote that the activity is propelled by magic and not some trivial action.
  • SERIAL: This part serves as an advice to you in case you’re planning to give this novel a try. EDGE is originally released as a serial and very episodic. I know some of you prefers to wait for all the parts to come out so you can binge. However in this case, it might work better if you try and chop it up in pieces. Why? Because each episode not only continues the story arc, it also features the other characters, their histories, roles, and what-not in the grand scheme of things. The cast is quite sizeable so at some point, the people started running together in my head and my brain got saturated. So if you’re a little slow like me, taking bite size pieces works too, unlike other serials, the cliffhangers here aren’t all that painful.
  • GLOSSARY: I seriously think this novel needs one because of the myth and the number of people involved. Like I said, the world is very imaginative, unique, and complex, having a glossary of terms and characters will help keep things straight.
I’ve never enjoyed peeling an onion as much as EDGE. JMagee took her time in telling the story, vividly painting the panorama with colorful details and vibrant hues, it’s sure to fire up your imagination and emotions. I apologize for rambling, that tends to be the case with me when I fall in love with the book hard. So thank you, Jamie Magee, for making a bumbling idiot out of me. I appreciate that very much.

IMPT NOTE: If you’re curious yet not totally sold, you may take a guiltless dip because the first serial is FREE on Amazon! Put those grabby hands in action!

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Shelley Liked It: Elusion by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam

Series: Elusion # 1
Format: E-Book | 382 pages
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.

Written by co-authors by Claudia Gabel, and Cheryl Klam, ELUSION is a young adult, science fiction story featuring 16-year old Regan Welch as the narrator. The story is set in a futuristic Detroit where people live in an environment of grease clouds, and acid rain, while wearing air purifiers and using umbrella’s in order to survive. ELUSION has a bit of mystery, suspense, conspiracies, and romance to keep the reader engaged in what’s going on. The world building, especially in the Escapes, is very vivid, imaginary, and a highlight of the story itself.
As a heroine, Regan is forced between a rock (her father’s dream invention) and a hard place (her best friend Patrick). As the daughter of the inventor who supposedly lost in a strange accident 6 months ago, she believes that she has a responsibility to uphold her father’s honor and legacy, while not letting others tear it apart. Although a bit on the over eager side of things once we first meet her, Regan doesn’t blindly follow things without digging deep into the mystery, or finding a new ally in Josh Heywood, or ignoring a conspiracy theorist who claims there is something really wrong with ELUSION.
For me, ELUSION was such an interesting story, especially the last 20 percent of the book. I do love Gabel and Klam’s world where with just an app, ear buds, a visor, and a wristband, you can escape from everyday’s drudge into a world where everything is better than the real world. Citizen’s in this world, must not only work a 7 hour day, sometimes 12 hour days, but go to school 7 days a week as well. Could you imagine the uproar if today’s kids were forced into attending school on weekends, or during summer vacation? 
ELUSION is an original concept, and not one that we’ve been stuck with over and over again. Perhaps the authors could have managed to do a bit more world building, and explained how we got to this point. I like the idea of a Virtual Reality setting where people can get away from the awfulness of their lives. There is definitely the feeling of deviousness in the story as well, and the author duo does a good job of waiting until the very end to unveil the actual villains of the series. 
I wouldn’t necessary say that there is a love triangle romance in ELUSION, but it does come close. Regan and her best friend Patrick are at the center of almost everything that happens in the book, but they are not alone. I never felt that Regan was interested in Patrick as a romantic interest. I did find the arrival of Josh a bit too coincidental, as well as how things eventually turn in the story. There IS obvious jealously involved between Josh and Patrick. I doubt anyone would be surprised if your best friend suddenly finds someone else they want to be around.
ELUSION is a part of a two-book duology, so, I think I am just going to move right into the sequel Etherworld. I should have read this sooner! 
Other books in series:
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Unrated: The Glittering World by Robert Levy

Series: Stand-alone
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher
Genre: Literary Fiction | Fantasy | Mystery

In the tradition of Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane), Scott Smith (The Ruins), and Jason Mott (The Returned), award-winning playwright Robert Levy spins a dark tale of alienation and belonging, the familiar and the surreal, family secrets and the search for truth in his debut supernatural thriller.

When up-and-coming chef Michael “Blue” Whitley returns with three friends to the remote Canadian community of his birth, it appears to be the perfect getaway from New York. He soon discovers, however, that everything he thought he knew about himself is a carefully orchestrated lie. Though he had no recollection of the event, as a young boy Blue and another child went missing for weeks in the idyllic, mysterious woods of Starling Cove. Soon thereafter, his mother suddenly fled with him to America, their homeland left behind.

But then Blue begins to remember. And once the shocking truth starts bleeding back into his life, his closest friends—Elisa, his former partner in crime; her stalwart husband, Jason; and Gabe, Blue’s young and admiring co-worker—must unravel the secrets of Starling Cove and the artists’ colony it once harbored. All four will face their troubled pasts, their most private demons, and a mysterious race of beings that inhabits the land, spoken of by the locals only as the Other Kind…

Before I start with my thoughts on this book, you should know that the dust cover for Robert Levy’s THE GLITTERING WORLD is a very, very pretty in real life. It literally glitters and it’s guaranteed to make any bookshelf extra gorgeous.

On to the story! 

I don’t know what I just read. And I’m not trying to be cute or exercising rhetoric here. I seriously don’t know WTflyingF I read. It took me a while to finish THE GLITTERING WORLD because after the first 100 pages, the plot felt laborious for me. Like I can’t figure it out so I tried to look at it from a genre angle. Is this magic realism, sci-fi, paranormal? None of these fit, only the broad sweeps of lit-fiction/mystery fits. The short of it is, RLevy’s debut novel is a changeling story. Now before you get all excited, forget everything you know about changelings, the fae, and other legends regarding this myth because RLevy totally turned things upside down. By the end of THE GLITTERING WORLD, it felt more like an alien abduction than a folk tale to me.

The novel was divided into 4 parts as each of the lead characters took turns in telling the tale. Years ago, Blue was went missing in the woods only to come back as, what most people in his town suspect, is a changeling. After much tension and family drama, Blue moved and it was only when his grandma died and left the house to him that he returned to Nova Scotia. It wasn’t long before Blue’s bretheren started calling to him and he went missing. As this renewed search for the elusive Blue ensues, his friends, Elisa, Jason, and Gabe, took turns in relating the tale to us. But will they find Blue this time around and if so, is he the Blue they know and love, or is it going to be something else?

THE GLITTERING WORLD is disturbing, very, very strange, and definitely unlike anything I’ve ever read. I can’t tell you what it’s about apart from what the story is, I can tell you though why  this novel didn’t necessarily work for me: it was so impersonal. You have four people telling you the tale, complete with their own thoughts, history, and relationship with Blue, and yet it felt so detached. As if RLevy purposely and actively prevented me, the reader, to understand the human side of the novel and form any attachment to Blue & Co. Also the ending doesn’t have closure. Like all of that adventure and close encounters with the fae folk for nothing? 

Which is why THE GLITTERING WORLD will remain unrated by me for a while. It’s one of those books that is written well in terms of technique but lacked in the suspending disbelief. I just don’t know if I’m an idiot or if RLevy focused too much on stylistics and not enough time forming the plot wherein average readers like myself can consider it believable or even entertaining. So please, if you’ve read this and totally loved it, I’d appreciate an email so we can powwow in private. 

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Gush & Gripe: Hard Limits

A conversation with Elisabeth Staab inspired this Gush & Gripe post. We were brainstorming for guest post topics and started gabbing about popular themes and touched on something that had me thinking What are my reader hard limits? 
Hard Limits:
  • Incest: Ick! No to kissing cousins, or anything of that sort. I heard step relationships are quite popular these days. That makes my stomach roil! Really?! While your parents are doing it like bunnies in their room, you and your step-sibling are next door, banging to the beat of your folks headboard smashing? I have lots to say about this hard limit. But thinking about how wrong this is is making me throw up a little in my mouth. I’m sure you get it.

  • Monster Erotica: Sure, paranormal creatures are technically monsters but they’re not the ones I’m talking about here. I’m referring to beastiality. Like fucking an octopus, a dinosaur, the list goes on. Let your imagination take you to the wild!
  • Rape: At the height of the erotic genre’s popularity, there was also a lot of dark erotica that came with it. I’m not one to turn down a dark read, I indulge in it often. And at one time a few of my bloggy friends were mad raving about Skye Warren’s Dark Erotica series. My curiosity got the best of me so I bought the first three books. Didn’t make it past the first one. Yup! Definitely not for me. The girl got abused so bad it just screwed her up permanently that she developed a taste for rough rape play. *sqeaks & runs away*
  • Misogyny: I used to love Sons of Anarchy. But it was so saturated with all sorts of bullshit, I can’t tolerate the utter disrespect for women in the long run. These boys are really truly bad and not in a good way. The women that surround them are strong and formidable, even highly intelligent, they just don’t know their worth and that they deserve better.

    This is the reason why I’m super selective about Motorcycle Club books as well. Some authors were so inspired by SoA, their novels felt like fanfiction to me in that their characters resemble Jax Taylor & his gang. MC romances that glorify despicable acts and criminal behavior is just not for me. Sure it’s make believe, but this kind of shit happens in real life and by buying/reading/reviewing these types of novels means I tolerate or even condone it. I just can’t get behind it because the way the stories are told justifies misogyny and sort of tells us readers that it’s okay. Well, this chick has a stick up her ass and is not okay with it.

And these are my soft limits
  • Glorified Criminals: Or in some cases, they’re called “anti-heroes”. There’s a double standard here because when it comes to fantasy, I got no problem rooting for vigilantes, assassins, etc. When it comes to contemporary romance, possibly because it’s fairly realistic, my moral barometer kicks in. But, like in most cases, when it’s done right, it can be fairly interesting. *Waves to the Prison Wives*
  • I Love You, Let’s Fuck: Yeah. Because I’m an idiot and my IQ proves it *rolls eyes*. This line, and it’s many variations, annoy the fuck out of me. It’s insulting, really, like I read this book last month where the guy said I love you, will you let me fuck you in the ass? My initial reaction was to ROFL. After I sobered up I realized that the book is completely ruined for me from that point on.
  • Your Bestie’s Man/Woman: This is a close cousin of Incest. I don’t think I’d still be besties with my closest girlfriend if she comes after my man regardless if I’m dead, divorced, or separated. Hallo! Girl code! However, I know there’s wiggle room here and when done tastefully, it can make for an amazing story.
  • Angst: This is just personal. Let’s just say that my personal life is angst-ridden and I read to escape. That said I don’t want to escape to the same/worse place.
  • TSTL: I can do away with these stupid characters who should know better. Sure they can be entertaining and they add conflict to an otherwise boring story. It’s just irritating to watch someone not exercise their common sense.
So here are my hard and soft limits. I probably forgot a few, so please remind me by sharing yours.

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Loved It: Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Series: Stand-alone (?)
Format: eGalley
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Paranormal

Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Eerie and definitely speculative. That’s DARK ALCHEMY by Laura Bickle in so few words. This title has been on my reading calendar for twoo weeks and I kept on moving it around no thanks to my reading rut. Finally I managed to crawl out of my oubilette and indulged in some good paranormal story. 
I love small town reads because the characters are often quirky and the scenery feels like home. Temperance, Wyoming loosely fit that category, however I wouldn’t want to get lost in this town much less visit it. It’s creepy and depressing. Interesting is the kindest way to describe it’s residents: ranch hands that don’t talk, a “drug” ring led by an Alchemist, the town drunk who’s a s/male, a coyote that wants to be someone’s pet, talking skeletons. The list of unnatural occurrences goes on which made DARK ALCHEMY the book you should pick up when you want to read something… uncomfortable.
LBickle is brilliant in writing these disturbing atmospheric reads. I love Petra Dee, I love her name and she reminds me of Dr. John Dee, an Elizabethan cultist. DARK ALCHEMY is motivated by Petra looking for her long lost father whom she thinks is somehwere in Temperance, Wyoming. Under the guise of geological research, Petra poked around town, asking questions and filing a missing person report. Meanwhile, she keeps on getting anonymous calls from whom she suspects is her father, asking her to leave the town. Yyyeah, as if that would work! One thing led to another and she accidentally unraveled the town by unveiling its secrets. Immortality and transmutation isn’t all its cracked up to be, not in this case anyway, it’s disgusting and wretched, I don’t want to live for eternity the same way some of the characters do. 
DARK ALCHEMY is one strange cookie and I hope there’s a sequel in the works. This is just under 300 pages, and because the novel is fast paced, it’s also a quick read. And perhaps the biggest perk of all is this little gem is only $2.99 (ebook) as of this writing. That’s a big bang for your buck so if you’re looking for something different, please check out DARK ALCHEMY, it just might be the one for you.

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