Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review - Six Devils in The San Fernando Valley by Ernie Mannix

Six Devils in The San Fernando Valley
by Ernie Mannix
Published 2014
238 Pages

Beneath the glitter and glitz of Hollywood is a world fueled by greed, lust, and power in this well written romantic thriller, with a neo-noir style, and an enticing plot. The seedy underbelly of the entertainment industry serves as the backdrop for a dark and alluring tale filled with supernatural elements, and intriguing characters.

Moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding an otherworldly journey explore the darker side of human nature -- desire, and an all-consuming quest for power -- in a world that will chew you up and spit you out before you know what hit you. Think Gregor Samsa in Sin City, but instead we have Truman Morrow in Tinseltown. And things are about to get very strange.

When Truman Morrow embarks on a journey to the West Coast, he is captivated by the glamorous lifestyle of Hollywood's inner circle, and quickly becomes a fixture among the industry's elite. However, he soon finds himself disillusioned with the superficiality of those around him, and we watch as his rise to fame begins to fall. Still looking over his shoulder for Erica, the one woman who could offer him hope and comfort, he instead meets up with Roberto. What happens next will bring Truman through a labyrinthian realm where one decision could change the course of his life forever.

Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down! I was transfixed by the plot, and moved by the author's writing style. Despite the dark themes, there was hope, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. With so many layers to the plot, I was impressed with the way the story came together, seamlessly, and the manner in which the characters' lives coalesced. This story will stay with me for a long time, and I'm thrilled to know the next installment is in the works!


Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Stephanie
5 STARS

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review - Words that Bind by Ash Krafton

Words that Bind
by Ash Krafton
Published 2014
314 Pages

Tamarin
da "Tam" Kerish is a clinical social worker in Philadelphia who enjoys working with challenging clients. And while she experiences a low level of emotions in her own life, she can sense what others are feeling, allowing her to assist clients in resolving their issues. So, when she accepts a new client, Mr. Burns, she expects to crack the code of the handsome new stranger in her office. Instead, the extent to which her professional skills are tested sets the course for unfamiliar thoughts, dreams, and feelings that turn her life upside down.
"Tam searched his face, scanning it against her memories, coming up blank. Where had she seen him before?"
As she assesses Mr. Burns, she struggles to maintain her composure -- she has never been so derailed by anyone. So, she works diligently to stay on course, and to keep her thoughts and feelings at bay. But she can't help wondering what these new sensations mean. And it is clear that she is stirring up something in Mr. Burns.
"Her dark eyes met his, a split-second connection that felt like the bite of an electric current. His heart tripped on a beat..."
As an immortal, wish-granting djinn, Mr. Burns begins to share with Tam the personal history of his life and travels through ancient times. And while she finds him both fascinating and delusional, he has to get close enough to her to find what he needs... he knows she has the amulet. When things heat up, Tam terminates their contract. But this is only the beginning of a relationship that has spanned distance and time... and is vital to both of them.

I really enjoyed this magical tale, with unique characters, and an intriguing plot. Tam is swept into a colorfully illustrated, dreamlike realm, with enchanting depth that kept me turning the pages! She struggles to justify her feelings toward Mr. Burns, which led to some lengthy therapeutic discussions and internal dialogue. Still, this is an engaging and well written story. I hope to see more of this unique world the author has created in future installments!

Available on Amazon


Reviewed by Stephanie

4.5 STARS

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Review - Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Never Knowing
by Chevy Stevens
Published 2011
410 Pages

Sara Gallagher's parents adopted Sara, then went on to have two biological daughters, Lauren and Melanie. As children, Lauren was kind and gentle, while Melanie was headstrong and opinionated, often butting heads with Sara. Their father treated his daughters differently, taking Lauren and Melanie on fun outings, while leaving Sara at home to clean -- a bit of a Cinderella situation at home that left her with a sense of guilt and confusion.

Now an adult, Sara is engaged to a wonderful man, Evan, who conducts whale watching excursions, and owns a lodge. She is also busy raising her own adorable, yet rambunctious six-year-old daughter, Ally. While preparing for her wedding, she comes across an adoption website that gets her thinking about her birth parents. She never explored her origins, out of fear of hurting her adoptive mother, but now decides to take steps toward finding out where she came from. 

Quietly and secretly, Sara hires a private investigator to find the answers she's seeking. She uncovers the name of her birth mother, but her father is still a mystery. When a telephone call to her birth mother ends horribly she decides to visit her in person. But the meeting proves all the more perplexing and troubling, as her birth mother expresses horror and fear over their meeting. What is eventually uncovered sets off a terrifying series of events, and a reveal that is as shocking for Sara as it is for the reader. 

All of this is presented in a rapid fire pace that brings the reader into the story, and into the shock and emotions Sara is experiencing. With so much taking place early on in the story, I had to wonder, "Where can we possibly go from here?" But to my surprise, that is where the real substance of the story begins to take shape, and where the unexpected twists and thrills develop. 

Sara is forced into an arena of unwanted attention, and into a world that she in entirely unfamiliar with. And she isn't the only one thrust into this unsettling situation. Her family, and all those she has ever cared about, will be rocked by what has happened and what is to come. Told from Sara's point of view, the reader is privy to her therapy sessions throughout the story, adding insight and intrigue to a gripping tale that kept me awake for more than a few nights! Captivating and intense, I will be looking for more titles from this author.

Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Andrea
5 STARS

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Event - Readers' Choice Award Winners 2014


2014 Readers' Choice Award
Winners!

Thank you to all those who participated, and congratulations to our winners! Races were close, and even resulted in a few ties! Winning titles are listed below, by category:




















To view nominees and runners-up, click here!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review - On Wicked Ground by Sharon Kay

On Wicked Ground (Solsti Prophecy, #4)
by Sharon Kay
Published 2015
333 Pages

After much anticipation, this final installment in the Solsti Prophecy series has answered a lot of questions, and concluded with all the action, adventure, and romance we have come to expect from the Solsti and their beloved demon counterparts! I am sad to see the series come to a close, but excited about a spinoff in the works! Yay! 

Alina lives with her adoptive vampire father, Sebastian, on the demon realm of Torth. Living a nomadic life, she and her father use their skills to commit petty crimes. While making their way from one town to the next, it is hardly a glamorous life, but Alina has adjusted. Still, she longs to know who she is, and where she came from. Most of those around her believe her to be fae, due to her petite stature, but that's not the whole story. And now that she has gained access to a scrying mirror -- an enchanted mirror that allows her to see events unfolding in real time -- she can't resist. Not knowing the full scope of the magic embedded in the object, she is excited about her discovery, but soon realizes there is a high price to pay for her actions
.
"Seeing their images magnified the intense and sudden pull to uncover her origins."
Now on the run with her father, and stealing cash from unsuspecting locals at a bustling drinking establishment, she spies a familiar face. Handsome, yet intimidating, she recalls the night at Mulvari's party, and can't help wondering what business the handsome stranger could have with a wealthy gangster. She had her own business there -- stealing the coveted amulet. Unable to avoid his approach, he introduces himself as Caine. Despite his size, he doesn't strike her as menacing. So, as they begin an unexpected flirtation, all hell breaks loose, with dark magic crashing down on the establishment. There is no way out.

Caine sees Alina injured in the rubble, unconscious and bleeding. He struggles to find an escape, and in desperation uses his own amulet to go to the one place he knows she will be safe. Unbeknownst to Caine, bringing Alina to the safe house sets the course for a connection that no one can anticipate, putting lives at risk, and bringing forth the combined powers of the Solsti... powers needed to prepare for a war on the horizon.



Alina is part of a force that was believed to be a myth, but she still has one deep, dark secret she is keeping from Caine. And as his feelings for her continue to grow, she pulls away. These two seem destined to be together, but the barriers may be too great. Falling in love isn't an option for Alina, and even with all the magic between them, there are some forces even greater. Like all matters of the heart, it's complicated, especially when you are a Solsti... with the most powerful magic of all. 
"'You’re tough and you’re a survivor. You’re smart and you’re sexy as hell. I want you.' He nuzzled her ear. 'All the time. In my bed...'"
I loved the characters in this installment, with Caine being a formidable, sexy Watcher, and Alina having plenty of skills to keep him on his toes! The story ties up loose ends, combines meaningful details from the other books, and brings the entire series into context. With four uniquely individual tales, I highly recommend this well written and exciting series to fans of paranormal romance who enjoy plenty of steamy romance and adventure!

Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Stephanie
5 STARS

Reviews for other books in the series:
Wicked Wind (book #1)
Wicked Waves (book #2)
Wicked Flames (book #3)


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Book Release - Words that Bind by Ash Krafton

Now Available!
Words that Bind
by Ash Krafton

On Sale for 99c for a Limited Time!
Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N
Add to your TBR!
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Exclusive Excerpt

He leaned forward, focused intently on her eyes, as if by looking hard enough he could fit inside her mind. Could he? Had he already? She swallowed but her throat stuck.

“I suppose it was the sight of that undiscovered treasure that did it,” he said. “I once lived in a city of gold. I built Solomon’s temple with my hands and my magic and the sheer force of my power. I once slept upon a bed of gold and silk and perfume. I love luxury, love it to the point where I’d happily let it consume me if it could.”

The look in his eyes grew distant, unfocused, as if he’d been momentarily transported elsewhere. “Splendor and riches…I breathe their heady scents, roll them on my tongue. The other night had a tremendous impact upon me.”

Faintly alarmed by his intensity, she struggled to tamp down a growing sensation low in her belly. Her body responded to his desire with one of her own and she fought to suppress it. She couldn’t help but remember the dream, the scent of his skin so real, so recent.

Abruptly she lifted her knee into the bottom of her desk, catching the sharp edge of the center drawer with precision. The pain that sparkled down her knee into her shin gave her what her dwindling self-control denied: focus. “I didn’t know that it would affect you like this.”

“You did.” His voice was little more than a growl. “You knew and you willingly participated.”

“No.” The ease with which he had slipped into this dark mood alarmed her. Her heartbeat picked up, responding to the hard heat in his eyes. “I didn’t know.”

“Then your little lap-dance—I’m sorry, treasure chest-dance—wasn’t meant to enflame me further?” Tiny blue flames appeared to dance within his pupils, swaying in time to the rise and fall of his chest.

She pushed back in her chair. “I’m sorry for teasing. I didn’t mean—”

He stood and began to pace. 

“You tricked me into granting you a wish. There is something you should know about the djinni, Tamarinda.” He paused and swung a heavy-lidded look at her. “We don’t like to be manipulated.”

“Burnsie, I assure you—”

“I must say, you were quite adept at it. I didn’t think you were capable of such scheming.”

“Burns—”

He stopped and dropped his palms flat on her desk with a slap, leaning until his face was only a few inches from hers. “I love when you call me that. Time you find out the true meaning of my name.”

“Mister Burns.”

That gave him pause. He straightened but his expression didn’t change. “Oh, my. The serious voice. Am I in trouble?”

She gulped against the tightness of her throat and lined her voice in steel. “You go too far.”

The warning slid right over him as if she’d never spoken. Shaking his head slowly, a terrible glee sparkling in his eyes, he swiped his tongue across the tips of his teeth. A predator. “Not as far as I could.”

Again, a flash of her dream. She had a pretty accurate idea of how far he could go because she’d already gone halfway there with him. She rubbed her wrist, feeling the phantom sensation of his grip. A dream, she reminded herself. Her dream.

His expression darkened. “I feel it only fair to warn you that a djinn under contract will often do anything to get out of it. We don’t like to feel we’re indebted to anyone. It makes us. . . rather temperamental.”

“More so than usual?”

“Oh, yes. You haven’t yet seen the smoke, much less the fire.” 

She chewed her lip, wishing there was a way to rewind the whole meeting. This is not how she expected her day to start. “I don’t like this at all. You don’t like owing me a wish? You want me to end the contract? Fine. I wish you’d knock it off.”

He sat down and crossed his arms. “No.”

“No?” She scoffed. “Some genie. I make a wish and you say no.”

He narrowed his eyes and smiled a devil’s smile. “You used your wish already.”

“When did I do that?”

“When you dreamed of me.”

Her heart constricted once before jack-hammering against her ribs, and a flush scalded her throat, spreading up into her cheeks. She felt as if someone had caught her doing something wrong.

He arched a single brow and adjusted his cuffs. “I, for one, enjoyed it immensely. You are a lot more engaging in your dreams. Awake, you seem emotionless by comparison. Why do you counsel emotionally disturbed people if you—”

“Stop. Stop right there.” She was reacting—violently—and she clawed at the shreds of composure. He was only transferring. He had to be. He couldn’t really know. It was difficult to think past the heat in her cheeks. “I don’t allow this sort of—intimidation in my office.”

“Then where will you allow it?” His tones curled darkly around the cloying words. “I told you, I am enjoying these physical manifestations. I cannot stop desiring you now.”

“Burns—”

“Admit your feelings. Admit you have them.”

She unbuttoned her collar, feeling constricted. “I’m sorry, Mr. Burns. Our time is at an end.”

“The hour has barely begun, Tamarinda.”

She summoned the last reserves of the therapist who had never before lost a power struggle. All her professional conduct, all her authority—she threw that weight behind her words. “Our contract is ended.”

“You may have used your wish but that doesn’t mean I am through with you.”

“As a client, you are. I release you from my care.” She opened his file and scrawled her name across a form stapled to the back cover. “Please leave.”

A look of incredulous outrage crossed his face. “You can’t banish me.”

She pressed the intercom button.

“Yes?” The receptionist’s bright voice responded immediately.

“I’ll go.” He spoke quietly so as not to be overheard by the receptionist. “If that is what you wish.”

She lowered her chin, unwilling to give in to his sudden show of softness. “Don’t worry about what I wish. Just go.”

He looked long and hard at her, his eyes and tight mouth struggling to convey an unspoken protest. 

She looked out the window and shut him out. 

Was he regretful? Was he angry? Of course he was. Knowing him, he was furious, first and foremost, even if it wasn’t the heart of what he felt. And that was it, wasn’t it? He felt with his heart, he spoke with his heart, and something inside her heard him as she could hear no other.

It didn’t matter what expression he wore. She had to let him go.

He left without another word.

She spent the rest of the hour holding her temples, berating herself and suppressing a strange stinging sensation in her eyes. Not tears, but closer than she’d ever come to them in her entire life.

Damn genies. Damn their hot tempers.

Damn herself for falling for him.

About the Book
Social worker Tam Kerish can’t keep her cool professionalism when steamy client Mr. Burns kindles a desire for more than a client-therapist relationship—so she drops him. However, they discover she’s the talisman to which Burns, an immortal djinn, has been bound since the days of King Solomon…and that makes it difficult to keep away from him.

Ethical guidelines are unequivocal when it comes to personal relationships with clients. However, the djinn has a thawing effect on the usually non-emotive Tam, who begins to feel true emotion whenever he is near. Tam has to make a difficult choice: to stay on the outside, forever looking in…or to turn her back on her entire world, just for the chance to finally experience what it means to fall in love.
About the Author
Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction author from northeastern Pennsylvania. Krafton’s first novel, Bleeding Hearts was published in 2012 as part of a three-book urban fantasy series The Books of the Demimonde (Pink Narcissus Press). An urban fantasy novella, Strangers at the Hell Gate, was published by Wild Rose Press in 2013. Her latest book, Words That Bind, won first place in the HeRA RWA “Show Me the Spark” 2013 competition; it is also available through Wild Rose Press as an October 2014 release.
Krafton also writes New Adult speculative fiction novels under the pen name AJ Krafton. Upcoming titles include The Heartbeat Thief, Face of the Enemy, and the award-winning Takin’ It Back. She is part of a YA/NA collective known as the Infinite Ink Authors. 
In addition to novel-length fiction, Krafton enjoys writing poetry and short prose, some of which earned distinctions in various writing competitions. One of her poems was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She’s a proud member of Pennwriters, Romance Writers of America, and Pikes Peak Writers. Krafton is also a staff blogger for the Query Tracker Blog.
Connect with Ash Krafton!

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Review - Shamara by Catherine Spangler

Shamara (Shielder, #3)
by Catherine Spangler
Published 2014
364 Pages


In a futuristic world, Eirene lives in a male-dominated society that offers little hope or opportunity to its female inhabitants. Having lost her parents, she finds herself in the care of her abusive uncle, Vaden Kane, who makes her life miserable. She dreams of a life beyond her home planet, but it isn't until she discovers her uncle is planning to marry her off to a Leor that she decides to escape. And it won't be easy.

Eirene finds herself on the run from her uncle and the Leors, but also fighting to conceal the truth about who she is: an Enhancer. If anyone discovers her true abilities, it will be a fate worse than death. 
At the Pleasure Dome, she meets a kind and handsome man, Jarek. He is attacked and injured, and she can't help but step in to heal him -- a huge risk, considering her actions could expose her as an Enhancer. Jarek is convinced Eirene could be the key to saving his people, but she remains guarded. Her attraction toward Jarek grows stronger, and soon she realizes her powers are changing. 

"And, like a ship being sucked into a black hole, she found herself hopelessly lost in a vortex of emotion and passion."

On a Shielder colony she is introduced to the men, woman, and children being hunted by the Controllers. Helping Jarek would mean putting her own life at risk, but the innocent strangers deserve a chance. Jarek shares stories about a sanctuary called Shamara, a place of safety and refuge. Could this be a chance for her to gain her own freedom, as well? It sounds too good to be true... or does it? First, she will need to learn to trust herself, and to control her abilities, if she is to find the freedom and security she so desperately desires.

Such a captivating addition to the series! With a storyline that builds on the first two books, Shamara brings depth and purpose to an already enchanting plot. Filled with romance and adventure, this is my favorite in the series, so far! 
I thoroughly enjoyed the detailed plot, clever dialogue, and fascinating characters.

Eirene is inexperienced, but not a pushover, and her intelligence enables her to adapt quickly to life beyond her home planet. Jarek is a worthy counterpart who helps her to work through issues of trust and confidence. The secondary characters provide enticing sub-plots -- most notably, Lani, and the fearsome Leor, Gunnar, who were a total mismatch. They poked and prodded one another when it was clear they had a mutual attraction. Gunnar sees Lani in her blue feathered attire, and sneers, "What is this? It looks like a blue echobird that got caught in a rocket launcher." Ha! 

A fun, exciting, and well written adventure that any fan of sci-fi romance will enjoy!

Available on Amazon

Read my reviews for other books in the series:
Shielder (book #1)
Shadower (book #2)

Reviewed by Stephanie

5 STARS

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Book Review - Ashes to Ashes by Karina Halle

Ashes to Ashes (Experiment in Terror, #8)
by Karina Halle
Published 2013
406 Pages

As hosts of an online ghost hunting show, Dex and Perry explore different locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, documenting strange occurrences in mysterious locations. Now joined by former Wine Babes host, Rebecca, they travel to a small town on the Oregon Coast to investigate ghost sightings at an old sanatorium that has been converted to an art school. 

We meet some of the students, as well as previous inhabitants, as the team peruses the abandoned floors of the building, watching ghostly children in the hallways, and finding something even more terrifying than lost souls from the past. There were some genuinely frightening moments, but I still managed to read late into the night -- I was dying to see what would happen! And the author did not disappoint.

This is a pivotal book in the series, as there is only one more to go. And it's clear that our beloved lead characters are growing, not only as individuals, but as a couple. The story ends with enough intrigue to ensure the final installment will go out with a bang. So if you haven't read this book yet, don't miss out! I highly recommend the entire series to anyone who loves great characters, clever plot lines, and all things that go bump in the night. 

Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Stephanie

5 STARS