Monday, November 23, 2015

Novella November Continues...

This week, I have added four more novella's to my Novella November challenge. Two in the cozy mystery genre and two more suspense stories a bit on the darker side.

I started my weekend with the cozy mysteries. First, The Mutt and the Matchmaker, which I think is my favorite of the four books read this week.  It's a sweet little mystery with a bit of humor and some furry friends to add to the appeal.  It was fun and ended on a happy note.  There are two more books in this series but they aren't novellas so I will add them to my TBR list for future reading. The second book, The Saint Valentine's Day Cookie Massacre was also fun and had some humor to it but for some reason, I just didn't connect to the characters or feel invested in the plot.  It was enjoyable, but just didn't quite keep my attention as the first book did.

The two darker books were quite engaging.  I began with The Man on the Bench, which I thought was going to be a straight forward murder mystery.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story was very much like one Stephen King or John Saul might write.  It had just a bit of fantasy to it but wasn't overdone. I really liked it and read it in one sitting.  I highly recommend it.  Finally, Blackwater Lake was a murder mystery where a man finds out that his parents had quite a sordid past and investigates a murder they might have been involved in.  I did figure out the ending before it happened but the author kept me guessing for a while. Also worth the read if you are looking for a quick murder mystery.

I have one week left and several novellas left on my list. Hopefully the holiday weekend will give me some added reading time so I can get to them all.  Click on any of the photos above to see the books on Amazon.

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Giveaway and Guest Post for The Immortals by Tori Eversmann

A Day in the Life of an Author

When I was in the middle of writing my first novel, The Immortals, a woman-writer friend of mine who’s published three books said to me, “As a female writer, you must demand the time to write. Male writers don’t have to demand the time; it’s just accepted that they go off and do their thing. For women, we must fight for the time. Don’t be afraid to take it.”  She was right. When I researched successful authors’ writing habits, I found a varied list of each artist’s routines. Some writers craft at night, some scribble as soon as they wake up, some carve out certain hours each day, and some write when the mood strikes them. It seemed to me that as long as I was writing, even if it was the proverbial “shitty first draft”, that there was no wrong time to write. But did you catch that word in the last sentence that gets many of us writers hung up? Time.
In addition to being a writer, I’m a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a volunteer, the CEO and head chef of our household, just to name a few of my prominent titles. I have four pets, two of whom are energetic Labrador Retrievers who stare at me and follow me everywhere until I take them on their daily walk. While I do covet routine, everyday is truly new. On Facebook I recently posted that I’d [stupidly] forgotten that if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. While I’m all for God’s laughter, as a writer this is not good news. Deadlines and plans are necessary, if not mandatory guidelines, otherwise the stories I want to craft and the words I want to play with are jailed in my brain. To some this may seem safe but a published writer it does not make.  Furthermore, I have some unsavory family members whose sole campaign is to keep the keys to my creativity and productivity hidden. They are very jealous and possessive. So let me introduce you to my rogue cousins, the Time Bandits, who love to invite themselves over unannounced and unwanted.  
First there are the Figurative Wrinkles: there’s no escaping them. They are the most benign cousins from that side of the family. The Figurative Wrinkles are the unavoidable hiccups, urgencies, emergencies, phone calls from old friends whom I haven’t heard from in four years, escaped dogs running down the road looking for a tryst, or the disposal of some animal or bird carcass eviscerated by one of my cats that he left for me at the back door in case I decided I want some extra protein that day. The Figurative Wrinkles delight in showing up looking for a spot of tea and a good chinny-wag just as I’m about to sit down and bang out a few clever sentences of really impressive words that I hope will unite and form coherent paragraphs and brilliant stories that other people want to read. I don’t dislike most of these cousins and sometimes even enjoy their company, but they are really hard to shake some days.
Besides the Figurative Wrinkles, my ankle-biting cousins the Procrastination-Pests live next door and don’t understand the word ‘boundary’.  They conspicuously arrive and ceaselessly remind me that laundry needs to be washed and folded or an email needs to be answered immediately or that I forgot to buy my mother’s birthday gift that’s still two weeks away; or, the best one: that now is the perfect time to organize the thousands of photos from my forty-five years of life that I have stashed in several large cardboard boxes out in the garage. They always offer to help me organize the photos which makes it hard to say no. They sabotage all writing effort, sometimes for hours with their nonstop chatter and desire to hang out with me, until I remind myself that they live next door and I can tell them, “Go home. I need to write.”
But the worst Time Bandit offenders are the Insecurity Ogres. I’m not sure where they live because I’ve never been invited over but I suspect it’s a dank cave with slimy algae that looks similar to snot dripping from the ceiling. The Insecurity-Ogres are my evil cousins because they not only show up uninvited but also lurk in the corner waiting to sling their vomitus insults at me and then cackle when they see fear on my face. With startling ease, they con me into believing that I should have a large glass of wine or two with the Procrastination Pests because my words aren’t as good – never will be in fact – as the outstanding writers I revere. Sometimes they chant, “You don’t deserve success” or “You’re not clever. You’re not witty. You’re not smart. No, not ever!” so quietly but profoundly that I believe them. In their charming voices that I imagine are similar to the Sirens on Cape Pelorum, they hypnotize me into believing that no one will like what I’ve written so what’s the point. The Insecurity Ogres also possess the uncanny ability to make my brain go blank like they sucked all good ideas out with a Dyson vacuum and paralyze my fingers so I’m unable to type a single letter. Subtle manipulation and covert operations are their main forms of warfare. I’ve lost a lot of time to the Insecurity Ogres. Can you tell I don’t like them?
So what have I learned? The Time Bandits are my prodigal cousins. However, I have another set of shy, yet spiritually brawny cousins called The Muses. They’re knowledgeable and embody all the qualities writers love because they invoke powerful inspiration when they show up at my door. The Muses smell like blooming jasmine to me; however, they are fetid to the Time Bandits who often hold their noses with clothes pins when the Muses are here. I’ve seen them in fierce arm wrestling matches that sometimes go on for days. When the Muses win, it’s a celebration no doubt and the Time Bandits retreat and go back home to sulk. To be honest, I cherish the Muses and wish they weren’t so elusive.
The talented and creative John Cleese calls it the “time-space-oasis”, and if you haven’t seen his thirty-minute talk on creativity, I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for that sneaky extra time in the same twenty-four hours we’ve all been granted. The door is bolted shut to the Time Bandits when I’m in my oasis. There is no bouncer with a secret word of the night to let them in. And if I listen patiently, my demure Muses tiptoe in and without realizing it, we’re all together enjoying each others’ company for an hour or more. However, as I’ve pointed out, plans change – and that’s ok. But let me caution you, those Time Bandit cousins, if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Do you have any cousins like mine? Maybe we’re related.

Thanks to @TravelingWithT for some of these images. If you want to know more about Tori Eversmann, choose one of the links below and don't forget to enter the giveaway below!!

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: Once Upon a {Stolen} Time

I love re-imagined fairy tales.  I love to see how authors write them, no matter how subdued or exaggerated or strange.  The creativity that goes into any fairy tale re-write often puts me in awe of the author.  The ideas they come up with are amazing. 

 Once Upon a (Stolen) Time was generously given to me in exchange for an honest review. While this story only has slight hints of an old familiar tale, I had a lot of fun looking for the modernized connections.

I connected with Myra right away because she reminded me of me. I have a huge imagination and, as an adult still love to read about castles and ancient civilizations and the stories behind them.  She has this romantic (and a little naive) view of life and love that is very innocent and she has no plans to settle for less.  Edward, who she sees when she looks back in time through the castle mirror, is also a romantic who wants more out of his life than following in the footsteps of his royal but brutal father.  It turns out that Myra not only sees through time but also has a special connection to the castle.  When she realizes that Edward can see her too, from the year 1415, her life begins to change forever.

This book is easy to fall into and once Myra enters Hue Castle for the first time, gets very interesting.  There are some definite modern undertones that could be compared to Beauty and the Beast but I wouldn't go as far as to call the book a retelling.  I would say however, that this story has an intriguing mystery that even at the end has yet to be completely solved.  I was engaged throughout the entire story and the only element I would change is how Myra and Steve were thrown together which just didn't really fit with the quality of the rest of the story.  I was disappointed to be left with a huge cliffhanger at the end but I can certainly say that I will be desperately awaiting the next book to read about what happens next.

Synopsis from Amazon:
All her life, Myra Farrow has been obsessed with medieval castles—and the kings and princes who once inhabited them. Now, wealthy video game designer Steve Bernard wants her to model for a princess character in his new game. Myra can’t resist his offer, especially when she learns that Steve plans to film inside the mysterious Hue Castle—a cursed, barren, colorless place forbidden to visitors for centuries. But unknown to Myra, her soul is bound to Hue Castle by blood and sorcery. When she enters its doors, she awakens dark powers that will reach through time—stealing her past, torturing her present, and rewriting her future. 
Edward Hue, the last of the Hue royal bloodline, has never stood in the sunshine or held a living flower. Cursed from birth to live in darkness and bring death to all he touches, he is at the mercy of his cruel, tyrannical father, who will not rest until he shatters Edward’s soul and makes his son into a diabolical copy of himself. Edward’s one hope is the mysterious woman who haunts his dreams—who will either break his curse and bring him out of the darkness, or destroy him utterly. 
For Myra and Edward, past and future collide in a tale of love, obsession, betrayal, and the hope for redemption.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Novella November Review: The Uncommon Reader

This is my second book for Novella November and certainly a good choice! My mother is from England and, although I have yet to visit, I have always loved everything English, especially the Queen and the late Queen Mum, who shared my birthday which made it extra special each year.  

This book was a joy to read from beginning to end.  As soon as the Queen's badly behaved dogs ran into the traveling library and she discovered it's existence, I was hooked.  Her transformation from nonreader, to passionate reader, to writer was truly beautiful to read.  One of the most delightful parts of the book was how the Queen's advisors tried to secretly sabotage her reading and her reaction to their attempts.  

One of my favorite parts was when she hid her book behind the cushion in her carriage during an event. When she returned, the book was gone.  When she found out that her security had thought the book might be a "device" and destroyed it (really it was just hidden from her), she simply declared that a new copy had better find its way to her desk by morning and continued her journey, leaving behind a very unhappy staff member. It was a perfect moment.

I often found myself chuckling out loud as I read some of Her Majesty's responses to her staff and their bumbling attempts to discourage her reading. I will not give away any more of the story but I highly recommend picking this book up.  I may even read it a second time!

Synopsis from Amazon:
When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Novella November

This will be my first year dabbling in the world of the novella.  I was kindly given one a while back in exchange for a review and it opened my mind to a whole new world of reading.  So, starting today, I am going to spend my November looking for and devouring as many novellas as I can find.  Have suggestions? Please share them! Let's see what engaging new authors and stories I can discover.

I'm including the novella I read last month even though it wasn't really November and my list will grow from there. Happy reading to all those participating!

  1. Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish by G.G. Andrew
  2. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett



Review: Enchanted Revenge

Enchanted Revenge by Teresa M. Jones was kindly given to me in exchange for an honest review. 

Normally, while I enjoy YA fantasy, I'm not usually attracted to books that revolve around the Fae.  I often find they spend too much time on details about the setting and characters. I did however, like the teaser for this book when it was sent to me and it didn't seem overly intricate so I decided to give it a try. 

Synopsis from Amazon:
When seventeen year old Lily finds her parents brutally murdered, leaving her broken and alone, she is determined to bring justice to the fairies responsible. Her quest leads her to infiltrate The Empyrean, the land of the Fae where terrifying creatures lurk in every shadow. But with a political rebellion mounting, bloody battles and foreign enemies stand in her way. Alec, a mysterious fairy keeping his own secrets, gradually becomes her guide and dear friend in the unfamiliar world, and restores her faith in love. Disturbing secrets about her parent’s true identity are revealed, causing her to be more involved with the devastating fairy war than she can afford. Her vengeful mission becomes compromised and her growing romance with Alec wavers. She must conquer her fear of the unknown, ignore her grief, and overcome her growing list of enemies if she is to succeed in avenging her parents’ death. Or ever make it out alive. 

I'm quite glad that I gave this book a chance.  I knew as soon as I read the first chapter that it would be the kind of book I would want to finish in only a couple of sittings. Hence, the iPad began to travel with me wherever I went for a couple of days so that I could read during any free moments I could spare.  The opening of the book is a bit brutal but this is part of what makes it hard to put down. It grabbed me right from the beginning. Lily, the main character, is portrayed well.  Her role as a girl whose parents were brutally murdered is believable.  I felt connected to her emotions as she moved between anguish, fury, hopelessness, and fear while she tried to cope with her drastically changing world.  Her companion and supporter, Alec, helps her to deal with what is happening to her as she searches for the Fae who killed her family.  They make a great team and his story is as tragic as hers.  They compliment each other nicely.  The setting was lovely and not overwhelming to the senses.  I enjoyed reading about the cities and villages and hearing the history of the world and the fears about what would befall it in the future if no one stood up to save it. I also liked that the romance between the two main characters isn't always at the forefront of the story and the characters are flawed and not cookie cutter perfect in appearance or actions. They are on a mission and have no qualms about what needs to be done to avenge their loved ones. There is some violence but I think this added a nice edge to the story. I'm really looking forward to the next book and also hoping that the characters get to stay together in the story since they have already experienced so much loss.  A girl can hope!

Click on the book cover above to purchase on Amazon.  

Click here to check out more about the author.  

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish

I always look for something quick and fun to read for the Halloween season.  Of course, most of my reading is in the genre of paranormal but I love a good Halloween book.  Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish was given to me in exchange for an honest review and honestly... I loved it.

Synopsis from Amazon:
A zombie. A vampire. A witch. Nora Travers is none of these things. But the former mean girl has to hide behind costumes if she wants to scare the pants off Brendan, the horror geek with the power to make or break her haunted house. Because Brendan is the nerd Nora used to torment in middle school. But now he's all grown up and so scary hot, even her zombie heart starts beating. And he's looking a bit too long at her bloody fishnet stockings. Nora has to be everything she's not this Halloween so she can hide her true self and terrify Brendan. Not to mention protect her heart. Because what happens when he realizes she’s a monster behind the mask? 

First off, this is a novella so it isn't a long book.  I knew this going in but I was sad when I got to the end because I wanted it to keep going.  It was fun, it was sassy, and it had a high level of engagement.  Girl was mean to boy, girl grows up, boy comes back to town, girl likes boy and regrets what she did, boy finds out who she is and leaves, girl apologizes... Nothing deep but perfect for an October read. The haunted house setting, Nora's daily costume changes, and her acting were a lot of fun to read. I read the whole story in about half an hour while on the treadmill and if it hadn't ended, I would still be exercising because I wouldn't have wanted to stop reading.  I would definitely read other books by this author but I would also love a second novella with Brendan and Nora, even if they weren't the featured characters. 

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Review: Behind the Chimera

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review. Behind the Chimera can't really be classified into one particular genre. While I thought it would be fantasy, it also includes elements of horror, mystery, science fiction, and the paranormal.  While I expected a YA romance to be a big part of the story, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn't the case at all.  There was actually very little romance in the story. Instead, it was a fast-paced, edge of your seat adventure that kept me reading well into the night.

Synopsis from Amazon:
When Ian Crowell's best friends are torn apart right before his eyes and he narrowly escapes the killer, he can't imagine life could get much worse. That is, until the doctor tending to him starts acting strange and Ian knows the safest thing to do is get away. But while on the run, he discovers his pursuer may be a little less than human. Cornered in a library, Ian stumbles on a dusky passage in the wall behind a statue. He thinks it's an air shaft--a way out! In fact, it's the way in… This story is about a young man who gets sucked into another world, as ancient as it is technologically advanced. His goal is simple: find the one who can show him the way home. But Ian is unaware that a dark entity was awaiting his arrival and is intent on destroying him. It isn't his fate. It isn't his destiny. He was a regular person in the wrong place at the worst time. 

The main character in the book, Ian, is a jerk at the start of the story (at least in my opinion).  He may be attractive and popular at first but he isn't your typical leading man.  He hides his new girlfriend from his friends because she doesn't fit in with them, he cheats on her, and even once he realizes his mistakes later in the book and how much he really likes her, he is still far from a knight in shining armor.  There is some character change and Ian does grow as a person throughout the story but just when he starts to be likable and truly bond with a few of the other characters, the book ends.  There will most definitely be a sequel in the future and I hope to see Ian continue to develop.

There are plenty of fantastical creatures in the story, all wonderfully imagined and created to instill fear into the reader.  It was overwhelming at times to keep all of the places and creatures straight but it was also equally engaging and very difficult to put down.  I would love to have the next book explain more about how the two worlds connect and about who (or what) Ian really is.  I had a lot of questions that weren't answered so I'm hoping things become clearer in the next installment.

If you like fantasy that is borderline horror and a bit atypical, you will enjoy this. It was unique and fun and I look forward to seeing (or reading about) some of the characters again soon. If you would like to know more about this author, head over to her website at

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