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1. Review: Amity

Amity by Micol OstowEgmont USA. Reviewed from ARC; publication date August 2014. My Teaser from April.

The Plot: Two families, years apart, move into the same house.

A house called Amity. A house in the middle of nowhere. A house with secrets, dark and deadly.

The Good: Amity is about a haunted house; a house that is both haunted and that haunts its unfortunate inhabitants. It is told by two seventeen year olds, Connor and Gwen. Both have just moved into a new house. It is the same house, ten years apart. And both see what those around them cannot, or will not: that there is something terribly wrong with the house. Something supernaturally wrong.

As I said in the teaser, this scared the hell out of me. The title, Amity, refers to another story about a haunted house, The Amityville Horror. I read that original book at age thirteen, believing every word. Specific details have changed: the location of the house. The time period. The families. You don't have to read that book to "get" this one. That one book lead to several movies, several versions of the story, but all about a haunted house.

"Here is a house of ruin and rage, of death and deliverance, seated atop countless nameless unspoken souls." Connor's story is the earlier story, when he and his siblings move into the empty house. Connor's family is one that looks so pretty on the outside (mom, dad, twins, little boy), much like the house they move into: "Probably from the outside it looked like we were doing better than we really were. That was Dad's thing -- make sure we looked like we were doing better, doing well." What scared me about Connor's story was not so much his realizations that something was wrong with his house, but that he welcomed that darkness -- that Connor came to Amity with something already missing from his soul.

The present-day Gwen has a different set of problems than Connor, but part of those problems means that when she begins to see that something is wrong at Amity, people don't believe her. For Connor, the reader wonders how far he'll go; for Gwen, it's wondering whether she'll be able to stop history from repeating itself. And if she can, what will the cost be?

I love how the stories went back and forth between Connor and Gwen. I loved the various references to the original story. I loved how isolated and strange Amity was, further isolating Connor and Gwen's families. And I loved as both madness and haunting settled into both timeframes, those times began to merge.



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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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2. Spotlight and Giveaway: Personal Target by Kay Thomas

 

Personal Target

An Elite Ops Novel

By: Kay Thomas

Releasing July 29th, 2014

Avon Impulse

Blurb

AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men working under the radar of most governments. If you have a problem no one else can handle, they can help.

A former SEAL and Black Ops specialist who left the CIA, Nick Donovan gave up a life on the edge to work in the private sector. But that didn’t stop his enemies from coming after him—or his family. In a case of mistaken identity, a drug cartel kidnaps his sister-in-law’s best friend … a woman from Nick’s past.

One minute Jennifer Grayson is housesitting and the next she’s abducted to a foreign brothel. Jennifer is planning her escape when her first “customer” arrives. Nick, the man who broke her heart years ago, has come to her rescue. Now, as they race for their lives, passion for each other reignites and old secrets resurface. Can Nick keep the woman he loves safe against an enemy with a personal vendetta?

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/07/personal-target-by-kay-thomas-elite-ops.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22308416-personal-target?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Personal-Target-Elite-Ops-Book-ebook/dp/B00KACAU5I/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&keywords=personal%20target%20by%20kay%20thomas&linkCode=ur2&qid=1400188200&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&tag=kaytho-20&linkId=VKJ26JGVY7WLJSJ5

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/personal-target-kay-thomas/1119566027?ean=9780062290878

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/personal-target/id877703928?mt=11

Author Info

Kay Thomas didn’t grow up burning to be a writer. She wasn’t even much of a reader until fourth grade. That’s when her sister readThe Black Stallion aloud to her. For hours Kay was enthralled—shipwrecked and riding an untamed horse across desert sand. Then tragedy struck. Her sister lost her voice. But Kay couldn’t wait to hear what happened in the story—so she picked up that book, finished reading it herself, and went in search of more adventures at the local library.
Today Kay lives in Dallas with her husband, two children, and a shockingly spoiled Boston terrier. Her award-winning novels have been published internationally.

Author Links

http://www.kaythomas.net/

https://www.facebook.com/KayThomasWrites

https://twitter.com/KayThomaswrites

$75.00 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Personal Target by Kay Thomas appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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3. Interview with Mayra Calvani, Author of Luthier’s Apprentice and Giveaway

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Mayra! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Mayra Calvani] Positive, persistent, empathetic, compassionate, motherly.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Luthier’s Apprentice?

[Mayra Calvani] Sure! Here is a short blurb:

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…
When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.
But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?
Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him.  And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Mayra Calvani] There’s a part in the book where my protagonists, Emma and Corey, are attacked by a pack of wolves and they must fly a small plane—well, Corey flies it (his father was a pilot). This was a fun scene to write. It has action, humor, and romance.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Mayra Calvani] I wrote this novel during Nanowrimo and I didn’t plot first, so the biggest challenge was to keep writing day after day without knowing what would happen next and still keep the story cohesive.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Mayra Calvani] Actually, there are 3 things: my phone, my ipod, and my Kindle.  

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Mayra Calvani] A statue of Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess, dozens of Post-Its with scribbles on them, and a mouse pad with the picture of a howling wolf on it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Mayra Calvani] J.K. Rowling. Or Anne Sophie Mutter, the famous violinist.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Mayra Calvani] I’d love the power to fly at supernatural speed. Since I live in Belgium, I’d go and visit my parents in Florida, my brother in Maryland, and all my friends who live in different parts of the world and whom I haven’t seen in years.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Mayra Calvani] The Secret History (this is the third time I’ve read it), and The Goldfinch, both by Donna Tartt. By the way, she just got the Pulitzer for this last one.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Mayra Calvani] I love to connect with readers! Here are my links:

http://www.MayraCalvani.com

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mayra-Calvanis-Fan-Page/162383023775888

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcalvani

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/272703.Mayra_Calvani

ABOUT THE BOOK


Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him.  And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K93R3OO/

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-luthiers-apprentice-mayra-calvani/1119467189

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Mayra Calvani, Author of Luthier’s Apprentice and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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4. Interview with Auralee Wallace, Author of Sidekick and Giveaway

 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Auralee!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Auralee Wallace] Funny. Smartish. Kind. Careful. Offbeat.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Sidekick?

[Auralee Wallace] I like to think that Sidekick is just like Cinderella…if Cinderella wanted to be a superhero instead of a princess…and was a smartass. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Auralee Wallace] Oh, that’s a tough one. If I have to pick a favourite, there is this one scene where my main character, Bremy St. James, makes a very Mission Impossible type escape from a dire situation. I like this scene because I think it’s a turning point for her in that she realizes maybe, just maybe, she can do the impossible…and she has a cool exit line. I like cool exit lines.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Auralee Wallace] A lot of the humour in Sidekick has to do with stereotypes and the expectations surrounding those stereotypes. For example, Bremy’s landlord is a Russian mobster with a glass eyeball, but he’s also a pretty nice guy in a semi-psychotic kind of way. Not crossing the line from exploring a stereotype to exploiting a group of people can be difficult, so I am always struggling to keep these issues in mind while I’m writing. I don’t want to take the jokes too far.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Auralee Wallace] Hmm, the only thing I can’t really leave home without is, well, my children. I have forgotten just about everything else you could possibly imagine: wallet, glasses, phone, the cat on my way to the vet…but I have yet to forget my kids. High-five me!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Auralee Wallace] 1. Empty coffee mug.

2. Love note from my five year old.

3. Books…lots and lots of books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Auralee Wallace] Serena Williams. I bet she has never struggled to open a pickle jar.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Auralee Wallace] Ah! This one is so hard! Seriously, I seem to give this question more gravitas than it deserves…like it might actually happen, and  I had better choose wisely. Okay so, I really want to fly, but I also really want to be invisible – and yes, I would absolutely do creepy things with that power. There’s also mind control to consider…that would be pretty great. Then I could compel David Tennant to put on his old Doctor Who costume and we could role-play some of my favourite episodes! Okay, that’s pretty creepy too. How’s about we just stick with the flying thing?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Auralee Wallace] Lately I’ve read quite the mix. Hmm, let’s see there was The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard, The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas and the first installment of Jonathan Janz’s Savage Species, Night Terrors. And may I just say in regards to Savage Species, well, I haven’t read any horror like that since I was a teenager. It was…really…wow. There’s this scene with a machete and an alien/insectoid type creature with a really big…well, you may not want to know about that…but wow. It reminded me of the movie Piranha 3D…and now I’ve just admitted that I’ve watched Piranha 3D. I’m just going to stop now.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

Website: auraleewallace.com

Facebook: Auralee Wallace Author

Twitter:@AuraleeWallace

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8119821.Auralee_Wallace

Thank you!

Sidekick

Auralee Wallace

Genre: Fantasy/Superhero

Publisher: Escape Publishing

Date of Publication: 1 June 2014

ISBN: 9780857991591

ASIN: Will be available end of April

Number of pages: Approx 172

Word Count: 73 818

Cover Artist: Danielle Mait

Book Description:

Heroes meets Kick-Ass in this brilliant and hilarious debut about a girl who just wants to save the world…

Bremy St James, daughter of billionaire Atticus St James, has been cut off from the family fortune and is struggling to survive in a world that no longer holds its breath every time she buys a new outfit. To make matters worse, her twin sister is keeping secrets, loan sharks are circling, and the man of her dreams — a newspaper reporter — is on assignment to bring down everyone with the last name St James.

Things are certainly looking bleak for the down-and-out socialite until a good deed throws her into the path of the city’s top crime-fighter, Dark Ryder. Suddenly, Bremy has a new goal: apprentice to a superhero, and start her own crime-fighting career.

Ryder has no need for a sidekick, but it turns out the city needs Bremy’s help. Atticus St James is planning the crime of the century, and Bremy may be the only one able to get close enough to her father to stop him.

Now all she needs to do is figure out this superhero thing in less than a month, keep her identity secret from the man who could very well be The One, and save the city from total annihilation.

Well, no one ever said being a superhero would be easy…

About the Author:

Auralee Wallace has played many roles in her life, including college professor, balloon seller, and collections agent. She is now living her dream of writing humorous women’s fiction. When this semi-natural blonde mother of three children (and psychiatric nurse to two rescue cats) isn’t writing or playing soccer, she can be found watching soap operas with lurid fascination and warring with a family of peregrine falcons for the rights to her backyard.

http://auraleewallace.com/

https://twitter.com/AuraleeWallace

https://www.facebook.com/auraleewallace.author

Tour giveaway details

5 ebook copies of Sidekick

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Auralee Wallace, Author of Sidekick and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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5. Review: Fireborn by Keri Arthur

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

ZOMG! I loved this book!  It’s got a more than capable protagonist, an ill-fated love interest, and, quite possibly, a world ending plague.  Yeah!  I can’t resist this stuff.  There’s great action, three sexy guys, and an interesting murder mystery.  The only thing it doesn’t have?  An ending.  So, yes, it got a knock for that.

Emberly is a phoenix.  She’s working as a secretary at research lab, deciding that in this lifetime, she’ll take things easy.  No derring-do or premature death for her this time around!  She wants to life her normal 100 year lifespan, without the unpleasantness of an early, painful death.  This time, her soul mate, Rory, is the thrill seeker, and they’ve agreed that one risk taker in the family is enough.  If they both die prematurely, that’s it.  No more rebirths, no more re-dos, and no more life.  If both of them are killed, they cease to exist, so they’ve made a pact.  Only one of them is allowed to be reckless per lifetime.

Heh.  Only trouble follows Em like a swarm of mosquitoes on a hot, humid day.  She can’t escape it.  After having a dream that her former lover, Sam, is murdered in the shadiest part of town, she can’t help but go and save him.  While she doesn’t have premonitions very often, and she’s learned the hard way to ignore them, she just can’t sit back and let Sam die.  He’s the love of this lifetime, and even though there are still bad feelings between them, five years after their breakup, she is compelled to save him.  This selfless act hurls her into so much danger that I think she should immediately form a new pact with herself – don’t rescue ex-boyfriends, because the only reward you get is trouble!

Sam and Em broke up because he caught her with Rory, and not understanding her nature, he accused her of cheating on him.  Phoenixes are cursed.  They journey from lifetime to lifetime with their soul mate, but they are destined to never, ever love them.  Instead, they have a love of each lifetime, but those relationships are fated to end miserably.  Sam is Em’s once in this lifetime, and she’s never going to get over him.  I don’t want to give away all of characteristics of the phoenixes, because I enjoyed learning about them so much, but I will say that if Rory and Em part permanently during one of their lives, they simply fade away, so the other is essential to their very existence.  Sigh.   What a major bummer.  Always finding that one perfect guy for yourself, but then always losing him because he can’t deal with what you are and what you need. 

Sam is a cop, and he’s investigating a deadly virus that either kills victims outright, or turns them into murderous monsters.  When Em’s boss is murdered, she’s drawn further into the case.  Her boss, Dr Baltimore, was working on a cure for the virus, and Em was transcribing his notes.  A boring job, but one that paid well.  With a darker, more sinister Sam leading the investigation, Em can’t help but get tangled up in the search for the murderer, especially when the murderer thinks she might have the professor’s missing notebooks.  Soon all kinds of nasty things are after her, but she’s determined to find out who – or  what – is behind the virus and the murder of her boss before they murder her too.  With the help of a private investigator, the lascivious fire fae, Jackson, she’s on the fast track to an extremely short lifespan. 

I could not put Fireborn down.  I even got a little resentful when I had to put down my Kindle to run errands.  I thought the pacing was spot on, and the world-building seemed natural and I found it interesting.  I enjoyed getting the story from Em’s POV – she’s got a great voice and made an entertaining narrator.  The only reason Fireborn isn’t getting an A is because it doesn’t have an ending, and you all know how much I hate that!  I am looking forward to the second book in the series, because this was a winner for me.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Be sure to check out all of the stops on the tour.

Here is yesterday’s stop – ON STARSHIPS AND DRAGONWINGS

And here is tomorrow’s stop  FANG-TASTIC BOOKS

From Amazon:

 

From New York Times bestselling author Keri Arthur comes a brand-new series featuring heroine Emberly Pearson—a phoenix capable of taking on human form and cursed with the ability to foresee death….

Emberly has spent a good number of her many lives trying to save humans. So when her prophetic dreams reveal the death of Sam, a man she once loved, she does everything in her power to prevent it from happening. But in saving his life, she gets more than she bargained for.

Sam is working undercover for the Paranormal Investigations Team, and those who are trying to murder him are actually humans infected by a plaguelike virus, the Crimson Death—a by-product of a failed government experiment intended to identify the enzymes that make vampires immortal. Now all those infected must be eliminated.

But when Emberly’s boss is murdered and his irreplaceable research stolen, she needs to find the guilty party before she goes down in flames….

The post Review: Fireborn by Keri Arthur appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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6. Spotlight and Giveaway: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

I am still recovering from July 4th weekend and a horse show Wednesday night (which I’ll tell you all about on Sunday), but don’t worry, I still have a goody for you today.  I have an excerpt from Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, which releases next week.  I also have a copy up for grabs, US residents only, please, so be sure to enter the giveaway below!

 

The highly anticipated finale to the

#1 New York Times bestselling trilogy

THE BOOK OF LIFE

Book Three of the All Souls Trilogy

by

Deborah Harkness

“Harkness proves to be quite the alchemist as she combines elements of magic, history, romance, and science, transforming them into a compelling journey through time, space, and geography. By bridging the gaps between Harry Potter, Twilight, and Outlander fans, Harkness artfully appeals to a broad range of fantasy lovers…The conclusion of this paranormal adventure is guaranteed to fly off the shelves.”

—Booklist

“There is no shortage of action in this sprawling sequel, and nearly every chapter brings a wrinkle to the tale. The storytelling is lively and energetic, and Diana remains an appealing heroine even as her life becomes ever more extraordinary. A delightful wrap-up to the trilogy.”

—Publishers Weekly

“In the resolution of the All Souls trilogy…as in the previous two installments, there are healthy doses of action, colorful magic, angst-y romance and emotional epiphany, plus mansion-hopping across the globe, historical tidbits and name-dropping of famous artworks and manuscripts.”

—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for SHADOW OF NIGHT

“The joy that Harkness, herself a historian, takes in visiting the past is evident on every page…A great spell, one that can enchant a reader and make a 600-page book fly through her fingertips, is cast.”

—Entertainment Weekly

“Deborah Harkness takes us places we’ve never been before…Readers time-travel as precisely and precariously as Diana and Matthew do…Shadow ends as Discovery did, with promises of more to come. Lucky for us.”

—USA Today

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the highly-anticipated final installment of the bestselling All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness (Viking; On-sale: July 15, 2014; $28.95). The trilogy began with A Discovery of Witches which People magazine called, “A wonderfully imaginative grown-up fantasy with all the magic of Harry Potter or Twilight”. The sequel Shadow of Night debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the Miami Herald called it, “Enchanting, engrossing and as impossible to put down as its predecessor…a perfect blend of fantasy, history and romance.” In total, over one million copies have been sold in the States with publications following in 38 countries, leaving legions of fans eagerly awaiting THE BOOK OF LIFE, the satisfying conclusion to this superbly written series.

THE BOOK OF LIFE picks up right where Shadow of Night left off.  After traveling through time, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to continue their hunt for the magical alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, otherwise known as the Book of Life.   At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they re­unite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception—ready to face old enemies. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the Book of Life and its miss­ing pages takes on even more urgency. In the tril­ogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and forbidden passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowl­edge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deborah Harkness is the number one New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Her publications include works on the history of science, magic, and alchemy.  Her most recent scholarly book is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution.  She lives in Los Angeles.

Deborah Harkness will be touring to:

New York City * South Hadley, MA * Canaan, NH * Boston * Raleigh * Miami

Decatur, GA * Philadelphia * Los Angeles * San Diego * San Francisco * Portland

Seattle * Chicago *Milwaukee * Minneapolis/St. Paul * St. Louis * Cincinnati

Houston * Austin * Denver * Scottsdale, AZ

Click here for details!

THE BOOK OF LIFE
Deborah Harkness ? Viking ? $28.95  ?  On-sale July 15, 2014 ? ISBN: 978-0-670-02559-6

THIS BOOK IS ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK

www.deborahharkness.com

@debharkness • facebook.com/AuthorDeborahHarkness

 

Excerpt:

From The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Deborah Harkness, 2014

Chapter 1

Ghosts didn’t have much substance. All they were composed of was memories and heart. Atop one of Sept-Tours’ round towers, Emily Mather pressed a diaphanous hand against the spot in the center of her chest that even now was heavy with dread.

Does it ever get easier? Her voice, like the rest of her, was almost imperceptible. The watching? The waiting? The knowing?

Not that I’ve noticed, Philippe de Clermont replied shortly. He was perched nearby, studying his own transparent fingers. Of all the things Philippe disliked about being dead—the inability to touch his wife, Ysabeau; his lack of smell or taste; the fact that he had no muscles for a good sparring match—invisibility topped the list. It was a constant reminder of how inconsequential he had become.

Emily’s face fell, and Philippe silently cursed himself. Since she’d died, the witch had been his constant companion, cutting his loneliness in two. What was he thinking, barking at her as if she were a servant?

Perhaps it will be easier when they don’t need us anymore, Philippe said in a gentler tone. He might be the more experienced ghost, but it was Emily who understood the metaphysics of their situation. What the witch had told him went against everything Philippe believed about the afterworld. He thought the living saw the dead because they needed something from them: assistance, forgiveness, retribution. Emily insisted these were nothing more than human myths, and it was only when the living moved on and let go that the dead could appear to them.

This information made Ysabeau’s failure to notice him somewhat easier to bear, but not much.

“I can’t wait to see Em’s reaction. She’s going to be so surprised.” Diana’s warm alto floated up to the battlements.

Diana and Matthew, Emily and Philippe said in unison, peering down to the cobbled courtyard that surrounded the château.

There, Philippe said, pointing at the drive. Even dead, he had vampire sight that was sharper than any human’s. He was also still handsomer than any man had a right to be, with his broad shoulders and devilish grin. He turned the latter on Emily, who couldn’t help grinning back. They are a fine couple, are they not? Look how much my son has changed.

Vampires weren’t supposed to be altered by the passing of time, and therefore Emily expected to see the same black hair, so dark it glinted blue; the same mutable gray-green eyes, cool and remote as a winter sea; the same pale skin and wide mouth. There were a few subtle differences, though, as Philippe suggested. Matthew’s hair was shorter, and he had a beard that made him look even more dangerous, like a pirate. She gasped.

Is Matthew . . . bigger?

He is. I fattened him up when he and Diana were here in 1590. Books were making him soft. Matthew needed to fight more and read less. Philippe had always contended there was such a thing as too much education. Matthew was living proof of it.

Diana looks different, too. More like her mother, with that long, coppery hair, Em said, acknowledging the most obvious change in her niece.

Diana stumbled on a cobblestone, and Matthew’s hand shot out to steady her. Once, Emily had seen Matthew’s incessant hovering as a sign of vampire overprotectiveness. Now, with the perspicacity of a ghost, she realized that this tendency stemmed from his preternatural awareness of every change in Diana’s expression, every shift of mood, every sign of fatigue or hunger. Today, however, Matthew’s concern seemed even more focused and acute.

It’s not just Diana’s hair that has changed. Philippe’s face had a look of wonder. Diana is with child—Matthew’s child.

Emily examined her niece more carefully, using the enhanced grasp of truth that death afforded. Philippe was right—in part. You mean “with children.” Diana is having twins.

Twins, Philippe said in an awed voice. He looked away, distracted by the appearance of his wife. Look, here are Ysabeau and Sarah with Sophie and Margaret.

What will happen now, Philippe? Emily asked, her heart growing heavier with anticipation.

Endings. Beginnings, Philippe said with deliberate vagueness. Change.

Diana has never liked change, Emily said.

That is because Diana is afraid of what she must become, Philippe replied.

Marcus Whitmore had faced horrors aplenty since the night in 1781 when Matthew de Clermont made him a vampire. None had prepared him for today’s ordeal: telling Diana Bishop that her beloved aunt, Emily Mather, was dead.

Marcus had received the phone call from Ysabeau while he and Nathaniel Wilson were watching the television news in the family library. Sophie, Nathaniel’s wife, and their baby, Margaret, were dozing on a nearby sofa.

The temple,” Ysabeau had said breathlessly, her tone frantic. “Come. At once.”

Marcus had obeyed his grandmother without question, only taking time to shout for his cousin, Gallowglass, and his Aunt Verin on his way out the door.

The summer half-light of evening had lightened further as he approached the clearing at the top of the mountain, brightened by the otherworldly power that Marcus glimpsed through the trees. His hair stood at attention at the magic in the air.

Then he scented the presence of a vampire, Gerbert of Aurillac. And someone else—a witch.

A light, purposeful step sounded down the stone corridor, drawing Marcus out of the past and back into the present. The heavy door opened, creaking as it always did.

“Hello, sweetheart.” Marcus turned from the view of the Auvergne countryside and drew a deep breath. Phoebe Taylor’s scent reminded him of the thicket of lilac bushes that had grown outside the red-painted door of his family’s farm. Delicate and resolute, the fragrance had symbolized the hope of spring after a long Massachusetts winter and conjured up his long- dead mother’s understanding smile. Now it only made Marcus think of the petite, iron-willed woman before him.

“Everything will be all right.” Phoebe reached up and straightened his collar, her olive eyes full of concern. Marcus had taken to wearing more formal clothes than concert T-shirts around the same time he’d started to sign his letters Marcus de Clermont instead of Marcus Whitmore—the name she’d first known him by, before he had told her about vampires, fifteen-hundred-year-old fathers, French castles full of forbidding relatives, and a witch named Diana Bishop. It was, in Marcus’s opinion, nothing short of miraculous that Phoebe had remained at his side.

“No. It won’t.” He caught one of her hands and planted a kiss on the palm. Phoebe didn’t know Matthew. “Stay here with Nathaniel and the rest of them. Please.”

“For the final time, Marcus Whitmore, I will be standing beside you when you greet your father and his wife. I don’t believe we need discuss it further.” Phoebe held out her hand. “Shall we?”

Marcus put his hand in Phoebe’s, but instead of following her out the door as she expected, he tugged her toward him. Phoebe came to rest against his chest, one hand clasped in his and the other pressed to his heart. She looked at him with surprise.

“Very well. But if you come down with me, Phoebe, there are conditions. First, you are with me or with Ysabeau at all times.”

Phoebe opened her mouth to protest, but Marcus’s serious look silenced her.

“Second, if I tell you to leave the room, you will do so. No delay. No questions. Go straight to Fernando. He’ll be in the chapel or the kitchen.” Marcus searched her face and saw a wary acceptance. “Third, do not, under any circumstances, get within arm’s reach of my father. Agreed?”

Phoebe nodded. Like any good diplomat, she was prepared to follow Marcus’s rules—for now. But if Matthew’s father was the monster some in the house seemed to think he was, Phoebe would do what she must.

Fernando Gonçalves poured beaten eggs into the hot skillet, blanketing the browned potatoes already in the pan. His tortilla española was one of the few dishes Sarah Bishop would eat, and today of all days the widow needed sustenance.

Gallowglass sat at the kitchen table, picking drops of wax out of a crack in the ancient boards. With his collar-length blond hair and muscular build, he looked like a morose bear. Tattoos snaked around his forearms and biceps in bright swirls of color. Their subject matter revealed whatever was on Gallowglass’s mind at the moment, for a tattoo lasted only a few months on a vampire. Right now he seemed to be thinking about his roots, for his arms were covered with Celtic knotwork, runes, and fabulous beasts drawn from Norse and Gaelic myths and legends.

“Stop worrying.” Fernando’s voice was as warm and cultured as sherry aged in oak barrels.

Gallowglass looked up for a moment, then returned his attention to the wax.

“No one will prevent Matthew from doing what he must, Gallowglass. Avenging Emily’s death is a matter of honor.” Fernando turned off the heat and joined Gallowglass at the table, bare feet moving silently across the flagstone floors. As he walked, he rolled down the sleeves of his white shirt. It was pristine, in spite of the hours he’d spent in the kitchen that day. He tucked the shirt into the waistband of his jeans and ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair.

“Marcus is going to try to take the blame, you know,” Gallowglass said. “But Emily’s death wasn’t the boy’s fault.”

The scene on the mountain had been oddly peaceful, considering the circumstances. Gallowglass had arrived at the temple a few moments after Marcus. There had been nothing but silence and the sight of Emily Mather kneeling in- side a circle marked out with pale rocks. The witch Peter Knox had been with her, his hands on her head and a look of anticipation—even hunger—on his face. Gerbert of Aurillac, the de Clermonts’ nearest vampire neighbor, was looking on with interest.

Emily!” Sarah’s anguished cry had torn through the silence with such force that even Gerbert stepped back.

Startled, Knox released Emily. She crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Sarah beat the other witch back with a single, powerful spell that sent Knox flying across the clearing.

“No, Marcus didn’t kill her,” Fernando said, drawing Gallowglass’s attention. “But his negligence—”

“Inexperience,” Gallowglass interjected.

“Negligence,” Fernando repeated, “did play a role in the tragedy. Marcus knows that and accepts responsibility for it.”

“Marcus didn’t ask to be in charge,” Gallowglass grumbled.

“No. I nominated him for the position, and Matthew agreed it was the right decision.” Fernando pressed Gallowglass’s shoulder briefly and returned to the stove.

“Is that why you came? Because you felt guilty about refusing to lead the brotherhood when Matthew asked for your help?” No one had been more surprised than Gallowglass when Fernando turned up at Sept-Tours. Fernando had avoided the place ever since Gallowglass’s father, Hugh de Clermont, died in the fourteenth century.

“I am here because Matthew was there for me after the French king executed Hugh. I was alone in all the world then, except for my grief.” Fernando’s tone was harsh. “And I refused to lead the Knights of Lazarus because I am not a de Clermont.”

“You were Father’s mate!” Gallowglass protested. “You are as much a de Clermont as Ysabeau or her children!”

Fernando carefully shut the oven door. “I am Hugh’s mate,” he said, his back still turned. “Your father will never be past tense to me.”

“Sorry, Fernando,” Gallowglass said, stricken. Though Hugh had been dead for nearly seven centuries, Fernando had never recovered from the loss. Gallowglass doubted he ever would.

“As for my being a de Clermont,” Fernando continued, still staring at the wall over the stove, “Philippe disagreed.”

Gallowglass resumed his nervous picking at the wax. Fernando poured two glasses of red wine and carried them to the table.

“Here,” he said, thrusting one at Gallowglass. “You’ll need your strength today, too.”

Marthe bustled into the kitchen. Ysabeau’s housekeeper ruled over this part of the château and was not pleased to see intruders in it. After giving Fernando and Gallowglass sour looks, she sniffed and wrested the oven door open.

“That is my best pan!” she said accusingly.

“I know. That’s why I’m using it,” Fernando replied, taking a sip of wine. “You do not belong in the kitchen, Dom Fernando. Go upstairs. Take Gallowglass with you.” Marthe took a packet of tea and a teapot from the shelf by the sink. Then she noticed the towel-wrapped pot sitting on a tray

next to cups, saucers, milk, and sugar. Her frown deepened. “What is wrong with my being here?” Fernando demanded.

“You are not a servant,” Marthe said. She picked the lid off the top of the pot and sniffed suspiciously at its contents.

“It’s Diana’s favorite. You told me what she liked, remember?” Fernando smiled sadly. “And everyone in this house serves the de Clermonts, Marthe. The only difference is that you, Alain, and Victoire are paid handsomely to do so. The rest of us are expected to be grateful for the privilege.”

“With good reason. Other manjasang dream of being part of this family. See that you remember that in future—and the lemon, Dom Fernando,” Marthe said, placing emphasis on his lordly title. She picked up the tea tray. “By the way, your eggs are burning.”

Fernando leaped up to rescue them.

“As for you,” Marthe said, fixing her black eyes on Gallowglass, “you did not tell us everything you should have about Matthew and his wife.”

Gallowglass looked down into his wine with a guilty expression.

Madame your grandmother will deal with you later.” On that bonechilling note, Marthe stalked out of the room.

“What have you done now?” asked Fernando, putting his tortilla— which was not ruined, Alhamdulillah—on the stove. Long experience had taught him that whatever the mess, Gallowglass had made it with good intentions and complete disregard for possible disaster.

“Weeell,” Gallowglass said, drawing out the vowels as only a Scot could, “I might have left one or two things out of the tale.”

“Like what?” Fernando said, catching a whiff of catastrophe among the kitchen’s homely scents.

“Like the fact that Auntie is pregnant—and by none other than Matthew. And the fact that Granddad adopted her as a daughter. Lord, his blood vow was deafening.” Gallowglass looked reflective. “Do you think we’ll still be able to hear it?”

Fernando stood, openmouthed and silent.

“Don’t look at me that way. It didn’t seem right to share the news about the babe. Women can be funny about such things. And Philippe told Auntie Verin about the blood vow before he died in 1945, and she never said a word either!” Gallowglass said defensively.

A concussion tore the air, as if a silent bomb had been detonated. Something green and fiery streaked past the kitchen window.

“What the hell was that?” Fernando flung the door open and shielded his eyes against the bright sunlight.

“One pissed-off witch, I imagine.” Gallowglass’s tone was glum. “Sarah must have told Diana and Matthew the news about Emily.”

“Not the explosion. That!” Fernando pointed to Saint-Lucien’s bell tower, which was being circled by a winged, two-legged, fire-breathing creature. Gallowglass rose for a better look.

“That’s Corra. She goes where Auntie goes,” Gallowglass said matter-of- factly.

“But that’s a dragon.” Fernando turned wild eyes on his stepson.

“Bah! That’s no dragon. Can’t you see she’s only got two legs? Corra is a firedrake.” Gallowglass twisted his arm to show off a tattoo of a winged creature that strongly resembled the airborne beast. “Like this. I might have left out one or two details, but I did warn everybody that Auntie Diana wasn’t going to be the same witch she was before.”

“It’s true, honey. Em is dead.” The stress of telling Diana and Matthew was clearly too much for her. Sarah could have sworn that she saw a dragon. Fernando was right. She needed to cut back on the whiskey.

“I don’t believe you.” Diana’s voice was high and sharp with panic. She searched Ysabeau’s grand salon as though she suspected to find Emily hiding behind one of the ornate settees.

“Emily’s not here, Diana.” Matthew’s hushed voice was infused with regret and tenderness as he stepped before her. “She’s gone.”

“No.” Diana tried to push past him and continue her search, but Mat- thew drew her into his arms.

“I’m so sorry, Sarah,” Matthew said, holding Diana tight to his body. “Don’t say you’re sorry!” Diana cried, struggling to free herself from the vampire’s unbreakable hold. She pounded on Matthew’s shoulder with her fist. “Em isn’t dead! This is a nightmare. Wake me up, Matthew—please! I want to wake up and find we’re still in 1591.”

“This isn’t a nightmare,” Sarah said. The long weeks had convinced her that Em’s death was horribly real.

“Then I took a wrong turn—or tied a bad knot in the timewalking spell. This can’t be where we were supposed to end up!” Diana was shaking from head to toe with grief and shock. “Em promised she would never leave with- out saying good-bye.”

“Em didn’t have time to say good-bye—to anyone. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t love you.” Sarah reminded herself of this a hundred times a day.

“Diana should sit,” Marcus said, pulling a chair closer to Sarah. In many ways Matthew’s son looked like the same twenty-something surfer who had walked into the Bishop house last October. His leather cord, with its strange assortment of objects gathered over the centuries, was still tangled in the blond hair at the nape of his neck. The Converse sneakers he loved remained on his feet. The guarded, sad look in his eyes was new, however.

Sarah was grateful for the presence of Marcus and Ysabeau, but the person she really wanted at her side at this moment was Fernando. He’d been her rock during this ordeal.

“Thank you, Marcus,” Matthew said, settling Diana in the seat. Phoebe tried to press a glass of water into Diana’s hand. When Diana just stared at it blankly, Matthew took it and placed it on a nearby table.

All eyes alighted on Sarah.

Sarah was no good at this kind of thing. Diana was the historian in the family. She would know where to start and how to string the confusing events into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and perhaps even a plausible explanation of why Emily had died.

“There’s no easy way to tell you this,” Diana’s aunt began.

“You don’t have to tell us anything,” Matthew said, his eyes filled with compassion and sympathy. “The explanations can wait.”

“No. You both need to know.” Sarah reached for the glass of whiskey that usually sat at her side, but there was nothing there. She looked to Marcus in mute appeal.

“Emily died up at the old temple,” Marcus said, taking up the role of storyteller.

“The temple dedicated to the goddess?” Diana whispered, her brow creasing with the effort to concentrate.

“Yes,” Sarah croaked, coughing to dislodge the lump in her throat. “Emily was spending more and more time up there.”

“Was she alone?” Matthew’s expression was no longer warm and understanding, and his tone was frosty.

Silence descended again, this one heavy and awkward.

“Emily wouldn’t let anyone go with her,” Sarah said, steeling herself to be honest. Diana was a witch, too, and would know if she strayed from the truth. “Marcus tried to convince her to take someone with her, but Emily refused.”

“Why did she want to be alone?” Diana said, picking up on Sarah’s own uneasiness. “What was going on, Sarah?”

“Since January, Em had been turning to the higher magics for guidance.” Sarah looked away from Diana’s shocked face. “She was having terrible premonitions of death and disaster and thought they might help her figure out why.”

“But Em always said higher magics were too dark for witches to handle safely,” Diana said, her voice rising again. “She said any witch who thought she was immune to their dangers would find out the hard way just how powerful they were.”

“She spoke from experience,” Sarah said. “They can be addictive. Emily didn’t want you to know she’d felt their lure, honey. She hadn’t touched a scrying stone or tried to summon a spirit for decades.”

“Summon spirits?” Matthew’s eyes narrowed into slits. With his dark beard, he looked truly terrifying.

“I think she was trying to reach Rebecca. If I’d realized how far she’d gone in her attempts, I would have tried harder to stop her.” Sarah’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Peter Knox must have sensed the power Emily was working with, and the higher magics have always fascinated him. Once he found her—”

“Knox?” Matthew spoke softly, but the hairs on the back of Sarah’s neck rose in warning.

“When we found Em, Knox and Gerbert were there, too,” Marcus ex- plained, looking miserable at the admission. “She’d suffered a heart attack. Emily must have been under enormous stress trying to resist whatever Knox was doing. She was barely conscious. I tried to revive her. So did Sarah. But there was nothing either of us could do.”

“Why were Gerbert and Knox here? And what in the world did Knox hope to gain from killing Em?” Diana cried.

“I don’t think Knox was trying to kill her, honey,” Sarah replied. “Knox was reading Emily’s thoughts, or trying his best to. Her last words were, ‘I know the secret of Ashmole 782, and you will never possess it.’”

“Ashmole 782?” Diana looked stunned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.” Sarah wished her niece had never found that damned manuscript in the Bodleian Library. It was the cause of most of their present problems.

“Knox insisted that the de Clermonts had missing pages from Diana’s manuscript and knew its secrets,” Ysabeau chimed in. “Verin and I told Knox he was mistaken, but the only thing that distracted him from the subject was the baby. Margaret.”

“Nathaniel and Sophie followed us to the temple. Margaret was with them,” Marcus explained in answer to Matthew’s astonished stare. “Before Emily fell unconscious, Knox saw Margaret and demanded to know how two daemons had given birth to a baby witch. Knox invoked the covenant. He threatened to take Margaret to the Congregation pending investigation into what he called ‘serious breaches’ of law. While we were trying to revive Emily and get the baby to safety, Gerbert and Knox slipped away.”

Until recently Sarah had always seen the Congregation and the covenant as necessary evils. It was not easy for the three otherworldly species—daemons, vampires, and witches—to live among humans. All had been targets of human fear and violence at some point in history, and creatures had long ago agreed to a covenant to minimize the risk of their world’s coming to human attention. It limited fraternization between species as well as any participation in human religion or politics. The nine-member Congregation enforced the covenant and made sure that creatures abided by its terms. Now that Diana and Matthew were home, the Congregation could go to hell and take their covenant with them as far as Sarah was concerned.

Diana’s head swung around, and a look of disbelief passed over her face. “Gallowglass?” she breathed as the salon filled with the scent of the sea. “Welcome home, Auntie.” Gallowglass stepped forward, his golden beard gleaming where the sunlight struck it. Diana stared at him in astonishment before a sob broke free.

“There, there.” Gallowglass lifted her into a bear hug. “It’s been some time since the sight of me brought a woman to tears. Besides, it really should be me weeping at our reunion. As far as you’re concerned, it’s been only a few days since we spoke. By my reckoning it’s been centuries.”

Something numinous flickered around the edges of Diana’s body, like a candle slowly catching light. Sarah blinked. She really was going to have to lay off the booze.

Matthew and his nephew exchanged glances. Matthew’s expression grew even more concerned as Diana’s tears increased and the glow surrounding her intensified.

“Let Matthew take you upstairs.” Gallowglass reached into a pocket and pulled out a crumpled yellow bandanna. He offered this to Diana, carefully shielding her from view.

“Is she all right?” Sarah asked.

“Just a wee bit tired,” Gallowglass said as he and Matthew hustled Diana off toward Matthew’s remote tower rooms.

Once Diana and Matthew were gone, Sarah’s fragile composure cracked, and she began to weep. Reliving the events of Em’s death was a daily occur- rence, but having to do so with Diana was even more painful. Fernando appeared, his expression concerned.

“It’s all right, Sarah. Let it out,” Fernando murmured, drawing her close. “Where were you when I needed you?” Sarah demanded as her weeping turned to sobs.

“I’m here now,” Fernando said, rocking her gently. “And Diana and Matthew are safely home.”

“I can’t stop shaking.” Diana’s teeth were chattering, and her limbs were jerking as if pulled by invisible strings. Gallowglass pressed his lips together, standing back while Matthew wrapped a blanket tight around his wife.

“That’s the shock, mon coeur,” Matthew murmured, pressing a kiss to her cheek. It wasn’t just the death of Emily but the memories of the earlier, traumatic loss of her parents that were causing her distress. He rubbed her arms, the blanket moving against her flesh. “Can you get some wine, Gallowglass?”

“I shouldn’t. The babies . . .” Diana began. Her expression turned wild and her tears returned. “They’ll never know Em. Our children will grow up not knowing Em.”

“Here.” Gallowglass thrust a silver flask in Matthew’s direction. His uncle looked at him gratefully.

“Even better,” Matthew said, pulling the stopper free. “Just a sip, Diana. It won’t hurt the twins, and it will help calm you. I’ll have Marthe bring up some black tea with plenty of sugar.”

“I’m going to kill Peter Knox,” Diana said fiercely after she’d taken a sip of whiskey. The light around her grew brighter.

“Not today you’re not,” Matthew said firmly, handing the flask back to Gallowglass.

“Has Auntie’s glaem been this bright since you returned?” Gallowglass hadn’t seen Diana Bishop since 1591, but he didn’t recall it being this notice- able.

“Yes. She’s been wearing a disguising spell. The shock must have knocked it out of place,” Matthew said, lowering her onto the sofa. “Diana wanted Emily and Sarah to enjoy the fact that they were going to be grandmothers before they started asking questions about her increased power.”

Gallowglass bit back an oath.

“Better?” Matthew asked, drawing Diana’s fingers to his lips.

Diana nodded. Her teeth were still chattering, Gallowglass noted. It made him ache to think about the effort it must be taking for her to control herself.

“I am so sorry about Emily,” Matthew said, cupping her face between his hands.

“Is it our fault? Did we stay in the past too long, like Dad said?” Diana spoke so softly it was hard for even Gallowglass to hear.

“Of course not,” Gallowglass replied, his voice brusque. “Peter Knox did this. Nobody else is to blame.”

“Let’s not worry about who’s to blame,” Matthew said, but his eyes were angry.

Gallowglass gave him a nod of understanding. Matthew would have plenty to say about Knox and Gerbert—later. Right now he was concerned with his wife.

“Emily would want you to focus on taking care of yourself and Sarah. That’s enough for now.” Matthew brushed back the coppery strands that were stuck to Diana’s cheeks by the salt from her tears.

“I should go back downstairs,” Diana said, drawing Gallowglass’s bright yellow bandanna to her eyes. “Sarah needs me.”

“Let’s stay up here a bit longer. Wait for Marthe to bring the tea,” Mat- thew said, sitting down next to her. Diana slumped against him, her breath hiccupping in and out as she tried to hold back the tears.

“I’ll leave you two,” Gallowglass said gruffly. Matthew nodded in silent thanks.

“Thank you, Gallowglass,” Diana said, holding out the bandanna. “Keep it,” he said, turning for the stairs.

“We’re alone. You don’t have to be strong now,” Matthew murmured to Diana as Gallowglass descended the twisting staircase.

Gallowglass left Matthew and Diana twined together in an unbreakable knot, their faces twisted with pain and sorrow, each giving the other the comfort they could not find for themselves.

I should never have summoned you here. I should have found another way to get my answers. Emily turned to face her closest friend. You should be with Stephen.

I’d rather be here with my daughter than anywhere else, Rebecca Bishop said. Stephen understands. She turned back to the sight of Diana and Matthew, still locked in their sorrowful embrace.

Do not fear. Matthew will take care of her, Philippe said. He was still trying to figure out Rebecca Bishop—she was an unusually challenging creature, and as skilled at keeping secrets as any vampire.

They’ll take care of each other, Rebecca said, her hand over her heart, just as I knew they would.

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7. Alliance: The Paladin Prophecy Book 2: Mark Frost

Book: Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, Book 2)
Author: Mark Frost
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 and up

Alliance is the sequel to Mark Frost's The Paladin Prophecy. (This review may contain spoilers for the first book.) Alliance picks up a few months after the events of the first book, and again features Will, the genetically enhanced center of a group of five students at a special private school. Will is recovering from the physical and emotional traumas of the fall. As summer approaches, he again tries to understand how he fits in to a battle between good and evil. An encounter with someone who helped the teens in the first book sends them on a quest deep below ground, to find a special key. The plot involves physical confrontations, as well as historical investigations into the past, and personal quests to understand each student's special abilities. 

It took me a long time to get through this book. To be fair, I was reading it during a busy time. But every time I would try to read it at night, I would fall asleep after just a couple of pages. I kept going because I was interested in the characters, but I eventually had to find time to finish it during the day. I felt that if the pacing had been a bit tighter, Alliance would have worked better for me. There was one section in particular, where the kids are planning a detailed campaign to gain access to a guarded location, that really dragged for me. I also felt like some of the characterization was a bit over-telegraphed, particularly Nick not being very bright and Ajay being absurdedly geeky.

But there are still things that I like about the book. As in The Paladin Prophecy, I love the way Will is guided by sayings that he learned from his absent father. Like:

"#24: YOU CAN'T CHANGE ANYTHING IF YOU CAN'T CHANGE YOUR MIND"

and 

"IF YOU DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO NOTICE YOU, ACT LIKE YOU BELONG THERE AND LOOK BUSY."

An appendix lists all 100 pieces of apt advice. 

There are also cool settings, including a castle-like building, and hidden tunnels and caves. There are neat gadgets. The kids have interesting abilities, and their interactions are reasonably realistic. They use their brains, and work to solve complex puzzles from sparse clues. Kids who enjoy adventures with a supernatural bent (like Rick Riordan's books, for instance) will most likely enjoy this one, too. 

I could on principle do without Will being the love interest of both of the two girls in the group. But in truth, neither of the other two boys would work in that context. As far as content goes on the love interest side, there's a very small amount of kissing - nothing objectionable for younger kids.

Bottom line: Alliance didn't really work for me, but I'd definitely still purchase it if I were shopping for a middle school or high school library. And I won't be surprised if the series ends up in the movie theaters one day. There will certainly be at least one more book, as this one ends on a cliffhanger. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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8. WARNING! Incredibly Long Post Ahead...


I got two awards.  In one day!

I wonder why that is?
Oh, this is why.  Makes sense now. :)

So first off, the Sunflower award.

Amanda and Bella both nominated me for this award.
Source

These are the rules.  Since I am a rebel, I will do everything except nominate eleven other bloggers, 'cause all the eleven I'd nominate probably already received this anyway.

Rule the First:  Share eleven facts about yourself.

Rule the Second:  Answer the questions set by your nomination blogger.

Rule the Third:  Nominate eleven bloggers.
Yeah. That's not happening. I'll nominate SOME.

Rule the Fourth:  Set questions for the nominated bloggers.

SOOOOOO.... First off, here are Eleven Facts About Me.

1.)  With my medical transcription training, I tend to double-space between periods now, in everything except novels I'm writing, 'cause for the most part Editors/Agents/Publishers don't like double-spacing.

2.)  I love watching music videos.

3.)  I have a hard time doing new things.
Source

4.) I usually run out of things to share around Number Four.
Source

5.)  I get depressed with popular young adult fiction and go back to my staple diet of Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia McKillip, and Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major.
Source

6.)  I have taken to saying "Jeepers" a lot.  Not sure where that came from.

7.)  I don't even know how many books I own.  I think there were a hundred on one bookshelf in my bedroom, and there's got to be five?  six?  maybe even ten times that amount in the closet... and on other bookshelves... and under the bed... and in other sisters' rooms.
Mark Sheppard as Crowley

8.)  I find it amazing how many TV shows Mark Sheppard has played in.
Source

9.)  I was tempted to skip number 9 and see how many of you were devoted enough to read through all these "facts" in order to catch the missing number.  I resisted.  Aren't you proud?

10.)  Right now, one of my most favourite songs to listen to is POMPEII by BASTILLE.

11.)  I want Josh Groban to do another Kid Snippets video NOW!
Josh watches Kid Snippets, you guys!

Whew!
Source


Now for the questions from Amanda and Bella.


AMANDA'S QUESTIONS ~

1.) What's your favorite type of dog?
I freakin' LOVE German Shepherds!  But, if we're talking smaller dogs, I'm into Border Collie/Cocker Spaniel mixes, and Shiba Inus.
Shiba Inus TOTALLY look like foxes... minus the tail. :)

2.) Do you sing along to Doctor Who's theme song?
TOTALLY!!

Source
 
3.) What does Tahiti make you think of?
This:
Source
 
4.) How did Moriarty fake his death?
Source
'Nough said.

5.) Who's your favorite Superhero.
Iron Man.
Source
6.) If you could choose a superhero name, what would you call yourself?
Hmmm.... I'd probably end up sticking with Cat.  Ooh, I know.  Panther. Cat Panther.  That's my superhero name.

7.) You can travel back in your timeline, and only your timeline. What would you re-visit?
March 27th, 2007, August 24, 2011, and October 6, 2013... because those were the times we saw Josh Groban in CONCERT. And end of April to beginning of May 2013, 'cause that's when we went to Scotland. And every single Christmas Eve and Christmas in the history of my life.


There's Amanda's questions answered. Exciting, wasn't it?
Source


BELLA'S QUESTIONS ~

1) Do you like Daylight Savings Time?
I like when Daylight Savings Time ENDS, and we gain an hour.  Otherwise I'm like:
Source
 
2) What is one really good series which you have just discovered?
Book series?  Um, how recently?  I'd say The 100 Cupboards was good, though technically that's a trilogy and not really a series.

3) Are you a subtle fan-girl or more of a loud excited fangirl like me?
I believe I am subtle.
Source


4) Hamburgers or Hot dogs?
Definitely hamburgers.

5) Do you like wearing sweaters or do you prefer hoodies?
I'm more of a sweater person.  I'm not crazy about hoodies on myself, because I feel totally gangsta in them.  However, I like hoodies on other people.
Source

6) Do you like going out in the evening?
I hope you like the caption  :-P

7) Did you ever play Truth or Dare and did you like it?
You mean Interrogation or Humiliation? *See question six's gif for your answer.* 
  
And that's the Sunflower Award!  Thanks again to Amanda and Bella for the nomination!

I nominate:
Allyn
Nessie
John the Hedgehog

My questions for youse all:
1.)  Do you prefer Arabic or Roman numerals?
2.)  Do you watch My Little Ponies?
3.)  What's the absolute stupidest thing you've ever done?
4.)  What's your idea of the best car?
5.)  What's the worst thing you can imagine?
6.)  Do you know what gif stands for?
7.)  Be honest... did you have to Google "gif" in order to answer question 6 intelligently?

Have fun! :)


And Now...
 Drumroll, please...
Source

I also received the Liebster Award from Rose M.

Le Rules for Le Reward:

Uno: Acknowledge the blog that nominated you. Thank you, Rose from The Golden Road!

Dos: Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger created.

Tres: List 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers that deserve some recognition.

Quatro: Post 11 questions for them to answer.

Cinco: Notify them that they've been nominated.


Alrighty! ROSE'S QUESTIONS ~

1.)  An anonymous someone drops a note on your front porch saying that they will fund a trip to either England, an African Safari, Prince Edward Island, or Italy. Which do you choose? Why?
Italy.  Why?  Because it's freakin' ITALY!
Source
 
2.)  You're being forced to re-do your room. What color do you paint it?
THIS:
Source
 
3.)  Do you have a particular song that you listen to often, but it never seems to get old? If so, what is it?
Yes.  Yes I do.
 
4.)  Would you rather be lounging in the sun on the beach reading a good book or adventuring in the waves?
Ooh, choices, choices... I'd do both.  Read a little in the sun, and go for a swim, and read a little in the sun, and go for a swim, and read a little in the sun, and... you get the picture, right?

5.)  You suddenly end up with two twin kittens. One is a girl; one is a boy. What do you name them? 
Sam and Jess.

6.)  You're organizing a get together with friends. Would you choose a picnic or a movie night?
Definitely a movie night.  Less small talk.  LOL

7.)  What is your pet peeve? 
BADLY WRITTEN YA AND MG NOVELS!!!
Source
 
8.)  Is there a new hobby you've been wanting to try out? 
Source
 I fancy archery.
 
9.)  If you could pick one instrument that you would (without any effort on your part) instantly master, which would you choose? 
Pan pipes.

10.)  Would you like to be snowed inside for a week? 
*See John Watson gif used in Bella's question number 6.*

11.)  Pick the closest book to you that you've read. Who is your favorite character in the book?
Right now, the book closest to me that I've read is The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, and my favourite character in that book is John Sebastian Farrell.
 
I DID IT, Y'ALL!! 
 
And now I nominate:

My questions for YOUSE all:
1.)  What fandom do you "belong" to?
2.)  Would you fight to the death someone who bashes one of your favourite characters?
3.)  Would you use daggers for subtlety, or swords for an all-out "COME AT ME, BRO!" battle?
4.)  What do you do when someone tells you that you have pepper in your teeth?
5.)  To you, what's more awesome... climbing trees, or writing stories?
6.)  Have you ever secretly wished you were a unicorn?
7.)  When you drink tea, do you prefer a mug or a bone china cup?
8.)  What's your opinion on Alka-Seltzer?
9.)  If you are an Agents of SHIELD fan, or a Marvel fan, or just a superhero fan, which agent/superhero do you think you'd be?
10.)  Do you have a lucky number?
11.)  WHY do you have a lucky number?!  (Those of you who replied No to question 10, Why DON'T you have a lucky number?!!
 
And that's that.
http://kotwg.blogspot.com/2013_11_01_archive.htmlI'm AWESOME!
 
 Hope you all had fun with that, and we'll see you next time!
 
God bless!
 
Cat
 
 
 
 
 
 




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9. Review: Bang by Lisa McMann

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I thought that Crash, the first book in the Visions trilogy, was a bit repetitive.  Don’t get me wrong – I still couldn’t put it down and read it in short order.  But the never ending replay of the vision haunting Jules became tedious about the 100th time through.  Bang never felt like a CD set on Replay, probably because the vision is Sawyer’s, and Jules does not have firsthand knowledge of it.  Instead, Sawyer’s nightmare is relayed to Jules in painstaking detail as he is forced to watch it over and over again.  That distance made all the difference.

When Sawyer tells Jules that he’s suffering from a vision of an impending disaster, she wants to help him figure out what’s going on so they can stop it from happening.  Sawyer is haunted as the vision becomes ever more gruesome – a pile of bodies lie crumbled in a classroom, staining the floor red with blood.  All he can hear is the bang! bang! bang! of gunfire.  He’s desperate to find a way to make it stop, but if it’s anything like Jules’ vision of the crash, the only way to make it go away is to figure out when the shooting is going to happen and stop it, saving the lives of a bunch of people he doesn’t even know.

Using her experience with her own vision as a guideline, Jules dives in and helps him sort out details of the upcoming tragedy.  Where are the victims?  What are they wearing? Can he tell what time of day the shooting will occur?  They slowly unravel snippets of details about the incident, which aid them as they race to solve the mystery before the shooting happens, or before Sawyer is driven insane by what’s he’s forced to watch all the time.

To complicate matters, Jules and Sawyer have to deal with their families and their animosity towards each other.  The Demarco’s and the Angotti’s certainly know how to hold a grudge.  Neither of their fathers is ready to bury the hatchet on the feud that has simmered between them for years, and both Jules and Sawyer are punished when they are caught together.  Jules is having a terrible time showing any kind of respect for her father.  He’s a liar and a cheat, and she suspects that he’s a coward, as well.  I wonder if he suffers from the visions, too, but hasn’t been able to do anything about them.  Maybe that explains his odd behavior and probable mental illness?

I enjoyed the book because I liked Jules, her siblings, and Sawyer so much.  They are just trying to do the right thing, and not get buried by the weirdness of their families.  They all start to show some independence and resistance to the status quo, though all of their parental relationships suffered for it. 

I don’t want to spoil any of the mystery, so I’ll just sum things up by stating that Bang kept me on the edge of my seat, and I hated to put it down.  It’s a very fast read, with plenty of twists and turns, and enough parental conflict to keep any teenager distracted.  I felt so bad for Jules!  Her home is certainly not a haven for her, and neither is Sawyer’s. I can hardly wait to learn what secrets Jules’ father is hiding in Gasp, the last volume of the Visions trilogy.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

What Sawyer’s seeing might mean murder. The second book in a series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules should be happy. She saved a lot of people’s lives and she’s finally with Sawyer, pretty much the guy of her dreams. But the nightmare’s not over, because she somehow managed to pass the psycho vision stuff to Sawyer. Excellent.

Feeling responsible for what he’s going through and knowing that people’s lives are at stake, Jules is determined to help him figure it all out. But Sawyer’s vision is so awful he can barely describe it, much less make sense of it. All he can tell her is there’s a gun, and eleven ear-splitting shots. Bang.

Jules and Sawyer have to work out the details fast, because the visions are getting worse and that means only one thing: time is running out. But every clue they see takes them down the wrong path. If they can’t prevent the vision from happening, lives will be lost. And they may be among the casualties…

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10. Book Review & $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway: ‘Mind Games,’ by Christine Amsden


MindGames_medMind Games is the much awaited third installment in the new adult mystery series, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Talented author Christine Amsden keeps delivering a great story filled with interesting characters, romance, mystery, and the paranormal, lots of it.
In this episode, Cassie still doesn’t know why Evan broke her heart two months ago, and the mystery gnaws at her big time. She decides to keep busy and make herself useful at the sheriff’s department. She also meets charismatic mind mage Matthew Blair…much to Evan’s distaste. At the same time, Eagle Rock is teeming with hate from the religious community, a reaction to the recent murder of a much-esteemed pastor’s wife by what the people believe was a sorcerer. The town is about to snap, with tensions between the magical and non-magical communities.
And in the center of all this, is Matthew, whom Cassie finds irresistible. But can she trust him? According to Evan, no way. But then, Evan isn’t the most objective person when it comes to Cassie. Evan and Cassie have a history, as well as a secret connection, that keeps them bound in spite of themselves.
Will Cassie discover the real culprit or culprits behind the pastor’s wife’s murder, as well as the real face behind the anti-magical propaganda and demonstrations? Most importantly, will she wake up and see Matthew for who he really is…and find the courage to face Evan for what he did to her—when she finds out?
I love this series and thoroughly enjoyed this instalment! There’s something about Cassie’s voice that makes her really likable. She has a good heart and is witty, too. But best of all, she is just an ordinary girl next door trying to do her best in spite of everything that happens around her—which is usually pretty remarkable, as is often the case in paranormal stories.
Her relationship with Evan keeps evolving organically and there’s a major revelation in this book about their connection and the secret behind their rival families. Matthew is a great addition to this episode, adding tension with his charismatic personality and inciting sparks of jealousy from Evan. The conflict between the religious and the magical communities is also well done.
Mind Games kept me reading late into the night, wondering what would happen next. If you haven’t read any books in this series before, I urge you to pick up book one first, Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. The books are best read in order. You won’t be disappointed.
Purchase links: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
Connect with the author on the web: 
My review was originally published on Blogcritics
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!
*The giveaway begins on April 15, 2014 at midnight and ends on July 16, 2014 at midnight.

0 Comments on Book Review & $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway: ‘Mind Games,’ by Christine Amsden as of 4/16/2014 3:11:00 PM
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11. Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

Soho Teen, 2014

Liv Bloom is an excellent art student trapped with a family she doesn’t think cares for her.  When she get an opportunity to attend  Wickham Academy, one of THE most prestigious boarding schools in the US, she jumps at the chance of not only leaving behind her family, but also going forward into a world filled with paint, oils, canvases and a dream studio. 

Liv is a student on scholarship and this becomes immediately apparent as soon as she steps foot on campus.  While everyone else was born with a silver spoon in their mouths, Liv has lived with a plastic one in hers.  She isn’t going to let that bother her though.  She figures she’ll fit in soon enough, but the first day in the cafeteria leaves her sitting with the weirdo loner Gabe Nichols, another scholarship student.  Life truly begins for Liv when she catches the eye of Malcolm Astor, the IT guy on campus.  When Gabe mumbles about the dangers of dating Malcolm, Liv ignores him…which will cause her to lose her life.

Now Liv is caught not only between two worlds, but also between two boys – one she loves and misses and the other who can hear her.  With the help of the two, Liv wants to find out who is behind the murder and why they’re covering it up as an accident.  Little do they know that the truth is more horrible that any of them realized with arms that reach long into the history of Wickham Academy. ..

What made this book stand out for me is the approach Amy Talkington takes to the supernatural that isn’t encountered on a normal basis.  That one spin will make you gasp, literally, in surprise.  Talkington writes about hope, romance, murder and mystery, all in one very clever and entertaining YA read.  Her characters, from the past and present, are not only syncopated within certain time periods, but interact for and with each other to move the mystery forward and the pages turning.  Readers will get a glimpse of the good life of wealthy kids, but also get to see the dirty rotten parts the characters are trying to hide as well.  Great for all readers, this will also attract reluctant readers because of the pace of the story.  Kudos on her first book!  Recommended JH/HS.

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12. Spotlight–Blonde Ops by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

Blonde Ops by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman hit store shelves this week.  It looks like a fun read, so check back next week for my review.

Expelled from yet another boarding school for hacking, sixteen-year-old Rebecca “Bec” Jackson is shipped off to Rome to intern for Parker Phillips, the editor-in-chief of one of the world’s top fashion magazines. But when a mysterious accident lands Parker in a coma, former supermodel and notorious drama queen Candace Worthington takes the reins of the magazine. The First Lady is in Rome for a cover shoot, and all hands are on deck to make sure her visit goes smoothly.

Bec quickly realizes that Parker’s “accident” may not have been quite so accidental, and when the First Lady’s life is threatened, Bec is determined to uncover the truth. On top of that, Bec must contend with bitchy models, her new boss, Candace, who is just as difficult as the tabloids say, and two guys, a hunky Italian bike messenger with a thousand-watt smile and a fashion blogger with a razor-sharp wit, who are both vying for her heart.

Can Bec catch the person who’s after the First Lady, solve the mystery of Parker’s accident, and juggle two cute boys at the same time? Blonde Ops is a fun, action-packed romp through the hallways of a fashion magazine and the cobblestone streets of Rome by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman.

CHARLOTTE BENNARDO graduated from Rutgers with an English degree and lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

NATALIE ZAMAN has previously held positions in the publishing industry and as a high school English teacher. She lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Together, Bennardo and Zaman are the authors of Sirenz and Sirenz: Back in Fashion.

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13. Interview with Fiona Palmer, Author of The Recruit

 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Fiona!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Fiona Palmer] Shy, slight revhead, easy going.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Recruit?

[Fiona Palmer]  It follows Jasmine Thomas, who is a normal 17 year old except she’s been brought up in a gym and knows how to fight. Enter Ryan, a twenty three year old guy, who’s sexy, full of mystery and a little dangerous. Soon Jaz is caught up in Ryan’s world of secrets, lies and heroicness all while trying to hang out with her two best friends and go to school.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Fiona Palmer] I love the scene where Jaz gets cut in a knife fight. Ryan, after saving her, gives her the singlet off his back to stop the bleeding, takes her home and sews up her cut in his bathroom. (still with no shirt on)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Fiona Palmer] Getting my facts right like the details about fencing, or the weapons they use. I want it as real as possible.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Fiona Palmer] Hopefully my clothes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Fiona Palmer] Lots of paper/notes. My laptop and heaps of usb’s.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Fiona Palmer] Jamie Whincup, so I could race in the V8 Supercar Championship Series. I would even be happy in the passenger seat!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Fiona Palmer]  A nose I could wiggle and ‘poof’ all the housework would be done, also the cooking!!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Fiona Palmer] Katie McGarry – Dare You To and Pushing the Limits, Liz Reinhardt – Fall Guy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Fiona Palmer] Though my website www.fionapalmer.com or visit my facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/#!/FionaPalmerRuralAuthor and twitter.

From one of Australia’s Queens of Romance comes the debut in a brand new YA series about secrets, strengths, and what lies beneath the surface.

Jasmine Thomas may not be completely normal, but she’s a pretty typical seventeen-year-old girl. She hates the rich mean kids, loves her best friends, and can’t wait to get out of school each day. Her spare time is spent at The Ring — a boxing gym where she practically grew up — learning karate, boxing and street fighting. So, yeah, Jaz can kick some major butt.

Life seems pretty normal until the day Ryan Fletcher enters her gym…mysterious and hot with heaps of bad boy charm. Sure, she checks him out. Who wouldn’t? But what doesn’t show on his gorgeous abs are secrets and lies that dominate his very grown-up world. Now Jaz has to figure out just how far she is willing to go to know more. Could Ryan really be offering the life-fulfilling life path she’s always dreamed of?

The first in the MTG Agencies series.

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14. Mini-reviews- Tainted by A E Rought and Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Title: Tainted
Author:  A E Rought
Series:  Broken #2
Published:  October 2013 by Strange Chemistry
Source: Netgalley
Review: Post events of Broken, Alex and Emma should be able to get back to their normal lives. These plans gets scrapped when Hailey Westmore turns up—Alex’s ex-girlfriend who we are quickly introduced to as a “manipulative, spoiled witch”. People start dying and it’s clear there’s more secrets that may come out.
This book is told from Alex’s POV as opposed to Emma’s which was a nice change because it helps  you understand the Alex from Broken a little more too. It also means the narrator knows things that everyone else doesn’t, a feature I like sometimes in mysteries.
The beginning was good. Something big happens in a car which really changes the dynamics, which I liked, and the way that scene was written kept me gripped. Later, it wasn’t quite as good-it’s quite predictable and the villain, while being beautifully crazy, isn’t very deep at all.
It’s very over the top with use of tropes and lots of romantic lines that you’ve heard before. There’s a lot of focus on the romance, which I found less interesting than all the action going on. Alex also goes a bit broody and annoying at times.  I liked Emma just as much as in Broken.
There’s still bits of Frankenstein in here, but there’s bits of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde in here too.
I liked the fact that the deers were still a thing. 


Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book where we saw different parts of other characters.


Title: Blood Magic
 Author: Tessa Gratton
Series:  Blood Journals #1
Published:  26 April 2012 by Corgi
Warnings: cutting (for magic, but still cutting), lots of gore
Source: borrowed from friend
Review:  Ever since her parents were murdered, Silla’s been mentally scarred. Nick’s the new boy in town with past experiences of magic. When he finds Silla experimenting with magic, they form a bond, and romance happens. And then there’s a journal kept by Josephine, a girl from years past whose experience with blood magic will highly shape theirs.
From the start, you’re pulled in. The magic and intrigue starts pretty quickly, and promises to build.
The story is narrated by Nick and Silla in alternating turns. They’re two very contrasting characters that work together well. The writing is intricate, gothic and a bit longwinded in places.
I must admit, I didn’t read all of this. The copy of  Blood Magic that I got had journal entries in copperplate, which I looked at and thought “Eyes broken enough anyway. Not even going to try decoding that.” *bases view of plot on characters’ reactions to this*
The magic system is good. Due to it all requiring blood, this book isn’t for the faint hearted!
I didn’t really get into this for reasons unknown. I got characters mixed up a bit every now and again, it took a while for Josephine’s relevance to become clear, but the main thing is that it didn’t have that spark of awesome for me.
Overall:  Strength 2 tea to an atmospheric magic story that I didn’t get into.

0 Comments on Mini-reviews- Tainted by A E Rought and Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton as of 5/26/2014 8:24:00 AM
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15. Spotlight and Giveaway! Haunted Chemistry by Lindsey Loucks

Guest Blog: Thrills & Chills While Doing Laundry (Wait. What?)

By Lindsey R. Loucks

Instead of taking one of the buses speeding through campus during my college career, I always walked, my gaze aimed at the ground for anything shiny and round. If I found treasure in the form of a quarter, it was well worth the few bumps on the head or rude comments I got from not looking where I was going. Like most college students, I was poor.

But I became a pretty successful quarter tracker, and when I’d find one, I’d add it to my carefully stacked pile with the hope I’d have enough to do laundry soon. With all that walking around campus, there were days when I came home smelling a tad ripe.

The washers and dryers were located on the basement floor of my apartment building, and let’s just say that going down there, alone, was the equivalent of walking into a dragon dungeon with my arms loaded with raw meat. That’s what it felt like anyway.

Storage cupboards took up the far wall that led from the stairs to the laundry area, each one about three feet long and three feet wide. Sometimes one of them would be open a crack. The single overhead light only cast a faint orange glow, deepening the shadows inside that open cupboard to an inky black.

Whenever I’d see one of those open cupboards, I’d stop in my tracks while my imagination tumbled over everything that could be lurking inside. Usually the things I imagined involved segmented legs, machetes, Brazilian poison dart frogs, porcelain dolls, or a combination of all of the above, just waiting to spring out.

My pulse racing, I’d give my laundry bag a squeeze and check to make sure I still had my quarters. Then, with my breath held, I’d race past the open cupboard, dump all my clothes into the washer, throw in some soap, push my quarters into the slots, start the machine, and sprint back out before I’d used up all the stored air in my lungs.

It was such a rush! It made laundry day pretty much the best day ever! Of course, I’ve always lived for that pump of adrenaline that fear gives me. I watch scary movies alone in the dark by myself on purpose. I guess I’m weird like that.

On one of my trips to the laundry room, my boyfriend’s brother went with me (I can’t remember why exactly, but I may have told him about the spooky basement). When he saw the wall of cupboards, his exact words were, “A serial killer stores his victims in these, huh?”

And that’s when I stopped doing laundry in that apartment building. Nah, just kidding. I still did. Remember that adrenaline rush thing I was talking about? Yep.

All of this was the fuel I needed to eventually write Haunted Chemistry. Who knew laundry could be so delightfully scary?

How about you? What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you while doing laundry? Have you ever done laundry in a particularly frightening place?

Haunted Chemistry by Lindsey Loucks

ISBN: 9781622662982

Book Description:

When bookish college co-ed Alexis heads to the laundry room in her new apartment, she runs into Ian Reese, the chem lab partner she crushed on all last semester. And the guy who stood her up on their first date. But she’s down for an awkward reunion, and no better place than her creepy laundry room.

Ian has every intention of making amends, but just when Alexis begins to trust him again, a new threat calls more than their future together into question. A ghost from the apartment’s past is hellbent on revenge, and if he wants to get his girl, he’ll have to get the ghost first.

Amazon BN Goodreads

Excerpt:

“Uh, Alexis?”

My name on his tongue sounds amazing, but I try not to notice. I turn, the bulk of my laundry bag holding the door open for me. “What?”

He swallows and glances at his black boots. “It’s great to see you again.”

I nod. It’s great to see him, too, but I’m not the one who didn’t show up for our date at the end of last semester and who vanished for an entire summer with no explanation. Maybe he forgot about our non-date, because he sure isn’t trying to explain himself. But why didn’t he call to tell me he wouldn’t be coming instead of making me wait for him?

My bag bites its weight into my shoulder. When I shift it to the other one, the door creaks closed in Ian’s face. I wince. I didn’t mean for that to happen.

“Well.” He frowns through the broken squares in the window. “See you.”

“Yeah.” With a sigh, I watch him walk away. I’ve missed our group study sessions where we’d always sit next to each other and accidentally nudge each other’s knee or foot. I’ve missed how easy it is to be with him. I’ve missed him. He doesn’t seem like the type who wouldn’t call to say he couldn’t make it. But he didn’t.

About the Author:

Lindsey R. Loucks works as a school librarian in rural Kansas. When she’s not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she’s dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she’ll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize.

She’s been with her significant other for almost two decades.

Website: http://www.lindseyrloucks.com

Blog: http://www.lindseyrloucks.com/my-blog

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LindseyRLoucks

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LindseyRLoucks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6151511.Lindsey_R_Loucks

Giveaway:

$50 gift card. Winner’s choice of Amazon or B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16. Spotlight and Giveaway! Mercy by Jan Coffey

Author Interview with Jan Coffey (aka May McGoldrick, aka Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick)

Q. What inspired you to become an author?

We’ve always been writers and readers! Nikoo used to write stories for her grade school friends. After high school, being very good at math and sciences, she was encouraged to go to engineering school. After all, that was where the JOBS were. So she did…and tucked away her love of writing (in a safe spot) in favor of her immediate responsibilities. Later on, writing took a backseat to paying a mortgage and raising a family. She never lost her love of storytelling, though.

Jim wrote poetry and ‘007’ skits for the other kids in the neighborhood. He later became an English major and at least tried to stay in touch with his desire to write. In fact, after finishing college he wrote a screenplay that almost sold to Robert Redford’s production company. But real life again interfered with dreams as he pursued a career in a submarine shipyard before going back to school and getting his PhD some ten years later.

Q. Why did you decide to write together?

After our younger son successfully came through heart surgery as an infant, we found ourselves reassessing our lives and our goals. We have always been storytellers and readers, and we decided to try writing a short story together. That story, a prizewinner in a national writing contest, was the first step. The next step, naturally, was a full-length historical novel!

Q. You are somewhat unique in that you are a married writing team. How well does that work for you, and what are the pluses and minuses?

We can no longer even imagine writing separately. In our nonfiction book, Marriage of Minds: Collaborative Fiction Writing, we talk about the difficulties and the delights of working together, but we can tell you that the joys outweigh the hardships by a mile…at least for us. To sum it up, everything comes down to our ability to separate the work from the person. We came to the realization early on that just because we don’t like a passage or a paragraph or a chapter that our partner wrote, that doesn’t mean we don’t like THEM. Another thing that has made our writing career possible is that we had a solid foundation in our marriage (thirteen years!) before we started collaborating on our fiction.

Q. What is the biggest challenge and the biggest pleasure about writing as a team? Do you each have a particular area of specialty in the writing?

Two heads being better than one should be the theme song for every collaborative writing team. You are never alone. You always have someone to talk over your ideas with. But of course, having two heads doesn’t necessarily mean that you have twice the brain… or that you can write twice as fast. Also, feeding times are difficult…bathroom times are hell.

The biggest pleasure that we’ve found in the actual act of writing is the feeling of complementing each other. While we don’t really have specialty areas, Nikoo could be characterized as the screenwriter type (she loves writing dialogue), and Jim is more the poet type (he loves imagery and language, descriptive passages… he also loves sleeping in late, long walks on the beach, old movies… anything to keep from working.)

Q. Do you write in different genres?

We do. Our choice of historical romance was simple… Jim had the historical information from his dissertation work and his PhD, and Nikoo had the stories. And we’re both fervent believers in satisfying endings! So May McGoldrick was born.

After more than a dozen historical romances under our belt, we pursued romantic suspense and suspense thrillers under the name Jan Coffey.

Our decision to write nonfiction grew out of our desire to help other writers who might be looking for an alternative way to successfully tell their stories. Also, we’re teachers, so many of our handouts and exercises went into our Step Write Up collection.

We also write young adult under both names.

Q. How did you come up with the story for Mercy? Is the book, the characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?

For many years we lived in Newport, Rhode Island. Our house was an early nineteenth-century home that was rumored to be haunted by two sisters—very friendly ghosts. During our years living there, we experienced some strange things. There were many occasions when our dog would wag his tail and bark excitedly at an empty doorway. Also, our toddler would smile and wave his hand at the same invisible people that we couldn’t see. Doors closed on their own. There were creaks in the old plank floors after we go to bed. On one occasion, Nikoo was baking in the kitchen when a cold hand touched her face. She turned to find the baby monitor had gone off. Running upstairs, she found our son was choking in his crib. To this day, we credit the sisters for saving our child’s life.

An old seaport town, Newport is famous for the ghosts of pirates and seamen and the families that they were left behind. There are stories of executed buccaneers being buried on the shore below the high tide line so the souls would never rest as the waves washed across the sands. There are so many ghost stories about the historical homes on the island.

Our novella Mercy was pieced together from many of those stories. An inn on the bluffs, a widow’s walk on a house on another corner of the island, an angry ghost who unsettled every occupant of the home she haunted. Isn’t this the way all stories are born?

Q. Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?

We start with a working title. The final book title always goes through a constant revision because the two of us have to agree. That often takes some negotiating before deciding on the final name. Of course, there have been many instances when the marketing departments at our publishers have changed the title in the eleventh hour. We still get letters from fans saying, “Why can’t I find a copy of the novel Jeweled Cup that was advertised in the back of one of your earlier works?” Jeweled Cup became Flame. And that is another ghost story, but set in the Scottish highlands…

Q. Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?

We have been working on Road Kill (working title) about a small-town Connecticut photographer that discovers crime scene photos are mixed in with her work—pictures of a slayings that have not yet been discovered. As the result, she becomes the center of a police investigation and the target of a killer’s obsession.

We love to hear from our readers. So please stay in touch.

Nikoo & Jim

www.JanCoffey.com

Mercy by Jan Coffey

ISBN: 9781622663347

Book Description:

Julia Klein’s life has begun to unravel—her daughter Amy has been suspended from school, Julia is about to lose her job, and her boyfriend Garrett is being transferred thousands of miles away.

Overwhelmed, she and Amy leave for a weekend at a rambling old colonial inn. Julia never suspects that Garrett, desperate to find a way to keep Julia in his life, has decided to surprise her by joining them. Nor does she expect her daughter to befriend a mischievous ghost…or that she herself would be possessed by the malevolent spirit of a long-dead mother.

As a dark secret emerges, Julia, Amy, and Garrett find themselves pitted in a fight for survival against a savage presence that intends to resurrect/repeat/relive a horrible crime committed two centuries ago. And this time, Amy and Julia will be the victims.

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Excerpt:

Starting up the stairs, Garrett tried to bury the image of a teary Julia when she’d closed the door on him yesterday after he’d arrived at her house. She’d been too upset to talk.

He shivered as a gust of cold air rushed down the stairwell, slapping him in the face. Garrett hesitated, startled by the sharpness of it. At the top of the steps, a shadow moved, catching his eye. But when he reached the second floor landing, he was surprised to see no one there and no open window.

Doors were visible on both sides of the well-lit hallway. A light flickered behind him. Then, halfway down, a bulb buzzed, blazed intensely, and burned out. He stopped dead. A tall woman in a long, gray dress was standing beneath the darkened light, glaring at him.

Something in her face kept him from looking away. Her eyes burned with emotion. Bitterness. Anger. Hatred.

The hairs on his neck rose when she started in his direction. She moved toward him, filling the narrow hallway.

Garrett turned to make room for her, shuffling his overnight bag from one shoulder to the other, but as he did, his room key dropped to the floor.

When he bent down to retrieve it, chilled air, oppressive and gray, hit him like a wave.

He froze. He’d felt this sensation once before, diving with a film crew at the raising of a sunken slave ship. It was in the ship’s cargo hold. It was a feeling so icy, so overwhelming, that it went straight through him, infusing his bones, numbing him. With it came a sudden memory of some forgotten nightmare—a barren winter field, the gaping black hole of a bottomless grave. He could almost taste the dank odor of death.

Cold panic washed through him. She was on him, all around him. He could feel the woman’s fury. Snatching the key, he straightened up.

She was gone.

Garrett looked up and down the hallway. He was alone. No door had opened or closed. The woman had disappeared.

He was in a colonial inn in Newport, he thought. Of course it could be haunted. He ran a hand over his face. Key in hand, he continued down the hall. By the burned-out light, he saw a set of stairs going up to the third floor. Peering up, he saw the chain across the steps with a sign. ‘Private Residence’. It was dark beyond.

Julia had no idea that he was coming. He’d been on the phone with her this afternoon, and they’d even sent texts back and forth a couple of times tonight. He had given her no inkling that he was already on his way to Newport. Yesterday, he’d been shut out. By showing up here today, he wanted to show Julia that the promotion and the move didn’t change the way he felt. He wanted to be part of their life.

His room was just beyond Julia’s. With one last look down the hall, he turned the key in his door and entered the dark room. A gust of autumn wind blew in from an open window, rattling a picture frame on the wall and causing the gauze curtains to stand straight out like ghostly wings against the ceiling.

Standing inside the door, Garrett sensed that he was not alone in the room. He could feel the eyes of someone watching him. Hating him.

He switched on a lamp by the door. Yellow light bathed the room, throwing deep shadows into dark corners.

The door slammed and Garrett jumped, his eyes sweeping the room. The wind eased, and the sheers fell calmly against the sills. No one else was there.

"Halloween, a wicked draft, and exhaustion," he muttered. “Get a grip.”

The temperature had dropped considerably since he left Boston this afternoon. He closed the window and glanced around at the furnishings. Four-poster bed. The usual dressers and tables. Two reading chairs by the window. Exposed ceiling rafters of rough-hewn timber completed the colonial feel of the room. At one end, the bathroom. At the other end, a door that he knew must lead into Julia and Amy’s room.

He checked his phone. The last text from Julia had come a few minutes after seven. They were walking into the theater to see a movie. Almost two hours ago.

His eye was drawn to Julia’s door. He walked over and unbolted the latch, but it was locked from the other side.

He stopped, hearing faint voices. Snatches of conversation.

Go…chair…

I want to stay…

Telling you…Go.

A woman and a child’s voice. But the woman didn’t sound like Julia. And it couldn’t have been Amy. For a second, he wondered if the receptionist downstairs had put him in the wrong room.

"Julia?" he called, pressing his palm flat against the door. The wood felt like ice.

The voices stopped.

“Julia?”

The knob turned from the other side, but it didn’t open. Suddenly, a heavy bang rattled the door.

Shocked, he jumped back. Over and over, the doorframe shook.

"Unlock it, Julia," he called.

As suddenly as it started, it stopped, and the sound of scratching began. Someone was sitting on the floor on the other side, clawing at the door. Then, as he stared, long lines of claw marks started to show through the paint. Garrett took another step back.

“This isn’t happening,” he said, feeling the hackles rise on his neck.

Just as the words left his mouth, the scratching stopped. Even as he stared, the claw marks disappeared.

The sound of moaning came through the door. A woman crying.

Help me.

Julia.

About the Author:

Jan Coffey aka Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick are storytellers, teachers, and partners in the truest sense.

Nikoo was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved to United States on the eve of Iranian revolution. After receiving a degree in Mechanical engineering, for fifteen years she worked in shipbuilding and robotics, holding manufacturing and higher level management positions. Always a writer and teacher at heart, she gave up her engineering career to pursue writing full time over a decade ago. These days, she also conducts frequent workshops on writing and publishing and serves as a visiting author at middle and high schools.

When their first son was born, Jim gave up a successful career in shipbuilding to pursue a PhD in Medieval and Renaissance literature. After being awarded tenure at a university in Pennsylvania, he found that the opportunity to write novels full-time could not be ignored. Since then, he and Nikoo have written well over two dozen works of fiction and nonfiction. Along with his writing, he currently teaches English and Creative Writing in northwestern Connecticut.

Together, Nikoo and Jim write historical fiction as May McGoldrick and contemporary suspense thrillers as Jan Coffey.

These prolific and popular authors have been the recipients of numerous awards for their work. They now reside in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Website: http://jancoffey.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanCoffey

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jan-Coffey/24034372353

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/46476.Jan_Coffey

Giveaway:

$20 digital gift card (Winner’s Choice: Amazon or B&N) and a Nautical brooch for every tour stop.

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17. Spotlight and Giveaway! Northern Light by E.J. Russell

Guest Blog by E. J. Russell

My youngest (by eight minutes) son is a lifelong aficionado of the macabre. Nick’s favorite book in grade school was an oversized, cheerfully illustrated book on historical disasters (his favorite was – and still is – the Black Plague), and post-grade school, he graduated to all-things-Stephen-King.

It’s only natural, then, that when he was a senior at the local arts magnet high school, he and his friends decided to make a horror movie. Their script involved a too-good-to-be-true free vacation at a B & B that turned out to be the lair of cannibals. The location for the creepy isolated hotel?

Our house.

I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered.

True, the very remoteness of our out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere house can be alarming. We live on a six-mile-long, partially paved road, with no feeder streets – you can only enter from one end or the other. Our house, screened from the road by a stand of shaggy Douglas firs, sits at the back of a grove of ancient, gnarled walnut trees that have almost forgotten how to leaf out, and the blackberry brambles looming on either side of the bumpy driveway rival Sleeping Beauty’s daunting thorn hedge.

To my husband, this set-up is a dream come true. For him, our virtual fortress on the hill is the perfect sanctuary, a retreat where he never has to see a neighbor if he doesn’t want to. But for our extrovert daughter, who gets freaked out by the least hint of the weird, it’s a nightmare in the making. She avoids being home alone like she’d avoid Nick’s favorite disaster, and if for some reason she can’t, she turns on every light in the house. Every. Stinking. One.

Nick, pragmatic opportunist that he is, was perfectly willing to exploit the creep factor for his film, even though he’s just as quick to embrace the seclusion when he’s feeling anti-social.

My two heroes in Northern Light have a similar love/hate relationship with rural isolation.

For desperate painter Stefan, the remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, off the grid and hugged by the forest, is a refuge. There, away from the stress of his financial difficulties and the reminders of his personal failures, he finally has a chance to reconnect with his artistic vision and start to rebuild his shattered life.

But the solitude that Stefan finds so comforting nearly sends Luke, my art investigator, running for…well, not the hills. He hates those damn hills. For Luke, who once endured a disabling traumatic event in the mountains, safety is a well-populated sea-level community, where he can see the horizon whenever he looks out his window, and know that he’s not trapped.

So how about you? City dweller or country cousin? Hustle and bustle or peace and quiet? Or are you like Nick, who’ll take which ever one suits his mood at the moment?

Northern Light by E.J. Russell

ISBN: 9781622662845

Genre: M/M Romance

Book Description:

Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.

Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery — he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.

But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility – a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny – and admit his feelings for Stefan – if either of them is to survive.

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Excerpt:

Luke slammed the heel of his hand against his forehead. Shitgoddamnsonofabitch. He’d asked the fucking question. Now he’d have to listen to an answer he could never un-know. His chest heaved and he stared Stefan down, waiting for the words that would either damn him as a liar or condemn him as a forger. Either one would force Luke to choose between rebooting his career or destroying the man he’d once loved.

Stefan blinked. Blinked again, brows drawing together in a tight vee. "What?"

For some reason, maybe aftershocks from his Fiat-flashback or mortification that Stefan had witnessed his resultant freak-out, the bewildered affront on Stefan’s face kicked Luke into art investigator asshole mode. "Did you think you’d get away with the fake Arcolettis because he was a relative unknown? Because all his pieces except one are in private hands?"

"Who the hell is Arcoletti?"

Luke guffawed, sounding unpleasant even to himself. "Good one."

"No. I mean it. Who’s Arcoletti?"

"Jeremiah Arcoletti. American realist painter. Disappeared in 1945 along with all thirteen canvases from his last collection.” Luke’s eyes popped wide. "Holy shit. That’s it, isn’t it? The lost collection." He poked Stefan’s shoulders with stiff fingers, peripherally aware arguing in the middle of a dark mountain road was ridiculous and possibly suicidal, but he didn’t give a flying fuck. They’d finish this now. "Is that your plan? Recreate the lost collection out here in your little studio in the big woods?"

"Stop it." Stefan batted Luke’s hand away, his gaze fixed on the ground, avoiding the question. Pleading the artistic Fifth. Last refuge of the guilty.

"Where’d you see his work? The museum in Amsterdam? Hell, in all those years of prancing around with Marius, you could have seen every fricking one of the privately held pieces. Marius had the connections for it. You could toss his name around to get access to the Gordon letters too. Damn it." He dropped his arms, suddenly spent. "The Stefan I knew would have cut off his hands before he’d counterfeit another artist’s work. What’s happened to you?"

"What hasn’t?" Stefan’s eyes were wide, his pupils huge in the combined light of headlights and flashlight. "But I swear. I’ve never heard of this Arcoletti."

"No? Then tell me. What’s coming off your easel these days? Studies in Monochrome? The Picture of Oregon Gray?”

"I…I don’t know."

The feeble disavowal flipped Luke’s asshole switch back on. "Don’t give me that shit. You don’t paint with your eyes closed."

"No. I just…" Stefan’s voice was hoarse, and he clutched his flashlight to his belly, casting warped, inverted shadows across his face and distorting his features into a death’s-head mask. "I’ve been painting, but I don’t remember them. I’m not even sure how many there are."

"Artistic amnesia? Bullshit. You must have seen them when you handed them over to Boardman."

Stefan shook his head and pinched his eyes closed. "Thomas always loaded them into his car. I never looked. Not after…not when they were finished."

"Why? Guilt?"

"No. I was afraid…" Stefan wrapped his arms across his stomach, pointing the flashlight into the woods, and his face was his own again, drawn and haunted.

"Afraid of getting caught?"

"Afraid of what I’d paint next," he whispered.

Luke’s lips twisted. "Denial. It’s what’s for dinner. No wonder you’re so fricking thin."

"Why is everything black and white for you, Luke? Let in some color, for Christ’s sake." Stefan forked the fingers of one hand through his hair. "Even a little gray would be a change."

Luke refused to allow the broken edge of Stefan’s voice to influence him. He’d let sentiment sway him once before and it had cold-cocked his career. "Right or wrong, Stef. It’s not that tough a choice."

"Fine." Stefan raised his head and met Luke’s gaze, his shoulders shifting as if bracing for a blow. "You’ve already made up your mind, as usual. Go ahead. Turn me in to the art police."

Luke searched Stefan’s face for some flicker of remorse, some acknowledgement he accepted the enormity of his crime. Nothing. Only the droop of his lips and a telltale glitter in his eyes, hinting at unshed tears. "Can you give me a reason not to?"

Stefan’s breath caught in what might have been a laugh if his face weren’t so bleak. "Guess not." He saluted Luke with a middle finger. "Enjoy your drive."

Stefan strode uphill, the beam of his flashlight bouncing from road to hillside, and Luke’s last trace of adrenaline drained away. He sighed, deep and exhausted.

The lousy car sat perpendicular to the road, driver’s door ajar. If he was lucky, he’d manage to creep down the hill by midnight. He shut the damn door before the brainless chime of the key alarm drove him nuts and leaned his forehead against the car roof, the beaded rain icy against his heated skin.

"Shit."

About the Author:

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer and business intelligence consultant. She returned to her childhood love of writing fiction after her twin sons learned to drive and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class.

Her daily commute now consists of walking from one side of her office to the other — from left-brain day job to right-brain author cave — where she’s perfected the fine art of typing with a cat draped across her wrists and a dog attached to her hip. Her stories include gay and straight characters because her life includes gay and straight characters (as does everyone’s).

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Website: http://www.ejrussell.com

Blog: http://ejrussell.com/bloggery

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ej_russell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/ej_russell

Giveaway:

The Oregon Chill-chaser bundle: (US ONLY)

Mystic Water handwarmer mug from Clay in Motion Pottery

9.5 oz Dark Hot Chocolate mix from Moonstruck Chocolatiers

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18. Review: Bleach Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol. 2

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Y?ichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved. By far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date, Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood

Review:

I loved this volume of Bleach!  Picking up right where the first volume left off, Chad  is in oodles of trouble because of a possessed parakeet.  Housing the soul of the a young boy, Chad has promised to keep him safe, unaware that a Hallow is hot on their heels.  It’s a good thing that Chad is a strong, sturdy fellow, because the evil spirit does its level best to thoroughly annihilate him.  Rukia tries to race to the rescue, but without her Soul Reaper powers, she’s even more helpless than Chad and the parakeet!  Ichigo is temporarily out of the picture.  His sister Karin is very ill, and he’s been tasked with seeing her home safely.  Will he get to Rukia and Chad in time to save the day?

I thought this story arc was very entertaining.  It revealed that Chad has some spiritual energy, and even though he can’t see the Hallow, he can pummel the heck out of it, holding it off until Ichigo’s arrival.  While creating a tense and exciting action sequence, Tite Kubo manages to sneak in some humor to the heightened emotions and make the action even more memorable.  I think that’s what I like best about the series; while things are fraught with stress and impending doom, the mood is altered ever so slightly with quick bursts of humor.  The opposite happens when the mood is light and Rukia and Ichigo are joking around.  The reality of their responsibilities intrudes, if just for a moment, causing a complete shift in tone.  The emotional roller coaster makes this a very engaging read for me.

During the battle over the little boy’s soul, we also learn what happens to people who were evil when they were alive.  Ichigo’s  zanpakut? can’t cleanse their souls of the evil they carry, and they are dragged down to Hell.  Wah!  That’s pretty scary!  Some of the Hallows weren’t decent people when they were among the living, so it’s somewhat gratifying to see them get their just rewards in the afterlife.

This volume also introduces one of my favorite characters, Kisuke Urahara.  He doesn’t seem like much here, other than a shifty merchant peddling in questionable Soul Society goods, and one all too ready to take advantage of Rukia unfortunate circumstances.  There’s also the hint that things in the Soul Society are not all rainbows and unicorns.  Experiments with dubious moral implications are just the start.  I like how these tidbits are scattered like so much bird seed throughout the chapters.  Both Rukia and Ichigo have a lot to learn about what’s really going on in the Soul Society.

This series is highly recommended if you enjoy action, gripping storylines, and likeable characters.   Yes, yes, the fact that it’s at 60 volumes and counting is a little daunting, but on the plus side – you won’t run out of new story for a long time!

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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19. Spotlight and Giveaway! Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

 

13 Shocking Reasons Real People were Committed to a Lunatic Asylum  by Sarah Ballance

If you thought you had to get your crazy on to land in a place like Ruby Hill, you’d better think again.

The following list of reasons folks were locked up for “treatment” between 1864 and 1889 at the RUBY HILL-esque yet very real Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum is absolutely true. (My commentary, however, may be prone to exaggeration.) (Source)

  1. Bad Whiskey – I don’t know if this guy drank bad whiskey, sold bad whiskey, or manufactured bad whiskey, but you’ve got to feel for anyone forced to sober up a lunatic asylum. I’m pretty sure that type of residence is exactly where I’d most need whiskey, bad or otherwise.

  2. Drospy – I admit I had to look this one up. It’s the old word for edema, which is what happens when you carry excess fluid. Basically this means if you’ve ever taken off your socks to find they’ve left dents in your legs, you could have been committed. Now THAT is lunacy.

  3. Fighting Fire – Not setting them, but fighting them. Apparently firefighting in the 1800s wasn’t always considered the heroic profession we know it as today. And someone at the admissions desk is a pyromaniac.

  4. Menstrual Deranged – What does that mean, exactly? Aside the menstrual part – we get that. Monthly, even. But deranged? We probably don’t want to know, but what do you want to bet a man came up with that one?

  5. Masturbation for 30 Years – Erm, okay. But why THIS GUY and not EVERY OTHER GUY ON THE PLANET? I’m just sayin’….

  6. Suppressed Masturbation – So what we’ve just learned is there is clearly a target zone for this particular activity—somewhere between once and 30 years’ worth. Good luck with that, boys.

  7. Ill Treatment by Husband – Okay, so he’s a jerk so they lock HER up? I bet a man thought of that one, too. (I’m gaining a whole new appreciation for my fabulous husband, who—in over 16 years of marriage—has not once sent me to an asylum.)

  8. Seduction and Disappointment – I’m not sure who was seduced in this scenario and who was disappointed, but apparently this was not the time to oversell oneself. (No wonder that one guy just stuck to masturbation for 30 years.)

  9. Scarlatina (Scarlet Fever) – You there, with the contagious disease. Into the criminally over-crowded asylum. Yep, that’ll fix you. That will fix all of you. Muahahaha.

  10. Medicine to Prevent Conception – To be fair, all forms of contraception were made illegal in the United States in 1873, so this was at least technically a crime. By the 1880s, though, there was a handy-dandy sausage casing device (yes, that would be animal intestine) alternative. Might have been worth a shot because…

  11. Dissipation of Nerves – There’s nothing to indicate the dissipation of nerves was in any way related to conception rates, but my husband and I have six children (one of whom was conceived after I was surgically sterilized) and I’m telling you, asylum people. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. It a classic inverse proportion, and if you don’t believe me just ask all those people who see me with six kids and immediately assume I’m crazy. But I digress.

  12. Carbonic Acid Gas – I’m not sure of the particulars here, but just so y’all know, this is a byproduct of breathing. BREATHING WAS A CRIME.

  13. Novel Reading – ERMAGERD, YOU GUYS. First we can’t breathe, and now they take away our novels! But fear not, for RUBY HILL is not a novel, but a novella. Which can only mean READING RUBY HILL WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF AN INSANE ASYLUM!

Okay, so my logic might be a bit flawed, LOL, but I’m going to distract you quickly so you won’t notice. ?

Here’s a related little historical twist that blew my mind.

In September, Entangled Scandalous released my historical romance, HER WICKED SIN, which is set during the Salem Witch Trials. Back then, the Salem in question was actually Salem Village, which has since been renamed Danvers. Danvers is home to the Danvers State Lunatic Asylum (reportedly one of the most haunted places in the world, and they turned it into APARTMENTS, y’all!), which sits on Hawthorne Hill, the very site of the gallows where the Salem witches were hanged. Nice little coincidence, right? But it gets better. Back in 2011—long before I’d given any thought to writing about the Salem Witch Trials or a haunted lunatic asylum—I had out there a little novella about a haunted house. Its name?

HAWTHORNE.

Mind. Blown.

Now that you’ve been properly wooed (yes-I-said-wooed), are you ready to dive into the dust, abandonment, terror—and yes, romance—of an abandoned mental institution? (Come on—you’ve got to see how the romance fits in there, right?) If so, I hope you’ll consider a dark, dangerous trek (or, you know, just click over) to your favorite e-tailer for the scoop on RUBY HILL!

PS: I’m probably hiking with grizzly bears as you read this, so bear (ha!) with me if I don’t respond immediately to your comments. I do look forward to your replies—and I have been promised nightly wifi—so if I’m not mauled, eaten, or otherwise incapacitated, I will SO come back for you! ?

Ruby Hill by Sarah Ballance

ISBN: 9781622662258

Book Description

From her earliest memories, Ashley Pearce has been drawn to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum, and she’s not the only one. Decades after the abandoned hospital ended its institutional reign of torture and neglect, something lurks in the shadows. Since she’s a paranormal investigator, it’s Ashley’s job to find out what.

Crime scene expert Corbin Malone doesn’t believe in ghosts. A born skeptic, he has no interest in entertaining the hype surrounding the mysterious deaths at Ruby Hill, but he won’t turn his back while more women die. He agrees to an overnight investigation, never expecting his first encounter would be with the woman he pushed away a year ago. But when he discovers Ashley is a target, he learns his greatest fear isn’t living with his own demons, but losing her for good.

Amazon BN Goodreads

Excerpt:
Death had a flavor. Equal parts bitter and bland, the damnable taste was more sickening than the stickiness in Corbin Malone’s throat. It soured his gut, leaving him with an unease he couldn’t quite swallow, and the deeper they drove into the countryside—the closer the car brought him to Ruby Hill Lunatic Asylum—the more potent the flavor. Five years a cop, he’d neatly sidestepped the ugly aftertaste until things got personal.

Until the body belonged to his brother, Cash.

Nearly six months had passed since Cash Malone fought for his last breath inside the dismal, abandoned halls of Ruby Hill. Though his body now rested six feet under a distant patch of cemetery grass, Ruby Hill remained his tomb—a giant, crouching headstone marring acres of otherwise beautiful, rolling hills. And for Corbin, a visage of murder.

About the Author:

Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or seeking that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.

She loves creating unforgettable stories while putting her characters through an unkind amount of torture—a hobby that has nothing to do with living with six children. (Really.) Though she adores nail-biting mystery and edge-of-your-seat thrillers, Sarah writes in many genres including contemporary and ghostly paranormal romance. Her ever-growing roster of releases may be found on Amazon , Barnes & Noble, Kobo, For the Muse Publishing, and ENTANGLED PUBLISHING.

Website: http://sarahballance.com

Blog: http://sarahballance.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahBallance

Facebook: http://facebook.com/sarah.ballance.author.news

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4103362.Sarah_Ballance

Giveaway:

$25 Gift Certificate to winner’s choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble AND Skelton Key blue Swarovski heart Art Nouveau necklace (US/Canada ONLY) (http://www.etsy.com/listing/88152504/silver-butterfly-key-blue-swarovski?ref=shop_home_active )

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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20. WordGirl's Word of the Month for October: Supernatural

SupernaturalFittingly enough as Halloween approaches, WordGirl's Word of the Month for October is supernatural: "Outside of what would appear in the natural world."  

This is a good month to introduce your children to stories about the supernatural, whether you are reading picture books like Creepy Carrots, classics like The House with a Clock in its Walls, or newer titles like The Graveyard Book

Wishing you supernatural times!

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21. A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat by Beverly Stowe McClure

pirate-blockade-runner-cat-200x300A perfect, not too spooky, ghost adventure that kids will enjoy is the latest novel from award-winning author Beverly Stowe McClure.

Erik Burns is stuck in South Carolina with his mother and Aunt Molly after he finds a black lace bra in the glove compartment of his dad’s car. Whoops! Kept away from all his friends and the sport he loved to play in Texas, Erik is willing to do whatever it takes to get back home.

When Starry and Stormy Knight, a set of weird twins that live down the block, try to convince Erik that people have seen a light radiating from the deactivated lighthouse and a ghostly pirate ship prowling the harbor, he wants nothing to do with it. But when he witnesses these occurrences, he can’t deny the proof before him. That’s when he hatches a plan to help the ghosts rest in peace in exchange for a personalized haunting that will send his mother rushing back home to Texas so Erick can get his life back.

Beverly and I are in the same critique group, so I had the pleasure of watching this story unfold before it was published. Talented in the areas of contemporary and historical fiction, I am always amazed by how diverse her ideas are while staying true to her fan base. A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat should be another big winner for her. Why? Because in a nutshell, no matter what Beverly is writing, she knows what relates well to her readers.

In this story, Erik has been uprooted. Not only is he away from all his friends and baseball, he’s pretty ticked his dad hasn’t tried to contact him since the move. Those emotions work their way into the unfolding stories of Major Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, and the ghost residing in the deactivated Morris Island Lighthouse. Not only that, Erik’s mom is trying to get him to befriend a couple of odd twins, when all he wants is to be reunited with his friends in Texas.

This paranormal middle grade/tween novel has a lot to offer. A great read any time of the year, it will definitely get you in the mood for Halloween.

Rating: :) :) :) :) :)

File Size: 410 KB
Print Length: 265 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing (January 9, 2013)
ISBN 978-1-77127-219-3
Available in numerous digital formats. Visit the publisher’s website for more information.

 

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

 

Pirate banner


7 Comments on A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat by Beverly Stowe McClure, last added: 10/30/2013
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22. Just Released: OMG!…Am I A Witch?! by Talia Aikens-Nuñez

witch

OMG… Am I A Witch?! is the enchanting story of a little girl who discovers her magical powers after turning her annoying older brother into a dog using a spell found on the Internet. Follow April and her friends, Grace and Eve, on their spellbinding adventures as they race to reverse the spell before her parents find out.

A hair-raising and action packed tale of a girl looking for a spell reversal and finding herself in the process, OMG… Am I A Witch?! is sure to delight children while teaching them important life lessons like “Be careful what you wish for!”. Is April really a witch? Will she be able to undo the spell in time? Is she gonna be punished FOREVER? and will her brother ever stop growling at her? Join us and find out!

Available today, October 31st thru AmazonBarnes & NobleiTunes, on Kindle and MagicBlox!

Author: Talia Aikens-Nuñez
Illustrator: Alicja Ignaczak
Paperback | B&W interior
150 pages
Release date:Oct. 31, 2013
Ages 8-12

Talia Aikens-Nuñez is a children’s book author specializing in bilingual and multicultural children’s books. Her first book, Escucha Means Listen, was released by Musa Publishing in 2012. OMG…Am I A Witch?! is Talia’s first chapter book and she is currently seeking a home for her next children’s chapter book, Dragon Guardians. Talia lives with her husband, daughter and newborn son on a river in Connecticut.

Visit Talia online at http://talia-aikens-nunez.vpweb.com/

Visit Pinwheel Books to enter for your chance to win one of five copies of this book: http://pinwheelbooks.com/


0 Comments on Just Released: OMG!…Am I A Witch?! by Talia Aikens-Nuñez as of 10/31/2013 1:40:00 PM
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23. Guest Book Review: Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut by Hamilton Wende

arabella

 

Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Tafelberg; 1 edition (July 20, 2013)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, ages 9+
ASIN: B00GA25PRA

Stars: 4.5

Arabella lives with her mom and dad in Parkview, Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a happy, stable life, with all the love anyone could imagine from her parents and (four!) grandparents. Her eleventh birthday is the turning point in her life. She receives some unusual gifts, which change Arabella’s life forever.  But then things go horribly wrong. Her dad dies, and life turns dark, bleak, and hopeless. Thanks to her unusual birthday gifts, Arabella discovers a magical world at the bottom of her garden and amazing things happen. She is able to speak to the animals there, and discovers she has a special role to play once she is given a magic Mongongo nut by Khanyi, the mealie lady. Suddenly, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary and Arabella and her new friends must battle against the evil hadedas, led by their nasty king, Ozymandias, who has a wicked plan. At the same time, Arabella finds hope in the Book of Echoes; hope that with this new-found magic, she can turn back the clock to the happy times before her dad died. Is the magic this strong? Can Arabella defeat the hadedas’ nefarious plans?

Although all young readers will love this charming book, young South African readers will particularly relish it. Familiar names, places, creatures, and cultural references will resonate with readers, bringing this adventure right into their own back gardens. Arabella faces enormous challenges, and the biggest one is within. As the use of magic changes her, perhaps bringing out selfish desires, she has to learn to do what is right. Acceptance of grief is very difficult for a young person, and this is one of Arabella’s saddest tests. Self-sacrifice, loyalty, the meaning of friendship, and doing the right thing are also highlighted as Arabella’s final choice will sway the outcome of the battle. Author Hamilton Wende has perfectly captured Arabella’s character, giving poignant insight into just how difficult life choices are at that age. The hadedas are brilliantly malevolent … but fun! Lovely atmospherics abound, painting the most incredible pictures for a young imagination to enjoy. The author has a real gift for scenarios and I am sure this book will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page has been read. I would suggest a glossary at the back for non South African readers to understand several local terms. I must mention the superb cover by Rob Foote which adds to the ethereal, magical quality of the book.

First reviewed for Jozi Kids, South Africa

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.


1 Comments on Guest Book Review: Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut by Hamilton Wende, last added: 11/7/2013
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24. Interview with Talia Aikens-Nuñez, Author of OMG… Am I A Witch?!

witchTalia Aikens-Nuñez wanted to be a meteorologist, a politician and a lawyer. She never thought she would be a writer. It was the birth of her daughter that caused her to start writing. Raising a bilingual child inspired Talia to write multicultural children’s books. Talia’s family loves nature so much that she and her husband vowed that they will always try to live close to water. She, her husband, daughter and newborn son live on a river in Connecticut.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

After the birth of my daughter, I started writing books for kids. I wanted to write fun and imaginative books for kids that featured multicultural characters.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I wanted my kids to be able to see and read books featuring multicultural characters that did not focus on race or ethnicity.

 

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

No. I love to try to think like an 8-12 year old. My favorite part of writing for the age group is trying to capture their imagination and fun-loving nature.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

OMG… Am I A Witch?! is the enchanting story of a little girl who discovers her magical powers after turning her annoying older brother into a dog using a spell found on the Internet.

A classic story of “be careful what you wish for.” OMG… is a hair-raising, action packed tale of a girl looking for a spell reversal and finding herself in the process.

What inspired you to write it?

It just came to me one day as a fun and imaginative idea.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

They can purchase a copy from the publisher’s website (Pinwheel Books):
https://pinwheelbooks.myshopify.com/collections/our-books/products/omg-am-i-a-witch

Amazon (for Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/OMG-Am-Witch-Talia-Aikens-Nu%C3%B1ez-ebook/dp/B00FQI9SZO/

Amazon (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/OMG-Am-I-A-Witch/dp/0985424850/

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/omgam-i-a-witch-talia-aikens-nu-ez/1117110410

What is up next for you?

I am trying to find a home for my next children’s book, Dragon Guardians.

Do you have anything else to add?

I hope everyone enjoys the fun and magical adventure of April and her friends. You can find me online at http://talia-aikens-nunez.vpweb.com and like me on Facebook at  http://www.facebook.com/taliaaikensnunezchildrenswriter

Thank you for spending time with us today, Talia. We wish you much success.

 


0 Comments on Interview with Talia Aikens-Nuñez, Author of OMG… Am I A Witch?! as of 11/19/2013 1:07:00 PM
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25. Book Review: The Archived

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab

It hasn't even been a year since Ben died, and Mackenzie Bishop is already forgetting what her brother looked like. Her mother copes with the grief by throwing herself with artificial cheerfulness into projects, while her father copes by retreating into himself.

Mac knows something her parents don't: that all the memories of the dead are archived as Histories, which look and act like the living person in every way. Histories usually sleep, but sometimes one awakens and tries to get out; occasionally they're even violent. Mac is a Keeper, tasked with guarding the Narrows that border the Archive and returning any of the Histories who escape. It's a role that she inherited from her grandfather, and one that she must keep absolutely secret, even from her parents. Knowing that Ben's History is in the Archive should be a comfort to Mac, but even a Keeper can't see the Histories, and Mac fears that she is losing her memories of Ben.

When Mac's family moves into the Coronado, an old hotel converted to an apartment building, Mackenzie gets a new territory in the Narrows to patrol. But something is not right — the Histories here are restless, and Mac is busier than ever trying to return them all. What's more, it appears that a murder was committed decades ago at the Coronado, a murder that someone went to a great deal of trouble to cover up. Mac is determined to find out the truth, even if it means putting her life at risk.

The Archived is a moving exploration of life, death, and grief wrapped up in an intriguing, character-driven mystery. Mac is tough — she has to be, to deal with the sometimes violent Histories — and she has the scars to prove it. But even her toughness doesn't make her immune to grief, and like everyone else she'll need to find a way to deal with it and move towards acceptance.

The story has a strong sense of place, and the various locations are lovingly described: the elegant, library-like atmosphere of the Archives, the creepy hallways of the Narrows, and the faded glory of the Coronado, which really becomes a character in its own right. The characters are likewise vividly brought to life. Besides Mac, there is a teen boy, Wes, that she meets in the Coronado. Wes hides a surprising depth and empathy behind a façade of good-natured humor. Mac's relationship with her grandfather is developed through flashbacks. Other minor characters, such as the Librarians in the Archives, are less fully-fleshed-out, but still distinctively characterized.

The setup with the Archives is intriguing and pleasingly unique. The internal logic is pretty consistent and well-developed, with one exception that bothered me. What is the purpose of keeping the Archives in the first place? There doesn't seem to be any reason for it. Loved ones can't visit the Histories, and no one seems to read the Histories except for the occasional Librarian seeking relief from boredom, and even that seems to be discouraged. It seems like an elaborate setup requiring considerable secrecy and no small amount of risk, for no purpose. If you can suspend that disbelief, then The Archived is a pretty enjoyable book.

The Archived is a 2013 Cybils Awards Nominee

Who would like this book:

Although the setup is not strictly supernatural — Histories aren't really ghosts — it should appeal strongly to fans of supernatural fiction. Teens who enjoy mysteries or character-driven fiction may also enjoy this.

Get it from:
FTC required disclosure: Reviewed from library copy. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.


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