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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Book Review: Playing with Monsters (Playing with Monsters #1) by Amelia Hutchins

Playing with Monsters (Playing with Monsters #1)
by Amelia Hutchins
June 28, 2016
514 pages
My coven has remained hidden in the shadows for centuries.

We’ve avoided the ‘real world’ altogether; hiding from monsters

and other creatures we share this planet with.

We found protection in the Colville National Forest, nestled in a town protected

by magical barriers.
Our powers are locked by an ancient curse, one meant to protect us from being found.
Until now.
The past has a way of repeating itself. A new game is beginning. No one is safe.
He’s coming for me.
He’s hunting.
The monster we’ve run from for centuries has found us.
How far will this deadly game go?
How far will I be able to take it, or will he destroy me and everything I care about?
Will the one thing I can’t live without, be the key to destroying and undoing the past?
Or will the past destroy me before I can save the people I love from what I’ve done.

About the hero: chances are you may not fall instantly in love with him, that’s because I don’t write men you instantly love; you grow to love them. I don’t believe in instant-love. I write flawed, raw, caveman-like assholes that eventually let you see their redeeming qualities. They are aggressive, assholes, one step above a caveman when we meet them. You may not even like him by the time you finish this book, but I promise you will love him by the end of this series.
About the heroine: There is a chance, that you might think she’s a bit naïve, or weak, but then again who starts out as a badass? Badasses are a product of growth and I am going to put her through hell, and you get to watch her come up swinging every time I knock her on her ass. That’s just how I do things. How she reacts to the set of circumstances she is put through, may not be how you as the reader, or I as the author would react to that same situation. Everyone reacts differently to circumstances and how Magdalena responds to her challenges, is how I see her as a character and as a person.
I don’t write love stories: I write fast paced, knock you on your ass, make you sit on the edge of your seat wondering what happens next books. If you’re looking for cookie cutter romance, this isn’t for you. If you can’t handle the ride, un-buckle your seatbelt and get out of the roller-coaster car now. If not, you’ve been warned. If nothing outlined above bothers you, carry on and enjoy the ride!

Playing with Monsters is the first installment of Amelia Hutchins’ newest paranormal romance/urban fantasy series. This book was my absolute favourite summer read. I was totally hooked from start to finish, completely enthralled by the story of Magdalena Fitzgerald and the dangerously dominating Lucian Blackstone.

The reader is first introduced to Magdalena, a young witch estranged from her coven. Needing respite from a complex and heartbreaking set of circumstances, Lena leaves her coven to pursue a college program in botany. During her time away, Lena is haunted by enigmatic, violent dreams. Though she keeps a journal, the dreams are fragmented and difficult for Lena to decipher. When she is summoned home to participate in the Awakening, an initiation of sorts for young witches, Lena finds much has changed. Among these changes is the arrival of a mysterious and intimidating stranger, Lucian, a club owner who has been financially supporting the money-strapped coven. Lena quickly finds her life fatefully entwined with Lucian and she is unable to resist his persistent sexual advances. In him, Lena finds a darkness that speaks to the darkness she’s hidden away in her own soul. What Lena doesn’t fully grasp is that Lucian is a monster; a predator with a job to do and he’s not about to let a sexy young witch get in his way.

It’s been a long time since reading has become an obsession. I did little else but read once I started this book. At times the writing is a little reliant on cliched phrasing and relationship dynamics, however, the imaginative storyline and full cast of intriguing characters make up for otherwise subtle writing flaws. There are several layers of complexity to the plotline and a multitude of characters to manage. The series also intersects with Hutchins’ Fae Chronicles and Elite Guards Series. I’ve read Fae Chronicles, so I really enjoyed the cameo appearances of some of my favourite characters in this new series.

Lucian Blackstone is a book boyfriend in the tradition of Jericho Barrons. He’s an absolute ass, but altogether irresistible. Lena is strong a smart, but with a stubborn streak that can be downright frustrating. This book is off the charts sexy. The author even includes a warning at the beginning of the book. Personally, I found it fan-freaking-tastic, warning be damned! I’ve already started book two, Sleeping with Monsters. According to the author, this will be a four-book series.

Five Sexy AF Sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
Amelia lives in the great Pacific Northwest with her family. When not writing, she can be found on her author page, hanging out with fans, or dreaming up new twisting plots. She's an avid reader of everything paranormal romance.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Selah's Manga Mania Reviews: Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 by Sui Ishida

March 17, 2015
224 pages
Demographic: Seinen
Original run September 8, 2011 – September 18, 2014
Volumes: 14
Genres: Manga, Horror fiction
Shy Ken Kaneki is thrilled to go on a date with the beautiful Rize. But it turns out that she’s only interested in his body—eating it, that is. When a morally questionable rescue transforms him into the first half-human half-Ghoul hybrid, Ken is drawn into the dark and violent world of Ghouls, which exists alongside our own.

I’m way late to the party on this, but I have to give it a shout out because it’s one of those series that I’m reading right now, and it’s just so good. I fought reading it for a while because I’d given my time to a few long series, but man, Tokyo Ghoul is definitely one I’m glad I started reading.

In a world where ghouls masquerade as humans to eat them, Ken Kaneki goes out with Rize, and finds out too late that she’s only interested in him as actual dinner. When a car accident leaves her organs in his body, he becomes half human, half ghoul – something the world hasn’t seen so far. The story takes the reader on Kaneki’s journey as he fights his urges, struggles to learn the inner workings of ghoul life, and tries not to get caught by the agency stalking the ghouls.

 The good: It’s a really well-developed world and story. It’s easy to empathize with Kaneki, from his shyness to his wanting to do the moral thing, to just sympathizing with how hard the situation is for him. I also really like the stance this takes that he isn’t alone because he’s not one thing or the other – he’s got power because he is both. While there are the standard feelings of isolation subplot, it really works to show that there are people around him, ghoul and human (even if the humans don’t know what’s going on). Those that help him at the café he ends up working at (which is a front for the ghoul community in their area) are really nicely developed characters and so far don’t seem to be there just to fill the roles of “girl” and “mentor,” etc. The agents in the group that’s hunting them also have diverse personalities and obsessions, as well. Everything is more or less a shade of grey, which I love. The ghoul physiology is interesting, and the way it’s integrated into the “real” world works for me. I have to admit, I’m impressed.
The bad: Nothing that leaps out at me, but I’m only three volumes in. The set-up happens fast so you pretty much know going in what’s going to kick start things, but that’s not really a negative for me. I expect a story like this to meander as it introduces new characters and challenges, but so far it’s not wandered too far from the core story, but used everything to enhance it. So really, I can’t think of anything overtly bad that I’ve seen.
The Ick: I’ve not seen anything hugely graphic so far, but if cannibalism gets to you, there are a few panels. It’s not anything beyond typical zombie fare, and there are some gory fights and deaths along the way. Presuming you’re picking this up because you’re into horror, though, it’s likely not going to be a deal-breaker.

5 half-ghoul sheep

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Spotlight: Unexpected Hostage (Unexpected, #1) by Layla Stone + giveaway

Unexpected Hostage (Unexpected, #1)
by Layla Stone
September 9th 2018
Genres: Adult, Romance, Science Fiction
Everyone says he’s dangerous.

Everyone is wrong.

My new cabin-mate is a telepath and the whole ship’s scared of him. I was too, for about three seconds. He’s quiet, but once I get him talking he’s the most fascinating man I’ve ever known. He shouldn’t be in that cage. He didn’t do anything wrong. But good thing he is, because I would love to snuggle down for a long night with a body like his.

Everyone thinks they’re safe.

Everyone is wrong.

My race is known for being peaceful, and I was too…until I was electrocuted, kidnapped, sold, and then put in a cage. I’ll get out of here soon, but while I plot my escape, I’ll enjoy my cabin-mate’s attention. She thinks she has figured me out. She’s not even close.

The ship is being attacked, a perfect diversion. There is only one problem…I want to take my cabin-mate with me.

Note to readers: This is a full length Sci-fi Romance Novel with action, adventure, adult humor and a steamy romance. Mature readers only.

About the Author:
Layla Stone is an unapologetic romance junkie. As a self-proclaimed Modern-Day Casanova of fictional men, she spins stories to create unique lovers with the plethora of races she's dreamed up.

Southern California is where she lives with her geeky husband and two rambunctious children.

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)
A signed copy of Unexpected Hostage, a mug, and a $15 Amazon gift card

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Sheep Movie Review: Bleach (2018)

Bleach (2018)
Initial release: July 20, 2018 (Japan)
Netflix release: Sept 14
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Writers: Tite Kubo (manga), Daisuke Habara (screenplay)
Stars: Miya
vi, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi 

Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Adapted from: Bleach
Genres: Adventure fiction, Occult Fiction
Ichigo Kurosaki is a High School student, living in Karakura town. He is able to see ghosts, as well as hollows. Later, he meets up with Rukia Kuchiki, a Death God or Soul Reaper (Shinigami in Japanese). Later, he finds out that he himself is a Soul Reaper as well. Ichigo Kurosaki, now with the power of a Soul Reaper, is able to protect Karakura town from hollows.

For those who don't know, Bleach is a Shōnen manga (teenage boy demographic) written and illustrated by Tite Kubo that started in 2001. There are currently 696 chapters collected into 74 volumes. It is the ninth best-selling manga of all time.

Bleach is about Ichigo Kurosaki, a high schooler, who can see ghosts. His ability lets him see Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper (Grim Reaper, Shinigami). She gets wounded fighting a Hollow (vengeful spirit) and must transfer her Soul Reaper powers to Ichigo to save them both. This leaves him with powers he doesn't know how to use and her in a human body. The new live-action movie is about how this happens and the repercussions for Ichigo, Rukia and a couple of others drawn into the story.
Ichigo and Rukia

Before watching the live-action Bleach movie, I knew nothing about the manga. I've seen it around, it is pretty iconic in the manga world and the characters are popular with cosplayers. So I went into this with zero expectations, except to see some awesome fantasy action. I enjoy live-action adaptations of manga/anime and love the Japanese film-making style. It can be a hit or miss, but Tokyo Ghoul live-action blew me away. Avatar: The Last Airbender...WTF?
 Ichigo from the manga
Ichigo, Rukia, and others from the anime

Bleach didn't have the killer special effects like Tokyo Ghoul, but it made up for its lack of CGI budget by focusing on the emotional side of the story. The connections between the characters and with the moviegoer.

Ichigo as a Soul Reaper. Rukia as a Soul Reaper vs human form

I should mention the movie is in Japanese with subtitles. Some people don't like subtitles.

I enjoyed the movie. There is a balance between the humor and the darker moments. I had no problem picking up on the world building mythos. So if you aren't familiar with the manga, you will have no problem understanding what's going on. There are cool weapons and sword fights. My favorite is the spirit-weapon used by the Quincy (humans that fight Hollows), a magical bow.

4 "Zanpakutou-wielding " Sheep 


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Excerpt Spotlight: Siren’s Calling (The Sea King’s Daughters #4) by Piper J. Drake + giveaway

Amae Waters is a mermaid blending in with humankind. Her mission? Prepare the oceans for the return of her people. But a new predator has entered the Puget Sound, defying human understanding, and Amae must face it and darker dangers lurking in the deep. 

Siren’s Calling (The Sea King’s Daughters #4)
by Piper J. Drake
September 18, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Print Length: 22,000 words
Amae Waters will never live up to her father's expectations--she's not a leader and she's not a soldier. Rather than live with his disappointment, she's left his realm and built a life for herself in Seattle, a mermaid blending in with humankind. Her mission? To prepare the oceans for the return of her people. But she's not sure she's cut out to accomplish that either.

A new predator has entered the waters of the Puget Sound, ravaging orcas and leaving their carcasses to wash ashore for humans to find. Whatever is killing them is beyond human understanding and Amae must find it before it irrevocably damages the complex balance of the ocean ecosystems.

But a greater danger lurks in the deep. Amae is done evading traps. She'll defend her territory and prove she needn't be a soldier to be a warrior or become the sacrifice used to end her people.

Look for other stories in this exciting Urban Fantasy series from Philippa Ballantine, Stacia D. Kelly, Lauren Harris, Katee Robert, and Asa Maria Bradley.

Excerpt from Siren’s Calling:
I tasted blood in the water.

Changing course with a flick of my tail, I swam against the fast-moving ocean current toward the source. There were no vibrations in the water to indicate the thrashing of a living thing in distress and the seas were quieter than usual. Not surprising, with this much blood carried on the currents. Predators would be drawn to it and prey would be wise to leave the area or hide.

Curious, I’d come to investigate, thinking one of the killer whale pods had taken a baleen whale. It wasn’t unheard of, though it didn’t happen often. A big kill like that would draw plenty of ocean denizens, and I hadn’t tasted whale in a long time. I wouldn’t kill one, not when I couldn't finish consuming it myself and not when so many whale species were endangered, but I wouldn’t let it go to waste, either.

When I didn’t find anything in open water, I’d pulled myself up onto the rocky outcropping between islands and found it. The body. But it wasn’t a humpback or gray whale, not a mink or fin whale, either. It was an orca, a killer whale, and that didn’t make any kind of sense.

Before I could take a closer look, the sound of a powerful motor cut through the morning calls of seabirds. Harbor seals lifted their heads and looked around from where they lay on another rock outcropping. A lone Steller sea lion grunted and scratched his head with a huge hind flipper. He turned to stare at me and I met his gaze, unconcerned. He was a prime specimen of a bull, the largest I’d ever encountered, but he posed no threat to me.

The waves slapped against the rocks around my tail fin in a changed cadence. A boat was approaching, and with it, humans. They were probably whale watching, which meant every one of them would be on the lookout for wildlife. Most of them would have binoculars. I couldn’t let them see me in this form.

I dove back into the water, darting through forests of kelp and berating myself for lingering past dawn. There was too much light and I had to dive deep to be sure nothing on the surface caught sight of even a tail flick from me.

As far as humans were concerned, I didn’t exist. I was a myth, a fairy tale.

If they saw me, they might not even believe what they’d seen. In their dreams or after too many drinks, they might whisper, “Mermaid.”

And they’d be right.

About the Author: Piper J. Drake is a bestselling author of romantic suspense and edgy contemporary romance, a frequent flyer, and day job road warrior. She is often distracted by dogs, cupcakes, and random shenanigans.

Reviews in Heels - Spotlight 
I Need to Read That - Spotlight 
Ladytechie’s Book Musings - Spotlight 
Cali Book Reviews - Spotlight 

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