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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Book Review: Steam and Steel: Thirteen Riveting Tales Edited by D. M. Patterson

Steam and Steel: Thirteen Riveting Tales
Edited by D. M. Patterson
Contributors: Valentine Wolfe, David Lee, Michael Parodi, Matt and Lori DeLoach, S. A. Cosby, Jeanne Lark Wilkins, D. M. Patterson, Hunter Royall, Charlie Stayton, Stephen Chapman, J.M. Lee, Nicole R. Ordway, and Fred El Maafer.
December 1, 2017
190 pages
Publisher: HCS Publishing
ASIN: ISBN: 9781981189410
We invite you to find a comfortable spot and settle in for thirteen remarkable stories based on the imagination of the authors of HCS Publishing. This anthology focuses on our love of the Steampunk genre and each individual’s interpretation of bringing gadgets to life. Tales of time travel, war, mechanical mermaids, flying apparati, finding love, and losing loved ones, are all themes we hope will entertain and inspire you.

Steam & Steel: Thirteen Riveting Tales is a steampunk anthology. Not only are there thirteen stories and poetry, but illustrations, too. Be careful what you wish for when you think with time, you might be bargaining with the Devil in “The Morgan Aeronautical” by David Lee. In Stephen Chapman’s story, “The Crimson Curmudgeon,” an ill-tempered gun is used to capture a villain. Jill charges her landship into battle to recapture a well in D. M. Patterson’s reworking of the Jack and Jill nursery rhyme into the story, “To Fetch a Pail of Water.” Valentine Wolfe leads the anthology in a lovely poem, “Taphophilia,” in finding beauty in death. In “Mabel” by J. M. Lee, a doctor replaces legs with mechanical fins on children and on adults (beginning with soldiers during the Civil War). The kids and their parents lived in an underwater colonization under the Chesapeake Bay, named “Atlantis” after the mythological city. Over the years, the doctor has noticed babies born without legs, making it easy to put on the fins. Mabel receives her tail for the first time, and each night in her dreams she swims, doing it in real time like a sleepwalker, only she was a sleepswimmer.


The stories I enjoyed were “Memories of Amethyst,” “Mabel,” “To Fetch a Pail of Water,” the poem, “Taphophilia,” and “Diebus Tarde.” The rest were either just okay, or they didn’t work for me.

If you enjoy steampunk, you might read these stories to fine new authors.

I give Steam & Steel: Thirteen Riveting Tales 3 1/2 sheep.





Pamela K. Kinney


Friday, March 30, 2018

Excerpt Spotlight: The Traitor's Bride: A sci fi romance (Keepers of Xereill Book 1) by Alix Nichols + giveaway


March 26, 2018
324 pages
Genre: Scifi Romance
On her untamed gift hinges the future of a planet—and her lover’s life… A month ago, ex-army Major Areg Sebi was thrown into prison. Now he’s on the scaffold, laying his head on the block. No public trial for the disgraced war hero. No cyborgs from the League of Realms to whisk him away. No help. No escape. A priestess chants a prayer for the major’s soul, even as a judge cries out, “Death to the traitor!” In the crowd below, laundry maid Etana Tidryn stares into Areg’s eyes. His lips were hot against hers last night. His hands roamed her body, worshipped her, pleasured her. She’s falling for him, hard and fast. She’s still hoping, even if he’s given up… Can Etana transcend everything she knows—transcend life itself—to save him? Can she rise to meet her destiny?


Excerpt: Chapter 1
The massive lash hit Areg Sebi’s bared back anew.

A gasp rippled through the crowd.

Etana Tidryn had never seen a whip like that before. It had multiple tails with knots at each end.

She looked closer, and gulped. The knots had claws. Every single knot was woven with small shards of glass and metal barbs to make it even nastier than it already was.

Raising his arm high above his head, the flogger struck again, hard.

The man on Etana’s left cheered.

The two women on her right unwrapped their bread rolls, bit into them, and began to chew with a single-minded keenness. Their faces reflected a mixture of horror and fascination.

“Still regret skipping breakfast?” the older of the two asked the younger one.

“You joking?” The younger woman smiled. “This show is absolutely worth it!”

Their gazes never left the scaffold while they talked.

Etana turned away from them.

To her relief, few people in the crowd seemed to share her neighbors’ enthusiasm. Many averted their heads, cringing with pity for Lord Sebi. A few brave souls even dared to hum and drone in defiance, risking jail time if the cops found them out. Clearly, they didn’t believe the charges leveled against their hero.

Everything had happened so fast!

Lord Sebi’s reputation had always been unmarred, as clean as the springs on Mount Crog. An heir to a long line of noble-bloods famous for their integrity, he was destined for a great future in Eia.

Then Teteum invaded the realm.

Lord Sebi joined the army and rose to major. His bravery on the battlefield earned him several decorations, including a Golden Double Serpent Wand—Eia’s highest honor. When his parents and younger sister died in a tragic accident, there was no end to letters of sympathy people sent him from all four corners of the realm. Everyone in Eia looked up to him, hung on his every word, admired, and even worshipped him.

And then, a month ago, Police Chief Zorom Ultek arrested him.

The Orogate Daily revealed “the truth” about Areg Sebi, which Etana didn’t believe for a second. Neither did her parents, or her brother and sister. Nor, apparently, many others here in Iltaqa.

The flogger brandished his freak whip again. It laid a long, ragged line of red into Lord Sebi’s broad back. Etana’s cheeks flamed the instant she realized she was ogling the distinctly masculine shape of his back, despite the grim reason it had been exposed.

Divine Aheya, the shame!

But what with Pa being so straitlaced, and her brother Rhori so hopelessly shy, she’d never seen a grown man’s bare upper body before. And Areg Sebi’s was something to behold.

Once more, the whip cracked against Lord Sebi’s back. The knots bit into his flayed skin, peeling strips of it off.

Etana shuddered and gripped Rhori’s arm.

But she didn’t avert her eyes.

The town of Iltaqa hadn’t seen a public punishment in over a year, ever since the “space conmen” floggings.

In the early months of the Teteum invasion, when things looked bad for Eia, four enterprising individuals set up a daring scam. Over several weeks, they sold hundreds of tickets to a bogus rescue transport. The transport was supposed to arrive from Norbal in the neighboring solar system and take the ticket-holding refugees off Hente. Norbal’s booming economy needed the extra workforce and talent, the conmen had explained.

When no transport materialized, the swindled ticket holders—most of them proficients and noble-bloods—reported the scammers to the police. The authorities caught them, confiscated their booty for the war effort, and had them flogged in Town Hall Square.

In retrospect, that punishment looked like a mother’s spanking next to Lord Sebi’s treatment. The whip came down again on the bloody ruin of his back, making him arch and grunt in pain.

Letting go of Rhori’s arm, Etana scrabbled at her chest through the layers of her work apron, dress and underwear until her fingers found her Serpent Coil pendant. She began to stroke the ouroboros, her lips moving in a silent prayer.

Suddenly, a buzz-like sound invaded her ears.

She scanned her surroundings for its source before realizing it was coming from inside her. There were other sounds, too—sounds she hadn’t noticed until that moment. Sparrows chirped in the distance, squirrels scampered up and down the old oak trees across the square, bugs hummed in the lush flowerbeds, and a dog growled in a yard.

Etana felt dizzy.

The air around her, the very air she breathed, acquired a strangely sticky quality. Something invisible wheeled and eddied in the sky over her head.

Divine Aheya only knew why, a childhood memory flashed in Etana’s mind. She saw herself, her parents and Rhori standing around Mayka’s high chair, watching stern-looking vestals examine her baby sister. But the memory was blurry and, for the life of her, Etana couldn’t recall what had gone down that day or why she was recollecting it now.

Could it have something to do with the sultry, fog-like substance condensing above her?

Whatever it was, it spun faster and faster, the whirlpool descending toward her, inexorable.

Suddenly, she was trembling in its eye.

When it burst into her chest like a gale-force wind, she gasped and fought for breath. Except, there was no room in her lungs for air. They were filled to the brim with the mysterious fog.

Etana coughed, desperately trying to rid herself of it. No luck. Her knees wobbled, and just as she was about to faint, the substance left her body, and dissipated without a trace.

A flurry of lash strokes descended on Lord Sebi’s back in quick succession, the whip leaving deep welts rimmed with blood.

Etana swayed and leaned against Rhori, who wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“Only a couple dozen more,” he whispered in her ear. “It’ll be over soon.”

A couple dozen more.

Etana dug her nails into her palms when the next stroke landed, adding another crimson groove to Lord Sebi’s back.

A man in gold-rimmed black robes stepped forward from the box on the side of the scaffold where notables sat during major events. He raised his hand, commanding everyone’s attention.

Etana had never seen him before. She gave her brother a quizzical look.

“It’s Lord Mahabmet, the high judge,” Rhori said, surveying the man. “I’ve seen his picture in the Gazette. He almost never leaves the capital.”

Etana knitted her brows. “Haven’t you wondered why Lord Sebi is being flogged here and not in Orogate?”

Rhori nodded. “I have, as have all my friends.”

“Orogate is only an hour’s ride from Iltaqa,” Etana went on. “No more than twenty minutes in a motorized vehicle. Why didn’t they transfer Lord Sebi to Old Kingdom Prison? Why isn’t he being flogged in Republic Square?”

On the scaffold, the high judge cleared his throat. “Silence!”

“It simply doesn’t follow,” Etana said, looking up at Rhori.

He pressed his index finger to his mouth. “Shush. Lord Mahabmet is about to say something.”

Etana dutifully shut her mouth. She was a Tidryn, after all. A menial. Shutting up was what menials did every time a noble-born, a priestess, or a proficient opened their mouth.

Etana never understood why the likes of her were considered so vastly inferior to everyone else. It was said that menials had no Ra spark left in them. Not a drop of the ancient Original Race of Xereill. Their blood was thin, all imported, all human.

Except, where was the proof of that?

Not a single book in the Temple Library supported that belief. Menials, just like everyone else on Hente, were cut from the same Ra-human cloth. True, they had no Ra abilities, or “gifts.” Then again, no one on the entire planet did. But it was menials who’d been pushed to the bottom and told they belonged there.

It bothered her.

What bothered her even more was how pliantly other menials—including her family—accepted their fate. Mother and Father believed that the rigid makeup of Hente’s society was what kept things together, what had saved their civilization from falling apart in the wake of the Cataclysm. Rhori believed that, too. Everyone she knew did…

Except for Lord Sebi.

“Townsfolk of Iltaqa!” the high judge bellowed. “I’ve interrupted Areg Sebi’s punishment because I’ve just received a transmission from Governor Boggond!”

He held up a small device in his hand that Etana had never seen before.

Her breath hitched.

Could it be…?

Could it be that the governor’s transmission exonerated Lord Sebi of the terrible accusations that sleazy Chief Ultek had mounted against him?

She tightened her grip on her ouroboros pendant, her body tensing as if her own fate hung in the balance.

“Governor Boggond, who couldn’t be present due to matters of state,” Judge Mahabmet said, “is asking me to recap Areg Sebi’s charges so that all of you present understand their gravity.”

Etana’s heart sank.

The high judge pointed at Lord Sebi. “The man in front of you is not who you thought he was. He is no hero. He’s a traitor. He had colluded with Teteum at the end of the war in a conspiracy to discredit Eia’s legitimate government and Lord Boggond himself.”

“Prove it!” someone shouted from the middle of the crowd.

“Did he confess?” a second voice joined in.

Chief Ultek jumped up from his seat in the box and shouted to his men, “Find those whoresons! Bring them to me!”

“There’s no need, Chief Ultek,” Judge Mahabmet said, gesturing to the cops to stay put. “Those are legitimate questions.”

The crowd grew quiet.

The high judge forced a smile. “I don’t blame those young men. They only voiced what many in Eia are thinking.”

The silence grew laden.

Judge Mahabmet firmed his jaw. “I am not going to lie to you. We don’t have a confession.”

An “ah” tore through the crowd.

“But we don’t need one.” Judge Mahabmet pointed to Ultek. “Chief Ultek’s investigation has uncovered evidence which proves Areg Sebi’s guilt beyond doubt. We will present it to the citizens of Eia shortly, as soon as it is properly cataloged and recorded.”

Rhori gave Etana a disconcerted look as if he didn’t know what to think after that revelation.

She crossed her arms. No, honestly.

Her deferential brother was prepared to believe empty words just because a high-ranking lord had uttered them. Um… all right, a lord who happened to be a respected judge. And not just any judge, but the high judge of the Realm himself, a paragon of fairness and wisdom.

But then why did she, a laundry maid, doubt his words?

Oh, she knew why. Because of the other words spoken by Lord Sebi a few weeks ago in her employer’s house.

Those words had given her wings.

“Remember Lord Sebi’s talk at the Gokk House?” she whispered to Rhori.

He nodded.

“The wonders he described, the possibilities…”

“The amazing level-two tech,” Rhori said, his expression dreamy.

“Remember how harshly he spoke of the caretaker governor?”

Rhori knitted his brows. “What are you saying? You can’t possibly—”

“Resume the flogging!” Judge Mahabmet cried without taking his eyes off the crowd.

The flogger struck with renewed ferocity. Once, twice, three times… Red stripes erupted on either side of Areg Sebi’s spine, blood oozing down their length. His face became a grimace of pain as he groaned, but kept his jaws pressed together.

On the next stroke, his body surged and then fell limp, his head lolling.

Etana turned to her brother. “This is so wrong! I can’t just stand here and watch.”

“What can we do, Etti?” Rhori whispered softly. “What can anyone do to help the poor soul?”

She surveyed the scaffold. Dozens of heavily armed cops stood all around it. Rhori was right. There was nothing anyone—even the strongest and most agile of men—could do to help Areg Sebi.

Nothing at all.

Then why that feeling that she should do something? That she must do something? Because she could.

She screwed up her eyes. It was ridiculous.

Fancying herself a rich-blood endowed with a gift she could harness to rescue Lord Sebi was a folly. For starters, no gift she could conceive of would overpower the town’s entire police force. Besides, she had no gift. No one on Hente had them anymore.

After the Cataclysm, the air of the planet changed, and the radiation emanating from it suppressed all the existing gifts in the survivors. No rich-bloods were ever recorded since then, not even among noble-borns, with ostensibly more Ra blood than the others.

The loss of gifts was how Divine Aheya had punished Hente for its arrogance.

Everyone knew that.

As did Etana.

And that whirlwind she’d felt earlier? It had been just a panic attack. Or, worse—a figment of her imagination, a childish fantasy that she was special. Like the Gokks’ youngest, Benty, who would cover his eyes with his plump little hands and declare he was invisible.

The grown-ups and his older siblings would humor him. “Where is Benty?” they’d ask. “He’s gone. I can’t see him. Where did he disappear to?” The boy would squeal and clap his hands in delight before opening his eyes. “Bam! I’m back!”

That kind of delusion of power could be forgiven in a young child, even encouraged to an extent. But it was unpardonable in someone like her.

The flogger’s final blow shook Lord Sebi’s dangling body without drawing so much as a twitch from it.

He was unconscious.

The high judge stepped forward once again. “We are done for today. Areg Sebi will receive fifty more lashes here in Town Hall Square in exactly one week, next Firstday, the twenty-sixth of Mid-Summer, Xer-year 701 of the New Ra-human Era.”

The crowd rumbled, appalled.

“The man needs to recover!” someone shouted.

“You can’t do that!” Etana heard herself yell.

Several heads turned toward her, and Rhori gave her a round-eyed look.

“Oh, but we can and, given the gravity of his crime, we certainly will,” Judge Mahabmet said. “Unless he confesses between now and next Firstday.”

He wouldn’t. Etana was sure of it.

“But, confession or no,” the judge added, raising his voice, “my colleagues and I will return with a verdict on Areg Sebi by then. It will be announced here, next Firstday.”

“What do you think it would be?” Etana whispered to Rhori.

“For high treason?” He gave her an apologetic look as if to say, you know what.

“Death,” she said on an exhale.

“They never move this fast.” Rhori knitted his brows. “Even court-martials during the war didn’t move this fast.”

Etana hardly heard him.

Her mind was on fire, scrambling for options, for something, for anything she could do for Areg Sebi.

Perhaps…

She clenched her jaws, determined.

Tonight, as soon as she finished work at the Gokk House, she’d go to the temple. She’d beg the vestals to let her spend the night, and every night between now and the twenty-sixth, in their library. She’d read every code and custom book, every law, every compilation of decrees and edicts they had in there.

Since rescuing Lord Sebi through an imaginary gift was a nonstarter, perhaps there was a doable way to ease his suffering.

Maybe she’d find a law which forbade convicting a citizen ofEia, no matter his crime, without a proper trial and without a chance to defend himself. Failing that, she might uncover a ruling which prohibited giving anyone—even a convicted traitor—more lashes than the Ra-human body could endure.

Or maybe something else, completely unexpected.

If there was anything at all that could help Lord Areg Sebi, even in a tiny way, she’d find it.
She had to.

About the Author:
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Alix Nichols is an unapologetic caffeine addict and a longtime fan of Mr. Darcy, especially in his Colin Firth incarnation. She is a USA Today bestselling (April and June 2017) and Kindle Scout winning (December 2015) author of sexy romance novels that readers describe as yummylicious. According to Romantic Times, her books "will keep you hanging off the edge of your seat”. Kirkus Reviews claims they “deliver pure pleasure”. At the age of six, Alix released her first romance. It featured highly creative spelling on a dozen pages stitched together and bound in velvet paper. Decades later, she still writes. Her spelling has improved (somewhat), and her books have topped the Amazon charts around the world. She lives in France with her family and their almost-human dog.



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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Excerpt: The Highlander's Gift (The Stolen Bride Series Book 10) by Eliza Knight + giveaway

The Highlander's Gift (The Stolen Bride Series Book 10)
by Eliza Knight
March 27, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance
306 pages
An injured warrior… a lady who won’t let him fail…

Sir Niall Oliphant was betrothed to the Bruce’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, until she declares that his wound in battle has incapacitated him as a man. Because he does not wish to marry the spoiled royal, he is glad to pass her off to his brother Sir Walter. He's more than content to fade into the background with his injuries and remain a bachelor forever. Until he is presented with an offer from the Earl of Sutherland to marry his only daughter, a lass more beautiful than any other, who makes him want to stand up and fight again.

Bella Sutherland, daughter of one of the most powerful earls and Highland chieftains in Scotland, can marry anyone she wants—but she wants no one. When she spies the injured warrior at the Yule festival who has been shunned by the Bruce’s own daughter, she makes her choice. What is better than no husband? A husband who cannot truly be husband at all. But she won't be satisfied with letting him languish. If there's one thing she's learned, its not to give up.

With them both satisfied that they are gaining a marriage in name only, imagine their surprise when love blossoms and passion ignites?



An excerpt from THE HIGHLANDER’S GIFT
Copyright © Eliza Knight 2018

Dunrobin Castle, Scottish Highlands
Fall, 1306
“I want to be knight for the day.” A petulant lass with golden locks crossed her arms over her chest and glowered at the line of grubby lads with their wooden swords tucked into the corded belts of their plaids. For the first time in her short life, she had the chance to prove something.

“Ye canna. Ye’re a lass. Go back to the keep and help the maids with their chores.” Several of them snickered and rubbed elbows at that.

Snorting, another added, “Aye, go and milk a cow.”

“Or knead the bread.”

The list of chores typically delegated to females continued on for several minutes. All the while, the young lass’s face grew redder and redder, her fists tighter and tighter, until one particular lad stepped forward.

He opened his mouth to say something, but she didn’t let him get further than that. She tugged her arm back as she’d seen her brothers do, and let her tiny fist fly, landing hard on his chin.

Zounds, that hurt.

Her knuckles were instantly red and stinging. She thought the whole point of hitting a lad would be to hurt him, not herself.

Surprised, the lad stumbled back a few paces, eyes wide. “What the hell did ye go and do that for? I was going to tell these raven-gut idiots to give ye a shot.”

She was immediately contrite, but being as stubborn as she was, and feeling more than mildly embarrassed, she pursed her lips in a frown and refused to say anything at all.

The other lads were laughing, doubled over as they slapped their knees and rolled around on the ground, clearly not taking her seriously.

“Ye’re on your own then, wee chicken,” the lad said, backing away and rubbing his reddened jaw.

“Wait,” she whispered, stepping forward and looking at him nervously. “Ye’ll really let me try?”

He smirked, green eyes flashing with some emotion she couldn’t understand. “I’m not so sure anymore after the way ye just walloped me.”

The lass stiffened her spine, knowing exactly what mocking was when directed at her. “Why’s that? Ye think I fight like a lass?”

“Nay, just the opposite.”

Most of the lads had stopped laughing long enough to listen, surprised perhaps that the older lad had just admitted her blow had hurt.

“What do ye say, lads, are we scared to have her join in our tournament?”

“Scared?” They laughed. “Not on her life.”

“All right then,” the one she’d given a good smack to said. “We’ll let ye join us.”

She’d not planned for them to actually allow her. Och, she had all sorts of plans involving revenge and sneaking in dressed as a lad, but not once had she thought they’d welcome her. “And if I win?”

His smirk widened. “We’ll let ye be knight for the day.”

Thrusting her chin forward, she gave him a righteous smile. The other lads balked, because it wouldn’t be right for a lass to be the knight for the day, given that she was…well, a lass.

The lad, a little taller than his friends, raised his hand for their silence. “But laddies, ye recall what happens to the knight for a day?”

They narrowed their eyes, unsure what to say, for there was an ominous tone to his voice.

The lass wasn’t certain of what he spoke, either. She only wanted to prove she was good enough, show her da she could beat the lads at their own game, that sewing and wearing dresses wasn’t all she was good at. To prove that her brothers weren’t the only ones who could help defend their castle. But…what else happened?

“The knight has to choose his lady. Who will be your lady?” the lad asked her, his grin growing wider.

Well, she wasn’t going to be sucked into whatever trick he was trying to lay on her. Crossing her arms over her chest, she looked
 at him confidently. “Why ye of course.”

About the Author:
Eliza Knight is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty sizzling historical, time-travel and contemporary romance novels. Under the name E. Knight, she pens rip-your- heart-out historical fiction. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain with her own knight in shining armor, three princesses and two very naughty puppies. 


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Excerpt Spotlight: The Grown Ups’ Crusade (The Neverland Wars #3) by Audrey Greathouse + giveaway


The Grown Ups’ Crusade (The Neverland Wars #3)
by Audrey Greathouse
March 27th, 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Gwen has returned to Neverland with Peter Pan and the lost children, but this time, the adults are following close behind.

The Anomalous Activity Department has plans to finally conquer Neverland by bringing the final battle to the vulnerable island. The children will have to rally fairies, mermaids, and allies from other magical realms to stand a chance against the shadow-casting army of grown-ups heading for them.

The black-coat soldiers are far from their only problem. Lasiandra is missing. No one has seen her since Gwen left her at the lakeside with Jay, and the mermaids searching have found only grave omens in the stars. With the island on the cusp of a war that threatens to strip the land of its magic, the last thing Peter and Gwen need is the ancient flagship that appears on their horizon, sailing pirates straight for their shores.

When the battle begins amid old and new enemies, Gwen’s maturity will be a double-edged sword. She will either grow stronger or grow up… maybe both.



EXCERPT:
Gwen gathered fruit as fast as she could in the dim of the early morning. Mangos and marionberries, peaches and papayas, star fruit and oranges… she shoved the land fruit into her bag, never breaking pace as she trekked west across the island. She needed to get to the coast and back before any fairies awoke. The entire fairy population had indulged in joyful revelries the night before, celebrating some amorphous holiday unknown to humans. The dawn would find even the most temperate fairies still lolling in drunken dreams and merry slumber. But dawn had not yet arrived and not everyone slept; stars still speckled the bluing sky and certain inhabitants of Neverland were still speaking with them.

Tromping over vines and fungi, Gwen bushwhacked her way through the forest-jungle on anxious feet. The mermaids had not been helpful as of late.

The new mermaids she’d met wouldn’t even give her their names. Eglantine and Cynara had been snide at best, and contemptuous at worst. Gwen wouldn’t have minded it—she didn’t care what mermaids thought of her—but she felt certain they knew what had happened to Lasiandra and refused to explain. This drowsy morning offered her a chance to tempt them with an overabundance of land fruit without anyone noticing. She would persuade the mermaids to cede their starry secrets and hurry back before any stray fairy or curious child found her at the incriminating lagoon.

Gwen reached the wood’s end and hurried down the steps carved into the chalky cliff face. She moved so fast she half-flew toward the slender figures half-submerged in the lagoon.

Gwen had not seen Lasiandra since the night she escaped with Jay from Lake Agana. In the chaos, she had never retrieved the scale from Lasiandra, and thus lost her ability to call her friend. She hadn’t worried about it—until days and weeks passed without sight of her at the lagoon.

“What business have you with Lasiandra?” Eglantine had demanded last time Gwen visited. “What matter is she to you?”

“I’m just worried about her,” Gwen had answered, innocent and truthful. The region’s entire Anomalous Activity Department had been on duty that night, trying to apprehend lost children and capture whatever magic followed them. Lasiandra’s disappearance was ominous, to say the least. A few fairies had not returned from the mission, and there was no question of what fate had befallen them.

In response, the mermaids had only mocked her, contorting their melodic voices into cackling imitations of her land-dwelling accent, “I’m just worried about her.”

“Worried about her! Concerned about a mermaid?” Cynara had declared, insulted and amused. “We are not of such a feeble nature as you landmaids. Mermaids have more strength in a single scale than you have in all of your heart. You need not worry for a mermaid, girl. We can take care of ourselves.”

Gwen had wanted to believe her.


About the Author:

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Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University's online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at audreygreathouse.com


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: Wraith by Helen Harper

Wraith
by Helen Harper
February 25, 2018
276 pages
Magic. Shadows. Adventure. Romance.

Saiya Buchanan is a wraith, able to detach her shadow from her body and send it off to do her bidding. But, unlike most of her kin, Saiya doesn't deal in death. Instead, she trades secrets - and in the goblin besieged city of Stirling in Scotland, they're a highly prized commodity. It might just be, however, that the goblins have been hiding the greatest secret of them all. When Gabriel de Florinville, a Dark Elf, is sent as royal envoy into Stirling and takes her prisoner, Saiya is not only going to uncover the sinister truth. She's also going to realise that sometimes the deepest secrets are the ones locked within your own heart.

This is a stand-alone urban fantasy novel.

Wraith is a new standalone novel by urban fantasy author Helen Harper. It’s the story of Saiya Buchanan, a wraith living in besieged Stirling, Scotland. The inhabitants of Stirling have been caught in the crossfire of a goblin battle for regional supremacy and have been struggling to merely survive. For her part, Saiya’s status as a wraith allows her to surreptitiously collect and trade secrets as currency. Universally maligned, wraiths must protect their identities at all costs or risk swift persecution. Dark Elf diplomat and representative of the Scottish Prime Minister, Gabriel de Florinville, arrives in Stirling and soon finds that nothing is as it seems. When Saiya and Gabriel find the goblins are harbouring a catastrophic secret, they must work together to save Stirling and Scotland. This is one secret Saiya must trade with the utmost care.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wraith, devouring it in short order. It’s excellent urban fantasy with the exemplary storytelling I’ve come to expect from Harper. The book is non-stop action with a strong female character. The romance between Saiya and Gabriel is well-developed and deliciously executed. Harper deftly combines magical qualities with the grit of the real world. Enhancing the story’s depth are touches of historical fiction and undertones of social commentary. Additionally, the cover art is absolutely entrancing.

Wraith is a superb urban fantasy standalone and would serve as an excellent starting point for readers new to Helen Harper.

Five Sheep





Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
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After teaching English literature in the UK, Japan and Malaysia, Helen Harper left behind the world of education following the worldwide success of her Blood Destiny series of books. She is a professional member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and writes full time although she still fits in creative writing workshops with schools along with volunteering to teach reading to a group of young Myanmar refugees. That’s not to mention the procession of stray cats which seem to find their way to her door!

Helen has always been a book lover, devouring science fiction and fantasy tales when she was a child growing up in Scotland.

Helen currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with far too many cats – not to mention the dragons, fairies, demons, wizards and vampires that seem to keep appearing from nowhere!

Release Day: 1001 Dark Nights: Bundle Fifteen


  
We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the newest 1001 Dark Nights bundle! Introducing Discovery Author Sidney Bristol, the Bundle contains 5 novellas, including novellas from New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Larissa Ione, Lexi Blake, Rebecca Zanetti, and J. Kenner! Grab your copy of this incredible bundle today!

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Larissa Ione, Lexi Blake, Rebecca Zanetti, J. Kenner, and introducing Sidney Bristol.

March 27, 2018
1154 pages
Five Dark Tales. Five Sensual Stories. Five Page Turners.

RAZR: A Demonica Novella by Larissa Ione 
Meet mortal enemies Razr and Jedda...and the priceless diamond that threatens to destroy them both even as it bonds them together with sizzling passion. Welcome back to the Demonica Underworld, where enemies find love...if they're strong enough to survive.

ARRANGED: A Masters and Mercenaries Novella by Lexi Blake
As Loa Mali’s sovereign, KashKamdar is always in control, the final authority. Until his mother uses an ancient law to force her son into marriage. His prospective queen,Dayita Samar, is a buttoned-up intellectual, nothing like Kash’s usual party girl. Still, from the moment of their forced engagement, he can’t stop thinking about her. Could Day help him find respite from the crushing responsibility he’s carried all his life? This fairy tale could have a happy ending, if only they can escape Kash’s past…

TANGLED: A Dark Protectors—Reece Family Novella by Rebecca Zanetti
Ginny O’Toole has spent a lifetime repaying her family’s debt, and she’s finally at the end of her servitude with one last job. Of course, it couldn’t be easy. After stealing the computer files that will free her once and for all, she finds herself on the run from Theo Reese, a pissed off vampire who has never fallen for her helpless act. A deadly predator too sexy for his own good. If he doesn’t knock it off, he’s going to see just how powerful she can really be.

HOLD ME: A Stark Ever After Novella by J. Kenner
My life with Damien has never been fuller. Every day is a miracle, and every night I lose myself in the oasis of his arms. But there are new challenges, too. Our families. Our careers. I know we will survive—we have to. Because I cannot live without Damien by my side. But sometimes the darkness seems overwhelming, and I am terrified that the day will come when Damien cannot bring the light.

DANGEROUS ATTRACTION by Sidney Bristol
Ex-Navy SEAL Travis Ration is an expert hunter. Whether his prey is criminal or victim, he always gets his mark. When the FBI call in a favor and ask him to look into a serial killer over the holiday break, he jumps at the opportunity to fill the long, cold days with something besides regret and bad movies. In Las Vegas, he's on the hunt for a prolific serial killer no one wants to admit exists. The leads are dry and the evidence gone, until she walks into his life. Bliss Giles—curvy, sassy and everything he can't have.
Every Dark Nights tale is breathtakingly sexy and magically romantic.


About the 1001 Dark Nights Bundle Authors:



About the Author:

Larissa Ione is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. An Air Force veteran, she traded in a career as a meteorologist to pursue her passion of writing. She now spends her days in pajamas with her computer, strong coffee, and supernatural worlds. She believes in celebrating everything, and would never be caught without a bottle of Champagne chilling in the fridge…just in case. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her U.S. Coast Guard husband, her teenage son, a rescue cat named Vegas, and her very own hellhound, a King Shepherd named Hexe.


About the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband and three kids. She began writing at a young age concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance that she found success. Lexi believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome or foursome may seem. 

About the Author:
New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Rebecca Zanetti is the author of over twenty-five dark paranormals, romantic suspense, and contemporary romances. She lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her own Alpha hero, two kids, a couple of dogs, a crazy cat…and a huge extended family. She believes strongly in luck, karma, and working her butt off…and she thinks one of the best things about being an author, unlike the lawyer she used to be, is that she can let the crazy out.

About the Author:
Julie Kenner (aka J. Kenner and J.K. Beck) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres. Praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations,” J.K. writes a range of stories including super sexy romances, paranormal romance, chick lit suspense and paranormal mommy lit. Her foray into the latter, Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner, is in development as a feature film with 1492 Pictures. Her most recent trilogy of erotic romances, The Stark Trilogy (as J. Kenner), reached as high as #2 on the New York Times list and is published in over twenty countries. J.K. lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and several cats.


About the Author:
It can never be said that New York Times&USA Today bestselling author Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, tattoo addict and board game enthusiast. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she spends her time writing, reading, hunting Pokemon, playing board games and catering to her furry overlords, aka the cats. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Sheep Book Review: Guardian’s Bond (Ancient Ink, #1) by Rhenna Morgan


Guardian’s Bond (Ancient Ink, #1)
by Rhenna MorganMarch 12, 2018
Pages: 352
Genre: Paranormal/Fanta
sy Romance
Imprint: Carina Press
Priest Rahandras has lived with the darkness trapped inside himself for years. Betrayed by his own brother and forced to watch his clan’s brutal annihilation, the only thing Priest wants more than to escape the curse that haunts him—as both man and beast—is to rebuild. Until the mate he’s longed for walks into his life with an elder from his past. She’s everything he’s wished for, and the key to the clan’s very survival.

Kateri Falsen is a woman of logic and facts. While Priest’s cat can sense her arousal, telling her they’re fated won’t be enough. He’ll have to show her his love: with his words, with his actions and with his body. Protecting Kateri from the evil trapped inside him is paramount. But when lost clan members are systematically murdered, he’ll have to choose between exposing his mate to his black magic, or risking her as the next victim.

Book one in this new series starts off on a solid footing. I wasn't blown away by anything over the top exciting but I also wasn't underwhelmed or savagely disappointed by any means. 

I will say that some areas of the main characters did feel a tad underdeveloped. I wanted more backstory on the cast overall and why they were able to live for so long. What was their history? I felt like this was glossed over a bit or kinda left out. But that could also be me, as a reader, just not getting that portion. 

Some fun action and strong lead males that you come to expect in PNR. I did feel the hot and heavy parts of the romance sold me where maybe other sections lacked. Overall I liked this new series but hope that future installments come with more character building and less of the filler stuff. Bikes and tattoos are cool but...give me some more action and adventure! 

Getting 3 Sheep





KD

About the Author:
A native Oklahoman, Rhenna Morgan is a certified romance junkie. Whether it’s contemporary, paranormal, or fantasy you’re after, Rhenna’s stories pack romantic escape full of new, exciting worlds, and strong, intuitive men who fight to keep the women they want. For advance release news and exclusive content, sign up for her newsletter at http://RhennaMorgan.com. You'll also find all of her social links there, along with her smoking hot inspiration boards.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Paperback Release: The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George + giveaway

The Confessions of Young Nero- Paperback
by Margaret George
March 20, 2018
544 pages
Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition
Behind each Roman Emperor’s climb to power lie the grand ambitions and chilling machinations of those closest to him. And none match the spectacularly theatrical and fraught sequences that carried a sixteen-year-old boy from the periphery of the royal family directly into the palace and then placed him on its throne.

New York Times bestselling author Margaret George has brought history to vivid life with her critically-acclaimed biographical novels of historical figures including Helen of Troy, Mary Magdalene, Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scots, and Henry VIII. Now, she casts her eye to the last member of Julius Caesar’s dynasty, to remold and humanize the boy of whom history has made a caricature. Emperor Nero, who ascended to Rome’s ultimate seat of power at sixteen, is enshrined in popular memory as a hedonist, a tyrant, and cunning executioner. But the truth behind the caricature reveals a boy, an artist, an athlete, and a ruler who was both a product of his time and his mother Agrippina’s relentless ambition.

Nero’s life—riddled with murders, rivalries, plots, orgies, and incest—is sensational on its own. But for George, THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO is not just an opportunity to tell his story. It is an attempt to rehabilitate his image, and to expose the truth and complexities about both a man—and a time period—that has been much mythologized. George spent five years researching the novel, but her idea of resetting Nero’s villainous reputation has been building for more than thirty.

When he is just a small child, Nero’s mother, Agrippina, is released from exile by her elderly uncle—the newly crowned Emperor Claudius. Agrippina quickly plucks Nero from his modest upbringing, and embarks on a ruthless pruning of the family tree to ensure what she believes is her son’s rightful place in the Palace. Her naked ambition, cunning, and well-placed doses of poison help the obstacles fall one by one, until a teenage boy is given control of an Empire. Both tempted and terrified to assume his reign, Nero’s indoctrination into the incest, violence, luxury, and intrigue that have gripped Rome’s seat of power for generations will shape him into the man he was fated to become. 

George covers the unfolding of Nero’s life and legacy, including his forced marriage to his cousin Octavia at fifteen; his passion for a beautiful ex-slave and other love affairs; the influence of the great philosopher Seneca on his reign; and his attentiveness to his political duties, including the improvement of Rome’s courts and public amenities. George uses Nero’s expansion of theatres, athletic games, chariot races, and musical performances as a window into the powerful artistic and athletic impulses that governed him, and which made him a champion of the common man—the men among whom he’d begun his life as “Lucius,” until fate made him forever “Nero.”

Like Mary Beard’s revisionist history of ancient Rome, SPQR, NERO both challenges our assumptions of that time period and taps into readers’ fascination with the Empire. Readers of Philippa Gregory will adore and find much to discover in George’s latest novel.

The author will continue Nero’s story in a second book this fall, THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK, which picks up during the ill-fated, final four years of his young life, as he faces his biggest test and challenge: the Great Fire of Rome.

About the Author:
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Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. Her THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII had its 30th anniversary this past September, and continues to be popular. ABC-TV based its 1999 Emmy-nominated “Cleopatra” miniseries on her THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.

Margaret’s father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing ‘books’ about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew. Her published works are: THE AUTOBIOGAPHY OF HENRY VIII, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES, THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA, MARY CALLED MAGDALENE, HELEN OF TROY, ELIZABETH I, and an illustrated children’s book, LUCILLE LOST. Her newest one, THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO, is coming out in March 2017.

Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sextagenarian tortoise as a pet.

GIVEAWAY
one print copy of The Confessions of Young Nero
US only
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Double Book Review: Looking for Dei by David Wilson

Looking for Dei 
by David Wilson
March 23, 2018
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 348
Magic, adventure, and a search for the divine…

Fifteen-year-old Nara Dall has never liked secrets. Yet it seems that her life has been filled with them, from the ugly scar on her back to the strange powers she possesses. Her adoptive father refuses to say anything about her origins, and soon, she and her best friend must attend the announcement ceremony, in which youths are tested for a magical gift.

A gifted youth has not been announced in the poor village of Dimmitt for decades. When Nara uncovers the reason, she uses her own powers to make things right. The decision sets her on a path of danger, discovery, and a search for the divine. In the process, she learns the truth about herself and uncovers the biggest secret of all: the power of broken people.

Denise B
Getting 4 sheep 
Nara lives in a small, poor village called Dimmitt with her adoptive father Bylo. Nara knows that she possesses strange powers but her father will not tell her anything about where she came from. Soon her best friend Mykel and herself will have to attend the announcement ceremony and be tested for magical gifts. She is terrified about what they might find in her. A gifted hasn’t been uncovered in her village for decades and when Nara discovers why, she takes it upon herself to set things right. 

This is a creative storyline filled with good versus evil, gifted talents, secrets and more. Wilson crafts interesting characters in this young adult adventure. Nara is loyal to a fault and will stop at nothing to help those that she loves. Mykel is devoted and in love with Nara and will give anything to keep her safe. This well-written book is the first in what I hope continues to be a successful series.


Jeanie G
Getting 3.5 Sheep
Nara, a young girl living in an orphanage, was abducted by someone searching for a "separated" twin with multiple gifts. Raised in an obscure town with her benevolent captor, Nar keeps her magic secret as long as she can.

She does not know she is prophesied as a "savior" and one half of a good/evil pairing.  She sees the gifts as uses to imbue her town with prosperity, not understanding that she is a sought-after commodity.

When her gifts are discovered, her captor/guardian whisks her away to try to hide her from those that would try to exploit her talents.  Along for the ride is her closest friend who is in love with her and a "watcher" (a rival Barron's employer) who has been sent to discover those with magic abilities.

Life becomes a struggle for escape and survival for the group.  Nara has loyalty and treachery among her daily worries as she searches for "Dei" and her destiny.

Enjoyable young adult read even if predictable.  The writing and storyline had a nice flow but I didn't find my heart pounding or my heart melting. I felt that it would be a great read for those that appreciate stories with young adults taking on challenge and strife and trying to do the right thing.


About the Author:
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David A. Willson – I grew up all over the US west coast and Alaska, living more than 20 homes before I was 18 years old.  Through all the change, I found books to be my happy place.  I read YA, sci-fi, fantasy, and as I moved to adulthood, I began to enjoy mainstream fiction. 



Through my life, a recurring interest has been promoting/defending the welfare of children.  Whether it be raising my own kids or protecting others, child welfare has been my primary effort - personally and professionally.  As I get closer to retirement, I hope to entertain and encourage youth through my creative efforts.