Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Review: 'Vampire Academy' by Richelle Mead

Occasionally, I see a movie that sends me running to read the book it was based on. The Thin Red Line's film adaptation inspired me to read James Jones' entire Wartime Trilogy, which occupied much of my reading time in 2012. When I saw The Prestige, not only did I develop my Titanic-sized crush on Christian Bale, but I was also so intrigued by the story, I read Christopher Priest's novel.

So it was with Vampire Academy. I saw the movie on Valentine's Day (review here) and couldn't get it out of my head. Earlier this week, after a session of ghostwriting at my local library, I sauntered over to the YA section and checked out the first Vampire Academy novel by Richelle Mead.

As I expected, I liked the book even better than the movie. It explained some things that weren't clear, or that I got wrong, when I watched the movie. I thought Rose's mother was a human, for one thing, but it turns out her mom's a famous guardian and a Dhampir. I didn't know the child of a Dhampir mother and a vampire (Moroi, specifically) father was also a Dhampir. This explains Rose's mother's aloofness.

I was slightly less horrified by the dead and wounded animals when I was reading about them than when I saw them on screen. Sometimes it's the visual that really gets you. I know some people were just the opposite on this, but when I read about Rue's death in The Hunger Games, it didn't affect me on such a gut level as when I saw the scene acted out by the beautiful young Amandla Stenberg.

On the other hand, some parts of this book that were delightful to see on film were even more delightful to read. Christian and Lissa's kiss, for example. Richelle Mead's writing shines most when she's writing about a strong passion, whether it's lust, anger, or Lissa's healing powers.

What I hoped would be explained better in the book than it was in the movie - Lissa's Spirit power, and elemental magic in general - wasn't really explored as much as I'd hoped. True, as the first book in the series, Vampire Academy had to pack in a lot of exposition, and perhaps Mead picks up the theme more in later novels.

I find the "fifth element" concept a little fascinating. As a word nerd, I think it's cool that the word "quintessential" literally means "of the fifth element." But what is the fifth element, exactly? What is Lissa's quintessence?

I think I'll read on in this series. I'm curious to know whether Rose ends up with Dimitri or whether she meets someone her own age.

In the meantime, since I don't have the second book in the series, Frostbite: A Vampire Academy Novel, in front of me, I've picked up The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Midnight by L.J. Smith. For me, it'll be the last book in the series, since I'm only reading the ones actually written by Smith.

I AM still reading Middlemarch, but very slowly, as it deserves to be read. It is not exciting book. Even though Jane Eyre told me I would like it if I liked Jane Eyre, I am almost 200 pages in and I am not finding this to be the case.

Enter to win Midsummer Night - Pagan Spirits Book 2 - from Goodreads through March 27

Our crime thriller Eminent Domain is a Kindle Bargain, only $3.99 for a limited time

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection Introduces Beatrice Tollman's Memoir 'A Life in Food'

DELRAY BEACH, FL, Feb. 25, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is proud to introduce A Life in Food, Beatrice Tollman's memoir, travelogue and recipe book. President and founder of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, Tollman was also awarded as European Hotelier of the Year 2012, European Hospitality Awards.

The book is a celebration of life and travel, filled with recipes from the heart, many of which have been passed down through the family or discovered during far-flung adventures. Bea Tollman's kitchen expertise and experiences as a traveler, mother, and hotelier are showcased in a fascinating collection of personal reminiscences and favorite recipes.

The book also tells the story of how The Red Carnation Hotel Collection was established, and reveals the inspiration for some of the most popular dishes enjoyed at each of its hotels around the world. Many of the signature dishes, which guests come back for time and again, are those which Bea Tollman has collected, refined, and perfected - and that she personally teaches to each chef in every property.

These dishes include hearty traditional favorites such as Chicken Noodle Soup with Mini Chicken Pies, Shrimp Stroganoff, Lemon Chicken, and Pasta Primavera. Favorite dessert recipes featured include Bea's Rice Pudding, as well as the perennially popular Bea's Cheesecake, a Triple-Baked Delight with Creme Fraiche Topping, Strawberry Syrup and Fresh Strawberries. Each dish is presented with a fascinating story of how the recipe came into being.

Creative Commons image by user A R
It is thanks to Bea Tollman's passion and belief in unparalleled levels of service that makes The Red Carnation Hotel Collection one of the most renowned hotel companies in the world. "My driving passion is to make every stay memorable for every single guest, to offer great value for money, and to make them feel truly welcomed and special. I believe having this at the heart of everything we do is what has led to the success of the company," she says.

A Life in Food is available for sale at each of the Red Carnation Hotels, retailing at $39, as well as on Note that the cost of the book is subject to monetary fluctuations. In the United States, all proceeds go to the Safe Harbor Sanctuary and Animal Hospital. In South Africa, all proceeds are donated to The Amy Biehl Foundation. In the UK, all proceeds go to the Starlight Children's Foundation and The Tick Tock Club (Great Ormond Street Hospital
Children's Charity).

About The Red Carnation Hotel Collection

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is an award-winning collection of five- and four-star family-run boutique hotels in London, Dorset, Guernsey, Geneva, Palm Beach, South Africa and Ireland. Each property has its own individual character and unique location that reflects the local environment, culture, and cuisine. They all share the qualities that win Red Carnation so many prestigious awards - splendid luxury, generous hospitality, inventive and traditional cuisine, private art collections, passionate service, and loyal staff committed to creating richly rewarding experiences for all their guests.

Creative Commons image by user Rick Kimpel
For more information about The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, please call toll free from the USA/Canada at 1.877.955.1515 or from Europe, Australia and New Zealand at + 800.1698.8740. Visit us at or email

About The TreadRight Foundation

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is part of a joint initiative with The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by The Travel Corporation to encourage sustainable tourism within our own family of brands and in the places we visit. To date, TreadRight has donated more than US $2 million to sustainable tourism projects around the world. To find out more about our work with TreadRight, visit:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Manday Hotties #4 - Vampire Academy Edition

Manday Hotties Hop - Every Monday!

Happy MonManday! If you like, you can read my review of the Vampire Academy movie based on the Richelle Mead series here. In the meantime, enjoy the movie's male stars.

In the color photo, you can see that Dominic Sherwood has heterochromia iridum, or eyes that are two different colors. And it's beautiful.

I would also like Danila Kozlovsky to play Vlad in the movie versions of Beltane and Midsummer Night, please.

If you think for a moment that Gabriel Byrne being 63 years old - two years older than my dad, even - prevents me from having a crush on him, you would be wrong. He will never be too old for me to crush on, but will remain on my perma-lust list along with Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon, and Sir Ian McKellan.

In fact, I think my St. Patrick's Day post this year will be nothing but Gabriel Byrne.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Paranormal Mystery Excerpt and #Giveaway With Shah Wharton

Shah first published Finding Esta, book one of her paranormal mystery series, back in December 2012. Since then, she has continuously revised it as she improves her craft. Most recently, it has even changed enough to warrant a second edition. These changes include one whole new chapter and lots of polish.

Read my review of Finding Esta here. 

The giveaway begins Feb 1st 2014 and runs till 31st March 2014 - that's two months - and offers TEN winners one e-copy of this new edition. :) Here's the new cover for the e-books...

2nd Ed. Published Jan. 2014 (Includes another chapter and lots more polish!)


Do you love your mystery to have a paranormal theme? Do you enjoy characters who evolve, but come with cracks? Do you love urban fantasy with soul? Read on...

"Finding Esta" is the tumultuous tale of one extraordinary woman's journey of self-discovery within a Cornish supernatural underworld.

Numerous psychic flaws have always cursed Luna, a fledgling journalist. She desired validation from cruel parents, and intimacy without physical pain or mental anguish. But she is denied both. Luna has friends: Flo and Ada. Unfortunately, they have one incredible thing in common: They're both dead.

Flo lives in Luna's mind, like house-share. But Ada prefers to kick dark Shadow booty in the Shadow Lands, like some kind of super-granny.

When Luna investigates baby-Esta's abduction, it leads her to a Cornish supernatural community, she loses contact with life-long Shadow friends, and soon enough, her fragile sense of identity implodes, as each incredible revelation steers her to a singularly mind-blowing question:

˃˃˃ "What am I?"

Twenty-three years left in tatters at her feet, Luna's mind fractures beneath the weight of grief and lies, all obscured by an innate suspicion of everyone and everything.

Is Luna being called by fate, by the power of the moon, by an alien species, and by a vampire who visits her dreams, to begin her destiny as defeater of evil; the hybrid liberator of all Supes? Will Luna ever find her Shadow friends again? Will she possess strength enough to deal with unearthly creatures, chronic indecision, and a growing dissociation with everything she once believed? And in the end, will she find poor Esta, or live long enough to tell her story?

The answers to these questions are not what you might think!


"The true source of her empathy is mind-blowing." By Book Reviewer: Wandalyn Thomas

"It's a great tale that's part Nancy Drew, part Harry Dresden, and part Underworld, with a dash of Weapon X thrown in for good measure." By Author: Tom Winship

"Be ready for things you will not expect." By Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite

"Finding Esta is an urban fantasy tale with a riveting plot that hooked me from the very first page. It is the firs installment of Shah Wharton's Supes series and cleverly weaves both mystery novel and supernatural tale together. By Valerie S. Fowler: Book Reviewer

"Can't wait for the next one. Truly amazing story best book I've read in a long time I hope the next one comes soon." By Wrainbeau: Book Reviewer

"Will finding Esta be the beginning of Luna's

journey, or the end?"

Here's the new cover for the print edition...




eBook Edition | and internationally.

Print Edition

*This second edition (Jan 2014)

brings a new chapter and lots of polish.



First three chapters of Finding Esta

Unfortunately, this didn't come out great on this blog, so alternatively, you can go to

The Giveaway: Ten FREE E-Copies of Ed.2 of Finding Esta.
Giveaway runs till 31st March 2014.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review: 'The Anonymous Girl' by Holy Ghost Writer

The Anonymous Girl by Holy Ghost Writer (HGW) is the sequel to That Girl Started Her Own Country (review here). The first novel in this series is The Sultan of Monte Cristo, a contemporary follow-up to Alexandre Dumas' 19th-century masterpiece. Sultan followed the further adventures of Edmond Dantes, Mercedes, and Haydee; That Girl switched the scenery to the 21st century, following the adventures of a descendant of Dantes and his mistress Raymee.

At least one other volume of the series - The Sovereign of Monte Cristo, which I have read - takes place in the 19th century on an American plantation. Quite frankly, I'm not entirely sure what order the entire series is meant to be read in, but Sultan definitely comes first.

The protagonist of The Anonymous Girl is Zaydee, and she's still in the process of starting her own country. She doesn't know she's a descendant of Edmond Dantes and Raymee, but she seems to be edging closer to the truth about her heritage. She's also connected somehow to a secret society called the Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo. Like the previous book, this one hints at conspiracy theories, but very little is revealed. I keep hoping the next installation will tie things together in a neat package.

Within this fictional world, Zaydee may be the true identity of the fictional character Lisbeth Salander. Steig Larsson, in this fictional world, is a pen name of U.S. journalist named Steve Larson, and Steve is a former lover of Zaydee's. This volume introduces a new wrinkle to the story, though: Zaydee has an identical twin sister named Liz. Steve didn't realize they were two different people even though he had relationships with both of them - so, chances are, Lisbeth Salander is based on some characteristics of both sisters.

This time around, Liz is extremely concerned for Steve's safety, but Zaydee seems convinced he's safe but has been taken into some kind of custody for his own protection. This is the first time the sisters have spoken in several years.

Speaking of custody, Zaydee is still residing in a federal prison in Florida. She's getting increasingly fed up with the criminal justice system, and she uses her superior hacking skills to get some sweet revenge on a couple of FBI bozos. These scenes are typical of the wicked humor throughout these stories, some of what makes them so fun and enjoyable.

Zaydee has really grown on me as a character, partly because she's so smart and competent, and partly because in some ways she resembles her famous ancestor The Count. She plays fast and loose with the American legal system, but you can't help but root for her dream of starting her own micro-nation with mostly women in all the important positions of state.

A new character in this volume is Remey, the heir of a biotech company whose father is working on a transhumanist project involving manipulating the human genetic code and furthering evolution at a greatly sped-up rate. Zaydee throws a spanner in the company's works, much to the chagrin of Remey's father. Remey takes Zaydee's side, turning his back on his family and his connections to a second secret society, Skull and Bones. Remey's character is well-written because when he comes into Zaydee's life on one of her excursions outside prison walls, it's unclear whether he's going to be an asset or a liability to her. By the end of the novel he seems to be trustworthy, but there's a bit of mystery to his character.

This fast-paced series continues to draw me in, and I look forward to reaching the end and having some answers to the questions raised by the secret societies and the exact nature of the link between the present day and the Count of Monte Cristo's time. I tended to take the series a little too seriously at first. You have to have fun with it. It's like a fun, breezy Dan Brown thriller.

"Holy Ghost Writer" is the pen name of an undisclosed author. The person who discovers his or her true identity has the opportunity to win a $1,000 prize. To enter, one has to e-mail a guess to prize AT sultanofmontecristo DOT com.

I purchased this book with my own funds from Barnes and Noble.

This is an affiliate link:

Erinyes by George Saoulidis. $4.99 from
When a sheltered teenager starts noticing a hazy face following her in her photographs, she begins to investigate an urban legend. But will she uncover the truth when she gets in trouble with a technology corporation, when an enigmatic hacker starts telling her conspiracy theories and when the hazy face becomes all too real and starts chasing her non-stop?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cover Reveal: Kemberlee Shortland's Irish Pride Trilogy, Book Three

Irish Pride series, book three
Kemberlee Shortland

Cover design by Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs --


Gráinne has moved back to Dublin to get her life straightened out. She dreams of college and a better life. She’s working for her brother, Kieran, in his newly reopened pub, The Blues Tavern, but the money isn’t enough to support herself and pay tuition. Moonlighting at The Klub! as an exotic dancer seems to be her answer fast money.

John ‘JD’ Desmond is a detective working undercover in the Blues Tavern. The Klub!, owned by Jimmy Malloy, is being used as a drug front, headed by the notorious Taylor Wade. JD had intended to get Gráinne to snitch for him, but when he falls in love with her, things get complicated. 

When Gráinne witnesses Jimmy’s murder, she and JD are forced to go on the run until Wade can be apprehended. Wade lives up to his nickname, The Hunter, and JD and Gráinne quickly find themselves at the end of a gun and running for their lives.


Over the next couple hours JD tread lightly around Gráinne and peace settled between them. He hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to her again with the evening prep, but as he looked at his watch he knew her shift ended soon.

He’d tried almost every tactic he could think of to get her to reveal more about herself and he was getting anxious at her continued aloofness. He didn’t want to have to resort to seducing her. While the idea of getting her into bed was appealing, he just preferred to do it under other circumstances. He fancied her like hell, but he couldn’t let his libido get in the way of his job. She was his best hope at getting the information he desperately needed. So he’d have to resort to another tactic if he was going to get her to talk. Blackmail was one he was loath to use, but at this stage in the game, he had little choice.

There was a lull in the pub now that the afternoon crowds were gone and the evening prep had been done. If he was going to confront her, he had to do it now.

Gráinne stood at the end of the bar flipping through a magazine. The twinkling Christmas lights over the back bar shone on her dark hair. As she moved, the highlights reflected like electric current through the strands curling around her face. His heart thumped a little harder looking at her.

He reminded himself he wasn’t here to bartend. He was here to gather information. His future depended on it. He couldn’t afford another wasted day so it was now or never.

His pounding heart made it suddenly hard to breathe. He hated having to do this to her.

“Gráinne, can we talk?”

“Talk?” She put her magazine aside. “About what?”

“I think you know.” He locked gazes with her. He could tell she was nervous by the way she started fidgeting.

Then she turned away, refusing to look at him for longer than a millisecond. “My love life is none of your concern,” she told him, reminding him unnecessarily of their previous discussion.

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Then I don’t know what you mean.” She spun on her heel, intent on leaving the bar area.

He grasped her arm. To his surprise, she didn’t struggle. But something odd happened as he loosened his grasp. He felt something powerful pass between them. His fingers tingled as he touched her. It radiated up his arm and shot through his body.

For the second time today, he felt himself stiffen, and wished that circumstances were different, that she was naked beneath him and gazing up at him with eyes he knew would undo him.

She glanced over her shoulder, but not directly at him. “Let me go.” Her barely audible words shook him back to the moment. It wasn’t a command, but he couldn’t help noticing her words were tinged with pleading.

“Will you stay to talk with me? I think this is important.” His own voice was softer now. When she relaxed he reluctantly released his hold. She kept her gaze averted, her arms folded protectively in front of her, refusing to look at him. He knew she was waiting for something, anything, to draw her away.

Reaching under the bar, he extracted the black plastic sack he’d brought in with him today. He knew the item inside would shatter any peace he hoped to make with her.
He looked at the sack for a moment, thinking about what could never be between them. There was a job to be done and it didn’t include getting emotionally involved. He hoped the more he reminded himself of this fact he’d eventually come to believe it.

Sighing, he extracted a black velvet bra and held it up for her inspection. She only cast it a side-glance.

“I take it you know where I got this.”

“Anne Summers?”


“Well then, I have no idea.”

He saw her swallow hard then move over to the taps to pour herself a cola. She swallowed deeply from the glass.

“I think you do. Let’s not . . . dance . . . around the subject, Gráinne. We both know where I got this, and I’d lay odds at Paddy Powers your brother doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.”

His heart ached as he forced himself to goad her.

The look she shot him would have incinerated the average man, but he wasn’t average. He was a man with a mission, and Gráinne was the only one who could help him.

“By that look, I’d say I’ve hit the nail on the head.”

“So, what of it.”

“Why haven’t you told Kieran?” he asked, trying to keep his voice calm.

“I somehow doubt he’d understand why I’m . . . moonlighting.”

JD chuckled lightly. “Moonlighting? Is that what they’re calling it these days?”

“Just stop. What do you want from me? Not that it’s any of your business what I do on my own time.”

“I need your help.”

A single brow arched over her eye. “With what? Wait, let me guess,” she seethed, throwing her hands on her hips. “You want a private show. Or you want me to entertain some friends. And you’re going to use this,” she fingered the bra he still held in his hand, “as a bribe to get me to do it for free.”

“Not quite. While I wouldn’t mind a private show, it’s not entertainment I’m looking for.”

“What’s this?” Kieran suddenly appeared behind the bar, startling them both. JD saw Gráinne’s face go pale, and thought she would faint then and there.

Book One: Rhythm of My Heart

Book Two: A Piece of My Heart

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cover Reveal: Kemberlee Shortland's Irish Pride Trilogy, Book Two

Irish Pride series, book two
Kemberlee Shortland

Cover design by Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs --


Mick and Kate thought they were falling in love. Kate hadn't been just the girl next door. She'd been Mick's life, and he hers. When an unforeseen force draws them apart they're left with wounds that refuse to heal. Now, ten years on, Mick's father's will should have been straightforward, except his addendum was like ice water in Mick's face.

It's essential that Mick and Kate work together to save his family's farm. Mick doesn't count on his new manager being accused of murder, and Kate doesn't expect a dangerously seductive woman from Dublin to claim Mick is the father of her child.

Kate thought she was falling in love with Mick all over again; however this newest revelation is too much for her. She is determined to finally say goodbye to her childhood sweetheart forever, but Mick has other plans for Kate's future. And none of them involve goodbye.


“What are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you too, Mick.” She opened one eye to look at him.

He stood just inside the solicitor’s office door. He’d expected Kate at the funeral service yesterday, but he couldn’t see any reason for her to be here today.

He scowled in her direction, then strode to reception. The clerk behind the desk turned a harried glance his way, continuing to sort folders beside her computer. “Can I help you?” she asked, not bothering to stop what she was doing.

“Michael Spillane to see Tighe Lynch,” he grumbled.

Finally looking up, the clerk said, “He’s expecting you. I’ll let him know you’re here.”

As the clerk reached for the intercom, he turned back to Kate. If this hadn’t been his father’s solicitor’s office and if today hadn’t been the reading of his father’s will, he would have appreciated the sight of her in her smart dark blue suit, white blouse with the Irish lace trim, and matching blue pumps. She sat calmly, her head against the wall behind her, eyes closed. She bent her shapely legs under her and crossed them at the ankle, her hands folded in her lap.

Her emerald eyes hid beneath lids edged with thick dark lashes. He knew the exact shade of them since he’d looked into them so often in the past. They were eyes no man could forget.

Her normally unruly black hair was pulled back in a twist and away from her heart shaped face.

When they were kids he used to love it when she left her hair down. The tight curls of it bounced over her shoulders like springs when she ran. He’d seen her like that once last year when he’d been home for a couple days during Christmas.

They’d been invited to join the Conneelys, but he’d convinced his father not to go. He couldn’t bear being in the same room with her for so long, but she’d delivered food and he’d suffered anyway.

He recalled how he’d stiffened just watching her walk across the farmyard. As he did now. He mentally shook himself. This wasn’t the time or place to get an erection. The business at hand was the will and what she was doing here now. Not the fact that just looking at her could make him stiff.

Clearing his throat, he repeated, “You didn’t answer my question. What are you doing here?”

Her eyes fluttered open. The look she gave him made his heart skip a beat. His groin tightened again watching her tongue smooth its way over her lips. She had no idea just how erotic that simple act was. She was about to speak when a door opened behind him. Both of them spun to face Tighe Lynch.

“Mickleen,” Tighe exclaimed, using the common endearment and thrusting his hand into his. “Welcome home, lad. I just wish it were under different circumstances. I can’t tell you how much Donal will be missed.”

Mick could only tip his head at the man’s kindness. Words were still too hard to come by.

Tighe grasped Kate by her shoulders as she stood to greet him and kissed her on both cheeks. “Kate. Lovely as ever. Won’t you both step into my office?”

Not one to stand on ceremony, Mick strode through the door ahead of Kate and Tighe and went right into the solicitor’s office. He knew where it was. Was it really only a little more than two years ago he’d been here to discuss his mother’s will?

His scowl deepened when Kate walked through the office door ahead of Tighe. He got the perfect look at her shapely bum as she was forced to step between him and the desk to the seat beside him. He shifted in his seat, crossing his legs and pulling his coat around him to hide his erection. He kept his mind on wondering why she was at the reading of his father’s will to keep his libido under control.

Surely, she’d earned a regular wage for the time she spent cleaning his father’s house and cooking his meals. She was hired help and would have been paid accordingly. So there should be no reason why she should be here today. Unless there was something the solicitor knew and wasn’t telling them. Yet.

“I thought this was just a formality, Tighe. Why is she here?” He couldn’t even use her name. Just the feel of it in his mouth would leave him tongue-tied.

Tighe stopped him with an upheld hand. “If you’ll both bear with me, I will explain.” The solicitor turned to a folder on his desk and opened it, extracting two documents. Holding one before him, he said, “This is your father’s will, Michael. It’s all very straight forward. In it, the farm, the stock, the land—almost everything is left to you.”


“We’ll get to that, lad,” Tighe said.

Tighe looked at Kate and held up the second document.

“This is the addendum to the will.”

“Addendum?” she asked.

“An addendum means that instead of making up a whole new will, Dad just changed it.” Mick, not looking at her, directed his statement to the solicitor and waited for the shoe to drop.

Leave it to his father to make this more difficult on him than it already was. Wasn’t it bad enough he couldn’t get rid of the tremendous feeling of guilt for not spending more time with him? He never wanted to believe—or admit—his father was that sick. Sure, Kate called him regularly with updates. He heard everything she’d said, but why the hell hadn’t he listened to her!

“Changed the will?” she asked. “Is that right, Mr. Lynch?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Tighe replied. “It means he added something into the original will.”

“When was this?” Mick asked.

“If you’ll allow me, I’ll read what Donal has bequeathed. If you have any questions we can go from there. Right?”

Both Mick and Kate nodded agreement. Tighe read the will as it stood and then the addendum. Mick couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That bastard!” he muttered. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the wide glares both Kate and Tighe gave him at the curse.

“Mr. Lynch.” Kate’s voice came on a whisper. “What does this mean? I don’t understand it.” Her eyes were big as she clutched the arms of her chair now, knuckles as white as her face. Gone was the cool Kate he’d seen in the waiting room. In a matter of minutes she’d gone from radiant to ashen. He was sure he wasn’t looking too good right about now either.

“Yes, can you explain it in plain English?” he asked. Why do will readings always have to be so damn dramatic?

“In plain English, your father left everything to you, Michael. However, the addendum states if you try to sell the farm, I have instructions to give everything to Kate.”

Book One, Rhythm of My Heart

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Cover Reveal: Kemberlee Shortland's Irish Pride Trilogy, Book One

St. Patrick's Day is a mere month away, so Kemberlee Shortland would like to reveal the book covers of her Irish Pride Trilogy. Today, Book One: Rhythm of My Heart.

Irish Pride series, book one
Kemberlee Shortland

Cover design by Kim Killion at Hot Damn Designs --


Artist Representative, Eilis Kennedy, gave up a singing career so that other women could have a fair chance at having their music heard. Having suffered rejection from callous men in the industry, she thought she would get away from ‘casting couch’ mentality. But when she finds herself in the office of Fergus Manley, all bets are off. Disgusted by his continual come-ons and lewd invitations, Eilis is looking for ‘the one’ who will take her career to the next level, getting out from under Fergus’s controlling thumb.

Aspiring blues guitarist, Kieran Vaughan, is looking for his big break. But after suffering near bankruptcy at the hands of an unscrupulous business partner, Kieran is left picking up the pieces. He’s unsure if the debts will ever be paid or if he’ll ever have a chance to do something with his music. At his whit’s end, he’s about ready to throw in the towel and find a full-time job with real hours.

When Eilis discovers Kieran playing in a seedy pub in Dublin’s Northside, she knows he’s the one rare talent she’s been searching for. With her know-how and his talent, Eilis will finally get everything she’s been waiting for. Neither of them count on the powerful attraction from first meeting. Eilis is so rocked by Keiran’s forthright words that it sends her running. Kieran risks being arrested as he chases Eilis across Ireland.

Seeing what’s happening between Eilis and Kieran, anger wells inside Fergus and he steps up his pursuit of Eilis. Refusing to let Kieran get in his way, Fergus vows to add Eilis’s notch to his bedpost, whatever it takes.

Will Kieran be able to protect her?


Dublin's Northside looked far different by day than it did at night. Last night’s storm had been one of the season’s worst. Huge puddles hampered traffic, and trash had collected in the corners of doorways and blocked the gutters. The lingering breeze was still crisp and signaled the imminent winter. Wisps of dark clouds streaked the pale blue sky but remained reminiscent of last night’s tempest.

As the taxi drove through Dublin’s inner city, a blur of tacky euro shops, shoddy newsagents and off-licenses, all with shop fronts that had seen better days, flashed by.

Finglas wasn’t noted as one of Dublin’s prime locations. This was a large blue collar suburb in a rapidly expanding city. Lack in a pride of ownership was evident, as residents struggled to make ends meet, which gave the area a rough underbelly. The Little Man Pub was a perfect example of both.

Eilis wrapped her arms around her middle, instinctively protective. Was this the compromise she must face to get where she wanted?

When the taxi slowed at a junction, she pressed herself back in her seat. A group of out-of-work young men sipping something from a paper bag spun their heads and looked at her.

Just this once, just this once, she chanted to herself.

Just this one trip to find Kieran Vaughan and that would be it. She’d never have to come back to this place ever again. She could stay safely tucked away in her D2 house for the rest of her days. She’d worked hard for that house. She deserved it. She deserved it all the more now by putting herself through this.

Long ago, Eilis had vowed never to set foot in the Northside again. But if it took this one last visit to get what she needed, it would be worth it.

The taxi pulled around the corner and the now familiar entrance to The Little Man Pub came into view. Nicotine-stained curtains were pulled across windows, reflecting the unkempt street. The façade’s red and black paint was weather-faded to pink and gray. The ‘M’ on the sign hung askew and swung in the breeze, and the ‘P’ was missing altogether. Had she not been here last night she would have thought the place was shut.

She pulled some money from her purse to hand to the driver. “I’ll wait fer ye, luv,” he said, waving her money away. “Taxis can be hard to come by ‘round here.”

Eilis was suitably taken aback. “Thank you. I won’t be a moment.”

She swallowed hard, got out of the taxi then entered the pub.

Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark room. The few men sitting around the bar turned their gazes in her direction. Understandably. A well-groomed businesswoman in the pub was surely a novelty. These men were long since retired, or long since employed. Their stubbled faces meant they hadn’t shaved in several days, or possibly weeks. The dim light hid the worst of their unkempt appearances, but nothing could disguise their unwashed clothes. A pong in the room wafted into her nostrils, causing her stomach to lurch again.

Shoulders back, she strode to the bar.

The same man from last night stood behind the counter. He was short and pudgy with missing front teeth. His disheveled appearance made him look like one of his patrons. Had he not been behind the counter she wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

His striped brown and white shirt had frayed cuffs and was open to mid-chest, showing a sweat-stained t-shirt underneath. His brown trousers had seen much better days and were held together not with a button or belt, but with a bit of twine looping between his belt loops, his round belly spilling over. The only thing holding up the trousers was his equally round bum. It seemed to push the waistband up in the back as his belly pushed it down in the front. The sight would have been funny if her stomach hadn’t been flip-flopping.

Her voice cracked when she first spoke, but it picked up strength in her determination to make something of this horrid trek. “A-are you the proprietor?”

A broad gap-toothed grin creased the man’s face and, loud enough for his patrons to hear, he said, “I’ll be who ever ye want me to be, luv.”

His friends burst into laughter. Eilis felt the flush rise in her cheeks. Not because she was embarrassed, but from frustration. She just wanted to get this meeting over with and she wasn’t in the mood to spar.

She stood her ground. “I’m looking for the man who played guitar here last night. Kieran Vaughan. We have business. Will you please tell me where I can find him?” She looked the man in the eye, much as she could, considering she stood a good half-foot taller than him, even without her heels.

“No, miss, I doubt you have any business with himself. ‘Speshly a fine lass such as yerself. Now, if ye were to come home with a real man like meself, well . . .” He left the rest unsaid, the insinuation hanging in the air.

Her gaze never wavered as she stared the little man in the eye.

“Sir,” she smiled sweetly, honey dripping from her words. She leaned over the bar just enough to give him a glimpse of the swell of her breast through the opening of her blouse. “I doubt you have anything I would be interested in. Besides, you don’t really want me to find out why this place is called The Little Man, do you?”

This earned the publican long oohs and sniggers from the patrons, who were now on the edges of their seats waiting to hear the disagreeable little man's response.

Obviously taken aback by such a brazen retort, the man stood gaping and red-faced at her for a moment before he got his wits about him. He winked at the men around the bar. “Oy does like me birds feisty!” That only encouraged more laughter.

Eilis could have enjoyed the banter if only the man wasn’t so repulsive. All she wanted to do was meet Kieran Vaughan and get out of Finglas as quickly as possible.

When the laughing stopped, Eilis’s gaze never wavered as she said, “Well?”

“Well what, loov?” he asked, wiping the tears from his eyes with a dirty bar towel.

“Are you going to tell me where to find Kieran Vaughan?” He was trying her patience, but she did her best to keep the frustration out of her voice.

Then she sensed someone step up behind her and straightened instantly. Somehow she knew it was Kieran. The feral scent of him permeated her senses and quickened her pulse. Butterflies replaced the strange ache in her stomach that had been there just moments before.

She slowly turned and looked up at the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her life. She found herself instantly speechless.

She'd seen him on stage the night before and knew he was handsome. But this close up . . . Never before had she seen such blue eyes. As she gazed into them, they changed from the light steel blue to the color of storm clouds heavily ringed with gunmetal. That he had dark brows and thick lashes only made his gaze seem more intense.

“Ye’ve found him, loov,” said the little man, taunting her. “Now what are ye goin’ ta do with him?”

The hammering of her heart and the pulsing blood in her temples blocked out the noise in the room as she looked into Kieran Vaughan’s eyes. To her dismay, her knees actually quivered.

Something in the pit of her belly ached. No, something else. It was like warm melting honey running through her marrow. In that moment she longed to touch him, to brush the unruly wave of his dark hair away from his face, to feel his lips against the pads of her fingers, to . . .

When he spoke she almost didn’t hear him.

“Like the man said, now that you’ve found me, what are you going to do with me?” His eyes sparkled with unabashed mischief.

“Anything you want me to.”

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Movie Review: Vampire Academy

An Odd Valentine's Day

Warning: the first part of this post is going to be a bit of a ramble. If you just want the straight movie review, skip down to Rose Is So Badass.

My Valentine's Day was an odd one. In the morning, Tit Elingtin and I went to a pancake house for a lovely Valentine's breakfast. I had a crepe stuffed with vanilla yogurt, fresh strawberries (they are shaped like hearts, after all), fresh blueberries, and granola. Yum!

Then, off to our day job, remodeling - I'm back to working as assistant remodeling since my steady editing contract ended - where we dug mud out of a semi-frozen hole. We're desperately trying to install a sump pump before the snow melts and floods the basement we're remodeling. So glamorous! I don't think I need to mention how badly I want another steady editing gig.

At 3:40, we hurried home so I could change my muddy jeans and boots. I hopped in my mom's nice, clean, warm car and we went to the movie theater. It was still early - we caught the 4:40 show - so most of the couples out on date night weren't yet there to see Endless Love, Labor Day, or Winter's Tale.

The Pre-Movie Show

We didn't quite have time to eat a salad at Panera like we originally planned, so we needed popcorn. I ordered a large Diet Coke and got a plastic Divergent cup, which I'm going to keep as a souvenir. We're about five weeks away from the Divergent movie premiere.

Before the actual movie trailers, one gets commercials. Today's commercials included a promo for the A&E television series Those Who Kill. One star of the series is James D'Arcy.

The lovely English actor has very striking bright blue eyes. He makes me sad, though, because I'll always think of him as Rufus Sixsmith from Cloud Atlas. Sixsmith/Frobisher tragic romance feels - activated.

I may have let slip a quiet "Squee!" during the trailer for the Veronica Mars movie. I loved that series, even though I only started it on DVD because I loved Enrico Colantoni so much on Person of Interest. But what's not to love? Veronica is smart, she's snarky, she can take care of herself, and she's played by Kristen Bell. (I'm still mad that Syler killed her on Heroes.) Unresolved Veronica/Logan feels - very much activated.

This was followed by the The Fault in Our Stars trailer. I already saw it on YouTube, but this was my first time seeing Hazel Grace and Augustus on the big screen. TFIOS tragic romance feels - way, way activated. I have a feeling I'm going to quietly sob my way through that entire movie.

Now for our feature presentation.

Rose Is So Badass

So: Vampire Academy. I did not read a single book in the series by Richelle Mead. Mead's website says there are six books in the original series and then a spinoff series. I only saw the trailer once on TV, so I knew very little about the movie going into it. Basically, we only saw this one because it had "vampire" in the title. I expected something like a vampire version of Hogwarts.

Which it sort of is, because the vampires do learn magic, although their magic is more elemental (earth/air/fire/water) than what Hogwarts teaches.

To sum up the story in a non-spoilery way for anyone else who hasn't read the books, I shall quote from Vampire Fun & Games: Trivia, Puzzles and Games That Don't Suck by H.W. Kondras:

"In this series, the main character is Rose Hathaway, a half-vampire who is training to be the bodyguard for her best friend, vampire princess Vasilisa Dragomir. There are two kinds of vampires in this series: Moroi, living vampires who can wield magic, and the Strigoi, undead who feed on the innocent to survive. Vasilisa (or Lissa) is the last of her family line and a princess of the Moroi. While learning how to defend her friend from the Strigoi, Rose falls in love with her instructor, Dimitri, at the Academy, and even in vampire circles, a teacher-student romance is frowned upon."

Lissa is a gentle soul, somewhat sad after her parents and brother Andre were killed in a car accident, very loving towards animals and her friends, and a little otherworldly. She's played by Lucy Fry. She's absolutely gorgeous, with an ethereal quality that reminds me of Amanda Seyfried or a young Michelle Pfeiffer.

I like Lissa, but I really like Rose. Rose is a badass who lives for protecting Lissa from the Strigoi - and sometimes from herself. She's not just a bodyguard; she's the best friend any woman would love to have. She has strong opinions, a snarky personality, and killer fighting moves, and although she's a Dhampir - human mom, vampire dad - she's more Buffy Summers than Bella Swan.

Rose is played by Zoey Deutch. She played Emily in Beautiful Creatures.

Boys, Boys, Boys

Now let's talk about the love interests, Christian and Dmitri. Christian Ozera is something of an outcast at the vampire academy, the formal name of which is Saint Vladimir's. (St. Vladimir was one of the moroi.) His parents chose to become Strigoi and had to be killed. Tainted with a whiff of evil, Christian is generally assumed to be on the same path as his parents, liable to go bad at any time. However, when he and Lissa find themselves alone together, the flirting begins almost immediately. At first Lissa doesn't return Christian's affection, and Rose tries to scare him away, but Lissa comes to bond with the man in black.

Christian is played by English actor Dominic Sherwood. He looks like the illegitimate child of Robert Pattinson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Yum.

Dimitri Belikov's introduction to Rose involves deflecting her attack by violently throwing her to the pavement. It's a thing that they have: she's always trying to attack him when he's least expecting it. But he's just doing his job, trying to protect the princess, and teaching Rose to do the same. The tattoos on the back of his neck indicate Dimitri has killed six Strigoi. His badass level is through the roof, so it's no wonder why Rose would dig him. He's her teacher, though, and he's eight years older than her - she's 17 - so their relationship can't go beyond flirtation on her end, at least until after she turns 18 and graduates.

In one scene, Rose and Dimitri fall under the spell of an enchanted necklace. She bursts into his room, where he's reading on the bed. They kiss passionately. He rips off her dress and throws it into the fireplace, then pounces on her. Before they can go too far, though, he takes the necklace off her, and the spell is broken. A small part of me thought, "Yes! Do the thing!" But most of my brain thought, "This is highly inappropriate!" I do want Dimitri and Rose to be together, but only AFTER she turns 18 and graduates.

Dimitri is played by Danila Kozlovsky, a Russian actor. He is absolutely gorgeous in the long black wig, and with his pale skin and dark hair, he looks a bit like Bill Compton from first-season True Blood. Yum.

Cruelty to Animals

I must warn you if you go to see this film, there is some cruelty to animals. It's not on-screen, but in two instances, dead animals are shown. One is a fox, and the other one is Lissa's pet cat. This did not sit well with me at all. If you're very sensitive to violence against animals in films, you may want to skip this one.

If you hurt my cat, I will jam a silver stake through you heart, whether you're a Strigoi or not.

Gabriel Byrne Is Still My Sweet, Sweet Baby

In this movie, Gabriel Byrne plays Victor Dashkov, a friend of the Dragomir family and member of one of the other twelve Moroi royal families. The twelve families take turns ruling; the queen at the moment is named Tatiana, and she's kind of a jerk. At first Victor seems like a sweet old guy suffering from some vampire disease, and the dad of Lissa and Rose's classmate Natalie. (Natalie is played by Sarah Hyland, best known on U.S. TV as Haley Dunphy on Modern Family.)

Naturally, he has a hidden agenda. I won't spoil it, but I will say that although his character in Vampire Academy turns out not to be a good guy, Gabriel Byrne is still my sweet, sweet baby. You can read more about my Gabriel Byrne fetish in "The Older Dudes I'd Most Like to See Lewd."

Overall Impression

Overall, I liked this movie. In some ways it was a rather predictable high school comedy/drama with vampire mythology tacked on, so I'm under no illusions that it's one of the greatest films ever produced. For what it was, though, it was fun. It made good on its promise, at least for someone like me who hadn't read the book. The young women who sat in the row in front of us in the theater did say a lot from the books was left out, but that's to be expected from a book-to-film adaptation. As I always say, a movie is a snack, but a book is a buffet.

Plus, the movie had a nice anti-bullying, anti-slut shaming (sexuality shaming, if you prefer) message.

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Shift by Madison Dunn. $8.99 from
I'm not sure why it happens, but when I focus just right, I can slow time. Things around me become lighter somehow, and I almost feel the tiny particles of energy spinning inside of them. The thing is, having the ability to transform the world around you isn't all it's cracked up to be -- especially when you are running from the Valencia without any deodorant.

Friday, February 14, 2014

MG #BookReview: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra (2012) is the first novel by Colm McElwain. With an 11-year-old protagonist, this fantasy will appeal to readers aged 8-12. The titular hero is a foster child who's recently come to live with a vaguely neglectful woman named Anne Brown. Brown, as James calls her, has also adopted slightly-younger Ben and Mary.

When the reader first encounters James, he's in the midst of a petty crime, stealing warm hats and gloves for himself and his brother and sister from a store in the mall. Hiding from the mall security guard, he runs into a psychic who warns him of grave dangers. Her prophecy is fulfilled when Brown packs the trio off to James's (presumably) biological grandfather's mansion for the winter holidays.

McElwain lists C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling among his influences, and it's easy to spot the influence in his work. Like Lewis's Professor Digory Kirke in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), James's grandfather, Wilmore Clyde, knows a lot more about a mysterious hidden world -and its connection to his own labyrinthine mansion - then he first lets on. That hidden world is the Orchestra of the title. Orchestra is divided into two kingdoms: fair Zara and foul Darken. The wicked Queen Abigail of Darken, who would get along well with Narnia's white witch Jadis, intends to rule both once she obtains Orchestra's fabled diamonds.

The trio of James, Ben, and Mary may remind some of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. Ben, more down-to-earth than idealistic James, serves as the hero's foil. Mary, the youngest at only eight, is often the damsel in distress, although she's capable of delivering wisdom when needed.

It rests solidly on the firm foundation of British fantasy novels for young readers, but James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is original enough to delight. Its short chapters, fast pace, and brisk action make it an ideal read for the middle grade age group. Readers who enjoy this novel will have to wait and hope for another installment. Although McElwain has mentioned an idea for a second novel in interviews, he had no definite plans to continue James's story.

Published by Matador, an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd., James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra is available as an e-book and a paperback through in the U.S.  The e-book retails for $2.49 and the paperback for $8.00. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

'Bring on the Heat' Erotic Romance Boxed Set: On Sale Through #ValentinesDay

Bring on the Heat ~ Sale ends February 15

Available at $.99, now through Valentine’s Day!

Bring On the Heat: Erotic Romance Box Set
(Bad Boys and Alphas and Handcuffs, Oh my!)

A collection of erotic tales from today’s hottest authors, featuring BDSM love stories, ménage romps, and everything in between. No matter what your taste in erotic romance, we’ve got you covered and then some! Warning: These stories may require readers to seek out a cold drink and a hot man…


Eden Bradley - Breaking Skye Contemporary BDSM
Cassandra Carr - Caught Contemporary BDSM
Stephanie Julian - An Indecent Proposition Contemporary ménage
Amber Kallyn - Burned (Dragos, book 1) Paranormal/shifter
Keira Kohl - Laundry Day Contemporary
Adriana Kraft - Cherry Tune-Up Contemporary ménage
Emma Lai - Riding Rodeo Contemporary Western ménage
Anh Leod - Clockwork Captive Paranormal/steampunk
Ann Mayburn - First Kiss Contemporary BDSM FemDom
Cari Quinn - Jingle Ball (More the Merrier book 1) Contemporary ménage



Reviews for the Boxed Set:

Five Stars: “Hot can't even begin to describe this book. Makes one want to say please Master may I have another!”

Five stars: “Feel like I hit the jackpot with this boxed set!”

Five stars: “I loved every single one! This collection is amazing! One hot steamy sexy story after another!”

Reviews for specific stories:

Cherry Tune-Up, by Adriana Kraft: Five Stars “Well, after meeting Jack, no other man would ever come into my stream of consciousness again.”

First Kiss, by Ann Mayburn: Five Stars “Super sweet fem-dom. I want a Ryan of my own.”

Caught, by Cassandra Carr: Five stars “The story picks up right away and keeps you on a roller-coaster.”

Breaking Skye, by Eden Bradley: Five Stars “Together, we experience a beautiful story of love, healing and the power of a good, sexy spanking.”


Riding Rodeo, by Emma Lai

The bell over the door tinkled as a new customer entered the bakery. When she glanced over the shoulder of her current customer, elderly Mrs. Thompson, Amanda Goodson’s breath caught. Bright afternoon sunshine from a beautiful late-spring day entered the storefront window and cast a delicious glow over the tastiest man Amanda had ever laid eyes on. A navy blue T-shirt clung to broad shoulders, a muscled chest, and six-pack abs. Brawny thighs strained the denim of a pair of faded jeans, and she knew from a previous encounter that the material hugged a firm ass.

She licked her lips. The rodeo was back in town.

When their gazes locked, Sean Cassidy winked. Thanks to the shirt, his eyes were more blue than gray, almost as blue as the clear sky over Houston today. He strode toward the counter with a slow rolling of hips, his cowboy boots?polished to a high sheen?clomping against the slate floor with each step. The rhythmic tattoo of his sexy walk called to mind their one headboard-banging-against-the-wall, marathon ride.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She wasn’t sure if it was her heartbeat or echoes of her memory. Sweat moistened her palms, but it wasn’t sweat tickling the insides of her thighs. Damn the man. He could still make her cream her panties even though their one-night stand happened more than a year ago.

One year, six months, and some change, but who was counting?

Burned, by Amber Kallyn

The Other was here.

Lowering the truck window, Calla Dragos sniffed the chilly afternoon. Pine trees, asphalt. All overshadowed by the distinct stench of sulfur. Her stomach lurched, vileness rising to choke her. As she drove into the blink of a town, it grew stronger, overpowering all other senses.

Drawing closer to the Jasper Fire Department, she focused on keeping her clammy hands on the wheel, her concentration on the light traffic. Keeping her foot on the gas pedal, rather than slamming the brakes and fleeing.

How could he be here?

It was bad enough her job as an arson investigator brought her to this small, mountaintop town of Jasper, Arizona. Bad enough she’d left her family behind in the midst of yet another argument about her independence. The possibility of facing Eric brought tremors to her body.

Parking her cherry red pickup in front of the station, Calla shaded her eyes from the late afternoon sun and searched the colorful wood-front buildings. The stench faded.

Eric marked her, then fled. Like a coward. And he was a coward. She needed to remember that fact. Otherwise, the fear coiling in her heart would drive her batty.

After a couple deep breaths, she calmed the nausea a little. She could do this. She would do this. And if that bastard decided to show up, she’d face him with all her strength.

Calla stepped from the truck on shaky legs, smoothed her navy skirt and slipped on the matching jacket. Reaching across the seat, she grabbed her oversized black bag, which held a notebook, pens and her kit. After another soothing breath, filling her lungs with the crisp mountain air, she headed around the corner to the firemen’s entrance.

Giggles drew her attention to a group of barely-eighteen girls, scantily dressed. And the man they huddled near.

In nothing but low-slung jeans, the top button carelessly undone, the man gave off the rugged air of a male underwear model with a sexy, take me to your bedroom now look. His blond hair, slightly too long for a clean-cut look, dripped water, from a recent shower maybe. Or a drenching with the hose. The scruff on his chin, a shade darker than his hair, enhanced the bad boy aura.

Get your copy of Bring on the Heat now
while the sale price lasts!
Price goes up from $.99 to $2.99 on February 15

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