Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cover Reveal: Blue Bottle Tree by Beaird Glover

Blue Bottle Tree by Beaird Glover
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Published by: The Parliament House

Synopsis:


There’s no such thing as Voodoo. At least, that’s what most of the Baptists in Bellin tell themselves. But Seven LaVey knows better. 
In a small rural town just outside of Nashville, Voodoo conjures and curses simmer and seethe under the noses of the many who will never know. Seventeen-year-old Seven romanticizes about the meaning of life while held captive as a zombie under the shell of a kiddie pool. He's counting on the strength - and maybe even love - of a certain redheaded clarinet player to save him. But will she?

Filled with betrayal and revenge, two families struggle with a curse that stretches back to Voodoo-ienne Marie Laveau in this contemporary southern gothic adventure. Prepare for a wildly original twist on the paranormal.

About the Author:


Beaird Glover grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee. He graduated from The Evergreen State College of Olympia, Washington, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing. He then moved to Southern California and wrote Secret Ciphers of the 1876 Presidential Election (Aegean Park Press). He has traveled extensively and lived in eleven of the United Sates, and Taipei and Buenos Aires. His poems have been published in the New York Quarterly and his chapbook of poetry was selected by the Austin Chronicle as one of the Top 10 Best of 1994. More recently, he acquired a Bachelor of Science degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn and has worked as a physician assistant. Beaird now lives in New Orleans with his wife Kim and their cats.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: The Boy in Red by E.M. Holloway

The Boy in Red (The Sum of its Parts #4) by E.M. Holloway 
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Genres: YA - Paranormal - Urban Fantasy - GLBT

Find it On: GoodReads / Lulu
My Rating: ★★


Synopsis:


Just when Puck thinks he might get a break, a warlock turns up in town and starts targeting his pack with dark magic. With no better options, Puck is forced into a cat-or-mouse game with their enemy. The struggle to keep his pack safe takes its toll on Puck in more way than one, and he finds himself facing threats he never would have expected.

My Review:


If it's even possible, I think this may have been better than the last book!

The Sum of It's Parts series has two incredible things going for it. One, it is an incredibly diverse an inclusive cast of characters with well handled social issues. The second is that it is a damn good story!

All of these books are somewhat episodic. This picks up with Puck, a human alpha of his werewolf pack, and the rest of his gang just sort of doing their thing. They hold down a territory--where sometimes threats pop up and are dealt with, they go to high school, they have teenage drama, and they do wolfy things. It's frequently mentioned that minor trouble arises in between books, but each book picks up when a major event happens. I find it refreshing that the overarching story is supplemented by these events, but we aren't subjected to absolutely everything that happens to the pack. It gives me the sense that these characters live outside of the confines of the pages.

In this particular installment, the pack is being threatened by a warlock who has shown up in town with no apparent intention other than to screw with Puck's life. The whole last book was about him proving that he is a good alpha, despite being a human, but that was judged by a tribunal of other werewolves who have led wholly supernatural lives. Without giving away too much of the plot, this was a beautiful shift in Puck's character as Sebastian largely challenges Puck on his humanity. After all, the moral compass of a supernatural being is something different than that of a human. As it has been so important to Puck to remain human in the face of everything, it's fitting to finally see what that really means with the lifestyle he has chosen.

Now for the meaty stuff. I am personally both someone who suffers from PTSD and identifies as asexual. I know that no narrative or fictional character can ever truly be a stand-in to generalize any sort of social label, but let me tell you, I *get* these characters. There's something to be said for an author who doesn't just use PTSD as a plot device. In fact, Puck's PTSD, even more than his tangible flashbacks and memories, largely affect his life in the way it effects his general sense of personal safety and security. Understanding the mind of a character living with that takes a lot more than a WebMD search of PTSD symptoms, so major props to Ms. Holloway.

The reason I picked up this series in the first place was that it was lauded in asexuality communities as a well-written asexual relationship, and I whole heartedly agree.

"I'm straight, but in love with Connor even though I don't want to have sex with him, and Connor's asexual, but in love with me, so it all works out even though there's no word for it in the general population's vocabulary."

That quote is pulled from a conversation where Puck is explaining to an outsider who Connor is. But short of this explicit info-dump, this relationship hits the nail on the head of the old "show don't tell." Puck and Connor are a beautiful exploration of a relationship that is entirely devoid of sexuality with no loss of intimacy. Reading four books now, I've been terrified of the point where the author will buckle down and have them do something sexual, but as it stands, they have not so much as kissed, which is just beautiful to me. Ms. Holloway is able to portray two people who love each other enough to just curl up in a ball and cry on each other, but not give in to the easy route of telling their story with tropes or grand romantic gestures.

This series is beautiful. Truly. It's not just a SJW textbook of how to write inclusive fiction--it's a fully developed story that doesn't shy away from difficult issues or complex characters. Please do yourself the favor of picking this up!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Guest Post With Sara Baysinger, Author of Ashen City

When I got my hands on my much-anticipated ARC of Ashen City by Sara Baysinger, I was also first in line to sign up for a quest post with this amazing author. After shooting a few emails back and forth, we agreed on our mutual interest of the topic of the evolution of the dystopian genre!

If you like what you read, please check out my review of her new release, Ashen City, and be sure to purchase it on Amazon!



The Evolution of the Dystopian Genre, by Sara Baysinger


I was so excited when the subject of the evolution of the dystopian genre popped up as a blog topic for me to write about. For those who don’t know, dystopian is the opposite of utopian. While utopian is about a paradise-like government where everyone is equal and pretty much happy, dystopian is a government where everything is…not so perfect. There’s usually oppressive leadership, a large gap in class systems, and little-to-no freedom.

Most people think The Hunger Games when the dystopian genre is brought up, but this genre has been around long before we fell in love with Katniss.

The Giver by Lois Lowry was a big hit, published in 1993. 1984 by George Orwell was published in 1950, and just recently became the number one bestseller on Amazon when Trump was elected into office. Dozens of other dystopian books were written long before The Hunger Games, and you can find a list of some of them here.

However, we must pay Suzanne Collins her due. The Hunger Games brought the dystopian genre back with a bang, using a lot of influences from history. (Mainly, Ancient Rome.) Divergent by Veronica Roth was released shortly after, solidifying dystopia as a worthy genre. Other authors followed behind, all with their own creative ideas of what the future could potentially look like based on our current priorities as a society.

So where does my own dystopian series, Black Tiger, fit into all this?

A lot of people have likened Black Tiger to Divergent and The Hunger Games, and rightly so. But while I did borrow the idea of a mega city from Divergent, the oppressive government similar to The Hunger Games, and while I was heavily influenced by Tehereh Mafi’s writing style in Shatter Me, Black Tiger has certainly taken on a form of its own.

Setting:
The Community Garden is a fictional place close to my heart, mirroring the lifestyle I grew up with, while Frankfort mirrors the big city I moved to when I was in high school. Ember deals with the same fears, claustrophobia, and introductions to the new culture of city life that I did. I feel like I’ve taken my teenaged self and placed her in the Black Tiger world. Though I was never nearly as outspoken or stubborn as Ember, I certainly was hesitant to step into the spotlight like her.

Politics:
A large influence on Black Tiger from our own society was the politicians. I remember learning about the ungodly amount politicians get paid while they're in office—and keep getting paid long after they’re out of office—while others in this country are breaking their backs for minimum wage. This in itself is a form of dystopia to me, so I took it and magnified it. Hence, Black Tiger was born.

Heroine:
Unlike the action packed stories with strong heroine leads that a lot of dystopian books encompass, Black Tiger focuses more on character development, relationships, and a main lead who would rather remain under the radar than perform any risky heroic deeds. (Much to many reader’s dismay. Sorry!)

Religion:
Many bestselling dystopian books don’t talk about religion much, other than a brief mention of God. (Though there are more out there than you think.) While I don't see Black Tiger as overtly religious, I do approach God in an organic, natural way, using my own experiences with the Divine. To some this is a turn off, and understandably so. To others it’s what made them pick up the book. To me, I feel like we’ve all questioned God in one form or another at some point in our lives—whether we came to believe in something or not—and this was Ember’s journey.


So those are my thoughts on the evolution of the dystopian genre. What about you? What thoughts would you add or disagree with?

Cover Reveal: Wildwood by Jadie Jones


Wildwood (Wildwood #1) by Jadie Jones
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Published by: The Parliament House
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal

Synopsis:


Tanzy Hightower is not crazy. At least that’s what she tells herself. She also tells herself that the shadows stalking her in the woods aren’t living, murderous beings. 

On her father’s death, Tanzy is swept up by the woods and the shadows that took him. She quickly realizes those monsters lurking in the dark now have their sights set on her. Neither Tanzy nor life as
she knows it escapes unchanged when she is introduced to a world…unseen. 

Two strangers seem too willing to help her navigate her new reality: Vanessa Andrews, a doctor’s trophy wife with a southern drawl, and Lucas, a quiet, scarred man with timing that borders on either perfect or suspect. But Tanzy has secrets of her own. Desperate for answers and revenge, Tanzy must put her faith in their hands as her past comes calling and the shadows close in.

With wild blood coursing through her veins, will Tanzy’s choices shed light on the shadows of her past, or will they bring forth the darkness within her?

About the Author:


Young-adult author. Equine professional. Southern gal. Especially fond of family, sunlight, and cookie dough.
I wrote my first book in seventh grade, filling one hundred and four 
pages of a black and white Mead notebook. Back then I lived for two things: horses and R.L. Stine books. Fast forward nearly twenty years, and I still work with horses, and hoard books like most women my age collect shoes. Its amazing how much changes... and how much stays the same.
The dream of publishing a novel has hitch-hiked with me down every 
other path I've taken (and there have been many.) Waitress, farm manager, road manager, bank teller, speech writer, retail, and more. But that need to bring pen to paper refused to quiet. Finally, in 2009, I sat down, pulled out a brand new notebook, and once again let the pictures  in my head become words on paper.

As a child, my grandfather would sit me in his lap and weave tales about the Cherokee nation, and a girl who belonged with horses. His words painted a whole new world, and my mind would take flight. My hope - my dream - is that Tanzy's journey does the same for you.

Website / Blogspot 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Review: Ashen City by Sara Baysinger

Ashen City (Black Tiger #1) by Sara Baysinger 
Publication Date: April 6, 2017
Genres: YA - Dystopian - Romance

Find it On: Amazon / GoodReads
My Rating: ★★


Synopsis:


Make your choice, Ember Carter. And make it count.

Ember Carter has escaped the flames of death. But will she ever be free from Chief Titus? When the orchard goes up in smoke and her family turns up missing, Ember returns to Frankfort hoping to find her brother and father, and to get Titus to drop the death wish he has against her.

But Titus is always one step ahead. When Ember faces him head-on, she’s captured, only to receive another death sentence. But on her way to her execution, plans go a little askew, and Ember finds herself traveling to the one place no one dares travel: Louisville. If the outskirts of Ky were a ghost town, the ashen city is the borderline of hell itself, but it’s the one place Ember can find refuge from the people who want her dead.

In the ashen city, Ember must learn that being a hero is more than doing what is right because she can, but doing it for the good of the people. And when plans take a turn for the worst, she must decide if it’s worth risking her life to save her country.

About the Author:

Sara Baysinger grew up in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where she spent her childhood exploring uncharted lands and reading all things magical. She now lives among the endless cornfields of Indiana with her husband and two young children. Sara enjoys writing and reading anything out of the ordinary, and has a bad habit of zoning out at the most inopportune moments. She is currently considering seeking medical attention for her potentially life-threatening coffee addiction.


My Review:


*This book was graciously received as an ARC from the author.*

Oh my oh my oh my, where do I even start!

Well, to begin my praise: I read Black Tiger as an ARC six months ago. Since then, I've probably read 30 books, and yet the world of Black Tiger was still as fresh in my mind as if I'd read it yesterday!

Ember thought her life returned to normal when she got permission to go back home to her father and brother. She was even followed by her now-boyfriend, Forest, so things seem pretty great. But of course Chief Titus isn't going to let someone as important as Ember off the hook that easily. It's only weeks of peace before she is thrust back into the center of a political intrigue that she never asked for, and no one to help her except maybe the Turner brothers - if she can trust even one of them.

Ember continues to be an awesome protagonist. To quote my review of the first book, I'm hardcore team Ember-just-gets-to-be-happy-and-safe-no-matter-what. Which, I mean, is unfortunate because that doesn't sound like it's happening any time soon, but I also love when a protagonist is a self-sufficient in her story that I root for that. Ember is against the awful things the government is doing, but she didn't ask to be in the middle of the fight. She spends much of the book resenting her mother for putting her in this position and really wants nothing more than to run away from it all. She starts with just wanting to protect herself and her loved ones, and even more so than the first book, Ashen City is Ember's journey to find the love for her people to hold herself accountable for their well-being.

I have shipped Ember and Rain from the start, and that never seems to be good news when the love triangle has swung the opposite way that it should. But Baysinger pulled it off great! Without getting into spoilers, her relationships with Forest and Rain evolve in a natural and well-paced way for her trust and affection to shift based on what's going on around her. Neither boy is entirely right or wrong. Forest is an extremely flawed love interest without being a "bad guy," and Rain becomes endearing without being made any less edgy and impulsive. In fact, from all ends, no characters sacrifice their personalities or morals to make way for romance. I think that's what's left me hung up on these character's stories since I dove into this series.

Another major point of credit I have to give to Baysinger is that she made me realize what a lot of dystopian books are missing: religion. Living in a major American city, I live in a fairly agnostic society where religion minimally impacts my daily existence, but regardless of my own beliefs, I would find it very reasonable to believe that with America falling apart at the seems people wouldn't look to faith to find guidance. How is it that The Hunger Games or Divergent's societies aren't looking to a higher power? Because it wasn't convenient to the author? Rain, the token bad-boy, is devoutly religious and open's a disbelieving Ember's eyes to the miracles around her. There is no fantastic definitive "this is real" like you get in a fantasy novel, but Ember's decision to believe without definitive evidence is exactly what makes her a stronger character, and it's so refreshing to see that plot.

Please don't let the fact that this is an indie book daunt you - Black Tiger and Ashen City are bound to be instant favorites!



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: Soulmated by Shaila Patel

Soulmated (Joining of Souls #1) by Shaila Patel 
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genres: YA - Dystopian - Romance

Find it On: Goodreads / Amazon / iBooks / B&N / Book Depository
My Rating: ★★


Synopsis:


Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family's standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother's ultimatum: graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam's father isn't convinced Laxshmi is "The One" and Laxshmi's mother won't even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one's own fate too great a price for the soulmated?


About the Author:

As an unabashed lover of all things happily-ever-after, Shaila Patel's younger self would finish reading her copy of Cinderella and fling it across the room because it didn't mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues. A member of the Romance Writers of America, she's a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. Her debut, SOULMATED, won the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews' Paranormal Awards for Young Adults, and is part of her Joining of Souls Series.

Shaila loves traveling, craft beer, tea, and reading a good book in a cozy window seat—but she'll read anywhere. You might even find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light, or connecting with other readers online.

My Review:


II'm not even a contemporary romance reader, but this book had me so hooked that I read it in one sitting! Well done!

In Patel's debut Urban fantasy, 18-year-old Liam is one of a long line of Empaths who have an entire society hidden from the public eye. Not only is he the newly appointed head of his clan and one of the most powerful Empaths alive, but he is also fated to be "soulmated," - a rare phenomenon that promises him vague and unimaginable power. The only problem is that he has to find her.

Thanks to his dad's premonitions, Liam knows a few details, including that she is Indian American. So for the final year, Liam is starting a new high school and dating a new girl, but Laxshmi "Lucky" Kapadia doesn't seem like all the other girls, and for the first time, she checks off every one of Liam's father's premonitions. Could she be "The One?"

<i>Soulmated</i> was the perfect balance of urban fantasy and contemporary romance! For a so-called paranormal fantasy, I tend to expect something vaguely descended from Twilight, but the idea of Empaths was a unique and refreshing foray into the genre for me! Liam's early chapters lay the groundwork for the world of this series without bogging the plot down too much. And meanwhile, we get Lucky's narration of a normal American girl to snap us back into the normalcy of the world.

Liam is a fairly typical male love interest (I supposed as a female reader I'm supposed to be swooning), but I didn't find his predictability too boring. Lucky was the character I found to be really amazing. She's quirky but level headed. Her narration has plenty of girlish squeeling and "oh my god does he like me or not," but in a very realistic and rational way that really reflected the mind of a 16-year-old girl.

The really unique thing that this had for Urban fantasy was so much real-world culture building. I have no idea how accurate the Irish side was for Liam, but the author used her experience as a woman of Indian descent to craft a beautifully complex coming of age story as Lucky grapples with cultural expectations and her identity as an "Americanized" teenager.

The colliding of their worlds was great. Liam, who has been searching for his mystical soulmate his whole life, has suddenly realized the implications of pulling someone he loves into the dangers of his world. Meanwhile, Lucky doesn't know whether to trust her heart to a mysterious boy full of secrets when she has been told her whole life not to trust anyone outside of her culture. Aside from the whole fated soulmate thing, they are the perfect foils to each other in growing up and figuring out their own identities.

Major kudos to this debut author! I'll be keeping an eye out for her work!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy #BookBirthday to The Game Begins by Victoria Danann! (& Excerpt!)


The Game Begins (R. Caine High School #1) by Victoria Danann
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Genres: YA / Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Mythology
Find it On: Goodreads / Amazon

Synopsis:


When it came to the attention of the old ones that their creations, the Earth gods, had been playing games at the expense of humankind for millennia, they put a stop to it. But the rebellious gods were far too addicted to their games to give them up. After several summit meetings, they voted to use their own children as players and locate the playing field in the most treacherous environment in the known universe... high school.

To make it even more interesting, they would strip their children of their memories and withhold the rules of the game. Like the other players, sixteen year old Ever thinks she's an ordinary kid until she transfers to R. Caine. When mystery and mystic collide, she'd better wake up to her powers fast.

About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Victoria Danann, is the author of sixteen romances, paranormal and contemporary.

Her Knights of Black Swan series won BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES THREE YEARS IN A ROW. - Reviewers Choice Awards, The Paranormal Romance Guild.

Victoria’s paranormal romances come with uniquely fresh perspectives on “imaginary” creatures, characters, and themes. She adds a dash of scifi, a flourish of fantasy, enough humor to make you laugh out loud, and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. Her heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, past life therapists, or financial analysts from Dallas. Her heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners – usually – whether they be elves, demons, berserkers, werewolves, or vampires.


Excerpt From The Game Begins:


My name is Ever Moore.

I know. It makes me wince every time I say it. When I’m eighteen, I plan to have it legally changed to
something that doesn’t make people laugh. But right now I’m stuck.

My dad thinks puns are the highest form of humor. He calls it ‘word play’. That’s right. I’m the spawn of nerds. My dad creates video games. My mother is an ethics professor at UCLA who thinks the battle between good and evil begins at home.

If you want to know just how weird it can get at the Thanksgiving table, I can go one better. My
grandfather was a big deal rock star in the seventies. You wouldn’t know the name of the band. So
there’s no point in name dropping. After a visit, he exits with a two-finger peace salute like all the other well-adjusted hippie grandparents, but he doesn’t say, “Peace.”

He says, “Rock steady.”

Ugh!

My family is big on manners. They’re too strict to let me say what I think, especially about Buzz’s love life. My grandfather doesn’t want to be called Grandpa or Grandad or Gramps or anything close to normal. Oh no. He wants to be called ‘Buzz’. I have no idea why. That is not his name.

Anyway, the best protest I can mount is rolling my eyes. I keep trying to get his attention and roll my
eyes back further into my head when he does the ‘rock steady’ thing, but he will not be deterred.

Anyway I was leading a completely typical and deliciously angsty teenage life in Austin, Texas when my parents were suddenly offered jobs in the LA area at the same time. It was weird, but weird is part of my normal. Always has been.

Since my grandad, the rocker, still lives in LA with the latest girlfriend who’s barely legal – she’s two
years older than I am – moving seemed like a good idea.

To them.